May 31, 2012
It's been sort of known for a while now, but today Valve came out and specifically stated that DOTA 2 will be free-to-play. And just like Team Fortress 2 these days, the company will make its money back not from game sales, but from hats.
There'll be a DOTA 2 Store available at launch (actually, it's live now!) that will sell clothes, accessories and other cosmetic items. That's it. Valve says "Dota 2 will not be a pay-to-win game. All the items in the store are cosmetic, and don't affect gameplay."
Because of that, all heroes in the game will be free and available to everyone. You'll even be able to get hold of the cosmetic stuff without paying if you feel like putting the work in, as "players who don't want to buy things from the Dota 2 Store will be able to earn them in a variety of ways, such as by simply playing the game, increasing their Battle Level, or by trading with other players."
As someone who paid $15 over my career to Battlefield Heroes for fancy jackets - the only "microtransaction" stuff I've ever parted with real money for - I've long hoped more publishers went down this path, instead of restricting necessary content behind paywalls. Good to see Valve, at least, agrees.
DOTA 2 will also be part of the Steam Workshop, meaning fans can help create stuff that has the potential to end up in the game itself.
Introducing the Dota Store [Valve]
Just in case you weren't put off by the lack of any kind of mention of Valve Software, advance warning of the game's arrival or the complaints demanding their money back, if you see a game called Counter Strike on the App Store, don't spend $2 on it.
Unless you enjoy being ripped off by fraudulent scamsters. In which case, who am I to tell you how to spend your money?
Counter Strike [App Store, thanks unexpect3rd!]
The San Diego Comic-Con is fast approaching, and among the many collectibles that'll be available there as "exclusives" will be this fancy threeA x Valve piece, based on Portal.
It's a variation on the companion cube first shown off in March, only this one looks a little worse for wear. Poor little thing. Best get him warm. Maybe not near a fire, though...
May 29, 2012
First teased earlier in the year, Synthetic Picturehaus' amazing Portal film Lab Ratt is now complete and ready for viewing. So you should watch it.
It tells the story of Doug Rattman. Doug, aka the guy who did all the paintings you find tucked behind the walls in the game. It starts a little slow, but once things start to go poorly, the flick really hits its stride.
Lab Ratt runs for 14 minutes, so have a cup of tea handy before hitting play.
Lab Ratt [Synthetic Picturehaus]
You may have seen this years ago, but since there's a good chance you haven't, here. See it now.
Last week's story on that awesome StarCraft statue outside Blizzard's French offices reminded us that the primary artist involved, Steve Wang, is no stranger to amazing video game craftsmanship.
Back in 2005, he made this stunning Half-Life headcrab, originally as a piece for his kid's Halloween costume, then later being adapted as a display piece.
I'm not sure what makes it so damn creepy. I think it's the veins. Urgh.
Steve Wang FX [MySpace]
May 21, 2012
Early this morning, an official statement from Overkill game director Ulf Andersson revealed that the Swedish development team will be working on an "in-depth collaboration" with Valve:
"As perceptive gamers will have noticed, several hints have recently been dropped into PAYDAY The Heist, which has led to various rumors. We are excited to be able to confirm that an in-depth collaboration between OVERKILL and Valve is currently in production.
We are working on a very cool blend of PAYDAY and Left 4 Dead. I am sure it is so exciting that it will have some players check into the hospital before we are done."
It was recently announced that dev studio Starbreeze—makers of this year's Syndicate reboot and the Chronicles of Riddick games—would be acquiring Overkill in a bid to grow their intellectual property portfolio.
Originally a PlayStation Network exclusive, Payday is also now available on Steam. Payday debuted on the PlayStation Network and then became available on Steam soon thereafter. No word on when we might expect to see the first look at a Payday/L4D crossover but zombies vs. Bank Thieves… that could actually be fun.
Toby "Tobi Wan" Dawson is a professional commentator for esports site JoinDOTA. He covers DOTA and now DOTA 2 matches and tournaments, and is considered to be quite entertaining. Unfortunately, the commentary he was caught making while playing in a live-streamed public match over the weekend is not so much entertaining as it is inexplicably racist.
The comment, as seen in a screenshot, was: "have you heard the expression..lame as a ni**ers baby?"
He later apologized on the JoinDOTA forum, explaining, "it is not ok, that is rage combined with [the other player's] jokes to create a completely inappropriate comment which I am sorry for making."
Interest in DOTA 2 continues to ramp up as the game, published by Valve, runs in beta. Tobi Wan was a commentator at Valve's official tournament, The International, when it debuted at Gamescom last year. This year's tournament will take place at PAX Prime in Seattle at the end of August.
Valve is explicitly trying to encourage civility and good behavior in their multiplayer communities. The best time to make sure that DOTA 2's community grows to be a positive influence on the game is now. While the usual arguments are raging, the community seems to agree that even in the heat and adrenaline of competition, some language is out of bounds.
From reading Valve's employee handbook, you might get the impression that the Half-Life creator is freewheeling, chaotic, and structure-free.
But Portal co-creator Kim Swift, who left Valve a few years ago to join a different studio, says it ain't all that anarchic.
"I disagree with the suggestion that they have no structure there," Swift told Eurogamer. "They do actually. They have management, there's the board of directors of the company, there's Gabe Newell. Those guys at the top of the company definitely have opinions on how things should be run. You can choose the project you want to work on but there are definitely people behind the scenes making decisions for the company. To me, that's normal. If it was a company where there was no structure at all I think things would run completely amok."
Swift, who will release her first-person puzzler Quantum Conundrum this summer for Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3, says although she still maintains "great relationships" with people at Valve, her new studio Airtight Games is a much better fit for her needs.
"I think working at Airtight is actually a little more relaxed," she said. "I definitely feel at home here. One of the reasons I left Valve was that I wanted to see what else was out there and see if there might be a better fit for me personality-wise and I've really found it here."
Valve does have managers, says ex-Portal lead [Eurogamer]