Face Off pits two gladiators against each other as they tackle gaming's most perplexing conundrums. This New Year's Eve edition is a chronological throw-down: which decade gave PC gaming the most? Podcast Producer Erik Belsaas says it was the '90s—the origin of modern PC gaming. Executive Editor Evan Lahti insists it was the '00s, with its speedy internet, better PCs, and shinier graphics engines.
Evan: The 1990s had the CD-ROM and the McRib sandwich. The ‘00s had Windows XP and two terrible Star Wars movies. I think the latter birthed better games: the Battlefield series, Crysis, Company of Heroes, BioShock, Dragon Age: Origins, Guild Wars, The Sims, Rome: Total War, Star Wars: KOTOR, and the best Civilization games happened then. What've you got, Erik?
Erik: Lucasarts, id, Ion Storm, Interplay, Blizzard: the iconic names that created franchises that we still discuss today. “RTS,” “FPS,” and “MMO” had no meaning before the pioneers of the '90s came along with some-thing other than sequels and rehashes: Baldur's Gate, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, MechWarrior, Unreal Tournament and every LucasArts adventure game from Sam & Max to Grim Fandango.
Evan: This is going to devolve into who can name-drop more game titles, isn't it?
Erik: Pretty much.
Evan: Cool. In that case, let’s put the best we've got on the page. What are the top three games from your decade? Mine: WoW, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life 2.
Erik: Just three? How about X-COM, Fallout, and The Secret of Monkey Island. Timeless classics that we still play today.
Evan: Is that the best that the decade that gave us the Spice Girls has got, grandpa? The innovations of the '00s will last far longer. Half-Life 2 wasn't just the basis for the way modern action games tell stories, it’s the technological foundation for the most ambitious mods we have today and the preferred canvas for machinima creators. World of Warcraft’s meteoric rise brought PC gaming into popular culture, ruined innumerable marriages, and earned its own South Park episode. Top that.
Erik:Your great games are all parts of established franchises that began in the '90s. For that matter, the original Counter-Strike mod came out in 1999, before Valve turned it into a retail product! Take away the names that began in the '90s, the '00s would've created very little of their own.
Evan: Megabyte for megabyte, I’d rather replay Half-Life 2 than its predecessor. Likewise for Diablo II, Warcraft III, Fallout 3 and other major franchises that began in the '90s but matured in the '00s. I really think that the tech of the '00s (better operating systems, fast internet, faster PCs) produced better gaming experiences. EVE Online couldn't exist in the '90s. Team Fortress 2's dozens of free content updates couldn't have streamed down our wimpy modems—the same goes for 25-man WoW raids or a heavily modded playthrough of Oblivion or Morrowind.
Erik: You've got a short memory. EverQuest allowed 72-man raids. And before Oblivion and Morrowind came Daggerfall, which was amazing and heavily modded. Doom, the father of modding, came out in '93.
Evan: I’ll play your game, Belsaas. Here's my ace: Deus Ex, our most favorite game ever, happened in 2000.
Erik: Deus Ex is a good game...but how about StarCraft? Has any other game absolutely defined its genre or rallied an entire nation behind it like a sport?
Evan: I was worried you’d play the Korea card. What can I counter that with? The 100-million-selling main-stream success of The Sims? The booming popularity of independent gaming? ...Peggle?
Erik: Peggle? Well I’ve got...you know...uh...Carmen Sandiego. Fine. Peggle wins.
When facing the end of time as we know it through a cataclysmic prophecy, it's time for a sale to mark history's end with a bang. To wit, GameFly's End of the World event nixes 75 percent off select titles for the next 12 days, providing valuable buys such as a $15/£9 Witcher 2, a $25/£15.50 XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and $12.50/£8 for The Walking Dead, among others.
More games will appear throughout the sale's duration, but current offerings include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for $2.50/£1.60, Batman: Arkham Asylum for $10/£6, and Crysis for $7.50/£4.70.
If you haven't yet taken shelter in your fallout bunker cheered at the increasing arrival of awesome holiday sales, Origin's Green Monday sale are still around for just one more day with 40 percent off on tons of noteworthy titles such as Battlefield 3 ($24/£15), Crusader Kings II ($24/£15), and The Sims 3 ($18/£11). Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a couple of asteroid-repelling planks to board up.
Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli's enthusiasm for incorporating burgeoning free-to-play business models into the PC-melting Crysis franchise is about as strong as a nano-maxed punch. Like hunting space squids with a bow and arrow, though, such a marriage takes time. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Yerli believed that the free-to-play future he envisions "won't happen tomorrow" and Prophet-ized a peaceful coexistence between free and fee.
“I don’t think F2P’s a mutually exclusive way of looking at things," he explained. "I mean, the future is definitely free-to-play, but likewise, retail can co-exist with it. Premium games can be free-to-play. When I said free-to-play’s gonna be our future, I meant that and I hold to it. But I didn’t mean it for tomorrow.
"When I say there will inevitably be only free-to-play games, I mean that there might be ones where you can just download them with a free-to-play business model, or you can go to the store and buy it for $60. So that’s what I meant: There’s gonna be free-to-play available, which brings the entry level down to zero from a price perspective.”
Yerli also revealed prior considerations for turning Crysis 2's multiplayer into a free-to-play standalone while packaging Alcatraz's journey as priced content, but the final product wound up combining both in the traditional retail combo. Crysis 3—which de-cloaked its North American February 19/European February 22 release dates today—will follow suit, but Yerli hopes for something a little less spendy in the future.
"My desire is that everybody can just play Crysis and don’t have to spend money from day one," he said. "So people don’t have to think, ‘Oh, do I really want to pay $50 for that game?’ I don’t want that question to be asked. I just want them to be able to give it a try. And then they can make their choices about spending money. That’s honestly why I’m most excited about free-to-play: Regardless of storytelling, single-player, multiplayer, and co-op experiences, I think there’s an answer to all of those problems.”
Clear your schedule and make room on your hard drive: there are over 9000 mods up for consideration as ModDB's 2012 Mod of the Year award nominees, and only a little over five days to nominate them. A big green button on each mod's page makes it hard to miss the opportunity to give your favorites a bump.
There isn't much time, so we'll get straight to it after this obligatory acknowledgement that we said "over 9000" on the internet: tee hee, references. Moving on, DayZ and Black Mesa are tough to ignore, and The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod was a valiant community effort. Those might be the most talked about and praised mods this year, and we expect they'll secure nominations, but there are so many more that deserve recognition. Which are you voting for?
If you need a refresher, you might want to browse our recent mod coverage to see if you've missed any driving elephants or My Little Pony conversions.
Following reveal of Crysis 3's system requirements over the weekend, I’ve received confirmation from EA and Crytek of which precious secondary settings we'll be able to tweak in the game. If you remember, Crysis 2 launched with an anemic four tweakable options: v-sync, game resolution, HUD bobbing, and a general quality setting. A patch after release expanded these, and fan-made utilities helped out, but the good news is that EA and Crytek aren't shipping Crysis 3 in the same state.
Here's what you'll see if you click on "Advanced Graphics Options" in Crysis 3.
Game Effects Object Particles Post Processing Shading Shadows Water Anisotropic Filtering Texture Resolution Motion Blur Amount Lens Flares
Crysis 3's "Advanced Graphics Options" menu.
Noteworthy among these is the inclusion of high-resolution textures at release. Also different from Crysis 2's current advanced settings menu are discrete settings for lens flares and anisotropic filtering. Below, a quick chat on the topic with Marco Corbetta, Technical Director on Crysis 3.
PCG: Why did you launch Crysis 2 on PC with only a handful of graphics settings?
Marco Corbetta: On Crysis 2, a decision was made to focus on console, launching the title on all platforms simultaneously and bringing the same console UI menu experience to PC, but with a plan to release a dedicated DX11 PC version right after launch of the multiplatform version. Although most PC settings were already available at launch, just not directly exposed through the menu, the DX11 PC-focused version had all settings available directly in the menu and additional features like hi-res textures, tessellation etc. However, getting out the DX11 version with all the features included that we didn’t have time to develop while working on the console versions, took much longer than expected.
Is there any specific technical area of the game that’s been enhanced since C2?
Corbetta: As I mentioned, Crysis 3 will already ship with hi-res textures, advanced graphics settings, tessellation and DX11 support. Additional tech areas that have been enhanced since Crysis 2 are: AI navigation system, animation system, water, fog volumes, cloud shadows, POM, AA, cloths, vegetation, particles, lens flares and grass.
For Crysis 3, the past year has involved a lot of performance and memory optimization work on many areas and for all platforms, as well as work on the rendering side. One of our big goals was to improve image quality, and a lot of work went into developing several DX11 based anti-aliasing techniques for PC, which means gamers will now be able to pick their favorite—this is relatively involved on a deferred-based engine, since it involves selecting every technique and accessing multi-sampled buffers, versus the usual "flip the switch" approach. On top of an improved tessellation system we've also introduced character/vegetation tessellation—and since tessellation performance was still not optimal for the level of detail we wanted to achieve, we also did research into different areas and introduced what we called “Pixel Accurate Displacement Mapping” for macro details with nice real-time self-shadowing.
Can you describe the technology driving the grass system in C3? What distinguishes your tech from other games’ grass rendering?
Corbetta: This tech allows us to visualize thousands of individual blades of grass, and is very cost and memory efficient as we can even achieve good results on older console hardware like 360 and PS3. One of the most important things is that this technology is improving gameplay. For example, you can see AI aliens running through the fields and bending individual blades of grass, and things such as projectiles, explosions and wind affect grass movement too. This gives a “predator-style” gameplay experience in the Fields level, which is very in line with the experience C3 wants to offer. There are not many other games that can offer this kind of realistic grass simulation and rendering on a multiplatform basis.
Psycho has put on a little weight, hasn't he? Then again, he's lost his Nanosuit, and along with it its maximum slimming effect. Anyway, here's 6:19 of fresh gameplay footage from Crysis 3's domed jungles of New York, a setting that has the game resembling the genetic output of Crysis's East Asia and Crysis 2's urbanity.
One change in Crysis 3 worth noting, and noticeable in the footage: Crytek has decoupled sprinting from energy consumption. It still has a separate, invisible cooldown associated with it (and while you're cloaked, your energy meter will tick down faster if you run), but running won't take sips from your magic power juicebox. A related counter to this are the new EMP grenades carried by CELL soldiers, which drain your battery.
The Crysis saga will endure beyond Crysis 3's culminating events, but not under the name Crysis 4, CryTek has revealed. Speaking to Eurogamer, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli discussed the future of the visually voluptuous franchise beyond Crysis 3 and mentioned a future free-to-play version of Crysis.
“I wouldn't name it Crysis 4 at this stage because it would be misleading," he said. "We want to finalize Prophet's story, and Crysis 4 would imply the story just moves on. But we are excited about the DNA of Crysis and of the franchise. There can be literally tons of titles out there within the franchise. Unlike Far Cry, this time around we feel very flexible about Crysis."
Normally Crytek would already be beginning pre-production on the next Crysis, but Yerli says the next iteration's "radical" direction could mean more of a lull between it and Crysis 3.
"Because we want to make this something much more radical and new, we're looking at it as a bit more of a long-term thing," Yerli explained. "It's too early to talk about it for these reasons."
Yerli equipped an equally strong silencer on any details surrounding the free-to-play Crysis project, as its infancy prevented any solid information from emerging.
"We do have a plan for a F2P version of Crysis, but how this looks and when this will be done, whether this is the next one or the next next one, is to be decided," he said. "I believe F2P is our inevitable future. I believe there are F2P titles out there that can be story-telling and cooperative with your friends and competitive with your friends. It's all possible. The business model is independent from the way you design games. It's a very important thing. People always make these things dependent, but it's actually completely independent."
Of franchises using the "Star _____" title format, there's one that has long stood beside the titans of Trek and Wars in my mind: Stargate. For the last four years, a team that shares my reverence for the franchise has been modding the world of evil Egyptian space snakes and interstellar military adventure into the original Crysis, along with nods to other sci-fi franchises like the aforementioned Star Wars and Battlestar. StarCry, the end result, is now finally available for download to all of us Tau'ri.
The trailer above shows off a variety of environments, zat guns, staff weapons, and the titular Stargates themselves. But that's far from all. The mod's release notes boast "More than 1000 new objects, 2000 textures, 20 weapons and 1000 lines of dialog were added to the base game to offer a brand new adventure." Check out the screenshots below, then grab the mod and see it for yourself.
Toads don't tessellate. Trust me, I've tried. So how to Crytek pull it off? It's top secret, sadly, but you can watch one tessellated toad jump off a log in the latest CryEngine 3 tech on Gamespot, which also shows some lovely lighting tech and some grand Crysis 3 environments, some of which starred in the recent Crysis 3 combat/stealth trailer. It's pretty impressive, but is it better than the Unreal Engine 4 tech demo that Epic released a couple of months back?
This footage of Crysis 3 shows an extended version of the E3 demo in which Prophet assaults and explodes a huge dam. This time you get to choose at the start of the demo whether the player will take the cloaked, quiet approach or the noisy I AM GUN MAN YOU DIE NOW approach. The sneaky style sends Prophet to some high ledges where he skewers passing guards with arrows before infiltrating the dam through some ducts. The high-octane playthrough rips mounted cannons off their hinges and charges through every alarm in the building. Tragically for the dam, the outcome is the same.