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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Pillars of Eternity soundtrack previewed in music release">Pillars of Eternity 4

A brilliant but troubled philosopher once said, "Without music, life would be a mistake." In gaming, music is often the only familiar companion on a journey to strange places and new worlds. With that in mind, it's surely a good omen that developer Obsidian has given us a chance to preview the soundscape being written for its upcoming RPG, Pillars of Eternity.

Pillars of Eternity audio director and composer Justin Bell has detailed in a new post some of his thoughts regarding the writing process for the game's soundtrack:

"While we are following in the footsteps of the Infinity Engine soundtracks in terms of style and implementation, we have decided to tweak that formula a bit," Bell writes. "Most of the in-game tracks for the Baldur s Gate and Icewind Dale games are between 1-2 minutes in length, and in some cases those tracks loop immediately."

But there's a risk to this type of looping, which Bell goes on to discuss:

"We call this 'listener fatigue,' and from a usability perspective, it can negatively affect the way a gamer will feel about a game," he writes. "It s a psychological effect; the fact that the music is short and repetitious can make long playthroughs tedious. On the flip side, a benefit to having short loops is that we can write more unique pieces of music, which will by nature increase variety throughout the game. Approaching it this way would allow us to make specific areas feel special because they will have unique music."

Ultimately, Bell concludes in his post that PoE will balance the looping effect between areas of the game that ask players to spend different amounts of time in them, presumably to combat the fatigue he is referring to. And since we heard way back in 2012 that Bell's favorite game soundtrack of all time was The Elder Scolls III: Morrowind, I feel I can safely say we are in good hands in terms of the RPG's sound design. Obsidian's recent release of the sample posted above only confirms this for me. In any case, be sure to take a listen and check out Bell's complete post for his breakdown on audio design for PoE and his own life as a game composer.

PoE has also recently partnered with publisher Paradox Interactive, which means the game and its music is set to "absolutely ship this year."

Hat tip, Joystiq.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to MechWarrior Online contest puts free BattleMech up for grabs this weekend">MWOThunderbolt

One good way to get pilots into the hot seat of a new 'Mech is to let them fight for it. This weekend MechWarrior Online is giving players a clear path to ownership of a hulking and asymmetrical Thunderbolt variant win five matches and the machine is yours.

The contest, part of MWO's on-going "challenge" system, began this morning and runs through 10 a.m. PDT Tuesday. It's just the type of event developer Piranha Games had pointed to with its overhaul of MWO's user interface earlier this year. Beyond that, the Thunderbolt-9S challenge is also an early-access look at some of the new 'Mechs set to be released into the wild with this Tuesday's regular patch. The image above is concept art of a similar Thunderbolt 'Mech.

Whether you're an infrequent player or a hard-bitten veteran, this challenge is a massive shortcut to a new BattleMech that would normally require many hours of successful gameplay in order to purchase outright using MWO's in-game currency, C-Bills. Five match wins is a good deal. Since every fighting machine in the game is different, a fresh 'Mech means additional loadouts, new obstacles to overcome, and a different experience in-game.

Although MWO has had a third-person camera for a while now, the cockpit is where players spend most of their time. For those curious about the sight lines and layout of a Thunderbolt pilot's workstation, I grabbed an image from another variant which your can see below.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Skyrim mod Skywind recreates Morrowind, will include revamped crafting and voice acting">Skywind

Skywind, the pleasing portmanteau of Skyrim and Morrowind, continues to look really, really good. Remaking Morrowind in Skyrim s engine is a mammoth task, and a new development video breaks down the many ways that a legion of volunteer modders, voice actors, and artists are bringing the Elder Scrolls classic into the modern age.

It s a lengthy video, but here are some highlights. A full crafting system is coming to Morrowind for the first time. Recipes for crafting will be found inside the game world in the form of books. Instead of unlocking a perk and instantly learning how to make a new suit of armor, you ll have to buy/borrow/steal a schematic from a working smith. And hey! Smiths in Skywind hold the red-hot metal the right way around now. Long live modding.

Voice acting is also being revamped, with volunteer writers and voice actors creating new, more natural dialog. Composers are pumping out new music, and each region in Skywind will have its own calling-card melody.

Skywind is as impressive as it is ambitious, so if you ve got some skill and some free time, head to The Elder Scrolls Renewal Project to volunteer to help out.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to H1Z1 survivalists can vote to create custom servers">H1Z1_exclusive_01_mb

H1Z1 wants to give us a more personal apocalypse. The upcoming zombie MMO will let players vote to establish and join custom servers, according to a Reddit post from Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley. The system will revolve around a token system the developer hopes will let it gauge the interest and commitment of the free-to-play game's player base before it ramps up support for a specific custom server.

"The idea is simple - If a community of our players wants to host a server with a specific theme or ruleset then we're going to do our best to give it to them," Smedley writes. "layers will receive a pledge token for free if they've played more than 5 hours. This pledge token can be used to cast a vote for a server. But use it wisely. You only get one free one per year. Make sure it's a community you believe in and that has a good chance to succeed because we're going to set the bar such that the community can sustain an MMO server."

While the first token will be free, SOE plans to put a second token up for sale, with each player allowed a maximum of two server votes per year, according to Smedley. Happily, he writes that if the server a player voted for with a real-money token succeeds and is created, the value of the token will be refunded in the form of in-game Station Cash. In addition, each pledge token includes "a wearable that's going to look sweet," according to the SOE president.

"Why refund it if it succeeds?" Smedley writes. "Simple - we really want to give you the kind of servers you want. We're going to set that bar high. If it succeeds, you've built a community of fellow players you want and as our customers we want to give you that. But we also need some indication of reality in order to make this work."

This proposal seems to fit nicely into what we heard about H1Z1 during its announcement, in that monetization won't impact the core gameplay surrounding survival, but will instead be restricted to features on the margins of the game's survival systems, such as wearable items. Although Smedley writes that the rulesets and features of each custom server could vary widely depending on specific interests, the developer will remain as the server admin.

Thanks, CVG.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Cortex Command gets Steam Workshop, renewed development commitment in update">cortex command

Cortex Command is one of those indie games that s in perpetual development. Data Realms founder Daniel Tabar released version 1.0 before Early Access was a thing. We reviewed it poorly, and Tabar admits that the game wasn t really ready to launch. The nice thing is that he and his team never stopped taking feedback from the community and improving it, as the big build 30 update makes clear.

Cortex Command, if you ve never heard of it, is a 2D side-scrolling action game with a strategic twist. You play as the brain of an underground base and can jump into and control different units. You gather resources, build new units, arm them, and order them to take out an enemy base.

The most important part of build 30 is that Cortex Command now works with Steam Workshop, meaning its active modding community is now easy to take advantage of. The other big additions are Steam Achievements and Squad Control, which allows you to move and fire with several units at once.

If you re already a dedicated Cortex Commander you probably want to take a look at the detailed change log, and if you never heard of it, Tabar s build 30 video is a good intro to the game and its history.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Square Enix: DRM is “essential for the foreseeable future”">Deus Ex: Human Revolution

In a new interview, an executive at Square Enix has doubled-down on the company s DRM policy. The executive claims that DRM protects profits at the end of the day, and that s the most important thing to any development studio, big or small.

The primary benefit to us is the same as with any business: profit, Adam Sullivan, the senior manager of business and legal affairs at Square Enix, told TorrentFreak. We have a well-known reputation for being very protective of our IPs, which does deter many would-be pirates. When asked if DRM actually works, he responded, ffectiveness is notoriously difficult to measure in short, we rely on the data available to us through our sales team and various vendors, along with consumer feedback.

When asked if DRM is here to stay, Sullivan said, "This depends on your definition of DRM, but generally yes I think DRM will be essential for the foreseeable future.

For all of the many strides being made in the DRM conversation, it s a bit depressing when a company stands up and makes the same arguments we ve been hearing for years decades, even. Server authentication through reliable networks like Steam have taken some of the sting out of modern DRM, but even so there have been more than a few recent disasters. In the meantime, companies who foster goodwill with their player-bases and offer DRM-free alternatives are becoming a larger part of the discussion and thank goodness for that.

To read the full interview with Sullivan, head over to TorrentFreak.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Updated: The Elder Scrolls Online item duplication bug forces Zenimax to shut down guild banks">The Elder Scrolls Online economy right now

An economy-crippling bug caused The Elder Scrolls Online to disable its Guild Banks on North American and European servers early Friday. Developer Zenimax has already put together a fix in the latest patch, but some users are complaining that they ve been trying to warn developers about the problem for weeks.

The item duplicating bug became widely known after a thread about the problem hit the front page of Reddit. In that thread, redditor Mistress-Rarity writes that the bug is so simple, in fact, that it is possible to do it by pure accident. The game servers have been filled with layers in full legendary gear, billions of gold (From duping and selling them to vendors over and over), and so much more.

A few videos showing how to duplicate items have been uploaded to YouTube, though the video s instructions can no longer be put to use since the Guild Banks were suspended. One such video is below:

Bugs that damage the fragile in-game economy are nothing new. More troubling, though, are the many users commenting that the bug has been widely known since before the game launched three weeks ago. A deleted ESO forum thread (cached here) contains users posting that they first heard about the bug as early as this spring s beta test weekends or even last fall. Users claim to have reported the bug to Zenimax numerous times throughout development.

The ramifications for the in-game economy are pretty dire. If item duplication has been going on for this long, then those illegal items have already been used, traded, and sold throughout the economy. Trying to ban users might be hard if the bug is easy to do accidentally, and rolling back servers will result in a lot of players losing their hard-earned progress thanks to a few cheaters.

We ve reached out to Zenimax Online for comment, and we ll report back when we have an update.

Update: A PR representative at Zenimax told PC Gamer, "Yesterday, we identified an item duping bug in ESO that some players chose to exploit. We acted quickly, and have since fixed the issue. We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to abusing exploitable bugs, and those who were found doing so will have their game account permanently banned."
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Take On Mars: Expedition One launches, ready to put humans on the Red Planet">tkom_expeditionone_update1_03 (1)

You will never step foot on Mars. Let that slightly depressing feeling that you were born in the wrong time sink in. Now cheer up and take comfort that you at least have the technology to play pretend in a videogame. Bohemia Interactive has released the first portion of its manned mission content for Take On Mars for current Early Access players.

Titled Expedition One, the update allows you to explore the Red Planet and establish a self-sufficient human habitat. This first portion give you access to a manned science buggy featuring an interactive 3D interface, and will ask you to explore the Cydonia Mensae location which spans 8x8 km. You ll also be able to use a 3D printer to construct various parts that can be put together to build a Habitat Construction System, which you then use to form other buildings and installations.

Take On Mars is still in Steam Early Access and costs $18/ 12 The next portion of Expedition One will release in May 2014, and will allow you to mess around with resource extraction, habitat pressurization, and your marsonaut vitals.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Brutal Doom update v20 to add ragdoll physics, more brutality">Brutal-Doom

I didn t think it was possible for Doom to get any better, but mods make everything better. The absurdly violent Brutal Doom mod is doing a great job of keeping Doom just as shocking and visceral of an experience as it was when it first came out 20 years ago, and the newest version will add ragdoll physics because when I shotgun an Imp, I wanna see it tumble.

The Brutal Doom mod, which you may have seen us squee about before, adds new effects, animations, way too much blood, and other things that heighten the experience. v20, as you can see in the video above, makes each shotgun blast even more satisfying by knocking the enemy back an unreasonable distance. To me it looks like the right amount of ridiculous, but creator Sergeant_Mark_IV said he s going to tone it down a notch.

I have been playing a lot of Killing Floor lately and noticed how small zeds are sent rolling on the floor when killed by shotguns at close range, I love this effect, then I thought about making something similar on Brutal Doom, he said. Of course it will not send almost every enemy flying away like in the video. I will reduce the minimum range from 300 to 200 units. I mean, the shotgun will only send flying enemies that are VERY close to the player, and shooting on the legs or heads still causes amputations.

When it comes out, v20 should also make the mod run smoother, make blood splatters and ejected magazine last longer, and other nifty things. It seems like Facebook is the best place to keep up with it, and you can download it for free from Moddb.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Tropico 5 pre-orders now available for swag-filled physical, discounted digital versions">Tropico-5

You know that a publisher has faith in its game when it starts offering special editions with silly bonuses. You may think of the Tropico games as a niche PC series, but this recently announced Tropico 5 Limited Special Edition argues otherwise. It s not quite as silly as, for example, Wolfenstein: The New Order Panzerhund Edition that includes everything but the actual game, but it tries.

If you pre-order a physical copy of The Tropico 5 Limited Special Edition you ll get a snazzy avatar costume for your El Presidente. Kalypso neglected to mention any further details about it, so for now we ll have to let our imaginations run wild with the snazzy adjective. The actually substantive addition here is another map for the game s sandbox mode called Bayo del Olfato ( Bay of Smell? The Smelly Bay? ). Finally, it wouldn t be a special edition without some physical swag, so it also includes an authentic Tropico passport.

If you re going digital, you can pre-purchase the game from Steam with a 10 percent discount, which will also get you the Businessman avatar custom and the Isla de Vapor sandbox map.

If getting the best deal right now is all you care about, you can get Tropico 5 from the Kalypso Launcher for a 15 percent discount, but keep in mind it won t have any Steamworks features. All of the versions will be available on the game's release date, May 23.


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