PC Gamer

I really miss The Witcher 3. It's one of those rare games that I kinda want to live inside. I don't really mind that rabid wolves and drowners roam around every corner. It's kinda like that here in Sydney, too. So it comes as welcome news that CD Projekt RED is drawing close to completing the long-awaited Heart of Stone expansion, which is due in October. According to DualShockers, the studio's Travis Currit says "it's almost ready".

That little tidbit was captured at PAX, which is happening in Seattle right now. During another panel, senior writer Jakub Szamalek mentioned that there is "some good news for Gwent players coming up". That presumably doesn't include a much-asked-for standalone edition of the game, as when asked about that Szamalek said he'd talk to his colleagues about it. No, this "good news" about Gwent must mean something else. 

Whatever the case, the recently released NG+ DLC is definitely not the last word on Geralt, especially since CD Projekt intends to support the game well into 2016, after which they'll hopefully broach the topic of Cyberpunk 2077.

Cheers, IGN.

PC Gamer

Logitech has two new headsets on show at PAX Prime, the wired Artemis Spectrum G633 and the wireless G933, both of which feature its new 'Pro-G' audio drivers, which the company claims offer "audiophile-like performance." In the video above, I talk with Doug Sharp, Logitech's global product marketing manager of gaming audio (whew), about that claim and the headsets' other features, which Wes also wrote about in detail a few days ago.

Only a small number of the new sets are on sale at PAX, but they'll releasing wide soon. The wired G633 launches in mid-to-late September for $150, and the wireless G933 is out in October for $200.

The side panels can be removed—one side stores the dongle, and the other houses the rechargeable battery.

PC Gamer

It's a huge week for new releases, but if you're still sinking hours into Battlefield 4 then you'll be pleased to hear that the free Night Operations DLC will start rolling out on September 1. That's Tuesday. The Night Operations pack brings a new version of the Zavod map designed to compliment "stealthy and tactical gameplay".

The Summer Patch is also rolling out September 1. For more on the changes that will bring, check out the video below. Then at the bottom there's a cinematic trailer for the Night Operations DLC, if things like that take your fancy.

PC Gamer

One of the gems at PAX this year is Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, Fatshark's melee fantasy take on Left 4 Dead's co-op survival.  Above, we talk with line producer Liam O'Neill about melee maneuvering, loot, and the Warhammer universe. Within the interview is video we shot of us playing the game here at PAX, which included a look at some levels of Vermintide that were only shown to PC Gamer.

You can find all of our coverage from PAX Prime 2015 right here.

PC Gamer

Pillars of Eternity certainly evokes feelings of a simpler time in gaming, but the process of developing Obsidian's first crowdfunded game was anything but simple. At PAX Prime this weekend in Seattle, several of the lead developers of Pillars of Eternity held a panel to discuss some of the problems they faced and lessons they learned, along with a hearty dose of funny stories. But the underlying current throughout the panel was that, despite modelling itself after role-playing games from a much older era, Pillars of Eternity presented a surprising amount of unique challenges that the independent studio had to conquer.

"I don't think it was worthwhile developing for Linux," Brandon Adler, lead producer said in response to questions the team had gathered from Twitter before the show. "They are a very, very small portion of our active user base—I think around one and a half percent of our users were Linux."

One of the initial promises the team had made during their Kickstarter campaign was to bring Pillars of Eternity to both Mac and Linux platforms, but, looking back, Adler felt like the challenges involved were simply not worth the return that the studio received.

"Prior to doing Pillars, every time we worked on a game it was always something that belonged to someone else."

"It wasn't a huge drain on us," he added, "but there were a lot of problems." "Getting it up and running on Linux wasn't that bad," Adam Brennecke, the lead programmer for Pillars of Eternity added. "There's a lot of other logistical problems."

Brennecke went through a surprisingly long list of issues that, even for a veteran studio like Obsidian, proved to make Linux a less and less desirable platform to create games for. Outside of actually learning to develop for Mac and Linux, something that Obsidian had to learn as they went along, there were much more daunting challenges, with fixing bugs being one of the most arduous. Even though Pillars of Eternity was developed using the Unity engine, which can build games on multiple platforms, the process involved just didn't seem worth it in hindsight.

"Overall, if we had to do that one again, we would think a little bit harder about it," Adler joked.

But even outside of the stresses of developing for operating systems as native to PCs as Linux, the team faced some interesting challenges in bringing their vision for a golden age role-playing game to life.

One of the more painful challenges involved the work that went into building the beautifully detailed world of Pillars of Eternity. Brennecke said that each of the hundred or more backgrounds in Pillars of Eternity were rendered using Maya, a 3D modelling program.

"It's not unlike a CG movie where you press render and you have to wait several hours before you get the finished product," Brennecke explained. "But when we were in pre-production, a lot of our areas took about 40 hours to render one scene."

Brennecke went on to say that, when dealing with the hundreds of areas they had in the game, the time required to render each one became exorbitantly time consuming, especially when each scene could need to be rendered several times before finally reaching a finished state.

But while designing Pillars of Eternity was no easy feat, it was evident that the team is extremely hungry to jump back into process. Last Tuesday, the first part of the White March expansion was released, and Obsidian is already working away on part two. Though they didn't have much new information to share, they did show off some very rough concept art detailing a new area they were working on.

Eventually, as they set their sights further into the future, the obvious question of a sequel was brought up. "We're very interested in a sequel," Brennecke said. "We own something now and that is huge for us. For an indie developer, to have your own thing—it's fantastic. We can make a sequel and we don't even have to go to a publisher; we hold all the cards now."

As the panel wound to a close, Sawyer had some thoughts that made it evident that, for Obsidian, Pillars of Eternity was more than just a crowdfunding success story but a realization that the studio was no longer chained to the whims of the licensed properties that they traditionally developed for.

"I think it's changed people's ideas inside the studio about what types of games we can make," Sawyer said. "Prior to doing Pillars [of Eternity], every time we worked on a game it was always something that belonged to someone else because publishers do not want you to retain the rights to those things, so it's also changed our internal thought processes about the sorts of games that we can work on."

You can find all of our coverage from PAX Prime 2015 right here.

PC Gamer

Roguelikes are a well-established part of the PC gaming landscape, with procedural gameplay, permadeath, and an eye-watering level of difficulty all key elements of the genre s DNA. But what happens when you take those ideas and implement them in a six degree of freedom (or 6DoF ) shooter?

Answer: You get Sublevel Zero, which I had a chance to check out at PAX. I also talked with Luke Thompson, co-founder and lead programmer at Sigtrap, about how procedural gameplay will keep bringing players coming back, and the challenges of implementing procedural design in a 6DoF game.

For those who never had a chance to play Descent—the forefather of 6DoF—this style of game may not be instantly familiar. In Sublevel Zero you pilot a ship from a first-person perspective, exploring an intricate, almost-claustrophobic complex, finding keys and battling enemies in search of a reactor to destroy at the level s end. But this is no trad ship sim—you can move up, down, left, right and backwards just as easily as you can thrust forwards. Think of it like controlling a helicopter with benefits.

There s a few key difficulties for procedural generation in this kind of game, Thompson explained after my first playthrough. It s tricky when you take something from two dimensions to three, and when I say three dimensions I don t just mean like a first person-shooter. I mean something where the Z-axis is exactly as important as the X and Y-axis.

One of the things we do as levels go on, and you re further into the campaign, is the up-and-down gameplay increases. The map will tend to be flatter earlier on, to give you more of a chance to get used to the controls, then get more complex as your understanding increases. Over time you really do develop a spatial awareness.

Which is something I can attest to even after playing and dying a handful of times. The controls—which enabled me to twitchily move around any direction, while still maintaining the sense of weight and momentum you d expect from piloting a large vessel—came easily by the time I was on my second playthrough. More importantly, my awareness of where I was in relation to everything around me had also drastically improved.

Thompson explained how the procedural systems generate levels: We ve got this concept of the critical path [that] goes from the beginning of the level to its end, and there s always going to be side paths built around [this main path]. On the critical path enemy difficulty increases linearly, but outside it the system will generate enemies that are more difficult, to guard more powerful unlockable weapons and crafting items than those you ll find on the main path.

I wasn t exactly sure when I was on the critical path versus when I d strayed off the beaten track, but I did find a variety of different weapons and items for crafting, from missiles large and small, to machine guns, and various laser rifles, each with their own ammunition and associated tactics. Though I wasn t able to craft a weapon from the items I had found during the demo, you ll need to find weapon components, with different stats, and spend a found resource called nanites to combine them.

My expanding arsenal helped when I started running out of ammo for my initial guns, and was forced to switch up loadouts on the fly. Thompson said that they wanted to implement ammunition scarcity, both to ensure players kept trying new weapons, as well as to make sure the tension was ratcheted up.

It works. By the end of my demo I was frantically dodging and weaving through the gunfire and charging melee attacks from the various enemy types, forcing myself to quickly change weapons and strategies as my health and ammo counters rapidly approached zero. Health powerups did exist, but they were sparse.

There will be dozens of guns available in Sublevel Zero, all of which will be available to find and craft, through subsequent playthroughs, once they re initially unlocked. The real trick in a roguelike, according to Thompson, is making sure that these unlockable weapons aren t just more powerful than those you start with, but rather come with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Since every death starts the player back at the beginning, Thompson believes that the knowledge of having unlocked these special weapons, and the desire to try out the new approaches they enable, will keep players returning.

Sublevel Zero is currently slated for an October release, and feels like it ll finally scratch that Descent itch many of us have suffered with for decades now. The demo was certainly a challenge, and I never managed to find the reactor I was looking for, but I can t wait to dive back in and try again.

PC Gamer

Cities: Skyline's first expansion, After Dark, is out next month on September 24. At PAX Prime this weekend, we had a chance to talk to Cities' lead designer, Karoliina Korppoo, about the expansion and how the flourishing modding scene provides ideas for official content. Check it out above.

PC Gamer

Police in the UK have arrested six teenagers for allegedly employing the 'Lizard Stresser' against at least three major corporate websites. As the name implies, the service, which uses a network of infected computers to launch DDoS attacks, was created by the notorious collective that calls itself the Lizard Squad.

Bloomberg reports that the six, all males aged 15 to 18, were not actually members of Lizard Squad, but allegedly made use of the service to cause grief. The UK's National Crime Agency did not say which companies were targeted by the attacks, which occurred between August 24 and 27, nor how successful they were, but according to Bloomberg an online database indicates that the lads directed their efforts toward Amazon, Sony, and Microsoft.

By paying a comparatively small fee, tools like Lizard Stresser can cripple businesses financially and deprive people of access to important information and public services," Tony Adams, head of investigations at the NCA s cybercrime unit, told the publication.

Lizard Squad came to prominence last year following a series of attacks against sites and services including League of Legends, Battle.net, and Sony Online Entertainment. One of its members, 17-year-old Julius Kivimaki, was arrested last for his role in similar attacks, and is accused of using a bomb threat to divert a plane carrying John Smedley, then CEO of Sony Online Entertainment. Smedley's less-than-happy reaction to news that Kivimaki would not face jail time for his crimes sparked a new round of DDoS attacks targeting SOE's successor company, Daybreak Game Company.

PC Gamer

The fate of the first manned mission to Mars was sealed with a six-sided die. Tharsis is one of the most interesting games at PAX, an intersection of boardgames, FTL-style presentation, a mostly-realistic representation of space travel, and roguelike-like permadeath. And cannibalism, or at least the possibility of it.

Responsible for a small crew, you have to direct astronauts to complete repairs and tasks across different modules of the spacecraft (each of which provide different bonuses), all while keeping them alive, fed, and sane. Tharsis plays out like a digital board game, with dice spent each round to fix stuff on the ship or complete research, and how you manage the risk of spending those dice (or re-rolling them to get a better result) determines the fate of your tiny astronauts, and which of Tharsis' different endings you'll arrive at.

You can find all of our coverage from PAX Prime 2015 right here.

PC Gamer

Mirror mirror on the wall, do you have any details for King's Quest's second chapter at all? Yes, yes it does, as they've just been revealed at PAX Prime by developer The Odd Gentlemen. In Chapter 2, AKA *groan* 'Rubble Without a Cause', a newly crowned King Graham will need to deal with some pesky goblins, who have only gone and kidnapped everyone in Daventry.

While the first chapter was inspired by King's Quest 1 and 2, this next part will take more cues from KQ3, The Odd Gentlemen stated during their PAX Panel. "Those games were always changing and evolving," Polygon quotes. "We want to play with that."

Here's an incredibly short teaser trailer that features some goblins scampering after Graham against a black background. There, now you don't need to watch it.

Rubble Without a Cause will be out before the end of the year. Richard Cobbett reckoned the first part was "a comfortable adventure on a noble path, but wearing spurs of a squire instead of the crown of a king".


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