Dec 4, 2012
PC Gamer
tomb-raider-08


I'm only fifteen minutes into my preview session, but Lara Croft is already balancing on a tree trunk wedged perilously between cliff faces. I’ve just navigated a crumbling underground cave network and emerged on a cliff overlooking an ocean. Violent waves are crashing on the rocks below and historical ships lay in ruins at the cliff face, acting as bleak evidence that no one leaves this island alive. If I fall from my trunk we’ll be crushed between the waves and rocks.

It’s a tense moment. Or it is, until I realise that it’s hard to actually tumble off the trunk. Feeling audacious, I push the analog stick on my controller as hard as I can, but this indelicacy goes unpunished. Lara continues on her way with no evidence of lost balance.

Tomb Raider is definitely a reboot, then. It’s a narrative-driven action adventure game, and from what I've seen in the game's first two hours, it’s not at all taxing. Pacing and presentation often stands in for interactivity, in a fashion blatantly reminiscent of Sony's Uncharted series. The first cave network I traverse - before I emerge onto the cliff face - encapsulates the experience: a sprinkling of lite platforming, some puzzle solving, and the fending off of predators via QTE prompts.



Fending off predators takes on a new meaning later of course, as soon as Lara gets a gun. Lara’s first kill is one of the most talked about video game moments of the year: an attempt by devs Crystal Dynamics to lend emotional weight to a gameplay loop involving shooting lots of generic dudes in their face. Tomb Raider’s opening feels like a long buildup to this event, as Lara learns how to hunt deer and upgrade her gear. In one instance, Lara needs to open a door, thus she needs to craft a stronger climbing axe with which to wedge it open. Naturally, she must kill a bunch of animals to strengthen said climbing axe.

After her first human murder though, the result of a kill-or-be-killed encounter, Lara barely flinches at the prospect of murdering foes en masse. Speaking to Tomb Raider’s art director Brian Horton, it’s clear there’s an inherent difficulty balancing gameplay with character depth. “In video games, the mechanic, or the idea of using killing as part of a gameplay loop, has been part of video games forever,” he says. “It’s just something that we’ve grown accustomed to.

“But very few games put that importance and the weight of what killing a person means . So the first kill for Lara had to mean something. It was something that she had to do, but she actually made a choice to do it, in a way. The player makes the choice.”




Following “the first kill”, Tomb Raider temporarily becomes a third-person shooter without a cover mechanic. The shooting is enjoyable enough, but it feels thematically inappropriate. Meanwhile, many of the platforming sections feel rudimentary at best: graspable ledges are quite obviously signposted.

Still, this is early in the game, and directing Lara around the linear landscapes is pleasant enough. Occasionally she’ll stumble across challenge tombs - little self-enclosed puzzles reminiscent of her roots - and happen upon journals sprinkled about the island to provide convenient context and spooks. Halfway through the session I'm tasked with scaling a radio tower that looms on the horizon to send a distress signal, which seems to promise the game’s first truly breathtaking platforming challenge. I need to kill a bunch of guys to get there, but no worries - true platforming awaits!

“As an industry, I think we’ve only just touched the surface of our version of storytelling.” Horton says, again on the challenges of marrying gameplay with narrative. “We’ve been using traditional cinematics, something that’s definitely borrowed from film. But what we’ve tried to do in this game, in addition to telling a story through cinematics, is to tell a story through play. As you’re playing through the world there’s visual storytelling going on everywhere, and there are conversations going on in context with gameplay. One of the powers of our medium is that you can have choice, and story, in addition to what we have to force through cinematics.



“There are certain things we have to get across," Horton continues. "But the things I’m more excited about with the medium is that we’re able to do more visual storytelling and that sort of optional interactive storytelling that you can perceive when, instead of killing a dude you can wait and listen to a conversation. you can get more of the fiction without being forced to stop and wait.”

The team’s determination to tell a great story shines through in every part of the game, from the lovingly rendered jungles and their convincingly torrential weather systems, through to the seamless traversal of the world. No loading screens roam here, unless you die. Horton cites films like Children of Men and Apocalypse Now as inspiration for his art direction, films that “dealt with very horrific things, but dealt with them in a way that makes you feel you could have been there.”

So it’s disappointing that after a protracted series of firefights and one or two short puzzles, I finally make the last victorious steps toward the radio tower... and the game takes control. What could have been a marvellous - transcendental - journey, turns into a cinematic.

Yes, it looks gorgeous, but I don’t feel like I'm there. Which is a shame, because when it lets me play, Tomb Raider is pretty fun.
PC Gamer
Warhammer Online Black Orc


"Warhammer Online update" isn't a sentence frequently used around these parts (like "gargoyle removal" or "Magneto problems") since Mythic's PVP-centric MMO has puttered quietly in the background over the years with a small but dedicated community. Nevertheless, patch 1.4.8 hit servers yesterday with a major overhaul consolidating the various realm-versus-realm coinages used for acquiring increasingly powerful gear and weapons into a single War Crest currency for easier management of your blood-money.

New War Crest Vault Keeper NPCs populating Warcamps and capitol cities will trade your old and busted RVR currencies for the new and glossy War Crests at these exchange rates:

5 War Crests for 1 Warpforged/Doomflayer/Captain
4 War Crests for 1 Royal
3 War Crests for 1 Warlord
2 War Crests for 1 Invader
1 War Crest for 1 Conqueror/Officer
1 War Crest for 125 Recruit


Currency rewards from both RVR quests and player kills remain locked at a 1:1 ratio with the new War Crests. If Ranald, Warhammer's god of tricksters, deems a favorable fate upon you, a very rare War Chest could appear in your loot window one day and bury you beneath 2,500 War Crests, a fireworks fanfare, and a special announcement in the near vicinity. No, it's not " just became loaded! KILL!" though I sorely wish it was.
PC Gamer
EVE_Online_Retribution


The 18th EVE Online expansion, Retribution, is now being transmitted to subscribers. Retribution rebalances EVE's ships, introduces new destroyers and an industrial frigate, and adds many new features, such as safeties to prevent accidental crime, greater potential consequences for committing crimes, and improved enemy AI. All of Retribution's new hardware and deep space tweaks are described in detail on EVE's official site.

They're all notable, but I'm most interested in the reworked bounty system. Prior to Retribution, bounties just didn't work. They were notoriously used to transfer currency between alts with self-placed rewards, and even legitimate bounties could just be claimed by a target's friend. As long as the reward covered the minor damages, it was a win for the target.

To squash these exploits and make bounty hunting a legitimate occupation, the new system bases payouts on how much monetary damage is done to the target, so hunters will never receive more than they cost their victim, and targets can be killed as many times as it takes for the payouts to deplete the bounty pool. The change should prevent exploitation and make bounties more meaningful: they're now about inflicting monetary losses, and money matters to EVE players way more than easily-replaceable clone bodies.

Retribution also makes UI changes, adds new sounds and situational music, and according to Executive Producer Jon Lander, will make EVE "feel revitalized" as it enters its second decade. For me, the last EVE expansion had the following effect: Oh, right, I have an EVE account. I guess I should log in, but do I really want to--well, that does look cool. Alright, I'll play for a bit. *Logs out of life for two months.*

In this case, Retribution has to fight PlanetSide 2 for my time. It's going to be a tough battle.
PC Gamer
PlanetSide-2-Gets-New-Screenshots


One-upping his own company's self-proclaimed "extremely aggressive" stance on squelching aimbot programs in PlanetSide 2, SOE President John Smedley seemingly hired a computer-savvy pro wrestler to tweet a warning (via PCGamesN) to abominable aimbotters across Auraxis, writing, "Use ...and we'll find you. We'll find your family. We'll hunt you down."

@wutzi_bu we don't need to cross reference anything. Use it.. we'll find you. we'll find your family. we'll hunt you down.— John Smedley (@j_smedley) December 4, 2012


Smedley subsequently blasted out "AND WE'LL SHAVE YOUR CATS!" which is something I totally made up and didn't really happen. He did, however, call out a specific hacker for boneheadedly including a link to an aimbot program in the signature of email addresses used to register three PlanetSide 2 accounts.

"Haruhi at artificialaiming.com was just banned," Smedley wrote. "All three of his accounts. Goodbye, you scumbag. Find a new hobby or get good at the game."

Still, PlanetSide 2's breathtaking immensity yet houses cheaters eluding SOE's net so far, as forum threads of reported hacker sightings have climbed in page count as more players chime in. Anecdotal anomalies certainly exist, as secondary leaderboards keep track of strangely lopsided kill-death ratios emerging from certain soldiers.

"Honestly, I thought hacker stories were a bit over the top on the forums until I played on the EU Miller server today," wrote one player. "Holy smokes. Guys running at 100 KMH shooting everybody while strafing, a Vanu with a shotgun blinking around one-shotting everybody, and similar hilarious hacks. Honestly, I see this game getting a real bad rep real fast if this isn't addressed soon."

PC Gamer
The War Z shoreline shootup


We've already picked apart our spongy zombie delicacies over Hammerpoint's alpha offerings of its open-world survive-em-up The War Z, but a reevaluation might soon be necessary as Hammerpoint announced The War Z's transition into beta today and the appearance of new playable characters, clan chat and tag support, more purchaseable store items, and the remaining final section of its sprawling Colorado map.

Hammerpoint also yanked the availability of the Survivor, Pioneer, and Legend pre-purchase editions to keep their respective recognition perks in the roomy rucksacks of alpha testers. Instead, three new currency-based packages exist on the official website's store providing a mixture of guest keys and in-game cash at $15/£9, $25/£15, and $50/£31 price levels.

Executive Producer Sergey Titov outlined upcoming features in a forum post for the road (sans Viggo Mortensen) leading to The War Z's planned Foundation Release later this month. Stronger antihack measures, in-game store and inventory management, .22 caliber weapons, more melee combat options, driveable vehicles, tear gas, and other additions all sit on the bloodstained horizon for War Z's denizens.
PC Gamer
Ncsoft-logo


Something major appears underway at the Seattle-based offices of Guild Wars 2 publisher NCsoft. After a tip from an anonymous source, PC Gamer contacted Public Relations Director Lincoln Davis who denied that the Seattle studio had closed, but confirmed today that a "realignment" was taking place.

"NCsoft is realigning internal publishing resources to better suit the needs of our game development studios," Davis told PC Gamer. "As a result of the realignment, several employees and contract positions were affected. This was a very tough decision to make and wish the best for all NCsoft employees in their next ventures.” Davis didn't elaborate on the extent of the restructure nor of any possible effects to Guild Wars 2.

In October 2011, employees at NCsoft's Seattle, Austin, and Brighton studios were also hit with layoffs, and today's news follows last summer's report of a nearly 12 percent reduction in revenue suffered by the South Korean publisher compared to the previous year.

We'll update this post as more information becomes available from NCsoft.
PC Gamer
starcraft2_lore


Blizzard has been posting an ongoing series of StarCraft lore Q&As with Heart of the Swarm lead writer Brian Kindregan. They're up to seven entries now, and you can read the latest one here, which links to all previous editions. We've extracted some of the more interesting and less-known facts for those who may not have the same voracious appetite for setting fluff as a certain, unnamed contributor to this site.

The Queen of Blades and Sarah Kerrigan are not exactly the same.
 


Sarah Kerrigan became the Queen of Blades after she was captured by the Zerg swarm in the original StarCraft, and was freed from that state at the end of Wings of Liberty. In Blizzard's own words: "The Queen of Blades is essentially Sarah Kerrigan under the influence of some devastating forces: incredible power, a dominating level of psi energy, and the presence of Zerg mutagen from the cellular level up.

"To be clear, the Queen of Blades is not a separate entity that possessed Kerrigan. Kerrigan is (certainly in her mind) responsible for the terrible things she's done. She has immense guilt for those actions, but she was not completely in her "right mind" in Brood War."

The entire StarCraft franchise takes place in one corner of a much larger galaxy.
 


It's easy to play through the StarCraft campaigns and lose track of this fact. The "Terran" we've come to know are the descendants of colonists to the largely backwater Koprulu Sector. We were reminded of this in Brood War when the United Earth Directorate—the "main" Terran government—showed up to cause trouble. That being said, the Koprulu sector does seem to be where most of the galaxy's important action is taking place. But it still makes you wonder... what else is out there?

Mutalisks can fly in space by eating too much Taco Bell.
 


The Zerg swarm's organic aerial harassment specialists, the mutalisks, are shown flying through space in several game cutscenes, and seem to function normally on maps that take place in a vacuum. Blizzard's explanation?

"Basically, mutas produce a gas that pushes against their own mass as it’s excreted. Even in a vacuum, this causes propulsion, because the gas is pushing against the muta as it’s expelled. Maneuvering is difficult for a muta, but it can release the gas in a range of directions.

"When mutas are in an atmosphere, they simply use their wings. The gas is reserved for space travel."
PC Gamer
planetside_2_livestream_twitch_v2


Video streaming apps are often expensive, not very good, or both expensive and not very good. Enter Open Broadcaster Software, a free, open-source solution which is super lightweight, includes many of the same options as software you can buy, and so far works beautifully for streaming games on Twitch.tv.

Using Open Broadcaster's "experimental" game input source, I streamed PlanetSide 2 at 1920x1080 with a totally watchable framerate and no noticeable performance dip on my end (it hovered at around 58 FPS, which is just fine with me). This is on a Core i7 and 5900 series Radeon, with graphics settings on medium. For comparison, PlanetSide 2's in-game Twitch.tv streaming support works, but has limited options, and locks both the stream and game to 30 FPS. We can't have that! Here's how to set up Open Broadcaster to stream PlanetSide 2, or whatever else you want.

1. Get Open Broadcaster Software
 
You can download Open Broadcaster for free here.

2. Set up your broadcast
 


If you don't have one, make a Twitch.tv account (unless you prefer a different service for some reason). In Open Broadcaster, enter the Settings menu and navigate to Broadcast Settings. Select "TwitchTV/JustinTV" as your streaming service.

Now head to your Twitch.tv dashboard and click the Streaming Apps link in the upper right. Hit "Show Key" and copy your unique stream key into Open Broadcaster's "Play Path/Stream Key" field. That's all you need to do here, unless you want to select hotkeys or set up local recording.

3. Adjust your encoding settings
 


You'll probably have to play with your stream's quality to find the right balance for your system and bandwidth. The default settings, however, are pretty ugly. To fix that, start with the Encoding section of Open Broadcaster's menu: for me, things are looking pretty good with the quality balance set to 10, and both the max bitrate and buffer size at 3200, but go higher if you can.

4. Set your video options
 

You probably want a 16x9 resolution, as it'll look best in Twitch's player—I've gone with good 'ol 1920x1080. You can also change the max framerate, which defaults to 30.

5. Set up the source and scene
 

Run the game you want to capture and Alt-Tab out to Open Broadcaster. From the main window, hit Global Sources > Add > Add Game Capture and select the game you're running. Back out of there and right-click inside the empty Scenes list to add a new scene. With the new scene selected, right-click in the empty Sources list and add the Global Source you just set up.

That's it! You can now preview the stream or start broadcasting, but you won't see anything if the game is minimized, so if you don't have multiple monitors, you may want to run it windowed for initial testing. Even better, have a friend watch the stream remotely and give you feedback. Then, make thousands more friends and have them watch it, and you're a livestreaming celebrity. Well done!

6. Thank an open source developer
 
Streaming software has caused me a lot of headaches. "I just want something that doesn't take two minutes to open and hog all my resources," I cried. "Just give me something simple; something that works!" Open Broadcaster fills that void for free, and should only get better with updates and plugins.

We haven't tested OBS extensively yet, but so far it's a great addition to the PC Gamer toolbox, and we'll let you know if we run into any troubles. Regardless, we say to Open Broadcaster's creators and supporters: THANK YOU!
PC Gamer
Greed Corp review


While other bundles go off chasing publishers, Indie Royale remains, as the name implies, decidedly indie. This time they're celebrating the impending long, cold nights of winter with retro rainbows and the harsh, uncaring philosophy of hard capitalism. No, I don't see the connection either.

The highlights of this round of games are undoubtedly Greed Corp, a clever turn-based strategy in which you mine and destroy tiles for resources, and Bit.Trip Runner, a constantly strolling platformer/rhythm game.

Also included are Hamlet, or the Last Game Without MMORPG Features, Shaders and Product Placement, a Shakespearian point and click adventure; Conquest of Elysium 3, an old-school fantasy strategy game; Leave Home, a side scrolling shoot 'em up; and They Breathe, which looks like Echo the Dolphin with a frog.

As always, the price will fluctuate depending on the amount contributed by others, with the current minimum standing at £2.93. The games are available for a mixture of Steam, Desura and standalone download.
PC Gamer
Greed Corp review


While other bundles go off chasing publishers, Indie Royale remains, as the name implies, decidedly indie. This time they're celebrating the impending long, cold nights of winter with retro rainbows and the harsh, uncaring philosophy of hard capitalism. No, I don't see the connection either.

The highlights of this round of games are undoubtedly Greed Corp, a clever turn-based strategy in which you mine and destroy tiles for resources, and Bit.Trip Runner, a constantly strolling platformer/rhythm game.

Also included are Hamlet, or the Last Game Without MMORPG Features, Shaders and Product Placement, a Shakespearian point and click adventure; Conquest of Elysium 3, an old-school fantasy strategy game; Leave Home, a side scrolling shoot 'em up; and They Breathe, which looks like Echo the Dolphin with a frog.

As always, the price will fluctuate depending on the amount contributed by others, with the current minimum standing at £2.93. The games are available for a mixture of Steam, Desura and standalone download.
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