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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The Best Free Games of the Week">free fishy

Some guy once said that the only certainties in life are death, taxes, the endless geyser of internet anger, and good games that happen to be free. I can't do much about the first three (sorry), but I've cherry-picked the best of the last one and stuffed them into this here weekly column for your edification. Read on for a charming fishing game, a maddening rotational platformer, the world's first beard-based puzzle game (I assume), and a safari adventure starring arguably the greatest predator of all: man a marble. Enjoy!

Maddening Relapse by Andrew McCluskey Download it here

Andrew McCluskey has been making madnessMADNESSmadness games since 2009; his latest adds new procedural generation tricks, visual themes and a distracting zoom feature, which I haven't quite managed to get the hang of. As before, your sharply suited Don Draper-esque hero has to evade arrays of deadly spikes not to mention the yawning abyss beneath his feat on a starkly black, endlessly revolving planetoid. Death is greeted by a poetic demise message, and the chance to instantly try again in order to hear more of the game's catchy soundtrack. As mentioned before, the new zoom mechanic which sees the level shrink whenever you leap into the air makes judging jumps a particularly troublesome affair, but I dare say the dedicated will be able to master Maddening Relapse before long.

Here's a little taste of it in action:

Fishy Waters by Fabian Van Dommelen, Joris Van Leeuwen, Ivo Van Dijk Play it online here

Not every game has to contain spikes and grisly death, and I may have found the polar opposite of Maddening Relapse in Fishy Waters, a delightful adventure that has you plundering a lake of its piscine inhabitants in order to honour the memory of your departed father. (He was gobbled up by a whale in the opening cutscene.) You'll roam the waters on a small fishing boat, collecting and selling fish in order to upgrade your equipment or to access new parts of the lake. It's not quite a game you'll give yourself over to, but Fishy Waters should make for a calming comedown after you've skewered yourself on a spike pit or fallen down a hole for the umpteenth time.

Where is my Beard by Keenblaze Play it online here

I generally keep my beard just under, and on, my chin, which makes it easy to find when a puzzle game asks me to locate it for reasons that are best left unscrutinised. In Where is My Beard you have to make a bunch of unbearded shapes more hirsute, by engineering it so that they touch bearded ones face fungus being contagious, as you know. You do this by dropping them into the scene and pressing the play button; if you've aligned said shapes correctly, they'll bash into each other with PHYSICS and set off a wonderfully beardy chain reaction. Not one for pogonophobes, obviously, but for everyone else this is a lavishly illustrated slice of hairy silliness.

Architects EP by Various Artists Download / play online here

This third Braingale EP collects short games, short short games, and the odd visual/aural scrap, from the likes of Todd Luke (Winnose), Sean Hogan (Anodyne) and Alec Stamos (Tales of the Renegade Sector). It's a wonderful jumble bag of stuff. You can download the whole lot in one go, or grab each game individually, but I've plucked three out I'd particularly recommend.

Marble Safari (pictured above) is a surprisingly expansive desert exploration title, set in an alien ecosystem of burrowing worms and beetles, with the twist that you control (for the most part) a giant marble. Yep. Sean Hogan's Superstructure is a lightly Broughian game of rule-breaking and illicit exploration, while Andrew Marrero's (it's actually the upward arrow symbol, but I can't find that on my keyboard) asks you to craft your own platforms as you ascend a randomly generated tower. I doubt any of the links on the Architects EP site will steer you wrong though, so mosey on over and poke around to see what other jewels you can uncover. (Via IndieGames)
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to H1Z1 footage shows that, yep, it looks a lot like DayZ">H1Z1

The Long Dark's creative director reckons the apocalypse doesn't have to feature zombies - but, erm, here's one more open world post-apocalyptic game that does. As announced last week, Sony's entry into the DayZ genre is the wittily (if clinically) named H1Z1, a game that differentiates itself from Dean Hall and Bohemia's game by...well, that part's not totally clear yet, but it's been a fairly democratic process so far. H1Z1 game designer Jimmy Whisenhunt and technical director Tom Schenk took to Twitch a few hours ago to show off the game as it stands now; you'll find 50-odd minutes of walking, zombie-battering, scavenging and driving, in a game that admittedly looks very pretty but so far doesn't seem to boast any distinguishing characteristics.

Watch live video from h1z1 on TwitchTV

Whisenhunt took to the active H1Z1 subreddit after the stream to answer a few questions about combat. You'll be pleased (or not) to hear that combat will be slightly slower in the finished game, with one-shot-kill headshots across the board (zombies were a bit too resistant to bullets in the stream), and with rare military-spec weapons available to players who do a bit of digging, or who look in the right place - ie not in an average suburban house.)

Thanks, Destructoid.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Procedurally generated grand strategy The Last Federation out now">the last federation

Arcen Games' The Last Federation only came to light in February, and yesterday the grand-strategy-featuring-turn-based-shmup-combat-bits saw release. One day the secret of Arcen's astounding productivity will leak out - my money's on founder Chris Park owning some sort of Time Turner - but before that dread reveal we have plenty of time to wallow in their copious, innovative, if not always entirely successful output. The Last Federation is now available on the official site or on the Steams, along with your standard slight reduction in price and beautifully impenetrable launch trailer. I have no idea what's going on in the next two minutes, but just look at all the tiny lasers and explosions.

Arcen have released a lot of games in a variety of styles since their breakout hit AI War - including A Valley Without Wind, Skyward Collapse, and mech-based roguelike Bionic Dues - but The Last Federation is the first to delve into the same spacey strategy territory. This video will tell you a bit more about the ambitious procedurally generated simulation:

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Saturday Crapshoot: Amazon: Guardians Of Eden">amahead

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, interactive movies are about to make a bit of a comeback... so let's flashback to before the technology made them possible, but people were still willing to try.

It's New Tex Murphy Week next week, and I'll be honest, I'm excited. (Though I haven't played it yet, so I'm only hoping it doesn't suck.) As well as being a big fan of the original interactive movies... though less so the adventures that spawned them... I've always had a bit of a soft spot for FMV. I remember it when it was the impossible technological dream, the future of gaming, the disappointing present, and then the best-forgotten past, and honestly it made the jump to the second half of that with good cause. Still, there's something so endearing about the goofiness of a greenscreen, amateur actors desperately trying to carry stories by first-time scriptwriters, and all that, that I still look back on them a little fondly.

But Amazon? Amazon was an interactive movie that couldn't even wait for CD-ROM. Be afraid.


Access, as we've seen before, was a weird company. Their bread and butter ended up being golf simulators, the Links series, which was ultimately why the company got picked up by Microsoft and closed a few years later after everyone realised that golf is boring. What made them interesting were the other games they did, most famously the Tex Murphy interactive movies that saw employees (led by writer/director/star Chris Jones, Access' money guy turned green screen detective) joining such high-powered names as Margot Kidder to truly redefine the word 'starring'. Okay, so that's a bit catty. They were hammy, but really fun with it, as well as bringing a 3D element to adventure gaming I'm genuinely sad never took off more than it did. Unless you count Normality and Conspiracies. (But don't.)

Before those games though, they had a couple of other cracks at the whip, including the original much less advanced Tex Murphy games, spy thriller Countdown, and this, a tribute to the classic adventure serials of old that somehow managed to have slightly worse acting and technology.

I'd explain, but I think you really need to see. The background is simply that our heroes, Jason and Maya, are escaping from the baddies, with the only route being to cross a broken bridge. The result is, I think we can agree, the Citizen Kane of gaming. Movie technology gets no better than this.

You probably need a moment to recover from the drama. It's okay. I'll wait.

Amazon, an adventure designed in wilful disregard of everything 90s adventures did to not suck.

But wait. Who's Jason? Who is Maya? We should probably go rewind a little, or indeed, a lot. Amazon is the story of Jason Roberts, man with no real personality, whose more interesting brother has been having adventures in the Amazon while Jason works in a lab. Allen gets attacked and goes missing, with Jason's boss sympathetic enough to offer him some time off to get over it. "Take the whole day if you feel it's absolutely necessary." But! When he gets home, he discovers a mysterious package that with a mysterious message with a mysterious code all wrapped in mysterious twine, and-

"Dear Jason. If you're reading this, your mouth is open. You look ridiculous. Allen."

Wow. And people say Telltale game episodes are short. Well, see you next week!

No, of course not. In trying to be a style adventure serial, each of Amazon's chapters is split up as if you walked off for a week between chapters, as opposed to in reality, where you'd probably never have gone into the cinema ever again. Even this short burst though brings more head-scratching than some whole games. My favourite is that every time you die, the game restarts with Jason in the parking lot of work and the caption "Six weeks later..." making it feel like every time he dies, a clone is taken out of a tank and sent to go pick up his work where he left off, only to find the secret message and get killed and trigger the next clone that goes in and finds the message and gets killed and then triggers the next clone that goes in and finds the message and gets killed and then triggers the next clone that goes in and finds the message and gets killed and then triggers the next clone that goes in and finds the message and gets killed and then triggers the next clone that goes in and finds the message and gets killed and then triggers the next clone that goes in and finds the message and gets killed and then the sane player screams and goes to a temple to meditate on how much better the world would have been if they'd bought Monkey Island.

Largely it's the little things that make it so unpleasant to play, from the increasing number of deaths that can best be described as 'bullshit' to the footstep sound that makes it sound like Jason is farting his way through the entire Amazon, to moments of design that just confuse and bewilder. When he gets back to his house for instance, a package is waiting inside. But you can't pick it up, because that makes sense. Instead, you have to find a letter opener and bring that to the parcel, at which point Jason just dumps everything out on the floor exactly like a sane person wouldn't. And then there's my favourite bit of weirdness. When you die, you get a death screen. But before that... you get this.

Wow. These death scenes must be brutal! Dare we witness one?!

Therapy is available if anyone feels particularly mentally scarred.

Yeah, not exactly Waxworks, is it? What's that? What's Waxworks?

This. This is Waxworks. You're welcome.

All of this comes together to make a game that has absolutely no idea what it is, being too silly to be a thriller, not silly enough to be a comedy, and not trying to be so bad it's good. Which is lucky, because it is absolutely horrible. It's a game where your brother's secret message is encoded using... seriously... a "Little Orphan Annie decoder ring", as if that counts as cryptography, and the main character's comments... well, just take a look at how he sees two guards blocking him from a secret base. I quote:

"The blonde haired, ruggedly handsome, powerful guard. He strikes fear in the hearts of those who would steal American technological secrets. His life, however, is missing the love of a good hearted woman."

Very precise. And the other guard? Psychic powers activate!

"This fun loving woman is a credit to her community. Her heart is filled with love and desire for the male guard, but he is dedicated to his career and seeks no romantic ties. Is there a way to get them together?"

And here's the thing. That's a puzzle clue. The puzzle being to take this information the main character couldn't possibly know, and make a love potion. Which he administers... wait for it... with a blow gun.

Then? Then he has to deal with a robot. Which you do by putting a rubbish bin on your head so that it thinks you're its replacement and walks away. This chapter is called "Heavy Metal Monster" incidentally, presumably because "Stupidest Shit Ever" had to be saved for the later chapters. Just wait. Juuuuust wait. The idea of Amazon is clearly to combine all the hamminess and tropes of these serials, but the result is really more like someone ate them, stuck a finger down their throat and vomitted them up.

You know, I have no idea what's going on any more.

But, plot. It takes a while to get going, partly because all Allen explains in his letter is "I'm in trouble", but mostly because the magic decoder ring you need to find out details is a single pixel in a cluttered living room because Access hates you. Even then, all it really says is "Go to Cuzco, Peru, and all will be explained." Which is a bit rubbish. Surely a "Sorry for making you fight a robot" wouldn't have gone amiss. There's also a bit of a clue dropped about the final goal with talk of giant emeralds called "The Eyes Of The Jaguar", which seem relevant for two reasons - being on a heavily protected microfiche guarded by 1950s robot monsters, and more importantly, being in the game's logo. Ahem.

Well, one is. Otherwise this would be Amazoon, and that would just be silly!

Whenever you have treasure though, you have arseholes who want that treasure. In the case of Amazon, that duty falls to one Colonel Sanchez, who the game describes as "a tall, fat policeman", and players as "Wait, this is our villain? Seriously? This guy?" I'd put in a clip, but his accent is so bad, so stereotyped, so painful that it actually manages to transcend the audio itself. We'll see him later, but for now, just imagine how he'd talk.. worst case scenario stuff... and later on, we'll see if you were right!

Truly, a villain so greasy, it's a wonder he can keep a grip on his gun.

The weird thing about Amazon's pacing is that it's simultaneously really quick and super-slow, the former because it whisks you from thing to thing without the time to think, and the second because it's full of pixel hunting and bullshit deaths where having failed to find the necessary pixel in a previous chapter rears up and bites you hard out of absolutely nowhere. Most puzzles are also on an insanely brutal timer, and largely pointless. From leaving Jason's workplace in Chapter 2 for instance, it's not until the end of Chapter 6 that he finally completes his destination to find someone who can tell him about Allen's disappearance. And what does she do them? Ask questions about him, including what year he won a trophy, that you'd only know from having anally examined every pixel back at the very start of the game, because this is Amazon and Amazon is pure goddamn evil in a can.

On the plus side you do get to feed this baddy enough peppers to make his face explode.

After a needlessly awful trek involving chartering a plane with a pilot who by the sheerest of crappy luck turns out to be on Sanchez's payroll and sorting out the guy above in his little village, Jason finally does discover his brother Allen. Allen has a life expectancy of exactly four scenes at this point, because there's a pretty girl with him and absolutely nothing is going to get in the way of a romantic sub-plot. Not even the fact that both she, Maya, and Jason are as charismatic as decapitated Ken and Barbie dolls.

That Maya is a native of these parts? You're right. All the bullshit.

While he lives though, he does explain the plot - that he was sent to the rainforest to investigate forest regeneration in previously destroyed parts, and along the way heard about a valley with magical rejuvenating water. Unfortunately Sanchez was on their trail, and soon enough attacked the camp. Allen got away, demonstrating that against all odds he actually can act as if his life depends on it. Now that the brothers are together though, nothing will stop them saving the day together.

Or, not. Because this is where we came in. Remember?

Oh, and if you don't use the vine? You die, despite not being able to see the hole. You also repair it with a vine, because... uh... um... uh... no, I've got nothing. The vines are only holding up the sides of the bridge, the bridge itself is... well... wood. And so what if there's a hole? If it can be fixed with a vine, it can be stepped over. This is the worst demonstration of bridge maintenance since the one that couldn't support the weight of the fat guy in Where Time Stood Still...

Allen is however arguably the lucky one though, because at least he's spared the rest of the game. It's mostly just Stuff rather than anything actually telling a story, best shown by how it immediately gets side-tracked by slave traders who want Maya for their collection. This being Amazon though, it couldn't stick with just basic sexism. No, it had to go racist as well. See, Access was based on Salt Lake City, Utah, which isn't exactly the most multicultural place on the Earth. So what do you do when you're making a game where you need lots of ethnic people? Apparently, you watch Short Circuit 2 and then go out and buy some boot polish, possibly with the money from pawning your last dregs of shame.

In the words of Socrates: What the shit, people?

Later on, you find a tribe of natives who insist you prove that you're a god. How do you do that? Fireworks. You launch fireworks, and for the millionth time the credulous natives don't respond "Good trick, but we know what tools are and we saw you doing stuff with your hands. You know what our favourite trick is? Making impossibly sized cooking pots to turn charlatans into soup. We know it's a little bit living down to expectation, but sometimes you can't beat the classics. Do us a favour and shove this carrot up your arse for flavouring."

But, like Allen's fate, this would still have been better than the alternative.


This is what Hell looks like. Right there. THAT is where the bad people go when they die, to forever be trapped in a mini-game that makes an eternity of dental work, a saxophone reed under every finger nail, a complete copy of the Myst series look like a blessed joy. It doesn't look like much. It's slow paced. It's quite pretty. All you have to do is travel down the river. But no. Hell. Actual, literal Hell.

You see, the river is full of rocks which you have to avoid, and you might notice that the canoe you have to do it with is practically the size of the screen. There's no health bar. One touch means instant death, and instant death in Amazon means an unskippable "SHOCK WARNING!" message, death picture, and then intro screen and shot of Jason going to work. Every. Single. Time. But it gets worse. The foreground completely obscures everything you have to avoid, the few pixels of it that you actually can, when the perspective doesn't fool you into thinking you're fine rather than on a collision course with death. WHICH IS ALL THE TIME. All to a soundtrack of screeching monkey noises. Isn't this the most dickish thing ever?

Yes! But it gets worse! Because this is Amazon, many of the rocks in the river actually set up traps - dead-ends that you can't see until you've sailed into them and have no choice but to crash. You also have to follow a set of directions given in the previous chapter, or you just magically die for having gone the wrong way. Gone the wrong way? On a linear river? No, it doesn't seem possible. But they found a way! And yes, it's a really long sequence. Of course it is. But wait! There's more! Because later, you have to do it again, by goddamn trial and funking error. At least, if there's any way to get directions, I have no idea how and every walkthrough I checked just says "We don't know, just do this."

And the final cherry on the shit sundae? After this first canoeing bit, you're taken to a conversation where you... can die. Autosaves? This game came out in 1991. There have been war crimes less deserving of a firing squad armed with torture guns. Do those exist? Invent them! I have need of their services!

Oh, and if you were hoping for a reward... this is the best that the game has to offer. Deploy fan-service!

Hiring some busty blonde models for the day. Very possibly the reason this game was made.

Oh, and that waterfall? The canoeing ends with the boat going right over it, and both Maya and Jason crashing down into a pool. Which Maya knew about and kept to herself as... wait for it... a practical joke. "I suppose I should have warned you, but I thought you might like the surprise!" she tells him. This game. I'm starting a campaign to have every copy of this game loaded onto a rocket and fired into the sun.

By gaming law though, Jason has now seen her naked, and therefore it is Love. It's just the rule. Max Payne 2, Broken Sword 4... there's no arguing with science. She finally comes clean on who she really is, which is a member of a tribe charged with protecting the land against all those who might destroy it... which of course means, "men". She promises however that she'll be the one to say 'not all men' and vouch for him, giving him at least a slight chance that they won't just cut off his dick, make him eat it, and then stab him through the dick-wound with a spear. Jason is thrilled.

And then Sanchez appears and shoots her.


I can't do justice to what happens next with just text. But wow. If you thought the bridge was good...

And now we know what the opposite of a 'special effect' looks like.

With the villain of the piece dead... who has appeared maybe twice in this whole game and Jason has never actually met directly... it's time to end this turkey by meeting her tribe, the titular Guardians of Eden. And by 'titular', I mean of course...

...that their name is in the title of the game.

Also, if you check the credits, you find that their names include - quoting here - "Denise Goodbod", "Candy Barr" and "Dixie Kupps". Also "Kerri Sluge", who really should have considered looking into a stripper name even if she worked in data processing or something. Anything but that.

Incidentally, I know it can't be easy to stand in front of a screen wearing ridiculous Amazon costumes and actually say the line "Take him to the pit of death!", but it really says something about Amazon's attention to detail that the lead Amazon actually cracks a smile during it and nobody could be bothered to do a second take. Or, maybe it's more appropriate than it seems. Let's find out. What's in the Pit of Death?

A... killer ant. Of course. Of course a giant killer ant. Totally sensible!

In time honoured tradition, Jason demonstrates to the suspicious Amazon women that he is not one of those violent, murderous kinds of men who means harm to Mother Nature and all her children by spearing the ant through its fucking thorax. As such, instead of killing him right back, they decide "Okay, sure, whatever," and give him the greatest gift that not much money in the 90s could buy - a little more fan-service, and an ending so toe-curling, an army of podiatrists can't help you walk straight.

Oh. Good. Grief. So much awful, such little time. It's somewhat hard to imagine Jason making an awesome life for himself in the City Of Misandry here, single solitary tear or not, and if you're wondering if Maya has done anything in this adventure to warrant him choosing her over the emerald, the answer is "haha, no." The whole game ends with everything resolved but nothing actually accomplished; the secret of the Amazons remaining exactly that, when the whole thing could have been sorted out by shooting Sanchez in the neck with a blow-dart. And even then, it's only a half-secret, since Allen was paid to come on this trip and his employers have no reason not to send another explorer.

Really, I suspect that Jason's main reason to stay is that if he went back, he'd have to take another trip on a canoe. And suddenly his decision makes perfect sense. Goddamn, that mini-game.

Not that there's any shortage of ways to die elsewhere. SHOCK WARNING!

But if you'd rather see the actual story, here you go. Just be grateful that just a few years later, Access finally managed to twist its desire to create movie games into a genuinely great one - The Pandora Directive - and carve out a cult following that would ultimately allow for a new Tex Murphy. Excuse me. I'm off to anticipate that, and pick up some tissues to weep into if it doesn't live up to it. Amazon was a dreadful dreadful game, but as a series-killing Australian once said, things could get worser.

(But goodness, I hope they don't.)

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Pillars of Eternity soundtrack previewed in music release">Pillars of Eternity 4

A brilliant but troubled philosopher once said, "Without music, life would be a mistake." In gaming, music is often the only familiar companion on a journey to strange places and new worlds. With that in mind, it's surely a good omen that developer Obsidian has given us a chance to preview the soundscape being written for its upcoming RPG, Pillars of Eternity.

Pillars of Eternity audio director and composer Justin Bell has detailed in a new post some of his thoughts regarding the writing process for the game's soundtrack:

"While we are following in the footsteps of the Infinity Engine soundtracks in terms of style and implementation, we have decided to tweak that formula a bit," Bell writes. "Most of the in-game tracks for the Baldur s Gate and Icewind Dale games are between 1-2 minutes in length, and in some cases those tracks loop immediately."

But there's a risk to this type of looping, which Bell goes on to discuss:

"We call this 'listener fatigue,' and from a usability perspective, it can negatively affect the way a gamer will feel about a game," he writes. "It s a psychological effect; the fact that the music is short and repetitious can make long playthroughs tedious. On the flip side, a benefit to having short loops is that we can write more unique pieces of music, which will by nature increase variety throughout the game. Approaching it this way would allow us to make specific areas feel special because they will have unique music."

Ultimately, Bell concludes in his post that PoE will balance the looping effect between areas of the game that ask players to spend different amounts of time in them, presumably to combat the fatigue he is referring to. And since we heard way back in 2012 that Bell's favorite game soundtrack of all time was The Elder Scolls III: Morrowind, I feel I can safely say we are in good hands in terms of the RPG's sound design. Obsidian's recent release of the sample posted above only confirms this for me. In any case, be sure to take a listen and check out Bell's complete post for his breakdown on audio design for PoE and his own life as a game composer.

PoE has also recently partnered with publisher Paradox Interactive, which means the game and its music is set to "absolutely ship this year."

Hat tip, Joystiq.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to MechWarrior Online contest puts free BattleMech up for grabs this weekend">MWOThunderbolt

One good way to get pilots into the hot seat of a new 'Mech is to let them fight for it. This weekend MechWarrior Online is giving players a clear path to ownership of a hulking and asymmetrical Thunderbolt variant win five matches and the machine is yours.

The contest, part of MWO's on-going "challenge" system, began this morning and runs through 10 a.m. PDT Tuesday. It's just the type of event developer Piranha Games had pointed to with its overhaul of MWO's user interface earlier this year. Beyond that, the Thunderbolt-9S challenge is also an early-access look at some of the new 'Mechs set to be released into the wild with this Tuesday's regular patch. The image above is concept art of a similar Thunderbolt 'Mech.

Whether you're an infrequent player or a hard-bitten veteran, this challenge is a massive shortcut to a new BattleMech that would normally require many hours of successful gameplay in order to purchase outright using MWO's in-game currency, C-Bills. Five match wins is a good deal. Since every fighting machine in the game is different, a fresh 'Mech means additional loadouts, new obstacles to overcome, and a different experience in-game.

Although MWO has had a third-person camera for a while now, the cockpit is where players spend most of their time. For those curious about the sight lines and layout of a Thunderbolt pilot's workstation, I grabbed an image from another variant which your can see below.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Skyrim mod Skywind recreates Morrowind, will include revamped crafting and voice acting">Skywind

Skywind, the pleasing portmanteau of Skyrim and Morrowind, continues to look really, really good. Remaking Morrowind in Skyrim s engine is a mammoth task, and a new development video breaks down the many ways that a legion of volunteer modders, voice actors, and artists are bringing the Elder Scrolls classic into the modern age.

It s a lengthy video, but here are some highlights. A full crafting system is coming to Morrowind for the first time. Recipes for crafting will be found inside the game world in the form of books. Instead of unlocking a perk and instantly learning how to make a new suit of armor, you ll have to buy/borrow/steal a schematic from a working smith. And hey! Smiths in Skywind hold the red-hot metal the right way around now. Long live modding.

Voice acting is also being revamped, with volunteer writers and voice actors creating new, more natural dialog. Composers are pumping out new music, and each region in Skywind will have its own calling-card melody.

Skywind is as impressive as it is ambitious, so if you ve got some skill and some free time, head to The Elder Scrolls Renewal Project to volunteer to help out.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to H1Z1 survivalists can vote to create custom servers">H1Z1_exclusive_01_mb

H1Z1 wants to give us a more personal apocalypse. The upcoming zombie MMO will let players vote to establish and join custom servers, according to a Reddit post from Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley. The system will revolve around a token system the developer hopes will let it gauge the interest and commitment of the free-to-play game's player base before it ramps up support for a specific custom server.

"The idea is simple - If a community of our players wants to host a server with a specific theme or ruleset then we're going to do our best to give it to them," Smedley writes. "layers will receive a pledge token for free if they've played more than 5 hours. This pledge token can be used to cast a vote for a server. But use it wisely. You only get one free one per year. Make sure it's a community you believe in and that has a good chance to succeed because we're going to set the bar such that the community can sustain an MMO server."

While the first token will be free, SOE plans to put a second token up for sale, with each player allowed a maximum of two server votes per year, according to Smedley. Happily, he writes that if the server a player voted for with a real-money token succeeds and is created, the value of the token will be refunded in the form of in-game Station Cash. In addition, each pledge token includes "a wearable that's going to look sweet," according to the SOE president.

"Why refund it if it succeeds?" Smedley writes. "Simple - we really want to give you the kind of servers you want. We're going to set that bar high. If it succeeds, you've built a community of fellow players you want and as our customers we want to give you that. But we also need some indication of reality in order to make this work."

This proposal seems to fit nicely into what we heard about H1Z1 during its announcement, in that monetization won't impact the core gameplay surrounding survival, but will instead be restricted to features on the margins of the game's survival systems, such as wearable items. Although Smedley writes that the rulesets and features of each custom server could vary widely depending on specific interests, the developer will remain as the server admin.

Thanks, CVG.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Cortex Command gets Steam Workshop, renewed development commitment in update">cortex command

Cortex Command is one of those indie games that s in perpetual development. Data Realms founder Daniel Tabar released version 1.0 before Early Access was a thing. We reviewed it poorly, and Tabar admits that the game wasn t really ready to launch. The nice thing is that he and his team never stopped taking feedback from the community and improving it, as the big build 30 update makes clear.

Cortex Command, if you ve never heard of it, is a 2D side-scrolling action game with a strategic twist. You play as the brain of an underground base and can jump into and control different units. You gather resources, build new units, arm them, and order them to take out an enemy base.

The most important part of build 30 is that Cortex Command now works with Steam Workshop, meaning its active modding community is now easy to take advantage of. The other big additions are Steam Achievements and Squad Control, which allows you to move and fire with several units at once.

If you re already a dedicated Cortex Commander you probably want to take a look at the detailed change log, and if you never heard of it, Tabar s build 30 video is a good intro to the game and its history.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Square Enix: DRM is “essential for the foreseeable future”">Deus Ex: Human Revolution

In a new interview, an executive at Square Enix has doubled-down on the company s DRM policy. The executive claims that DRM protects profits at the end of the day, and that s the most important thing to any development studio, big or small.

The primary benefit to us is the same as with any business: profit, Adam Sullivan, the senior manager of business and legal affairs at Square Enix, told TorrentFreak. We have a well-known reputation for being very protective of our IPs, which does deter many would-be pirates. When asked if DRM actually works, he responded, ffectiveness is notoriously difficult to measure in short, we rely on the data available to us through our sales team and various vendors, along with consumer feedback.

When asked if DRM is here to stay, Sullivan said, "This depends on your definition of DRM, but generally yes I think DRM will be essential for the foreseeable future.

For all of the many strides being made in the DRM conversation, it s a bit depressing when a company stands up and makes the same arguments we ve been hearing for years decades, even. Server authentication through reliable networks like Steam have taken some of the sting out of modern DRM, but even so there have been more than a few recent disasters. In the meantime, companies who foster goodwill with their player-bases and offer DRM-free alternatives are becoming a larger part of the discussion and thank goodness for that.

To read the full interview with Sullivan, head over to TorrentFreak.

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