Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jem Alexander)

I was waiting during E3 for Ubisoft to prove that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate [official site] is a worthy addition to the franchise. True to form, the publisher has released about a million trailers (okay, three) for the game during E3. None of them have quelled my fears.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Tom and Chris argue about annual releases of AAA games, and whether or not they re bad for gaming.

face off

Tom Marks wants the public to think of gaming as more than just Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty.

Chris Livingston doesn't love annual AAA games, but lots of people do. And who is he to say they're wrong? Just look at him.

Tom: YES, it oversaturates the gaming market with unfinished and unoriginal games, warping the perception of gaming as a whole. When you make games for a deadline, the games don t get finished. Plain and simple. It s the reason I don t usually mind when a game is delayed, because the developer has recognized they need more time to finish it. But annual or biennial releases restrict a dev s ability to rethink the amount of time they need. Now, a game being unfinished on launch doesn t hurt gaming on its own, but these games are the ones being heavily marketed and inevitably seen and played by the average joe—not just gamers. Madden, Call of Duty, and Assassin s Creed now represent all of gaming to the mass market, and I wish it was represented better.

Chris Livingston: NO. No one has to buy annual AAA games, but they do, by the millions, which seems to indicate they re happy with them. Happy gamers are good for gaming, even if I personally think they re a little crazy for being happy. Not every gamer out there plays dozens of games a year, and not everyone eats, breathes, and lives gaming in general: I have friends who only buy one or two games a year, usually from an annual series. They don t love them all, but they enjoy them enough to keep coming back. If they re happy, I m happy. Why don t you want my friends to be happy, Tom?

Tom: Because your friends never invite me to any of their parties, Chris. I m not saying that AAA studios releasing big games for a wide audience is a bad thing—I love the idea of more people playing and having fun with games—but can t they vary the experiences they are selling a bit? The same gameplay in a different setting year after year is a poor representation of what games can be, and what I know a AAA budget can achieve. The lack of creativity is nothing more than a money grab, because you can save costs by varying gameplay as little as possible. It s the videogame equivalent of cartoon shows only animating two frames for someone talking. It saves time, but noticeably so.

Chris: I agree, variety is great, and I do wish my friends played more types of games. But you ve got to start somewhere, and as a jumping-off point, AAA games might not be a bad place to start. At the very least, playing a ho-hum shooter might leave someone wanting a bit more, at which point they ll really start looking for other titles. After all, most people s love of cinema doesn t begin with watching quirky indie films or foreign dramas but probably from watching big, popular, not-so-great movies, like 2009 s Fast and Furious. But it might spark their interest and get them looking for something better, until they eventually find a truly remarkable, deeply-nuanced film, like 2011 s Fast Five.

Besides, if CoD didn t come out every year, they might not play anything. I figure playing something might lead to someone eventually playing something else, and something better.

Tom: You don t get Joe Regular into indie films by showing him The Fast and The Furious series, you get him into them by showing him Drive. Look! It s got famous people, high production values, violence and action, but all of this is presented in a unique and interesting manner. That s what annual releases could be doing for gaming; they could offer experiences that a mass market is comfortable with in an evocative way. If CoD wasn t coming out every year, people would still be playing whatever Activision was making instead, because they have the marketing budget and the reach to get their games into as many hands as possible. They just aren t willing to jeapordize that position by doing something risky to make something actually good. Like Furious 7…or, hold on...

Chris: I definitely wish there was a bit more risk-taking and less formula to these games, but even churned-out annual games can wind up being sort of okay. I haven t played many Call of Duty games, and the ones I ve played have been far too linear, follow-the-guy, do-what-the-guy says affairs, but I can t say I didn t enjoy at least some parts of them. I stabbed a dude in the neck while running down the side of a building, and shot a terrorist in the face on a space station. That was cool. Stupid, but cool.

Besides, just because a developer waits years to release the next game in a series doesn t necessarily mean it s been completely rethought. Skyrim, honestly, isn t all that different from Oblivion at its core, and yet it was still good. Is it maybe that your objections come from the fact that you just personally don t enjoy these annual games? If a new Hearthstone came out every year, you wouldn t be a little stoked? If the delay between Half-Life games was only two years instead of infinity years, you wouldn t be down for that? Maybe enormous gulfs of time between games in a series isn t so great for gaming, either.

Tom: I suppose you are right (and that feels icky to type.) My problem might not specifically be with annual releases, but more with what those annual releases have turned into. I would be fine with a new Half-Life game came out every year if each one of them held up to the same standard of quality, but my point is that s impossible. Rigid, publisher mandated timeframes do not breed good games, they breed safe concepts that will be purchased. I guess there isn t anything inherently wrong with that—unless we keep getting glitchy, broken games on release—but my frustration stems from the fact that the developers doing this are some of the only ones who can afford to make large, envelope pushing experiences. And, for the most part, they aren t.

They aren t releasing a new game because they have a great concept for one, even if they sometimes do. They are releasing it because it s expected of them, by the public and their stockholders. Being stuck in that cycle isn t good for anyone and it s degrading how we think about games.

Chris: It is definitely a case of quantity over quality. It s like British TV versus American TV, in a way. With British TV you only get a couple episodes and sometimes years between seasons, but it s almost always better. Sometimes, though, it can be nice to have a ton (or tonne) of something even if it s not quite as well-crafted, for those weekends where you just want some noise and images thrown at you without having to actually think.

Here s at least one perk. AAA developers employ hundreds of people to make their games. Releasing games on an annual basis means they can afford to keep their employees on staff year-round. I think we all groan when we hear about layoffs hitting developers the moment their game is sold, simply because they can t justify the overhead because their next project isn t immediately underway. Or do you prefer when a dev lays off people as soon as their game is released? You hate my friends and you hate jobs.

Tom: I hate a lot of things, not least of which is that you make a pretty good point. Layoffs in the game industry happen far too often.

It might be petty, but I just worry about the long term effect this release cycle will have on the perception of gaming. I don t want the mass market to stop caring about games because all they know is annual rehashes.

Chris: No, that s a valid concern, and probably not one I ve considered until now. It would be great if the world at large didn t only see big annual AAA titles when they took a peek at gaming, but from the outside that s pretty much all that can be seen, and that s probably not good.

How about we bury our differences with a film? There s a wonderful quirky French indie film you should see. It s called La Fast et La Furious.

Tom: Sorry, I've gotta go see Fury Road tonight.

Chris: I think I'll wait for Fury Road 2. It should be out next year.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

Yesterday Ubisoft live-streamed its announcement of a new bounty of pre-order bonus opportunities, offering collections containing exclusive figurines, hip flasks, art books and a game called Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. With so much variety on offer, we’ve compiled a list of all those packs to help you choose which one to buy a full six months before the first review!

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jem Alexander)

This year’s instalment of Assassin’s Creed will visit Merrye Olde Victoriane Londone, Ubisoft announced today (and as we knew ages ago), in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate [official site]. It’s due on PC this autumn with carriages to ride, urchins to milk for information, working class gangs to recruit, and a smattering of comedy cockneyisms.

Come have a look in the nine-minute gameplay trailer, showing off one mission.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Polygon says the new Assassin's Creed, set to be revealed to the world next week, is actually called Syndicate, and not Victory, as it was called when Kotaku leaked early details of the game in December. The report is based on marketing material for Syndicate, and matches a report on Kotaku from yesterday that made the same claim.

Other than the name change, it sounds like Syndicate will be much as expected. The Assassin's Creed US site now sports an image of a very nice set of brass knuckles emblazoned with the credo "Strength Through Loyalty," lying on a table carved with the messages "We forge the chains we wear in life" and "God save the Queen," as well as the word "Rooks" beside a crude image of a bird. The UK site still bears the image of a man's crossed wrists, with a cane in one hand and a wee tiny cannon strapped to the other.

The game will feature an assassin named Jacob Frye, according to the report, and will "transport millions of gamers to an astonishing recreation of London during the Industrial Revolution where they will find themselves immersed in a game world they'll have to see to believe." Anyone who places a preorder with Gamestop will receive a replica one-shilling necklace similar to the one worn by Frye in the game.

Ubisoft will officially unveil Assassin's Creed: Syndicate via livestream at 9 am PT/12 pm ET on May 12.

PC Gamer

Polygon says the new Assassin's Creed, set to be revealed to the world next week, is actually called Syndicate, and not Victory, as was widely believed. The information is based on leaked marketing material for game, and matches a report on Kotaku from yesterday that made the same claim.

Other than the name change, it sounds like Syndicate will be much as expected. The Assassin's Creed US site now sports an image of a very nice set of brass knuckles emblazoned with the credo "Strength Through Loyalty," lying on a table carved with the messages "We forge the chains we wear in life" and "God save the Queen," as well as the word "Rooks" beside a crude image of a bird. The UK site still bears the image of a man's crossed wrists, with a cane in one hand and a wee tiny cannon strapped to the other.

The game will feature an assassin named Jacob Frye, according to the report, and will "transport millions of gamers to an astonishing recreation of London during the Industrial Revolution where they will find themselves immersed in a game world they'll have to see to believe ." Anyone who places a preorder with Gamestop will receive a replica one-shilling necklace similar to the one worn by Frye in the game.

Ubisoft will officially unveil Assassin's Creed: Syndicate via livestream at 9 am PT/12 pm ET on May 12.

PC Gamer

Word slipped out late last year that the next Assassin's Creed game will be called Victory, and will take place in Victorian-era London. None of which has actually been confirmed yet, as far as I know, but next week Ubisoft will make it official.

The teaser for next week's reveal doesn't actually refer to it as AC: Victory, but between the cane and the tiny, wrist-mounted cannon, it's pretty clear what's coming.

The "world premiere of the next installment of Assassin's Creed" will be unveiled via livestream at 9 am PT/12 pm ET on May 12. While you wait, be sure to have a look at what the PC Gamer UK team thinks should (and shouldn't) be in the game: Mutton chops yes, but Dick Van Dyke, no. Definitely not.

PC Gamer

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Tom and Wes argue about boss fights, which have been around nearly as long as video games themselves, and whether they re an outdated concept.

Face off

Wes Fenlon, Hardware editor Wes wants modern boss fights to be a bit more original.

Tom Marks, Assistant editor Tom thinks boss fights are still a nice change of pace.

Wes: YES. I ve played many great boss fights in my day, but far too many big games shoehorn in boss fights when they don t need them. Boss fights once made perfect video game sense in linear, side-scrolling levels. Get to the end of the stage, fight the big bad in charge, and move on to the next. And that s still fun! But as games have evolved with open worlds and non-linear levels and forms of gameplay more nuanced than shoot slash punch bad guy, boss fights don t fit as well. Bioshock and the more recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution are two modern examples of boss fights gone really wrong. Bioshock needed an emotional climax, not one that involved shooting a roided-up bad guy. And Human Revolution betrayed the core of its gameplay by making you shoot it out with its bosses, which is something the new Deus Ex is thankfully addressing. Boss fights can still be done well, of course, but they re most definitely antiquated.

Tom M.: NO. Boss fights aren t always fun, but used correctly they can be vital to the pacing of a game. Boss fights don t just represent the end of a level, they are a change of pace after a long stretch of similar gameplay. You ve been running around shooting and beating up bad guys for a while, but how are you going to deal with this new enemy? That s when the concept of a boss fight really shines; when it s not just a bigger harder enemy, but instead challenges you in some interesting and different way. I completely agree that AAA games have recently misused the boss fight trope, treating it more like an expected practice than a place to shake up the game s design, but that doesn t mean boss fights as a whole are an outdated concept.

Wes: Sure—I d look like a big dumb idiot if I said all boss fights today are lame and crappy. There are still good ones! But I think there are two big problems with how boss fights are implemented. In big-budget games, they re often used to facilitate some dramatic cutscene or story moment, which means taking control away from the player or forcing you to play in a specific way. That sucks. And in general, I think too many games use boss fights because they re expected. Boss fights are part of the language of video games, but they re a very old word. And I d like to see more games creating new words instead of falling back on the Middle English that is the boss fight.

Tom: I actually don t mind boss fights being more rigid or scripted than the rest of a game. Making open world experiences where the player has lots of choice is a very difficult thing to do, and too much freedom can sometimes make for a crummy story. Boss fights are the perfect moment for a developer to bring the story back under their control a little bit to let them reliably tell the story they want to. Of course, the boss fight shouldn t take certain options or playstyles away from the player that the rest of a game has made them accustomed to, like in Deus Ex for example. Those fights should be climactic and should represent a shift in the story. Even if they re expected, they can play a vital role in the rhythm of a game.

Wes: Ah, so idealistic! Time and again, boss fights in big-budget games do change up the play style you ve been taught just to show you something cool. Even the Batman games, which have fantastic combat, lose their lustre when they put you in an arena to slug it out with a boss. Think of the end of Asylum, when the Joker gets all beefy and slugs it out with Batman. It s a great game, but that s a cookie cutter boss fight that relies on antiquated video game language. How do we make a big, climactic battle? Hm, how about lots of punching? But the Joker would never do that! He d do something clever. A smart, modern take on the boss fight there wouldn t end with a punching match. I d like to see more games have confidence in what they do best. To use a pretty traditional 2D game as an example: I don t even remember the final boss of Rayman Origins, but I do remember the incredibly challenging and rewarding final platforming sequence leads up to it. Surviving that level is the true boss of the game.

Tom: Lots of games have also tried doing boss sequences or boss levels instead of a straight up fight, and I love that. I think it s great when games don t adhere to the formula, but that s not the solution for every game. Assassin s Creed doesn t really have many boss fights, instead a particularly special baddy will get a mission all to himself. That s cool and different and doesn t shoehorn a stupid arena fight into an assassination game, but I also don t remember a single one of those missions. You know what I do remember? Every single boss I fought in Dark Souls 2. I still agree that developers will put cookie cutter boss fights unnecessarily into games that don t need them, but it s by no means a concept that s lost it s value. It s just more valuable in certain types of games.

Wes: I may not remember the characters of many Assassin s Creed targets, but I do remember some of my more epic assassinations—and I loved that those characters could be killed silently and instantly, if you planned the perfect stealth kill. That s a smart modern twist on the classic boss fight, too me--it elevates what s best about Assassin s Creed, instead of suddenly changing how you play the game. And hell, I love Dark Souls bosses too—I don t hate the traditional boss fight, I just think many games today could do something more interesting with them. It seems like we re mostly on the same page. So...what games are really doing creative boss fights right these days?

Tom: The first example that jumps to my mind is Titan Souls, a game made up of nothing but boss fights. It takes the kill the big monster in an arena concept to its extreme and cuts the fat off everywhere else. If you need to be convinced that compelling and exciting boss fights are still possible in modern games, Titan Souls will do that and then some. Terraria is another good example; each boss is difficult and unique, but also represents a tier of progression. The game has an open world with no fake constraints, but you can mostly only reach bosses in a certain order, each one giving you the means to fight the next. These games embrace the boss fight as the effective tool it is; a change of pace, a milestone in your progression, and a generator of wow moments.

Wes: I ve played my fair share of Terraria, but I ll be checking up on Titan Souls. If killing each boss doesn t make me feel a deep and intense sorrow in true Shadow of the Colossus fashion, though, I m going to hold you responsible for my irrational expectations.

Tom: Titan Souls was the first game that made me physically jump out of my chair when I killed a boss, and I did so for every single one. Consider your expectations rationally high. 

PC Gamer

The Writers Guild of America has named its nominees for the 2014 'outstanding achievement in writing for videogames' award. Set to be decided at the 2015 Writers Guild Awards on February 14, the games include Alien: IsolationAssassin's Creed: UnityAssassin's Creed: Freedom Cry and The Last of Us: Left Behind. Note how all of these games have a colon in their title.

It makes sense that our 2014 game of the year should be among the nominees, but keep in mind that the Writers Guild of America only nominates members of the WGA Videogame Writers Caucus, or those who have applied for membership, which probably rules out of a lot of other worthy games released last year. Games also needed to be released between December 1, 2013 and November 30, 2014, which mercifully rules out The Crew, to name one example.

Here are the nominees in handy list form:

Alien: Isolation, Writers Dan Abnett, Dion Lay, Will Porter; SEGA

Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry, Lead Scriptwriter Jill Murray; Scriptwriter Melissa MacCoubrey; Story by Jill Murray, Hugo Giard, Wesley Pincombe; Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed: Unity, Story by Alexandre Amancio, Sylvain Bernard, Travis Stout; Scriptwriting Alexandre Amancio, Travis Stout, Russell Lees, Darby McDevitt, Ceri Young; Additional Scriptwriting Jeffrey Yohalem; Ubisoft

The Last of Us: Left Behind, Written by Neil Druckmann; Sony Computer Entertainment

PC Gamer

Each week PC Gamer s writers stumble out of the snow, gather by the fire, and recount tales of the horrors they ve seen. (Plus some nice stuff.)

THE HIGHS

Samuel Roberts: Metal Gear rocks on PC This week I saw Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes running at 4K on Andy Kelly s PC, while he was reviewing the excellent port for us. Look, the framerate might ve been a bit rubbish running on his GTX 970, but just for the detail on Snake and the weather effects it was worth it. Konami s price point for the game at $20/ 17 was very well-judged, I think, and to sell Ground Zeroes for even less as part of the opening of the Steam sale is even better. I picked up Ground Zeroes and Revengeance for under $20 this week. If this is Konami s way of doubling down on its commitment to PC, I commend them. A fantastic port, and the promise of The Phantom Pain next year—all we need now is a simultaneous release with the console versions, as well as ports of the older games, and Metal Gear s home will be on PC from now on. 

Chris Livingston: Farming Stimulator While I suspect Facebook won't buy it for $2 billion, it's still nice to see another niche gaming gizmo appear: plans for a Farming Simulator controller are in the works. It'll feature a steering wheel-turning knob and a side panel with a loader control stick and programmable buttons. Some virtual farmers out there are going to be very excited.

As a fan of oddball sim games, I hope to see more speciality controllers in the future. I definitely could have used a specialized controller when I pretended to be a San Francisco bus driver, maybe something with a ticket dispenser built into the dash and a defogger switch. When I was a tow truck driver it would have been nice to have had a controller with a few levers on it, or at least a dedicated switch for calling my insurance agent. And, when I made the poor decision to to run a circus, I definitely could have used a custom controller with a single button that read "Do Not Run A Circus" on it. Coulda pressed it immediately and played something else.

Wes Fenlon: Durante rules on Final Fantasy XIII Whenever I can get Durante to lend his expert analysis to PC Gamer, I consider it a good week. I loved his critique of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, because it highlighted the performance issues of the ports and actually explained what causes those issues. His analysis of Dark Souls 2 earlier this year explained why that game was a great PC port, and it warmed my heart to see From Software learn so much, and so quickly, after the first terrible Dark Souls port. The FFXIII games perform more poorly than Dark Souls 2, and offer far fewer options.

I hope that by pointing out these issues, publishers like Square Enix will see that PC players care about options and performance and expect a certain level of quality that's worth investing a bit more time and effort to achieve. Valkyria Chronicles outperformed Sega's expectations in just a few days on Steam, and you can bet it wouldn't have sold as well if it hadn't been a fantastic PC port.

Andy Chalk: Larian Goes to Canada Larian Studios dropped some unexpected news on Thursday: It's opening a new office in Quebec City. That's a big step for a small studio from Belgium, but one it's able, and in a way forced, to take thanks to the success of Divinity: Original Sin. The hit RPG was an ambitious undertaking but studio boss Swen Vincke has his sights set even higher, saying in a blog post that his goal is to create increasingly "dense, highly interactive worlds" that offer a level of freedom approaching that of pencil-and-paper RPGs.

I've been a Larian fan for years, and so I can't help but feel some amount of sympathetic trepidation at the prospect of such a big, bold move. But I also admire Vincke's determination to seize the opportunity that's presented itself, and to be perfectly honest I love the whole "little guy wins big" angle of its success. Larian is my kind of studio, making my kind of game, so it's exciting on a personal level to see that resonate with such a large audience.

Tom Marks: They see Notch rollin , they hatin I don t care what any of you think, all y all are haters anyway. When I heard that Notch, creator of Minecraft and newly made billionaire after selling to Microsoft, had bought a $70 million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills out from under Jay-Z and Beyonce I was absolutely ecstatic. That s incredible. That s the most amazing and hilarious piece of news I ve possibly ever heard. Who cares if it s over-priced, over-sized, and overseas? The dude has $1.7 billion dollars and, until this moment, has been nothing but humble.

Ok, technically it s $1.63 billion now, but even when he was only a plain ol multimillionaire he wasn t flaunting it. Just look at his rig from four months ago. Notch bottled lightning with the success of Minecraft, and then made all the right decisions to keep that success rolling. He made his own fortune and has actively tried to stay out of the limelight since.

He s only a celebrity because the internet liked him and the character they made him out to be. I, for one, wish him very well and hope he s happy in his giant mansion with his giant candy wall. Do I hope uses some of that money for good? Sure, but it s his money and nobody is allowed to judge him for what he spends it on. Also, now that he s in LA, I am eagerly awaiting Notch photo bombing the paparazzi and the surely inevitable reality show. 

Tim Clark: Is this seat taken? Hopefully you ve been enjoying the hardware guides we ve been posting since the site relaunched. There are plenty more planned for the new year, including some substantial rig-building stuff. In the meantime, though, I ve been testing chairs for a couple of weeks. We ve written about standing desks and why sitting can be pretty bad for you recently, but I ll be damned if my butt is going to go unsupported by conventional furniture. So I ve been looking for the best chairs at a variety of prices, with an emphasis on comfort and support over extended sessions. (Though do try to have an hourly stretch. Yes, yes, I know, I m not the boss of you…) So far one seat feels close to revelatory. Which is to say my back no longer hurts like Satan is trying to insert a USB stick into my spine the wrong way up. The full results will be published in mid-January, but I think it s safe to say the chair isn t over yet.

THE LOWS

Chris Livingston: Witcher switcher In regards to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red made an announcement this week about a new playable character, Ciri, which is great news: she looks and sounds like a badass. Still, every time I think about the series, I get focused on the one thing that makes me less interested in playing it: you can't design your own personal version of Geralt. We've heard that you can style his hair and beard a bit in Wild Hunt, but that's not nearly enough for my tastes. Not nearly!

Am I just spoiled by the character customization in other RPGs, like your Dragon Ages and your Elder Scrolls and your Mass Effectseses? Maybe. But being able to put your own personal stamp on your character's looks is an important aspect in role-playing, in my mind nearly as important as tailoring their skills and abilities. I wish The Witcher would finally get on board. On board!

Samuel Roberts: A port in a storm I love Durante s ongoing port analysis work for PCG. This week he took a look at the release for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and the updates made for FFXIII that enabled some pretty basic graphics options, and it s as I suspected—even with the improvements in visuals, the framerates continue to disappoint. Here s why that sucks from my perspective: when I reviewed FFXIII and gave it a fair and low score, I penalised it due to the quality of the port. I want Square Enix to keep releasing Final Fantasy games on PC—but I want them to be better than the console versions, not worse. The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy can t be played on PS4 and Xbox One so these console versions will only collect dust, but on PC they will be around forever. So why not release ports that can stand the test of time? I get the sense the improvements made to the visual options are a gesture of wanting to get things right, but there s still some way to go.

Andy Chalk: Assassin s Creed: Unity patch delayed It's easy for me to be dismissive of the Assassin's Creed: Unity debacle because I don't actually play it, but the delay of the fourth patch to the troubled game earlier this week was infuriating. Not because of the extra wait—bravo to Ubisoft for not shoving something out the door solely to meet an arbitrary deadline—but because of the statement that led into it: "Rigorous quality control is of paramount importance to us, and your feedback over these past weeks has indicated that it is important to you as well."

It is perhaps the most contemptibly ridiculous thing the publisher could have said at that particular moment in time. If 2014 has taught us anything, it's that quality control is most assuredly not of "paramount importance" to Ubisoft; Unity is obviously the poster child of a launch gone wrong but Watch Dogs, Far Cry 4, and The Crew—that is to say, just about every major game it released this year—suffered from a varying amounts of damaging bugs. We all fall into slumps now and then, and maybe Ubisoft's annus horribilis was just a (long) streak of (incredibly) bad luck. But telling the world how committed you are to quality control when you're struggling to fix the patch to fix the game that's still a mess after three prior patches doesn't make you look conscientious. It makes you look silly.

Wes Fenlon: Sportsfriends, minus Bach Sportsfriends was supposed to arrive on the PC aaaages ago, but it's just squeaking onto the 2014 calendar with a release today. Now we know at least one partial reason for the delay: despite their best efforts, the developers haven't been able to get Johann Sebastian Joust's PlayStation Move controllers to work on the PC. And, according to the devs, they'll never be able to. On the bright side, Joust works on Linux and OS X, which is as good an argument for SteamOS as I've heard yet. But it's a shame that one of the highlights of a really unique local multiplayer package won't be available to the majority of PC players. Ah, well. There's always Hokra.

Tom Marks: Boldy too scared to go I want to play Elite: Dangerous. I really do. I want to get completely sucked into that universe, make my way through the stars, and learn to master the controls of my ship. But I am too scared to do it. Elite just seems so big and imposing that I feel like I d never be able to get a foothold. Its scope is both exciting and intimidating. I d love to take part in that experience, and I don t think I d be bad at it, but there s something about knowing the first 20 hours of a game are going to be learning the basics that scares me away.

I m probably painting the experience with too broad a brush, and I m honestly a little bit ashamed for not steeling myself and diving headfirst into Elite. I ve been watching livestreams of other people playing and it looks simple, but then I ask myself how long it took that person to make it seem easy? Why are they doing that thing they chose to do over any of the other countless options they have? Where would I even begin? I don t doubt Elite will envelop me eventually, but it might take easing into it with my friends to not startle me away.

Tim Clark: Haters The whole now you see it, now you don t… Oh, huh, it s back saga that went on with Hatred on Greenlight this week felt like an unedifying episode for Steam. I also suspect it only stores up a problem for Valve further down the line. Someone initially decided the game s content crossed the lines of taste and decency, and therefore had no place on the service, but later that same day the civilian slaughter sim received a reprieve, seemingly after an intervention from Gabe Newell himself.

My read on this is that Valve doesn t want to position itself as moral arbiters of what s acceptable in terms of violence. Presumably so long as the material doesn t breach any laws, the firm is willing to host it. But isn t it odd, then, to be coy about sexual content? I imagine the developers of the (not especially sexy) intercourse- em-up Seduce Me, which was pulled from Greenlight in 2012, would have something to say.

As for Hatred, I m not sure refusing to host it would have qualified as censorship, as the angrier commenters immediately claimed. Running a publishing platform doesn t oblige you to provide a home for every game in existence, much in the same way as deciding to throw a party doesn t mean you re obliged to invite the neighbourhood nutcase. (Related: I haven t been invited to *any* parties this holiday. QQ.)

I think the real issue, for Valve, is that the idea of taking a zero touch approach to this stuff isn t tenable. It s easy to come up with increasingly extreme game concepts until you arrive at one which no company would rightly want to be associated with distributing. What we saw this week was Valve struggling to decide where that line is going to fall. (Aside: Just me, or does the animation in Hatred actually look quite slick? Pity whoever s doing that couldn t have found something, y know, not vile to work on.)

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