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The recent launch of Path Of Exile's open beta—a new hack & slash action RPG known especially for its enormous skill tree, as you can see in the pic above—inspired us to collect some of the best looking skill and research trees spanning a variety of genres. It's interesting to see how creatively devs can handle this part of a game.
source: Zenon1320's gameplay video
source: Hawken Forums
source: Ascendancy Manual
source: own screenshot
source: The Witcher Wiki
source: Gerald Hopkins' gameplay
Make sure to submit your own picks in the comments below, with visual support.
Here's a look at the new costumization options available in Borderlands 2. Each set is available for 80 Microsoft Points or $0.99 / £0.75 / 0,99€ for the Xbox 360 and PS3/PC, respectively (separate from the Season Pass). You can find a shot of the "Madness" set below.
Without divine intervention and after that nice guy gets a lucky shot (and why wouldn't he?), you (or what's left of you) are probably headed to the nearest respawn point. And just like that, within the game, Pum! Your character appears out of nowhere.
Save points are a bit different. Usually, in games that allow you to save at any moment (ie: Deus Ex: Human Revolution—and I'm glad it lets us!), you just reappear in the same exact spot with the same exact gear you had.
Other games save when a big boss battle is coming up or when you choose to save (e.g. Serious Sam 3 BFE), and you just reappear on the point where you saved.
Saving a game and respawning is something that happens outside of the world of the game; the player is conscious of this, but the character is not, thus breaking the fourth wall. But there are exceptions to this rule, and Borderlands is one of them. So, how could one imagine a respawn point working?
In Borderlands, there are New-U stations that "store the character DNA against the possibility of accidental death or dismemberment" and can "digistruct" an entirely new body to replace the recently deceased one, a hand-wavey way to explain how the game save works.
We're going to discuss a bit of physics in this article, but thinking about an action game, being completely faithful to the laws of physics would be a bit boring. For example, if you die, you die, and that's the end, as long as our knowledge of the laws of physics goes!
New-U stations save the game when the character walks within range of it. We will get into the physics of the matter (if you pardon the pun), but just the idea of explaining why a character can reappear is interesting. There's even a tunnel when you're being brought back and an associated cost of 7% of your character's funds! It can be a lot from the player's perspective, but that's just pocket change considering you are actually "reconstructing" a character.
In a nutshell, New-U stations use solid light to digistruct a person, weapons from holsters, even cars. Therefore, the DNA explanation mentioned above is not sufficient. When you are reconstructed from a New-U station, the character returns with all its weapons, ammunition, clothes, etc. So if the New-U station stored only DNA, it would be a bit hard to reconstruct stuff that doesn't have DNA to begin with—think back-in-time-terminator-naked style. There's also the use of another term, "solid light," that is an actual scientific term, but again applied in a science fiction way, in a sense of light transforming into matter.
So how would a more physics-based "reconstruction" work?
Lawrence Krauss (a fantastic physicist and writer) did some calculations on a similar problem, the transporter from Star Trek. There are other issues that Krauss discusses, but the physics of acquiring the data from the object and reconstructing it would be similar. Krauss even goes into a deeper philosophical question: are human beings only the sum of their atoms? Is there something else that makes us human, besides matter? It's a very interesting question, but one that we will not delve into. So we're going to stick with physics questions: how much information would one need to store in order to recreate a human being? How do you acquire this information? And how much energy is needed to do so?
The average human body is composed of 1x1028 atoms.
To be able to reconstruct it from a stored pattern, first this pattern must be stored, of course. But how would one go about doing that? The scanner would have to acquire the position and momentum of all atoms, without displacing them. It would need to determine the type of atom that you're scanning, too. It also would have to do it very quickly, taking into account that the character probably wouldn't be standing still. And here quantum mechanics shows to start spoiling the fun, with its pesky Heisenberg principle.
The Heisenberg principle states that, independent of the measure apparatus or future technologies, there are certain combinations of measures that are impossible to be made with arbitrary precision.
For example, it is possible to determine very precisely the position of a subatomic particle—like an electron—but not the momentum at the same time, and vice versa, or the state that the particle is, but not how long the particle will stay in that state.
So for our "scanner beam" to be able to selectively "lock" on a particular atom (which would be a feat on its own) and acquire its information, would disturb that same atom from its present state, somewhat irreversibly. It gets even worse, since, if we need to increase the precision of the beam to get a higher resolution, more energy would be needed, and the more that poor atom would be disturbed. And all that would be done within seconds!
To keep going, let's now assume that this scanner beam works. How much space would be needed to store all this information?
We would need to store not only the position and velocity of each atom, but also its energetic state, whether it's making a bond with other atoms, the vibrational and rotational states, etc.
In physics, each of these pieces of information is called a degree of freedom, and a system is determined if all the degrees of freedom can be defined.
Let's say that we can store all the degrees of freedom of all the atoms. Let's take an educated guess and say that all the degrees of freedom of one atom can be described by 5kB. While we're at it, let's also take into account the weapons and stuff that you carry on that giant backpack, and say that we need to store 1x1029 atoms.
That would give us 5 x 1029 kilobytes, or 50000 yottabytes of information to be stored (and retrieved!) in a few seconds.
Given the world's current supply of hard drives, we couldn't get a single yottabyte. There are some recent calculations (using the Bekenstein limit) that estimate the information needed to describe a human being to be around 1x1044 bytes, considering the maximum amount of information given using a finite amount of energy in a finite region of space, which happens to be larger than our previous estimate.
You died, fini, caput, so the New-U station needs to reconstruct you. We got a nice blueprint of 50000 yottabytes with all your information.
First problem: we need the atoms! It shouldn't be a big deal for the more common ones, like oxygen (65%, in mass), carbon (18% in mass) and hydrogen (10% in mass).
Things start to get a bit more problematic with the rare earth ones, even uranium and beryllium, so each New-U station would have to have an "atoms stock" to be able to reconstruct a character. And remember, there's also all the weapons… It seems that the weapons are recreated from scratch when the character is recreated, but dematerialized to "hard light" when the character is not using it.
So far, we only dealt with atomic level problems, considering that only saving the atoms themselves and not its constituents is necessary.
Each atom is composed by some number of nucleons (protons and neutrons) and electrons, and a lot of empty space. Really, a lot: more than 99% of the mass of the atom is at its center, where the nucleons are, but the size of the nucleous is 10000 smaller that the atom itself.
What prevents things falling through other things is the electric field, or the repulsion of the electric field by equal charges. Chemical bonds are formed to minimize the energy, but getting the atoms together can be a bit tricky, exactly because of that electric repulsion.
There are also reactions that need energy to start and keep going, and others liberate energy when the chemical bonds are formed from the free elements. How much energy? We will have to simplify greatly here: some chemical reactions liberate energy, while others absorb it, so it's not only a problem of putting everything together, but also putting or removing the right amount of energy in the right order.
After seeing the enormous amount of information that would need to be scanned and stored, the energy and materials that would be needed and with all the difficulties that physics presents us, it's not like we would see a New-U on the corner anytime soon (or ever), but the possibilities for understanding the science behind the possible processes is very interesting. There are some fundamental physical barriers and others that are more technological. But nonetheless, not breaking the fourth wall is awesome and talking physics about a game is always awesome.
And all this for only 7% of your funds!
Editor's note: Our guy at Thwacke, a Canadian outfit that advises game developers in all things science, writes to us and says he's got an expert who can explain how the Zerg in StarCraft have a whole lot in common with real insects. More »
Beware: spoilers for hidden secrets in Borderlands 2's latest DLC—Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt—follow. Also STDs might follow, so, you know, beware that, too.
Now that we got that out of the way, prepare yourself for The Clap, as presented to you by GameFront, the finders of all things hidden.
I need one of these Claptraps guarding the outside of my future mansion. Someone see to this.
Due to be released soon on Gearbox's store, there are designs for shirts and hoodies, as well as some tantalising ideas for masks, something the artist has done before with his personal collections. I'm not sure how many will actually be made commercially available, but it'll at least be some of them.
Man, I don't even like Borderlands 2 that much and I want some of these bad.
MAC56 X BL2 [machine56]
So even though I missed out on games that looked right up my alley—like Hotline Miami or Natural Selection 2 (which I've actually played a little bit of and loved)—I still found plenty to play that kept me more than happily occupied. These are my favorite games of 2012, in no particular order.
The game with psychotic personalities and more weapons than I could ever dream of. I loved the first Borderlands. It was the perfect cooperative game. Borderlands 2 took everything that first title made great—loot and silliness—and added even better writing, better characters, and more creative weapons. And on top of all that, Gearbox has been busting their butts to deliver us timely DLC that keeps on delivering. It's one of the few games that has come out this year that I keep going back to.
Virtual tourism at its best. Exploring the open world of Hong Kong was not only gorgeous, but it was also full of life that gave a real depth to the game. The story kept me compelled, driving (and perhaps more so, hijacking other cars to drive) felt wonderful, and the hand-to-hand combat is some of the best I've experienced.
I've talked this one to death, especially considering it's my personal nomination for Game of the Year. Suffice it to say that it was the most emotional game I played through this year, with some really powerful characters and, more importantly, relationships. This game can teach you something about yourself.
I only go half-stealthy in most stealth games. Mainly because most stealth games let you get away with doing so. But Mark of the Ninja's practically perfect design puts stealth at the forefront, making it not only manageable and comfortable to play stealthily throughout the entire game, but also incredibly fun to a degree that feels rewarding.
Journey is an adorable game. It makes you want to reach out to someone, help them and rely on them for help. Journey teaches you that you don't need words to communicate with people, and that encouraged people to work together to survive. And that ending? That ending was almost unbearably heartwarming. Even if it was somewhat somber for me, when I'd lost my companion just when we'd reached safety after everything we had been through together. In a way I almost preferred that ending, because it reinforced what Journey showed me: that cooperation is a beautiful thing.
I'm a puzzle person. Fez is an all at once a smart and terribly confusing puzzle game. So much so that the Internet had to come together to compare notes to solve some of the game's tougher puzzles. And beyond that, there were even more secrets to uncover. A challenging puzzle game would normally be enough for me. But the bright and pretty colors and an adorably pudgy Fez made this puzzle game an absolute joy to play through, too.
Being a dedicated fan of Bungie's Halo, I was a little nervous for Halo 4, the first title to be developed instead by 343. But the second I hopped in and started killing the Covies with my battle rifle, I felt at ease. And then 343 pulled a fast one on me and turned the singleplayer story into something of a romance, and a personal story of what it takes to be Master Chief. Even after the campaign is over—and after you've played it through on multiple difficulty levels, cause c'mon—there's plenty of fun times to be had in multiplayer. I must have played thousands of rounds of Flood and Oddball and straight Team Slayer.
It took me a while to finally find the time to get around to playing this one, but once I sunk a few hours in I was hooked. I love driving around the island, pulling over quickly because I spotted a tiger whose skin I really need before continuing on to my mission. I even love scaling those radio towers, including the more frustrating ones that took me a few day/night cycles to complete. But my favorite parts of Far Cry 3—something I wish the game had more of—were the trippy scenes Jason experienced after lots of drug and whatever liquid taking. Scenery morphed, he battled weird enemies, and he faced his fears. I wasn't too sold on the strength of the storyline otherwise. Some average tourist all of a sudden turning into a badass assassin and being welcomed into tribes of warriors who inexplicably can't do anything on their own? Well thank god Jason came along, eh? It felt a little too unbelievable. But I accepted the storyline. Because the game—or perhaps really my skills with using the tools and tatau given to me that helped me wipe out entire camps of soldiers—convinced me just fine otherwise.
Here's my "wtf" entry. Jumping Finn Turbo is an iOS game. I rarely love mobile games. I enjoy some, but I'll toss them aside almost as easily as I pick them up. Super Hexagon is one that came close, but nothing kept my attention like Jumping Finn Turbo. Maybe it's the Adventure Time hook that got me. Or maybe it was the competition to beat high scores (try to beat mine!) and reach the actual "end" of the game. Ultimately? I think it was how simple and yet addictive the game was. Addictive because you knew if you pushed on just a little farther, you could unlock that next ability. Get to that next level that once felt so far away but is now in your reachable grasp. And yet, like most mobile games that come my way, I don't play this one anymore. But I played it longer than most others.
Remember: this game came out in 2012! I'm a blood and gore kind of girl. The more guts I get to spill the merrier, I say. The Darkness II fed into my taste perfectly, and supplied me with two extra arms to multiply the effect. I absolutely loved multitasking between ripping enemy spines out and shooting other people in the head. I've killed a lot of virtual bad guys in my time, but rarely have I done so with such eviscerating enthusiasm as The Darkness II allows.