Oct 31, 2013
Article by Nathan Brown.
While the Roman numeral in the title makes it clear SNK have been busy, the sight of their logo on booting up King of Fighters XIII for the first time is an odd one. They are perhaps more inextricably bound to the 1990s than any other company: the developers of Metal Slug, creators of the Neo Geo, and designers of countless fighting games, none of which were as good as Street Fighter II.
SNK aren’t quite the same company they were back then – they collapsed into bankruptcy, their best IP snapped up by Playmore, a studio set up by one of SNK’s co-founders – but the ’90s is still clearly in their DNA. KoF XIII has some of the finest spritework I’ve seen, and animation imbues each member of the cast with character. It’s also set on some beautiful, highly detailed (and often daft) backgrounds. It’s remarkably true to the series’ roots, a 1993 game with 2013 visuals.
Which isn’t to say KoF XIII ignores modern fighting game conventions. There’s a tutorial, although it’s more intimidating than helpful, flinging one new game mechanic at you after another and expecting you to absorb their intricacies in one performance.
What the tutorial does make clear is that you shouldn’t interpret KoF XIII’s four-button control scheme as a sign that this is a simple game. Nor should you expect it to be as beginner-friendly as most contemporary fighting games. There’s none of Street Fighter IV’s friendly input recognition: your joystick motions have to be perfect. So do your combo timings. Put it this way: King of Fighters XIII is a game with four kinds of jump.
Oh, and you have to learn three characters. Unlike other 3v3 games (the Marvel vs Capcom series, for instance), you can’t tag-in a teammate during play: the action plays out like a traditional 1v1 fighter, fading to black when a round is over to load your next combatant. This makes for a pleasing mindgame before a match begins when both players select their team’s order of appearance, but it’s another layer of complexity in a game that hardly needs it. Character-specific combo trials start out helpful and quickly become insane. KoF XIII is still rewarding to play at a low level, but you’re always worried that you’re missing out on something, and the game is in no hurry to let you in on its many secrets.
There is, at least, plenty to do, even for lone players. There’s an Arcade mode, naturally, with two infuriating boss battles, and a Story mode with branching paths and fixed team selections. There are combo challenges, time trials and a survival mode. Online there’s the usual choice of ranked and player matches, but SNK’s pledge that this release would have better netcode than the console versions has proven hard to verify. There simply aren’t that many people playing it. Worse, that excellent sprite work is undermined by an almost complete lack of graphics options. You can choose between windowed or fullscreen, fixed or variable framerate, dynamic or static backgrounds, and that’s your lot. You can’t even change the resolution from the console versions’ 720p, and the lack of filters to disguise the jagged edges means that the higher your monitor’s display, the worse it looks.
KoF XIII is a disappointing PC port of a decent fighting game.
Expect to pay £23 / $30
Release Out now
Developer SNK Playmore
Multiplayer/strong> Local and online
Oct 31, 2013
The developers of Terraria-ish 2D sandbox Starbound are preparing to send their game into the uncharted wilderness of beta testing. In a post made to the Starbound blog, game designer Tiy outlined the structure of the beta, which he says is "really not very far off now." And if you're guessing that this beta structure will take the form of a series of unfinished builds that'll be made available for public consumption, you wouldn't be far wrong.
Tiy outlines three main stages of the beta roadmap, labelled Progenitor, Automaton and Bio-Organic. In layman's terms, that means: a big ol' bloody mess, a slightly tidier sandbox, and what almost resembles a proper game. Admirably, the descriptions state exactly how broken, incomplete, and malleable each stage is expected to be.
For instance, if you join in stage one, you can expect "bugs, lots of balance changes, and you shouldn’t get too attached to your character or universe as we may make changes that require you to start from scratch." Stage three, meanwhile, is "largely about prepping for v1.0." As Early Access schemes become more common, it's good to see a developer taking the time to forewarn the community about what they can expect.
As a final word, Tiy writes, "it won’t be too long now guys, I just wanted to clue you in on what we’re planning. We’re all pushing as hard as we can to start this up as soon as possible."
Apropos of nothing, here's a Starbound video featuring a version of Sonic The Hedgehog's Bridge Zone theme. If you'd prefer a more relevant trailer, you can find that here.
Hawken's latest beta patch is live, dropping a new mech and a new co-op game mode onto the mech shooter's dystopian landscape. Code-named Predator, the new mech has some decidedly asymmetrical tactics and weapons at its disposal, according to information on the "Invasion" update released by developer Adhesive Games.
A medium-class mech, the Predator has a stalker function that renders your machine invisible while also giving you a limited-range ability to see through walls and structures. It has its limitations, however, as any use of jump jets or heat-generating weapons will knock you out of camouflage for a few seconds. If you take damage or deactivate the stalker ability manually, a longer, 20-second cooldown period is in effect.
A variety of new weapons and items can be bolted to the Predator chassis to take advantage of all that sneaking around. Options include a proximity mine launcher, a scary-looking rail gun and a disruptor device that short-circuits the vision of nearby enemies.
As well as the usual array of balance tweaks and bug fixes, the beta patch also introduces a co-op mode called Bot Destruction. Pilots can band together to take down 25 waves of bot mechs controlled by an out-of-control AI bent on the destruction of a human colony. You can earn XP and Hawken Credits in the new mode, giving players another way to unlock mechs in new leveling system the free-to-play game first introduced in last month's "Ascension" update.
Check out the trailer for the Invasion patch below for a closer look at Hawken's new features.
Arma 3's campaign was AWOL at release. Don't worry, though, it hadn't been captured by the enemy, to be set upon by growling dogs, placed into falling buildings, or attacked by acid-spitting aliens. Instead, it was back at base, undergoing a top secret operation to separate it out in to three chunks, to be freely deployed in stages over the following months. The first of those chunks, codenamed Survive, is air-dropping in now. A launch trailer has released, as proof.
"Tensions rise as NATO peacekeeping forces begin to leave The Republic of Altis: a strategic fault-line between crumbling European influence and a powerful, resurgent East," helpfully explains the video's description. A press release sent out by Bohemia Interactive offers more details:
"In Arma 3’s campaign, players take on the role of Ben Kerry, a soldier who is a part of the NATO peacekeeping operation in the Mediterranean. Five years after the bloody civil war in the Republic of Altis & Stratis came to an end, NATO has started to withdraw its forces from the region - unknowingly creating the conditions for a Mediterranean flashpoint. Kerry's unit, 'Task Force Aegis' - together with a clandestine group of UKSF operators - is soon caught up in a situation beyond their control, and trapped in a fight for survival."
All in all, it sounds like a solid reason to shoot some men, with the additional bonus that the campaign provides mod makers with more building blocks for their own missions. Survive is out now, and being pumped through your Steam pipes of Arma 3 owners.
Developer Overkill Software has been uncommonly dedicated to communicating with fans of its recently released heist shooter Payday 2, absorbing feedback, and releasing sweeping overhauls of game systems. Payday 2 was solid but had a few problems when Craig reviewed it, but since release, Payday 2 has been updated 13 times, receiving a new heist, new masks, a rebuilt economy and unlocking system, new skill tree descriptions, and numerous balancing tweaks.
Overkill also frequently answers fans on Twitter with screenshots of new characters and plans for future updates. In a lot of ways, this continued support and free updating of a game is the kind of attention we’d see from the team behind an MMO. A Halloween update has already hit, and more free content is on the way. David Goldfarb, game director at Overkill, says that they plan to continue to support the game for the foreseeable future.
PCG: One of the things I've noticed about Payday 2 is the many frequent updates. How long do you plan to keep up this pace for updating the game?
David Goldfarb: We definitely haven’t slowed down much but we’re moving to a slightly different model now where we batch up a bunch of updates together and try to roll them out together as a package to simplify communication. As a result, our pace will slow down slightly as we add more and more content to each update, but we intend to support the product for a long, long time. It’s worth saying that we would love to patch the consoles as much as we have patched the PC on Steam but the process isn’t as easy and takes a lot more time for us as well as the platform owners. Hopefully though, that wait will end very soon and everyone will be up-to-date on all .
What kinds of things have you chosen to prioritize for updates?
It has varied—the skill system has gotten some tweaks, adding heists, difficulty tweaks, improving the economy and improving stealth, adding better informational displays for items and skills, and of course the bug fixing. In general, we’ve focused on looking at the things that seem like they aren’t quite working the way we anticipated; things that are obviously broken; things that we feel have emerged as issues (like crime.net hosting) which we need to create something new for.
How many people play Payday 2 on a daily basis?
Concurrent users vary. When we launched our peak was around 57,000 on Steam and now we are pretty steady at 9 to 11k or so. The install base has grown a lot from Payday: The Heist, for sure.
Why do you think the online community is as active as it is?
They’re passionate about the game. We’ve been pretty good about being open and available with the game as well and we’ve let people stream it, monetize, talk about it however they want, no real limitations or rules. In general, we always want people to be able to engage the game on their own terms and not ours. We think it’s better for them and ultimately better for us.
I see the team is particularly involved with fans on Twitter, including sending screenshots of upcoming masks and answering questions about future updates. Why is this kind of communication important to the team?
Yeah, we do that frequently. I think it’s great to be no-bullshit about what you’re doing and show you care, especially show what you’re working on. In many cases we’ve had some really incredible feedback from community people, stuff that went directly into the game. That definitely is something we love. We’ve made a point of involving some of the most dedicated people in our private betas as well and it definitely goes a long way toward making people feel like their input matters and can take real form, even if it’s just dialogue between us and them. As I mentioned above, it’s important to us to have that real connection with people, not some marketing drone blowing smoke up your ass in a room full of journalists. This is one way of doing it.
Could you give me an example of something the community suggested that made its way into the game?
I can't actually call people out, however there are a few different folks who have talked to me regarding skills at length and the product of those discussions will definitely be in the game. Also, "carry a secondary saw" came out of a conversation with community members as well. Recently, someone had a pretty clever solution for triggering abilities that we're very likely implementing in the future.
Many developers are wary about this kind of interaction in case they promise something that doesn't end up being released. Why have you decided that this kind of openness is worth that risk?
I think it’s a contract we have with fans that they (or most of them) implicitly understand, where we do the best we can with the admission that we don’t always know what’s going to happen, but we’ll do our best to make the right choices. And I guess we always look at it like, hey our fans are really smart, why not show them some of this stuff, maybe they’ll give us some insight we’re missing. Our experience is that the vast majority of people appreciates the forthrightness and like being part of that whole discussion. It’s not a stance that would go over quite as well at EA, but being an independent and having a history of talking honestly to fans definitely helps.
A while back, the murder mystery known as Deadly Premonition made its way over the Steam Greenlight hurdle, shedding its console-exclusivity for the nice little home on the personal computer. Whether from lack of resources or an effort to make Deadly Premonition's mystery even more obfuscated, the game's resolution has unfortunately been locked to 720p. Thankfully, the modder who created the practically-required DSfix for Dark Souls (and goes by Durante) has made a mod to break Deadly Premoniton's resolution lock.
Durante notes on his blog that this is only a 0.2 alpha release, and will only let you change Deadly Premonition’s display and rendering resolutions. You won’t find any of the stability fixes or graphic enhancements you’ve come to expect from DSfix—at least not yet.
Before you go off downloading the fix and seeing what’s basically the video game version of Twin Peaks in your native resolution, note that the mini map appears in the wrong location. Durante released 0.2 earlier today, which fixes the path an enemy can teleport, adds windowed mode and the option to turn off gamepad input support.
Telltale Games founders Dan Connors and Kevin Bruner held a Reddit AMA on Tuesday, where they discussed their process for writing stories and their successful episodic model while hinting at their plans for the future, and divulged what the developer's dream setting for future adventure games would be.
The folks at Telltale are presumably throwing crumpled pieces of paper into an already full trash bin while crafting new episodes for The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season 2, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their eyes on other properties as well. When asked what IPs they’d like to use in a new game, for example, Bruner said he’d love to do something in a galaxy far, far away.
“I'll also say a Telltale Star Wars game would make me VERY happy,” Bruner said in the AMA. He then hinted that, “We've got some IP coming up that pretty much checks all of my personal favorites, which absolutely amazes/honors me.”
While I’d be more than happy to see a Telltale rendition of the Star Wars franchise, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, considering that EA locked that license up back in May. It’s possible that Telltale could develop a game and publish through EA, but that ventures deeply into hypothetical space.
I’m more interested in the intellectual property that has Bruner amazed and honored. The best guess I can make is it’s probably not Star Wars. That doesn’t narrow things down too much, but hey, it’s a start.
In many ways, CD Projekt RED is the little developer that could. After hitting it big with The Witcher, CD Projekt has continued to grow and produce games with greater and greater ambition. After six years and six million games sold in the Witcher franchise, the studio is hard at work on the Witcher 3 and the much-anticipated Cyperpunk 2077. As its gotten bigger and struck distribution deals on a larger and larger scale, though, some rumors have gotten around that the developers’ famous anti-DRM stance might be changing. According to the company CEO, those rumors are false.
“I’d like to say it loud and clear: The PC version of The Witcher 3 will have absolutely no DRM from day 0. Zero. Zip. Nada,” CEO Marcin Iwinski said in a blog post. It doesn’t matter if you choose to buy it on GOG.com and support us directly or buy the game in box format, you’ll still get the 100% DRM-free experience. And this goes for the whole world.”
Though The Witcher 3 will be sold on Steam and subject to that platform’s online-verification system, none of the DRM will be put in place by CD Projekt. “Gamers have a choice in where they buy their games,” Iwinski continued, “but where CDPR does have control—like GOG.com—there will be absolutely no DRM.”
Iwinski isn’t turning over a new leaf with this post. He’s been vocally against the idea that DRM protects developer profits and has said that he's "not seen DRM that really worked."
Kerbal Space Program is already being used in some physics classrooms, but indie developer Squad has just formalized an agreement to bring the fledgling space program simulator to more classrooms with special support for teachers. TeacherGaming, the parent company behind MinecraftEdu, will launch KerbalEdu to 50 schools in mid-November.
KerbalEdu’s first big hurdle is setting up an educational discount and marketplace that schools can actually use. “It may be funny for a private person to think, ‘I have my credit card, I can just go online and buy stuff,’ but schools can’t do that,” TeacherGaming CEO Santeri Koivisto told PCGamesN. “It’s a huge mess of purchasing systems. We’ve tried to work with the different countries’ purchasing systems and been successful with that.”
KerbalEdu will work the same as MinecraftEdu in that the special version of the game will be almost identical to vanilla Kerbal Space Program, but with a few tweaks and special editors for teachers to use with students. “The idea is that we don’t ruin the game,” Koivisto said. “So when the kids come to school they don’t think it’s some rubbish school Minecraft, they just know it’s their favorite game at home and now they’re playing it at school.”
Though it isn’t an exact simulation, KSP can be used in physics classrooms to teach gravity wells and rocket science, or even as a hands-on history-class recreation of the work NASA has been doing with manned and unmanned spaceflight. KSP is a hard game to play, but that’s also why it’s fun.
“There’s a lot of failure,” said KSP developer Mike Geelan. “But there’s some inspiration to achieve better. It’s an iterative process. The first time, it’s just going to explode. The second time, it might come off the pad. The third time, you might get to 30,000 feet.”
Check out the full interview at PCGamesN for more info on KerbalEdu.