PC Gamer
Star Wars The Old Republic best games

BioWare has announced a free to play option for Star Wars: The Old Republic coming some time this fall. A subscription option will remain available, while the F2P option will allow players to take any class all the way to the current cap of level 50 "with some restrictions."

UPDATE: BioWare has posted a comprehensive FAQ and a chart comparing Free and Subscription players on the official site.

The full press release states: "BioWare announced today that it will be expanding the story-driven, massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic by adding a new Free-to-Play option this fall. This option will give players access to each of the eight iconic Star Wars character class storylines, all the way up to level 50, with certain restrictions*. Unlimited game access, including new higher-level game content and new features, will be made available through individual purchases or through a subscription option."

“Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic™ universe,” said Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin.

Jeff Hickman, Executive Producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic added, “Since launch, we’ve been listening to feedback from our fans and adding new content and refining The Old Republic at a breakneck pace. We believe we are in a position to help improve the service even more, not only by continuing to add new content, but also by expanding the game to many more Star Wars fans, increasing the populations on worlds and the vibrancy of the community.”

Starting this fall, there will be two different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic:

Subscription – A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable in-game items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.

Free-To-Play – The first 50 levels will be free to play, with restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be “unlocked” with Cartel Coins.

As the first step towards adding the new Free-to-Play option this fall, Star Wars: The Old Republic will go on sale in August for $14.99 USD, including one-month of free subscription."

A new currency called Cartel Coins are being added that will be purchasable with real money. Players will earn an allowance of these coins for every month they have subscribed to the game prior to the f2p launch. We are unaware whether this allowance will continue for subscribers after the change-over.

The three examples of what you can spend these coins on, so far, are all cosmetic: a Kowakian Monkey Lizard pet, a Sith throne emote, and the mask of Darth Nihilus from Knights of the Old Republic II.

We know that SWTOR has lost almost 25 percent of its subscribers since January, but remains among the top MMOs in terms of subscription numbers. Does this spell the end of the subscription-only model?
PC Gamer
warface_featured


My warface is a Max Payne-style smirk with a hint of Nicolas Cage crazy-eyes. Crytek's Warface, however, is a CryEngine 3-based free-to-play war shooter. The game, which is curiously not called "WarCry," is currently live in Russia, and we've been hearing for a while that it'll come our way soon -- probably before the end of the year.

Browsing the English website tells me that Warface is about class-based war guys doing war stuff in PvE and PvP matches, sometimes involving a mechanized Kool-Aid Man (see trailer). It lights up the part of my brain that deals with using rusted car shells for cover (the Call of Duty lobe), but that's a surface-level impression. I decided to go deeper, so I went to Russia. Well, not really, but I went to a Russian website to download Warface and try it for myself -- ping-be-damned -- and you can too.

Register and download
 
The first step is to register for an account at wf.mail.ru and download the client. This part is pretty intuitive: all you need to enter is an e-mail address, password, nickname, and captcha. There's always Google Translate, if needed (though the registration process won't work while the site is in a frame).



Once the client is downloaded, it does its thing with minimal guess-clicking. For me, the game downloaded at a reasonable 350Kb/sec.



Name your soldier
 
The first time I launched Warface it prompted me to name my soldier. This was the first hurdle: I could only enter numbers with my English keyboard layout, and it didn't want to accept "1230001010" as an alias (nor would it take "80085"). No problem: in Windows' Control Panel, under Region and Language > Keyboards and Languages, add Russian as an input language. Now you can кириллица all day!



Change your default language to Russian and launch Warface. I commonly use "Bender" as an alias, and through some trial and error, I typed out "клещи," which translates to "mite, tick, pliers, pincers, etc." Eh, close enough. Once you've done that, you can disable Russian input, or at least set English as the default again.

Adjust the settings
 
Once you're in, you'll be prompted to start the tutorial. I accepted (the left option is Accept), and succeeded with some trial-and-error. I noticed an annoying flicker in the backdrop, so I opened the options (the gear icon) and checked the graphics settings (Графика). I discovered that "Полноэкранный режим" means "full-screen mode," and disabling it turns off vsync, removing the flicker. I later translated the menu and found that vsync is the third option, so that's the one you want to go after if you have problems (unless you want to play windowed, either works).



If you want to adjust the graphics quality, it's under "Качество." I selected "Высокое" (High) -- the quality diminishes from left to right.

Playing Team Deathmatch
 
Every PvE lobby I entered was disbanded -- I guess no one liked the look of my ping, or maybe they don't often play with ticks -- but it was easy to get into a PvP match. The server browser is just like every other you've seen, and despite the angry red color of my connection bars, everything ran smoothly.

The flashes of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare I saw in the trailers weren't wrong -- there are similarities -- but I think CoD's hugeness makes it easy to over-compare any modern or near future-themed war shooter. Warface has a little Counter-Strike in it, too, and definitely some Crysis 2 (the slide maneuver is an obvious carryover).

The maps I played were very small corridor mazes, so expect to make contact around the first or second corner after spawning, sometimes sooner. The tight spaces mean that matches never languish, but can cause an abundance of grenade spam, as illustrated by a TDM round I captured:



Playing Free-for-all DM
 
The only other PvP mode I played is free-for-all. I spawned in a stream running through an evergreen forest, which suggested that this was a larger map. There were fewer squared-off corridors, but it wasn't large -- every corner I sprinted around put me in someone's line of sight.

Of course, because I foolishly ignored the scoreboard, I didn't realize this was a free-for-all match until after I spent a minute pathetically searching for my team. When I determined that I was on my own, I slowed down and succeeded by creeping around and avoiding engagements I couldn't win:



How will Warface fare out west?
 
In the face of colorful F2P shooters like Tribes: Ascend, Team Fortress 2, Super Monday Night Combat, and PlanetSide 2, it's easy to label Warface "generic." I can point out that its character animations are fantastic, or that its hitboxes seem flawless, but it lacks a distinct hook. It looks like other war shooters, and so it will be judged alongside them.

I was pleased to find, however, that I can still enjoy a straightforward assault rifle vs. SMG vs. sniper rifle vs. shotgun dynamic, even if it's among the corrugated shipping containers I've already spent so much time lurking behind. There are a lot of people playing Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer every day (34,150 on Steam at the time of writing), and Warface is an alternative with fewer power chords and less kill streak clutter. It has its own ideas, too, such as a teamwork lift maneuver that requires players to work together, and there's the co-op PvE I haven't played yet.

If you're more patient than I am, you can sign up for the English closed beta at the official site. On the way, you'll run into one thing that has to change if Crytek and Trion want to convince anyone: the phrase "AAA4Free social FPS service." Yuck.
PC Gamer
PC-Gamer-UK-issue-243 thumb


WARSOME! Sorry about that. Seriously though, PC Gamer issue 243 is an absolute monster. Some might say it's WARSOME. Sorry.

We've got the scoop on the latest from creators of World of Tanks. It's packed with planes and ratatatatatat. And it'll interact with Wargaming.net's last game in intriguing ways. It's WARSOME, basically. As are our remarkably generous free gifts: access to the World of Warplanes beta along with free tanks, gold, and and premium access for the first game.

Then there's our exclusive Borderlands story. We like guns as much as the next man. And seeing as we work in an office of PC gamers, the next man LOVES guns. Borderlands 2 is set to revamp the previous game's narrative shortcomings and provide a better experience for PC gamers. We approve and we've played a lot of it. Read all about it etc.!

Starcraft II. Whether you're a player, spectator or hater it's redefining e-sports one patch at a time. Rich travelled to the MLG Spring Championship and talked to the pros. Them he wrote a bundle of wonderful words all about them. They're in the mag too.

You want more? How about ARMA 3, Tomb Raider, Carrier Command, Dishonored, Planetside 2, DOTA 2, Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Need for Speed: Most Wanted previews?

Then there's what publishers describe as the "bread and butter" of games journalism: reviews. The Secret World, Krater, Ys: Origin, Sought, Tiny & Big, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Magic the Gathering 2012, Penny Arcade On the Rain-Slick Precipice 2, SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny, Spec Ops: The Line, Lego Batman 2: Quantum Conundrum, Dungeonbowl, Out of the Park Baseball 13, Battlefield 3: Close Quarters, Adventures of Shuggy, The Walking Dead Episode 2, Agricultural Simulator: Historical Farming and The Journey Down are all rated.

Of course, all regulars are present and correct too. Bask in the celebration of PC gaming goodness.

Issue 243 will be available in shops tomorrow. You can also buy it online, download it via Zinio or check out the Apple Newsstand edition. And if you're the classy type who would rather the issue to arrive at your door early with exclusive covers, subscribe!
PC Gamer
gmg


You'd better hurry though. The offer is only available for a few hours at Green Man Gaming, and copies are probably flying off virtual shelves as quickly as if they had little digital wings and also their bottoms were on fire. Don't forget, Guild Wars 2 has no subscription fee, so if you're interested and in the UK, this looks like a pretty good deal - especially compared to the official ArenaNet prices.

All gone now, sorry!

(Disclaimer: The guy above is not the actual Green Man. Do not give him your money.)
PC Gamer
stanley


Once upon a time, and not very far away, there was an excellent Source mod called The Stanley Parable. The Stanley Parable did not seek much from life. It merely hoped to entertain with a little meta-commentary on the nature of gaming, and the occasional goreless death. Fans came from far and wide to savour its inherent pointlessness, and bask in the joy of the Narrator, whose dulcet tones made every moment of the experience as delightful and sinister as being drowned in strawberry jam, while also being a kitten, and the reincarnation of Hitler for reasons, I feel, hardly need explaining.

And then the Narrator got a letter telling him his game sucked...



If you've yet to play The Stanley Parable (and please, don't give away the gimmick/twist in a comment), it's totally worth doing - and replaying a couple of times. You can download it free from here, and because it just uses Source, it runs without needing to be plugged into a specific game. It's fun, funny, and you should check it out before anyone spoils it for you. I reckon you have 10 seconds.

A little like Dear Esther, there's also a standalone commercial version on the way, The Stanley Parable HD Remix, though with a release date of "some time between now and when it's released", you probably shouldn't hold your breath for it unless you specifically want to give your loved ones a blue surprise they'll never forget. Not recommended. Not when it's so easy to just fill a Smurf with maggots.
PC Gamer
beth


That's what blogger and former 1C marketing guy Sergey Galyonkin claims in this post (A Google Translate version is here) - though Bethesda has yet to comment. If true though, it wouldn't be the first time it took over a popular post-apocalyptic series, and there's definitely a gap to slide into - the original team has long since set up a new company and moved onto a new game called Survarium.

This story first kicked around back in April, with former GSC studio head and rights owner Sergei Grigorovich flat-out denying that Bethesda had bought the rights to the series. Licensed is a different word though, easily allowing for a Bethesda developed STALKER 2, without ruling out more permanent collaboration or full-on later acquisition if things seem to be going well.

Promising? Devastating? More on the story it happens, but where do you stand on the basic idea? Remember, Bethesda isn't just the Fallout/The Elder Scrolls developer, but teams like Arkane and id, and with enough resources to have its pick of third party developers if it chooses. It might even decide it doesn't have to use the Gamebryo engine for once, though... well... it's unlikely, isn't it?

While we wait for further updates, here's a quick reminder of what 'classic' STALKER was like.



(And yes, I know I'm not typing 'STALKER' correctly, but I refuse to add the silly full stops until someone gives me a good answer of what it's meant to be an abbreviation of. Harrumph.)

Non-Update Update: Bethesda responds with a "No Comment" over on VG247
PC Gamer
pegi_3


Yes, it's time to say a fond farewell to those bright 15 and 18 logos on games. PEGI is now in charge with a completely different set of age ratings - 12+ to 18+ with a few pauses in the middle to let teenagers legally shoot some stuff in the face too. Let's take a closer look at the new rules, and remember some of the highs and lows of the BBFC's tenure as gaming's moral protectors.

To be clear, for those outside of the UK specifically, over here game ratings aren't a voluntary or unofficial thing - as soon as games were deemed to be graphic enough to fall under the British Board of Film Classification's remit, selling or renting them to anyone under the specified age became a crime, with the current penalties going to £20,000 in fines and six months in jail. That said, the enforcement of this was never particularly strong, and shops would sell to parents who didn't care if their kids were playing Rip Gandhi's Tits Off II: Praise Satan as long as it kept them quiet for a bit.

The main reason to switch things to PEGI is one of consistency; being pan-Europe, it means developers and publishers only have to worry about - and of course, pay for one logo. For parents though, it's a little more informative - as well as being more granular and not assuming that controversial content only becomes okay at 15 (or 16 in this case), it offers a few hints as to why it got that rating - violence, bad language, sex related content and so on. You can see the full set at the official PEGI site. Sadly, there's no rule that bad games - say, anything that goes under 50% in PC Gamer - have to emblazon themselves with the icon of a big pair of stinky pants as a warning to less discerning buyers.

But it's early days. Feel free to start a petition to get that fixed.



Will this change-over mean much different for customers? Not really. In most cases, the logo will still be ignored by the people it's intended to help, and the rules haven't changed that much for people who pay attention. There is however one potential bonus, which is that PEGI ratings are specifically geared towards games instead of sharing with movies. That offers much more flexibility in reacting to the medium directly instead of asking "what if" questions, though it remains to be seen if that will actually happen. As it stands, the examination is primarily done via the publisher/developer filling in a questionnaire to declare its content, then that being checked, rather than simply having someone in a room play it through and decide "Yeah, that's not too bloody. Let's call it a 12."

The BBFC however will be continuing to rate certain 'linear' content, which could cover anything from machinima on a disc to Making Of documentaries. There's more on that over on their site, and plenty more on the new ratings at Ask About Games. Check them for everything you need to know about what the new ratings are, mean, and how they're going to be decided from now on.

But how did the BBFC do between getting into games in 1986 and yesterday? Here's the abridged history, ignoring a vast number of non-silly examples because who wants to read those?

1986: First game to be rated 15: Dracula. A cynic might suggest that this was mostly a publicity stunt, and that cynic would be right. Why? It was a text adventure with a few graphics. You know how books aren't officially rated by the BBFC? Right. There was no real reason for this to be either.

1994: Ecstatica. 18 rated for many reasons, including nudity, torture, violent deaths and religious symbols. It's hard to argue with the rating on content grounds. That said, it did look like this...



1997: Shadow Warrior. Due to the same rules that turned the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the mere Hero Turtles, this ninja themed shooter couldn't be released in the UK unless it removed the main character's shuriken weapon for more morally defensible darts. Handfuls of darts. Because it doesn't hurt to get hit in the face with darts. And they're much harder to get hold of on UK streets than ninja stars.

1997: Carmageddon became the first game to be refused a certificate, with the BBFC deciding that it didn't want to put even an 18 rated sticker on a game specifically about hitting people with cars. It got around this by replacing the pedestrians with green-blooded zombies. Players got around this by downloading a patch. Even the zombies were preferable to the German version though, which like many games was only released in a sanitised version that replaced the people with floating bin like things.

2003: UK journalist Richard Cobbett asked to show proof of age to purchase copy of PC Gamer magazine by stupid clerk in WH Smiths due to some trailer or something on the disc, despite being in it and quite clearly over 18. Luckily, did not hold grudge for next decade or so.

2005: Picking individual moments does make the BBFC seem more reactionary than it actually was (honestly, most of the time, it's been fine and got much better over time), so here's the other side of the coin. When the Grand Theft Auto Hot Coffee furore kicked off a firestorm of controversy in the US, the BBFC's response was, more or less, "Whatever. We said it was for adults anyway." Correct.

2006: And another one. When modders released a patch for The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion to remove the female characters' normally welded on bras, the ESRB flipped its lid. The BBFC simply shrugged and showed it was paying attention by responding ""Were it the case that the developer themselves had included and failed to disclose certain modifications of content, a recall may be required, but not as a result of a patch that has been placed on the Internet by a third party." The game's original 15 rating was retained in the UK, but it was boosted from "Teen" to "Mature" in the US.



2007: Manhunt 2 becomes the second game refused certification, though this is ultimately overturned long after everyone stopped caring about Manhunt because it was a bit crap, frankly.

2011: PEGI originally scheduled to take over game rating duties.

2012: End of an era, and according to some crackpots, the world!

PC Gamer
Prison Architect preview
This preview originally appeared in issue 241 of PC Gamer UK.

It’s a very particular kind of brain that looks at the infinite possibilities of virtual worlds and thinks, “I know, let’s build a prison.”

In this case, it’s the same brain that once thought “let’s save a digital lifeform from a virus,” (Darwinia, 2005) and “let’s start a global thermonuclear war” (DEFCON, 2006). It might sound more mundane than Chris Delay’s previous ideas, but Prison Architect is every bit as nuts.

You do design a prison, deciding where to build the cell blocks and how the inmates get to the canteen, but that’s only the start of your job. You have to plan and build the big house to an almost absurd level of detail: where do the toilets get their water? OK, well how are the pipes laid out? Where does the pump go? Fine, but that’s going to need power – where’s your generator? And how do the cables get from there to every light in the prison complex?



Your answer to all those questions is to click various menu bars and drag objects and materials into your prison. But placing them like this is just an order: nothing appears right away. Instead, the raw materials are delivered to your loading area by truck, the individual workmen you’ve hired pick each thing up and carry it to where it’s needed, then set about building it on the spot, with tools that can be nabbed by cunning prisoners if they’re not careful. So if you’re building a new wing, you might find the workers can’t get there – or that they’ve bricked themselves in when they’re done. It’s easily fixed, but it gives you an idea of the level of simulation.

When the prisoners arrive, it gets really complicated. Each one needs a cell with a toilet and a bed, and they follow a customisable 24-hour schedule of eating, sleeping, exercising, showering and sitting alone in their rooms thinking about what they’ve done. In theory. In practice, every prisoner can get homesick, dirty, uncomfortable and bored, and their preferred way of dealing with it is to stab someone in the eye with a fork.



They have an uncanny knack for lifting screwdrivers and cutlery from around the jail, and starting fights with the guards and fellow prisoners almost everywhere they go. Blood splatters your crumbling walls, and even if the guards manage to subdue the rowdy party before anyone dies, you’ll need an infirmary to heal everyone.

Right now, all this complexity leads to a lot of confusion: the interface isn’t complete, so it’s often tough to work out why an inmate or guard isn’t doing what you’d like him to. And since it’s management rather than strategy, you can’t order them around individually. But the construction elements are more robust, and it’s already satisfying to build this horrible place and wire it up to work. If the human element shapes up, it’ll be like someone arrested Dwarf Fortress.
PC Gamer
tsw


Been meaning to check out Funcom's conspiracy-fueled MMO, but nervous about actually paying? This weekend, the truth is both out there and welcoming you in for a celebration of The Secret World's one-month anniversary. Anyone can join in for fireworks, to check out the first major content patch - due out today - and see if they want to spend their spare time fighting for the Illuminati, Templars, or the other one that you're probably not going to choose because they're not Illuminati or Templars.

Check this page for more information and a download link to the game client (get this early - it's big!). Not sure if it's for you? Check out our reviewer's initial findings right here. As for what's in the new patch? That's a secret waiting only for those smart and brave enough to uncover it...

(click!)

Congratulations! You were smart and brave enough to uncover it. Have an upgraded katana!



The first content update is called Unleashed, with several new missions to complete - most, though not all, on Solomon Island. There's more for Sam Krieg fans, action in Innsmouth Academy, a little ghostbusting on Blue Mountain, and secrets buried under the Egyptian sands. Two dungeons are being fitted with Nightmare Modes to better challenge players. The Marketplace is also going live for you to sell your things and not be so reliant on random drops and The Council of Venice's silly-high prices. You'll also see a few changes to the hub areas as a sign that you're not going to be running past the same scenery every time you head home to conduct faction missions. What will change? Wait and see. Needless to say though, all these updates are free for anyone playing the game.

Incidentally, as an unrelated but awesome aside, Illuminati players should check out this thread on the forums, where one player took a camera down to the real-world inspiration for the New York hub. You may be surprised by just how closely Funcom modelled it, including construction work.
PC Gamer
blindside


What if you woke up blind, in the middle of a horror movie? That's the premise of Blindside, an audio based adventure that's been on iOS a while now, but just landed on Desura. It's not the first game of its kind, but be it good, bad, or - warning, incoming pun - braille-iant, it's only £2.99 to take a look. Not many screenshots available, you'll be shocked to hear, but there is a trailer where either the Reapers attack or the main character has "You are blind now!" incepted into his skull, plus a gameplay video. Or "Whoa, a gameplay video!" as I challenge you not to think of it after a while.





Whoa, Desura link! Don't run. You don't want to trip and accidentally load Origin instead. Sadly, there's no demo, so you'll have to rely on... yes... blind faith if you want to give it a try.
...

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