Community Announcements - Kate.Galfriday
Take flight over the Pacific in Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies! Learn more about the upcoming title on the 2K Blog
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Oct 16, 2013
Shacknews - Steve Watts
2K and Firaxis have decided that they like their civilizations like they like their eggs: scrambled. Civilization 5 is getting two new map packs with that theme for $4.99 apiece. The Scrambled Continents pack is available now, and the Scrambled Nations pack will come on November 5.
Mmm, scrambled continents. Perfect with a bit of black pepper and toast and - oh. I seem to have hilariously gotten the wrong end of the stick. Scrambled Continents is a new map pack for Civ 5, announced and released right now, which randomises the contents of continents each time you start a new game to ensure "endless replayability on countless plausible worlds". They've even gone and thawed Antarctica, giving us an early look at life in the post Global Warming-era.
Firaxis will follow up Scrambled Continents on November 5th with the similarly mashed-up Scrambled Nations, which is the same deal but for nation states rather than chunks of land. As you may have guessed, both bits of DLC are inspired by the Civ 5 scenario Scrambled Africa, and they'll set you back $4.99/£3.99 a piece. Scrambled eggs, meanwhile, shouldn't cost any more than a couple of quid, even in That London.
Community Announcements - Kate.Galfriday
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Oct 15, 2013
Community Announcements - Kate.Galfriday
Valve's Steam Controller is a funny-looking thing—an owl-like game pad with dual trackpads instead of analog sticks. It pairs with Valve's free SteamOS and whatever living room PC it's installed on as a solution to the clumsiness of using a mouse and keyboard on the couch. In a new video demonstration, Valve does its best to convince us that Steam Controller really offers a level of control comparable to our traditional instruments of gaming.
First we see Portal 2, which demonstrates that—unlike analog sticks—the trackpads can be configured for 1-to-1 control. "Directly move your thumb a fixed amount of distance on the pad, and the view will correspond to the fixed amount of distance," says Hardware Engineer Jeff Bellinghausen. Meanwhile, he says, the left trackpad has been configured as a D-pad to simulate WASD.
Later in the video, Bellinghausen plays Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with great accuracy, though his aiming looks a bit slower than it might have been with a mouse—obviously, we'd need to see a comparison video of him playing with a mouse to know for sure. Civilization V and Papers, Please also demonstrate how accurate the trackpad is for mouse-based games.
It looks like it works—not just like a mouse, but like something more accurate and responsive than analog sticks. Trying to move a mouse pointer around with velocity-based control is miserable, and this doesn't look miserable. Seeing isn't believing—we need to feel this thing in our hands to judge it—but it does build confidence, and Valve will be posting updates like this "frequently."
Oct 11, 2013
Shacknews - Steve Watts
We've seen the promo shots of the Steam controller and heard generally positive reactions from indie developers, but we haven't yet seen it in action. That changed today, with a demonstration video that shows the prototype being used to control games ranging from the generally console-friendly shooters to more PC-centric titles.
Oct 5, 2013
Remember when buying a game didn’t feel like a guarantee of seeing the ending? There are still hard games out there, Dark Souls flying the flag most recently, but increasingly, the challenge has dripped out or at least softened, often leading to sadly wasted opportunities. What would Skyrim be like, for instance, if its ice and snow wasn’t simply cosmetic, but actually punished you for going mountain climbing in your underpants?
With a quick mod – Frostfall in this case – you’re forced to dress up warm before facing the elements, and things become much more interesting. That’s just one example, and over the next couple of pages you’ll find plenty more. These aren’t mods that just do something cheap like double your enemy’s hit-points, they’re full rebalances and total conversions. Face their challenge, and they’ll reward you with both a whole new experience and the satisfaction of going above and beyond the call of duty.
Game: Stalker: Call of Pripyat
All those weapons scattered around? Gone. Anomalies? Now more dangerous. Magic mini-map? Forget it. Valuable quest rewards? Good luck. Things you do get: thirsty, and factions who send goons after you if you anger them. On the plus side Pripyat is much more active, with a complete sound overhaul, and new NPCs to meet – who all have to play by the rules too, with no more infinite ammo. If you can survive here, you’ve got a good chance when the actual apocalypse comes.
Fallout: New Vegas
Link: Nexus Mods
Nevada is a good example of making things more difficult without being openly psychotic. Levelling is slower, players and NPCs get less health, and obvious features are now in, such as armour only being a factor in headshots if the target actually has head protection. It’s also possible to toggle some extra-hardcore options, such as food no longer healing and taking care of hunger/thirst/ sleep on the move. There’s a sack of new content, and an Extra Options mod is also available, offering even more control.
Despite what modern ‘old-school’ shooters would have you think, Doom was a relatively sedate experience – fast running speed, yes, but lots of skulking in the dark and going slow. Not any more! Brutal Doom cranks everything up to 11, then yawns and goes right for 25.6. We’re talking extra shrapnel, execution attacks, tougher and faster monsters, metal music, and blood, blood, blood as far as your exploding eyes can see. It’s compatible with just about any level you can throw at it, turning even E1M1 into charnel house devastation. The enemies don’t get it all their own way, as Doomguy now starts with an assault rifle rather than simply a pistol, and a whole arsenal of new guns has been added to the Doom collection – including the BFG’s big brother.
Full Combat Rebalance 2
Game: The Witcher 2
This streamlines the combat and makes the action closer to how Geralt’s adventure might have played out in the books. He’s more responsive, can automatically parry incoming attacks, begins with his Witcher skills unlocked, and no longer has to spend most fights rolling around like a circus acrobat. But he’s in a tougher world, with monsters now figuring out counterattacks much faster, enemies balanced based on equipment rather than levels, and experience only gained from quests, not combat. Be warned this is a 1.5GB file, not the megabyte Hotfix that’s claimed.
Elder Scrolls games get ever more streamlined, and further from the classic RPG experience. Requiem drags Skyrim back, kicking and screaming. The world is no longer levelled for your convenience. Bandits deliver one-hit kills from the start. The undead mock arrows, quietly pointing out their lack of internal organs with a quick bonk to your head. Gods hold back their favour from those who displease them. Most importantly, stamina is now practically a curse. Heavy armour and no training can drain it even if you’re standing still, and running out in battle is Very Bad News. Combine this with Frostfall, and Skyrim finally becomes the cold, unforgiving place it claims to be.
Total War: Shogun 2
Not only is this one of the most comprehensive mods any Total War game has ever seen, its modular nature makes it easy to pick and choose the changes that work best for the experience you want. Together, the campaign AI is reworked, as are the skills and experience systems, diplomacy and technology trees. There are over 100 new units. Campaigns are also longer, providing more time to play with all this, with easier access to the good stuff early on in the name of variety. There’s even a sound module that adds oomph to rifles. Add everything, or only the bits you want. It’s as much of a tactical decision as anything else on the road to conquering Japan.
Game of Thrones
Game: Crusader Kings II
Real history doesn’t have enough bite for you? Recast the whole thing with Starks, Lannisters, Freys and the rest and it will. This doesn’t simply swap a few names around, but works with the engine to recreate specific scenarios in the war for the Iron Throne. Individual characters’ traits are pushed into the foreground, especially when duels break out. Wildlings care little about who your daddy was. It’s best to know a fair amount about the world before jumping in, and the scenarios themselves contain spoilers, but you’re absolutely not restricted to just following the story laid down in the books.
Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Guess what this one does. A bowling league for Roman? Cars that drive themselves? A character who appears to tell Niko “You have $30,000 in your pocket, you don’t need to goon for assholes” after Act 2? No, of course not. These guns put a little reality back into the cartoon that is GTA. The missions weren’t written with that in mind, obviously, but there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a shot. Worst case: murdering random civilians on the street is much quicker, easier and more satisfying. At least until the cops show up to spoil the fun. Range, accuracy, damage, ammo and fire rate are all covered, though be warned that you shouldn’t expect perfect accuracy from your upgraded hardware. This is GTA after all. Realism is not baked into its combat engine.
The Long War
Game: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
You’re looking at eight soldier classes, many more missions, invaders as focused on upgrades as your own science team, and a much longer path to victory. Research is slow, not least to make early weapon upgrades more useful, while the aliens are constantly getting more powerful. Their ships are better, their terror missions are more regular, and more of them show up for battle. In exchange, you get to field more Interceptors, the council is easier to appease, and the ETs don’t cheat as much.
Game: Far Cry 3
Ziggy makes Rook Island a more natural place, removing mission requirements for skills, cutting some of the easier ways to earn XP, increasing spawn rates to make the island busier, and throwing away the magic mini-map in favour of a compass. The second island is also unlocked from the start. Smaller changes include randomised ammo from dropped weapons, being able to climb hills that you should realistically be able to, and wingsuit abilities made available earlier to get more out of them.
Minecraft has a Survival mode, but it’s not desperately challenging. Terrafirmacraft takes it seriously, with hunger and thirst that must be dealt with at all times, and key elements added such as the need to construct support beams while mining to prevent cave-ins, and a seasonal cycle that determines whether or not trees will produce fruit. Many more features are to be added, but there’s enough here already to make survival about much more than throwing together a Creeper-proof fort.
Game: Torchlight II
Link: Synergies Mod
This adds a new act to the game, over a hundred monsters, new rare bosses, a new class – the Necromancer – more and tougher monsters and the gear to take them on. There are also endgame raids to add challenge once the world is saved yet again, and more on the way – including two new classes (Paladin and Warlock). It’s the top-ranked Torchlight II mod on Steam Workshop, and easily the most popular. Be aware that it’s still in development, and has a few rough edges.
Game: Civilization V
Link: Steam Workshop
While Brave New World has officially given Civ V a big shake up, for many players Nights remains its most popular add-on. It’s a comprehensive upgrade, adding new buildings, wonders, technologies and units, with a heavy focus on policies and making the AI better. The single biggest change is how it calculates happiness, citizens adding cheer simply by existing, but the slow march of war and other miseries detracting from the good times. Annexed a city? Don’t expect too many ticker-tape parades. Yet keeping happiness up is crucial, as it’s also the core of a strong military. This rebalancing completely changes how you play, while the other additions offer plenty of scope for new tactics and even more carefully designed civilisations.
Ultimate Difficulty Mod
Link: TTLG Forums
This makes Dishonored’s enemies more attentive, faster and able to hear a pin drop from the other side of the map. When you get into a fight, it quickly becomes an all-out street war. The biggest change is to Dishonored’s second most abusable ability: the Lean (Blink of course being #1). Corvo can no longer sit behind scenery, lean out into an enemy’s face and be politely ignored. He’s now much more likely to be spotted – especially in ghost runs, where his advantages are now limited to the Outsider’s gifts rather than the Overseers’ continued lack of a local Specsavers.
Game: Deus Ex
New augmentations! Altered AI! Randomised inventories! Also a few time-savers: instead of separate keys and multitools for instance, a special keyring has both, while upgrades are used automatically if necessary. Difficulty also changes the balance considerably, from the standard game to ‘Realistic’ mode where you only get nine inventory slots, to ‘Unrealistic’, which makes JC Denton the cyborg killing machine he’s meant to be, but at the cost of facing opponents who warrant it. In this mode he gets double-jumping powers, and automatically gobbles health items when he gets badly wounded. Good luck though, I still got nowhere.
Ancient Greece is great and all, but how does it stack up against the Candy Kingdom or the Nightosphere? For you Adventure Time fans, the time has come to find out. The Adventure Time collection of mods (by modder “The Man With The Eyebrows”) lets you play Civilization V as Finn the Human, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, Ice King, Fire Princess, and even that guy who really smells like dog buns, the Earl of Lemongrab. Come on, grab your friends, and go to very hostile lands.
First off, these mods require Gods and Kings or Brave New World, or both. You can check the requirements on the collection page here. Also, don’t expect a major graphic or audio overhaul of the game, because there isn’t one. For instance, there’s no 3D representation of Finn's Tree Fort or Ice King's mountain, you won’t see Princess Bubblegum’s famous Banana Guard sacking enemy cities, and you won’t hear Lemongrab shriek “UNACCEPTABLE” as he’s invaded by the Ghandi’s war elephants. The changes are largely limited to the text panes, and the attributes of unique units, abilities, and buildings. So, it requires a little imagination (ironically, the one thing Finn himself is completely devoid of).
The weather? The usual. There's ice everywhere and it smells like penguins.
I decided to start as Ice King, sending my settlers (who, in my mind, are comprised of a bunch of penguins) to look for a nice frosty mountaintop to found the Ice Kingdom. I find a likely looking spot, surrounded by snow, cold ocean water, and imposing glaciers, and get to work.
I just hope this doesn't lead to another Great Mushroom War.
Once I’ve founded the kingdom, I send my warriors out to clear out a few nearby barbaric hordes and explore a bit, and I send my workers out to build farms. As Ice King, in possession of Ice Magic, you can treat frozen tundra like other civilizations treat grasslands, so I have my workers go out and build snow farms on every inch of available land.
I'm bombarding my enemies with arrows, but I'm pretending it's Ice Magic.
What the hell is a snow farm? I have no idea. But a massive collection of snow farms seems like something Ice King would want on his land, right? I can almost hear him in my head, trying to explain the logic of snow farms. “Ya know... snow fawwms! There’s little fawwmers made outta snow... they plant snow seeds, they grow into... snow vegetables. There’s little snow pigs and snow cows and the fawwmer’s wife, ohh, she’s an icy little numbah, heh heh. Oh, look, ovah there! Someone’s gettin’ hit in the boingaloings!”
I research animal husbandry, what with all the penguin weddings I'll probably be presiding over. I also study writing (something I should probably do in real life at some point) so Ice King can unlock his unique building, the Fan Fiction Workshop, which replaces Civ V’s coliseum. What with all the Fionna and Cake stories Ice King is going to be writing, he’ll need a place to write them, read them, and reenact them for all the penguin couples and captive princesses.
"Ice King is the hottest hottie, and I can't wait to marry him!" said Fionna.
Another perk of being Ice King is that you can treat ice the way other civilizations treat the ocean. So, when I invent boats and head out onto the sea, if I happen to run into glaciers (and there are tons of glaciers in the waters near my kingdom) I can just sail right through them. That’s some good Ice Magic! I also adopt the Goddess of Love, because I'm sure Ice King would be bonkers over her.
Everything is going pretty swimmingly for a good long while. I’ve got snow farms all over the damn place, churning out snow crops, and and I’ve even founded a second city, Snow Fields, and (mentally) put Gunter in charge of it. Then, Attila the Hun, that big bully, suddenly decides he doesn’t like me and invades. What’s his problem? It’s not like I abducted Hun Princess or anything. Though I probably would have if she existed and it was an option.
Fire! How did Attila guess the Ice King's one weakness?
Anyway, the Huns invade and pretty quickly destroy my armies and sack my cities. I do my best to hold them off, but while I've been dorking around sailing boats through glaciers and farming snow, Attila has been apparently churning out an algebraic amount of warriors. The Ice Kingdom is eventually taken and Gunter, over in Snow Fields, can do nothing but make a peace deal. Poor Ice King flaps his beard and floats away, misunderstood as ever.
I also played as Finn for a bit, because how can you not? Finn's Adventurer unit, which replaces the Warrior, gets a combat bonus in enemy territory and earns gold after killing an enemy, because the Tree Fort needs to be constantly stocked with riches that Finn, as far as I can tell, doesn't really care about. Finn also gets a bonus to City-State relationships, which degrade slower, because Finn is such a friendly, helpful guy. Finn's Tree Fort also gives a happiness bonus, and requires no maintenance.
This mod contains no Jake and no Cake. Bummer.
You can also create the Fire Kingdom and play as the volatile Flame Princess, which will let you raze cities in considerably less time (fire does tend to do that). Marceline, meanwhile, can build vampire armies who do extra damage against wounded enemies and partially heal themselves automatically upon making a kill. Princess Bubblegum’s unique ability gives her a healthy 20% boost to science, any pikemen she produces are replaced by the Banana Guard, who are cheaper and fight better close to home, and she can build a candy factory instead of a granary, which adds to the yield of sugar, bananas, and citrus.
FIFTY YEARS DUNGEON!
Speaking of citrus, it wouldn't be Adventure Time without the Earl of Lemongrab. Due to his insane shrieking, Lemongrab does not do well in relationships with City-States; in fact, he cannot form relationships with them at all. He does get some production bonuses, however, possibly because he can just create new citizens in his Lemon Lab. That’s acceptable!
Installation: These mods are all on the Steam Workshop, so you can find them here, and subscribe to any/all you want to play with. Totally math!
Sep 11, 2013
Community Announcements - Kate.Galfriday
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