Grand Theft Auto V

Black Friday sales are everywhere at this time of year—in stores, online retailers and… Los Santos? That's right, Rockstar has now unveiled GTA Online's in-game Black Friday Sale. 

With reductions across a host of hangars, bunkers, executive properties, vehicles and more, now's the time to splash your virtual cash if you've been hanging on for a sale. 

Our Samuel reckons the Fort Zancudo Hangars are the best deals from the below, as ownership of those allows for easier access to the Lazer military aircraft. 

At 55 percent off, the Fort Zancudo Hangar drops from $2,650,000 to $1,192,500. The Fort Zancudo Hangar A2, on the other hand, falls from $3,250,000 to $1300000 with a 60 percent reduction. 

Here's GTA Online's Black Friday Sale in full:

Hangars

Fort Zancudo Hangar A2—60 percent offFort Zancudo Hangar 3499—55 percent offHangar Workshop—50 percent off

Bunkers

Grand Senora Oilfields Bunker—50 percent offGrand Senora Desert Bunker—50 percent offSmoke Tree Road Bunker—50 percent offThomson Scrapyard Bunker—50 percent offFarmhouse Bunker—50 percent off

Biker Businesses

Biker Business Meth Labs—60 percent offBiker Business Cocaine Lockups—60 percent off

Executive Properties

Maze Bank Tower Office—50 percent offDarnel Bros Cargo Warehouse—50 percent offAquarius Yacht—75 percent off

Vehicles

Bombushka—50 percent off (Buy It Now & Trade Price)Pyro—50 percent off (Buy It Now & Trade Price)Ramp Buggy—50 percent off (Buy It Now & Trade Price)Ruiner 2000—50 percent off (Buy It Now & Trade Price)Rocket Voltic—50 percent off (Buy It Now & Trade Price)Luxor Deluxe—75 percent offMobile Operations Center Cabs—50 percent off

Grand Theft Auto 5 is half price at the moment, too. And here's our collection of the best Black Friday PC game deals above and beyond Los Santos. 

Dota 2

Dota 2 has reworked its Ranked matchmaking system, swapping the old stacking matchmaking rating value (MMR) for a range of Seasonal Rank Medals. With it, the game's inaugural six-month Ranked Season has also kicked off.   

As detailed in this blog post, the new system represents players' "highest performance level for the current season"—meaning medals reflect their highest rank, despite the tier they play in. "A Seasonal Rank Medal never decreases in rank once you’ve achieved it. Initial calibration games will be seeded roughly based on your previous skill," reads the post. 

Across seven levels—Herald, Guardian, Crusader, Archon, Legend, Ancient, and Divine—progression is hinged on a five-star system, which looks something like this:

The post adds: "Your performance in both Party and Solo games is considered when evaluating your skill and determining when your Medal gets upgraded, with Solo games having a bigger impact. In order for players to achieve either the Ancient or Divine Medals, only Solo-game performance is considered.

"This update also expands the Leaderboard system to include many more players. Players with 5 stars on the Divine Rank Medal (the highest rank) will now have a leaderboard number listed with the medal that broadcasts their position amongst other players. This leaderboard position will always be displayed alongside the Medal, and will be visible to all players in the game and on your profile."

Opus Magnum

It seems almost inappropriate to call Zachtronics’ Opus Magnum a puzzle game. I tend to think of it as a problem-solving game, or an engineering game. Its ethos—gentle, forgiving, gradualist, concerned with incremental improvement rather than strokes of genius—is at odds with most of the puzzle games I’ve played. 

It came to my attention first through the stunning looping gifs it produces: flat little worlds of constantly moving machinery, reminiscent of the atomic-level manipulation of SpaceChem. I don’t normally play a lot of puzzle games. I’m fond of tiny PuzzleScript experiences, and I’ll play puzzle platformers like Fez and first-person games like The Witness, but I’m not an enthusiast of the genre. I suspect I’m not alone in loving Opus Magnum in spite of my cooler reaction to puzzles in general, though.

It achieves something beyond what a game like The Witness tries to achieve. Something, I’d argue, more fertile and appealing than the maze-filling in that game, or the convolutions of Fez. Opus Magnum is less about breaking through frustration and more about steadily building up to something—less about getting into the designer’s head and more about expressing your own way of thinking.

How to turn lead into gold

Every level in Opus Magnum is a simple problem of alchemy. You have inputs ("atoms" or "molecules" of fundamental elements such as earth, salt, or gold), and expected outputs. Your goal is to assemble mechanisms and program their actions so that they transmute inputs into outputs.

As the game’s story progresses, the player is tasked with manufacturing everything from fuel for alchemical airships to poisonous lipstick. It’s clear at every point that, while there’s a difficulty curve, the puzzles are very much designed around the story—they stem from narrative ideas, rather than purely mechanical exploration of the design space. 

Finishing a level isn t a matter of finding a solution but triangulating your way towards one.

Most puzzle games can’t do that, because they need to very carefully and deliberately ramp up their difficulty. They have to make use of every nook and cranny of possibility in a mechanic before moving on to the next one. Opus Magnum is broad and open-ended in a way that lends itself to this kind of structure, though. It doesn’t have to wring every bit of value out of its mechanics.

Like a lot of puzzles, they break down into smaller problems. The difference is that those parts are completely independent—once you’ve solved a subset of the problem, you know that solution works and it just has to be joined to the rest. Finishing a level isn’t a matter of finding a solution but triangulating your way towards one. It’s climbing a mountain, not leaping across a gorge.

A lot of puzzle games let the player make mistakes that only become apparent later, sometimes requiring the entire solution to be scrapped. Even the solitaire puzzle that accompanies Opus Magnum, Sigmar’s Garden, is like this, as are countless other puzzle games. Different parts of the solution interfere with one another, gradually constraining how the puzzle can be solved so that only one solution is valid at the end—think of how every square in Sudoku has to exist in agreement with every other square.

A tiny but incredibly effective example of this interdependence is PrograMaze, a mindbending PuzzleScript game. PuzzleScript is designed for tile-based puzzles and Sokoban variants, and PrograMaze presents the simplest possible problem in this space: move a blue tile to the orange goal. The difficulty comes from how you control the tile by writing a simple program, and the bits of memory that your program lives in are also the space that the tile moves through. 

Essentially, you have to build a maze that also expresses a path to solving itself. It’s a game entirely about the player getting in their own way, which to me distills the quality puzzle games sometimes have that gets them called fiendish, twisted, or cruel. There’s a meanness to making the player their own villain—it's hard to execute well, and not for everyone.

Opus Magnum avoids this completely. It doesn’t want you to get in your own way, and it doesn’t want its problems to feel like mean-spirited tricks. It never hides something in its levels meant to elude your attention until you find it halfway through, invalidating your tentative solution.

Opus Magnum never demands an efficient solution

Because solutions are assembled from parts that can be built independently and compartmentalized from one another, you can start from either end of the problem, or you can complete different sections independently and integrate them at the end. The more complex a level, the more angles of attack you have to start solving it. The most daunting levels in Opus Magnum act as invitations—you might not be able to see the whole solution at once, but you can see how you could do a part of it. And once that subset is done, what remains is less complex.

A friendlier brainteaser

Most of all, this is a forgiving game. You always have unlimited space and resources to assemble your solution, limited only by your inputs. It ensures that mechanisms stay in sync as they cycle through the solution you’ve assembled. Letting an atom linger in place after being transmuted won’t cause it to turn into something else entirely. Opus Magnum never demands an efficient solution, never demands you prove you’re good enough before letting you advance.

The designers clearly realize most of the joy in Opus Magnum comes from optimization, and so they’ve built a game in which finding an initial, crude solution is easy. Taking a crude solution and making it faster, more efficient, more compact, and more elegant, is a pleasure absent from most puzzle games. There’s a comfort in knowing at that point that you can’t fail. You’ve already found your answer, you’re just seeing if you can make it better. 

Opus Magnum explicitly encourages you to optimize size, cost, and speed with its histograms. These histograms are so much smarter than a leaderboard. Instead of asking "Can you be number one?" a fundamentally boring question to which the answer is almost always no, they ask, "Can you make it to the 70th percentile? The 90th?"

They all but ensure players will have something to feel good about with every solution. Invariably, you’ll be operating either faster, cheaper, or smaller than most other players, simply by virtue of how those three properties are at odds with each other.

Making your machine faster entails adding more components to it, which increases its size and cost. Making it smaller and cheaper means making it slower. And often the very cheapest machines need extra room to work, particularly as the levels get more complex. Every solution has to fall somewhere within this triangle. Perfectly optimal solutions that hit all three targets don’t exist for any but the most trivial problems, making optimization a matter of personal style. Some players will tend towards "tall" solutions with numerous devices working in unison at fast speeds, other might go for "deep" solutions in which small numbers of devices perform long, complex programs.

If a good puzzle feels like a duel between designer and player, Opus Magnum is much more like a conversation.

And there’s a hidden, third optimization that can’t be quantified in a histogram but is also very much encouraged by the game: aesthetics. All Opus Magnum solutions are visually satisfying, as illustrated by the mesmerizing looping gifs they produce. But some solutions are more elegant, more beautiful than others. Opus Magnum revels in its machine dance. Building a good-looking construct is its own reward.

Zachtronics games have always stood slightly apart in this way, but Opus Magnum takes this philosophy of design and runs with it. There are no tight constraints like the limited board and code space of Shenzhen I/O, no room for messing yourself up like the finicky integration of SpaceChem. Perfection is unattainable but you have the room to build whatever you want. Opus Magnum is a puzzle game that you play rather than stare at in frustration. 

Many puzzle games have built-in puzzle or level editors, but Opus Magnum is the only one I’ve played where you can use that functionality to entertain yourself. It’s problems aren’t created by working backwards from a solution—you can pose a question you don’t already know the answer to. Rather than the tightly prescriptive jumps of Super Meat Boy, it’s the open-ended parkour of Mirror’s Edge, where vast spaces of play open up from almost any starting condition and true surprise is possible.

While a good puzzle feels like a duel between designer and player, Opus Magnum is much more like a conversation. It’s posing a question not because it wants to see whether you’ll get the answer right, but because it’s genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Sanctum 2

 Sanctum 2, the FPS-tower defense hybird that I think is actually quite good, is free for the next two days as part of the Humble Store Fall Sale. You know the drill by now, right? Go here, add to cart, check out, have a nice day. Still got an urge to spend some money? They can help with that, too. 

Most of the Humble prices are the same as what's being offered in the Steam Autumn Sale (Last Inua is slightly cheaper), but a percentage of Humble Store purchases go to support charities, which is solid, and hey, they're giving you a free game. Only until November 25, however, so get on it if you want it.

The Humble Store Fall Sale is on until November 28. For even more sweet bargoons, be sure to stay on top of our roundups of the best Black Friday game deals and hardware deals.   

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info.

DOOM

Loot boxes have come on strong over the past year or so, and so has resistance against them. But what if loot boxes had gained prominence 25 years ago? What if the id Software guys, instead of embracing shareware, had embraced RNG microtransactions? You'd very likely have ended up with something close to the Doom Loot Box Mod, created by ZDoom user Rip and Tear, which brings the old-time FPS you love into the modern era, in the worst way possible. 

The Loot Box Mod removes weapons and powerups from the game, replacing some of them with UAC crates. Naturally, those crates are locked. Enemies have a "small chance" of dropping a key when they're killed, which you can collect and use as you see fit. But since there's absolutely no way to know what's inside the crates, you may as well just open 'em when you got 'em.   

As you can see in the video below, resources have been dramatically reduced, loot boxes aren't super-common, and the items that pop out of them tends to be of the low-value variety: Shotguns are plentiful (although StronkiTonki got a bad break with those night vision goggles in his first crate), but plasma rifles? Not so much.   

"Loot boxes in Doom, ladies and gentlemen! Have fun," he says at the end of his torturous adventure. "I'm sure I will probably never, ever use this again." 

The mod also adds an in-game store selling both keys and crates—buy bundles of ten for the best value!—but alas, the store servers are offline. 

Thanks, VG247

The Walking Dead

Every few years, someone claims that adventure games are dead. But adventure games never died: they just changed. "I think what they really mean is the death of point-and-click adventure games," says Ron Gilbert, creator of Monkey Island and, more recently, Thimbleweed Park. "Games like Gone Home, Firewatch, and everything Telltale makes are adventure games, and they can sell millions of copies. But if we limit the description to point-and-click games, I don't know that I fully disagree. These games are a niche market now, but if you make them cheaply and efficiently, they can still do well. Dave Gilbert [no relation] has carved out a nice fanbase."

"What's interesting is that those articles usually come out after a high-profile adventure game is released that's less than stellar," says Dave Gilbert, founder of point-and-click revivalist Wadjet Eye. "Suddenly a game speaks for all adventure games, and the whole genre is dead. This is a narrative that only seems to apply to adventure games. Roguelikes 'died' then came back. So did the platformer and the RTS. But people love talking about how adventure games died, or are dying. Even developers themselves! But I've been making them for 11 years and they continue to sell and support my family, so it's hard to take that kind of thing seriously."

"When people declare things dead in the moment, the odds of them turning out to be wrong are usually close to 100%, so it's easy to brush this kind of thing off," says Sam Barlow, creator of experimental mystery game Her Story. "I think part of it comes from a certain self-consciousness and a certain desire for the medium to hurry up and grow up. Adventure games often feel like an awkward middle ground between the proper narrative games we aspire to and our cruder earlier attempts."

Barlow explains that one of the adventure genre's greatest struggles is the idea of the player controlling the story's protagonist. "They become stuck in the weeds of the plot," he says. "I kinda like the fact that a lot of modern games have reduced the emphasis on the specifics of the actions, and focused more on dialogue and higher-level character choice. I'm interested in finding ways for players to be a part of the experience of a story without having to throw them into the busywork of 'being' a character."

Francisco Gonzalez, founder of indie adventure studio Grundislav, thinks that adventure game designers often stubbornly cling to older design tropes. Mazes, illogical puzzles, excessive in-jokes and too much fourth wall-breaking are just a few of the elements that bother him. "If your game absolutely needs a maze, keep it brief," he says. "Add some sort of puzzle element that allows you to navigate it without having to map it yourself."

"So many point-and-click games these days seem to have random puzzles that don't help move the narrative forward," says Ron Gilbert. "A good adventure game should also be about exploring a world, and in many games you're just teleporting from location to location. Firewatch and Gone Home are about exploring a space, and more point-and-click games need to do a better job of this. Build me a world I want to live in."

He continues, "I don't know that I've played a point-and-click adventure made in the last few years that thoroughly engaged me. I'm a point-and-click snob. I think two things that have hurt the genre are illogical puzzles and puzzles that don't intertwine with the narrative. I still see these issues today. However games like Firewatch get around this by not having deep puzzles. Most adventure games are all about story. In a lot of ways they've thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and that is depressing."

Olivia White of Owl Cave Games thinks too many adventure games still fall into the archaic traps of horrible logic and self-referential humour. "All the people working in the field today who do excellent work are the ones who are actively slicing away the old, rubbish parts of the genre and improving the good parts with surgical focus," she says. "Not all adventure games use moon logic, but plenty of designers are still stuck in the past."

"This is actually one of the freer genres to work within," says Sam Barlow. "There are enough limitations that it kind of encourages people to play around the edges, and I think that's important. The adventure game fan is often of a certain type, and there's been a lot of intense, fairly academic discussion and analysis of the genre. It has a lot of fans and creators who are passionate about keeping things moving forward."

No limit

I ask Ron Gilbert if the seemingly limited framework of the adventure genre naturally limits innovation. "For pure point-and-click games, it does," he says. "But people, including me, have a very rigid definition of a point-and-click game and resist change. After building Thimbleweed Park, I do think there's a stigma attached to the genre. People are often predisposed to think they won't like them, and that these games are full of illogical puzzles and bad narrative. As a creator you have a huge hump to overcome. We felt that every day making Thimbleweed."

"There have been a lot of really innovative things done in adventure games recently," says Francisco Gonzalez. "I think the main problem is that if an adventure game tries to innovate too much, then people no longer consider it an adventure game. There's a notion that you need absurd inventory puzzles to be part of the genre, but I consider games like The Cave, which has platforming elements, and the heavily story-led Oxenfree to be great examples of modern adventures."

"What adventure games do well is tell more intimate, more focused stories," says Dave Gilbert. "You wouldn't make an adventure game about a soldier fighting in a warzone. Nor would you make a beat-'em-up about a detective trying to solve a case. So can adventure games limit you? Sure. But for telling the stories I want to tell, the sky's the limit."

So what does the future hold for adventure games? "We're going to see a lot more games that shed the point-and-click mould," says Olivia White. "I think we'll see a bunch of developers adopting the Telltale style, but I'd like to see more games doing interesting things with interactive narrative like Stories Untold and Edith Finch."

"I think things are going to continue as they have for the past 20 years," says Francisco Gonzalez. "There'll always be a market for adventure games, and new generations of gamers will get into the genre through modern narrative games or the classics. But I hope adventure games will continue to evolve and not be afraid to go beyond the traditional genre trappings, embracing the move away from illogical, archaic design."

"We're seeing more games with lighter mechanics and a greater emphasis on story and character," says Sam Barlow. "I think that's something that helps the genre, because it brings in audiences who are hungry for what makes adventure games tick, and also draws in new creators who are ready to mix things up. My vision of the future is one where the adventure game creators step into the world of streaming TV, where they figure out how to use performance and video as a way of telling stories."

"More people are making adventure games than ever," says Dave Gilbert. "So we'll continue to see a lot of new and interesting games coming out."

"If only I knew," says Ron Gilbert. 

PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS

Intrepid dataminers have already uncovered guns, trucks and jet skis from PUBG's test server code, but it seems there's yet more gold in them hills/lines of ones and zeroes. 

According to Reddit user bizzfarts, certain locations on the shooter's incoming desert map are set to be renamed (so long, Murderlands), while three new weapons and a flare gun could be making their way into its grounds. 

Bizzfarts shares models of a Winchester 1894 lever-action rifle: 

 SK_Win1894 

A Rhino revolver:

 SK_Rhino_1 

And a sawed off double-barrel shotgun (although bizzfarts notes this was found in "the pistol folder"):

 SK_Sawedoff 

Bizzfarts also says that while they could not locate a model, "there are sounds and [a] UI icon for a flare gun." It looks like this:

The appearance of these items of course doesn't guarantee their eventual inclusion in-game. 

Yesterday, the PUBG Twitter account officially revealed the DP-28 machine gun and AUG A3 bullpup assault rifle are now live in the game's test servers—while here's everything Chris learned about the new desert map following a recent trip to Bluehole's offices in South Korea.

RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard / BIOHAZARD 7 resident evil

Resident Evil 7's End of Zoe is due December 12, and will arrive alongside the first-person horror venture's complementary Not a Hero DLC. We took a closer look at what both entail last month, however two new trailers dive a little deeper than before. 

First up, it seems runaway baddie Lucas is again hosting some Saw-inspired death games in Not a Hero. I particularly enjoyed his role in the base game, so I'm quite pleased to see his story (and twisted imagination) revisited.

In End of Zoe, we see Resi 7's story unfold through the eyes of Zoe Baker. While helping base game protagonist Ethan fumble his way around the Baker plantation, we'll learn how Zoe became a prisoner in her own home—and how her parents started out as seemingly pleasant people. 

Of course we know the shit hit the fan thereafter, but seeing this I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.  

If you're yet to play Resident Evil 7, let me point you towards Andy's 90-scoring review over here. And if you like what you read there, know that RE7 is on sale for just £20/$30 (half price) as part of the Black Friday sales

ARK: Survival Evolved

I recently got a chance to play around in an early build of Ark's second expansion, Aberration, which takes place in a series of underground biomes and introduces new movement systems like wingsuit gliding, rock-climbing, and ziplines. Originally planned for an October release, Studio Wildcard has announced that Aberration will now arrive on December 12.

Along with the new environments, and the new tools to get around in them, Aberration will of course arrive with new dinosaurs (or are they aliens?) such as the Rock Drake, which can glide, stick to walls, and become nearly invisible. There's also a hideous queen monster that can lay eggs inside you, causing you to give a rather messy chest-birth to a squirming worm grub. Gross! But fun.

The Aberration expansion will be priced at $20, and can also be purchased as part of the Ark season pass, which includes Scorched Earth and an as-yet unspecified third expansion. Ark itself is currently 50% off in the Steam store.

Finding Paradise

To the Moon developer Freebird Games dropped some big news for fans today: It's time to gun up, buckle in, and hang on, because on December 14 you're going... 2 The Moon

I'll admit it, I was thoroughly confused by this trailer all the way to the midpoint, and the announcement that came with it—"Freebird Games unleashes To the Moon 2 trailer with fury"—sure didn't help. Did I read something the wrong way? Was I thinking about the wrong game? Have I completely misunderstood what To the Moon really is for all these years? 

Thankfully, no. It's a clever trailer, but Finding Paradise remains the direct sequel to To the Moon, the indie adventure about two doctors who travel through a dying patient's mind to grant him his last wish. In the new game, "they unravel the perplexing memories of a patient named Colin Reeds, to fulfill a wish that seems rather paradoxical… to change something yet change nothing at all."

Finding Paradise is listed on Steam if you'd like a closer look, but developer Kan Gao said preorders will not be offered. Other platforms are pending, and non-English localizations will be added in the future as well. 

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