PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Supreme Commander 2 – PC Gamer UK’s Co-op Game Of The Year">

Why RTS sequel Supreme Commander 2 has gone from 'good' to my 'Game Of The Year.'


If you loved Supreme Commander, you probably didn’t like Supreme Commander 2. And if you didn’t like Supreme Commander, you probably didn’t play Supreme Commander 2. It was an awkwardly pitched sequel: a game that solved the accessibility issues of the first game, bought primarily by people who didn’t want them solved.

Since its release, though, sustained precision fire from the Tech 3 Patch Cannon has knocked SupCom 2 into impressive shape: a large-scale RTS with smart economy management, but easy to play and understand at the basic level. It still dominates PC Gamer’s lunchtimes, every game leads to apocalyptic clashes of plasma-spitting tungsten monstrosities, and it’s become my favourite title of 2010.

Not that I’m suggesting anyone play the campaign: don’t. Play a one-off game against the Easy AI to get started. Then get some friends in and play the way we do in the office: cooperatively. Our last big game was six PC Gamer writers versus two top-level AIs with massive resource bonuses, and it got a little out of hand.

Playing field
The map is Desert Canyon, a huge dust bowl surrounded by tall mesas with mass points on top of them for anyone with jetpacks, transports or teleporters. The outer edges are a forest of these, while the centre is a huge open expanse.



At the top of the map, we have the two Cheating AIs. They produce resources 200% faster than us, their units build twice as fast, and they level up in combat at a ridiculous rate. Below them, clockwise around the dust bowl, we have: Tim, who doesn’t play much SupCom but has joined in to try the DLC. Rich, who plays Illuminate and likes to teleport giant humanoid robots across the map. Graham, who builds meticulously neat, self-sufficient bases, then masses artillery and planes. Me, a Cybran obsessed with making my experimentals invincible with hundreds of mobile shields. Tom Senior, who likes to spread his base out and make outposts. And Jaz, who makes land units then ferries them about in air transports.
Damage control
The game starts, and within a few minutes Tim and Jaz are under attack. They’re closest to the AIs, and the onslaught is tough to defend. Jaz builds waddling Harvog assault bots, loads them into large transports, then uses the new Illuminate air teleport ability to zap them directly into the enemy base. I don’t have time to check up on how that works out, but pretty soon Jaz’s commander goes nuclear and his whole base is levelled, so I’m guessing not well. He’s out, and Tom Senior is next in line.

Tim takes heavy damage too, but isn’t quite eliminated: the AI smash through his base, but leave a few buildings standing and just move on, down towards Graham. They often assign low priority to finishing you off: once they’re sure you can’t win, they won’t risk damaging their units more than they have to by attacking your last defensive positions. Tim stomps his commander down to Rich’s base and hides among the power generators, using his remaining mass to build artillery.



Rich himself gets to work on Colossi: vast bipedal deathbots that fire white-hot lasers from their faces. Meanwhile, Graham is building enough energy generators – in a perfect grid – that he’ll never need to leave his base. Converting energy to mass is inefficient, as Einstein pointed out, but it means avoiding the risk of expanding.

From the moment the game starts, everything I do is geared towards building a Monkeylord as soon as humanly possible. It’s a laser death hose on spider legs, and it’s the size of a city block. It’s also the toughest unit SupCom 2 has ever seen, and the idea of one of those surrounded by Adaptor shields makes me giddy.

This is why I particularly love Supreme Commander 2 in co-op. To me, making big land units and lots of little shield generators seems like the obvious way to play. To Graham, never leaving his base seems natural. Rich just likes one unit so much he’s going to build it forever. So you have this huge map with every player working towards their own masterpiece of base construction and unit composition. They’re not scouting the enemy and then mechanically building the counter to whatever they see – it’s much more about personal preference and the way you like to fight.
Deadly swarm
Tom Senior is in trouble – tanks, missile launchers and mobile artillery are swarming his Megalith outpost. The Megaliths themselves are doing their best with their long-range lasers, but he’s losing buildings now. Luckily, my Monkeylord is done.

This is how you want to try out a unit: against a swarming field of tanks. Its giant laser pops them like bubblewrap, so fast he could write his name in their ranks if his name was a bit shorter than ‘Monkeylord’. Soon we’re holding back the hordes reliably enough for me to get my commander down there, and start putting up artillery to pressure the AI’s forward base, built in the remnants of Jaz’s.



On the opposite side of the ravine, Rich’s Colossi are trudging into the Space Temple: a giant spire that can teleport any unit extraordinary distances across the map. They’re jumping almost all the way to the enemy base, and coming face-to-face with SupCom 2’s other vast humanoid killing machines: King Kriptors. The Kriptors fire scorching flame from their fists, the Colossi fire their facelasers, and it’s almost as if titanic things are in some way clashing.

Back at Tom’s base, the enemy hordes are getting more serious. Kriptors are showing up, with pet Cybrannosaurus Rexes. They smash up my artillery and almost all of Tom’s base before I can get Soul Ripper gunships out to deal with them. My Monkeylord is nigh invincible, but even he can’t kill units of that size before they blow up whatever they like.

Then, the ultimate disaster strikes us all: the end of lunchbreak. This is bad. At the time, this match wasn’t strictly work-related, but it was far too exciting to abandon. So instead, I dialled it down to the slowest game speed, and we all pressed Alt + Tab and got on with writing things and shouting at games companies. For the rest of the day, the game ran at a glacial pace in the background, our empires running on autopilot while the AI hordes built up around us.



This never used to happen. At launch, a game of SupCom would almost never go over 40 minutes, so it fitted comfortably into a lunchbreak. But Gas Powered have wisely leaned towards larger and larger maps with the content they’ve added, both free and in the paid DLC. Super units such as the Monkeylord are longer-term projects to build, and longer-term challenges to destroy.

When we switched back at the end of the day, the news wasn’t good. Tom, Tim and Jaz had all been eliminated, and Graham’s game had crashed out, blowing up everything he owned. Only Rich and I remained: he with 14 Colossi milling around in his base, I with five Monkeylords clustered in mine. My Commander and original Monkeylord were still alive in the ruins of Tom’s, but as I checked up on them, more enemy experimentals emerged from the fog of war. Oh hell.
Back to base
Five Monkeylords. Six dinosaurs. A Kriptor. Two Megaliths. A hundred tanks. I had my commander top off the Monkeylord’s health, then spent some research points to jumpjet him the hell out of there and back to the relative safety of my base.

Trying to get a better handle on how screwed we were, Rich built an Illuminator: a new structure that can momentarily reveal almost the entire map. It’s an eye-opening overview of the battle as it stands. And when he finally charged and activated it, it revealed a sea of horrors. This vast empty desert was now teeming with robotic death. Uncountable Monkeylords. Hundreds of Kriptors. Fleets of flying fortresses. Dozens of Soul Rippers.



It was pointless to try and fight it all. Our only hope was a single joint strike on one of the AI’s now heavily shielded bases. I unlocked air transports, picked up my Monkeylords and flew them over to Rich’s base. He set his teleporter destination as far as it would go towards the green base, and marched his 14 Colossi into it single file. In about eight minutes – it’s a big map – we were in position. Even with our ridiculous combined force, wading into that base was an explosive slog. I had to back us up with Bomb Bouncers to defend against artillery, and Soul Rippers to deal with the enemy’s endless flying fortresses.

Eventually, we punched through. As Rich’s Colossi finally made it up the central ramp to the base, I flew my Monkeylords up the cliffs on either side to attack his Quantum Disruptor artillery directly. His fully upgraded, shielded, self-repairing base finally crumbled. We’d lost nearly everything, but we’d taken this one base. We’d destroyed one of the commanders. And we’d proved, in theory at least, that we could win.

Then we looked at the enemy forces again, and decided we might be better off dead. Ctrl + K sets anything you’ve selected to selfdestruct in five seconds, so if you’ve selected your buildings, units, engineers and commander all at once, it’s about the only thing more spectacular than the battle we just had. It seemed like a fitting end.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Sean ‘Day[9]‘ Plott – PC Gamer UK’s Gamer Of The Year">

Our Gamer of the Year is Starcraft II legend and pillar of the community, Sean 'Day ' Plott

If you sliced Sean Plott’s arm open, you wouldn’t find any blood – you’d be hit in the face with arterial sprays of StarCraft. Day, as the internet knows him, lives and breathes the strategy series, making a living at one point as a professional StarCraft: Brood War player. He now dedicates most of his time to helping fellow players up their StarCraft II game through daily video tutorials and commentating sessions.

Talk show
His ‘dailies’ are the centrepoint for a rabid and friendly community, an amazing following for hour and-a-half videos of a man in a room talking to a webcam. I asked Sean why he started recording his thoughts.

“I was low on time and I missed thinking about StarCraft,” he explains. “So how do I both think and watch the pro matches I want to at the same time? I couldn’t just sit in a dark closet and think about StarCraft for 45 minutes a day – commentary was the way. I made it a daily thing because I tend to be a little bit overambitious.”



Sean’s experimented with his format: on some days he puts out 90 minutes of hardcore analysis; others, he turns into fun sessions. His Funday Mondays ask players to go through a game in a non-standard way, and get a huge response from the audience. Sean reminisces about these template deviations. “At that point in time, I was getting around 6,000 to 7,000 live viewers per night. Then Funday Monday came along and we hit 11,500. It was because people went onto Battle.net and spread the word.”

Surely it would be easier to record videos ahead of time? Not so. “Pressure wakes my brain up. Sometimes the community will be really curious in the chat window – they just want more strategic depth. Other times I go in there and they’re just talking about silly childish things, and I’ll read the goofy mood and go in goofy.”
Star power
But there’s a business sense behind the webcam dancing. StarCraft II’s rise has shoved e-sports back to the top of the PC agenda, with organisations such as Major League Gaming in the West setting a course for development. Sean’s life has been intrinsically tied to competitive gaming, and he’s got plans. “I definitely think that StarCraft II is going to be long remembered as the game that made an e-sports dent in people’s minds. I see e-sports having a position between sports as seen on television and chess. Ten years ago, when e-sports first rose to public consciousness, virtually all the content that was produced had an executive producer at the head, hired to just bark orders at people. But executive producers don’t get gaming. Gaming is not an activity, it’s a lifestyle. What do I do on a Friday night? If I’m a party hound, I’m going to get trashed. If I’m a gamer, I’m gonna be gaming. No one really got that ten years ago, but the people that grew up with it are starting to get these jobs.”

Even if he’s the man to lead the charge, I can’t see Sean dropping his daily duties. Nowhere else in gaming can you find a personality so welcoming, patient, and selfeffacing. I get the impression that even with a fraction of the monumental audience he has with each entry, Sean would still be in his room, talking to his computer about the game he adores. “The absolute best part about doing the dailies is when someone says something like, ‘Dude, I’ve been in the silver league since the start of StarCraft, and now I’m a diamond, and I give you credit for that.’” That genuine desire to help his fellow nerds makes him our gamer of the year.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to UK Christmas bonanza – Day 11: Win a Radeon 5770 IceQ 1GB graphics card from HIS">

Welcome to the bonanza Christmas eve competition special. It's so close to Christmas that we're vibrating with excitement. But what about our PC's? Our desktop workhorses slave away all day every day to bring us the best games, and all they get in return is a sharp kick when they break down. Win today's competition and you'll be able to give your machine a new lease of life with a demonic Radeon 5770 1GB DirectX 11 graphics card. We've got three to give away, so read on for your chance to enter.





The Radeon 5770 IceQ IGB card has DirectX 11 support, which means you'll be able to take advantage of the most advanced graphical technologies locked away in your DX 11 games. Shader model 5.0 and Tesselation support provide faster and more detailed rendering of 3D objects and if you have a multi-core CPU, improved threading technology will make your games run even faster. If you have some spare screens lying around, the built in AMD Eyefinity technology will let you use multiple monitors for a maximum resolution of 3 x 2560x1600. The card also comes with an IceQ cooling unit to keep your high powered chip running quietly and at peak efficiency

Tech specs

Cooler - IceQ 5
GPU - 5770
Core Clock - 850 MHz
Memory Clock - 4.8Gbps /// MHz
Memory Size - 1024 MB
Memory Type - GDDR5
Memory Interface - 128 bit
Interface - PCI Express x16 (PCI Express 2.1)
Card Dimension 24.5x12.6x4.2cm cm (HxWxD)

Everyone knows that Christmas is brilliant, but it's not completely perfect. Look at the traditional Christmas dinner, specifically the Turkey part. Of all the animals to eat in celebration, why should it be the Turkey? It's the blandest bird in bland land. We need a new Christmas animal to eat. Something exotic and exciting, something to make the relatives gape in questioning horror. Post in the comments below with an exotic Turkey replacement. Tell us what it is, why you've chosen it and how you'd cook it. You must live in the UK to enter. The funniest three entries will win a graphics card.

Come back tomorrow for the grand finale of the UK Christmas bonanza, the chance to win a Corsair 240GB SSD drive worth £375.

Winners!

Redundant
JamesG
pthedius

Send me (Craig) your details on PM. I'll get the prizes posted after New Year.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Crap Shoot: Les Manley: Search For THE KING">

Richard Cobbett polishes up his psychic powers with a game that promised much, and definitely delivered Les. Meet Leisure Suit Larry's geekier, harder to love, far-more-punchable cousin.

Ah, psychic powers. In reality, nothing but the fevered tools of charlatans and the easily convinced. In adventure games of the 80s and early 90s, a requirement on a par with a computer to play them on, and eyes to see the screen. It would be unfair... a little unfair... to say that adventure games of this era tended to be, uh, 'a bit obscure' about their puzzles and solutions in the name of selling hint-books and premium-rate tips lines, but not that the companies involved were shy about turning down the extra revenue such things provided. More than a few times, you'd be politely reminded that you could take advantage whenever you died, or would get a card right in the box with all the details you needed.

Of course, you wouldn't ever dream of using such a thing... or at least, not admitting to it when brushing off how obvious it was to try and wear a dog so that it would be magically transformed into a pair of Hush Puppies to sneak past a guard. (Yes, that's a real puzzle, from Simon the Sorcerer). They were for other people. Pathetic people. Weak people. Failures, in adventure games, as in life. Oh yes.

Which brings us to Les Manley. You didn't need to be psychic to win this sadistic little game, but by god, it'd have helped. It fought dirty, and if you complained, it gave you the finger. Let's play, shall we?




Les Manley is a nerd's nerd, working for a failing TV station in New York, with the sole job of manually rewinding video tapes. He's almost as in love with his boss' assistant, busty blonde Stella Hart as the artist charged with drawing pictures of her for the game, and that's all the personality he's really given for the whole game. His socially awkward lack of love and success is no doubt meant to be relatable to the kind of people who play bad adventure games, and for that... well... okay Accolade, you win this round.



This game has exactly three moments of generosity, and the first two are right here. Generous moment the first: It does at least tell you what your big goal is. At least, partly. The TV station is running a big competition, with one million dollars of actual money going to anyone who can find THE KING. It's always capitalised, and about as subtle a way as saying Elvis as "Elvis". Despite having heard his bosses openly describe the contest as brilliant because there's no way anyone can actually win, Les feels lucky, and decides to go look for him in his lunch break. This is indeed the point of the game.

The second generous moment is that the opening rooms are actually explained in the manual, both getting you started, and either introducing you to the psychic world in which the designers hope you live or pointing out that yes, you really are going to want that hint-book (sold separately, please allow 28-days for delivery). Search For THE KING uses a parser-based control system - in other words, you type what you want Les to do rather than clicking on icons - and boy does it love to use it to obscure things. Unless you type exactly the correct thing, you won't progress. This means you can't simply sweep the mouse and click on everything to find hotspots, an old adventure gaming trick usually known as "pixelbitching", and are therefore about as much at the designer's mercy as if he'd handcuffed you naked to a bed and produced a really big feather to tickle you to death. Only without as many laughs, obviously.



Les' office sets the tone. The first thing you see is Stella through a hole in the wall, but if you type Look, you're just told "You may be able to see Stella, but Les can't!", immediately setting up the psychic/game interaction that will soon come to define most of the puzzles. Searching carefully, you'll find Les' lunch in his desk drawer - a jar of peanut butter and a thermos flask - an empty filing cabinet, a radio that tells you that somebody, somewhere in New York claims to have seen THE KING, and a calendar that tells you that Les just finished a two-year probationary period at the station. Somehow, this is the game's way of giving you a clue that you need to head down the corridor to the boss' office, demand a raise so that Stella brings in the paperwork, and then swipe a set of keys you have no particular reason to think you need from his desk while he's distracted by her shapely but low-resolution curves.

Why do you do this? Because the manual tells you to. Do you do every stupid thing a little booklet tells you to do? Then you'll be done with this game in an hour, most likely. If not, good luck. Finish it without cheating but with your sanity intact and you are a true adventurer indeed.

Doing every stupid thing the hint-line tells you is also acceptable.



New York turns out to be pretty quiet. There's the TV station, a house whose occupant cryptically tells you to go away if you're not "who I'm waiting for", a bus station, and a fairground - none of which exactly scream Elv- sorry- THE KING. The fairground easily looks like the most fun, but unfortunately there's a catch - Les has no money, and being an adventure game character, no chance whatsoever that this will be solved by just going to an ATM. All his worldly resources are in his pocket, and peanut butter probably won't cut it. Oddly though, the circus seems to be based on the honour system, as Les can just walk right through the front gate and in fact to every single available exhibit without a ticket. Actually try to interact with any though, and you're told you might be able to see more with a ticket, implying that he's wandering around with his eyes shut until he's paid his voluntary dues to the god of Capitalism. What a guy.



The solution to this one is a good introduction to the psychic powers you'll need later, requiring such a low midichlorian count that you might actually stumble onto it by chance. Hidden out of sight on the left of the map are a load of caravans, and one of them belongs to the circus owner, Bob. Your introduction to Bob takes time to mention the hint-book. This is not a Good Sign in an old adventure game.

Fortunately, he's willing to let you into the circus, but only if you shovel some elephant shit for him in exchange for a ticket. Or so you're told. Actually, you don't have to do any manual labour at all. Pick up the shovel and immediately drop it, and it counts as done. If you don't realise this, the game will happily let you sit there, watching Les ferry shovelfuls of elephant poo for hours and hours and hours without bothering to tell you that your job is done and you can go back to working on the slightly less pooey story for a bit.



With a ticket, you can finally explore the circus properly. It's a depressing place. Its available acts are the Big Top, where Les manages to walk right into the middle of the show and get eaten by lions, The World's Strongest Man being too depressed to actually perform, The World's Smallest Man being too depressed to perform, and Madame Zarmooska, the gypsy fortune teller offering "Ball Reading and Palm Jobs", because this is apparently Funny. Asking her about the future gets you the following incredible help:

"You'll be going on a long journey. I see a search. I see a King. I see a violent ending. Peace and tranquility. But it aint over till it's over. The rest is up to you, Les."

As useless as this both sounds and is, it's actually pretty accurate, in much the same way that "you will meet a tall, dark stranger" is accurate - technically, but not helpfully. Leaving her behind, and with no real pointer towards anything you're actually meant to do, it's time to move on. Not by heading back to the bus station, of course. No, that would be silly. No, to reach the next part of the game, you...

Well, you do this. Obviously.



That, right there, is the third and final generous act that the game ever does. There are three parts of this game, set in New York, Las Vegas, and finally The Kingdom - THE KING's house and surroundings, and it will tell you if you arrive without everything you need. Of course, it compensates in other ways.

Las Vegas turns out to be a single hotel, which claims to have a casino as well... but doesn't. Presumably that would have been one Leisure Suit Larry rip-off too many. Instead of fun Blackjack mini-games and sexy adventures with bar-flies, Les gets to visit... a dry cleaners, and the side of a pool, and with the exception of a few hotel rooms upstairs, that's about it. As with New York, there are a few mentions of The King, but nothing that gives you any real hint as to what you're supposed to be doing, what puzzles need to be solved, or where to go next. There almost is, at the pool, where a celebrity called Mr. Fabulous is hanging out with a sexy lady called Lyla Libido, but when you finally get rid of him without his goon killing you by ripping off your head and spitting down your neck, the only thing you get from it is a bad piece of pin-up art and the chance to steal a pair of sunglasses. Helpful? Not right now!



Heading out from the casino takes you into the desert, where you promptly die of dehydration. Technically, it's not death, but you'll never escape unless you have some water to break out of the maze, so you'll need to restart the game. This is where Search For THE KING really starts showing its true colours. You think you're safe because you found the thermos flask back in New York? No. It was empty! Unless you bothered to check that, and subsequently fill it up at a water fountain in the TV studio corridor, you're now just as dead as if you'd never found it at all. What makes this even crueller is that there's absolutely nothing important in the desert. Nothing. The only reasons it exists are to do a "Viva Lost Manley" joke, and to shamelessly shoe-horn in a random pin-up picture of Stella. To save you wondering:



Two out of three locations down, and still with no clue as to what the hell you're meant to be doing, it's time to head for The Kingdom. Of course, you don't know this, and there's only the slightest hint that you need to hitch-hike your way there hidden in the casino exterior's description when you type 'Look', but let's just assume your magic antennae clued you into that and got you where you need to be.



The Kingdom is tiny, consisting of exactly two locations: outside THE KING's house, and a bar in town. This will turn out to be the penultimate screen in the entire game, so cleverly, it's only now that it decides to tell you what you should have been doing: collecting pieces of a THE KING costume to enter a Look-Alike contest. Of course! It's so obvious! Who needs hint-books or anything?

Restarting the game, since there's no way of going back to old locations, it's time to try again, this time with a Plan. Or at least, a slightly better idea of what the game wants. Take lunch. Fill flask. Ask for raise. Steal keys. This time, use the keys to unlock a door elsewhere in the building. Take reporter ID because it's there and therefore probably important. Go to circus. Shovel poo. Stop shovelling poo. Game on!



This is where the game starts playing dirty. All this stuff? This was just a warm-up for the actual puzzles. There are adventure games with worse puzzles, but not many that are so obnoxiously evil about them, or go out of their way to break the holy covenant between player and designer. For starters, let's look at what you're meant to do in the game. You're meant to win a look-alike contest, which involves dressing as a character you've never seen. Now, yes, obviously everyone has some idea of what Elvis looks like, but would you necessarily know that you don't simply need a suit and shades, but a separate scarf and a cape to go along with them? You're told if you miss something, but not precisely what.

The sunglasses are easy to get hold of. Actually, the sunglasses are one of the better puzzles in the game. Try to talk to Mr. Fabulous and he tells you that he's waiting for a call from his agent. Have the front desk page him, and you're sorted. It's a good use of available resources. It makes sense. Hurrah.



The cape is... not quite so good. You find it at the circus in New York by wandering into the Big Top, which leaves you actually standing in the ring, surrounded by lions. Luckily, you can distract these predatory carnivores hungry for flesh by throwing them popcorn, because that's how lions work. From there, you accidentally kill a nervous high-rise artist by giving him rosin for his sweaty palms, stand by as he falls to his death in front of your face, pick up his discarded cape, and saunter off out of the circus with the kind of sociopathic disregard that makes so many adventure game characters such likeable people.

The scarf is your first proper psychic test. You need to not only know that you need to get into an anonymous building in New York, but that a stolen reporter's ID will get you through. Impressively, the game only tells you that this is what the woman behind the door wants to see after you've shown it to her. Inside, the scarf is in a protective cabinet, and a cage falls down and kills you if you try to take it. Of course, at this point of the game, you have no reason to know you need it, nor any moral reason to try and steal it, but that doesn't matter. The woman who owns it is quite happy to show it to you if you magically project your imagination to the designers' brain sufficiently to specifically ask for a soda. Otherwise, she just insists she needs to get to know you better. Why do you need the soda there? Because otherwise you wouldn't be able to spill it on her prize possession and steal from her washing line, you thieving little bastard. Wesley Crusher would kick Les Manley in the balls for crimes against geekdom.

And speaking of crimes, Les never actually wears the scarf anyway. Even at the end of the game, when he has to wipe a bit of sweat off himself, he uses the cape. Cruel and pointless? Puzzle gold!



The suit itself is easy to find - it's at the dry-cleaners in Las Vegas. From there, it's a piffling matter to realise that all you need to do to get it is to persuade the world's smallest man to let you tie floss around his waist and lower him in to a plug-hole in a hotel bathroom to retrieve the decades old ticket from under a jacuzzi. Who needs proper hints for that? What kind of idiot wouldn't immediately jump to those conclusions? It goes without saying that you persuade him to come along with you by stealing a security guard's pornographic dream and handing it to him as a pick-me-up, then actively mailing him to Las Vegas - a place you have no in-game reason to know you're going - to avoid him burning up on re-entry.

I mean: pfffft. This isn't Mixed Up Mother Goose or something! Why, if it wasn't for scenes like this, there'd be no challenge at all. When adventure developers gather, sometimes they talk about insult swordfighting, or the Babel Fish puzzle. But when the candle is gone, and only the hardest core-remain, guaranteed, talk will move to this puzzle, in which you have to close a door you can't see, flip a Do Not Disturb sign you have no reason to think is there, all to make the maid head into a clearly vacant room, just to can steal the keys from her cart that let you into another room, which just happens to have something you need in it. As soon as you solve this puzzle, it is your sworn duty to reach for a lottery ticket and become a millionaire. If you don't, you only have yourself to blame for your lack of a houseboat built of solid platinum.

(In a final screw-you for this puzzle, you have to specifically retrieve the dental floss from the drain, otherwise you won't be able to use it to repair a guitar later on - an act that the game itself admits is silly since it not only wouldn't work, Les doesn't know how to play anyway.)



With the Elv- sorry- THE KING costume pieces all assembled, it's back to the end of the game. Changing in a phonebooth, Les bravely heads out on stage - still with no actual reason to do so, of course - and promptly stinks up the joint like a flatulent skunk. Instead of walking away the winner, he's handed the booby prize, which disappointingly for everyone waiting for this to actually become Leisure Suit Larry, does not in fact involve boobies. Instead, it's free, completely unsupervised access to THE KING's whole house, which would be handy if THE KING was actually there, but no such luck. Instead, it's just an excuse to perfect Les' costume, despite the fact that the contest is over and no time passes between now and when he re-enters it. The process involves stealing a guitar and mike, fattening up by... making a single sandwich (and if you don't have the peanut butter, it's quite literally right back to the start of the game for you!) and most bizarrely of all, visiting THE KING's bedroom because the game demands you slide down a fireman's pole into his kitchen instead of simply opening the unlocked door.



Anyway, now a hulking fatty with a couple more props, you finally get to achieve your lifelong dream of being an unconvincing Elvis impersonator in a free talent contest. Suddenly, Larry's quest for love doesn't seem so bad, does it? This time however, things go better. In fact, Les is so convincing that the audience actually mistakes him for THE KING returned, and trample him to death right on stage.

Wait, what? You die? You put in all that work, and this is your hero's reward?



No, of course not. You just fell for the designer's cruellest joke, and now face the final test of your psychic powers. It's too late now though. You have to start the whole game again, collect the four costume pieces again, and go through all the same mean-spirited traps designed to hobble you for forgetting something. This time though, you have to solve... drum roll, please, this moment demands it...

...THE MOST RIDICULOUS PUZZLE IN ADVENTURE GAME HISTORY!

Yes, to survive being trampled to death in a talent show at the other end of the country while dressed in the world's best Elvis suit, you have to go to... the fortune telling gypsy at the circus. Back in New York. And assault her, by either touching or kissing her. That's not it though, not at all! When you do this, she vanishes with the message "Too bad I'm only a dream", leaving you free to pet the stuffed lizard on her desk. Why do you want to pet the stuffed lizard in a gypsy caravan at the other end of the country? Because when you do, out of its little stuffed mouth comes... a resurrection card.

A. Resurrection. Card.

A RESURRECTION CARD!



This does absolutely nothing for the whole game, until that very last screen when you get trampled to death. Without it, you just die. With it, you ascend to Heaven, where THE KING awaits and lets you take a photo. This is still in your hand when you return to Earth, letting Les win the contest, take over the TV station in exchange for the million dollars they don't actually have, and turn it into a profitable business that isn't remotely relevant in the sequel, Les Manley: Lost In LA, which is about as enjoyable as coughing up dead babies in a crowded mall, but considerably easier to finish without psychic powers.



Incidentally, here's a bonus. When I first played Les Manley, it wasn't with these beautiful graphics. I had a CGA graphics card, which technically stands for Colour Graphics Adaptor, but really meant 'Crap Graphics Always'. It offered artists a grand total of four colours to play with, with the only real choice being whether those four colours included cyan and magenta or green and brown. This meant that most games ended up looking like moss on a stone, or a seedy winter wonderland. Here's a pic for nostalgia purposes, or just to be glad you weren't into games when they looked like this...

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to StarCraft 2 – PC Gamer UK’s Strategy Game Of The Year">

Starcraft II is compulsively entertaining when you've got your hands on the controls, but it's also a gripping spectator sport.

StarCraft II has a beautifully paced singleplayer campaign that sets the benchmark for inventive solo strategy, and that’s all fine. Twenty hours of missions where your small men kill other small things in a familiar two-and-a-half dimensions, StarCraft II is a game that we’ve all played before in some form. Maybe it was dressed in a fluffy hat and dancing to cod-Russian music; maybe it was wandering around Warcraft before there was a World to explore. StarCraft II – we thought – could only be an evolutionary game.

But StarCraft II is revolutionary. It will change the world. It's already started to.


Big league
I came into the office in late October to find Tom at his desk, talking to Tim about StarCraft II. At this point after the game’s launch, I’d dabbled in the online leagues, earning an average silver league placement. I’d let my interest wane slightly, having new games to play and few people to bounce ideas off. Tom was using words that I’d never previously heard him say, espousing theories on the importance of creep spreading, and damning a second Raven as an unnecessary expense. “Tom!”, I shouted over. “You’ve started playing StarCraft!”

“No I haven’t.” What? How the hell was he hypothesising on concepts I barely understood after three months of play, then? “I’ve been watching the GSL.”



The Global StarCraft II League is hosted by GomTV in South Korea, and is currently the world’s largest e-sports tournament. Technically open to anyone, the final pool of people are the world’s best StarCraft II players, having smashed their way through the preliminary rounds to earn their spot on a televised broadcast and the chance to win just shy of £100,000.

The matches are played at lightning speed by professionals who train ten hours a day and exert superhuman control over their charges. To follow any other game as a spectator without complete affinity with the rules, units or common strategies would be a window into an incomprehensible world – but here was Tom, StarCraft virgin, telling me to avoid clumping up my marines in case of burrowed Banelings like IMmvp does.
Good sport
StarCraft II is an e-sports enabler. The game’s producer, Chris Sigaty, told me before launch that the two major causes for such a lengthy development time stemmed back to balancing the game. First, theywanted Battle.net (the game’s always-on matchmaking framework) to be idiot-proof and fair in its opponent selection. Second, the finite details of unit interaction and race balance had to be hammered so far down that games were watertight – no overpowered tactics or unbeatable builds.

That attention shows. While forums are littered with children bleating about supposed imbalance between the three races, a few matches alone on the Battle.net ladders show that the game’s distinct species are both completely different in terms of style and utterly mirrored in terms of power. This successful walk of the tightrope lets StarCraft II’s multiplayer appeal three times over. There is – as yet – no perfect attack, no perfect build order. Combine this reward for Blizzard’s relentless balancing zeal with mechanics all gamers are familiar with and, as Tom proves, StarCraft II becomes a viable and hypnotic spectator sport, even for non-players.
Friendly fire
The drive turning StarCraft II into the West’s first major e-sport is aided and abetted by one of the planet’s best communities. A dipped toe into the swirling online world of StarCraft will come up with a few names clamped on: Day, Husky, Artosis. More outward-focused and approachable than any other subset of gamers, the English-speaking StarCraft community – with its homes on TeamLiquid.net and around the web – are consciously welcoming to new players, where so many games try to drive them away. Sean ‘Day’ Plott deserves special mention, devoting an hour and a half a day to talk straight into his webcam about emergent strategies, tips and stories culled from a life playing both games in the series professionally – find his essential archive at day9tv.blip.tv.



To bob around within the currents of StarCraft II in its present form is to feel connected to a genuinely global movement of players at the forefront of something. It’s the reason I find myself doodling build orders on napkins at pubs, or practising hitting my control group hotkeys when I’m waiting for the other guys in the office to go to the shops at lunchtime.

Whether e-sports will ever truly sink their e-teeth into the televised schedules of the West as they have in South Korea is to be determined. But if they do, StarCraft II will forever be the game that took the first bite.
PC Gamer



Logan, Dan, Evan, Josh and Andy share their holiday wish lists and exceptional gaming moments of 2010 on this end-of-the-year podcast.

Download the mp3, subscribe and call in with your exceptional moments, questions and predictions of the future, toll free: 877-404-1337 ext 724.

PC Gamer US Podcast 253- Year Of The Trackball
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Have some free wintry fun over the holidays with LOTRO">

One of my greatest pleasures while playing LOTRO is taking part in the seasonal festivals that Turbine rolls out four times a year. These festivals are always a great part of the game, and lately, Turbine has been adding new content to each festival as it comes out. During the Fall festival, we had the addition of the Haunted Cellar under Bilbo's house, and now, for the Yule Festival (which started on December 14th and runs to January 11th) they have added an entire zone, Winter-Home. And now that LOTRO's free to play, you can enjoy it over the holidays as well!

With the addition of Winter-home, players now have a few new interesting way to entertain themselves as they gain new festival rewards. Not only can players complete the usual array of festival activities such as the horse race and the plethora of activities at the Party Tree in The Shire, but there are now new quests that players can complete to learn the story of Winter-home.

Other than quests, there's a few new activities that you can participate in around Winter-home: the snowball fight and the Frostbluff Theater performance.



First up: the snowball fight. Travel to the snowfield a little ways from Winter-home proper. Gather enough snow to form a few snowballs, then hurl them at other players. Depending on the amount of snowballs that connect with other players, you receive different rewards (10 hits for easy mode, 15 for hard mode). I found that this was a fun event to run, but as one of my kinmates mentioned, it would be nice if there was a little more "ooomph" when the snowballs connected. You'll have to use your imagination to see players fly back a few feet when they're pelted with snowballs.



In Winter-home itself, the Frostbluff Theater lets you take part in one of the performances. As soon as there are 3 players in the theater, the play will start. If there are more than three players in the theater, three players will be selected at random to become actors and actresses in the play. If chosen, you'll be asked to perform specific emotes at specific times, following the narrator, to successfully complete the quest. Success not only brings you a small amount of dramatical experience, it earns you titles and other rewards. Personally, I found the performance to be a lot fun. It really felt like I was performing, especially when there were lots of other players in the audience. Of course, other players have been saying on the forums that they find it annoying, so it'll depends on your playstyle and affinity for the arts. If you enjoy the dances at the Party Tree in The Shire, you'll love this!

The rewards from both activities are our standard fare of festival goodies, including cosmetic items, items for your home and single-use toys such as fireworks and food. The Yule Festival horse looks great this year, and I'll definitely be spending my festival tokens on it as soon as I get enough! Horse race, here I come!



There are tons of great resources out there to help you with the new quests in Winter-home, as well as all the other activities associated with the festival. If you're looking for some festive fun over the holiday break, use these guides to get the most out of LOTRO's Yule Festival!

Goldenstar's Yule Festival Guide at Casual Stroll to Mordor
LotroLife's Yule Festival Guide
Ten Ton Hammer's Guide to the LOTRO Yule Festival
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to UK Christmas bonanza – Day 10: Win a 64GB USB 3.0 drive">

We're up to day ten of our massive Yuletide give away. If knowledge is power then today's prize will bring power to your pockets. We're giving away a DataTraveller Ultimate 64GB USB drive worth £173. It's light, portable, and thanks to its USB 3.0 interface, blindingly fast. Read on for your chance to win.



The Kingston DataTraveller Ultimate 64GB USB Drive is a great way to safely move huge amounts of data. If your system can support it, the USB 3.0 interface will let you transfer information at a remarkable pace, with a read speed of up to 80 MB/s, and a write speed of up to 60 MB/s. Don't worry if you don't have a 3.0 port, the included Y-cable can be used to connect the device with ordinary systems, and is still stunningly fast. Here's an overview.

Colour — Glossy white with aluminium
Dimensions — 2.90” x 0.87” x 0.63” (73.70 mm x 22.20 mm x 16.10 mm)
Operating Temperature — 32° to 140° F (0° to 60° C)
Storage Temperature — -4° to 185° F (-20° to 85° C)
Practical — durable casing with a solid lanyard loop

We've come a long way from cave scrawls and papyrus. Now we can fit thousands of encyclopaedias onto one tiny stick, which begs the question: where do we go from here? To win, come up with a method of sharing information that we'll be using in one hundred years time. The must unconventional and inventive entry will take the prize. Post your answers in the comments below, and remember that you must live in the UK to enter.We'll update this post with the winner tomorrow.

Come back tomorrow for a chance to win one of three Radeon 5770 IceQ graphics cards, and on Christmas Day for a chance to win our star prize, a Corsair 240GB SSD drive worth £375.

Winner: Hydrogoo
PC Gamer

Tim, Tom, Craig, Rich and noob Owen amass for a special Christmas podcast, reflecting on their games of the year and what you should play over Christmas.

Download the MP3, subscribe, or find our older podcasts here. It may take a little while to pop up in iTunes if you get it that way - something odd going on with our RSS feed lately. Thanks for listening.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Eve Online at “Bleeding edge of what you can do today”">

CCP's Chief Technical Officer, Halldor Fannar, has described their latest character creation tool as "Definitely on the bleeding edge of what you can do today." See examples of the tech after the jump.



CCP are responsible for sci-fi MMO, Eve Online, which currently has over 350,000 subscribers. Halldor discussed the differences between PC and console technology with PC Gamer earlier in the month.

You can see examples of facial tech here:



And the, erm, dress tech here:



PC Gamer recently visited Iceland to talk to CCP about the past, and future of CCP. Read the full 12-page feature in PC Gamer UK issue 222, or subscribe here at a discounted rate.
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