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May 31, 2014
A teensy shipwreck RPG, foxes on hoverbikes, the tale of Cyrano and ginormous honker all that and slightly more awaits you in our regular free games roundup, which this week has been cobbled together out of various public domain words such as flipbook and groin . I've assembled these words in a (hopefully) pleasing order below, so hop aboard your flying cycle and join me, foxlike after the break.
The Wish by qwerty Play it online here
There's still some preserve left at the bottom of the LowRezJam jar, including this minimalist shipwreck RPG. You play the white rectangle - man, I hate that guy - who wakes up on an atmospheric desert island home to a band of black rectangles and shiny treasure. As in the superb Desktop Dungeons, the trick to succeeding is to tackle weaker enemies first, using their dropped items to improve your stats for the next encounter. It's not a huge game at all, but there's something kinda beautiful about the super-low-res presentation, not to mention the sophisticated text-only battle system, which has you and the enemy taking turns to wallop each other in the head, chest, belly, legs or groin. The sloooooow walking speed will annoy after a while though.
Cyrano the Hothead by noir Play it online here
Cyrano de Bergerac star of 1980s Jersey-based detective show 'Bergerac', and possessor of a damn fine nose stars in this turn-based swordfighting/insult game, and he should be grateful for all the work he can get. I have a lot of time for the 'paper' theme on which this game and the Public Domain Jam are based, a theme that's infused Cyrano the Hothead with a pleasing collagey textured look. To succeed in battle you'll need to combine action and insult cards through the game's neatly colour-coded battle system.
Gulliver by Joseph Ringer Download it here
Another Public Domain Jam game (and let's take a second to appreciate what must be the most unexciting name for a game jam ever). Gulliver employs a pencil-drawn flipbook style for its take on the tale of Lemuel Gulliver and his travels across a series of too-small, too-big and too-horsey mythical lands. The result is game that looks rather impressive but doesn't play quite as well, thanks to a finickity gesturing system and (on my machine at least) some surprisingly massive slowdown problems. However, it is pretty fun to stamp on villages with your massive human feet, so be sure to bear that stompy fact in mind.
776 778 780 by hellojed Download it here
Its creator hellojed describes 776 778 780 as Part 1 and 2 of possibly 3 games from the make.game 'Series' Jam , and after typing most variations of that sentence into Google I still haven't managed to work out what it's referring to. Never mind: it's resulted in a game well, three games really of such brooding weirdness that I immediately wanted to know more about this strange anthropomorphic world. Play 776 first, as it's the most fully featured foxes-on-hoverbikes game of the three, then sample the other two at your leisure. (They're pretty much half-formed palette swaps of the first.) There is an end/s, by the way, it just might take you a while to get there.
Wormhunter by SmallGaming and dickpoelen Play it online here
Wormhunter is a game in which you hunt a worm. *Cough*. OK, a bit more. It's a game in which you hunt a worm that burrows through the ground before jumping up at random locations. You can chuck a tracker at the worm to keep tabs on its movements, but this isn't really needed thanks to the low difficulty. You can also evade-roll, and bash the worm with your weapon this last one being particularly vital to your goal of killing it, as you might expect. This is a simple experience, but one that understands how important feel of movement is I can't tell you how many free games I've played that pay so little attention to this area, making their controls feel cludgy and unresponsive as a result. The actual act of killing the worm made me feel a little miserable and guilty. What did it ever do to me? (Via NeoGAF)
May 31, 2014
Rust toys with the idea of pre/post-historic man fighting for survival against the elements and against his fellow man, but what that really boiled down to was a bunch of naked men flapping their dongs around while battering your house down in an effort to nick your stuff. The Stomping Ground, by the looks of things, is the real prehistoric deal, pitting man against his greatest-enemy-that-wasn't-actually-around-at-the-same-time-as-him, the dinosaur. SuperCrit's game feasted on all of your Kickstarter money at around this time last year, and now it's appeared on Steam Early Access, dinoskin-cap in hand. Let's see how it's coming along, eh?
In short: crafting, hunting, underwater swimming, dinosaur-riding, rope-based player kidnap, and other things that look really quite amazing when married to a soaring piece of music. As you might expect from the words "early and "access", The Stomping Land isn't quite done yet, although most of the promised features appear to be in place in some form, including a day/night cycle, tameable/rideable dinos, an offline mode and various other stuff. The developers state that the dinosaur AI is the only element still "very early" in development, so don't expect to be able to recreate Jurassic Park just yet.
You can grab The Stomping Land here, although developers SuperCrit do warn that "if you wish to jump into a more finalized gameplay experience, it is recommended to not purchase the game until release, as all features require balancing, bugfixing, and updates for smoother implementation." The price won't be increasing or decreasing in the meantime, so there's no harm in holding off if you'd rather wait.
The first proper bout of footage for Keiji Inafune's Mighty No. 9 shows that, yes, it looks a lot like a certain Capcom series, but let's put the obvious comparisons to Dino Crisis aside for a moment and focus on the Mega Man creator's latest game. After a wildly successful Kickstarter last year - people really like to put their money behind familiar concepts, huh? - we've been afforded our first non-prototypey glimpse of the platformer in action, and while it's a video that holds few surprises, Mighty No. 9 does look like the sort of safe, largely unambitious game I might enjoy on a rainy day.
I don't see anything too mega mighty about Mighty No. 9 yet, but I suspect this is a game that will live or die based on its controls, and it's obviously hard to get a sense for those from any trailer. The enemies and backgrounds, on the other hand, seem a little stiff and dull - but hey, there's still nearly a year of development left. Mighty No. 9 will release Spring 2015, which time fans will correctly identify as 'ages away'. (Ta, Eurogamer.)
May 31, 2014
Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, as Watch Dogs tries to make hacking cool again, a jump back to a time when a 56k modem would have made you a true god amongst geeks.
The future's always been a tough thing to predict, but does generally go one of three basic routes - dystopia, utopia, everything turned into sentient cheese by deep space super-bacteria. Oh, that tiresome old cliche. When it comes to anything with the word 'cyber' in it, you pretty much know what you're going to get. It's going to be dark. It's going to be cynical. Chances are it's going to be heavily 'inspired' by Blade Runner. Surprisingly few people will have worked out that carrying umbrellas around 24/7 is a really, really smart idea. And it's almost certainly going to owe a serious debt to William Gibson's Neuromancer, which was published in 1984 and is one of those books so influential that is almost doesn't need to be read any more to know more or less what goes down and the kind of elements it plays with.
1988 was clearly too early for something so forward looking to be made into a game. But Interplay decided to give it a crack anyway. And it is... ah... well, you'll see.
"If I said you had a beautiful body, would you let me harvest it for parts?"
Let's start with the obvious. This is a game where one of the first things you can do is walk into an organ store and sell your body parts for cash. Enthusiastically. Heart, 6000 credits. Lungs, 3000. No discount for bulk. Tongue, 150, Spleen, 45, Appendix, just 3, and probably better not to ask exactly why someone might buy it. I suspect a kebab is in that particular flesh-blob's near future. And you're not restricted to just selling one or two. Nope, you can have everything harvested from spleen to bone marrow for some quick cash, and quick cash that you as cyberpunk's most pathetic would be hacker really needs - a hacker who starts the game incidentally waking up in a bowl of spaghetti that he can't really afford.
His luck, needless to say, pretty much only goes downhill from there.
Why stop there! I remember a story about an old woman who LIVED in a choux.
Neuromancer the game uses the same locations as Neuromancer the book - Chiba City - but has a different plot and main character - a little like Westwood's Blade Runner game would ultimately do, only without either the glitz, or just trying to stealth-remake the original with a far dumber cast and script. (There was actually another Blade Runner game at around the same time, based on - cough - the soundtrack. It just so happened... gosh... that the creators' vision of a world built on Vangelis' music happened to involve a detective in a trenchcoat shooting human robots, 'replodroids', in a city built around a fusion of Japanese culture and Los Angeles grime.)
The story though isn't really the point. It's there, it exists, and it's about as complex and well-integrated as you'd expect for a 1988 adventure game from a company that was more used to making RPGs like Wasteland and Escape From Hell. You spend the first half stumbling around and trying to get equipped with everything you need to be a proper cyberpunk hacker, then the second in cyberspace fighting an assortment of AIs to protect the electric inter webs from Neuromancer himself. Bulletin boards add more details, but really the second half is a major slog and it's not worth caring too much about the why and how of what you're doing. Instead, what makes Neuromancer cool is the where, with Chiba City a wonderfully, wilfully surreal place to hang out for a while. Not long. But a bit.
So it's a little quiet. I'm assuming everyone's just inside. Playing with computers.
Where to begin, where to begin? While a few locations are taken from Neuromancer the book, mostly this was Interplay just going a little bit insane and putting the insanity on screen. Our hero, who has no official name, so I'm going to call him Hacker P. Hackington, lives in a cheap hotel literally called Cheap Hotel (from the book, whose protagonist aspired to staying in somewhere that classy). Borrowing liberally from the style of the book - lifting a few descriptions directly - it's described as smelling "of cigarettes and cheap perfume. The roof is made of thin laminated matting that rattles in the wind. White fiberglass coffins serve as the rooms, stacked like surplus Godzilla teeth." It's so classy, you can order caviar by room service. Well, in theory. In practice, "The management kicks you out for not paying your bill."
TripAdvisor says... "You have no choice, may as well just suck it up." A glowing recommendation!
Again, remembering that this game came out in 1988, there's a wonderful amount of detail provided in the little descriptions, which Interplay also made good use out of in its other games to breathe life into 2D maps. The start spiel says it all, along with making great use of easily Neuromancer's single best and most remembered metaphor: "You've just spent the night sleeping face-down in a plate of synth-spaghetti in a bar called the Chatsubo. After rubbing the sauce out of your eyes, you can see Chiba sky through the window, the colour of television turned to a dead channel. Ratz' prosthetic Russian arm whines as he wipes the bar. His teeth are a webwork of East European steel and brown decay."
Lovely. But that's just the start of it. While there's nothing to click and prod at like in most games, interactions primarily happening through conversation and online bulletin boards, logging onto one of those boards immediately pops up the story "BAR FOOD DECLARED FATAL". And Hacker P. Hackington being the unluckiest son of a bitch ever to accidentally mistake Doritos for computer chips and stick one up his nose, is immediately greeted with "The Chatsubo bar will be permanently closed today, according to the Chiba Health Department. Contaminated food and toxic beer are the main reasons for the closure, though there have been other health violations. so far, 87 fatalities have been reported."
Well, it could be worse. And it is! "Most of the fatalities occurred with Chatsubo patrons who drank more than 3 glasses of beer and ate the synth-spaghetti, which is based on a home recipe. The spaghetti and beer combined in the bodies of the victims to create an explosive chemical ignited by stomach acids."
Thank goodness for the lighter side of the news...
I knew the future would be dark. I didn't think it would be Florida.
It's such a weird little world. Even the computer terminals join in, gleefully announcing that they're based on the Gibson Mandate of 2036, allowing access to the Central Database Interlink (CDI), then descending to a wink by adding on Friendly Interface System Hardware (FISH), and finally dropping the wink for making the universal 'wanker' gesture by declaring all this to be in concordance with the World Holographic Organizational Obligation For Electronic Eavesdropping guidelines. WHOOPEE, for short, and then descending into an acronym filled explanation of how impenetrable acronyms make everyone's lives so much less complicated. Douglas Adams would be proud.
But then, you head outside. And discover that the closest thing to a religious institution in these dark streets is... really... the House of Pong. "A quiet and restful place occupied by Pong Monks who spend their days meditating on the mysteries of the One True Computer Game." Here, "Apprentice Monks must contemplate the mysteries of the One True Game for 20 years before they are allowed to play," which means Hacker P. Hackington is unlikely to ever join their esteemed number. After all:
Getting a SEQUEL to it, mind...
The dialogue is pretty limited, but makes the most of it for the same amount of oddness. It's possible to get discounts on gear from the local computer shop for instance by manipulating the owner, Asano, into an insults slinging match over his rival, "Crazy Edo". From incredible politeness to "EDO IS THE SON OF A TURTLE! MAY THE GODS POKE HIM WITH STICKS WHEN HE DIES!" in one manipulative conversation. Or there's Hacker P. Hackington himself, who gets to play as either a slightly canny operator or just a wandering crazy person, whether dealing with hookers, data-brokers, or oddly territorial cops.
No, but taking the last of the ones with sprinkles? That's a hanging offence round here, boy.
Tangling with the law is usually a bad idea though, because it means the kind of kangaroo court that would make Phoenix Wright crossed with Darkseed 2's Hall of Death seem like a shining beacon of criminal procedure. All arrests take place in a Justice Booth, where a Compu-Judge holds Compu-Court. All crimes are classified as 'serious', from meeting up with a fugitive to speaking to a data broker to failing to pay a bar tab, but it's okay! Provided you have the credits, you can afford a Compu-Lawyer! And as it points out, "You need me." The judge even agrees. "You're in big trouble, citizen."
Internet court is now in HTTP session.
But it's your choice! Without a lawyer, the defence part of things goes something like this:
"The court notes your plea."
And then you're found guilty.
With a lawyer, of course, things are different.
I said DIFFERENT, not BETTER!
In most cases, the punishment is just a fine of a few hundred credits - to which your lawyer gleefully responds "Haha! Guilty!" It's possible to be given the death penalty after multiple visits though, and that's inevitably a little bit of a problem. "In view of your criminal history, I can't be as easy on you as I have been in the past," intones the judge. "This being the case, I hereby sentence you to death with the feeble hope that you will learn something from this experience."
Of course, this being a cyberpunk world, death isn't the end of the world. But don't think that means the universe is cutting our friend Hacker P. Hackington any slack, because while he does wake up in the local spare body parts shop, it's to be told "I kickstarted your dead brain. My fee just happens to equal the amount of credits you were carrying." And if you've already sold all your body parts, well, then you are what is colloquially referred to as 'screwed'. Cyber-screwed. In the future.
I've heard about a new cause I'd like to contribute to, if that counts...
The basic problem with Neuromancer as a game is that it's never clear exactly what you're meant to do, and as fun as the locations are, there aren't that many of them. When you hit cyberspace, things get much less interesting and amusing very quickly. It becomes about fighting assorted floating heads with skills like 'Philosophy' and 'Sophistry', and picking up plot stuff that's really not that interesting - setting a trend that would be continued in literally every single game to add cyberspace. Even the good ones - System Shock, Beneath A Steel Sky, Sam and Max Hit The Road and so on - dropped that ball hard enough to bounce it into space, and lesser games like Hell and Ripper just had no chance whatsoever. Cyberspace is anathema to games. It is fun's kryptonite. It is a bad idea on a par with putting nitroglycerin on toast.
Quirky as it is, there are reasons why this isn't a well remembered game. That said, had the sequel been made, I suspect it would have been - not so much for what it was trying to do, but because it was being pushed by legendary taker of drugs Timothy "The Great Experimenter" Leary. (It's said that this game was too, though there's no mention of it anywhere inside). The plans were for a 'mind movie' that sounds a lot like an interactive movie. There's a little information about it here, and a little more about a project that did come out - a personality experimentation system called Mind Mirror that's still floating around.
As for cyberspace? Well, it didn't turn out anything like cyberpunk predicted.
But then, given what Second Life did to the idea of the Metaverse, that's probably for the best.
Looking for more Saturday Crapshoot? Visit the complete archives.
May 30, 2014
While it offers an experience altogether different from the zombie violence of its sister-game DayZ, Arma 3 also looks to have struck a chord in the hearts and minds of PC gamers since its release last year. The military sim has sold one million copies, according to an announcement this week by Bohemia Interactive head Marek Spanel.
Both of Bohemia Interactive's hits have proven themselves popular in a year when so many games seem to want to be everything to everybody on every platform available with varying levels of success. As PC exclusives, that hasn't been the case with the complex and technically demanding Arma 3 or the two-million selling, Early Access alpha that is DayZ.
The future of Arma 3 isn't settler either. Modders are busy, and Bohemia is planning to pay some special attention in the form of helicopter and marksmen DLC set to begin appearing later this year. For a quintessential taste of what's possible in Arma 3, be sure to check out our review as well as the footage we captured on the Large Pixel Collider.
The new Enemy Front "story trailer" offers a look at the narrative behind the game about an American war correspondent who moves and fights with Resistance groups in occupied Europe during the Second World War.
My interest in shooters set in World War II faded some years ago, but this new Enemy Front trailer has my attention because it promises something different: A behind-the-lines tale about the Resistance against Nazi occupation. It also claims to offer more than the usual bullet-sponge run-and-gun nonsense by letting players operate as snipers or even stealthy saboteurs.
The trailer itself is a formulaic concoction, exemplified by the slow build-up to soulful music laid over explosions and gunfire, but setting a significant portion of the game in the Warsaw Ghetto is a ballsy move. It was a place of unimaginable suffering and deprivation during the war, and in 1943 it was razed by German forces, leading to tens of thousands of deaths and deportations to concentration camps. The big question, at least in my mind, is how that will be presented in the game; my hope is that it won't be turned into just another flimsy excuse to shoot Nazis.
It's also interesting that the black-and-white "photographs" in the trailer, presumably intended to represent the lead character's work as a journalist, are all (or at least nearly all) of German soldiers rather than Resistance fighters. Is there significance to that, or is it just an effort to put forth something more immediately recognizable than a guy with a beret and a Tommy gun? I very much hope it's the former. Shooters are a dime a dozen, but shooters with some modicum of sophistication are an entirely different and much rarer beast.
Enemy Front is being developed by Polish studio CI Games, formerly known as Sniper: Ghost Warrior developer City Interactive, and comes out on June 10.
May 30, 2014
There are a lot of bad games on Steam, but last night while browsing the new releases, I encountered a game that is beyond bad. It's not that Air Control is buggy or poorly designed: Air Control is basically just one giant bug, and I'm not sure you could call it "designed." Do not buy Air Control for $6. Do not buy Air Control for 4.79. Do not even buy Air Control for a laugh. But while you're here, let's have a look at Air Control, and see what the developer has to say.
Air Control's Steam page calls it "the best flight simulation in the history of computer games today." The trailer, however, is a mess of static zombie models, shooting, and brains. The rest of its description is equally hyperbolic. "Air Control is a new gen airplane simulator," it reads. "It is the first airplane game, where plane compartment is visible."
I often poke around Steam's new releases to find games worth reviewing, and sorting through the Putt-Putts and Freddi Fishes and mobile ports with "deluxe" and "HD" in the titles is taking longer and longer. I'd usually ignore a game like Air Control, but it looked too special to miss. I had to try it, to find out if it was a joke or...what it was.
It's immediately apparent that Air Control is not the best flight simulation in the history of computer games or possibly even a flight simulation. The modes in the menu's placeholder-looking UI are: "Casual mode part 1," "Casual mode part 2," "Realistic mode," "Killjoy mode," and "Coming soon." We wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves, so let's check out "Casual mode part 1" and "Casual mode part 2" in order:
This is going wonderfully. This is someone who downloaded Unity and some assets and thought "airplanes." With the missions bugged in part 1, I can't seem do anything but walk around. In part 2, I can't do anything at all: it just shows me a message explaining that the developer doesn't know how to handle the mouse cursor.
After a few more tries, however, I manage to get "Casual mode part 1" to load some actual flight attendant gameplay. I walk back and forth delivering food (clicking on passengers) and picking up pillows (clicking on pillows), and when I do enough to advance, I'm teleported to a plane full of zombies.
Walking by certain zombies cues interactive text dialog. I tell one of them that I'm "a stripteaser," and a minute later I stumble into the real meat of Air Control's casual mode: it's a first-person shooter, too. And, for the first time in the game, I fly a plane... kind of.
It's especially frustrating to play Air Control knowing how developers used to struggle to release even good games on Steam. To be fair, that put Valve in a difficult spot: it was seen as the arbiter of who succeeds and who fails. But even after it launched Greenlight to crowdsource Steam's curation, Valve remained watchful for a time. We used to report on batches of Greenlight approvals, because they included a small number of notable games.
Today, over 900 games have been approved through Greenlight, and Air Control is one of them. The gates are open, so let's try "Killjoy mode."
I should note that, most of the time, loading into Killjoy mode just renders an ocean: no ground, no plane, no controls. It took about six tries to get it to do this (who knows why I kept trying despite no indication it would ever work). And if you're wondering what "Y to fly up when plane is ready" means, it's what I was pressing every time the plane achieved vertical take-off and then went end-over-end.
At this point, I decide to take a break to look up the developer's website. It makes a lot of claims about the things you can do in Air Control, none of which seem possible in a game that can barely display a menu. I email the contact address and ask how they can justify selling Air Control, including my video of Killjoy mode. Then I email Valve to ask for its comment. And then I load up "Realistic mode."
Realistic mode, and reality
If you make it past the loading screens, you'll find audio taken from Delta's air safety video. I have minor doubts that it's being used with Delta's permission, but I had to ask, and this morning I was pleased to see that someone named Ramil Nassyrov from Air Control developer Killyjoy Games responded to my email. According to Nassyrov, the blog contains outdated information, while the Steam page is correct. And despite the smiley emoticons, he's unimpressed by my Killjoy mode gameplay video.
"Also, I found your video about gameplay uncorrect," writes Nassyrov. "Now it is a bit hardcore and you need to practice a lot in the game to finish flight in Killjoy mode. We are going to make it more user-friendly in time with updates. =)"
I respond with some follow-up questions about how Nassyrov made Air Control and got it through Greenlight. It also feels important to know if I'm talking to a teenager, so admitting that it might be rude to ask personal questions I ask if he minds sharing his age.
"Firstly, it is rude to ask such questions," replies Nassyrov. "I have a feeling that you are going to write a bad review on my game." He tells me that he's 20. "OMG it was too rude. I am so shocked. I hope you will sorry at least."
It takes a powerful system to get over 15 frames-per-second when this plane model and its entire interior are loaded.
I apologize, but explain that I don't think Air Control should be sold. I also bring up the audio taken from Delta's air safety video. Nassyrov ignores, or doesn't understand, the content of my email. "Thank you for understanding!" he writes, smiley emoticon omitted. "By the way, I am going to release regular updates."
I'm not sure what to think of Nassyrov. He's eager and confident, and seemingly immune to criticism. I want to encourage him to keep making games, but I don't think it's wise to sell a game in Air Control's state. To Nassyrov, though, perhaps Air Control truly is "almost perfect, starting from the design and ending with a gameplay," as it's described on Killjoy's blog.
Or maybe it's all a joke. Either way, Air Control shouldn't be sold for any amount of money. It's not an unpolished game that will get better with regular updates, it's a learner's experiment with the Unity engine. Valve has some responsibility here, too: turning Steam into a self-publishing platform doesn't excuse it from selling, and taking a cut of, games which offer no value outside of disbelief and bemusement.
Greenlight has had a lot of successes. When it works, it benefits developers and consumers, bringing good and honest games like Strike Vector, Papers, Please, and Rogue Legacy to Steam's giant audience. I believe it has generated a net positive effect so far, but I fear it may soon reach the height of that parabola. In the case of Air Control, it's pretty easy to see from the trailer and screenshots that it's a risky buy, but given how little oversight is displayed here, I have to imagine it could easily have been misrepresented further. Steam's new user reviews might help, but they still require consumers to waste money before warning others away, which is far from ideal commerce.
At the time of writing, Valve has not responded to my request for comment.
It's been more than ten years since Big Huge Games released the history-spanning RTS Rise of Nations, and yet it still boasts a small but powerfully dedicated fan base. Last year, in a look back at the original game, we hoped that "perhaps one day Rise of Nations could be rescued." And now, after a fashion, it has: Microsoft has apparently acquired the rights to the game and is getting ready to unleash Rise of Nations: Extended Edition on Steam.
Rise of Nations: Extended Edition features the original game as well as the Thrones and Patriots expansion, which adds new Wonders, nations, governments and campaigns to the action. But Microsoft is doing more than just tossing fans an old bone, by upgrading the visuals with improved water and textures and full-scene anti-aliasing, and also with full Steamworks integration, including achievements, trading cards, cloud saves and ranked multiplayer matches. For those of you who like to share your world-conquering adventures, there's even Twitch integration - a pleasing dash of modernity in a venerable classic.
Potentially even more exciting is that the Rise of Nations IP, which was previously held by the defunct 38 Studios, now appears to be in the hands of Microsoft. It's not too much of a stretch to look at the release of the Extended Edition as a kind of test to gauge interest in the franchise, and if it proves sufficiently high, who knows? Maybe a new Rise of Nations title is closer than we think.
Rise of Nations: Extended Edition will launch in June. A hard release date hasn't been announced but the game is available for pre-purchase now on Steam.
Project Stealth is a new take on the asymmetrical spy-versus-mercenary multiplayer modes of the Splinter Cell franchise, and it could not look more lovely. All of the tension, the interplay between the hunter and the hunted, and, of course, the many many gadgets. Netherlands-based developer Heartcore Games has just turned to Kickstarter to make their impressive early work into a fully fledged standalone release.
The developers cop to the influence of the Splinter Cell games early: yes, they know it sounds familiar. Yes, they love Splinter Cell, too. I can t hold it against them since Splinter Cell s multiplayer is essentially the only entrant in this weird, hybrid stealth-action genre. For all the many ways we have to shoot rocket launchers at each other in a King of the Hill mode, I think we deserve more than one choice when it comes to more sneaky-stealthy types of competition.
So what makes it different? They really want you to make friends. You re rewarded for having a partner that you play with over and over again. If you decide to take that relationship to the next level, you ve got to make a commitment. The proposed Partner System will be a ranked ladder of competitive games, but you get to choose one partner to play with, and only one. You popular kids with multiple friends may have a tough choice ahead of you.
Head over to Project Stealth s Kickstarter page to see the full list of features and more of the excellent art on display. The game is also on Greenlight, which you can find here.
When I was a youngster, beta testing was something game developers did to ensure their creations functioned properly before they were unleashed on the public. In more recent years, the term has become almost synonymous with "demo." But Elite: Dangerous takes it a step further by charging $150 for the privilege of testing its game.
To be fair, your 150 smackers will earn more than just access to the premium beta. You'll also get a copy of the full game when it's released as well as all major downloadable expansion packs. In that light it's not a terrible price, especially for long-suffering Elite jockeys who can't wait to get back in the cockpit. A more gently-priced "standard beta" offering is also available for $75, but that edition doesn't grant access until the premium beta has ended, nor does it include any post-release expansions to the game.
"The start of the Premium Beta phase is another exciting moment in our development from today we have over 10,000 additional people playing the game," Elite creator David Braben said in the announcement. "This is a significant and sensible step-change with which to test the next level of scaling of our cloud-based systems and servers as we move towards the very large numbers of people we will eventually have playing."
The start of the premium beta means the alpha test period, which ran through four separate phases, is now over. The beta version of Elite: Dangerous will incorporate all major features added during the alpha, and will focus first and foremost on "testing the systems and servers with a step change in numbers using a re-balanced game based on feedback and information from the recent Alpha 4 build."
"I once again would like to thank all those who played such an important role in the Alpha phase," Braben said. "We re looking forward to continuing to collaborate with the expanded community during the beta phase as we deliver greater scale, richer content and ever higher quality."