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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Yogventures developer “as confused as everyone else” about Kickstarter funds">8db7564decc350984477c88fff29e0a0_large

The biggest question currently hanging over the collapse of Yogventures is the fate of the $150,000 in Kickstarter funds that Winterkewl Games founder Kris Vale says went to Yogscast shortly after the Kickstarter concluded. Vale claims a contract specifying how the money was to be used was never drawn up but the amount is roughly triple what the studio estimated as the cost for physical rewards, and he's "just as confused as everyone else" about what happened to the rest of it.

In an email exchange, Vale made it clear that the Yogventures project was plagued by mismanagement from the very start, resulting from a mix of inexperience, naivete and a misplaced faith in the essential goodness of human nature. That led to the now-infamous loss of a principal artist, and more significantly the $35,000 lump sum he was paid that the studio could not legally recover. Shortly after that, Lewis Brindley of Yogscast demanded and ultimately received $150,000 of the Kickstarter funds.

Vale said the money was transferred to Yogscast shortly after the Kickstarter concluded, and that he was of the understanding "that some of that $150,000 would be spent on physical rewards, and some would be for Yogscast to get re-compensated for their efforts at E3 and during the Kickstarter, but the bulk would be used to hire a programmer to work on the actual game."

That didn't happen, however, and according to Vale, Yogscast actually insisted on a new contract not long after the money was transferred. "We were basically told that without a new contract, there would be no new programmer. So we were in a really tight spot at that time, and agreed to the terms of this new contract," he explained. The contract stipulated that neither company had any financial obligation to the other, nor was Yogscast actually required to hire a programmer for the game, despite Vale's "understanding."

"We did at least get them to finally agree in writing that the money for the physical rewards was in their possession so it was their responsibility to create and ship the rewards," he said. "We were unable, however, to get it stipulated that they would hire a programmer." Negotiations with another programmer that had been underway when Yogscast made the new contract demand fell through, Vale added, and with no money remaining to offer anyone else, "We had a new contract but no programmer."

He said Yogscast refused to hire a new programmer because Brindley was unhappy with the progress of the game and Vale's handling of the company. During the time Yogventures was in development, according to Vale, "We were sending regular updates and asking each time, 'When do you think we'll see videos promoting the game?' And each time we were told this feature or that feature is a 'must have,' and we'd go off and work on that feature, always hoping that at some point the business would get off the ground and marketing would begin."

"If we didn't need the Yogscast for marketing, we would have never approached them in the first place," he said. "I was honestly afraid all the time that at any moment Yogscast would just sever our contract, so I didn't have a lot of ammunition to fight back when things weren't going our way."

The question now is, if Yogscast didn't hire a new programmer with the money, what happened to it? Brindley said in a July 19 post on Reddit that he disagreed with a number of Vale's claims but declined to address them in detail, although he did suggest that an official statement may be forthcoming at some point in the future. But beyond that, Yogscast has not responded to any inquiries, and Vale says he has no idea.

"The Yogscast maintain that the remaining funds they received were used to pay for the things they did for marketing of the game. They did pay for the E3 booth, (although we paid for all the decorations and rentals of all the equipment, etc.) and they did spend time and effort making and publishing the Kickstarter videos," he said. "But honestly, we're just as confused as everyone else where the rest of the funds went."
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Righting the ship: a look at Elder Scrolls Online’s future">eso-bounty

"Look up, here it comes," the guy behind me whispers. There's something akin to reverence in his voice. I look up at the screen on QuakeCon's main stage to see footage of some thug pilfering the crates and boxes surrounding a shopkeeper's stand, taking care to avoid her gaze. The text accompanying each of the items is red; he's stealing. A guard catches him, and he's asked to hand over the value of the items, which amounts to a measly five gold. He obliges. The guy behind me is snickering now, and I hear a slap that must be a high-five he shared with his friend.

The perspective shifts; we're now behind the twin blades of some Nightblade slinking about the Daggerfall Covenant town of Wayrest. He sneaks up behind poor Phillic Menant, who's just strolling over to chat with the local stablemaster. The blades flash, Phillic falls with a bloody splash, and the crowd around me collectively leans forward. This is something new; something unexpected. "We'd like to encourage everybody to start killing NPCs in the game," says Paul Sage, ESO's creative director, just as we see an archer fire an arrow through an NPC enjoying the morning air. And the entire crowd goes wild.

The last time I'd experienced this level of excitement for Elder Scrolls Online, I was sitting in a cramped room in Maryland with other journalists watching the first reveal of the game's first person combat. In that moment, we saw a glimpse of an Elder Scrolls MMO that could live up to fans' expectations and distinguish itself from the morass of bland competitors. Like that crowd at QuakeCon, we gasped. Over the intervening two years or so, I've often wondered if ZeniMax and other developers would benefit from gathering a crowd of MMO enthusiasts in a similar room, presenting them with concept footage, and then focusing exclusively on the bits that gets the room oohing and ahhing.

Daggerfall, indeed.

Paul Sage seems to feel the same way, although he attests he gets most of his insights into the game's health from ESO's forums and his own experience from leveling a character. In an interview after the presentation, he speaks of the clarity he finds in the post-launch development process that isn't as strong in the beta. With so many people treating the game's beta as a straight preview, he says, there's a danger of focusing on false positives.

"After launch, you don't have people who come in and say, like, 'I don't like this' within five minutes or they have weird patterns because they haven't paid for it," he says. "People in betas are sometimes looking for that 10-minute thrill versus the long play, although an MMO is really about your investment in your character and community. I think that investment doesn't get to happen in beta."

The footage I saw in Dallas depicted an improved game that seems tailored to meet most of the criticisms bandied about in reviews by folks who weren't quite so receptive. The list of changes is impressive staggering, even. The footage of killing and stealing sprang from only one segment of the two-hour presentation, which centered on a new Justice system that would encourage world PvP by allowing players to hunt down folks who engaged in such misdeeds. Other features include:

New, smaller PvP and PvE zones within the besieged Imperial City

Horse racing

A new veteran dungeon

Dungeon scaling

Updated facial animations

Tweaks to combat responsiveness

New crafting motifs that introduce armor from series favorites like the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild.

Concept art for new Thieves Guild armor.

Much of this new content centers on broadening the existing experience rather than tacking new content on at the end, in an effort to deliver gameplay that's genuinely "Elder Scrolls." It s exactly the kind of content I d hoped for when I expressed the need for ESO to grow earlier this month. About 30 percent of the ideas in the presentation are new, Sage says the rest were considered in the initial development process but sidelined by the demands of the release window. "It's fun to do a leveling game," Sage says, "but I think there's something magical about having all these activities that you can do regardless of your level."

ZeniMax s desire to improve the core experience popped up in other entries on the list, revealing an ambitious vision for improving the game that would more comfortably fit in an expansion pack for most other MMORPGs. Spellcrafting, for instance, at last makes its appearance (although it's kept in check by a series of rules that keep you from being able to nuke Daedric lords with one fireball). Reviews at launch tended to criticize the game's phasing and its tendency to keep group players from seeing each other in the world; in a future update, groups will automatically sync with the leader, and the journal and quest tracker will show which quests you share with your comrades. The veteran experience, which I deplored somewhat in a recent article, will be augmented with the "Champion" system that rewards passives via constellations much as in Skyrim.

That's an impressive list by any measure, and it was easy to get the impression from the presentation that we'd be seeing this all in a matter of weeks. Not necessarily so; during the Q&A session a viewer on Twitch asked when we'd see some improvements to ESO's werewolves, and the answer from Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konkle involved "months."

This marks a sharp departure from the practices of most other MMO developers, who tend to either drop patches with little warning or after a testing period lasting only a few weeks. Almost never do they announce this many upcoming features at once. I asked Sage why they took the risk.

Why don't they have beards this awesome in the actual game?

"We're being pretty open at this point because I want feedback on these systems before we release them," he says. "I think the earlier you get feedback from the playerbase and you gauge the excitement level, the better your systems will grow with your playerbase."

How does Sage expect to make that playerbase grow? By making ESO's current players as happy as possible. In time, he seems to suggest, that commitment should attract others and win over players who may have already jumped ship. For my money, it wouldn't hurt to keep pumping updates full of "wow" moments such as the ones we saw when ESO's formerly inviolate NPCs fell dead underneath a storm of player arrows.

The more Elder Scrolls that gets put into Elder Scrolls Online, the better.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection goes free for all on Origin">Sims-2

Earlier this month, Electronic Arts announced that The Sims 2 was being "retired," and that to make up for the loss, anyone who owns it would be upgraded to The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection on Origin at no charge. But today that deal got a whole lot more Oprah, as EA is now offering the game to everyone, on the house even thought it's not actually an On the House promotion.

As noticed by the fine folks at NeoGAF, the "How to get The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection" entry on EA's help site underwent a change today. It still implies that the offer is limited to Sims 2 owners, saying, "Because you re a passionate The Sims 2 player, we re making The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection available free of charge to download to your Origin library." But the code actually works for everyone. I know this, because I tried it, and I am now the proud owner of The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection on Origin despite not having the original release in my collection.

It's really quite a simple process: Fire up Origin, log in, select "Redeem Product Code" from the "Games" menu and then enter "I-LOVE-THE-SIMS," minus the quotes. Bam! You may not actually love them, but you now officially own them.

Interestingly, this is not one of EA's On the House offerings; Peggle is still filling that particular niche. So what's the deal? Perhaps it's the kinder, gentler EA in action, or maybe it's just trying to ramp up interest in the franchise ahead of the September launch of The Sims 4.

Either way, it's free stuff, and since The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection is no longer available to purchase on Origin (which may be a big part of why EA doesn't mind giving it away), if you want it, this would seem to be the only way you're going to get it. One potential catch: This might all be a big mistake, and EA could pull the plug at any time. I'd recommend you don't dawdle.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Interview: Cliff Bleszinski on Project BlueStreak, PC gaming, FPS design, moddability">cliffyb

Earlier this month Cliff Bleszinski revealed his next project: a free-to-play, PC-focused arena shooter called Project BlueStreak created by Boss Key Productions, his new studio. Following a Reddit AMA that answered some surface-level questions about the game, I spoke with Bleszinski about what sort of shooter he s hoping to create.

PC Gamer: What s interesting to you about PC gaming right now?

Cliff Bleszinski: What s not? If you want the highest-end experience, you go to a high-end PC. If you want to go where the majority of the Twitch streams and the YouTubers are, it s mostly on PC. And not to flak the consoles, but for me, making a classic arena shooter that wants to have the maximum global reach possible and explore the free-to-play space, the PC absolutely makes the most sense, first and foremost.

Randy, over at Gearbox, he s doing that interesting looking pseudo-MOBA game Battleborn, and I looked at the platforms planned and it s PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and a lot of developers intelligently do that to mitigate risk. And I get and respect that. But there s a little bit lost when you re not laser-focused on developing a project specifically for one platform initially to kind of maximize what that product is best at. And for PC, it s that classic keyboard-and-mouse aiming ability and the ability for players to maneuver in a nimble fashion on all axes.

PCG: How much of a priority is it to you that BlueStreak be a spectator-friendly experience?

Bleszinski: It all goes back to skill. When I watch the Dota championships and I m not a big MOBA guy, I play them enough to respect them they re deep and they re complex. When I look at your average Call of Duty match it s twitch to ironsights, pop-pop, randomly come around a corner that s fun as a core loop, but for me it doesn t have that first-person shooter dance, that Halo still nails, to be fair, where one person acquires another, starts opening up shots, and the other person has a shot at turning the table if they either find some health or a pickup or get lucky.

As long as a game is skill-based, and it yields those kinds of interesting plays, hopefully it ll wind up being watchable. But it comes down making a great, airtight game, and once those variables, those verbs are all in place and cool enough for the skilled players, that s when people want to watch it because it becomes aspirational.

PCG: In terms of achieving that tightness you re talking about, do you feel like a lot of it comes down to map design?

Bleszinski: There s a myriad of issues when it comes to map design in the single-player space and the multiplayer space in the shooter arena right now. And, you know, we were partially responsible for it in the Gears days I always pull up that famous GIF where it s like straight line, 90-degree turn, hallway, cutscene, hallway, cutscene, as opposed to, you know, System Shock s map where it s like Here you go, have fun, you might actually have to map this up. Or Doom, E1M1.

And what I think has happened in the single-player space is that it s gotten very linear, not allowing the player to just kind of explore on their own volition and get lost, which is part of the fun of a game. As well as in the multiplayer space, the multiplayer maps have become way too porous. And/or large. So we re at a point where if the map is too large, you walk out for 30 seconds trying to find some action and you get sniped from somebody you never saw. That is not fun. It s only completely fun for one person. And is that skill-based? No, it s not. That person just found the right grassy knoll to sit on and just pick people off. It s fun for him, it s not fun for anyone else who doesn t have a chance of getting back at him, right?

In the other multiplayer space, with the maps being too porous, it s literally you come around a corner and you check one door, and there s two other doors where somebody comes through that you didn t check and they pop you because they saw you first. And that s very fun from a moment-to-moment kind of rat with a feeder pellet type of gameplay, but it doesn t lend itself to the dance that I alluded to before, or very dramatic comebacks in an e-sports kind of space. So getting to a kind of medium-sized, arena-based shooter with the right balance of tight corners and open spaces is important to me. I think open spaces in a shooter like this they re where that dance happens and they re also risky spaces to be in. But again, with map attractors like good weapons or power-ups, you have the tradeoff of risk to reward from that location s spaciousness as well as the desirability of the pickup.

PCG: When you talk about that dance, what do you expect your approach to player movement to be?

Bleszinski: When you look at movement in the majority of your average military shooters, you know, it s a contemporary world and even, I think the people working on Advanced Warfare have realized how limiting that can be when you re just a regular soldier without any sort of boosters or speed-ups, jetpacks, things like that. And so what you have is run, prone, dash, maybe a dive, and just a jump. And that s fine for what that is, but there s so much more that can be done in sci-fi that can be done in regards to giving the player whatever movement we think is cool, we can come up with a creative fiction to explain how it s physically happening.

I don t want to spoil what I m thinking of with this, but I think what I want to do on PC is get back to that sense of verticality that we weren t afraid of with a lot of the older shooters. Because on consoles we re always afraid of the twin sticks and looking up is too confusing if someone s above you all that kind of stuff that Halo rightfully taught us but leading with PC first, literally and figuratively with game mechanics.

PCG: What do you consider to be the best FPSs right now, and what do you like about them?

Bleszinski: What I liked about Titanfall was the variety of gameplay that, just when shooting by itself started to get a bit old, your Titan would be ready and they knew how to switch it up a bit. I think introducing a little bit of minion gameplay without Titanfall turning full MOBA was a good step for them. But outside of that, the new Wolfenstein was in my opinion, and I daresay this, one of the best first-person shooter campaigns since Half-Life 2. And I think I m about halfway through right now, I m stuck on this bridge section but I refuse to lower the difficulty because I hate having to do that in a game.

But when I saw that game at E3 a couple years ago and then PAX East, I was completely underwhelmed, I was writing it off. I didn t want to be a dick and say something about it on social, but my expectations were really low I thought it seemed kind of cheesy and just weird. And then when I got hands-on, it was extraordinarily well written, graphically gorgeous, and the maps were extremely well built. And the combat was just fantastic, it was a labor of love.

PCG: What do you like about a five-on-five format? What does that provide for players?

Bleszinski: It provides intimacy. It provides a chance to matter. When you re playing in a 10-on-10 or more and you re in the bottom third you feel really bad. But if you re four out of five, for some reason psychologically that doesn t feel as bad. Five is a good number for people to get online as opposed to corralling 10 people at once, especially if you have some adults with responsibilities on your team who have to put the kids to bed.

Five just seems like the magic number. It allows for maps to be medium-sized, and it doesn t encourage enormous, mech-based, vehicle-based, sniper-based maps. I want to be able to see the enemies that I m fighting and kind of get a sense of what they re firing before they even shoot at me.

PCG: For me, a smaller scale is opportunity to develop a relationship with your enemy, too. Rivalries.

Bleszinski: Bigger is not necessarily better. When I talk about these combat distances I wrote up a gun design doc the other day it s so good to get back to doing this stuff that outlined a lot of my philosophies about first-person weapon design. Generally speaking you should be able to tell what the gun does the second it comes up, before you even fire it. If it s super stubby, it s probably something more pistol-like or short range.

But the other main thing that we re doing, it s one of those cool little details, we re doing concept art of what the gun looks like pointed at you. I really want to get to a point where, just at a glance, you have that kind of Oh, he s whipping out this weapon or that weapon, I need to figure out my maneuverability to get out of this situation because it s a fast-firing weapon, or, He s going to shoot that, but if I can dodge the first shot, he ll have to reload. All of that kind of metagame that happens in the background beyond people just slinging things at each other, you know?

PCG: What will you charge for in BlueStreak? Is the business model integrating with the design of the game at this stage?

Bleszinski: So, I like to use my restaurant metaphor: we ve picked out the space, we know what genre of food we re going to be in, we re currently crafting the menu how much it s going to cost for a side of butter, I don t know yet, right? And that s one of the things with working with Nexon, they re like, Go build a fantastic game and a community around it, and we ll work on figuring out how to make it hopefully make a lot of money.

As opposed to everyone else that I talked to about the free-to-play space, they re like, Oh, you ve gotta lead with your monetization strategy. And I m like, well, then I m going to wind up with a game that s about crafting hats or something. I don t want that. When you look at the success of League and Dota, those are fantastic gameplay experiences first but they then kind of worked through figuring out what each one s monetization scheme was in that space. And one monetization scheme does not rule them all. I still see a lot of hatred in the pay-to-win category, and I said initially in the AMA I would like to avoid that as much as possible. There might be pay for slight perks, or pay for variety, but it s anyone s guess right now. And the thing is, with using the community to help develop this game, they can help dictate this a bit.

PCG: Is moddability something you ve examined yet?

Bleszinski: Well, it will be. What I love about the modding community is that they keep the developers honest. You look at what happened with Watch Dogs, and the conspiracy theorists continuing to wonder why that stuff was cut out. A lot of the best games, a lot of the best talent comes out of the mod community because the mod community doesn t have all of the bullshit red tape that keeps innovation back sometimes in this industry. You look at there s a new mod that came out for Portal 2 that s just the paint gun, I love that kind of stuff. Will we embrace that? Hopefully. But again, let s figure out the darn game first.

PCG: Do you feel like publishers in general are more interested in or more hesitant about free-to-play right now?

Bleszinski: My gut is saying that a lot of them what s a good way of putting it. They find it interesting, but I don t know if they know how to transition or do it properly. And it s like this weird, struggling to maintain the old model of E3 and, oh, you know, shocking press roll-outs and conferences and that just feels so 2008 to me in regards to let s get GameStop excited about our pre-orders and Walmart gets the blue hat, and I m like, Really, this still happens now?

When you look at traditional publishers, and they look at their bottom lines, they have their established, killer franchises which are still doing rather well, but it s like you ve got to be planting the seeds for where things are going to be in three or five years, especially technology. Take some of that Call of Duty and Assassin s Creed and Halo money and have incubator teams that are working on small, free-to-play projects, small new original IPs that could be the next god-knows-what as opposed to just wearing that rubber stamp out and wondering Where s the next rubber stamp coming from? Oh, wait, I m sorry, we pissed off those developers and they all left, darn it, we don t have anyone else, and that s the cycle that continues.

PCG: Will BlueStreak use a skill-based matchmaking system?

Bleszinski: Have not worked it out yet. That s further down the line. And that s a full-time job I hear rumors that there are a lot of people working on that for Destiny. During Gears 2, our matchmaking was broken when the game launched. It might just be a situation where we let the internet sort it out by itself and people can wind up with really bad or really good players. I mean, we didn t really have any of that in the Unreal Tournament days, it just sort of sorted itself out. So we ll cross that bridge when we come to it and we ll have many, many passionate meetings where we throw many, many Nerf guns at one another.

PCG: What else can you tell us about the game at this point? What feelings do you want players to have?

Bleszinski: I can t really give you much more on that without tipping my hand. One thing I have alluded to is what I ve learned from the NFL, and the sense of tribalism and local pride, that is incredibly powerful. That s something I really want to lean on.

PCG: Right, it s tough for multiplayer shooters to have lore, to build a story or context that people are invested in. Titanfall s an interesting attempt at that.

Bleszinski: You have to be careful. If you look at a game like Hawken, they put a little bit of the IP first before they really nailed a lot of what the core of the game was supposed to be about. When you do a multiplayer, sci-fi game, you need to tell as much of the narrative in an ancillary fashion as possible. We have enough of a budget that we ll get some live-action, animated shorts pumped out once a quarter from some really talented LA studios, kind of like the live-action Portal video. The more you re multiplayer, the more you need all that lore and supplemental stuff to flesh out the universe.

That s one thing that Blizzard does when you click on the characters in their games or you play Hearthstone. Yeah, the voice acting s over the top, but it s so chewy and fun. Blizzard realized this many years ago: if you re clicking on these tiny, five-pixel characters, they have to say really grandiose things and have portraits, and they need to be rendered in spectacular detail in these CG movies, and then they become beloved characters worldwide.

PCG: Thanks for your time. Anything else you want to share?

Bleszinski: It s good to be back on PC.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to New Steam Controller image suggests Valve adding an analog stick">alpha_controller_lines_d0g

The latest Steam client beta carries with an interesting surprise: An update image of the Steam Controller buried deep within its files.

The revised diagram was first spotted by Steam Database and posted on its Twitter profile. The diagram in the latest client beta update, dated July 23 2014, shows a mock-up that abandons the left-side buttons in favor of an analog thumbstick. The thumbstick sits to the bottom right of the controller's signature trackpad on the left side. If the image represents a planned iteration of the controller, it could be a move to make the Steam Controller more versatile.

Earlier this year, PC Gamer Editor-in-chief Evan Lahti criticized the last Steam Controller revision on display at GDC 2014, saying he was surprised at how "unwieldy the trackpads were in every situation." He further noted that he "didn t once feel comfortable, in control, or that Valve s hardware configuration was in any way an upgrade over a controller with analog sticks"

The image is located in the Steam\tenfoot\resource\images\library folder, if you want to check it out for yourself. You'll also have to be taking part in the Steam client beta program.

We've reached out to Valve for confirmation and will update when we hear back.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Red Hood joins Batman: Arkham Knight as GameStop-exclusive preorder bonus DLC">Bat beatdown

GameStop has confirmed that the Red Hood will be offered as exclusive pre-order DLC for the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight. This in itself is not surprising GameStop teased the announcement yesterday with a pixelated but clearly red-capped image on Twitter but it might just offer a hint about the true identity of the mysterious Arkham Knight.

The murderous vigilante Red Hood joins Harley Quinn as a playable character in Batman: Arkham Knight, provided you pony up for a preorder at your local GameStop. The retailer's Arkham Knight page says the bonus DLC will let gamers "play as the ruthless vigilante in the exclusive story pack," although details about the actual contents of the pack aren't revealed.

The Red Hood has been knocking around the Batman universe for years but was significant for most of them only as a vehicle for the creation of the Joker. He came into his own when Jason Todd assumed the mantle and turned him into a vaguely Batman-like vigilante "vaguely" in the sense that the Red Hood has no problem with killing anyone he thinks needs it.

The addition of the character naturally leads to further speculation about the identity of the Arkham Knight, the new villain created by Rocksteady specifically for the game. Todd is number three on the list of "Six Mad Theories" about the Knight's alter-ego, and it's actually not a terrible fit; perhaps a bit "Inside Baseball" as these things go, since I'm guessing it's unlikely that most players of Arkham Knight will have sufficient knowledge of the character to recognize his significance, but certainly not beyond reason.

Oh, but it could be Hush, too. We'll find out next year.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Exclusive: Shadowgate release date and new side-by-side comparison trailer">ShadowGate_PCGamer_4

Shadowgate was a brutally-hard Mac (and later NES) adventure game, where one failed puzzle could murder you and force you to start all over. The remake that Zojoi Studios has coming updates those visuals for the modern age, but keeps the puzzles difficult and the atmosphere dark. When I spoke to developer Karl Roelofs last month about the game's progress, the team still wasn't sure about its release date. Now that date is set, and Zojoi has exclusively revealed it to us, along with a trailer that shows off Shadowgate's commitment to its history.

August 21 is that date, when Shadowgate will launch on Steam for the PC. It's also the date when modern gamers will realize just how difficult puzzle-adventure games of this type were back in the good old days. I've played a few hours of Shadowgate's beta build, which challenges you to enter the "living" Castle Shadowgate and defeat an evil warlock using only your wits and whatever you can find inside, and it does not mess around. Choosing the wrong path means instant failure, though thankfully this new version is much more generous with your save game options. It also includes new difficulty levels that simplify the puzzles, if the faithfully reproduced dangers are too much for you.

Staying faithful to the original is what this new trailer is all about. It shows side-by-side comparisons of Castle Shadowgate from the NES original and the new reboot. For even more info, read my chat with design director Karl Roelofs, where we talk about the process of bringing Shadowgate back to life.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Minecraft snapshot 14w30b brings “major” improvements to optimization">Minecraft1

Minecraft is a CPU intensive game, not that its players seem to mind. I've seen teens hunched over laptops, merrily battling single digit frame-rates in order to expand their Creative repertoire. Does it have to be this way? Mojang think not. Their latest Minecraft Snapshot lets player trial what they refer to as "major optimizations" to the client's rendering, hopefully making for a smoother game.

...That's smooth as in faster... It's still all cubes and stuff.

Here are the notable changes, as noted by the Mojang blog:

Added Banners! But I m not going to tell you how they work :)

Made Creeper, Skeleton and Zombie Heads available in survival. How? Don t ask me!

Major optimizations to client rendering. It s magical!

Lots of fun bugs fixed. Lighting should behave a little nicer now!

Crafting cuddles now requires one extra hug in the recipe.

It's been a while since I logged into the game, so I'm only, like, 60% sure that last one is a joke.

Snapshots are Minecraft's experimental patches offering more frequent but potentially less stable updates. You can download the new Snapshot by creating a new profile in the launcher, and selecting "enable experimental development snapshots".
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to We’re giving away a million Steam keys for GTR Evolution, with Bundle Stars">GTR Evolution

We're finishing our five-week, million-key giveaway bonanza with the fastest game of the bunch. Grab yourself a free Steam key and blast off into the sunset with a copy of GTR Evolution, the expansion to the lauded Race 07, which is also included in this week's free bundle. GTR Evo gives you a selection of 49 GT cars to drive across 19 tracks, and the original Race 07 package includes 32 additional tracks, including classics like Monza and the N rburgring, and 300 cars to crash. If you've never tried racing games before, GTR Evo is a great place to start. Claim your free Steam key below.

As always, we have a million Steam keys to give away, in association with Bundle Stars, a digital store that sells a wide range of games, and arranges them into bundles to offer discounts of up to 97%. You'll also find plenty of discounts on individual games on their front page.

GTR Evolution and Race 07 were created by SimBin, who more recently released their free-to-play racer, the RaceRoom Racing Experience, which also comes with today's free Steam key. They've been making racing games for nearly a decade now, so you can expect some solid high speed action, for the price of a quick Facebook like.

A total of 1,000,000 Steam keys are available for GTR Evolution, which must be claimed by 16:00 BST on 30 July 2014. The offer is open to owners of eligible Steam accounts. By taking part in this giveaway you agree to be bound by these terms and conditions and the further rules which can be viewed at www.futuretcs.com.

This promotion is managed by Bundle Stars, a division of Focus Multimedia Limited. Future Publishing Limited are not responsible for the Steam keys relating to GTR Evolution. Contact Bundle Stars directly by emailing support@bundlestars.com if you have any questions or concerns about entering your key or downloading the game.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Final Fantasy XIV guild holds pride parade to celebrate update 2.4′s same-sex marriage">FF14 Parade

Back at E3, Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida announced that the upcoming 2.4 update would allow any two players to marry in-game, regardless of race, nation or gender. To celebrate, one in-game guild organised a "Pixel Parade", taking to the virtual streets for a rainbow-themed party. Finally, a good reason for the MMO genre's obsession with dyes.

Organised by the LGBT guild Rough Trade Gaming, the parade was also held to honour the memory of 'Erotes', a member of their community who was killed during the recent Calgary stabbings in Canada. "Even when tragedy affects our community, there's still a reason to keep on marching," writes video uploader 'Levi G' in the description.

When marriage was originally announced as an upcoming feature, around the re-launch of FFXIV, Square-Enix hadn't planned on including same-sex marriage. "This is an extremely controversial topic that has been under discussion in the MMO world for the past few years. First we would like to start out with opposite-sex marriage, and then consider the feedback from our players in order to make a careful decision," they said at the time.

By E3, the decision had been made. "We discussed it and we realized within Eorzea, why should there be restrictions on who pledges their love or friendship to each other?" Yoshida said. "And so we decided to go this way."

FFXIV's 2.4 update will also add the Rogue class, and Ninja job type.

Thanks, IGN.

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