I've always liked DC Universe Online's twist on the classic tank-healer-DPS trinity that defines most MMORPG's group roles. DCUO gives everyone access to two roles—DPS and then either tank, healer, or control (CC and power-restoration), based on their power selection—and lets them swap between them whenever they want.
It's a hybrid system that lets players specialize, while limiting the usual problem of there being too few healers or tanks because most people want to be able to level and solo efficiently. As a result, the queue times in DCUO are much shorter than they are in many other MMOs. And with the Role-Optional Alerts SOE's adding in the game's next update, which use specialized buffs to make any combination of players an effective group, players should be able to form groups almost instantly.
When the tool puts together a group of players, it analyzes what key role(s) your group is missing, and grants the entire team a buff that helps shore up their weakness. Your group will still have to be organized however, as the buffs will only be effective when all four players are fighting together.
If you don't have a tank, everyone in the group receives a buff that reduces the damage they take. Not enough to make everyone tanks, but enough to make the incoming damage manageable for your healer. Oh no! You're missing a healer too? Well, everyone in your group will receives a buff that triggers a "small amount" of regeneration whenever their health dips below a certain point. Tanks without a healer in the group will always be regenerating. And finally, if you're missing a controller, your group will receive a buff that gives everyone "varying amounts" of power during combat
The game's Duos—which plant two characters in a more challenging version of a solo instance—already function off of a similar desire to get people playing together, regardless of their character type, and have been a huge success by all accounts.
In the same update, SOE is also adding Novice Raids, alternate versions of all existing raids with lower gear and difficulty requirements. Their goal is to allow everyone to experience the story arcs told inside the Batcave, Kahndaq, and the Fortress of Solitude, and to let players start raiding much quicker after hitting the level cap, if they want to. Novice Raids will award the same quality of gear that existing raids do, but reward less of it per run.
Imagine what you'd do if you were one of 999 players charging across a battlefield, all firing lasers at each other at the same time. A huge army of players did just that on Sunday in the big Man vs. Machine world record attempt. If you're anything like participant Euphoric Waffle, caught in the chat log of one of the screenshots of the event, you'd say something like "Wooo."
Not enough wooo for your liking? Find more cause for joy hiding in the list of links below, including news of a remarkable Renegade-X mod. Take a look.
RPS highlight this exceptional looking mod, Renegade-X, which aims to remake Command & Conquer: Renegade, and actually make it good. Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Dead Space are among the games discounted in a big Origin sale. A post from the webmaster of the Black Mesa: Source forums suggests a new website and updates on the state of the mod may be imminent. Prototype 2 has been delayed on PC. The Star Wars: The Old Republic 1.1.1 patch notes are listed on the TOR site. Gamasutra talk to one half of Team Meat, McMillen on The Wrath of Lamb expansion for The Binding of Isaac. Beefjack report on a round of stories swimming around in the British press which used made up quotes to suggest that gaming was harming children. Over on MCV, news that THQ faces the prospect of being de-listed from the Nasdaq exchange over the state of its tanking share prices. The company behind browser-based games like Battlestar Galactica, Bigpoint, has amassed 250 million users. That's on Edge.
It's hard to imagine a full-scale thousand player scrap. What gaming records would you like to see broken?
Yesterday we highlighted a big hunt in Star Wars: The Old Republic for a vaunted white crystal. One player had been showing off a silver saber, and dropping cryptic hints as to how it was acquired. It's time to call off the search. Bioware have responded to say that the crystal was gained through a complex exploit, and isn't yet officially part of the game.
"CatchDeathwalker did not obtain the white crystal through legitimate means in the game. Right now, we're removing the crystal from his possession," reads a post on the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. A separate comment later in the thread elaborates. "This was not an 'easy exploit'," Bioware say "and not something the average player might 'stumble upon'."
"Right now, it is not possible to legitimately obtain a White Lightsaber Crystal in the game through any gameplay method. In the future, it will be possible to legitimately obtain. When that day comes, we'll let you know so you can go about obtaining the crystal for your characters."
So the white crystal WILL be a high level reward to be added in a future update, which makes sense. White crystals were available as a world boss drop in beta, and the whitesaber model clearly exists, it just isn't available just yet. The hunt for the while crystal has turned out to be a bit of a Bantha chase, but players have still found some weird things out there in the wilds of Hoth and Tatooine. The curious clues involving carefully placed Tauntauns and the Queen of Sands may be part of a different puzzle entirely.
The year is 2012, and yet somehow Games for Windows Live is still a thing. It's a dark future, to be sure, but even so I never imagined I'd have a problem as weird as this: I need it. And I can't get it. It's hard to stay angry when you're laughing.
I'm trying to play Batman: Arkham City on PC, an excellent game that was unfortunately developed in 1408 AD, the last time anyone alive didn't know Games for Windows Live was universally hated. And it's working - in fact, it's working better than usual. It's working without Games for Windows Live. That part of the game simply never starts - I'm not asked to log in, the Home key won't summon it, the main menu option does nothing, and the game seems to function smoothly without it.
The problem is that this was a Games for Windows Live game when I started playing it, so my thirty-odd hours of progress are tied to my GFWL account. This new, otherwise excellent version of the game I've stumbled into has no memory of that - I'm starting from scratch.
In fact, it has no memory at all - I play for 15 minutes, and that progress is also gone when I next start it up. No errors and no warnings - it even leaves out the confirmation screen that normally warns you you'll lose any progress since the last checkpoint. That would, after all, imply that it had saved at the last checkpoint.
And so, with the same screwed up face I wear when punching an explosive barrel to see if that 'works', I try to manually install Games for Windows Live.
As you might have heard, PC gaming no longer warrants its own site for Microsoft. It's games, so that makes it one of those Xbox things. gamesforwindowslive.com doesn't even redirect there - it's a page of classy "sponsored listings for goods and services" like jackpotjoy.com.
So I get the GFWL client from xbox.com, install it, and get an error. This is not unexpected. The neurotic error text even seems to anticipate that I'm probably on the verge of giving up already:
"A required Windows component is disabled on your machine. Do you want to learn how to fix this problem?"
... or is life too short?
Actually, Microsoft, since this is for official PC Gamer business: yes. I care, I have time, and I'm going to try to use your support process. I'm the person you were hoping didn't exist.
I click 'Help', and immediately the program seems unsure how to proceed. After an awkward pause, it starts up Google Chrome and takes me to a blank white page reassuring me that I'm being redirected to the appropriate support page - but presenting me with another option to give up, just in case.
I get an error - this is not unexpected. It is, however, extremely funny.
They've actually taken the time to pose an Xbox avatar in a dismissive shrug. His cheerful smile says, "Oh well! Doesn't really affect Xbox!" But his empty black irises, his blank flesh-coloured sclera, glare with a deeper corporate indifference. "YOU ARE NOT MONEY." They say. "I FEEL NOTHING FOR YOU."
Apparently I've found a glitch in the system! Well done me. With all that clever probing, including but not limited to attempting to actually play the game, I managed to catch them out! Thank God they seem so cool about it. I just need to look up error code 18307F760405E4F s:mGdrKQGKMfExOFYHmj2lJg== id:d2b83066-0f9f-4ba8-a833-abf86a9a2f03 req:89e81e05-998d-4ee7-8b7a-ccd2b5e058f8 and it'll all be OK!
That's when I notice the URL. Have a look at the URL.
This isn't one error code's obtuse solution page that's missing, it's the English support page for PC gaming. It's an error. Error 18307... is that the whole support section for the PC has gone.
I found it, eventually, by Googling. It's a page divided into four sections:
Section 1: Is this really our fault? Please check. You'll find that it isn't. Section 2: Here's a list of people whose fault this might be. Section 3: Maybe this is YOUR fault! Reinstall DirectX. Section 4: "Did this solution solve your problem?"
There is no support for Games for Windows Live itself, since it has never been the cause of any problems in PC gaming.
So I'm still stuck in my Games For Windowless world, which would be nice except for the Arkham City thing. I still don't know which essential Windows component I'm missing - is this because I uninstalled Chess Titans, Microsoft? Actually, don't tell me. I think I'll stay here.
March 23 is the release date for Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai, the enticing standalone expansion to Shogun 2.
Fall of the Samurai introduces six new factions to do battle for an expanded campaign map portraying ancient Japan on the verge of an age of transition. Western weaponry is being imported in greater numbers, and factions within Japan are seeking to use them to overthrow the ancient Shogunate using the muskets and massive cannons provided by imperial forces.
The expansion will add new tech trees, ground units, naval units and agents as well. You can find out more in our great big preview in the latest issue of PC Gamer UK, which you can order now online, or get digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.
Freddy Prinze Jr will be playing new squadmate, Vega, in Mass Effect 3, triggering panic attacks among those who remember his role in the Wing Commander movie. It's okay, he's been in Frazier, Friends, Boston Legal and 24 since then. He joins second newcomer, Jessica Chobot, who plays reporter Diana Allers.
The voice cast video above is worth watching to see how closely the cast resemble their in-game counterparts. Vega is essentially Freddy Prinze's face transpanted onto a hulking frame, Joker looks as close to Seth Green as ever and The Illusive Man is like a young, bionic Martin Sheen, or "Mr. President" to West Wing fans.
The cast will feature a few more familiar voices. Tricia Helfer returns as the Normandy's AI, Yvonne Strahovski reprises her role as Miranda. Carrie-Anne Moss is Aria T'Loak and Lance Henriksen is Admiral Steve Hackett. See Mass Effect 3 characters old and new in the fresh batch of screenshots below.
More screenshots of XCOM: Enemy Unknown have appeared on Game Informer, illustrating two combat missions featuring some familiar enemies. The first encounter has a three-person squad taking on a squad of aliens that have decided to invade a convenience store to grab a can of Coke. The heavy weapons guy gets pinned behind a van, and a soldier must take to the rooftops to get a firing angle and distract the monsters. That frees up the heavy, who unhooks his boomstick and slots a rocket through the doorway, obliterating the alien menace and saving vital Coca Cola stocks for the coming war.
They also manage to raid the mulchy green invader remains, finding alien tech to send back to base. in XCOM, your scientists can dismantle alien tech to learn how it's made, and incorporate that tech into new toys for your ground-assault teams. Here are nine screenshots from the fight.
Fancy getting your hands on AMD's swanky new Graphics Card Next(GCN) technology but don't want to spend the small fortune it costs to purchase a Radeon HD7970? Rejoice, then, for today we have been blessed with the second card in this new range, henceforth to be known as the Radeon HD7950.
Don't get too excited: it's still not what you'd call a cheap card. Retail prices have been set at £355/$449 and upwards, which puts it pound for pound up against the erstwhile fastest current single chip GPU, the GeForce GTX580. So how does GCN compare to NVIDIA's best?
The HD7950 has the same Tahiti processor as the HD7970, which was released just before Christmas and it also comes with the same 3GB of GDDR5 RAM on a 384bit bus width. The only difference is that four of the 'Compute Units' have been disabled, and clockspeeds for both the processor and memory reduced.
As is common practice for all processor manufacturers, what you're essentially getting is a card which hasn't met the quality control conditions for the more expensive boards but is still fully functional across most of its silicon. Given AMD's track record for locking off disabled cores, it likely won't be long before we see people attempt custom BIOS creations that try to turn them back on again, converting a HD7950 into a HD7970. Personally I wouldn't hold out hope that you'll be able to do that, but who knows?
Since each Compute Unit within GCN's structure has 64 shader cores arranged in four batches of 16, the HD7950 has 1792 cores compared to the 2048 in the HD7970, and these are running at 800MHz by default (HD7970 has a base speed of 925MHz). What's interesting, though, is that there's no reference design from AMD – so at launch there are plenty of cards from the likes of Sapphire and HIS that are overclocked out of the box. Most seem to have settled on 900MHz as a good round figure to ship with.
The most important thing is that HD7950 retains all six of the dual channel memory controllers and the 32 ROPS of the HD7970. There's nothing to slow the card down if you're planning on running at ludicrously high multi-monitor settings or with tons of anti-aliasing on. Apparently there is a 1.5GB version in the works which will appear at a more sane price.
Personally, since I don't really need the extraordinary rendering power of a top end card for my single screen set-up, what I really appreciate about GCN is its exceptional power throttling. In a recent round up of HD7970s, a system built around a Core i7 2600K idled at just 65W. The HD7950 also inherits this ability to totally shut down unused cores on the card.
A quick scan of early reviews suggests that AMD has done very well with this launch, and consolidated its position as the vendor of choice if you want to spend lots of money on graphics. Not only does the HD7950 comfortably beat the GeForce GTX580 in nearly every benchmark, new drivers have been released which improve the performance of the first GCN card as well.
Here's what the review sites are saying:
Anandtech politely says that “the 7950 renders the GTX580 irrelevant”.
Bit-tech, however, urges caution and says that no HD6900 or GTX580 purchaser should “rue their purchase”. They're disappointed with the high price points of both GCN launches and expect better value soon. They think NVIDIA's Kepler chips will be arriving before long.
TechRadar celebrates the fact that HD7950 may ship with low clockspeeds, but “even if you've never overclocked a graphics card in your life you owe it to all the engineers who worked on the Tahiti GPU to push it north of the 1GHz mark”.
Over at Tom's Hardware, there's a complaint that the HD7950 is noisy, and that some features (like video encoding) are still flaky with the new drivers. Still, they concede “there's really no contest” when it comes to a decision to buy this or GTX580.
All positive, all couched in somewhat surprising caveats. The question now is whether or not NVIDIA can get its next generation chip, codenamed Kepler, out before all enthusiasm for it wanes. Rumours are it might turn up next month. Wait and see...
Last week we mentioned the Man vs. Machine world record attempt, which hoped to get a thousand players together on one server for a massive scrap. They fell ONE SHORT of their intended target, but successfully broke the world record. Woo!
The system crashed just short of the 1000 player mark. The devs brought the server back up and the game continued for another two hours. In the end, the Machines emerged victorious. “It was amazing. We did not imagine the amount of interest that this game would generate," said MuchDifferent CEO, Christian Lönnholm. "Almost until the end we were averaging around 980 players at any given moment. It was a blast!”
The Guinness World Record external observer returned, satisfied, to the Great Tower of Records, and confirmed two days later that the event had indeed broken the world record for most players in a single game.
"This would not have been possible without the players, so I’d like to send a special warm and loving “thank you” to them!" says Lönnholm. "Thank you for bringing such creativity to both the battlefield and to the chat. You had me laughing, giggling and spilling coffee throughout the event!” There was too much lag to take any effective video, but the devs took a few screenshots of the event, which feature MANY LASERS. Here they are.
Here are ten TF2 kill clips to make you go "whaaaat," courtesy of CommFT. They've taken the best of all the kill replays submitted to the Extelevision site during December and ordered them according to their awesomeness. The list features some blinding kill streaks, a jammy but spectacular reflected grenade triple-kill, a remarkable string of headshots and a stunning three-rocket juggle kill. The list demonstrates how TF2's calamitous physics can result in some baffling mid-air encounters. Only the very best players can exploit these to earn game-winning ubers and vital kills. It's fantastic to watch.