The debate over the relationship between violent games and violent behavior continues inside and outside the United States. In its initial response to the tragedy in Newtown, CT, the US government said it intends to ask the Centers for Disease Control to “study the root causes of gun violence, including any relationship to video games and media images.” Critics cite studies that link aggression and violent games, claiming that interactivity as a component of games makes them unusually potent. One politician labeled games as "electronic child molesters."
It's an enormous and serious topic—one that we believe gamers shouldn't shrug off, but take it upon themselves to engage critics and fellow citizens on. In the interest of that, Logan, Evan, and Tyler hopped into our podcast studio (inappropriately, the room that most makes it look like we're inside an insane asylum) to talk about their personal relationship with violence in games.
Someday, Valve will eventually run out of wonderful features to pack into its mega-gaming-hub Steam. Let's hope it's a long way off, because we'll all be busy poring over the user-written manuals, walkthroughs, and tips for our various games in the newly launched Steam Guides section of Steam's Community area.
Anyone can create and submit a guide for the game of their choice by clicking the new Guide tab on a game's Community Hub page. You can pretty up your words with images and embedded YouTube videos as well, and the guides also appear upon Steam's overlay whenever you're running a program. Neat. I can finally whip up my "How to avoid tigers" guide I've been planning for Far Cry 3 quickly and easily.
Head over to the Steam Guides page to take a look at the over 1,000 guides already created.
Far Cry 3's included level editor provides all the tools and textures necessary for crafting unique multiplayer maps, but one tinkerer has instead taken to recreating some very familiar locales with uncanny accuracy. As reported by MP1st, user ShadowZack has shared a series of maps fashioned after popular arenas from Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike.
You can nab ShadowZack's works through Far Cry 3's in-game multiplayer map search simply by typing his name. You'll find Battlefield 3's Noshahr Canals and Wake Island, Counter-Strike's Dust and Aztec, and Call of Duty's Nuketown all carefully recreated right down to the placement of crates and convenient slabs of concrete cover. ShadowZack also released some flyby and progress videos for the maps as they were constructed, which you can watch below.
Far Cry 3 itself has two gigantic jungle island environments. We got lost. We shot animals. We drank weird potions. We wrote a review, so have a look.
Steam's Big Picture mode, a full-screen interface with controller support, has left beta and entered the top-right corner of your client. To use it as intended, I'd have to run an exceptionally long HDMI cable from my bedroom to my TV and use a wireless controller, but I'm starting to think a mid-range PC in a small case might look real nice in my living room. In the meantime, I'll just use it to launch Peggle from bed.
Along with the launch, the Steam store has been overrun with "controller-friendly" deals. I'm distressed by the inclusion of Left 4 Dead 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the list—just because they can be played with a controller doesn't mean they should be—but my typical WASD elitism aside, a sale is a sale. Mark of the Ninja seems more appropriate to me, and I've been enjoying it a ton. At least, I was, until PlanetSide 2 happened, but I'll go back once this match is over. It does end, right?
Good news, everyone! Steam, Amazon, Blizzard, and more have kicked off Consumer Season by booby trapping the web with potent spending bait such as 33% off XCOM: Enemy Unknown, 50% off The Walking Dead, and 66% off StarCraft II. We spent the morning stumbling through the minefield to compile a list of some of the best seasonal discounts, but stay vigilant: more surprise server-busters are bound to go live as we approach the spendiest weekend of the year.
Steam: Like the Summer Sale, the Steam Autumn Sale rotates deals daily, with even more fleeting Flash Sales lasting only 10 to 15 hours, so serious shoppers should check in at least twice a day. As a bonus, you get to follow Steam's adorable doodle story: currently, it seems a turkey is being forced to enter a Felix Baumgartner-inspired high diving competition.
But don't just look at the front page: Steam isn't promoting most of its deals, so scan the full list now and then. Here are some of the better discounts at the time of writing:
33% off XCOM: Enemy Unknown - $33.49 / £20.09 50% off The Walking Dead - $12.49 / £10.49 25% off Borderlands 2 - $44.99 / £22.49 75% off ARMA II: Combined Operations - $17.99 / £14.99 25% off Dishonored - $44.99 / £22.49 50% off Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - $11.24 / £8.99 33% off The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - $40.19 / £23.44 75% off Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - $2.49 / £1.74 75% off Limbo - $2.49 / £1.74 25% off Torchlight II - $14.99 / £11.24 75% off Cave Story+ - $2.49 / £1.74 More Steam Deals
Amazon: (Some deals are region-specific) Amazon hasn't been quite as liberal as Steam with the big games, but it has conjured a storm of Lightning Deals on desktop PCs, components, and peripherals. The scattershot selection below should give you an idea of what to expect.
17% off iBuyPower AM699 Desktop - $579.99 18% off CyberpowerPC GUA890 Desktop - $499.99 39% off Dell S2330MX 23" Ultra-Slim VGA Monitor - $139.99 40% off Samsung Series S24B30BL 23.6-Inch Screen LCD Monitor - $119.99 33% off Corsair Vengeance C70 Mid Tower Case - $97.45 31% off Logitech Optical Gaming Mouse G400 - $34.49 19% off Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse - $64.62
50% off The Walking Dead - $12.49 (Steam code) 80% off Dungeon Defenders - $2.99 10% off Hitman: Absolution - $44.99 75% off all Assassin's Creed games (excluding Assassin's Creed III) More Amazon Deals
Blizzard: Blizzard has joined the party with Diablo III for $40 / £33 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for $20 / £17.
GOG: GOG's current sale nets you five games from a list of 20 for a mere $10 (just over £6). The list is loaded with some great indie adventure and puzzle games, so if you don't already own them, now's a good time to prepare for that "it's cold outside, so I'm going to drink tea (whiskey optional) and not leave my screen for the next forever hours" feeling.
Green Man Gaming: While Green Man doesn't celebrate consumerism with a morbid-sounding Friday, it is offering its usual voucher code. Enter GMG20-1FYLZ-EDG8R when purchasing a PC download for 20% off any game, except those already on sale. At the time of writing, GMG's daily deal (North America only) is Mass Effect 3: N7 Digital Deluxe for $15.99.
Newegg: (US and Puerto Rico only) Newegg has taken this whole "Black Friday" thing awfully far. Not only has it preempted Black Friday with "Black November," it's re-preempting it with a Pre-Black Friday Frenzy sale. How about a 500 GB Western Digital WD Blue hard drive for $50? A Samsung B350 Series LED monitor for $180? Keep in mind that if you visit Newegg from now until December 1st, you should not expect to then purchase other things, like food.
If you find any great deals as the weekend progresses, we'd love it if you shared them in the comments. And if all these sales combined with a poorly-timed lack of funds has you feeling down, remember that buying stuff is only briefly thrilling, while instead you could be continuously thrilled by PlanetSide 2, MechWarrior Online, Tribes: Ascend, or many of the other new free-to-play games we're thankful for this year.
At least, that's probably the sort of nomenclature you'd reap from public servers after applying the skills picked up from Team Dynamic marksman Keven "AZK" Larivière for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's one-hit wonder AWP sniper rifle. As part of Valve's Pro Tip video series, Larivière spills the bullets on the best uses of a sniper's superior oversight, when each of the two zoom levels come most in handy, and how shooting the legs off a careless opponent equates to a high-caliber "tsk-tsk."
The real secret of a successful AWPer, however, probably lies with mastering quickswitch tics in a cacophony of deployment noises, as Larivière's lightspeed weapon swapping both defies and defines efficiency. Its mesmerizing effect probably lulls unaware victims into an easy kill like a rubber-armed spider.
An excitable post on the Counter-Strike blog announces that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be free to everyone from today through until Sunday to celebrate the climax of the Electronic Sports World Cup.
"This weekend? CS:GO is free. Download it. Play it. Love it. It’s free. Who knows, we might even put it on sale if you want to keep playing after this weekend," say Valve. They've recently updated their spectator tools with GOTV, an in-game service that should let you check out the pro action happening in Paris this weekend. If you're suitably inspired, you can start climbing the ranks and taking on CS regulars.
If you've never played Counter-Strike before, you won't have to worry too much about running into crack sharpshooters right away. "Ranked players will only meet Free Weekend players skilled enough to climb into their skill group." In the meantime, Valve have put out another Pro Tip video to give you a head start while the client downloads.
Nailing down the range of possibilities afforded by modding's creativity yawns past the comprehension of us mere mortals. Yet, for a platform housing exploding horses, rug-cutting Combine, and the nesting-doll appeal of Minecraft's game-in-a-game sandbox, the PC keeps its lot of closed environments precipitated by developers and publishers as a means for balanced gameplay or brand protection. In an interview with True PC Gaming, Black Mesa Project Lead Carlos Montero flatly stated such a hindrance for mod growth "doesn't make sense."
"When you think about it, modders are like the ultimate fans," Montero explained. "They love this game so much, they're doing real, difficult, skilled work that you usually pay people for. Not only that, but they can add so much value to your game for the rest of your audience. Yet you still see companies look at this as competition. They sue and shut down these projects and ignore or drop support for people to mod their games. It doesn't make any sense. In my opinion, it’s the product of businesses (or lawyers) looking at this too analytically and short-term without understanding the long-term value it can create for their games."
Although Black Mesa earned the silent blessing of Valve during its lengthy session in the testing chamber, other ambitious projects met a not-so-friendly response from license holders legally stifling efforts. Montero's thoughts—the rest of which you can read in the interview—reflect a sentiment by modder-turned-developer Tripwire Interactive expressing confusion over why companies would stop mods on their games.
For Valve's employees, working at one of the most secretive development studios around constitutes a once-in-a-respawn experience. The leakage of Valve's employee handbook earlier this year colorfully outlined a flat management structure culturing a counterintuitive emphasis on peer-driven independence. Speaking to Seattle Interactive Conference attendees yesterday (as reported by GeekWire), Valve Product Designer Greg Coomer said the same free-form philosophy governing the company's work ethic also factors into firing someone.
"I wish that we had covered firing in the employee handbook," Coomer said. "It was one of the things that we left out. We tried writing it, but we didn't feel like we were capturing how Valve thinks about (firing) in a well enough way. It was almost a wording problem. We couldn't get it done in the time that we wouldn't to finish the handbook. The short answer of how we handle terminations, really, is the same as we approach all other decisions at the company: It's a peer-driven process.
"If it turns out that we made a bad hiring decision, or that somebody is just not working out, there’s a method we use to get the people who are involved in the same room and to walk through the decision about what should really happen as a result of this person not functioning very well. Some of the details are kind of boring, but the main answer is that it's peer-driven, just like we evaluate each other as peers.”
I wonder what a caricaturized "Termination and You" chapter in the handbook would look like—probably the Pyro immolating an office chair or something. Still, Coomer attributed Valve's higher rate of self-fulfillment to the significant flexibility it bestows upon its workers, saying, “There are attributes that other companies have quoted about themselves that they allow their (employees) to spend some fraction of their time actually deciding on their own what to work on, but at Valve that percentage of your time is 100 percent. Every single person is responsible for deciding what they do every day."
The GO TV client for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will launch before the Electronic Sports World Cup finals kick off on November 1. That's according to a tweet from the official CS:GO twitter feed spotted by PCGamesN. "Everyone will have a chance to watch the show," say Valve. They've posted a screenshot of GO TV in action, which includes some tactical squiggles over a map, suggesting that casters will have the terrible power to draw anything they like live on the internet.
The ESWC is set to conclude next week during the Paris Games Week. Find out more about the tournament on the ESWC site, and grab the full schedule here.