PC Gamer

The Highs

Tom Senior: Welcome back, CommanderI snuck into the Highs and Lows article first this week, which means I get to write about how good XCOM 2 is before anyone else has the chance. Aha! I m looking forward to seeing everyone s reactions when they run into some of the cruelest aliens and unlock the highest armour tier, which looks sweet. All over Twitter today I ve seen people filling out their campaign with custom soldiers named after pals. The mod scene will kick into gear in no time.

Sometimes a game launch births a creative scene. I think people will be creating and sharing around XCOM 2 for a long time, and I think it has the potential to reach beyond the usual audience for strategy games. It s exciting for us, too, not just as players, but because we get to cover it for years and feature the coolest stuff you re making. The Witness, Homeworld, Rise of the Tomb Raider, XCOM 2—What a great start to 2016.

Angus Morrison: Remembering the Second World WarIt s easy to clamour for the return of World War 2 shooters—it s been fashionable for a while now—but it s harder to do anything about it. This week, two unlikely teams have bypassed Dice and Treyarch and taken matters into their own hands, proving that not only the demand but the drive is there to reimagine WW2.

Day of Infamy, a total conversion mod for New World s Insurgency, is being built with the plucky community spirit we like to imagine the Allies carried with them across the battlefields. New World did the groundwork and has now made Day of Infamy compatible with Insurgency s live build. Now the community are pitching in to support the war effort, supplying maps, models and textures in service to a superb free offering.

Battalion 1944 is still more ambitious—a game in its own right under development be a small team from Derby, UK. They espoused a heartfelt vision of simpler times when shooters were rugged and skill-based, and the populace responded with 100,000 in Kickstarter cash in three days. Get this ridiculous jetpack off me and pass my M1 Garand.

Chris Livingston: Sky s the limitI spent some time updating our list of the best Skyrim mods this week. A lot of time because there are lot of mods. Nexus Mods can be a rabbit hole like TV Tropes or Wikipedia—you can lose days in there just following links. You ll check out one mod, and the modder will suggest that their mod goes really well with several others. So you ll check out those others, and they ll suggest their own lists of complimentary mods. It s hard to assemble a best-of list when the list refuses to stop growing.

At one point, when I had roughly 25 tabs open, I just kinda got goosebumps. Modders are amazing. All of this work, this passion, this dedication and creativity and know-how… it s overwhelming. More than anything else, modders are what makes PC gaming such a rich, exciting, ever-changing experience. Thank you, sincerely, each and every one of you.

Tyler Wilde: Suburban dreadI moved in with my mom recently, where I'm going to stay temporarily before I take a one-way trip to Maryland, which I assume is just a mound of snow with a big monument sticking out the top. That's a worry for later. For now, it's the quiet that's getting to me. I've lived in San Francisco for the past seven years, and off and on before that, and I'm used to a certain amount of noise: drunk people yelling at 3 am, cars honking, sirens. I stopped noticing it after a while but its absence is all I hear out in the suburbs. I'm just getting started at 11 pm, but here it's like everyone's shut themselves into coffins—it's dead.

I'm starting to like it, though. I forgot how cool and creepy it is to be out at night among cul-de-sacs and strip malls. It's not silent, the sounds are just droning and more distant: transformers vibrating, street lamps whining, the woosh of trucks on the freeway, echoes of a dog barking somewhere. It's really got me in the mood for some creeps, so I've started replaying Lone Survivor, a great little horror game by Jasper Byrne that tests your grasp on reality in a monster infested apartment complex. If there were more Silent Hill games on PC I'd be set, but sadly they haven t gotten the Resident Evil treatment, so if you can think of any games that capture a similar sort of empty suburban dread, let me know. I want to sit out on the dark porch with my laptop and a beer to set up some cool nightmares for myself.

Phil Savage: The long haulMy internet is bad, so, while I waited for XCOM 2 to download, I decided to kill time with American Truck Simulator. ETS2 is great, but I was worried that the unyielding deserts of Nevada would prove less interesting than Europe's more varied locales. Not so. Dusty open roads are the perfect setting for a long haul drive, and made better through ATS's inclusion of suitably American radio stations.

It's hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere. It's particularly noticeable at night. Every inch of ETS2's Europe feels developed and maintained, so that you're always aware of being trapped in the sprawling artifice of roads and infrastructure. ATS's Nevada feels wilder, and more barren. There's a sense of isolation that feels new and welcome. I'm not sure for how long the currently included two states will hold my interest before repetition sets in, but for now I'm content to cruise across the desert—delivering my goods to wherever they might be needed.

Evan Lahti: PC Gamer II: OriginsAlthough I couldn t help but write something about CS:GO last Saturday, this week was my first official week back at PC Gamer after three months spent trying something else. I feel really lucky to be able to keep working somewhere this meaningful and fun; being away reinforced how rare it is to have a job that encourages and pushes you to explore what you re passionate about.

It s a privilege to do that, and to be heard. It s a privilege to walk up to anyone you want at an event like PAX and ask them a question just because you re holding a microphone. It s a privilege to solve tough problems (like how to put on an event for PC gaming at E3, as we did last year) with people who care about them as much as you do. Onward!

The Lows

Tyler WIlde: I finally want to fantasyThis is a pretty minor quibble—I ve had a good week—but I m so tired of the game we play with publishers who don t want to admit that their game is definitely coming to PC. I misread our own headline about Final Fantasy XV which said it may be coming to PC, missing the may, and had a weird wave of excitement. I ve never been into Final Fantasy, but I suddenly really wanted to play this one.

While I contemplate what my life is going to be like after I move into a big blocky East Coast home surrounded by parks and schools—not at all what I m used to—the thought of disappearing into a hundred hours of silly RPGing became more appealing than it s been since I first played Mass Effect during a lonely week by myself in a studio apartment. But then I read the may and got bummed. I m 99 percent sure FFXV will be on PC, but all the will they, won t they crap is as exasperating as Ross and Rachel. Just marry us already you dweebs.

Evan Lahti: XCOM 2 performance issuesThe fog of complaints on forums comments and Steam reviews can t paint an accurate picture of how big the issue actually is, but some amount of people are less than happy with XCOM 2 s framerate on rigs that exceed the recommended spec. I m one of them—running a 980 at 2560x1440 on High (not Maximum), I get 40-55 fps in combat and some other areas, like character customization. That s surprising but not awful. More annoying, though, are the occasional (but jarring) fps dips I and others are experiencing during cutscenes and camera movement.

I reached out to 2K Games this morning to see if they have anything to say about it, and I ll be sure to write it up if they get back to me.

Tom Senior: Smash hitI keep meaning to do a feature that rates different customer service experiences across the games industry. Partly because calling out bad practice could encourage change, but also because it's quite fun to read about customer service disasters. We got a good one today courtesy of Bethesda, who requested that a customer destroy the remainder of an incomplete set of records before a refund would be supplied. He did, with a hammer.

As well as being an evidently stupid request, this sort of incident displays a degree of stinginess that s especially graceless coming from a large company. Granted, if the customer gave the three spare records to someone else, that could potentially deny Bethesda 75% of a sale. It s probably worth sacrificing that for the sake of goodwill and general common sense.

Chris Livingston: This blowsI m sure I ve written my share of misleading headlines, but all of you websites out there advertising Complete puzzle solutions for The Witness that do not actually have a complete puzzle solutions for The Witness are making me want to break a puzzle panel over your heads and draw squiggly lines on your face in permanent marker. In related news: I occasionally cheat at The Witness.

I am sure these sites will someday will have a complete set of solutions, but last night I went to at least five different sites looking for help with a single puzzle. No one had it, despite all advertising that they did. I even watched a video on a site that advertised a complete guide, and long minutes into the video the player walked up to the very puzzle I was stumped on, looked at it, then turned around and left the area while—no lie—a text box popped up on the video saying We haven t solved this one yet. Arrrgh! The only thing more infuriating than the puzzles in The Witness is how hard a time I m having trying to avoid figuring out the infuriating puzzles in The Witness!

Angus Morrison: Is nothing sacred?I feel a bit awkward talking about Godus at this point—I want it to catch a break so I can say something positive instead of wincing when I go to write the news. Godus re-emerged this week after a few months silence and Peter Molyneux s retreat from the limelight in February last year. Godus Wars is a sort-of-but-not-really standalone RTS that appears as a separate game on the Steam store but is automatically unlocked for all Godus owners, just as Godus is unlocked for all Godus Wars owners. Bit weird, but okay.

What was truly exasperating is that after the relentless, pounding criticism of Godus resentful approach to player interaction and the inspiration it seems to take from free-to-play mobile games, the second region in the $15 Early Access game had a $5 paywall in front of it.

There was a backlash, naturally, and credit to 22cans for removing it faster than you can say Jesus Christ , but it is beyond me how anybody could have maintained the slightest belief that it would slip past unnoticed.

Phil Savage: Bug, not a featureAw, Angus took Godus Wars? In that case, let's revisit the best headline of the week: "Rogue Ant Simulator devs blow budget on 'liquor and strippers'." In the video that prompted the story, Ant Simulator lead developer Eric Tereshinski claimed that his business partners blew Kickstarter and investment cash on booze and strippers—an allegation that said business partners call "100% bullshit." The industry hasn't been quite so '90s since the '90s.

It seems as if the whole thing will devolve into lawyers, which is a pretty spectacular way to end a longterm friendship. There's no larger message here—no great lesson to be learned or commentary to be added—because everything I could say should go without saying. But just in case, independent of whether it did or didn't happen in this specific instance: are you a project lead who's planning to spend all that project's money on getting drunk and ogling women? Well, don't. Obviously.

PC Gamer
PC Gamer

XCOM 2 launched today, and so has the very first user-created mod: The ACORG-47. It's a gun. But it's not just a gun. It's also a corgi.

That's right, a corgi, as in a deliciously cute little dog with its tongue lolling carelessly from its mouth. And if you think it's silly, well, you're not the only one. I feel legit bad that this is the first XCOM 2 mod to be released, the developer, JonTerp, wrote in the mod description.

Be that as it may, its leadoff position was immortalized on Twitter by the folks at Firaxis, and they don't seem bothered by it at all. And why would they be? Maybe it doesn't fit with the whole grim, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it motif of XCOM 2, but on the other hand... So adorable! Oh yes he is! Who's a good boy? Who's a good boy? You are! Yes you are!

Anyway.

XCOM 2 was designed from the start to be more moddable than its predecessor, with a proper suite of modding tools including a Visual Studio isolated shell app and the Unreal editor used to build the game, plus the script source code and an estimated 50GB of assets. That opens up whole realms of possibilities that just weren't available in Enemy Unknown, which can only be beneficial to the future of XCOM 2. Not that it isn't an outstanding game in its own right: Have a look at our XCOM 2 review to find out why.

Good boy!

PC Gamer

Battalion 1944 sounds like a very ambitious project. It's a Second World War multiplayer FPS, built in Unreal Engine 4, with motion-captured animation, assets precisely based on photos of real items and locations, and a general promise of high-budget sheen—all for a very low (relatively speaking) Kickstarter goal of 100,000/$145,000. A goal which has now been met, just three days after the campaign began.

I'll be honest, I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. Not because there's anything fishy about the Kickstarter pitch, which is actually very thorough, but because I didn't realize there was so much interest in a new WW2 shooter. I suppose it's been a long time since we've had a good realistic one, but even so, pulling in 100,000 this quickly is an impressive accomplishment.

With the base target done, the campaign is now digging into stretch goals. The developers said they have something awesome in the works which a lot of you have been asking for, but won't reveal what it is until it's fully planned out. Whatever it turns out to be, they said that it will push the authentic WW2 experience to even greater heights. Battalion 1944 has also made great leaps on Steam Greenlight, moving overnight from number 20 to number six on the list.

As I write this, the Battalion 1944 Kickstarter is sitting at just shy of 130,000/$188,000, with 26 days remaining in the campaign.

PC Gamer

For those of us not interested in ye olden sports and looking to skip the Super Bowl, there's a ton of competitive gaming to watch online this weekend. Let's start with an unusual team-based spin on Blizzard's wizard poker...


Hearthstone: Red Bull Team Brawl

2016 is truly the year of new formats for Hearthstone. Hot on the heels of Blizzard announcing Standard and Wild format will arrive this spring, Red Bull will be hosting what is probably the strangest tournament format yet. Teams of three will get 240 random cards (weighted by the rarity system) and then have 30 minutes to build three decks from their collective card pool using each card only once. If the format sounds confusing, there's this handy explanation video, or you can just watch live here starting Saturday at 12pm PST. It's a one-day event.

League of Legends: NA LCS and the LPL

League of Legends' Spring Split continues merrily on. The EU LCS is wrapping up today, but the North American LCS will be going from 12-5ish PST on both Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, you'll be able to catch the tail-end of the Chinese LPL Saturday night from 11pm-2am PST. You can also watch all the action on Riot Games' official Twitch channel right here.

StarCraft 2: 2016 WCS Winter Circuit NA and EU Qualifier Finals

The WCS Winter Circuit Qualifiers have been going since the middle of last week, and although we already saw half of the finals play out last weekend, this weekend we finish off the list. Three more pros from NA and four more from EU will move on from tomorrow's tournament, out of a field of 16 players across both regions. The action kicks off on Saturday at 9am PST with the EU Qualifiers, followed by the NA Qualifiers at 4pm PST. You can find the NA stream here and the EU stream here.

Counter-Strike: Assembly Winter 2016

Eight teams—including the Copenhagen Wolves, ENCE eSports, and more—battle over what is roughly a $16k prizepool and a whole lot of glory. The tournament actually began today at 2am PST, and while most of the games have already been played, the semis and the finals will take place late on Saturday night. The first semi will be between ENCE and the Wolves, while the second semi is between Team LDLC Blue and a currently unknown opponent—either Team LDLC White or Epiphany Bolt. The semifinals begin Saturday at 4am PST, with the finals scheduled for 12:30pm PST. You can watch it live here


Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

Todd Howard of Bethesda Softworks will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th annual Game Developers Conference in March.

Howard's first credited game at Bethesda is the 1995 FPS Terminator: Future Shock. But 2002 is when things really took off, as he served as a designer, writer, and project lead on the revolutionary Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. After that came Oblivion, Fallout 3, Skyrim, and, most recently, Fallout 4—all of them tremendously successful blockbusters. He even has a hit mobile game to his credit: Fallout Shelter, which climbed to the top spot on both the App Store and Google Play just days after release.

The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series present gamers with fully realized worlds filled with vast landscapes, and mystery at every corner. We re proud to honor the visionary developer for his leadership in creating these universes, Meggan Scavio, General Manager of GDC events, said in a statement. When you re completely captivated by these detailed worlds, it s easy to forget the level of dedicated work and creativity that went into every square inch. This award reflects on the amazing craft of Todd Howard and his team in making worlds as real as anything on Earth.

Previous Lifetime Achievement Award winners include Will Wright, Yuji Naka, Gunpei Yokoi, Mark Cerny, Eugene Jarvis, Richard Garriott, Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, Hideo Kojima, John Carmack, Peter Molyneux, Warren Spector, Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Ken Kutaragi—esteemed company all around. Howard will be presented with the award at the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony, taking place on March 16 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

PC Gamer

If you've been following our PAX South coverage, you know that I interviewed a whole lot of developers last weekend. What you didn't know is that after each of those interviews, I asked them all the same question: Will 2016 be the year of VR? It's a divisive question, and unsurprisingly we got a wide range of answers. Developers of hardware, indie games, and big-budget games all weighed in on what they expect for VR this year. Watch the video above to hear what they had to say. 

PC Gamer

Epic Games reports that its Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 is up and running in virtual reality, meaning developers should be able to strap on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, don the accompanying motion controllers, and create virtual reality experiences in real time. The company says movement in the real world is mapped one-to-one in VR, allowing developers to reach out, manipulate, and grab objects. How cool is that?

According to Epic boss Tim Sweeney in a recent blog, VR movement and editing controls are now functional in the VR editor, which also sports key parts of the Unreal Editor UI such as the Content Browser and the Details Panel. When the editor is eventually released, it will be built into Unreal Engine 4, which can be downloaded gratis, straight from Epic. The company will also release the full source code on GitHub.

You start out in the VR editor at a human scale, and can directly manipulate objects by moving around in a room-scale VR setting, Sweeney says. But you can also use a smartphone-like pinching motion to zoom in and out. With one pinch, the world is shrunk to the size of a Barbie Doll house on your table. You can manipulate it granularly and ergonomically, and then zoom back to human scale.

He says that developers also have a laser pointer at their disposal, allowing them to point at an object that s far away and either move it around, or reel in the object as if using a fishing rod. Developers can also teleport to the object s location by merely clicking a button.

With a mouse, several operations are often required to transform an object along multiple axes in 3D. In VR, you can frequently accomplish the same result with a single, intuitive motion, Sweeney adds. This should come as no surprise, as a mouse only tracks two degrees of movement (X and Y), but in VR your head and two hands track six degrees of freedom each: X, Y, Z, and three rotational axes. That s 9 times the high-fidelity input bandwidth!

Sweeney says that Epic s Mark Rein saw the early DK1 version of Facebook s Oculus Rift prototype years ago and decided that Unreal Engine needed to support the hardware. Sweeney thought the idea was crazy at the time, until the HTC Vive and Oculus Touch motion controllers were introduced. These devices proved that developers could manipulate 3D objects directly in 3D just as humans do with objects in the real world.

Unreal Engine has come a long way since it was first introduced back in the mid-'90s. It was the first engine to provide what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editing, allowing map creators to move around the virtual environment and place objects in real time. Now developers can do the same in virtual reality, providing a more personal, hands-on experience.

Sweeney says that additional details, including an actual release date, will be revealed in March during GDC 2016. In the meantime, you can catch the new VR editor in action by checking out the video below!

PC Gamer
PC Gamer

2016 is an election year in the US, a time when Americans of all political persuasions come together to partake in a rational discourse, exchanging ideas as they work to decide who among them is most qualified to lead their great nation into the future. Just kidding! Not about it being an election year—it is—but about all the other stuff. In reality, it's a time of super-heated rhetoric, unrestrained nastiness, and grotesque behavior—and also time for a new version of Stardock's election simulator The Political Machine.

The Political Machine 2016 is all about getting elected by any means necessary. Sling some mud, take advantage of circumstance, say stupid, obscene things on national radio, and spend, spend, spend. It includes more than a dozen pre-made, real-life candidates, like Hillary, Bern, and The Donald, and if you don't care for any of them (and who could blame you?) you can create your own instead. National hot-buttons are a priority, but regional issues will have to dealt with as well: Embrace some, bury others, and try not to alienate too many people on your quest to mainstream acceptability (and ownership of the nuclear football).

The game deals with topics like the Keystone XL Pipeline, human trafficking, and other issues that are current and relevant to this year s election, Producer Patrick Shaw said. We ve added a poll tracking feature so that you can see how your own political races are matching up to what s going on in the United States right now.

The Political Machine 2016 is available now on Steam for 25 percent off until February 12, which is also when the Steam Lunar New Year Sale ends. (Coincidence or conspiracy? You decide!) Owners of The Political Machine 2012 may opt to upgrade to the new edition directly from Stardock for $5.

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