Before running away for a few days to visit family and then de-stress in DayZ, Evan, Cory, and Tyler gathered to reflect on the biggest surprises of 2013. Watch the whole five-video series on the PC Gamer YouTube channel, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more regular content, gameplay footage, and conversations.
For all its infinite wonder, space is kind of a jerk. It would be bad enough if FTL was about navigating its various deadly pitfalls, but the game goes one further - pitting you against a selection of deadly alien races and their many weapons. Despite all this, and as good as the space roguelike was, I always felt that it could use more variety and options to support the need for repeat playthroughs. Step forward FTL: Advanced Edition, which will be made available as a free upgrade to the base game next year. Along with the already detailed ships, weapons and events, its developers have now announced another race of murderous foe. It looks like space is being upgraded to an ultrajerk.
The new race is The Lanius: metallic scavengers who absorb materials to survive. If that sounds like bad news, their other quirk is their relationship to oxygen. They don't require life support to survive, and, more than that, will actually drain the oxygen of any room they're in. Oh dear.
In the Lanius's announcement post, the game's makers also round up some of the other upgrades planned for the update:
"Lanius Ship: New player ship with its own achievements and alternate layout. "Type C Ship Layouts: 8 of the original ships will have a third layout that capitalizes on the new content. With the Lanius ship, that makes for a total of ten new starting ship designs. "Backup Battery Subsystem: Subsystem that can provide temporary reactor power in a pinch. "New Drones: Expanded drone options includes: the Shield Drone that generates a green super shield for your ship, the Anti-Combat Drone that shoots down enemy combat drones, and the Ion Intruder that blasts into the enemy ship and randomly ionizes systems while stunning and distracting crew. "Gameplay Refinements: Doors and Sensors can be manned to increase effectiveness; you can now rename crew mid-game; each race has a small variety of colors which allows for easier visual recognition; "And more to come: We re still balancing and polishing the features that are being added. Be sure to keep an eye out for additional content announcements!"
Subset have also announced that players will be able to toggle the Advanced Edition's bigger changes, for those who want to re-experience the classic brutality of the current version's violent men, rocks and mantises.
Names are important. Giving a name to a tiny, mindless unit in games such as FTL or XCOM: Enemy Unknown—and XCOM: Enemy Within, out today—gives them the importance necessary for permadeath to matter. I don't care if some anonymous squaddie bites it in an alien base mission, but I care a lot more about the well-being of Lt. Tyler "Maverick" Wilde.
Once you've used all of your friends' names, though, how to you find the right identity for your team? Do you use pet names, or celebrities, or characters from fantasy novels that clearly don't fit in a sci-fi setting? You probably freeze up, unable to remember the names of loved ones or childhood heroes. We know this condition all too well. This is Naming Paralysis, and while your insurance may not cover the treatment necessary, we can help.
Last year, we created The PC Gamer Character Name Repository, a shared Google Doc that we encouraged you to throw XCOM and FTL-friendly names into. Since then, you've added more than 300 names to the list, across different categories. As XCOM: Enemy Within launches today, we're putting the Name Repository back into your hands, so that together, we can all fight Naming Paralysis.
FTL: Faster Than Light, last year’s breakout hit from two-person studio Subset Games, will receive a free update that adds new ship systems, weapons, events and environments. Called FTL: Advanced Edition, the update will be timed to coincide with an iPad edition of the game set for release in 2014.
The update will also include new music by composer Ben Prunty. Mind control systems will force enemies to sabotage their own ships, and new sectors and events have been written by FTL writer Tom Jubert and Wasteland 2 scribe Chris Avellone. New weapons and effects will be available to stun and freeze enemy crews, and overcharging weapons will unleash higher numbers of volleys. With a game as finely tuned as FTL was, it will be interesting watching the new content expand our horizons without being unbalanced.
The closest I’ve ever come to playing Firefly: The Game was while I was obsessed with FTL last year, so I’ve got a soft spot for the game. Plus, it's notable as one of the earliest Kickstarter success stories that went on to big acclaim. After more than a year since release, Subset could easily have added this content as paid DLC, so releasing it to fans for free is a classy move.
You can never have too much of a good thing, and a good thing is donating to charity while getting new games. DRM-free gaming store GOG is holding a bundle sale where you can pick up three games for a $5 donation to the World Wildlife Fund, Gaming for Good, or Worldbuilders.
You must pick at least three games from a selection of 10, including FTL, Incredipede, and Botanicula. Each additional game will cost you roughly $2.30 more, or you can get all 10 games for a donation just under $17.
The charity of your choice will receive 100% of the proceeds, and all of the games are DRM-free. Go check out the donation page and chip in a bit for a great deal on games.
The Curious Expedition is a roguelike exploration game with an unbearably interesting hook: take your pith-helmeted hero into a violent, randomly generated jungle and meet new tribes, fight lizard men, find ancient ruins, and return a famous explorer. By taking the classic roguelike above-ground and into unknown continents, Curious Expedition might be able to plant a stake in a crowded genre in the tradition of FTL.
“Roguelikes are story generators, where the author is not the game developer, but where the story is written by the attempt of players to deal with the emergent behavior of simulated systems slowly spinning out of control,” says programmer Riad Djemili. Djemili and artist Johannes Kristmann are developing curious Expedition independently. “In our game these systems represent the delicate psyche of your party members and their interaction with an incomprehensible world.”
After equipping your expedition and making choices reminiscent of Oregon Trail (Did I pack enough water? Should we have hired extra soldiers? I brought way too many bullets), your group makes its way into the randomly generated wilderness toward a long-lost ruin like El Dorado or Atlantis. Though reaching the ruin is your ultimate goal, along the way you’ll have opportunities to meet and trade with natives and, as befitting explorers in the age of early colonialism, leave a trail of destruction behind you. Using a magic wand that summons a spring of fresh water in the desert is a no-brainer, for example, but Djemili warns that the spring might turn into a new river, flowing across the countryside and washing out villages until it empties into an ocean. If enough natives are displaced, the resulting tensions could bring a war crashing down on your fragile expedition.
Inspired by the stories of Darwin and Dr. Livingstone, the team has also added a dash of Steampunk and Lovecraftian horror. Nikola Tesla explores the wilderness armed with his Tesla gun, a powerful electrical weapon that can be recharged by harassing electric eels. Explorers must also carefully manage their sanity, as low sanity causes morale problems and “can lead to all kinds of mischief like paranoia, hallucinations, claustrophobia or spontaneous tentacle growth,” according to Kristmann.
Different heroic explorers have different skills. Darwin the naturalist catalogs wildlife while Huizinga the anthropologist befriends natives and learns their cultural rites. In addition to using different skills, some of the explorers are less equipped to undertake the journey at all. Playing as an unprepared city-dweller with no survival skills introduces an organic higher difficulty setting to the game.
The team’s plans for Curious Expedition are remarkably ambitious, and I hope they aren’t overpromising or setting themselves up for creeping feature lists. If it goes as planned, the premise of Sigmund Freud embarking on a quest to loot the treasures of El Dorado is so compelling that I can’t wait to see more about it. A playable alpha for Curious Expedition is planned for next summer, with the full release to follow late in 2014.
The Humble organisers aren't afraid of side-projects, but now that they've had their fill of stand-up comics and corporate overlords, they're returning back to the very source of their humility. The ninth Humble Indie Bundle has just gone live, and, in a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, it stars Polytron's gorgeous platformer Fez. You'll also find FTL, Mark of the Ninja, Trine 2, Brutal Legend and Eets Munchies.
Here's the basic breakdown:
Trine 2: The Complete Story Mark of the Ninja Eets Munchies (beta) Brütal Legend*
*You're right, pedantic indie fan, Brütal Legend on consoles was published by EA. But Double Fine self-published for the PC version, so let's just go with it.
In addition to that, beating the average gets you Fez and FTL: Faster Than Light. The bundle also straight up admits that more games will be added soon, presumably because they've pulled that trick so often that it's no longer a surprise. If you beat the average at any point, you're guaranteed to get the added games as soon as they're revealed.
Also: pay-what-you-want, charity, contribution sliders, Steam keys, soundtracks. Look, there have been nine of these at this point, so you know what to expect. Details, as always, are available straight from the Humble store.
(And, since you're probably wondering: Eets Munchies is a "reimagining" of Klei Entertainment's first game, Eets. Look upon its trailer, and remember that this is the same studio that went on to make Shank.)
You can't play games all the time. Eventually your hands will degrade into coarse lumpy bone sacks, unable to perform rocket-jumps or micro small army men. At some point, you're going to need a rest. Luckily, in the downtime, you can still think about games, and listen to the music from games, and create plasticine dioramas of your favourite moments in games. I mean, I guess you could do something else entirely, but that wouldn't neatly lead into the news that the Game Music Bundle 5 is available, and contains some great indie soundtracks.
There's a two-tiered pricing system, with a purchase of $1 or more securing you these albums:
Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine by Austin Wintory FTL: Faster Than Light by Ben Prunty Fez by Disasterpeace Gunpoint by John Robert Matz, Ryan Ike, Francisco Cerda Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded by Austin Wintory World of Goo by Kyle Gabler
Then, for $10 or more, you can grab a further 13 soundtracks:
FZ: Side F FZ: Side Z Monaco: The Gentleman's Private Collection The Forge Hero of Many Marble Time Super Panda Adventures Anodyne Remix Album Frog Fractions Little Inferno Anodyne Me and My Dinosaur 2 Drox Operative
Frog Fractions soundtrack? Weird.
The standard bundle of six albums is almost completely excellent. The bigger bundle? Wildly more eclectic, but definitely worth a look, not least for the two excellent Fez remix albums.
The Game Music Bundle 5 will run until the 27th August.
Indie gaming has gotten kind of huge over the past few years, and the internet's beginning to bulge at the seams with all the indieness going on lately. Indie Game: The Movie—whose special edition is being released next week—last year documented the lives of four indie developers as they put together their little-budget, big-name concepts. What of the thousands of other indie developers out there, though? A pair of filmmakers are seeking to answer that question with their newly revealed Kickstarter campaign for GameLoading: Rise of the Indies, a documentary that seeks to zoom out and look at the entire indie scene globally.
Studio Bento's already traveled the world in their quest to quiz ostensibly every indie developer ever, and a heap of interview footage has already been shot of game development greats such as Chris Avellone and Antichamber's Alexander Bruce; the Kickstarter campaign seeks to raise the funds for the team to travel even further, penetrating such mystical places as Romania and Belgium. Lester Francois of Studio Bento says that the film will be of special interest to PC gamers.
"When we started the film, I was surprised at how many indie developers are sticking to making games for PC," Francois tells PC Gamer. "It's great meeting developers not concerned with the iOS gold rush and content doing their own thing. We're very excited to be interviewing some of these PC developers, including the guys behind FTL and Kentucky Route Zero."
Pledging $15 will get you a digital download of the film, and there are also tiers including two indie games bundles. I've seen some of Studio Bento's footage so far, it's already looking really special. I'm especially eager to hear from the guys behind my latest favorite indie game, Kentucky Route Zero—to check out the full list of interviewees, check out GameLoading's website.
Ben Prunty, the composer of the soundtrack for FTL: Faster Than Light, has published a “guided tour” of the motifs and themes that show up throughout the game’s 29 tracks. FTL is a remarkable game for a lot of reasons, including what is hands down one of the best recent musical scores around.
“he FTL soundtrack is very self-referential,” Prunty writes. “Lots of sounds, melodies and chords show up multiple times throughout.” Pulling up Prunty’s bandcamp page lets you follow along with his references, even if you haven’t purchased a copy.
“I actually wrote this melody a few years before,” Prunty writes about “The MilkyWay Melody,” a fast, twinkling theme that shows up in several places in the game. “I was challenging myself to write and produce a new piece of music every week for three months... hen I wrote the melody I was actually envisioning some kind of old DOS space game. When the opportunity came up to write for FTL, it made perfect sense to fit it in.”
The thing I love about analysis like this is that it makes perfect sense when someone points it out to you, but it never occurred to me while playing the game. There’s a reason that Mantis space always creeps me out, and it wasn’t until now that I realized it was Prunty’s devilish minor chords.
FTL was one of the earliest big Kickstarter success stories, was of our short-form game of the year winner in 2012, and helped launch the resurgence of indie roguelikes that seem to be everywhere these days.
Check out Prunty’s full writeup of the soundtrack and follow along on his bandcamp page. If you haven’t checked out FTL, it happens to be featured on the Steam Summer Sale right this instant.