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Tribes: Ascend

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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Smite launches out of beta, asks you to punch gods in the face">Smite







The MOBA genre already has colossal communities in both League of Legends and Dota 2, but what's missing is an arena where the greatest gods of mythology toss magic fireworks at each other and roast a couple thousand mortal minions. Enter Smite, Hi-Rez Studios' free-to-play god-on-god rumbler, which launches in full today after a lengthy beta period and is available for all to download on its official website.



Smite changes up the player's perspective for its tri-lane skirmishes by dropping the camera behind the shoulders of your chosen god and using WASD for movement, a more action-oriented angle echoing Hi-Rez's FPS roots from Tribes: Ascend. Playable deities come from various pantheons, such as Greece, China, and the Roman Empire. Otherwise, it's typical MOBA fare of farming minions for increasingly powerful abilities and waging a tactical tug-of-war into the enemy base.



Hi-Rez also shared a batch of stat highlights from Smite's beta period. The game had 3 million registered users and over a billion player kills. The Mage class turned out the most popular choice followed by the gank-tastic Assassin class. On the cosmetic side, one of the most popular skins was this little number for Poseidon.



Smite became Hi-Rez's full-time focus after the studio decided to relax further development on Tribes: Ascend last September, with CEO Erez Goren claiming the extra profitability a MOBA provides is what Hi-Rez needs to continue weekly updates and content additions.



Have a look at more Smite info on its official website, or head here to download the client and get playing.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Tribes: Ascend unofficial SDK released, no response yet from Hi-Rez">Tribes: Ascend







Tribes: Ascend was unfortunately llama-dropped by developer Hi-Rez studios earlier this year, but now the community has rallied to build an unofficial software development kit and server hosting solution. As posted in a thread in the Tribes subreddit, this will allow the community to host and support versions of Ascend in place of continuing official support from Hi-Rez. Hi-Rez s reaction, however, is the big unknown: players using modded software and hosting modded servers could be vulnerable to bans or cease and desist orders from the developer.



As we reported in July, Hi-Rez is focusing on its new gods-battling MOBA, Smite. This left Tribes: Ascend, one of our favorite shooters from last year, somewhat out in the cold and its players upset. Hi-Rez said earlier this year that it will work on official map making tools, but updates on the effort have been sparse.



We spoke to Hi-Rez co-founder Todd Harris in July, when work on the community SDK was already underway. I don t know enough about the details, he said, so we've kind of talked through that on a community show, and at this point, it s not clear to me whether that effort is trying to get around the server authentication and basically the monetization scheme or not. So, it has to get further along, and we've got to do some more discovery on our end to understand how compatible we could be with that or not. We support anything that s not enabling players to unlock content that would normally only come with time or money, that s getting unlocked for free. So we just have to understand whether there s a path we can work with that project to make that happen, and right now I don t know the answer to that.



That unfortunately leaves the newly revealed SDK with a big, fat question mark hanging over it. We ve reached out to Hi-Rez with a request for comment, and will update this post when we hear something back.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Microtransactions: the good, the bad and the ugly">Team Fortress 2







"Free-to-play" and "microtransactions" are dirty terms to some. That's understandable. Famous Facebook Skinner boxes like Farmville have clouded attitudes toward today's free-to-play games, and there's an assumption all microtransaction-driven game design is handicapped by the need to create ways to charge players. For some games, this is certainly true, but there are excellent free-to-play games out there that represent good value for money. Below we've assessed some of the most common methods used by free-to-play games to make money from players, and highlighted some of the fairest examples of free-to-play that are worth your time.



Convoluted shops and fake currencies







A lot of the distrust toward microtransaction-driven games comes down to the way they habitually obfuscate both what exactly you'll be paying for, and how much you'll be paying for it. This starts with the standard practice of exchanging of standard currency for fake fun-bucks equivalents. In Rift, it's "Credits", in The Old Republic, it's "Cartel Coins", in War Thunder, it's "Golden Eagles", to name just a few. The deliberately awkward exchange rates are of course designed to hide the actual value of the items you're buying, but hiding the value of every transaction at this fundamental level appears dishonest.



There's a widespread lack of clarity around the payment systems attached to free-to-play games. The price and payment method of engaging with a game should be quickly apparent, and expressed in a way that lets players know exactly what they're getting for their money. It should not, like Star Wars: The Old Republic, require the careful study of three different screens to unravel the various interlocking currencies, subscription deals, expansion packs and "preferred status" upgrades available.



If you're inviting players to make a purchase that you believe is worthwhile, why hide the price? Quake Live has two tiers of membership, which grants players various levels of access to premium arenas, and the ability to host matches, but look here, at the top of the page, a clear list of features and a price tag.



In short: We see this practice everywhere, even in otherwise decent free-to-play implementations like Card Hunter. The cost of playing a game should be clear, and that starts with straightforward price labelling.



Crates/card packs and random chance drops







If you hand someone a closed box full of promised goodies, many will happily pay you for the crowbar to crack it open. The tremendous power of small random packs of goodies has long been known the creators of physical collectible card games and companies that made football stickers a decade ago. For some, including our former reviews editor Rich McCormick, the allure of a closed box full of goodies is too powerful to resist. Whatever the worth of the randomised prizes inside, the offer of a free chest and the option to buy a key will make a small fortune out of these personalities. For those that like to gamble, these crates often offer a small chance of an ultra-rare item.



In Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2, a chest will drop into your inventory every so often. Keys can be bought with real money, or traded for, and are very popular - five of the seven TF2 store bestsellers are keys right now. As with card packs, the process of discovery and anticipation that goes into opening a box is as exciting as the item inside. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether that's a valuable reward, and whether £1.50 / $2.50 is a worthwhile price for that rush. The important thing is that players know exactly what they're gambling for when opening a box, and have at least a sense of the odds involved. The Team Fortress 2 wiki exposes estimated percentage odds for each crate, but as any Vegas slot machine designer will tell you, revealing all of the maths maths can ruin the glamour of the gamble, and make no mistake, this is gambling.



Boxes are easily deleted and ignored, but receiving one isn't a good experience. At worst, it's a taunt that pops up in the same space ordinarily to message gifts. Receiving a crate for the first time, and then learning that it requires a purchase to unlock, is a betrayal of the expectations that the rest of the drop system instils. The positive side, in the case of TF2 and Dota 2, is that revenue from crate sales goes back to community item creators, and the items you can earn don't unbalance the core game. Team Fortress 2's random drops also shower you constantly with gifts, which balances everything out somewhat.



In CCGs like Hearthstone, Fifa's Ultimate Team and Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode, you can unlock random cards/players/guns from packs earned through in-game money as well as real currency. This accepts payment in the form of a chunk of your spare time, which is a good deal if the game is good. It operates more like a randomised unlock system that you can speed up with money if you wish.



In short: card packs and crate drops are a form of gambling. If you're okay with that, then there's no reason not to enjoy games like Hearthstone. It's worth checking to see if packs can be earned with a sensible amount of in-game progress before investing lots of time.



In-game item stores







There are two main questions to keep in mind when a game is asking you to spend real money for specific items.



1. Can they only be earned by paying up?

2. Are they better than what you have already?



The answer to both, if a game is being as fair as possible, is no. Games like Team Fortress 2 have a selection of alternative weapons and gadgets you can unlock for your class. That's alternatives, not straight upgrades. Many combine certain situational benefits at the expense of a well rounded, overall build. The Sniper being given a rifle that shoots piss is not at an obvious advantage, especially when against one that shoots bullets. And, in League of Legends, it's hard to know if the angry polar bear is inherently better than a girl with the shark cannon, but both have their uses when played effectively, and the rotating roster gives you options regardless.



Not that pure upgrades are inherently wrong. In games like World of Tanks, where a natural tier system denotes each country's best metallic beasts, it comes down to matchmaking to keep things fair. Put the paid-up kings against the outgunned newbs and you start edging towards a pay-to-win scenario. Keep everyone grouped around their unlock level, and the only advantage for those that pay is a quicker trip to the top tiers.



Even good in-game item stores can go bad over time. The community's faith in a game's integrity can be destroyed by a single update, and in competitive games weapons sometimes have to be rebalanced. That means the items you're buying might not retain its characteristics.



In short: Item stores that sell objects that affect your in-game performance are risky. If a game sells guns/cars that can't be earned any other way then treat that as a big alarm bell. Even if those items can be earned through progress, it helps to favour games with good matchmaking services and large playerbases, which can smooth out balance issues.







Cosmetic item stores







Offering players ways to stand out is a lucrative business. In the Dota 2 Steam Workshop, item creators compete for audience upvotes and Valve’s approval, and the successful ones have made a small fortune in the process. If you spend a lot of time in a game world with friends, cosmetic items like hats in Team Fortress 2, or new player skins in League of Legends, can set you apart without tipping the game’s systems. At worst, new outfits can corrupt character silhouettes or dilute a game's aesthetic, making battlefields harder to parse at a glance, but this is a minor trade-off for a system that lets developers support themselves and keep games running.



Buying cosmetic items is also a very transparent, obvious transaction. Buy the item for the clearly labelled cost, get the item, it’s yours until the game loses popularity and expires, or the heat death of the universe occurs. There’s no trickery, the integrity of the game is maintained, and everyone gets a nice hat. Cosmetic items make money out of happy players who want to express their fandom, which makes every purchase positive.



In short: A straightforward, easily understood transaction that doesn't unbalance the game. Ideal.



Energy bar restrictions







Energy mechanics take various forms, whether action points that expire with every interaction or a continuously dwindling energy meter that stops you from playing when it expires. The crudest variations attempt to encourage the player to buy more energy at the point of expiration, oodling out a few bucks of the sheer frustration of having a game cut short. Subtler time limiting devices are designed to encourage "sessioning," in which players devote five or ten minutes of their time every day to tending to a garden/city. The intent here is to turn the game into a regular life fixture that increases the player’s contact with other the monetisation mechanisms built into the game’s economy.



Energy bar systems straightjacket players with arbitrary systems. You’re not failing to progress because of a lack of skill, but because of the expiration of an invented abstract resource. Besides all that, the amount of time you choose to engage with a game should be your choice alone, and a pop-up message that says you’re done unless you buy X or wait 12 hours just feels insulting. Sure, game demos will stop you when you’re having fun and ask you to buy the full game, but players know the rules when they start the download. Energy mechanics, can be hard to spot until you've spent a certain amount of time playing. Very unpleasant.



In short: No no no no no no no no no.



Expiration







Expiration systems cause components of the game that you use regularly to wear out and break unless a certain amount of money is spent on repairs. In Fifa’s Ultimate Team mode, players are benched if their contract expires, and you need to apply new contract cards to get them back on the pitch. These are dropped randomly in card packs that can be bought with in-game money or real money. If you pay for contract cards to support a player you bought through a card pack or on the transfer market then you’re essentially paying ongoing rental costs for a virtual product you’ve already bought. Sometimes expiration is designed to drain your reserves of in-game currency. A game might ask you to spend in-game bucks on restoring expired items so that you run short, and might feel the need to top up with a real money purchase. In the worst cases, there are shooters that charge players for ammo to fill their guns, and even offer premium varieties of ammo to give them a battlefield edge.



Being charged money to maintain the status quo earned through play is terrible, and can undermine any sense of achievement you may have enjoyed earning your gear. It creates a persistent, unpleasant pressure to pay and is an unsatisfactory purchase if you do cave. You know that you’ll have to pay again to recharge that item/player/gun soon enough. Expiration creates that poisonous sense of being slowly nickel-and-dimed.



In short: A great way to annoy players fast. Watching items expire isn't fun, paying to stop them expiring isn't fun. Putting money into a game should feel rewarding; paying to stave off the entropic decay of your virtual possessions isn't.



Item rental







You could frame the renting of in-game items as a more transparent take on the expiration mechanic. In most cases you’ll understand exactly how long you’re getting an item, which can be tricky to ascertain in energy systems when you’re buying an abstract resource that’ll deplete as you play. The difficulty with rental items is that, in order for them to be desirable enough to purchase for a limited period, they need to be powerful. Need For Speed World let players rent blindingly fast supercars to take into races with ordinary cars, ruining the experience of the majority for the benefit of the paying few.



Even if a rented item isn’t overpowered, the perception among players that it must be is almost as damaging. The same effect applies to any in-game item purchases. If there’s a price tag attached, it’s natural to assume that it’s more powerful in some way, and if a competitive game doesn’t feel balanced it quickly becomes more frustrating than fun. Also, the notion of paying for a virtual item is enough of a barrier for many, the idea of paying for one that’ll disappear in a few days is even more absurd.



In short: If you're only intending to play for a short burst, a temporary item might be a cheaper option, but the cost of renting cars in games like Need For Speed World is surprisingly high. Rented items normally just aren't a good deal.







One-off account upgrades







The one-off upgrade offers a limited feature-set to new players that expands when you pay a one-off sum. In Team Fortress 2, buying an item, any item, at any cost, will upgrade a free account to a “premium” one. Free players have a backpack limit of 50 slots, doesn’t have access to rare and cosmetic items, and have access to limited selection of crafting blueprints. Buying anything from the Mann-Co store expands the backpack to 300 items and removes trading and crafting limits. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s free-to-play transition added more severe limits, constraining free players to handful of space missions and dungeons per week, forbidding new players from sprinting until level 10. Those limits could be lifted with any purchase of more than $5 on the in-game store.



The cost of transitioning to a less limited set-up is often minor, the intention being to familiarise players with the game’s shop and, in some cases, get players to enter card details. Team Fortress 2 is entirely playable with its free-to-play limits in place, but The Old Republic’s draconian restrictions leverage player frustration to incite a purchase. Not good. If you're looking to familiarise players with a store, then Guild Wars 2's tactic of gifting XP boosts and items provides a much better experience.



There is something to be said for one-off payments that unlock everything. Players put off by the complications juggling ongoing micropayments can instead just buy the game in an ordinary way. In Card Hunter, you can play a flat $20 fee and unlock all of the missions. This lets players treat the free-to-play element as a demo, and still gives players that don't want to spend a big lump sum a way to play for less money.



In short: Contrived limits like the The Old Republic's give new players a handicapped experience, which makes it unlikely they'll stick around, especially when the competition includes MMOs like Rift and Lord of the Rings Online. These offer a huge amount of playable content without charging for basic features.



Account Buffs







Buffs give a temporary percentage increase in the amount of gold, XP, or other desirables that the player can earn through regular play. It's another example of microtransactions allowing players to pay to reduce the time spent between rewards. Unlike energy, though, buffs are a bonus applied to someone who pays, not a penalty against someone who doesn't. That's a key difference in their philosophy that, for the most part, stops them being exploitative.



For them to work, it requires a careful balancing of item prices and levelling progress. There's a strange psychology here. If a game is enjoyable, then a lengthy spell between rewards shouldn't be a problem. But if progression and upgrades are built into the DNA of a game, having to wait too long for them can feel frustrating. In games like World of Tanks, progression is swift to begin with, but slows greatly as you advance. This deliberately plays on impatience to incite a purchase, and is a classic example of game design serving a monetisation system rather than the player. If a game is perceived as a grind, then a buff becomes a requirement rather than a bonus.



It's not just currency that can be boosted. In the case of Card Hunter, your account subscription provides you with an extra piece of loot for every quest you complete. It's an upgrade that neatly sidesteps the balance problem. It doesn't feel like a significant loss compared to the 2-4 rewards you get in regular play, but a guaranteed rarity makes for a nice bonus for those who do subscribe.



In short: In free-to-play games, XP boost items can be symptomatic of an overly sluggish levelling curve, but for patient players there may never need to go near account buffs. If a game is entertaining enough, putting a lot of time into it shouldn't feel like a chore.



Mini-DLC







Blurring the line between microtransaction and full-fat DLC are these purchasable packs of extras and bonuses. Rather than a free-to-play focus, you'll generally find these attached to AAA releases. We're talking the added profile portraits of Crusader Kings II, the silenced sniper of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the Air Propulsion Gun of Just Cause 2, and the squirting blood of Shogun 2 (to name just a fraction of a percent).



As a practice, these mini-DLC packs are the most variable in quality of all the microtransaction methods. There's nothing inherently wrong with providing fans with a fun extra to flesh out a world they're enjoying, but too often they're created with little attention to balance or value. The worst, inevitably, were once pre-order bonuses leveraged as an incentive to tempt early buyers. As well as the aforementioned sniper rifle, DX:HR's Tactical Enhancement Pack added 10,000 credits at the start of the game, effectively destroying many of the game's early purchasing choices.



For non-narrative led, systems-driven games, mini-DLC seems to fare better. Crusader Kings 2's profiles and music packs focus on aesthetic improvements in a game about strategic depth, while Civ 5's extra civilisations expand user specialisation, without changing the core of the game. But that doesn't mean that other types of games can't utilise mini-DLC in a way that adds something enjoyable for the user, that doesn't make the original game feel lacking without.



In short: Mini DLC like the Total War blood pack and the inventive Just Cause items are a bit like professionally built mods. There's a perception that mini-DLC is stuff that's been held back from the final game to screw a few extra bucks out of players, but more often they're ideas on the developer's big brainstorming board that they can't justify putting resources into during the development of the main game. Mini-DLC is easily ignored, at least, but beware of pre-order DLC that gives you guns and gadgets at the very beginning of a game like Deus Ex - they could ruin the balance of those opening hours.







Games that get microtransactions right







At their worst, free-to-play monetisation systems create a negative experience that the player has to pay to resolve, but you'll miss out on a few great games if you steer clear of anything with a microtransaction in it. Here are a few quality examples that offer great value for money. In no particular order...



Dota 2 - You can buy cosmetic items like character armour and alternative announcer packs, none of which alter the balance of the game. Dota 2 can be played to a highly competitive level without any need to pay. Valve's in-game stores are clearly labelled with real-money pricing and profits are shared among item-creators, rewarding an involved and productive community.



Team Fortress 2 - Team Fortress 2 isn't terribly coherent these days, but it's still huge fun. Given the number of items that Valve have added over the years, it's a miracle that TF2 remains competitive, but the hard counters that defined its nine classes at launch remain intact, and it's still frequently the funniest game on the internet.



Card Hunter - Card Hunter's premium items feel like a sugary bonus on top of a heap of good loot you'd earn through play anyway, and you always have the welcome choice of being able to pay a flat $20 fee to unlock all of the quests and content, making it a traditional pay-to-play game. It's a friendly and satisfying CCG/turn-based strategy hybrid that's certainly worth your time.



Guild Wars 2 - You'll have to buy the game to play Guild Wars 2, but there's no subscription fee, and many of the XP boosts, dyes and other store goodies are regularly awarded as levelling gifts as you play. Your character's level is less important in Guild Wars 2 than it is in other MMOs, which makes its XP bonuses less essential, and most of the shop is full of inventive cosmetic items.



League of Legends - LoL's rotating selection of playable characters gives players a broad slice of the game, and works well on a try-before-you-buy basis. Aside from buying heroes, you can put money into new skins for your favourite heroes.



Planetside 2 - If you catch a good battle, there's nothing quite like Planetside 2. The huge sci-fi wargame gives new players a lot of war for no money. Players endured a catatonic levelling curve early in its life and its currency system was hugely confusing, but that doesn't dent the spectacle or the experience when you're actually on the battlefield.



Those are just a few. MMO fans might enjoy Rift and Lord of the Rings Online. Tribes: Ascend developers Hi-Rez have moved onto Smite. Action RPG fans should look in on Path of Exile. World of Tanks commits a number of the sins in our list, but has a huge playerbase and a tiered matchmaking system that'll support competitive matches at any level.



Do you steer clear of microtransactions on principle? If so, why? Have you had any particularly bad or unsatisfying experiences buying items in games? Have you been playing a free to play game that you'd like to recommend? Share away in the comments.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Smite proving more successful than Tribes: Ascend, says Hi-Rez CEO">Smite







A few months ago, Hi-Rez's Todd Harris announced that development on Tribes: Ascend was suspended, with the studio focusing its efforts their third-person DoTA-like Smite. With fans of that game growing concerned that its own continued development would eventually be in danger, the studio's CEO Erez Goren has posted a candid address to the Smite Reddit page, addressing Tribes' development, its financial troubles, and Smite's success in comparison. His comments also call into question their initial plan to release map-making tools for Tribes: Ascend.



As part of the post, Goren delves back into the history of Hi-Rez releases. "Global Agenda was our first game and it lost a lot of money," he writes. He goes on to explain how that loss was mitigated by the fact that its technology would support future games. "We continued to fund Global Agenda for more than a year after it was released and losing money, we continued to create content and new features but no matter how much work we did the user base kept declining."



That leads to Tribes: Ascend. "We created Tribes Ascend since we love Tribes," Goren writes, "we made it F2P so everyone can have easy access to it. We didn’t think Tribes Ascend would be a financial windfall but it was worth a risk to try." Unfortunately, the game was ultimately "break-even at best". "Tribes received exceptional reviews, we kept adding new features and content, but just like Global Agenda the user base kept declining no matter what we did." Goren's perspective is that "most games fail", with him comparing Tribes: Ascend's fate with "99% of the games".



In regards to the planned map-making and mod tools for the jet-powered FPS, they're looking unlikely. "Some people have asked for us to provide more tools for community content creation, but our infrastructure and development platform does not support that ability well and the cost and time to develop those features is extremely high. Contrary to the belief that we were ‘milking’ tribes to support the development of Smite, if we didn’t develop another game that could support the studios the company and the Tribe servers would have closed down."



And Smite? According to Goren, it's proving the exception. "Smite is one of those rare games that’s actually growing every month, and is also profitable. This is allowing us to grow the Smite team and deliver weekly updates and content (from 15 people initially to about 80 people now). In addition, many outside publishers were interested in Smite and we are fortunate enough to have made a deal with Tencent who is the most prestigious partner we can have for our type of game.



"Given everything we know Smite should have a long and successful future which is why we are very excited as a company and continue to work our butts off to make Smite the best Moba game in the world."



To read the full statement, including why Tribes: Ascend was apparently a bad fit for traditional publishers, head over to Goren's Reddit post.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Tribes: Ascend interview – map-making, eSports, and the argument for Tribes: Ascend 2">TribesAscend 2012-11-19 17-36-32-53







Recently, Hi-Rez Co-founder and COO Todd Harris announced that Tribes: Ascend—one of our favorite shooters—will not receive major updates for at least six months, with development almost entirely shifting to in-beta MOBA Smite. Harris later added the news that Hi-Rez is looking into releasing map-making tools for the community, a long-requested feature.



I spoke to Harris earlier today to discuss Tribes: Ascend's success, what he would have done differently, how map-making might work, and the future of the franchise.



PC Gamer: It’s been a little over a year since Tribes: Ascend launched. Did its success meet your expectations?



"We acquired the franchise probably more out of passion than having a specific commercial return in mind."



Todd Harris: Yeah, it did. You know, as we've shared in other interviews or at least with the community, we acquired the franchise probably more out of passion than having a specific commercial return in mind. But it has been a profitable effort for us in itself, and now we have the franchise, and there’s things we can do with it in the future.



I think it has long-term potential as well. But when we look at it, we’re like, “OK, commercially, it was slightly profitable—not like a huge growth vehicle for the studio—but it made its money back," which is great, and I think it was certainly well-received critically. And also, we think it kind of established a new wave of free-to-play games. This idea of triple-A, or more hardcore free-to-play, as far as the production values, and non-pay-to-win.



In February we introduced this Game of the Year edition that let people pay one time and get all the gameplay elements, which is a new concept in free-to-play. So, with all those things, we think it’s made a good mark on the industry, and it’s a really good shooter. We’re proud of what we've made. It’s just at a point where, for the next six months, we don’t really think it needs all that much more content, certainly in terms of guns, and it’s at a good point to entertain what a lot of the users have been asking for for a while, which is a way for users to contribute their own maps to the franchise.



Is anyone actively working on those map-making tools, or SDK?



So, we have someone scoping out the effort right now. It’s only in the past few days that we announced that as an intent, so we don’t have a timeline, but someone is looking at- you know, there’s a few different ways we can approach it. So right now we have a developer looking at the options, and what’s the best way for us to go.



Would you expect something like Steam Workshop, or would you let players run unofficial servers?



I think it’s too early to know. I certainly wouldn’t use the word “Steam Workshop,” because that’s been a tremendous investment for those guys, and it’s a great platform, but we wouldn’t use that, because probably the majority of our users are not on Steam. So we wouldn't want to require that.



"We support anything that’s not enabling players to unlock content that would normally only come with time or money."



Right, but might it be a similar system—as in, you subscribe to maps in the client—versus letting people run their own modded servers that aren’t operated by Hi-Rez?



Got it, I understand. I think sometimes, at least when I hear Workshop, I maybe get some vision of people creating custom content and selling that on a marketplace, or trading, that sort of thing. Definitely that’s not what we’re looking at. So, we’ll just try to look at a system that’s relatively simple but...bottom line, it wouldn't be Workshop, and we still have to look into the implementation, but we’d be looking that’s something hopefully relatively simple that gives users flexibility to run their own maps. Beyond that, everything else is still to be determined.



What’s your stance on the community-made SDK that’s been in development for a while?



I don’t know enough about the details, so we've kind of talked through that on a community show, and at this point, it’s not clear to me whether that effort is trying to get around the server authentication and basically the monetization scheme or not. So, it has to get further along, and we've got to do some more discovery on our end to understand how compatible we could be with that or not. We support anything that’s not enabling players to unlock content that would normally only come with time or money, that’s getting unlocked for free. So we just have to understand whether there’s a path we can work with that project to make that happen, and right now I don’t know the answer to that.



Everyone here understands that the initiative is out of users wanting to create content, it’s just working through what’s technically able to come together.



Any idea on when we’ll hear more about the official map making tools?



We’d like to have some sort of update within the next month, but again, it is very, very early, so right now we just want to communicate what our intent is and what the next step is.



On the next page: community feedback and the technical reasons for a Tribes: Ascend 2











PC Gamer: I've seen a sentiment in the community that while you listen to them, you don’t act on their suggestions unless it fits your vision. Do you think that’s true, or fair?



Todd Harris: I don’t think that’s true, no. I think it’s definitely true that we've slowed down the content delivery recently, so I understand that. And I also think it’s true that among the Tribes vets, there are opinions on the game—say the game’s physics, for instance—that we didn't necessarily agree with.



But taken as a whole, from the start of the alpha even past release, I think there’s numerous examples of us listening to community feedback where it actually benefited the game, and sometimes it was counter to our original thoughts.



"It’s just that Tribes vets are a very opinionated bunch."



Examples would include, one: early in the game we had the idea of fixed classes, without swappable weapons, and we did a huge change-over in beta where you could customize your weapon loadout within a class. Another example would be the halving of XP prices in the game for unlocks by time. Another example would be the inheritance on projectile-based weapons, where the community wanted more inheritance, and we released a couple variations—a spinfusor that actually has 100 percent inheritance, even though no Tribes game has had that.



So I think there’s numerous examples. Server browsers, and the way we present that, was another request. So I actually think there’s been quite a lot of cases where we have listened to that feedback. It may not always have gotten patched as quickly as people wanted, but I think we have listened to the feedback. It’s just that Tribes vets are a very opinionated bunch. There’s some cases, for instance, in the case of just the basic game physics, where we are happy with the current implementation and some of the vets are not. And even in that case, we, for instance, introduced on private servers a way for users to adjust physics values and have a little more flexibility there. It’s certainly not the flexibility of full modding, but it’s more than many games provide.



Is there anything you wish you had known in 2012 that you know now about launching and running a free-to-play game?



"I think in hindsight we would have trickled out content more slowly."



Again, we’re pretty happy with the performance of the game, the success of the game, and the review scores of the game. I think in hindsight we would have trickled out content more slowly. We released so much new content so quickly, I mean, really, in the first year I think we released about three years worth of content. If it was either trickled out like most free-to-play games, or if it was kind of bundled in quarterly DLCs, then perhaps that would have been a better path, because I think the community got very used to large updates very, very frequently, and that was a pace that we decided we just can’t maintain, which is really what brought on the communication.



So, being better at managing expectations?



Yeah, I think so. Again, I think, though, we have to deliver on this idea of a path for users to create more maps, and I know some areas of the community there may be skepticism, so they’ll have to wait and see it. But I actually, think that could end up being a very, very good next step for Ascend. We feel really good about the content that’s there, but we understand it’s important for the community to have a way to have updates coming regularly as well, and this could be a good next step.



You also said in your forum post that you’d be more likely to work on Tribes: Ascend 2 than release a major update. What’s the benefit of not building on the existing foundation?



So, first, my main point in including that was that I want people to know we’re very interested in the franchise long-term. It’s not like we would be looking to get rid of it, but also, we have learned some things from a technical perspective, too. And so, other than this path for map-making like we've talked about, any other really significant feature that we think would benefit the game would be more easily done on a refreshed technical platform.



"Optimization, demos, and ranked matches are all things that would be best done on a brand-new platform..."



So, specifically, there’s features that we have in the game Smite, such as the implementation of spectator mode, and a demo system that allows spectating on a three-minute delay, and a system for doing ranked matches, and all those you could put in the competitive support category. And those sort of things, to introduce them into the Tribes franchise, would be best done with the latest version of our technical platform.



Another thing I’d put in that category is just optimization. Tribes looks awesome, I think, but anytime you could expand the audience and allow it to run better on low-spec machines, that’s good, particularly in free-to-play.



Optimization, demos, and ranked matches are all things that would be best done on a brand-new platform, versus trying to retrofit that into what we've already built for Ascend.



I had hoped Tribes would take off as a major eSport. Do you think lacking some of those features held it back?



All those features would have benefited it. I think some of the other challenges include the fact that Tribes is known by many people as a game that’s played on a large scale, and even some of the logistics around LAN eSports events that require teams to travel...so we scaled down kind of the pub game to more of a seven on seven, but even that gets to be pretty logistically challenging when you have multiple teams needing to go to an event. And that’s why I think you tend to see, obviously the success of fighting games, and StarCraft, one on one scenarios, and the max you tend to see is five on five in a MOBA.



That is just one challenge with it, again, in hindsight. But I’m with you. I think it’s a very, very sport-like game to watch. Probably the most sport-like in terms of movement and fluidity as any game. So we still think, for the franchise, there’s still that potential. So, it has a smaller audience at this point, but there’s regular events and the regular audience on Twitch.



Maybe like the TV series Arrested Development, it needs to find the right time to take off.



Thanks for talking with us, Todd.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Tribes: Ascend interview – map-making, eSports, and the argument for Tribes: Ascend 2">TribesAscend 2012-11-19 17-36-32-53







Recently, Hi-Rez Co-founder and COO Todd Harris announced that Tribes: Ascend—one of our favorite shooters—will not receive major updates for at least six months, with development almost entirely shifting to in-beta MOBA Smite. Harris later added the news that Hi-Rez is looking into releasing map-making tools for the community, a long-requested feature.



I spoke to Harris earlier today to discuss Tribes: Ascend's success, what he would have done differently, how map-making might work, and the future of the franchise.



PC Gamer: It’s been a little over a year since Tribes: Ascend launched. Did its success meet your expectations?



"We acquired the franchise probably more out of passion than having a specific commercial return in mind."



Todd Harris: Yeah, it did. You know, as we've shared in other interviews or at least with the community, we acquired the franchise probably more out of passion than having a specific commercial return in mind. But it has been a profitable effort for us in itself, and now we have the franchise, and there’s things we can do with it in the future.



I think it has long-term potential as well. But when we look at it, we’re like, “OK, commercially, it was slightly profitable—not like a huge growth vehicle for the studio—but it made its money back," which is great, and I think it was certainly well-received critically. And also, we think it kind of established a new wave of free-to-play games. This idea of triple-A, or more hardcore free-to-play, as far as the production values, and non-pay-to-win.



In February we introduced this Game of the Year edition that let people pay one time and get all the gameplay elements, which is a new concept in free-to-play. So, with all those things, we think it’s made a good mark on the industry, and it’s a really good shooter. We’re proud of what we've made. It’s just at a point where, for the next six months, we don’t really think it needs all that much more content, certainly in terms of guns, and it’s at a good point to entertain what a lot of the users have been asking for for a while, which is a way for users to contribute their own maps to the franchise.



Is anyone actively working on those map-making tools, or SDK?



So, we have someone scoping out the effort right now. It’s only in the past few days that we announced that as an intent, so we don’t have a timeline, but someone is looking at- you know, there’s a few different ways we can approach it. So right now we have a developer looking at the options, and what’s the best way for us to go.



Would you expect something like Steam Workshop, or would you let players run unofficial servers?



I think it’s too early to know. I certainly wouldn’t use the word “Steam Workshop,” because that’s been a tremendous investment for those guys, and it’s a great platform, but we wouldn’t use that, because probably the majority of our users are not on Steam. So we wouldn't want to require that.



"We support anything that’s not enabling players to unlock content that would normally only come with time or money."



Right, but might it be a similar system—as in, you subscribe to maps in the client—versus letting people run their own modded servers that aren’t operated by Hi-Rez?



Got it, I understand. I think sometimes, at least when I hear Workshop, I maybe get some vision of people creating custom content and selling that on a marketplace, or trading, that sort of thing. Definitely that’s not what we’re looking at. So, we’ll just try to look at a system that’s relatively simple but...bottom line, it wouldn't be Workshop, and we still have to look into the implementation, but we’d be looking that’s something hopefully relatively simple that gives users flexibility to run their own maps. Beyond that, everything else is still to be determined.



What’s your stance on the community-made SDK that’s been in development for a while?



I don’t know enough about the details, so we've kind of talked through that on a community show, and at this point, it’s not clear to me whether that effort is trying to get around the server authentication and basically the monetization scheme or not. So, it has to get further along, and we've got to do some more discovery on our end to understand how compatible we could be with that or not. We support anything that’s not enabling players to unlock content that would normally only come with time or money, that’s getting unlocked for free. So we just have to understand whether there’s a path we can work with that project to make that happen, and right now I don’t know the answer to that.



Everyone here understands that the initiative is out of users wanting to create content, it’s just working through what’s technically able to come together.



Any idea on when we’ll hear more about the official map making tools?



We’d like to have some sort of update within the next month, but again, it is very, very early, so right now we just want to communicate what our intent is and what the next step is.



On the next page: community feedback and the technical reasons for a Tribes: Ascend 2











PC Gamer: I've seen a sentiment in the community that while you listen to them, you don’t act on their suggestions unless it fits your vision. Do you think that’s true, or fair?



Todd Harris: I don’t think that’s true, no. I think it’s definitely true that we've slowed down the content delivery recently, so I understand that. And I also think it’s true that among the Tribes vets, there are opinions on the game—say the game’s physics, for instance—that we didn't necessarily agree with.



But taken as a whole, from the start of the alpha even past release, I think there’s numerous examples of us listening to community feedback where it actually benefited the game, and sometimes it was counter to our original thoughts.



"It’s just that Tribes vets are a very opinionated bunch."



Examples would include, one: early in the game we had the idea of fixed classes, without swappable weapons, and we did a huge change-over in beta where you could customize your weapon loadout within a class. Another example would be the halving of XP prices in the game for unlocks by time. Another example would be the inheritance on projectile-based weapons, where the community wanted more inheritance, and we released a couple variations—a spinfusor that actually has 100 percent inheritance, even though no Tribes game has had that.



So I think there’s numerous examples. Server browsers, and the way we present that, was another request. So I actually think there’s been quite a lot of cases where we have listened to that feedback. It may not always have gotten patched as quickly as people wanted, but I think we have listened to the feedback. It’s just that Tribes vets are a very opinionated bunch. There’s some cases, for instance, in the case of just the basic game physics, where we are happy with the current implementation and some of the vets are not. And even in that case, we, for instance, introduced on private servers a way for users to adjust physics values and have a little more flexibility there. It’s certainly not the flexibility of full modding, but it’s more than many games provide.



Is there anything you wish you had known in 2012 that you know now about launching and running a free-to-play game?



"I think in hindsight we would have trickled out content more slowly."



Again, we’re pretty happy with the performance of the game, the success of the game, and the review scores of the game. I think in hindsight we would have trickled out content more slowly. We released so much new content so quickly, I mean, really, in the first year I think we released about three years worth of content. If it was either trickled out like most free-to-play games, or if it was kind of bundled in quarterly DLCs, then perhaps that would have been a better path, because I think the community got very used to large updates very, very frequently, and that was a pace that we decided we just can’t maintain, which is really what brought on the communication.



So, being better at managing expectations?



Yeah, I think so. Again, I think, though, we have to deliver on this idea of a path for users to create more maps, and I know some areas of the community there may be skepticism, so they’ll have to wait and see it. But I actually, think that could end up being a very, very good next step for Ascend. We feel really good about the content that’s there, but we understand it’s important for the community to have a way to have updates coming regularly as well, and this could be a good next step.



You also said in your forum post that you’d be more likely to work on Tribes: Ascend 2 than release a major update. What’s the benefit of not building on the existing foundation?



So, first, my main point in including that was that I want people to know we’re very interested in the franchise long-term. It’s not like we would be looking to get rid of it, but also, we have learned some things from a technical perspective, too. And so, other than this path for map-making like we've talked about, any other really significant feature that we think would benefit the game would be more easily done on a refreshed technical platform.



"Optimization, demos, and ranked matches are all things that would be best done on a brand-new platform..."



So, specifically, there’s features that we have in the game Smite, such as the implementation of spectator mode, and a demo system that allows spectating on a three-minute delay, and a system for doing ranked matches, and all those you could put in the competitive support category. And those sort of things, to introduce them into the Tribes franchise, would be best done with the latest version of our technical platform.



Another thing I’d put in that category is just optimization. Tribes looks awesome, I think, but anytime you could expand the audience and allow it to run better on low-spec machines, that’s good, particularly in free-to-play.



Optimization, demos, and ranked matches are all things that would be best done on a brand-new platform, versus trying to retrofit that into what we've already built for Ascend.



I had hoped Tribes would take off as a major eSport. Do you think lacking some of those features held it back?



All those features would have benefited it. I think some of the other challenges include the fact that Tribes is known by many people as a game that’s played on a large scale, and even some of the logistics around LAN eSports events that require teams to travel...so we scaled down kind of the pub game to more of a seven on seven, but even that gets to be pretty logistically challenging when you have multiple teams needing to go to an event. And that’s why I think you tend to see, obviously the success of fighting games, and StarCraft, one on one scenarios, and the max you tend to see is five on five in a MOBA.



That is just one challenge with it, again, in hindsight. But I’m with you. I think it’s a very, very sport-like game to watch. Probably the most sport-like in terms of movement and fluidity as any game. So we still think, for the franchise, there’s still that potential. So, it has a smaller audience at this point, but there’s regular events and the regular audience on Twitch.



Maybe like the TV series Arrested Development, it needs to find the right time to take off.



Thanks for talking with us, Todd.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Tribes: Ascend planning map-making tools for the community">Tribes Ascend







Last week, Hi-Rez's Todd Harris made a statement to the Tribes: Ascend community, informing them that the free-to-play FPS would not receive any major updates for at least sixth months. That, in addition to an already long period since the last major content drop, seemed to imply that the team were planning on eventually abandoning the game. Apparently that's not quite the case, as Harris has now revealed his desire to plant their development flag in the well-defended base of the game's community.



"The one thing we’re going to be working on next is a path for users to basically add their own maps," Harris said in an interview with RPS. "We just feel like it’s at a good point to have users maintain it. We feel that it’s a complete experience, and we want to give users the tools to add their own maps – versus, say, us adding more guns that wouldn't benefit ."



Harris says that they're still discussing what form those user tools will take, and whether they'll get access to prescribed building blocks or a full SDK. "There’s actually some community work toward an SDK that’s been started," he continued, "and I expect more details from us in the next month. It’s not anything that has a date yet or a full feature set, but that’s the only real feature that we have in the works – aside from some small bug fixes."



"Ideally in the next six months. But it’s a pretty fresh concept, so it doesn't have a committed date yet. There’s a lot of ways we could go with it, as you can imagine. We just want to let people know that it’s the next thing for Tribes Ascend."



Why drop development plans for Tribes: Ascend at all? Harris admitted that the team's experience juggling Global Agenda and Tribes taught them a lesson about spreading their development resources to thinly. "SMITE is growing incredibly fast and, as a studio, we've learned the value of focus," said Harris. "So other than Tribes mod/map support, our focus is all-in on SMITE for next six months."
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Tribes: Ascend will not receive a major update for at least six months">Tribes thumb







Hi-Rez studios have dropped the flag of Tribes: Ascend development, and don't seem to be in a hurry to pick it back up. In a statement on the free-to-play shooter's forum, studio co-founder Todd Harris answered a Reddit question asking about the lack of recent updates. He confirmed that no major patches were planned, while the developers ski off to concentrate on their third-person lane pusher, Smite.



Here's the full statement from Hi-Rez's Todd Harris:



"There are no major dev updates planned for Tribes: Ascend in the next six months.



"For the next six months our primary development focus is SMITE. Beyond that it is GA2. And beyond that a TA2 would be more likely than a major update to TA; but to be clear no devs are currently working toward TA2.



"Per the development blog on our forums, the recent TA work has been Kate developing some additional maps. If time allows then these new TA maps (along with some bug-fixes) would be finalized and deployed but no committed date yet.



"We continue to support TA servers, online community events, tournaments with prizing, bringing Tribes to offline events like recent RTX and upcoming QuakeCon, and live-streaming."



Traditionally, multiplayer games are transitory. With a few exceptions, we expect them to eventually wind down as people move on to newer things. For free-to-play games, it's a slightly more complicated issue. To what extent do you need to run them as a continually expanding service? At what point do you move on if one isn't justifying its continued development?



To be clear, Hi-Rez don't seem to be abandoning the game. Although, in a competitive genre, that might just be a purely technical distinction. After six months, will there be much of a Tribes: Ascend community left to support?
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to The E3 2013 press conference PC gamers deserve">E3 2013







The press conferences that precede E3 set the tone for the event, they determine the conversations and questions that follow. With no single unifying organisation to set up such an event, it's one of those rare occasions when the open nature of the PC can prove a detriment. The consoles have had their say, now we can't help but wonder what a similar a show for the PC would look like. Who would take the stage? What would they show? What song-and-dance numbers would we get?



Take your seat, make yourself comfortable and put those Doritos away as we welcome you to this year's purely hypothetical show, the E3 2013 conference that PC gamers deserve.



Introducing - our host! A lone spotlight picks out a trundling figure on a wide, dark stage. It grinds noisily to a halt to rapturous applause and spreads its tiny plastic arms wide. "GREETINGS. I am Medianbot," it drones, bionic monotone dripping with the collective charisma of a platoon of Microsoft presenters. "I have been selected by a vast conglomerate of PC developers as a completely impartial neutral representative for this event. My collective masters to remind you that not one of them owns the platform. We are multitude. We make things we think you might like, and we'd like to show some of those to you this evening. Enjoy."



The auditorium goes dark. A Roman appears on a huge main screen, charging up a beach as flaming rocks soar overhead. XBox One conference attendees sigh, for a moment they think it's the new Roman hack-'em-up, Ryse.



It isn't. The camera's pulling out. There are dozens of Romans. Hundreds. Thousands charging battlements under a a storm of arrows. A mouse cursor appears and it's controlling every last one of them. It's Rome 2. The Creative Assembly are on stage. They talk about diplomacy, subterfuge, politics and war on a huge scale. They talk about players crafting their own stories on the stage of history. They explain that there's no grunting and quick time events. This is a game for grown-ups.







It's Blizzard's turn. Dustin Browder takes to the stage and introduces a trailer for Legacy for the Void, but when the lights come back up, two booths have appeared on stage. In one, Flash, in the other, Life - veteran StarCraft and StarCraft 2 esports players. Browder explains talks about the PC not just as a platform for space adventure, but as a field for sport. He introduces top shoutcasters Tasteless and Artosis as our commentators, and the contestants go to war. There's no awkward, staged banter, only two athletes, laser focused on their screens.



In the coming ten minutes both players demonstrate the agility and quick-thinking that makes them masters of their game. The retiring "GG" is met by a resounding cheer.



A tough act to follow? Perhaps not, when you have a huge open world RPG to show off. CD Projekt RED take the mic. They talk about Geralt's final adventure, they show us the cities and forests we'll be able to explore in The Witcher 3. We've had competition, we've had huge strategy, now we're getting a huge explorable RPG. The showing of their debut trailer sends a ripple of excitement through the crowd.







But CD Projekt RED change tack. New zones, monsters and characters start appearing on the conference screens. They're not officially part of The Witcher 2, or The Witcher 3, it's a modding showcase. It's not about picking out individual examples, it's a catalogue of creations only possible on PC - whole new free campaigns, weapons and options, and the power to reshape entire worlds. Another video plays. Geralt walks into the swampy town of Flotsam - familiar to players of The Witcher 2 - only instead the tyranny of a malicious local thug, the Witcher finds that the town is under attack from a twenty foot tall fire-breathing horse. Modding at its finest.



Medianbot rolls back onstage to thunderous applause. "Greetings and thank you revellers. The soundwaves generated by your slapping meat-paws sustains me. I hope you enjoyed the pictures of the angry man with two swords doing things, but not less or much more than any prior or following presentation, for this is about mathematically identical representation for all aspects of the platform. Farewell."



ANGRY MACHINE NOISE. STROBE LIGHTING. It's DICE. It's Battlefield 4. It's running on PC live. It's big. It's loud. It's full of guns. Now, a while tundra - the THUMP of an AT-AT's boot crunching into the snow. It's Star Wars: Battlefront. Then it's Respawn's mech-blasty game, Titanfall. It's loud and angry, polished and beautiful, because the PC can do all of that too, but faster, and prettier.







Another changeover. A video. A montage, devoted to the low-budget, innovative games that wouldn't normally get their time in the limelight. We see interactive fiction games, Dwarf Fortress, Princess Maker, Kentucky Route Zero, Receiver. As if in a frenzied music video, bouncing between everything from Transistor to Minecraft to Project Zomboid to Frozen Synapse in quick but stunningly done style and backed by anything except bloody dubstep. Anything but that.



The lights come up again, and the stage is full of figures playing games on big screens. It looks like the indie showcase that the PS4 put on, but it's vast. Dozens and dozens of developers are playing their games on tiers and tiers of screens. Look - three tiers up on the left - Koakim "Konjak" Sandberg is playing the latest build of Iconoclasts. Hey, down there on the right - Introversion are quelling a riot in Prison Architect. Over there, Mitu Khandaker is climbing a starship's social ladder in Redshirt. Here, in the front row, the Fullbright developers are showing Gone Home. The message here is simple. Yes, you can play some fun games on console. On PC though, you get a whole world of gaming that no one company controls. And it's brimming with honest-to-god new ideas.



But it's not just about the games. The Oculus Rift developers take to the stage arm and arm with the Omni Treadmill creators. They talk about how hardware is advancing all the time, how static systems will inevitably fade in the face of new hardware from the big PC manufacturers. They mention that the consoles are still talking in familiar terms, about streaming via Twitch, about a camera that watches and listens to you, as though such concepts haven't existed on the PC for years already. The PC is a tool, they say, not a living room lifestyle choice. It does what you tell it, and it can show you the future.



Then up on stage, we get the Oculus Rift team to show off their latest prototype, along with the Omni Treadmill and the Epoc mind-reading headset. In front of a gasping audience, we see - live - someone step into Skyrim and kill a mud crab with his mind.







A cheerful Belarusian fellow walks out now. Who is he? It's hard to tell, but it's clear before he's even said anything that he loves tanks, because he's wearing a T-shirt that says "I <3 TANKS." Aha! it's Wargamng CEO Victor Kislyi, and he's here to talk about World of Tanks, kicking off a section about all the games you can play on the PC right now for no money. Quality games like League of Legends, Tribes Ascend, Team Fortress 2. Games that demonstrate that, while the initial cost of the PC may be expensive, a single buy opens up a world of free entertainment. Oh, and it does Netflix. AND you don't need to pay a monthly subscription to go online and try your free games out.



It's been a few hours. But who walks out now, at the end of it all? Is it Newell, talking about Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, how Valve think player-created content that adds value to their games should be rewarded monetarily? Is it CCP CEO Hilmar, talking about player run economies, betrayal and intrigue in Eve Online? Is it Bioware, talking about how they plan to tell stories on the PC we've never seen before? Is it SOE, talking about how they managed to get hundreds of players to fight a galactic war on a single battlefield in Planetside 2? Is it Arenanet, talking about dynamic MMO battlegrounds in Guild Wars 2? The question is posed to Medianbot. Its chrome head explodes.



It should be all of them. Perhaps PC gaming is just too big for one conference. Too varied, too niche, too wonderfully weird to play the same PR game as the platform holders.



Oh, what the hell. Let's go with Gabe.



Microsoft has demoed the Xbox One. Sony has shown off the Playstation 4. Then, in an equally big hall, the lights go down, Gabe Newell steps onto the stage. He says nothing. He just coughs. He points at the screen. A Half-Life 3 logo appears. The crowd goes wild. He walks off, still silent.



Then a minute later, he casually pokes his head back round the curtain. "Wait, did I forget to mention it's free and available on Steam right now?" he asks. "Sorry it took so long. Also, you can trade Steam games now. Don't mind that noise, it's just a pig taking off. Ah, one second. Someone needs to Heimlich Steve Ballmer's tongue out of his throat."



But before he can leave, a single voice cries from the audience. "Why, oh Gaben? Why?"



And the man pauses, the sound of choking from somewhere off stage echoing slightly. Slowly, he pulls on a pair of sunglasses. Half-turns. Smiles. Replies, quite simply, "Because we can."



For the latest from E3, check out our complete coverage and our pick of the best games of E3 2013 so far.
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