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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Report lists Steam’s most popular (and most untouched) games">Steam graphs

Have you played every single game in your Steam library? No? Neither have I and that accomplishment is apparently just a small sand grain in the over 288 million games in Steam collections that have never felt a press of the Play button. That's a surprising figure from a new report by Ars Technica researching the most active and popular games on Steam straight from the recorded statistics of some of the platform's 75-million-strong community.

Ars' method for its number flood involves sampling registered games and their played hours via profiles and their unique Steam IDs. With the help of a server for computational muscle, Ars randomly polled more than 100,000 profiles daily for two months to pull together an idea of which games see the most time on everyone's monitors. In other words, your Backlog of Shame (don't deny it, everyone has one) probably took part in some SCIENCE at some point. Exciting.

Some caveats exist, though. The data Ars looked at for its research only extends back to 2009, when Steam brought in its "hours played" tracking system. Owned and played/unplayed games are thus slightly skewed to not account for older releases from the early noughties, and any length of time spent in offline mode wouldn't get picked up by Steam either. Still, Ars claims its results deliver a good picture of Steam gaming trends for the past five years albeit with some imperfections.

Predictably, Valve's personal products stack high on the list in terms of ownership and most played hours. Dota 2 takes the crown with an estimated 26 million players who ganked faces at some point in the MOBA, but free-to-play FPS Team Fortress 2 follows closely behind with a little over 20 million users. Counter-Strike: Source rounds out the top three with nearly 9 million players, but it's also collecting dust in over 3 million libraries.

As for non-Valve games, Skyrim wins in activity, barely edging out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with 5.7 million estimated active owners. Civilization V kept 5.4 million players hooked for Just One More Turn, and Garry's Mod boasts 4.6 million budding physics artists.

Want to know what the most unplayed Steam game is? It's Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, the Source tech demo given free to pretty much everyone on Steam who bought or fired up Half-Life 2. It hasn't been touched by an approximate 10.7 million players. I guess that old fisherman is feeling pretty lonely right now.

My favorite stat is the total of played hours divided by game mode, more specifically the separate multiplayer clients of the Steam versions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. The single-player campaigns for each respective title sits modestly within the mid-20-hour range, but the multiplayer side balloons well into the hundreds of hours. It's a pretty obvious indicator of where the biggest chunk of popularity resides in FPS gaming, but it's not like you wouldn't get weird looks for claiming you play Call of Duty for the story anyway.

See more of Ars' results in both number and pretty orange graph form in its report.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to 4K Screenshot Showcase: Skyrim">4k screenshot gallery skyrim

Every Monday, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

Skyrim is a permanent hard drive fixture for many here at PC Gamer. We don't tend to go questing for hours on end like it's 2011, but some worlds are interesting enough to warrant a revisit even years later. There's a fantastic mod community that's pushed Bethesda's engine further than anyone thought possible, but it's easy to forget how good vanilla Skyrim looks with just a little enhancement. To demonstrate, Ben has gone wandering in the wilds to bring you this week's set of shots, from Markath to Riften and beyond.

See the full version here.

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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The Rift Report: marriage problems, Skyrim, and virtual voyeurism">riftreportt

Every Tuesday Andy straps on the Oculus Rift and dives headfirst into the world of virtual reality. Is it really the future of PC gaming? Let s find out.

Now that the Facebook buyout story is yesterday s chip paper, everyone has stopped talking about Oculus Rift. Not me, though. The headset is a permanent fixture on my desk, and I m always keeping my eye on sites like RiftEnabled and Oculus VR Share for new demos to try. It s a minefield, though. The open nature of the hardware means there s a lot of crap out there in Rift land, but it s amazing that most of the good ones I feature in The Rift Report are made by one person in their spare. Imagine what a team of 100 developers with a blockbuster budget could do.

A surprise ending in Malfunction

This demo was created in Hutong Games Unity plugin PlayMaker, which lets you create 3D adventure games with little or no coding experience. It s brief, lasting only a couple of minutes, but it s brilliantly scripted and animated. If you have an Oculus Rift, I advise playing it before reading on, because there s a surprise at the end that you should see for yourself.

I wake up in my apartment and wander into the kitchen where my wife is making coffee. I stroll past a mirror and notice that I can see my body, and spend five minutes tilting my head and watching my avatar copy my movements. Looking down and seeing a virtual body while using the Rift never feels quite right, but this is one of the best examples of it I ve seen so far.

It s a fairly mundane domestic situation, until I find the gun. My wife starts yelling, understandably, but it s in Polish (I think) and I have no idea what she s saying. Seemingly unperturbed by her gun-waving husband, she turns to pour the coffee and, suddenly, there s a flash of electricity and she falls to the floor and starts convulsing violently. The screen begins to flicker, revealing that my wife is, in fact, a robot, and I ve been projecting some kind of VR skin onto her.

The machine rises from the floor, rushes towards me, and grabs me by the neck, lifting me in the air effortlessly. Why would they make these robot wives so strong? Its eyes are glowing red with fury, but I still have the pistol. I squeeze the trigger and it keels over. Terminated.

Download Malfunction

Retrofitting VR into Skyrim with Perception

This program lets you inject Oculus Rift support into games that otherwise don t have it. Titles supported include Dishonored, Dear Esther, Skyrim, Borderlands 2, and Mirror s Edge, and although the effect isn t always perfect, it s still a thrill to explore these worlds in VR.

Skyrim feels much more massive in scale, especially when you have to crane your neck to see the peak of the Throat of the World. The rat-infested alleys of Dishonored s Dunwall feel grimier and more claustrophobic. Each game has its own quirks that you ll have to deal with, usually involving changing FOV settings, but most problems can be overcome by searching the forums.

Download Perception

Spying on the neighbours in Private Eye

Private Eye is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock s film Rear Window, in which a housebound photographer spies on his neighbours in an attempt to unravel what he thinks is a murder plot. The influence is clear, from the layout of the buildings, to the cast on your leg. You can zoom in with your binoculars, adjusting the focus to follow people and pick out clues in the environment.

In the demo I played, the structure was a little messy. I didn t really feel like I was piecing together clues to solve a mystery. It s more like an elaborate hidden object game, mixing objectives that relate to the murderer you re trying to catch, and more ordinary things like finding an old woman s missing cat. But, as simplistic as it is, it s a novel use of the Rift hardware, and professionally made.

I love the film noir soundtrack and the amount of detail there is to pick out in the world. This is the result of three weeks spent pretty much entirely in my room going slightly mad, says its creator, who recently showed the game off at Rezzed. To see so many people enjoying Private Eye puts all the sweat, tears and sleepless nights into perspective.

Download Private Eye

Community FAQ

If you have a question about the Oculus Rift, ask Andy on Twitter, or leave a comment below, and he ll answer it in next week s column. Even the silly ones.

Does the Rift affect your eyesight once you remove it and try to adjust to natural light again? Is the transition odd? Dominic Rogers

Not really. You d think it would be more jarring, but I don t feel any sudden change in light when I emerge from the Rift after extended periods of time. But the longest I ve used the Rift for in one session is about 40 minutes while playing Euro Truck Simulator 2, until it got too hot and I had to take it off. I imagine if you spent five hours in the thing, taking it off might be more of a shock to the senses.

How easy is it to switch between the Rift and your monitors? Rich Smith

The way I have it set up, there s no need to switch. My computer recognises the Rift as a duplicate display, so when I load a game up, it appears on both the monitor and the in the Rift. On the monitor it looks like the screenshots above, with two separated images.

What are the top things that induce barf? Do games need to adapt their design, or will players just get used to it? Did you? Marsh Davies

Different things make me queasy at different times. Often I ll get it if I m looking down at my character s legs, then suddenly look up. Others when I m banking sharply in a flying game like Elite: Dangerous. But it seems to affect people differently, so what s fine for me might be bad for you. There are people who can t use the Rift for more than five minutes without feeling like they re going to hurl.

I m sure Oculus have people investigating this, because they ll need to consider the health and safety implications before they release it. You know that warning you always ignore about taking a break every hour while playing games? Surely it must be an even shorter amount of time in the Rift. Even as a seasoned VR user, I m occasionally forced to take it off because I feel sick.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

i want to go to there

Oh Skywind, let me count the ways. For those not in the know, Skywind is a Skyrim mod that aims to transplant the entirety of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (aka, the best Elder Scrolls) into Skyrim’s more modern engine while maintaining the former’s gorgeously bizarre sense of style. Locations, NPCs, quests, the mudcrab merchant who essentially functioned as my best friend in middle school – everything’s going in. It’s an absurdly colossal undertaking, and yet unlike just about every other total conversion mod out there, it’s actually going places>. INCREDIBLY NOSTALGIA-PROVOKING video of Morrowind’s re-envisioned first areas below.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Duncan Harris)

This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.>

With the galaxy’s biggest sci-fi movies using ever more effects houses and artists, it can be hard to pinpoint today’s Ralph McQuarries and Ron Cobbs. They’re out there, though, often known more by work than name. At the top of the pile is Stephan Martiniere, one of those illustrators and art directors whose work is so envied by just about any sci-fi project going that’s he levelled up to ‘Visionary’. Put simply, people want the stuff in his head on their books, in their movies, at their theme parks, and, as luck would have it, in their games.

Examples? In movies, Martiniere’s applied his signature style (eye-popping ‘Golden Age’ snapshots of civilisations in overdrive) to the worlds of I, Robot, Tron: Legacy, Star Wars Episodes II and III, Star Trek, The Fifth Element, the Total Recall remake, 300: Rise Of An Empire, Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. *and breathe…* … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Interview: Mark Morgan, composer on Wasteland 2, Fallout, and Planescape: Torment">mark-morgan-photo

Article by Andy Chalk

Mark Morgan may not be as "instantly recognizable" as composers like Jeremy Soule, Jack Wall or Jesper Kyd, to name just a few, but to a certain subset of gamer nerd-dom he's easily the equal of any of them. He has more than a dozen titles to his credit in a career that began in 1995 with Dark Seed II, but there are three in particular--Fallout, Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment--that established him as one of the most unique and memorable talents in the business.

And yet Morgan's work in videogames represents only a slice of what has been a remarkably varied and successful career in television, film and even as a member of the band Starship. "In the mid-nineties, I was working mainly in television when an agent friend, Bob Rice, heard the score I was doing for a network show called Prey," Morgan recently told me. "He thought that vibe might translate to videogames and introduced me to a few developers. After doing a couple of games, I discovered that the medium offered a great opportunity for me to explore my goal of writing a score that was minimal, immersive and put the player emotionally inside the game."

His soundtracks for Fallout and Planescape are particularly distinctive because the developers specifically wanted to avoid a conventional orchestral score. "Although Planescape: Torment had some orchestral elements, it still came from an ambient place in order to tell the story, whereas Fallout was simply a very dark ambient game," Morgan said. "The developers knew they liked the ambient vibe, so based on some of my prior work they approached me to explore the possibilities for these games. With Planescape: Torment it was a conscious decision to be more thematic but keep it ambient."

Yet after 1999, the year in which his work appeared in both Planescape and Civilization: Call to Power, Morgan effectively fell off the face of the Earth, at least as far as gamers are concerned. He provided some music for the Giants: Citizen Kabuto soundtrack but otherwise appeared to have moved on to other things. It would be ten years before he returned to games with EA's 2009 release Need for Speed: Shift.

"During that decade, I found myself writing music for television again. Then out of the blue, Charles Deenan, who I had worked with at Interplay and was now at Electronic Arts, asked me to contribute some tracks for Need for Speed: Shift. I had always wanted to do that genre of game, so I jumped at his offer. Soon after, I was offered Prey 2, which I co-wrote with a fellow composer, Jason Graves," Morgan said. "The experience rekindled my love of writing for games. And luckily, soon thereafter I got a call from Brian Fargo, for whom I had worked when he was CEO of Interplay. He was now running inXile, and asked if I wanted to work on Wasteland 2, followed by Torment: Tides of Numenera. Since I had worked on what were essentially the prequels to both of those games, I was thrilled to revisit them."

Morgan said his approach to creating game soundtracks is "collaborative" but the specifics of the process depends on the individual game. He cites Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Trent Reznor as some of his many influences, and added that architecture, specifically the Minimalist and Modernist movements, has played a huge role in his work and "profoundly influenced" how he writes music.

"I am moved by the simplicity in modern architecture. With its space and restraint, you can see it all without being detoured or interrupted by things that don t matter," he explained. "To borrow a quote, 'Subtle enough to not intrude, but bold enough to not become irrelevant.' That s kind of my goal. As this relates to games, I want to effect the player in subliminal ways by keeping them in the moment."

He also allowed that his rather sudden re-entry into the field is driven in part by the emergence of a strengthened indie sector, which has rekindled his interest in gaming. "With the advent of crowd-funding, smaller independent developers can make the style of games that avid gamers want to play. Without the constraints of 'corporate-think,' this freedom translates to the music as well," he said. That gamer sensibility is reflected in his participation in a third game, Stasis, a far more modest Kickstarter project he asked to take part in simply because he thought it looked cool.

"When I first saw the visuals I was hooked. The creators of Stasis, Chris Bischoff and his brother Nic, have such a passion for their game it was infectious," he said. "After seeing their teaser on Kickstarter, I emailed Chris to see if they had a composer. He emailed me back that they didn t, so I talked him into letting me do it."

Despite his early association with the franchise, Morgan said he hasn't been asked to take part in the next Fallout game, although he'd "love to do it" if he could. Neither is he aware of the status of Prey 2, which he is no longer actively involved with. "I don t have any idea of how the gameplay was working out but visually it seemed really cool. I loved working on it, but for me personally I felt I hadn t quite found the sound of the game yet. Before we delivered the final score I had always planned on reworking almost all of my tracks and adding the vibe I thought was missing, but I never got a chance. There were also quite a lot of time gaps between portions of the writing which, to be fair, does happen in many games, but I wish the process could have been shorter and more focused. That said, I think if you played Jason Graves' tracks and mine as a whole score, it had the makings of an interesting soundtrack."

As for the future, Morgan said he's never really sure what it holds, but he sounds happy about his recent resurgence in games. "A lot of the music I m asked to do style-wise is a departure from what I do in TV, so it s really satisfying from a creative point of view," he said. "I also love the fact that, at least with the games I m working on at present, I'm asked, 'Can you make it even darker?' That always works for me."

So far it's worked pretty well for us, too. Of the three game projects Morgan currently has on the go, Wasteland 2 is expected first; no release date has been announced, but it's well into beta testing. Stasis should come next, nearer the end of the year, while Torment: Tides of Numenera is slated to arrive in 2015. To find out more about Mark Morgan and his music, hit up markmorganmusic.com.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Skywind trailer introduces the Skyrim mod’s most savage inhabitants">Skywind

Sometimes it's difficult to have a surname that can double as an adjective for uncontrollable, mindless violence. Especially when your job is to report on games, which are exceptionally good at making enemies that are characterised by their uncontrollable, mindless violence. The overuse of the word 'savage' in gaming is a completely unwarranted defamation of my ancestors. After all, they were only responsible for around 28% of maulings in the UK's West Midlands area. Still, the damage is already done, so here's the "Savagery" trailer for Skywind, the excellent looking Skyrim mod that aims to fully recreate Morrowind.

The natural question, then: when's this out? Not for a while, it seems. In the comments of that video, it's creators set out only the vaguest of release targets. "For everyone asking, there is no final release date. We're not just being jerks and not telling you, it's just hard to say at this point. It's estimated for late 2014, but it all depends."

In fact, it's so not currently ready, that the makers are no longer allowing downloads of the current alpha stage. That's because the footage from the video is of the next planned build. The current one did little more than let you move through the terrain and interact with certain objects.

Even though it's still a long way off, the amount of activity that's recently been revealed about the project leaves me hopeful that it will eventually be finished. Previously, we've seen trailers showing just how pretty its environments are, and a lengthy video detailing how many people are involved in bringing Morrowind to a new home.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Cor, look, a place.

It was only December that Craig last came scampering along on the back of a Silt Strider, bouncily telling us all about Skywind, a mod project to port the world, creatures and mechanics of Morrowind to Skyrim’s fancier engine. Now there’s a new trailer showing features for the next update, and a thought occurs: maybe they’re going to pull this off.>


PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Mod of the Week: Afterschool Special, for Fallout: New Vegas">fnvheader

School can be a drag, especially when a bunch of atomic bombs have turned your classmates into flesh-eating ghouls. This week, however, class is back in session in the Afterschool Special mod for Fallout: New Vegas, which lets you take an abandoned, decaying schoolhouse and transform it into an awesome high-tech base of operations, with a lab, a crafting center, a health station, and best of all, the CIMS: an awesome computer that can sort, organize, and store all of your worldly possessions at the touch of a button.

(Please note, the picture above of me decapitating a Fiend's attack dog with a laser rifle doesn't specifically have anything to do with the mod. It's just more exciting to look at than a picture of a schoolhouse.)

Afterschool Special (originally released a while back but recently updated with some new tweaks and features) takes place in Springvale, which is based on an actual town in Nevada, and focuses on Springvale School, which is based on an actual school in Springvale, Nevada. The in-game school isn't much to look at: just another rotting, dilapidated building in a world full of them.

Hopefully the interior of the real school is a bit nicer.

That is, until you come along. Poke around in the rubble until you find a scribbled journal entry, and you'll discover that a fellow named Paul Edgecomb had some plans to renovate the school, but the guy he hired has since gone missing. Paul lives nearby in a small repair shop with his Ghoul buddy Dean, and offers you the chance to take over the renovations and inhabit the school yourself. It's also worth noting that the custom voice work done on Paul is incredibly well done: it feels authentic and fits perfectly into the game.

This isn't simply a matter of Paul handing over the keys to the school: you've actually got to roll up your sleeves and get to work. First, you ll need to empty out the junk that litters the school floor: busted wood, desks, chairs, and other odds and ends. Being something of a jerk, I decided to dump it all in my neighbor's yard, and was a little disappointed when the desks and chairs, instead of falling into a big messy pile, just hung motionless in the air for some reason. Then I realized that a bunch of desks floating in your yard would probably be even more annoying then a pile of them. That made me feel better.

Why are these desks hovering in mid-air? Just another mystery of the Wastelands.

Once the place is cleared out, it's time to mop the floors. Two notes about mopping the floors. First, you'll be happy to know you don't actually have to mop the floors, you just have to press a button and the mod tells you that you've mopped the floors. Second, I am actually disappointed that I didn't get to literally mop the floors. Something about mopping the floor in Fallout, I dunno, it just seemed like it might be fun. How often do you get to mop in a video game? Not terribly often.

The next step is to gather some of the goodies for your new pad, like toolboxes, lockers, and other items. They will become part of the centerpiece of the restored school, the CIMS, or Computer Inventory Management System (more on this in a bit). Paul is nice enough to give you some clues as to where to look for the items you'll need, and you'll also wind up doing some random scavenging and visiting traders to fill your order. Or, you might just root through people's houses and hope they don't get too upset.

It's not what it looks like! I just killed this guy so I could steal his stuff! Okay, it is what it looks like.

Once the interior of the school is in good shape, you'll need to restore the building's electricity to power the lights and computer system. The mod is actually quite detailed in this respect, and I wouldn't be surprised if the mod s creator was an actual electrician. In additional to gathering some electrical components and batteries, you'll need to find a spare solar panel, which means another trip out into the world to hunt down the gear you need.

Surely they'll never miss it if I take just ONE of these.

You think this place looks high-tech? Well, wait until you see my setup:

Even in the post-apocalypse, it's nice to be eco-friendly.

Once you've gotten the power running, you can finally use the new CIMS, and discover what a great time-saving device it is. Typically, when my inventory is full, I'll waddle over to some container in my house and start dropping things into it, being careful not to store things I want to keep on me at all times. This isn't difficult or anything, but it tends to take a while, requiring a lot of scrolling and clicking and thinking, and then retrieving items out of the box, which is stuffed with a bunch of everything, also takes more thinking.

Punch a button on that computer, and your belongings are all neatly sorted into those lockers.

With the CIMS, you just walk up to the computer and ask it to sort any category you want. If I want to unload all my crafting supplies, I just tell the computer, and boop, all my crafting supplies are neatly stored in one location. Do I have a bunch of extra sets of armor or clothing? Beep. Same deal. Do I have 28 different guns I'd like to keep but not carry with me? Do I want to figure out which to sell and which to save, but I don't want to do it right this second? Click.

Want to empty your pockets into neat, labelled collections? There's an app for that.

When I want to do some crafting or peruse weapons or whatever, it's just a matter of opening the correct labeled storage spot. Couldn't be easier. Once you ve got your CIMS set up, you can also purchase other improvements for the school: a healing station, a crafting oven, a science lab, and a workbench. You don t have to stop there: further quests can lead you to repair the old, busted fence outside and add a garden and picnic area, essentially turning the schoolhouse into a schoolhome.

As you can tell, this isn't a massive, dramatic, or even particularly dangerous mod (unless you run into some random enemies while scouring the world for parts). It is, however, a great add-on, good for those who have run out of things to do, or providing something enjoyable to work on while taking a break from other, more strenuous quests.

The end result is a comfy and extremely useful base of operations in Springvale, with the inventory management system, an extraordinarily comfy bed that gives you the well-rested perk after just an hour s sleep, and a custom map marker for easy travel. There s even a switch on the outside of the building that, when flipped, toggles between the school's vanilla version and modded version. And, like I said, the voice work is surprisingly great.

The best kind of school: one with no annoying kids in it!

Installation: Download the latest version here. Drop the contents in your FNV data folder and make sure the mod is checked when you begin. Then head to the schoolhouse and find the note in the rubble. The only issue I noticed was the CIMS occasionally couldn't sort items that were added by other mods.

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