The new version of Valve s Steam Controller is out in the open at GDC, playable for anyone in attendance. We ve spent some time with it on the show floor, playing Portal 2, Broken Age, Dirt 3, and Strider.
This was my first time using the Steam Controller, Valve s gamepad designed to work with all the games on Steam: past, present, and future, and meant as a companion to SteamOS. Our last chance to play with the controller was at CES in January, when Cory said that he was hopeful after an admittedly short playtime that such a device could be fantastic.
My experience was far less encouraging. I was able to fit in more than half-an-hour with the controller on the GDC show floor. I played every game that Valve had on display one from four different genres and in each, I would ve absolutely had more fun and been more effective with an Xbox 360 controller.
The high sensitivity of the controller s dual, haptic trackpads was constantly frustrating. In Dirt 3, it was very hard for me to make fine steering adjustments; I seemed to only be able to oversteer left or right. As a result, my driving method boiled down to essentially see-sawing left, then right, then left again to correct and then over-correct my oversteering. I crashed a lot. My car was a wreck by the time I crossed the finish line, a lap time of 6:55 on Dirt 3 s Lake Gratiot course. The top AI racer finished in 3:04. Trying it mid-race, I actually drove best while using the Steam Controller s new d-pad.
Portal 2, one of the games using native support of the pad (as opposed to mouse and keyboard emulation) wasn t much better. I was able to clumsily and inelegantly solve a room in the first couple hours of the game, one where you re moving reflector cubes to change the direction of lasers emanating from the wall. When I put my thumb at the edge of the right pad, which controls your aim with the portal gun, it doesn t perpetually rotate your character. If I wanted to make a 90 or 180-degree turn, I had to swipe the pad right-to-left or left-to-right. And as I did that, the vertical alignment of my aim would shift a little, and I d have to correct it. I felt like a loading crane, moving along one axis at a time, picking up an item, rotating, and then moving again. It was so hard to be swift. I gave up after dying twice in the following room, where I needed to use orange (acceleration) and blue (bounce) gels to advance. It was a struggle to simply pan the camera downward, toward my feet, so that I could check that I was making impact with the blue gel.
I m glad to chalk some of my errors up to my inexperience with the device, but it s surprising how unwieldy the trackpads were in every situation. I didn t once feel comfortable, in control, or that Valve s hardware configuration was in any way an upgrade over a controller with analog sticks. I watched a lot of other players use the controller for the first time, and almost all of them echoed some version of The pads are way too sensitive. Valve employees scattered around the kiosks emphasized that you ll be able to adjust the sensitivity to a greater degree once the controller is fully released, but it s curious that Valve would showcase the controller in such a clearly unpolished stage everyone I saw using it at GDC seemed to be having a tough time.
The Steam Controller didn t strike me as either a good fit for casual, undemanding games as an upgrade to the Xbox 360 pad in first-person, 3D games. I thought that Broken Age would be a safe, easy context, but it was just as frustrating as Dirt 3 and Portal 2. How is that even possible? It was a fight just to put the cursor exactly where I wanted, and overshooting static objects made me feel completely silly.
At least at the outset of using this prototype, the new ABXY buttons feel shoehorned into the architecture of the pad. It s an odd placement for them, and they re maybe 80 percent the size of an Xbox 360 pad s buttons. I have pretty big hands, and the X button felt too distant to me. Even as I was navigating menus, I kept hitting B (cancel) when I meant to hit A (confirm). At the very least, I think it s a configuration that s going to require you to un-learn some of your muscle memory, which is unfortunate.
It s evident that the Steam Controller is still in development. At this prototype stage, Valve is actually still 3D printing the body of the controller itself, and the rigid, low-quality plastic doesn t quite feel comfortable. From a gameplay perspective, though, I m completely unsold on the Steam Controller as a viable way of playing PC games at this time. The games Valve had on display weren t flattering uses of the controller, and it s disappointing to know that I would ve played better with an Xbox 360 pad in every case.
It's Codemasters turn to flaunt their goods on Humble's digital sale shelf. Seven games, including various DiRTs, Overlords and Operation Flashpoints, have been bundled together, in a genre mash-up that has tiny imps erratically driving rally cars away from hyper-efficient snipers. Okay, so it's not that - it's the more traditional bundle of games collected for a pay-what-you-want price.
It's a good package, specifically for the quirky Overlord series, the excellent DiRT 3, and the kinda-fun DiRT Showdown. Unfortunately, the bundle does still necessitate a warning. With GfW Live's rumoured July 1st shutdown, both Operation Flashpoint: Red River and DiRT 3 could potentially stop working. While Codemasters have confirmed that DiRT 3 will be getting the Steamworks treatment, they've made no comment on their plans for Red River.
As always it's a two-tiered deal, with people who pay under $6 getting Overlord, the Raising Hell DLC, Operation Flashpoint: Red River, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising and Rise of the Argonauts. Pay over $6, and you'll also be given DiRT Showdown, DiRT 3 and Overlord 2.
RIP Games for Windows Live, we hardly knew ye. On second thoughts, we knew ye pretty well, and we hated your malodorous guts - good riddance. Of course, with Microsoft's hated games service going the way of the passenger pigeon (I was going to say dodo, but a load of animals have sadly been made extinct since then), there's the little matter of what's going to happen to all the games infested with GFWL. Will they be playable after July 1st, when the service is being taken out to the woodshed to be shot in the head? It's still unclear, but it doesn't seem likely - unless developers take it upon themselves to patch their games.
So far, only Fallout 3, Bioshock 2, the Arkham games, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Toy Soldiers have extracted the service, leaving a few dozen games with the sword of DRMacles hanging over their heads. Thanks to Joystiq, we now at least know which developers and games are aiming to follow suit.
There's good news and bad news. Mostly bad, I'm afraid. The good news is that Super Street Fighter IV / SSFIV Arcade Edition, DiRT 3, F1 2010, F1 2011, Red Faction Guerrilla and Ms. Explosion Man will all replace GFWL with Steamworks (or in the case of RF:G, perhaps a DRM solution of its own), their respective developers have confirmed to Joystiq.
The sorta-good news is that Namco Bandai are "exploring options" to removing GFWL from Dark Souls and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. If they don't remove it from the former at least, I imagine there'd be one hell of a stink come July 1st.
The bad news is that the Dead Rising and Lost Planet games, Resident Evil 5, Street Fighter X Tekken, Operation Flashpoint Dragon Rising and Red River, Iron Brigade, Fable 3, Gears of War, Halo 2, Blacklight: Tango Down and quite a lot of other games currently have "no plans" to remove GFWL. See my 'one hell of a stink' comment from earlier and insert the word 'massive' in there somewhere.
Joystiq are "still awaiting response" about GTAIV, Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2, Bulletstorm and a few other games. You can read the full list of games here. Thanks, Joystiq!
Like an unpopular and neglected combination of game client, social platform and DRM system, Games for Windows Live is fast approaching its ultimate shutdown. Oh, hold on, that wasn't a clever analogy. That's what Games for Windows Live is. In preparation for its sort-of announced shutdown, a variety of games have been looking at ways to hack off the dying flesh, in the hope that such self-amputation will stop the creep of necrotic tissue, thus ensuring the survival of the host. Okay, that was a better analogy.
Codemasters have become the latest developer to announce their detachment plans, confirming over Twitter that a GfW:Live free version of rally racer Dirt 3 was being worked on.
@TweetingTommy32 We are working on it but it may not be until the new year.— Codemasters (@Codemasters) November 9, 2013
Dirt 3 was the last Codemasters game to use GfW:Live. The developer's subsequent releases, including F1 2012 and 2013, Grid 2 and Dirt: Showdown, all used Steamworks. As yet, the planned fate of the excellent Dirt 2 - also tied to GfW:Live remains unknown.
Games for Windows Live's shutdown was briefly announced through the support page for Age of Empires Online, before the webpage was updated and the closure confirmation removed. That so many games have, or are planning to switch to Steamworks confirms that there's some truth to these plans. If the original date was correct, the service will shutdown on the 1st July, 2014.
We've already seen a Steamworks shift from Bioshock 2 and the Arkham games, and Capcom recently announced that they were "looking into what options are available".
On the cusp of an open multiplayer beta for Crytek's maximally lustrous Crysis 3, Nvidia released an early version of its GeForce 313.95 drivers today. The GPU giant claims the drivers boost SLI performance for Crysis 3 by up to 35 percent in addition to other "sizeable SLI and single-GPU performance gains" in games such as Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 3.
Nvidia says users should expect a 27 percent gain in graphics performance while playing Assassin's Creed III, 19 percent in Civilization V, and 14 percent for both Call of Duty: Black Ops II and DiRT 3. Just Cause 2 improves by 11 percent, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, F1 2012, and Far Cry 3 all improve by 10 percent.
Demonstrating its mastery over orderly green bars, Nvidia also supplied benchmark charts for these games using four of its most recent cards: the GTX 650, 660 Ti, 680, and 690. With the 313.95 drivers, the company declares GTX 690 users can max out all settings in Crysis 3 and still achieve 60 FPS.
Grab the new drivers and check out the charts at Nvidia's website. Also try out the GeForce Experience—which we've talked about at length—to automatically optimize and configure your games based on your PC's hardware.
UK-based Publisher and developer Codemasters have given up making shooters, choosing instead to focus on racing games. The company have launched a new publishing label - Codemasters Racing - that will be responsible for putting out Codemasters' upcoming games. They include the inconsistently capitalised but consistently good DiRT rally series, and the similarly speedy official F1 games.
Codemasters' comms chief Rich Eddy clarified the change to MCV. "In racing, we are number two in Europe and that’s not good enough. Racing is our DNA, it is our heritage, it is our specialisation and it is our absolute focus going forward." No clues as to where that leaves Dizzy in this shakeup.
DiRT Showdown will be the first gAmE (that's how you do it, right?) to be released under the new imprint. The change is surely a good move for the publisher. They're pack leaders in the racing oeuvre, but recent forays out of it haven't met with much success. A focus of assets and resources on the games they're best at makes sense.
The trailer above loudly announces that Dirt Showdown will be released on May 25. A demo will be released on Steam in a couple of weeks on May 1 if you fancy trying out Showdown's lively, arcade slant on the relatively serious rallying of the core Dirt games. That'll let us crash a selection of cars across a "solo and multiplayer event."
Showdown features rough and tumble races set amid boisterous carnival locations. Expect ramps, choke points, stunts and plenty of collisions. Previous trailers have shown crashes on the 8 ball arena, crashes in the midst of crowded night time contests and crashes during frantic midday bouts. If that's not enough crashing, there's a destruction derby mode solely devoted to dishing out points for big hits.
If you're to get hold of Showdown early, the "Hoonigan Edition" should be available to pre-order from Game and Gamestation, though the PC version doesn't seem to be there at the moment. The Hoonigan version comes with some extra car liveries, and online XP bonus and some extra in-game cash to spend on your cars. Check out the Dirt Showdown site for more.
Codemasters stopped by earlier with a preview build of Dirt: Showdown. It's living up to its billing as a more accessible, rough and tumble take on the carefully simulated physics of Dirt 3. You won't find any serious Rallying here, it's all about going wheel to wheel with your competitors, ploughing them into barriers and boosting past them to steal the win with brute force.
We'll have some more detailed impressions for you in a bit. Meanwhile, here's three new videos of three of the different modes available in Dirt 3, including your racing, demolition derby and more of the 8 ball circuit shown in the last Dirt: Showdown trailer. Click 'Read and Comment' for more VRRRRRM-SMASH.
Dirt Showdown bears the Dirt name associated with Colin McRae and, once upon a time, serious rally racing, but is really more of an arcade spin-off. This new trailer shows off an "8 Ball" course. It's like those Hot Wheels toys where you'd launch cars down convoluted tracks towards a central crash site, where they'd collide and fly off to hit your dog in the eye. This time, you're inside those cars, and some of them are spouting fire.
Showdown's focus is on Destruction Derbies and "full contact" racing, with lots of ramps and choke points, and will apparently make use of "gaming's most advanced damage engine." Move aside, Frostbite 2! It's due out in May and was announced with an announcement trailer a few weeks ago which looked a little bit like this.
Whoa. When did PC gaming become so damn... award-winning?
PC has cleaned up at the Golden Joystick awards with a wealth of exclusives. And the non PC exclusive games that took an award? We get to play most of those too, only more anti aliased, and in a better resolution.
The best bit? Gamers voted for these. Real-life gamers with strong opinons. A record-breaking 2.06 million of them in fact. Well done PC gaming community - you rose to the challenge and pwned.
Click through for the full results. Don't agree with some of the winners? It's time for a furious debate. See you in the comments.
PC dominated the Best Strategy category: Starcraft 2 took the number one spot, followed by Civilisation V and Shogun 2: Total War. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was awarded Best Action game and Fallout: New Vegas took Best RPG.
World of Warcraft took Best Subscription MMO, beating Rift and Eve Online. One of PC Gamer's faves - Minecraft - was awarded Best Downloadable Game. We'll have Notch's acceptance speech on the site as soon as possible.
League of Legends scooped Best Free-To-Play Game - considering the numbers and constant updates, it's hard to disagree.
Portal 2 took Ultimate Game of the Year at the prestigious ceremony. Seeing as we have the ultimate version of Portal 2, we'll take that as ANOTHER win for PC gaming.
Skyrim took the One To Watch award. We've been keeping a close eye on that one. And yes, it is indeed one to watch.
Best Action Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Runner Up Portal 2 Third place L.A. Noire
Best Mobile Angry Birds Rio Runner up Fruit Ninja Third place Infinity Blade
Best RPG Fallout New Vegas Runner up The Witcher 2: Assassin's Of Kings Third Place Dragon Age II
Best subscription MMO Winner World of Warcraft Runner up Rift Third place Eve Online
Best Fighting Mortal Kombat Runner up Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds Third place Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
Best Racing Gran Turismo 5 Runner up DiRT 3 Third place Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
Best Sports FIFA 11 Runner up Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 Third place NHL 2011
Best Strategy Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Second place Civilization V Third place Total War: Shogun 2
Best Music Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Second place Rock Band 3 Third place Child of Eden
Best Free-to-play League of Legends Second place World Of Tanks Third place RuneScape
Best Downloadable Minecraft Second place Limbo Third place Dead Nation
Best Shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops Second place Halo: Reach Third place Crysis 2
One to Watch The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Second place Battlefield 3 Third place Guild Wars 2
Innovation of the Year Nintendo 3DS
Outstanding Contribution Sonic The Hedgehog
Ultimate Game of the Year Portal 2 Second place Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Third place Call of Duty: Black Ops