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Braid

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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Steam Holiday Sale now live">Steam Holiday Sale







Valve kicked off its epic Steam Holiday Sale today, offering heavy discounts, flash sales, and catalog clearances lasting until January 5. And before we start drifting dangerously into wallet-pun territory, know you'll be able vote for a select game every 12 hours to go on sale.



Here's a sampling of the sales and flash deals (if you can call a 15-hour timespan a "flash") available for purchase right now:



60% off Natural Selection 2 ($10/£6)

50% off War of the Roses ($15/£9)

50% off Borderlands 2 ($30/£18.50)



The current nominees for the Community's Choice sale are Limbo, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Braid. The winner gets 75 percent taken off its price. And if, by some small chance, a specific game deal you're seeking isn't there, Valve can notify you when it shows up if you add the title to your wishlist. Wonderful.



Ready to get shopping? Deep breath, and go.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Braid dev on Steam vs. consoles, and how platform beaurocracy “makes all games worse”">Braid Thumbnail







Braid creator Jonathan Blow has posted an open letter on the ills of the beaurocratic requirements that major console companies demand of every game on their platform. He compares the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 to Steam and Apple, which let developers update their games quickly and freely with no need for lengthy official certification procedures, and suggests that future platforms will have to take a similar approach to be successful.



He writes: "The edge that both Apple and Valve have going into the future is that they both genuinely care about the end-user experience and want to make it as good as possible. (Their end-user experience is already way better than any of the consoles and they are always working to improve it). Which coincidentally seems to be the place that these consoles are handicapped due to their corporate culture. Can anyone look at the current 360 or PS3 dashboards and legitimately say that those are products of an entity that deeply cares about user experience?"



To release a patch on a console, developers have to submit the update to a certification procedure in which the patch is cleared for release by the platform holder. DICE have previously told us that this is one of the reasons we have to wait so long for Battlefield patches. Blow mentions that certification procedures are designed to deliver more reliable updates, but points out that there's less need for quality control than platform holders assume. "There is no public outcry for more testing and robustness of iOS software," he writes.



Blow uses the "DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR CONSOLE" save warning that must be included at the start of every Xbox game as an example of the inefficiency these requirements generate. "If consoles cared about this kind of thing, it would be built into their basic save-file API, so that it would always work perfectly and no developers would ever have to think about it," he says.



"If they did this, there would be fewer things to certify, certification would cost a little less and take a bit less time. Let’s say you save 3 days of development and testing per game (this is conservative; the real amount can be substantially higher when you factor in the discussions and coordination about how the save notice should look, etc). Now add up how many games have been released just on the Xbox 360, multiply that number by 3 days, and what you get is probably OVER A DECADE OF DEVELOPER TIME that was wasted. Just on this one little requirement. For something that should just be built into the system by one person in a couple of weeks."



Ultimately, platforms will have to become more open to support the rising popularity of free to play and digital games. Blow doesn't reckon the next console generation will be able to stack up against Steam. "Whatever they do is very likely not to be enough," he says. "Their competitors are not stopping either. (Steam, which was already pretty painless in terms of updating games, recently revamped their system; the new thing is way better than the old thing, which was already way better than what the consoles do.)"



Read the whole argument over on The Witness, a site for Jonathan Blow upcoming first-person exploration/puzzle game set on a mysterious island.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Braid dev on Steam vs. consoles, and how platform bureaucracy “makes all games worse”">Braid Thumbnail







Braid creator Jonathan Blow has posted an open letter on the ills of the bureaucratic requirements that major console companies demand of every game on their platform. He compares the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 to Steam and Apple, which let developers update their games quickly and freely with no need for lengthy official certification procedures, and suggests that future platforms will have to take a similar approach to be successful.



He writes: "The edge that both Apple and Valve have going into the future is that they both genuinely care about the end-user experience and want to make it as good as possible. (Their end-user experience is already way better than any of the consoles and they are always working to improve it). Which coincidentally seems to be the place that these consoles are handicapped due to their corporate culture. Can anyone look at the current 360 or PS3 dashboards and legitimately say that those are products of an entity that deeply cares about user experience?"



To release a patch on a console, developers have to submit the update to a certification procedure in which the patch is cleared for release by the platform holder. DICE have previously told us that this is one of the reasons we have to wait so long for Battlefield patches. Blow mentions that certification procedures are designed to deliver more reliable updates, but points out that there's less need for quality control than platform holders assume. "There is no public outcry for more testing and robustness of iOS software," he writes.



Blow uses the "DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR CONSOLE" save warning that must be included at the start of every Xbox game as an example of the inefficiency these requirements generate. "If consoles cared about this kind of thing, it would be built into their basic save-file API, so that it would always work perfectly and no developers would ever have to think about it," he says.



"If they did this, there would be fewer things to certify, certification would cost a little less and take a bit less time. Let’s say you save 3 days of development and testing per game (this is conservative; the real amount can be substantially higher when you factor in the discussions and coordination about how the save notice should look, etc). Now add up how many games have been released just on the Xbox 360, multiply that number by 3 days, and what you get is probably OVER A DECADE OF DEVELOPER TIME that was wasted. Just on this one little requirement. For something that should just be built into the system by one person in a couple of weeks."



Ultimately, platforms will have to become more open to support the rising popularity of free to play and digital games. Blow doesn't reckon the next console generation will be able to stack up against Steam. "Whatever they do is very likely not to be enough," he says. "Their competitors are not stopping either. (Steam, which was already pretty painless in terms of updating games, recently revamped their system; the new thing is way better than the old thing, which was already way better than what the consoles do.)"



Read the whole argument over on The Witness, a site for Jonathan Blow upcoming first-person exploration/puzzle game set on a mysterious island.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Indie Game: The Movie review">Indie Game The Movie review thumbnail







Boys in their bedrooms, drop-out dreamers, shut-in gore fetishists - if ever a film were to quash the red-top stereotypes of game developers than this would surely be it. Indie Game: The Movie follows four of the most thoughtful, hard-working and sensitive young fellows you could probably find in this business or any other, and is both a clarion call for the thrilling creative freedom of independent development and a grim warning of its near-lethal stakes.



The sheer graft underpinning the development of Braid, Fez or Super Meat Boy is writ large here, and accompanied by no small amount of heartache. Charting half a decade of development, the filmmakers cherry-pick from a catalogue of dramas, as the four developers struggle with the threat of financial oblivion, acrimonious legal wrangles, corrosive relationships with corporate gatekeepers, depression, insomnia, bad diets and eccentric facial hair.



Just how much they sacrifice to ship their game, and just how much they suffer both before and after, makes for moving viewing. The film deftly sketches their characters, too: a shot here of the meticulous Jon Blow, developer of Braid, sitting with stiff poise in a bare apartment; a shot there of Super Meat Boy’s Tommy Refenes drowsily pawing through a pile of grease-stained to-do lists. Refenes and his Team Meat partner, Edmund McMillen, are an endearingly asymmetrical duo - the tattooed, moustached McMillen is relaxed and warm, but touchingly vulnerable, while the skeletal Refenes is dryly cynical and seems permanently exhausted. You suspect his energy levels might improve if he didn’t survive on microwave burgers.







It’s Phil Fish, however, who offers the most wrenching story of all. While everyone seems willing to kill themselves to make their game, only in Fish’s case does this appear to be a literal threat. His game, Fez, has been in development for years by the film’s start, and has yet to ship when the titles roll. You get a glimpse of the reason for this in Fish’s painstaking pixel-perfect overhaul of the game’s textures - the third they have undergone. Like all of the film’s subjects, this man is a perfectionist, possibly to the point of self-annihilation.



Curiously, though the film expertly explains the passion it fails to describe the projects at which it is directed. Sure, we know Braid does something funny with time, and Fez goes all 3D - but how these things are manipulated to create elegant puzzles and transcendent epiphanies goes unrecorded. Blow even describes sinking into a depression when Braid’s rapturous reception failed to acknowledge his meta-narrative, but we never even understand how brilliant Braid’s time-contorting mechanics are, let alone what its meta-narrative entails. For the uninitiated, all three of the featured platformers might end up looking very similar, and though the film focuses on the human story behind these developments, the intelligence and intent of their construction surely deserves more space. As it is, without a ready explanation of the games’ ambition and worth, the film undersells the development as something akin to tilting at windmills.



There are some striking insights when the devs are allowed to discuss the design process: Blow describes how he structures his game as a dialogue with the player, so that the mechanics tumble out as minor revelations during play. Making an intimidating conundrum isn’t the interesting thing, he suggests, but bringing the player to a comprehension of it. Perhaps this answers Blow’s own puzzle: one reason for the lukewarm response to his narrative ambitions may be that they appeared opaque for opacity’s sake.







Some of the connections the film makes are a little crude and possibly overly-manipulative: McMillen talks about his game’s protagonist, Meat Boy, a character whose absence of skin leaves him vulnerable and in constant pain. He needs his girlfriend, who is made of plasters, to complete him. Cut to: interview with McMillen’s girlfriend. It’s a metaphor, see.



The film also sags in its last part, apparently not quite sure what to do with Super Meat Boy’s tremendous success, except repeat it several times. Oddly, it even revisits a long mission statement Blow gives at the film’s start. Maybe the filmmakers were hoping for material provided by the launch of Fez, but Phil Fish’s ever-retreating schedule evaded them. The lack of conclusion to his tale does leave something of a void, although it is heartening to know, as we now do, that he has probably since become rather rich.



Was it worth the effort? Refenes pays off the mortgage on his parents’ house, McMillen buys his girlfriend a hideous cat, Blow pours millions into his next development (The Witness), all because they ship their games and people love them. By the fortuitous choice of its subjects the movie escapes the difficulty of wrangling a heartwarming tale from bankruptcy and suicide, but it’s not a story without moments of bleakness. Indie Game: The Movie is an inspiring film, and even if it is rather vague about the specific appeal of the games themselves, it delicately articulates the passion, idiosyncrasies and brilliance of the developers as they pursue uncompromised creativity - and at what cost.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Indie Game: The Movie now watchable!">Indie Game the Movie thumbnail



Indie Game: The Movie is available to download on the official site and iTunes. It'll be released on Steam in about seven hours time, making it the first ever full-length movie to be released on the platform.



You could use Steam's remote download feature to kick it off from your office/school/college then watch it while eating your tea this evening. That's what I'm planning on do.



Alternatively, you can purchase on the official site and sneakily stream it in the corner of your monitor. Or just buy it on iTunes and watch it on your iOS device from a toilet cubicle.



Indie Game: The Movie was directed by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. It follows Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen as they create Super Meat Boy in late 2010 as well as Phil Fish, who struggles to prepare his first public demo of Fez. A post-Braid Jonathan Blow also features as he decides what to do after his massively successful indie. Jim Guthrie composed the score; he's the musician behind the Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP.



We'll have our review of Indie Game online soon. Are you excited about watching?



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Humble Indie Bundle 5 updated with Braid, Super Meat Boy and Lone Survivor">braid



Innovative platformer Braid, differently innovative platformer Super Meat Boy and horror adventure game Lone Survivor have been added to the already immensely successful Humble Bundle 5. Anyone who's already bought the bundle will be able to grab the new games gratis. If you haven't already bought the bundle (WHY???), you'll need to splash out more than the average (currently $7.87) to get the three games included.



The latest Humble Bundle has been the best yet, packing Bastion, Limbo, Amnesia, Psychonauts and Superbrothers into one tidy and cheap virtual box. Now it's hard to know how it could be any more awesome, unless it added Half-Life 3 to the roster. We're also not sure how any future bundle can stand a hope in hell against its sheer blinding awesomeness.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Indie Game: The Movie will be sold through Steam">indie game the movie



Astronomers, heed my call: have the stars that control the fate of digital distribution may entered some strange alignment? After releasing a board game earlier today, we learn that Steam will be selling a film on the service next month. Appropriately, it's Indie Game: The Movie.



The Kickstarted film has been popping up in theaters since March, and will also be available on iTunes when it releases on Steam on June 12. I wouldn't expect this—at the very most, Valve is testing the waters for selling other content with something that's highly relevant to gamers.



If you're wondering if Fez might make its way to PC, I'll refer you to a quote from creator Phil Fish made to NowGamer: “Fez is a console game, not a PC game. It’s made to be played with a controller, on a couch, on a Saturday morning. To me, that matters; that’s part of the medium. I get so many comments shouting at me that I’m an idiot for not making a PC version. ‘You’d make so much more money! Can’t you see? Meatboy sold more on Steam!’ Good for them. But this matters more to me than sales or revenue. It’s a console game on a console. End of story.”
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title="Permanent Link to Super Meat Boy anniversary bundle packs serious meat">super meat boy bundle thumb



Super Meat Boy completely won us over with its slightly icky take on the good ol’ platform genre. To celebrate its first anniversary, the game has been released as part of a huge bundle on Steam, which includes the original game, Aquaria, Bit.Trip Beat, Bit.Trip Runner, Braid, Gish, Machinarium, VVVVV and World of Goo. You’ll also get the music tracks from Super Meat Boy, Braid, Machinarium, Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Runner. That’s a whole bunch of indie gaming right there, and it’ll only set you back £17.89 ($28) - or £1.78 per game. Oh yeah, it also includes Half-Life 2, for some reason.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Jonathan Blow talks Portal 2 and player freedom">Jonathan Blow Thumbnail



Jonathan Blow, developer of Braid and upcoming indie game, The Witness, has been talking to Edge about the negative effects that focus testing can have on games development. He uses Portal 2 to illustrate his point.



We spoke to Gabe Newell about the lengths Valve go to to create a polished experience last year. Gaze tracking, pulse rate, and skin galvanic response all come into it. Blow says a testing environment that thorough can potentially erode player's freedom: "Valve very deliberately focus tests its games, and see how people react to situations, and refine the game to that. When you start to do that to a puzzle game you start to get rid of the puzzles."



According to Blow, Valve's heritage and extensive playtesting techniques can result in restrictive gameplay: "Part of the way Portal 2 ended up seemed to be due to what happens when you have a group of game designers that make games like Half-Life 2, which are quite heavily linear, and then put them on this other game."







Jonathan would have opted for greater sense of freedom even if it resulted in a steeper learning curve: "To me, a game about portals should be inherently nonlinear. If you don't make a non-portal surface at all, it means I can go from any place in the world to any other place. What would it mean to design a game around that? It might be a much harder design problem, but to me that's the excitement.



"I couldn't help feeling, playing the game, that they're fighting the portals all the time."



The indie developer also stressed that developers are entitled to their own design ethic, and that his motivations might be completely different to the PC behemoths: "I'm trying to provide opportunities for experience, whereas Valve is looking for the optimal experience for you to have. And that's fine - very valid and legitimate. But if every game becomes that, then we're missing something."







"When you give people freedom, you're giving them the freedom to have a bad experience as well as a good one," he concluded.



Do you value a streamlined experience over player freedom? Let's talk in the comments. For the latest on The Witness, pick up the latest issue of Edge.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Humble Indie Bundle 3 now includes Humble Indie Bundle 2 games">Humble Indie Bundle 3



The Humble Indie Bundle 3 has expanded in all directions. The pay-what-you want package originally offered Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, And Yet it Moves and Hammerfight, then Mojang threw in a trial to let purchasers play Minecraft for free until August 14. Then rotating robo-blaster Steel Storm jumped in, but that still wasn't enough.



Now, if you pay more than the average contribution (currently $5.22) for the Humble Indie Bundle 3, you'll get the Humble Indie Bundle 2 games as well.



The Humble Indie Bundle 2 includes Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos and Revenge of the Titans. A great package. Donations are split three ways between the developers, Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You get to decide how your payment is divided between these camps, and you can drop the Humble Bundle organisers a tip, too.



The Humble Indie Bundle 3 will be available for another five days. The bundle has sold 261,476 copies and counting for more than $1.3 million.
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