Secret World Legends

Funcom's innovative, real-world-ish MMO The Secret World relaunches as the free-to-play Secret World Legends on Monday June 26, at least officially. A 'head start' weekend is taking place right now, a weekend that was originally just going to be open to beta testers and owners of the original game, but that is now open to all (yes, including you, Steve). What I'm saying is that The Secret World Legends has launched a little early, and you can sign up here.

The game client can be downloaded from here (direct link), and if you're waiting for it to come to Steam, that's going to happen in around a month's time, on July 31. You'll be able to import certain things from the previous version of The Secret World, including cosmetics and unlocked weapons, though it seems your characters won't be carried across.

Of the relaunch, executive producer Scott Junior had this to say: "One of our biggest goals in relaunching the game has been to reimagine the core gameplay experience in a way befitting a modern-day action RPG. Secret World Legends features combat that feels more natural, deep systems that are more intuitive, better structuring of the early game for new players, and improved mission flow to strengthen the pace of progression for players."

Scanner Sombre

Scanner Sombre, as it turns out, hasn't sold very well, at least compared to Introversion's previous game: the 2-million-copies-sold-and-counting Prison Architect. By comparison, the developer's first-person cave-mapping game Scanner Sombre has only rustled up around 6,000, or in the words of Introversion's Chris Delay, "It's bombed".

Delay, and Introversion co-founder Mark Morris, chatted about the game, and its sales, in a frank new YouTube video, while also finding the time to show off Scanner's previously teased VR mode, which is now live in beta form, and playable on HTC Vice or Oculus Rift. Click here to learn how to opt in to that beta on Steam.

Here's Delay speaking about Scanner Sombre's sales, via Gamasutra: "It's bombed. I didn't think that was possible. It's not that I arrogantly believe we're the best people in the world or anything, it's that our last game sold over 2 million. So I kind of wrongly assumed that would just give us a minimum number of people looking at our game. So that numbers like [6k] would be impossible."

Scanner Sombre is currently 50% off in the Steam Summer sale. You can read Tom Marks' review here.

Grand Theft Auto V

GTA modding tool OpenIV released a small update today, from build 906 to build 907 of version 2.9. The update contains "bug fixes and small improvements", which during any other week wouldn't necessarily be cause for celebration. However, considering the recent announcement that OpenIV was ceasing development and updates in the wake of the takedown notice from Take-Two Interactive, even a minor update is a huge deal.

This morning, along with a new statement about its stance on singleplayer modding, Rockstar told PC Gamer that it was talking to the lead developer of OpenIV. It certainly sounds like that conversation went well and it appears that OpenIV will be continuing development, which also suggests Take-Two has dropped its legal challenge against OpenIV.

Another easy dot to connect: this turnaround is due to the massive protest by fans and modders, which included a swarm of negative Steam reviews and a petition with thousands of signatures. The players talked, and Rockstar and Take-Two listened. Good job, everyone!

As of right now, OpenIV's website hasn't been changed to reflect the good news—it still displays the original post about the takedown—but we expect a statement from OpenIV's developer soon.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018

Konami has earned abundant—and much-merited—praise over the last 24 months for its attempts to reinvent Pro Evolution Soccer. It truly is a revolution that’s been televised; and that, in very literal terms, is the issue for PC players. Rather than receive the Fox Engine-powered version that’s delighted current-gen console owners, they—they, being you—have had to endure lackluster PS3 and Xbox 360 ports throughout that time frame. Finally, for PES 2018, this oversight is corrected. Steam receives a version of Pro Evo that easily matches its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts, and may yet surpass them once the modding community sets to work.

That’s a big deal from a visual perspective, inevitably. I got the chance to play with four club teams (Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool) on a machine running an Inter Core i7-6700 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, and in 4K everything looks Champions League quality. Player faces, Barca’s especially, impressively match their real-life counterparts, crowds look like a collection of individuals as opposed to a swampy mess, and—most importantly—the on-pitch action unfolds in a manner which accurately represents the real thing. Sometimes too closely, given the Rottweiler-esque vigour with which Luis Suarez celebrates every goal.

Yet PC already has one cosmetically pleasing football game in FIFA, so it’s the feel of new PES which makes this long overdue upgrade so critical, and which will define its ongoing success. Konami’s focus in recent years has been on fundamentals over back-of-box gimmicks, and sure enough it’s the almost-natural feel of passing, shooting and dribbling here which make it—at least for these first few hours—unputdownable. Variation is plentiful and there’s no magical path to goal; even with a passing side such as Liverpool, I’m able to work chances and score goals with angled passes behind a full back, and/or direct crosses into the penalty area. 

Midfield play—for the longest time a congested, if just-about-manageable, mess in both big-name football games—is especially transformative. Here the pitch is noticeably bigger than in last year's PS4 and Xbox One versions; the players slightly smaller; and the dribbling system tighter. Receive the ball in the centre circle and precious split-seconds can be spent assessing options before picking out a team-mate or carrying possession forward, while chains of passes can be strung together without the need for Olympian reaction times and Russell Grant powers of foresight.

That one design decision alone moves human matches from basketball-style, I-attack-then-you-attack sprint-fests towards footballing chess, in which possession is pivotal and final ball placement (and timing) critical. Whether that filters down to cruder sides at, say, French Ligue 2 level is another question entirely, but for now PES’s ability to offer genuine tactical variety among AI teams on the recent console editions earns Konami the benefit of the doubt. 

I’m already convinced that this will be proclaimed the purists’ football game out on the pitch, but in the annual face-off with FIFA that’s only part of the equation. Licensing remains an area where Konami openly admits it can’t match EA’s cash reserves, so it’s taking unconventional routes to players’ hearts. One is offering champion sprinter Usain Bolt as a pre-order incentive, for use in MyClub, the PES answer to Ultimate Team. Brand manager Adam Bhatti tells me Bolt will be the fastest player in the game, and with pace deadlier than ever this year—Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is a joy to steer down the right flank—few will complain about a lack of realism once Bolt is charging past opposition defenders on their behalf.

Additional MyClub information isn’t readily available, but ‘unconventional’ is a term that’s always gone hand-in-glove with Master League, PES’ other long-term mode. This is one area I don’t get to experience during my hands-on, but Bhatti enthuses about it with confidence and zeal, promising a new transfer system—including the ability to buy any player by triggering their ‘release fee’, as occasionally happens with elite stars in real life—pre-season matches, and changing-room cut-scenes in the hope of providing a more involved world. 

While I have his ear, however, I can’t resist launching a studs-up challenge on the elephant in the room. Why did it take this long to bring the PC version of PES up to scratch? To Bhatti’s credit, it’s not a question he looks to duck.

“This was always something we wanted to do,” he says. “But being honest, the resource management internally wasn’t there. People imagine our team to be hundreds of people, and think upgrading to another format is simple, but [that’s incorrect]. Using Fox Engine on a football game took 2-3 years to get right on PS4 and Xbox One, which are our biggest markets. PC is super important to us, but until this year we didn’t have the resource. Now, we’ve learned from the Metal Gear team in terms of using Fox Engine on PC. It’s the same quality as the console version, and then some.”

And the modding community mentioned at the outset of this piece? An absolutely vital element of PES’s potential PC success, says the man in charge: “We’re not going to give them free rein… but they always find a way. In-game editing features are the same as on console, but they have been for the last 20 years on PC, and the community still manages to do some great stuff. And I don’t mean in terms of licensing: we’re talking weather settings, players faces, and so on. It’s great to see, and inspires us.”

Football fans are known to be overly positive during the summer months, as an unblemished fixture list and influx of new players deliver false hope ahead of a new campaign. With that in mind, it would be dangerous to proclaim this the title favourite prior to next season without having yet tested its online capabilities—something of an Achilles heel even through its recent successes.

But there is plenty to encourage, ahead of the fresh season. Not least Bhatti’s final thought on being properly optimised for PC: “It’s the best version, and we’re so happy."

Machinarium

Machinarium, the point-and-click adventure about a bug-eyed robot named Josef and his girlfriend Berta, was originally released in 2009 and is very good—in fact, it was the game that hooked me on Amanita Design's later work, including Botanicula and Samorost 3. But it hasn't aged particularly well, mainly because it was built using Adobe Flash. So Amanita has updated it with a completely redone "Definitive Version" that's now available on Steam

"We’ve reprogrammed Machinarium from the scratch. The game is now using a custom made DirectX engine instead of Flash which has become quite old-fashioned in recent years," Amanita wrote. "Therefore you can finally enjoy Machinarium even on modern high resolution screens. And thanks to added gamepad support, the game works perfectly in Steam Big Picture." 

The updated version also features 12 Steam achievements, Steam Cloud saves, and even leaderboards for "Quickest Win" and "Explorer," which measures total distance traveled. It's also been localized with 14 different languages, and the studio said that Steam trading cards are also planned, hopefully in the summer. 

The Definitive Version update is free for existing owners of Machinarium, and it makes a tremendous difference: It looks fantastic at high resolution, and runs like butter. Machinarium is also currently on sale for $2.50/£2/€2.50 as part of the Steam Summer Sale, which runs until July 5. 

Grand Theft Auto V

The drama between modders, Rockstar Games, and Take-Two Interactive continues to unfold. Rockstar has issued another statement, this time on singleplayer mods in general. And, there's some potentially hopeful news as to the fate of singleplayer modding tool OpenIV.

First, Rockstar Games has added a topic to its support page in regards to singleplayer mods for the PC versions of its games. This is obviously in response to the controversial decision of GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive shutting down OpenIV. Take-Two declined our invitation for further comment, and Rockstar initially only issued a brief statement, but it seems it has a little bit more to say today.

Under the question "Are Single-Player mods Allowed?" the answer is as follows:

"Rockstar Games believes in reasonable fan creativity, and, in particular, wants creators to showcase their passion for our games. After discussions with Take-Two, Take-Two has agreed that it generally will not take legal action against third-party projects involving Rockstar’s PC games that are single-player, non-commercial, and respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of third parties. This does not apply to (i) multiplayer or online services; (ii) tools, files, libraries, or functions that could be used to impact multiplayer or online services, or (iii) use or importation of other IP (including other Rockstar IP) in the project. This is not a license, and it does not constitute endorsement, approval, or authorization of any third-party project. Take-Two reserves the right to object to any third-party project, or to revise, revoke and/or withdraw this statement at any time in their own discretion. This statement does not constitute a waiver of any rights that Take-Two may have with respect to third-party projects."

I imagine this is supposed to be reassuring—here are the rules, so everyone is clear on what you can do and what you can't—but I still think it's problematic, as the statement is more than a bit vague. Take-Two "generally" won't take legal action against singleplayer mod projects that don't infringe on third-party IP rights and don't impact online play. But they still might take legal action, plus they reserve the right to modify or completely withdraw this statement in the future.

For modders embarking on singleplayer mod projects that may take them years to complete, even those that completely play by the rules described here, this isn't reassuring. What this really says is that you can do everything right, you can color within the lines, and you still might get a cease and desist order. Modders will be risking countless hours of work on a "reasonable" creative project, but could still lose it all.

On the more hopeful side of things, Rockstar has told PC Gamer that it is now in contact with the developer of OpenIV. That's certainly a positive step forward, and will hopefully lead to a more constructive resolution than a complete shutdown of the modding suite. When we have more details on this, we'll update our story.

It's worth noting that the reference to "tools, files, libraries, or functions that could be used to impact multiplayer or online services" is more or less the reason Rockstar gave in its initial statement about the shutdown of OpenIV. I'm not sure what resolution can be reached under those guidelines, but if both sides are talking, at least there's some hope.

Assassin's Creed™: Director's Cut Edition

The best sidequests in PC gaming have historically, for me at least, been few and far between. That is to say: while I've thoroughly enjoyed certain quests in certain games, far too many side ventures eschew narrative reward, often serve as filler, and are ultimately plain boring. This is particularly true in open world games—The Witcher 3 is perhaps the exception—however the Assassin's Creed series is looking to improve its side quest design into the future.   

Officially revealed at this year's E3, Origins will reduce its icon clutter by introducing a new "quest system". 

Speaking to our Samuel on the show floor, the game's creative director Jean Guesdon said: "That's one of the three main things that we reworked a lot. Traditionally in past Assassin's Creed [games], we had what was called a mission system. So, it was really about missions, but missions are really good to tell a little bit, a chapter, of a big story. So we had a main story and side activities, basically, which were not really supportive of narrative. 

"This time we're embracing a quest system, much more [like an] RPG, where you have dozens of them in the world, meeting different people, and each quest this time is a different story. We wanted that first to give a lot of meat to the world, to have the player really understand the world, and it's really allowing us to depict the setting well, because Ancient Egypt is incredible. It's a long lost world—we did a lot of research, and through the quests, we have a [chance] to help you experience that."

Assassin's Creed: Origins is due October 27, 2017. Here's its latest trailer:

One Finger Death Punch

As you might've spied last month, we recently launched the PC Gamer Club which offers members a digital subscription to PC Gamer magazine, ad-free-browsing on this very site, and monthly game keys, among other neat perks. Speaking to the latter this month's game, courtesy of our partners at Bundle Stars, is Silver Dollar's One Finger Death Punch—a fast-firing martial arts-infused rhythm game that boasts an 'Overwhelmingly Positive' review badge on Steam

As part of our weekly Why I Love column, Tom once wrote about his fondness of One Finger Death Punch's brutal simplicity, where speed and lightning-sharp reflexes are the name of the game. Snap up a PC Gamer Club membership today for your chance to fall for it yourself.   

Of course One Finger Death Punch is also coming to those already signed up—and if you're still on the fence, let us point you towards our handy Club FAQ

If you fancy that, registration details can be found this-a-way.    

Thimbleweed Park™

Thimbleweed Park—the Ron Gilbert-crafted, retro-inspired point-and-clicker than Andy billed as a "quality adventure game with challenging puzzles, oddball characters, and an intriguing, mystery-laden plot"—has been updated. Alongside "several" minor additions, as told by Mr Gilbert himself, the update brings with it two "major" ones by way of a new hint system and player character dialogues. 

Taking to the above-linked and fairly thorough blog post, Gilbert notes that player character interactions were in fact something he'd planned to have in the game's final release, but that he wound up scrapping during development.    

"This was something I attempted during initial production but abandoned due to me being unable to think about it as anything more than an a overly complex hint system," says Gilbert. "It always felt to me that all you'd want to do was talk to the other characters and get hints, and the early iterations of the system really showed that, so I abandoned it. Time was also getting short and there was a lot of work to be done, so it wasn't a matter of me writing player dialogs or hanging out at the beach.

"This turned out to be a mistake. I should have pressed forward and implemented this."

As for Thimbleweed's new hint system, it's designed to replicate a hints hotline—similar to what players of adventures games Way Back When would've relied upon. Judging by his words, it seems Gilbert succumbed to the need for a hints system at all through gritted teeth. 

"I know this will cause the hardcore adventure gamer's blood to boil (as it does mine), but the lack of hints was widely criticized by some of the more casual press," he says. "As we move to new and more casual platforms like iOS and Android, this becomes increasingly important. I guess it's a sad fact about not only modern gamers, but older gamers that just don't have 18 hours to spend on a game.

"Thimbleweed Park already has a working phone, so it seem natural to just have a hint line number you could call and get a hint."

Read Gilbert's update post in full over here. Thimbleweed Park's latest update is live now.

Dota 2

Dota 2 continues to headline the world of esports this week as The Summit 7 saw Virtus.pro take the title, while on the other side of the Pacific in Shenzhen, China, Newbee won Galaxy Battles.The drama doesn’t stop there, as there’s plenty of action from the Dota 2 International 7 Open Qualifiers to the League of Legends LCS. We even have the CS:GO Esports Championship Finals to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: NA LCS

Immortals continued to dominate the competition in week three and the introduction of Xmithie has only heightened their performance on the Rift. Team Liquid didn’t stand a chance as they were quickly crushed in a 2-0 sweep, which gave Immortals the confidence to reverse sweep Cloud9. Immortals aim to continue their dominance during their week four matches against Counter Logic Gaming and Team Dignitas. With their solid teamwork and excellent macro play, Immortals are ready for the challenges that lay ahead, but we shall have to see whether they can claim the top spot. The full schedule and stream can found by heading over to lolesports.com.

League of Legends: EU LCS

Misfits shed its underdog status last weekend when they managed to secure a 2-1 victory against G2 Esports in their week three series. Jungler Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian got Misfits ahead as Lee Sin, giving first blood over to mid laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage's Orianna during the first three minutes. Maxlore continued to ramp up the pressure throughout the first game and Misfits finished game one off with a powerful teamfight from PowerOfEvil. Misfits eventually took the series in game three thanks to another dominant showing from Maxlore’s Lee Sin. Misfits now find themselves at the top of the Group A standings and they will be aiming to continue this success when they face Team Vitality today. The full schedule and stream can found by heading over to lolesports.com.

Dota 2: International 7 Open Qualifiers

The Dota 2 International open qualifiers started yesterday and for many professional teams these qualifiers are the most important step towards a successful season. The winners of each open qualifier will then advance to the main qualifier, which will run from the 26th to 30th of June in a two stage format. Competition is expected to be extremely fierce and 60 teams (10 from each region) will eventually make it to the gruelling group stage. The winning team will secure their share of the massive $1,600,000 prize pool and claim international glory. The full schedule and stream for each region can be found by heading over to dotabuff.com

CS:GO: Esports Championship Finals

The esports championship series season three finals are taking place at Wembley Arena today, where eight teams from around the globe will duke it out for the $660,000 prize pool and the champions' title. The event will see a double-elimination group stage, followed by single-elimination, best-of-three play-offs stage. The group stage matches will be best-of-one match-ups, whilst elimination and decider matches will be best-of-three. FaZe Clan and OpTic Gaming are kicking off the group stage today at 04:15 PDT / 13:15 CEST, while the elimination and deciders start tomorrow at 03:15 PDT / 12:15 CEST. The tournament will be streamed live on www.youtube.com/faceit.

Overwatch: Apex Season 3

Overwatch Apex Season three continues to heat up as the qualified teams from each group continue to battle it out against one another. The finals are fast approaching and every team will be trying to claim the $177,055 prize pool. Today’s match will see X6-Gaming take on Team EnVyUs at 03:00 PDT / 12:00 CEST, while the Group B match between LW Blue and Lunatic Hai starts at 04:30 PDT / 13:30 CEST. Make sure to check out the full stream over on Twitch.

Hearthstone: Global Games

The Hearthstone Global Games tournament enters week 11 of play today and every team has been fighting hard to claim the top spot in the group stage. Half the teams from the original 48 have now been knocked out and the groups have been reseeded ready for the round robin stage. Group C’s round five match concluded yesterday for US viewers, but those of you in Europe can catch all the action today at 03:00 CEST. It’s a long road ahead for the pros and every team will be fighting hard to secure the $300,000 prize pool in phase two of the tournament. The full schedule and stream for week four can be found here.

Hearthstone: SeatStory Cup VII

Hearthstone’s seatstory cup begins today and 32 of the best Hearthstone players will gather at Krefeld, Germany to participate in the tournament. Hearthstone pros Frodan, Impact, Maverick and RDU will be present at this year’s tournament, but only the strongest will have a chance to claim the $20,000 prize pool and the seatstory cup. Today’s match will see Ostkaka and Reckful kick off the Group E bracket at 04:05 PDT/ 13:05 CEST, followed by RDU vs. Pavel at 05:20 PDT / 14:20 CEST. The full schedule and stream can be found by heading over to seatstorycup.com.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championships Phase 2

Phase two of the HGC is well underway and teams from around the world will continue to battle it out for the $425,000 USD prize pool. Fnatic will be aiming to continue their Mid-Season Brawl success and claim a top spot in phase two of the tournament. Every team will have their eyes firmly set on the next Western Clash in August, but only those who can remain focused and remain strong under the pressure will have a chance at taking the title. Make sure you head over to heroesofthestorm.com to find the schedule and stream for all the matches being played this weekend.

Street Fighter V: The Fight 2017

The next stop in the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour season takes us to Bogotá, Colombia for The Fight 2017. Top players like Brazil's Brolynho and Dominican Republic's MenaRD will be in attendance as well as other top regional players. Flash from the USA will also be competing, so be sure to tune in to the live stream over on Twitch to watch all the combo chaos. The matches start tomorrow at 12:00 PDT / 21:00 CEST and continue throughout the day.

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