Sega used to spend their time faffing about with console boxes and a blue hedgehog. Now they spend their time more productively: publishing cool PC games (and occasionally trying to resurrect the blue hedgehog). Sometimes these many projects collide into a single, gloriously incomprehensible mess of different games and styles. It happened with the bizarrely compelling Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed - a game in which an anthropomorphic fox could lose a kart race to the football manager from Football Manager. It's also now happened with this week's Humble Weekly Sale.
The pack collects some of the publisher's more celebrated series, along side smaller projects and a collection of classic console games.
At the lowest pay-what-you-want tier, you'll get Alpha Protocol, Company of Heroes, Rome: Total War and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. Pay more than $5.99 and you'll also receive The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, Binary Domain, Renegade Ops, Medieval 2: Total War, and a collection of 10 old "Genesis" games. The Genesis, in case you're unaware, is what incorrect people call the Mega Drive.
The deal also includes Total War: Shogun 2, available for purchases over $14.99. In addition to supporting Sega, the money will also go towards the following charities: Make-A-Wish, Whale & Dolphin Conservation, Willow, Special Effect and GamesAid. As always, the bundle's sliders will let you choose exactly where your money will go.
It's probably one of the best Weekly Sales that Humble have run in some time. Company of Heroes, Rome: Total War, and Medieval 2: Total War are often considered among the best entries of their respective series. In addition, Alpha Protocol and Renegade Ops are definitely worth checking out for the sort of price you can grab them for here. Also, there are a few Mega Drive games - including the Golden Axes. Weirdly, there's no Sonic anywhere in sight, although at this point, maybe it's for the best.
The Sega Humble Weekly Sale will run until March 20th.
Broken menus, wonky mouse controls, single figure framerates - this is the familiar story of PC gaming prowess held back by consoles. We understand why it happens: console-land was where the majority of sales were, and thus the focus of development. But that reasoning has never seemed, well, reasonable: a trashy console port can knock a chunk off your Metacritic rating, sour a huge potential audience against you forever and lose you loads of sales on a platform that can be extremely lucrative if only you know how to approach it.
It's really not that hard or expensive. After all, a pair of talented modders managed to make Dark Souls' PC version immeasurably better within the space of an evening, and while devs might not want to spend resources making hi-res assets just for PC, there's plenty of really basic stuff that can be done to not totally fuck up a game. Which, given the amount of time, love and money spent on these creations, is surely something that would please the developers and publishers as much as their beleaguered PC audience.
We've thrown together a list of tips, common foibles and fixes - add your own in the comments!
On release, Binary Domain defaulted to gamepad inputs which could only be changed by running a separate settings program. Gnnngggn.
Accessible settings PC configurations are as many and varied as the gamers that own them. A PC game has to account for this with its range of settings. Have these options accessible in-game, and don't require the player to drop back to the main menu to change them. Definitely don't put them in a separate trainer which forces you to restart the entire damn game. (Hi there, Binary Domain.)
Resolution For the love of Baal, let us change the resolution. And definitely let us change the resolution before embarking on a lengthy unskippable opening cinematic in enforced default shatto-vision. (I’m looking at you, Max Payne 3 - or trying to, anyway.) Better still, autodetect the native resolution!
Key-bindings Let us at them. Particularly if, for whatever reason, you've decided to give charge of your keyboard inputs to someone who has never actually seen or used a keyboard before. How do you reach the main menu in Binary Domain? Oh, that’s right, it’s Enter. Of course. Then, when in the menus, you press space to select and F to go back. Obviously, in-game, F is the interact key - except when interact is space. Argh. Incidentally, Enter is not the PC's equivalent of the gamepad's A button - it's the furthest you can get from both hands in normal FPS control mode. So don't make it the compulsory key to dismiss pop-up messages.
Gamepads Some games are designed for and best suit a gamepad. That's cool. But for games which might easily be controlled by either a gamepad or a traditional PC set-up, please autodetect which system is currently under use. Most games seem pretty good at this now, but there are still some stragglers.
Framerate Let those framerates soar free into the vast open skies of PC gaming wonderment. Also, let us fiddle with things like V-sync - with the vast array of PC hardware set-ups possible it is unlikely you will have guessed how to best optimise your game's performance for any one PC. Why wreck your hard work with dropped or torn frames when you could just trust players to tweak the game to perfection.
FOV sliders, particularly in singleplayer games, should be a given.
Field of View PC gamers typically sit closer to their screens than console gamers and this changes the effect of a limited FOV. Unless you are setting out specifically to discomfit and sicken the player, offering the ability to adjust FOV will only make people like you. You do want to be liked, right?
Alt-tab If your game cannot do this, you are probably going to Hell, where you'll be forced to troubleshoot for irascible Windows ME users for the rest of eternity. Sorry about that.
Menus PCs typically come equipped with a mouse - the perfect device with which to gaily skip through menus. Please make use of it. Do not make us scroll through a gazillion options when a single click would do. Relatedly, make your menus pay attention to where the cursor actually IS. Console ports, like many carnivorous predators, seem to only sense movement. So you often see the wrong menu option highlighted and have to wiggle the cursor a bit to make it notice where you're actually pointing.
Mouse support Mice are not thumbsticks. This should be quickly apparent from their different shape. Do not duplicate the analogue stick deadzone with your mouse acceleration. (Got that, Dead Space?) Also do not impose momentum on mouse movements. My world stops spinning when my mouse stops, not a few seconds later, Syndicate. And don't use autotargeting systems based on the assumption that there are 8 degrees in a circle.
Sleeping Dogs was a port done right. It also featured a man urinating into a toilet full of sick. A rare game indeed.
Social media integration No.
Games for Windows Live Don’t do it. You may think that we PC gamers object to GfwL because we are a prickly bunch who resent having to install yet another wedge of corporate molestation replete with its own superfluous achievements system, fragmentary friends-lists, cross-promotional guff, easily lost log-in details and so on - particularly when we are already so well served by Steam. All that might be true of Origin or uPlay, but it doesn’t come close to describing the genuine horror of GfwL, which remains one of the most ill-conceived and poorly executed pieces of software it is possible to install on your PC. It’s hideously designed, hugely unergonomic, painfully slow, intrusive and prone to complete failure in every single aspect of its operation. It’s just unbelievably terrible.
DRM Piracy sucks. We know. However, the solution should never be to periodically lose players' saves, punt them to desktop mid-game or prevent them from playing the game altogether.
Hi-res textures Now, we’re not asking you to create an entirely new assets pipeline for the PC alone, but in many instances textures are created first at high resolution then scaled down to fit onto the itty-bitty consoles. You can make use of those on PC, you know.
Post-release patches We salute your ongoing commitment to PC gamers by releasing fixes after launch. But don't leave it until then to make your game playable. Don't leave it until launch day, even. There are good business reasons for this: reviewers will be playing your undercooked code; you'll burn your earliest purchasers and most loyal customers; you'll lose momentum building a community among players (particularly key if your game has an online component); people will be more likely to pirate your game if they think it's not worth the risk of an actual purchase.
You are Dan, walking jawline, international supersoldier. One of several tasked with infiltrating a futuristic Tokyo. ‘Infiltration’ in this case means ten hours of noisy third-person gun battles with shiny bipedal gun-bots, to stop a powerful tech company from producing androids that look human.
It’s boilerplate stop-and-pop fare in the Gears of War mould, appended with light squad management from Mass Effect, buried in an adolescent parable about artificial life.
You’d hope that this sort of paragraph would constitute the most pertinent information about Binary Domain, but, as a PC gamer, you’ll have other things on your mind: namely, why the developers hate you.
The UI designer may never have seen a keyboard: I wasn’t even able to identify the icon used to represent ‘Tab’ during the tutorial. How do I reach the main menu? Oh, that’s right, it’s ‘Enter’. Of course. There’s no mouse movement on the menus – WASD to navigate and ‘F’ to go back. Obviously, in-game, ‘F’ is the interact key – except when interact is ‘Space’. Not that the game tells you this, because the default in-game prompts are those for a 360 control pad, whether or not your input scheme is set to keyboard. Want to change the in-game prompts? Just quit the game, load the separate settings application then restart.
Beneath these annoyances is a largely unremarkable game. Binary Domain does possess a singular forte in the way enemy robots shed their metal skin as bullets rip them up. It satisfies a basic urge to destroy and introduces a frisson of tactics: blow off a robot’s head and it’ll attack its metallic allies; blow off its legs and it’ll crawl on, Terminator-style. Some enemies charge in, others hang back; the combination creates lively, if repetitive, gunplay.
The rest of Binary Domain is less inspiring: worthless teammates, glum locations, wearisome vehicle sections, ghastly boss fights. Its one distinguishing feature is particularly dubious: voice command, used to order your buddies in combat, and to improve your standing with them during down-time. It routinely misunderstands or ignores commands, and even registers them when none have been uttered – despite playing through a headset in the dead silence of my rural home. Even with manual input, the choices it offers frequently make no sense: what does “Damn!” imply when answering a question containing a double negative?
Getting this wrong affects your relationships with characters, and with the plot, should you care about it. There are flashes of intellect in the writing, motifs largely purloined from Blade Runner, but the predictable twists are delivered with so many holes you could use the script to strain broccoli.
Nonetheless, Binary Domain wants you to care about its cast, and it makes some headway with Dan and co’s goofish wit and well-voiced patter, albeit entirely composed of action movie cliché. But just as frequently it drops the ball: Dan’s attempted seduction of designated love-interest Faye is like a clip from a David Lynch nightmare sequence.
Multiplayer brings class-based competitive modes and four-player wave-survival. Should you find an active server, it proves serviceable but seldom-scintillating stuff. And that’s Binary Domain to its core: a sometimes competent clone whose unique attempts to ignite enthusiasm sputter out. And if you don’t have a control pad, the galling disdain shown to the PC reduces this replicant to so much scrap.