PC Gamer
face off

Shaun Prescott, Australia Editor

Is tired of being sold pre-order packages just to avoid missing out on virtual goods he has no idea if he wants yet.

Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor

Wishes we lived in a perfect world where Evolve shipped with mod tools, but is a sad, sad realist.

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Shaun and Tyler debate whether or not Evolve s pre-order and season pass bonuses are excessive.

Shaun Prescott: YES. It pressures customers into buying into an unknown quantity.

Imagine this: you wake up on the morning a videogame is released, you pay the asking price for said videogame, download it, boot it up, and happily play the videogame. You are not anxious that you did not buy the Premium Deluxe Super Bundle Pack or the Gargantuan Mega Bonus Everything Pack, because the game is just the game. Seems like fun, doesn t it?

Evolve isn t the first title to muddy the waters with confusing pre-order incentives (hello, Ubisoft), but there seems to be a lot more at stake. This is a new series and it will live or die based on the strength of its online community. Additionally, dangling a full playable monster as a pre-order incentive seems cynical at a time when most blockbuster video games barely work at launch.

Tyler Wilde: NO. It s on par with what we expect from a big publisher, and not that bad.

I m playing devil s advocate here, but I think it s a fair argument that, realistically, we re just not going to get a single package and years of free updates from 2K. Here s a subsidiary of a big public company spending loads of money on a very expensive-looking risk from Turtle Rock, and we have to ask why it s pushing a $100 special edition? I mean, consider the graphics alone: Evolve is gorgeous. Except for a few anomalies, we re not going to get accomplishments like that without a big publisher and big marketing push.

SP: Just because it s common practice doesn t mean it s good practice, and doesn t mean we should tolerate it. I understand the publisher s imperative to make money. Take-Two is a publicly listed company and it has stakeholders to please, but pressuring us to purchase before we even know whether the final product is worth our money and making the incentive something quite critical to the core game does not a goodwill effort make. The fact that Turtle Rock try to spin this as a thank you is pretty funny, actually. I suppose it is a bonus to pre-order customers, but it s also a cool thing you re not getting for people who buy the regular product. As a business 2K has a responsibility to its investors, but without its customers, it has no investors to report to. Please customers with an exceptional game and people will buy your game and respect your company.

TW: Goodwill doesn t keep people employed. I don t have any inside knowledge about Turtle Rock s situation, but hypothetically, if I were in their shoes, I d be on board with 2K s plan. A season pass means I get to stay in business making Evolve-related stuff for a quantifiable amount of time, and that s attractive in an industry that just loves to layoff 100 people after every release. I hate that about the industry, and selling giant season pass packages certainly isn t the best solution, but I hope it keeps Turtle Rock going—maybe with one team plugging away at Evolve DLC, while another can start working on a new game.

SP: You re absolutely right that post-launch layoffs are horrible, but the fact of the matter is: this is a premium retail game. Take Left 4 Dead for instance: that was a game released with no confusing post-launch transactions and people still play it. As you mention, Turtle Rock isn t the decision maker here, but they are a fine and convenient example of a studio that can release a hugely profitable game without the nonsense.

TW: Yeah, but that was with Valve. I mean, they own the thing that distributes PC games to everyone. I just don t think companies like 2K, which make big investments in the hope of big returns, can afford to sell a game like Evolve for $50 with no pre-orders and hope for the best. This is an asymmetrical shooter unrelated to any established series, which makes it a big risk. Pushing for pre-orders is just risk management. I never recommend pre-ordering, because launches of multiplayer games tend to go poorly, but if we have to wade through some annoying marketing tactics to get games that aren t rehashes or remakes, I can deal with it.

SP: That may be true, and that kind of risk management is understandable (if ugly) when it comes to, say, the new Assassin s Creed. But Evolve will rely on the community it establishes. If 2K pisses off the community then it calls the game s whole existence into question. Look at how difficult it is to get a game in Titanfall nowadays thanks to an onslaught of paid-for map packs. While Turtle Rock has promised it will release maps free to avoid this fate, a full-priced multiplayer-focused game needs to offer a level playing field. It needs to be fair. It needs the appearance of being fair. It is a bad thing for some players to have things that others can t (unless they pay for it months down the track).

TW: Turtle Rock has said that none of the DLC stuff will segment the playerbase. Like you say, all of the maps will be free. If someone has an extra monster, you can still play against it—you just won't be able to play as that monster. That's not really unfair, because it s not monster vs. monster. It s just another interesting enemy I can play against even if I don't pay for the privilege to play as it.

SP: Yes, but it still creates an environment where a competitive game is operating based on how players have spent their money. This isn t just a matter of offering choices, as Phil Robb said last month. It s segmenting haves from the have nots. I don t want to feel like I m missing out when I fight the Behemoth. I don t want to think the player with access to the Behemoth is gaining a competitive advantage while I wait to pay for it. Am I being entitled? Probably, but I m also probably going to spend a lot of money on this game when it releases.

TW: You know, I think there are reasonable arguments on both sides, but it's tough for me to continue arguing that this pre-order stuff doesn t lower my opinion of Evolve at all. Dammit Shaun, you win, because, yeah, it definitely does. I can understand why these pre-order bonus packages happen, and I think Turtle Rock has been really open about how this is not going to segment players, but that isn't the only problem. Pre-orders in general are the problem. Consumers shouldn t be pressured into throwing money at something before it s released just to get DLC they can t possibly know yet if they want. Buying games shouldn t feel like gambling—though to be fair, that's not just Evolve, that's most big publisher releases. But you win—next time you be devil's advocate, OK?

PC Gamer

I get irate when watching a bad pickban phase.

League's is simplistic compared to Dota 2's: for LoL, each side takes turns banning champions one at a time until six are banned away. Then they take turns picking champions in a 1-2-2-2-2-1 pattern (blue side picks one, red side picks two, blue picks two, etc). Then they swap the champions onto the players that are supposed to play them and hash out their strategies in the game. Dota 2's competitive system has bans and picks interweaved with each other, making for an involved game of what David Sirlin of "Play to Win" fame would describe as "yomi," or a form of mind-reading. But where Dota 2's is something akin to a game unto itself, League's much simpler approach only qualifies as a diversionary minigame.

Theoretically, it should also be a minigame long solved. High-priority or flexible first picks and the core-structuring red-side 2/3 aren't complex concepts, and even a pro player distracted with thoughts of their rival's reputations and known specializations can kick out a decent team half the time. The fact that it's now global standard for coaches to assist their team in picks and bans, as has been recently formalized in both NA and EU LCS, should by and large make all team compositions and pick processes go like clockwork, or at least fail to make the audience smack their foreheads.

Forget about slapping foreheads. I'm putting a dent into my desk. In North America, especially, the picks are so incredibly bad as to be stunning. But NA might as well be fielded by ten teams of utter geniuses compared to what happened over IEM Taipei, when defending GPL champions and LMS leaders Taipei Assassins got literally everything they could have wished for from the Saigon Jokers.

It can't be the coaches, at least not entirely. TPA's process brightened the hell up once they got external aid. Are they simply not aware of how badly they've messed up their research and preparations?

Winning recipes

The more complex a game, the harder it is to balance it well. Sure, there is such thing as a competitive rock/paper/scissors scene, but is it going to get 150,000 Twitch viewers per broadcast? For various reasons, no: we prefer myriad and unpredictable outcomes that not only summarizes but demonstrates a player or team's cleverness. We also prefer it to be immediately understandable, which is tension in another direction and why watching Dota 2 pickbans put me to sleep—I'm not so nearly invested in their scene as to understand the nuances, so I lose interest quickly.

But here in January 2015, the big priorities of League of Legends' pick/ban strategies should, by all means, be self-evident. And I feel that if it is evident even to me, there's no excuses for coaches and teams to be dropping the ball. They have to at least know what they're likely going to run into—there aren't that many different strategies to memorize, early into the 2015 season!

Gnarvan

If you aren't ready to deal with Gnar and Jarvan, ban one or both—and, honestly, if you're that badly prepped, ban both immediately. The "Gnarvan" combo is easy to understand: Jarvan creates a ring of walls around his target, and Gnar stuns anybody he slams into walls. The natural synergy, especially given that Gnar is blatantly overpowered at the moment with way too many free stats as Mega-Gnar, is usually enough to wreck any team they encounter.

The funny thing is, this wasn't supposed to be possible. Gnar was explicitly designed to be hard to control: the forced transformation at full rage is meant to be difficult to handle, and hard to combo with. Difficult, but not impossible—and he was designed prior to Riot re-coding wall-creating abilities to interact exactly like their permanent environmental counterparts, enabling current top laners to figure out absolutely sickening synergies with their junglers. You know a team's gone when the combo hits—you know it because Gnar's so aggressively overtuned that the wide and heavy hit melts even the tankiest health bars, tipping the balance in his team's favor.

But note that I'm stressing Gnar's involvement, and not Jarvan IV's. Though Jarvan has been an incredibly popular jungler, his individual contribution mainly counters no-dash champions like Xerath or Sivir, who needs Flash up to escape his attention. Other popular picks are less vulnerable to him—but all are vulnerable to Gnar, whose conditionally long-range jumps can ruin the day for even the most mobile champions. Fights are slightly less effective without a summonable wall for him to interact with, but junglers like Lee Sin, Rek'Sai or Rengar still work just fine setting up for his rampage.

Kassandra

If teams are smart enough to ban out Jarvan and Gnar together, they haven't quite caught on that it isn't safe to relax yet. As mentioned: part of the reason to pick Jarvan in the first place is to have a hard answer to Sivir. So why pick Sivir? Because Kassadin, Lissandra and LeBlanc are in the game, and good luck surviving encounters without a Spell Shield to negate a double AP assassins initiation! Setting up the strategy core is also deceptively easy: all three are great midlaners right now, but Kassadin and Lissandra are also highly effective top laners, making it difficult to know if a team's going for this specific strategy until it's too late and one side's already locked into their strategy.

This is the one composition that maybe gives the Gnarvan combo problems. Due to the immediate blink abilities, Jarvan's Cataclysms are less reliable set-ups for Gnar's wall-slams, allowing a team to swiftly reposition and take advantage of their ability cooldowns to destroy the back line. But assassins are decidedly early and mid-game oriented strategies, and bypassing the threat wall imposed by Jarvan and Gnar is a very skill-intensive deed, turning considerably harder the later the game goes on (and very hard if the Gnar player has above-caliber rage management).

Fast Cat

Rengar, the Pridestalker

If you don't need to worry about Gnar and Jarvan and are expecting your opponent to dip into their assassins pool, you're going to be running Sivir and Morgana. Possibly Sivir and Janna, if the threat is more from hard damage than crowd control abilities. Sivir and Morgana, in particular, are nearly impossible for the current crop of close-range assassins to sink their fangs into: both have Spell Shields to deter attempts to pin them down, and the mobility offered from Sivir's On The Hunt lets them slip away long before even Kassadin can Riftwalk after them.

But the threat isn't the bot lane pairing specifically, but what Sivir's presence enables. Like with Jarvan's interaction with Gnar, her ultimate supercharges a jungler from decent status to unholy terror. Though the western scene's infamously had a hard time utilizing Rengar in competitive play, literally everybody else in the League of Legends scene has long since treated him as a high priority. With Sivir, Janna or Orianna to help him close the distance on squishy targets—like other assassins—a Rengar-centric composition is like an anti-pick composition. His rooting crowd control and instantaneous burst out of stealth would normally be telegraphed by the Metal Gear Solid-esque exclamation marks over opponents' heads when he approaches, but the speed bursts provided by the rest of his team largely negates this deliberate weakness in his design. It also really helps that On The Hunt goes both ways: it lets Sivir and her support fall back as Rengar advances, rewriting the lines of the battlefield in favor of their team.

Queen Monster

Rek'sai, queen of the jungle

So that's the current lopsided rock-paper-scissors situation for League of Legends, but there's one last thing to note: Rek'sai. Yes, like Gnar, another ridiculously overtuned champion to prioritize in bans or even first/second picks. League of Legends' answer to Dota 2's Sand King's an enormous destabilizing force, and I wholly recommend simply banning her outright at the start. Not only does she very easily bypass most barriers, not only does her ultimate effectively grant her total map control, but the damage she currently does is on the absurd end. Even if she builds full tank—especially if she builds full tank—the base values and true damage nuke makes her a fully independent threat, with any of the current team comps only amplifying her effectiveness.

Piece by piece

Though there are individual elements in the current metagame that I consider destablizing (Gnar and Rek'sai's lead designers need to spend a good long time contemplating their philosophies), I actually like this current metagame's three-way tension, as each has multiple variants and approaches within them, and each are centralized around teamfighting anyhow, producing spectator-friendly clashes. What I don't like is needless sloppiness, or evidence of lack of preparation from nominally professional teams and players. The data, nuances and success rates of all three current strategies should be very well known to them and their analysts, as well as the preference rates of their rival teams. Knowing how to prioritize the picks to obfuscate their intentions should also be clear, yet what we're seeing is not obfuscation but outright errors.

The difference between solo queue and ranked 5's play is building a coherent intention, not reactively cobbling responses, yet you see a lot of the latter at the bottom of the LCS ladders. Order of picks matter: whether you're blue side using a flex pick first to test enemy waters, or if you're red side nabbing priority picks before your opponent can dilute the field against you.

Bans matter especially so: blue side gets a significant advantage, being able to effectively four-ban against a single player, which is absolutely devastating against teams with a known specialist of limited breadth, though it's a strategy that falls out of favor against truly high-caliber players whose overall game mechanics are sound even without favorite picks. Yet even without locking out, hyper-focused bans do lock teams in on specific champion-oriented strategies, and can be used as a trap to draw them out of their comfort zones.

It would be a mistake to treat the initial strategy parts of a competition as less vital than overall skill. Everybody's putting in the hours now. Everybody's taking practice more seriously (or should be). Even in the western scene, where the grassroots histories of players and organizations are still peeping out in tufts from the roughly woven blankets of respectability and legitimacy, there's been an increasing equivalence in individual skill. The hierarchies are no longer so strict as Player A is guaranteed to beat B is guaranteed to beat C, but roughly estimated odds and percentages based on matchups and conditions.

So the teams, and especially the coaches, have to learn to create those conditions. Piece by piece. Champion by champion. And most importantly, pay attention to how their rivals are doing so, and what changes they are likely to make from week to week.

Don't think for a moment that they won't be scouting you in Shanghai or Seoul. If not now, then certainly over the summer. Plan accordingly.

PC Gamer

The language of gaming is constantly mutating. For instance, "lag" used to refer to delays in client/server communication, but lately we've heard it used as if it's synonymous with "low framerate." Baffling. To help clear some things up, we've asked regular PC Gamer writer and all-round lexical savant Richard Cobbett to create a brief glossary of PC gaming's most important terms and their modern definitions (with a few additions of our own).

Page one: AAA - DRM

Page two: Early Access - Kill streak

Page three: Lag - Quick time event

Page four: Real-time strategy - Zombie


AAA: Industry talk for big and amazing game . Since nobody will admit to actively making crap, almost nobody will admit to going below AA.

Abandonware: A nice sounding but legally-meaningless term for games no longer sold and thus deemed fair to download for free. Respectable abandonware sites will remove any that return to the market, such as via GOG.COM, even if their current rights-holders ambitiously think a game that nobody actually liked back in 1995 is now worth $10, had nothing to do with the original, and nobody involved with its creation is being paid.

Achievement: An in-game recognition of your ability, specifically your ability take a sense of pride in such things as playing 500 multiplayer games or collecting a hundred hats. Originally referred to actual achievements, but people didn t like them being so hard to achieve.

Action: A niche genre defined by things happening, sometimes things involving movement.

Adventure: A point and click-based genre involving wonderful worlds, often hilarious dialogue, epic tales, and mindbending puzzles that any sane person would solve by taking $20 to the nearest hardware store instead of stealing from tramps and whipping up chlorine gas.

Aimbot: A cheat that cheaters use to have the computer aim for them, the cheats.

ARPG: Action RPG. Or a grammatically incorrect way of saying an RPG .

Assassin s Creed: Ubisoft wishing you a Happy New Year.

Autosave: Something you know you shouldn t switch your PC off during, but occasionally feel the urge to just to stick one to that smug spinning icon.

Avatar: A player character, usually customisable. Come in many flavours, occasionally including tall and blue, but none worse than that M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Beta: See Finished game.

Boss: A particularly tough enemy that proves its wits and tactical savvy by either living in a room designed to kill it, or a dungeon containing a weapon which is its only weakness. May repeatedly attempt to charge and headbutt you despite being knocked unconscious with every failed attempt.

Buff: A beneficial effect placed on a character to make them stronger or shinier. Debuff is the negative, yet Debuffest is highly regarded.

Bullet hell: Games and mechanics that involve filling the screen with dangerous projectiles. It is not clear what the bullets did to deserve their damnation. Probably jaywalking in improbable expanding patterns.

Cheese: Any strategy that enables players to win in a manner unforeseen by the developers. Cheese is increasingly spreadable thanks to the internet. (And always delicious.)

Checkpoint: Thing that you die a hundred times before reaching.

Cooldown: The amount of time you have to feel depressed between using cool attacks.

Console: Something non-PC owners will need once their new toy becomes outdated.

cRPG: Computer Role Playing Game. Typically like playing a party based game of Dungeons and Dragons with your friends, only without the need for a Dungeon Master to handle the action, dice to determine results, or indeed, friends.

Cover system: A way of spending entire battles staring at the side of a crate, occasionally popping up into the air to trade shots like they re Pok mon cards.

Crouch jump: A height-giving move better appreciated than imagined.

Class: In which the vast possibilities of the universe are condensed into a few more easily balanced archetypes, the female variants usually wishing they got proper armour.

Closed beta: A brief period of time where developers give a game to fans to test, and then pretend that all of their problems and complaints will actually be fixed before release.

Cutting edge: About $400 more than you secretly know you actually needed to spend.

Cutscene: A scene intended to convey plot, which in most cases should have been cut.

Difficulty level: A decision you re asked to make by psychically predicting what the developer's definition actually entails, and are then stuck with even if they turn out to be sadists.

Double-jump: An affront to physics so common, it is its absence that often feels strange.

DLC: The rest of the game you bought.

Dungeon: A sprawling world of monsters and treasure and occasionally a cell. It is rarely particularly clear who built these things and why. But on the plus side, loot!

DRM: An expensive and controversial way of making pirates wait almost a week to play the latest games, sometimes.

Early Access: A way to get access to your future favourite games long before they re any fun, and be sick of the sight of them by release. And often pay more for the privilege.

Episodic: With the exception of Telltale games and very few others, a guarantee that the game you just bought will never be finished and you should not get too attached to anyone.

E-sports: A growing craze in which prodigious expert gamers can make millions and earn the acclaim of the world, before old age takes them in their mid-20s.

Emergent: Action coming from the interplay of systems rather than being scripted, though quite often with nudging behind the scenes to make cool stuff happen.

Escort mission: The art of making any game suddenly excruciating by putting the player s success in the hands of an uncontrollable, useless, usually suicidal AI idiot.

Exclusive: Game everyone will be able to play in a year, max.

Exploit: A cheat that you re not supposed to use, especially if it reveals developer sloppiness. Can result in a ban if online, often more out of pique than actual damage done.

Fall damage: Because the designers hate you and your stupid legs.

Field of view: At high settings, lets you roleplay being an owl that thinks it s human. An owl with an Uzi.

Farming: The art of standing around and gathering the same item or killing the same monster to progress through the game without having new experiences or fun.

Finished game: See beta.

Fog of war: The unseen battlefield/world, even in games that let you play with futuristic units and satellite systems, or games like Beyond Earth where you arrive from space.

Free to play: A delightful sweep of games, their goals ranging from simply getting lots of players in and hoping some pay up, to pay mechanics so hostile that they might as well swear at you every time you put in your credit card number.

Games For Windows Live: A painful reminder of torture survived.

Ghost: A live replay of Patrick Swayze s best performance. Can you beat it?

God game: A genre of enjoying ultimate power over little worlds of inevitably abused subjects. Ironically died out after everyone lost faith in the market.

God mode: Invulnerability to most or all things that might cause injury; also spelled IDDQD .

Griefer: A player in an online game who gets their kicks by trolling, blocking, killing, and annoying other players. According to Dante, future inhabitant of the Fifth Circle of Hell.

Grinding: The art of turning a good eight hour game into an excruciating 20 hour one by padding out fun with calcified not-fun.

Health potion: A thing that can recover you from the brink of death, if not beyond, yet nobody ever remembers when a character gets hurt in the course of the plot.

Indie game: A game claiming to be indie, be it from one person working in a shack to a company funded by newspaper magnates or discovered leprechaun gold.

Instance: A section of a multiplayer world cut off for just you and any members of your party to adventure in and explore without those pesky other humans getting in the way.

JRPG: Japanese Role-Playing Game. Plays like a novel that needed an editor with a machete broken up by fighting, cool music, and ridiculous hair.

Kill streak: Sometimes just a commendation for multiple kills in one life, other times a bonus for being better than everyone else, which helps make you even more better than everyone else.

Lag: The ultimate excuse for poor performance, whatever you think it means. (ed. note: can we all please agree that it doesn t refer to framerate?).

Lane-pusher: What we call MOBAs because Chris Thursten told us not to call them MOBAs. See MOBA.

Level: Thing your parents and every TV writer who has to make up a game for a show thinks that all games are still split up into, to the sadness and amusement of all gamers watching.

Ludology: Fancy way of saying stuff about games .

Microtransactions: An ongoing industry attempt to redefine the word micro .

Mana: The limited resource that takes all the fun out of being a wizard.

Matchmaking: An attempt to automate finding an opponent suitable for every skill level, sometimes stymied by rocks and particularly slow animals not owning copies.

Middleware: All that nonsense that pops up at the start of the game to tell you how it made its trees and what powers its physics engine and other things they know you don t and never will care about.

Mob: A single enemy. It made sense at the time.

MOBA: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. A magic incantation guaranteed to summon hordes of angry MOBA players demanding you not call them MOBAs. See Lane-pusher.

Mouselook: A way of using the mouse to scan the environment while moving and shooting that seems like the easiest thing in the world until you watch your parents try and do it.

Multiple endings: Something to watch on YouTube after finishing a game once.

MMORPG: Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. A genre that began as an exciting glimpse into a world where everyone could play together in fantasy kingdoms, before being completely swallowed up by Personal Quest design and ironically becoming one of the most actively antisocial genres and one of the hardest to play with your friends.

Myst: Gaming s most ironic hit.

Nerf: Your favourite character/weapon sucks now, while everyone else s remains OP.

Noob: The most accursed type of human, all others emerging from the womb able to pull off advanced Dota 2 strats while rocket-jumping in another game at the same time.

NPC: A non-player character. Often has a missing dog or cow you need to find; sometimes sells you things.

NVIDIA: The way it s meant to be played. Unless AMD paid for their logo at the start of the game instead. Then that.

Open-world: Most games trap you in a small box. These games offer a much bigger box.

Overpowered (OP): Thing that just killed you. See nerf.

Permadeath: One life, one chance. Also a really bad haircut.

Persistent World: The game goes on whether you re there to do things or not, though probably doesn t actually change all that much unless you re gone for years.

Pixelbitching: Having to sweep the screen in search of the one hidden or obscure item that will allow progress, from the Where s Waldo Game Design School of Fuck You.*

Port: A chance to play a game made for the consoles that performs about as well as trying to play it on the previous generation s hardware. If you re really lucky.

Procedural generation: The art of creating game worlds, items, and more using algorithms instead of handcrafting. The promise is that this will create games you can replay forever, though finding guns with 0.5% faster reload speed gets old long before forever.

PvE: Player vs. environment, where players team up against enemies rather than each other; trying to overflow landfills with empty bottles of Mountain Dew.

PvP: Player vs. player. A staple of action games, and every forum/comment thread.

Quest: A word that began as a suitable descriptor of epic tales of action and adventure, but quickly became the polite way of saying Shit To Do . Slay a dragon to save a kingdom? Quest. Kill 10 rats? Quest.

Quick time event: An innovation in games that helped developers offer exciting, thrilling battles filled with action, which nobody is watching because they re too busy looking out for button prompts and flashing arrows. Named for the quick time in which they stopped actually being an event, and for being about as interactive as the average .mov.

*Not a real school. Tyler feels bad for editing an a sweary bit into Richard's entry.

Replay value: A thing no game ever has as much of as it claims to.

Real-time strategy: A genre in which the goal is to build refineries very quickly.

Retrogaming: Going back to play games, usually from childhood, and then realising the controls are rubbish.

Rocket-jumping: A one-time Quake physics glitch turned standard gaming leap really far technique. Unlikely to work on a real battlefield, but has anyone actually tried?

Roguelike: A game that probably has nothing much to do with the original Rogue anymore, save permadeath, randomisation, and a difficulty measured in giga-aaarghs.

Romance: A heartfelt series of interactions where two lost souls find each other by means of one checking an FAQ to see what they want and giving them twelve of them.

RPG: Role-Playing Game. A genre that lets you explore fantastical worlds of pure imagination, which almost inevitably turn out to be a bit like a Rennaisance Fayre with set character archetypes and big spiders. Sometimes take place in space instead.

Simulator: A joke game. Formerly a simulation of something that people might actually want to simulate, like flying, or running a theme park.

Season pass: In which a publisher that s convinced you to gamble on their new game being good gets you to double-down by agreeing you ll definitely want more of it afterwards.

SLI: Scalable Link Interface. An NVIDIA technology for combining the power of two graphics cards. Finally at the point where it no longer feels like punishment for being tight-fisted.

Sliding block puzzle: A declaration of creative bankrupcy from a developer, and permission to hit them in the face with a banana-cream pie at the next available opportunity.

Speed-run: The art of using in-depth knowledge of games and glitches to break them over an expert s knee and finish them faster than you can say Good grief, the final level alrea- Sometimes assisted by tools and scripts, other times mastered by players for whom hitting a button at the correct eighth of a second is no big deal.

Stealth mission: Frustrating exercise where you know you could just take out everyone in your way, much like you have in every single encounter up to this point and after, but aren t allowed to because Reasons.

Strategy: Big-picture decisions; something your entire team ignores. See Tactics.

Survival Horror: A genre devoted to making you think that death could come at every minute, until that wears out, when it usually resorts to lots of jump-scares. Boo!

Tactics: Small-scale decisions, such as jumping, lying down in mid-air, landing on your stomach, and shooting someone in the head in one motion. See Strategy.

Theorycrafting: Replacing the magic of a game s world with hardcore maths and an army of people who will tolerate nothing beyond the current One True Build in their teammates.

Touchscreens: The first step to getting greasyscreens.

Twinking: Handing down high level gear to low level characters to help them along their journey, much to the envy/annoyance of others.

WASD: Conventional controls on a US/International keyboard, where W is up, A and D strafe, S goes backward, and most other keys are chosen at random.

Wallhack: A common cheat that allows one player to see enemies through walls, or sometimes shoot/attack through them without so much as a Here s JOHNNY!

Zombie: Ferrous metal which is constantly pulled toward the electromagnet you swallowed.

PC Gamer

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video, especially one at 60 frames-per-second, is worth...a lot more, that's for sure, and these are the best videos of the week.

Is Doom's BFG scientifically possible? Can we build a portal to hell on Mars? I'm guessing these aren't exactly the myths they'll try to bust, but Mythbusters is actually airing a Doom-themed episode today.

So you've probably seen the Strafe Kickstarter video, and yes, it's amazing. But how about the game? In this video, the developers walk us through some early gameplay. They're pretty funny still, and the game looks good!

Conan O'Brien wanted to do an entire episode of his show in Minecraft, but Mojang wouldn't let him, so he kind of just did it anyway.

Why would you want to play Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes like an actual snake, damned to crawl on your belly beginning to end? Because you can.

It's been three (!) years since we first told you about WesterosCraft, a project that aims to build the entirety of Game of Thrones world in Minecraft. It's still going, and it looks as impressive as you'd expect.

I keep forgetting that a new Unreal Tournament is a thing that is actually in development. The latest update from the team is a great reminder that it will look very, very shiny. 

PC Gamer

Stitch a riven world back together, assassinate jerking insects as Agent Frog 47, explore space prose and do two other mysterious things this week. If you've settled yourself down into your free games papoose—you could also use a chair, I suppose—we can begin.

Stitcher by Christoph Schnerr and Jule Baetz

The text/translation could use a good going over in this inventive, detailed indie puzzler, but I just love the idea at its heart. You're a Stitcher, or a guy with a length of hemp that can be used to bind the sundered parts of an apocalyptic world together. Hemp can be acquired from the environment, but you can only carry so much—oh and it's only so effective, at least at the start. To stitch the severed islands back together, you first have to jump to move the Earth, then hit F or K to hurriedly sew the landmasses shut. I admire the mind that came up with that detail—this is a silly and sweet take on the end of the world.

Kram Keep by Knighty

Would you look at that! I'm a sucker for games that fit entire worlds onto one screen, and Kram Keep earns my deepest respect by being a perfectly readable game too. Somehow, you can find your character and tell everything that's going in this micro Metroidvania, and that's no small feat indeed. Even if it weren't all zoomed out like, this would be a pretty good platformer, with solid physics and art and a decent level of challenge for those brave enough to dive in.

Planeter by Ditto

Planetoids + gravity = oooooohhhhhh, that's lovely. And this is an equation that applies to Ditto's Planeter as well. It's a sort of puzzler in which you expand a solar system by ferrying things into switchy things, but it's actually a game about jumping between gravity wells, listening to catchy music, and making friends with the colourful aliens scampering around and around their spherical homes. Ditto's great at making games that feel weighty and solid, and that's true as ever here.

Johnston by Jake Clover

Jake Clover's atmospheric space game Space Pirate Dernshous gets a successor in the form of Johnston, a game of giant, giant text boxes and stories rather than fuel conversation and blowing stuff up. Wander into wormholes, suns, stations and other phenomena in the little craft that could, while you curse Jake Clover for not adding more line breaks or, at the very least, a slightly bigger font.

Frog Assassin by Auntie Pixelante

You're a frog that assassinates flies—so, in other words, you're a frog. Unlike in the real world, you can't just sit on a lilypad and wait for the insects to come to you; you're instead locked into a tiny rhythm-based pixel world. (Also the flies here will kill you, if you're not careful.) As Auntie Pixelante explains here, your enemies in this world jive to a regular beat. See how many you can take out, by bashing into them before they bash into you; it's a simple but tough matter of timing.

PC Gamer

Look at all those hunters, getting ready to fight the various beasties of Evolve as part of a coordinated group. Well, Turtle Rock have just released a new video reminding us that you don't need other people at all—you can play Evolve just fine on your own. Probably. I mean, it doesn't sound like the ideal way to play, but thanks to AI and character hotswapping, it should be feasible at any rate.

Here's a look at Evolve's "solo gameplay experience". It's two matches; the first shows the player having a go at being the monster against four AI hunters, while the second shows them taking control of the hunters, using the nifty ability to switch between characters at any point.

As with Left 4 Dead, I think it's great that you can play Evolve by yourself. I went through the campaigns of L4D and its sequel on my own before venturing into co-op; firstly to learn the layouts, and secondly to explore the environments and story at my own pace, without having to accommodate faster or slower players and kind of ruining my first playthrough. I don't imagine many people will be buying Evolve without having co-op in mind—either with friends or with strangers—but it's good that offline's still in there as an option, a fallback or a warmup.

In weirder news, Evolve has a tie-in match-3 companion app, which...yeah.

PC Gamer

I can't think of a better fit for a philosophical puzzle game than a murderous Detroit cyborg who shoots first, shoots later, and only stops to think when he's reloading. Croteam neglected to include RoboCop in their well-received first-person puzzler at the time of its release, but that mistake has now been rectified by a modder named 'Ar2R-devil-PiNKy'. Look at that brilliant, ridiculous image up there.

The Talos Principle's RoboCop mod can be found here, which uses the model from the 2014 mobile RoboCop game that apparently existed. Deprived of his typical killing tools, renowned thinker and MRI hazard Alex Murphy has to rely on every ounce of his pulsating cyborg brain. Let's enjoy some more images of him trying to do just that.

He looks so out of his element. I love it. Thanks, Destructoid!

PC Gamer
CRITICAL PATHS

Every week, Richard Cobbett takes a look at the world of story and writing in games.

"With bony hands I hold my partner. On soulless feet we cross the floor, The music stops as if to answer. An empty knocking at the door. It seems his skin was sweet as mango. When last I held him to my breast. But now we dance this grim fandango. And will four years before we rest."

Grim Fandango is an undisputed adventure classic, and this week's Remastered edition is a great opportunity to check it out for the first time, or to head back to play it as it is in your head, rather than the far lower-res version the original actually was. It's a game of great characters and lines, a wonderful fusion of film noir and Mexican themed fantasy, and many , many wonderful moments worth holding to your heart.

Pretty much everyone agrees though that its peak is Act 2, set in the town of Rubacava. It's where all the pieces come together and the noir side comes into the foreground. Rubacava is a little bit of Casablanca, a little bit of The Big Sleep, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It's probably the best single noir style location ever created for a game, and one of the best cities, even if it is a little large and unpopulated even with the hand wave that most people are out of town to celebrate The Day of the Dead.

There's much to praise about Rubacava, of course. Visually, it's stunning - the water lapping against the bridges, the art deco designs, the sudden bursts of scale and spectacle like the blimp that hangs over the cat racing track. The music in the background couldn't be better. The characters are all splendid, from femme fatale Oliva to the doomed Lola, to Carla, the security guard just looking for an excuse to give Manny a loving strip-search... until she finds out he only wants her metal detector.

But there's something else that makes Rubacava so effective, and which few other games have managed to replicate. It's a place that, while technically constructed as a place of puzzles and story progression, never actually feels like one. It has a weight to it. More specifically, it has a history - and I'm not talking about lore here. In most adventure games, indeed, most games period, you're effectively a wanderer with no real connections outside of perhaps a childhood friend/love interest from the village that probably burned down back in the prologue to get you off your arse and adventuring. Rubacava is a rarity because Manny actually sticks around - a full year takes place off-screen, in which he goes from sweeping the floor at a shitty little cafe to proudly staring out from the balcony as its swanky manager and a respected figure around town.

What that missing year provides are the social connections and stakes that most adventure characters lack. Just for starters, there's the cafe. When Manny sets out to find Meche, he's an outlaw, under threat, with nothing but the contents of his pockets. When he gets a sniff of her trail in Act 2, he has to start making serious sacrifices to continue the search. He has to give up a comfortable life and at least decent standing around town. He has to give up everything he's built. He has to give up any friendships he's made, just as he's turned them down before. And he doesn't even think twice about it. The second he has that chance to pursue his redemption, despite having no way of helping any more, he's ready to burn it all down and get out of town on the very next ship. By the time he's done, it's a wonder Rubacava still has any bridges left.

But that's the big picture stuff. As ever, the real genius moments tend to be found in the smaller details. In the case of Rubacava, it's that Manny hasn't been living in a bubble for the last year. He's a known face to everyone, and accordingly has history with just about everybody - as a business rival, as a small fish, as a love interest admired from afar, as a boss who JUST DOESN'T CARE ENOUGH ABOUT THE COAT CHECK SYSTEM EVEN THOUGH IT TOOK AGES! Rarely does this extend to long "Hey, remember when we..." type reminiscences, because the script is smarter than that. The details don't matter. What matters is that the characters feel them, and they work into how they all interact and talk about each other. The lawyer who insists Manny butter his ego just to rub his face in buttery rejection. The pathos of Lola as she dies wishing that he hadn't been so hooked on Meche to give her a look, and his subsequent naming of a ship in her memory. Manny being smart enough to steer well clear of Olivia the femme fatale, if not quite smart enough to think twice about her sudden commitment to a revolution she previously knew nothing about. Curse her inevitable betrayal!

These moments of connection ground the entire town, make it feel like a real place with its own culture. It's helped too by the moments of reflection of how far downhill it's going, with one of the bigger missed opportunities being that we don't really get to see it as a full on mob-town when Manny returns a couple of years later. I've always loved those moments in games where we get to see the same place after time passes, whether it's Chandler Avenue in the Tex Murphy games or the entire of Britannia in the Ultima series. It's nice to think of favourite characters existing as more than simply puzzle pieces and obstacles, and something that games offer more scope for than any other medium. It tends to be underused though, with sequels usually preferring to head further afield and only pay a little lip-service to non-plot critical nostalgia.

None of this would work if the city and the characters themselves weren't interesting enough to be worth investing in, and there of course Grim gets great benefit from being able to lean on tropes and archetypes. It's crucial however to why Rubacava just inherently feels more solid than most places, and why inevitably leaving it is to say goodbye in a way that driving away from Manny's original home, El Marrow, never really does. There, he had an existence. In Rubacava, he actually has a life*. There's a huge difference, and one that other games would do very, very well to learn from.

(* Metaphorically speaking, of course. Ahem.)

PC Gamer

THE HIGHS

Tom Senior: Getting the Guild back together againThe announcement of Guild Wars 2's first expansion was all I needed to reinstall it this week. It's been so long that I barely remember what my pint-sized Asuran necromancer is for. He likes to give himself diseases and debuff conditions, and then eat them to restore health. He can also turn into a black smoke spirit and destroy nearby foes by sucking hundreds of green globs out of them. Sometimes when I press the wrong button he summons a mechanical golem from orbit.

It's a great MMO that I'd probably never have returned to if there was a subs fee involved. Big new level 80 zones have been added in my year-or-more hiatus, which Arenanet have used to perfect their signature dynamic zone events. These do a great job of pulling dozens of players into spectacular boss fights as you're just wandering about. I thought I'd roll an alt ahead of the arrival of Heart of Thorns and discovered that the game gives you loads of experience bonuses to help you level new characters at exhilarating speed. It's a pleasure bombing through GW2's gorgeous zones again, completing regional objectives, unlocking chests and learning new skills constantly. Guild Wars 2 is a rare gem—an MMO that never wastes your time. Bring on the expansion.

Andy Kelly: Romero plays DoomIf you re not a subscriber to Double Fine s YouTube channel, you really should be. They re doing a great series of let s plays in which developers play through, and comment on, games close to their hearts. My favourite of the bunch is JP LeBreton playing through the original Doom, because he s joined by none other than John God Damn Romero.

Watching Romero play Doom is entertaining enough, but as he blasts through the game on ultra-violence (of course he plays on ultra-violence), he reveals some genuinely brilliant stories about its creation and the design philosophy behind it. Doom is seen by most as a pretty dumb, simplistic shooter, but those levels are complex masterpieces of design.

Compare any secret-filled Doom level to a Call of Duty set-piece roller coaster and it s like FPS design has gone backwards. Anyway, check the video out below. Romero seems like a stand-up guy and it s a real pleasure to share the history of the seminal shooter with him. Hey, I think it s time to play Doom again...

Tyler Wilde: InstagibbingI used to love Quake 2 railgun battles, and after work sessions of UT2K4 Instagib were, for a time, practically mandatory for PC Gamer employees. I love instagib, which has become the general term for arena shooters with one-shot-kill hitscan weapons. I love the dance you do when dueling one on one, and I love the big, full deathmatches where you can burst into a room and awe yourself with five kills in a row, having no idea where the hell in your lizard brain those reflexes came from.

And now that s been purified: Ratz Instagib 2.0 recently appeared on Steam Early Access, and I m hooked. I used to play it a bit when it was a web game, but there just weren t enough players to reliably find a match. Now I can get into a game at just about any time, and it s been a challenge not to make that all the time. Ratz strips everything unnecessary out of instagib, and evens the playing field with total customization. All player models look the same and have the same (ridiculously tiny) hitbox, and if I want enemies to be red and the level totally desaturated, I can do that (helpful as someone with a slight color vision deficiency). If I don t want to see the weapon model, I can turn it off. Part of the fun has been experimenting with all the settings (mouse sensitivity at 1.5 or 1.6?) to find my optimal competitive edge.

It can be frustrating to have a few bad rounds in a row, or go up against an absurdly talented player (looking at you, ckap and Costa… you guys are insane), but it s all in the name of learning, and for those meditative moments where every shot connects, even the most absurd across-the-map wrist-flicks, and MONSTER KILL splashes across the screen. When I m in the zone, it truly feels like I ve ceased normal brain functions and become just a conduit of information from hand to eye and back. It s a pretty damn good high.

Tom Marks: CD Projekt s freebieEarlier this week CD Projekt, the company making a little indie game you probably haven t heard of called The Witcher 3, said it was making a statement by announcing plans to release 16 pieces of DLC completely free. I m overjoyed to see a studio take that approach. It s a sign of absolute respect and devotion to its audience, showing that it s thinking more about the product its making rather than the business plan to squeeze every possible dime out of the market. I am in no doubt that if CD Projekt had opted to charge for four larger DLC packs with an optional season pass, people would have lined up to buy them. CD Projekt probably knew this too, but instead it has taken this route, and the industry, gamers, and The Witcher 3 are all better for it. 

Samuel Roberts: Dragon Age: Inquisition is BioWare s biggestBig RPGs still sell. Dragon Age: Inquisition is apparently BioWare s most successful launch, which presumably puts it above even Mass Effect 3 s mammoth debut in 2012. It s pleasing because this might ve been the series last chance after the disappointing performance of Dragon Age II, and I d have hated for Dragon Age to vanish due to an era in which blockbusters need to sell five million or the world ends.

I m only a few hours into it, and the new structure takes some getting used to—a lot of bears have brought me near to death, which didn t happen in the other two—and I m up and down on the combat, but I appreciate the scale of the vision. The environments are massive and the presentation of the cutscenes is really impressive. So few developers can build this sort of world, and even fewer can tell a good story within one.

Also on the positive Dragon Age news front—BioWare released a bunch of tavern tracks from the game for free this week. Grab them before they expire on February 9th. 

Chris Livingston: Steam Work$hopSteam workshop creators have been making money, millions, in fact, by creating items that can be voted on and then sold for Valve games like Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, and CS:GO. According to Valve, the amount earned by content creators since the workshop's inception in 2011 is $57 million spread between more than 1,500 different contributors.

Even better, curated workshops for non-Valve games have begun to appear, such as Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, meaning talented creators will be able to start making money from their hard work in more games.

While this is all obviously incredibly beneficial for Valve, who skim off a shockingly hefty 75% of the proceeds, it's still great news for modders, artists, and creators, who deserve to earn some scratch for their work and get a little more attention focused on their creations.

THE LOWS

Tom Senior: Going off EvolveIn 2015 players will band together to battle 2K's huge hungry monetisation monster, Evolve. Will our plucky heroes find any fun between the DLC packs, pre-order bonuses and companion-app micro-purchases? Which arrangement of maps, characters and monsters will they miss out on for not paying over and above the 35 base price? I don't believe a game's core systems can survive such invasive monetisation unscathed. How will matchmaking fare when a bunch of monsters and hunters are available only to pre-order and DLC customers? Has the levelling curve been designed to satisfy, or does it drag enough to encourage players to level faster using the companion app? Our reviewer will find out soon enough, and as a huge fan of Left 4 Dead, I hope my cynicism is proved wrong.

Tom Marks: Deflated (American) footballs and stream ghostingWhat a disappointing week for e-sports. What looked at first like a blissful era of growth is being hamstrung by scandal after scandal. It s embarrassing, casting a bad light on e-sports as a whole. Every sport has liars and cheats, as the New England Patriots made abundantly clear last week—and FIFA as an organization makes clear pretty much daily—but the difference between professional sports and e-sports is that the NFL doesn t have to convince the greater part of the population that it s a real thing in the first place. They are an established organization with the belief of the public.

When someone cheats in professional football (either kind) it reflects poorly on that player and maybe their team, because the the organization as a whole is respected. But when someone cheats in professional e-sports, it casts doubts on the entire concept s legitimacy. E-sports are young, and still fighting to earn the public s respect. When they get it, mistakes like this will wash off easier, but right now it makes a fool of an industry that s trying to be taken seriously.

Tyler WIlde: Stop all the DDoSingQuake Live is the latest victim of a DDoS attack, causing outages this morning. Quake Live. Who is so mad at Quake Live that they don t want anyone to play Quake Live? I mean, what the hell? And this keepshappening—often for no reason at all. There s no social or political statement, no discernible message other than screw you. It s baffling that anyone considers ruining fun to be a valuable use of their time. So, please, DDoSers, stop being assholes and do something constructive. This isn t the way to deal with whatever it is you re dealing with.

Andy Kelly: Farewell, internetI m moving house this week, and anyone who s ever moved house will know that it, inexplicably, takes several weeks for a new internet connection to be set up in an empty property. My line won t be activated for another THREE WEEKS. So last night—the last evening I spent at the old house, which still has internet—I downloaded pretty much my entire Steam library, as well as a bunch of stuff on Origin. So hopefully having a massive pile of games will distract me from the fact that I can t check email or send tweets.

But hey, maybe it s a good thing. I have a woefully short attention span, and having the internet there is a constant distraction. So maybe I ll finally get out of the Hinterlands in Dragon Age: Inquisition, finish Grim Fandango Remastered, and make some more progress in Dark Souls 2. Or I ll be running around the streets with a laptop, desperately hunting for an unsecured Wi-Fi point. Either way, it s going to be an interesting few weeks.

Chris Livingston: In love with an elevatorEver encounter a bug in a video game that you loved so much you wish it was never fixed? This week, while playing Dying Light for review, I had to listen to the game's hero, Kyle Crane, utter a lot of fairly dumb lines to himself. Among my favorites, when coming up for air after an extended underwater swim, he shouted "God! My lungs!" Yes, your lungs, Kyle. That's for telling me where it hurts when you hold your breath for a long time. Why not just yell "Ow! My hit points!" when you get shot?

At one point, Kyle also yells "Holy shit!" when something shocking happens. That's perfectly fine: I do that a lot myself. Thing is, he kept on yelling that for a good half-hour, but only when he stepped off an elevator. Kyle's HQ is a tall apartment building, and he must ride the elevator both up and down when he visits it. For a while, for me, every time the doors opened upstairs or downstairs and he stepped off he'd cry "Holy shit!"

I liked to think it meant he had simply never been on an elevator before, and was just so genuinely surprised to see the miracle of vertical box-travel every single time he took a ride. No matter how many times he ascended or descended, he was simply floored (ha) by the experience. "It happened again! The exact floor I pressed, and here I am! Holy shit!"

Why is this a low? Because he abruptly stopped and never said it again! Damn. I wanted to ride with that excited little bug for the rest of the game.

Samuel Roberts: Crying tiger tearsCancelled Far Cry 4 keys that were fraudulently obtained caused this messy situation this week. It s really disappointing for the players involved, and I m very sorry if it s happened to you—official resellers are the way to go from now on if you ve been stung by cancelled keys. The best thing about owning something digitally is being able to take it anywhere with you, no matter what PC you re using—I love being able to play games at work then resume seamlessly when I get home, it s one of the best things about PC as a platform. Taking a gamble that you might not own that game doesn t seem like it s worth it, no matter the saving. 

PC Gamer

Larian Studios has released a new patch for Divinity: Original Sin that makes a number of balance changes and bug fixes. However, the big hook in this one has to be the implementation of Steam Cloud saves—and, for modders, the release of a 3DSMax exporter that enables the importation of custom animations and models.

Existing save games will remain on your local PC, as cloud saves are stored in a new, compressed format that's not supported by previous versions of Divinity. Cloud saving can be turned on or off from the properties menu on Steam, and when enabled, saves will be automatically synced (and deleted as necessary) when the game exits. Larian also warned players not to start the game manually from its  folder while the Steam Cloud saves are syncing, as doing so could corrupt the Steam cached cloud files.

The patch also fixes a dozen specific bugs—the pet black spider given to Kickstarter backers will now be an actual black spider, and not the fleshy spider (this is important stuff, you know)—and makes a number of stat and balance changes as well: Magic weapons have been changed to do physical damage with a magical boost, willpower, bodybuilding, and various physical and magical resistances have been rebalanced, creature initiative have been changed, and armor has been "toned down" to help cut back on unnecessarily long fights.

Finally, for the modders, "We have supplied a 3DSMax exporter to allow you to import custom animations and models into your mods," Larian wrote. 

The update is a big one, just under a gigabyte in size, and will come in automatically, assuming you have automatic updates enabled on Steam. Get all the details here.

...

Search news
Archive
2015
Jan  
Archives By Year
2015   2014   2013   2012   2011  
2010   2009   2008   2007   2006  
2005   2004   2003   2002