PC Gamer
Quake II Enforcer

Quake II was one of the first FPS epics to espouse the pristine logic of firing rockets at one's feet to jump higher. Id's memorable shooter didn't skimp on the bullet count either, and in celebration of its 15th anniversary yesterday, Creative Director Tim Willits shared a few did-you-knows (via Eurogamer) surrounding the art and multiplayer.

For instance, just three artists crafted the 2D and 3D visuals for Quake II's entirety, delivering an orange-tinged world of metal and flame shuddering beneath a massive human military offensive. An earlier suggested title for the game was WOR, but id changed the name after realizing Quake II's fast-paced action better suited the renowned series.

Lastly, Willits' multiplayer arena of choice, The Edge, hides over 50 trick jumps for handy hoppers, though Willits only designed two of them. The rest were discovered by early adopters of ye olde drum-and-bass jump videos.

The remainder of December holds further commemorations for PC gaming greats of the 1990s. WarCraft II hits 17 in just two days, with id following right behind with a 19-year-old Doom anniversary on Monday. Planescape: Torment, Black Isle's masterful RPG, turns 13 next Wednesday. Id returns yet again with tough platformer Commander Keen's 22nd birthday on the 17th, and nothing boosts holiday cheer like the sorcerous cultists of Raven Software's Heretic which dings 18 on the 23rd.
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3 wingsuit basejump

Look up in the sky! Is it a toucan? Is it Vaas' ever-expanding mohawk? Neither: It's a tattooed tourist evoking the animal spirit of the flying squirrel by strapping on a wingsuit and hurling himself off one of the highest peaks dotting Far Cry 3's Rook Islands. Why? Because the squirrels commanded it. Other animals show up during BillerKee's lengthy descent such as an amazing glimpse of a tiger ambushing a boar pack and the startled barks of guard dogs. Alerted pirates are left in the...er, air, and I challenge you to not white-knuckle your chair at least once as you see how close Jason Brody skims the dirt.
PC Gamer
Crysis 3 Ceph-thrower

Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli's enthusiasm for incorporating burgeoning free-to-play business models into the PC-melting Crysis franchise is about as strong as a nano-maxed punch. Like hunting space squids with a bow and arrow, though, such a marriage takes time. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Yerli believed that the free-to-play future he envisions "won't happen tomorrow" and Prophet-ized a peaceful coexistence between free and fee.

“I don’t think F2P’s a mutually exclusive way of looking at things," he explained. "I mean, the future is definitely free-to-play, but likewise, retail can co-exist with it. Premium games can be free-to-play. When I said free-to-play’s gonna be our future, I meant that and I hold to it. But I didn’t mean it for tomorrow.

"When I say there will inevitably be only free-to-play games, I mean that there might be ones where you can just download them with a free-to-play business model, or you can go to the store and buy it for $60. So that’s what I meant: There’s gonna be free-to-play available, which brings the entry level down to zero from a price perspective.”

Yerli also revealed prior considerations for turning Crysis 2's multiplayer into a free-to-play standalone while packaging Alcatraz's journey as priced content, but the final product wound up combining both in the traditional retail combo. Crysis 3—which de-cloaked its North American February 19/European February 22 release dates today—will follow suit, but Yerli hopes for something a little less spendy in the future.

"My desire is that everybody can just play Crysis and don’t have to spend money from day one," he said. "So people don’t have to think, ‘Oh, do I really want to pay $50 for that game?’ I don’t want that question to be asked. I just want them to be able to give it a try. And then they can make their choices about spending money. That’s honestly why I’m most excited about free-to-play: Regardless of storytelling, single-player, multiplayer, and co-op experiences, I think there’s an answer to all of those problems.”
PC Gamer
League of Legends tower

It seems seemed Valve, one of the two big competitors in the MOBA genre with its in-house Dota 2, has had struck a distribution deal with rival League of Legends developer Riot. As of last night, Steam's database was updated with entries for the English, Spanish, French, and German versions of the League of Legends client.

League of Legends is still arguably the biggest PC game on the planet, with more than twice as many active players as World of Warcraft had at its peak and offering some of the largest prize pools in eSports. We don't have as many hard numbers to look at for Dota 2, but the player base is growing, its major tournaments offer comparably insane monetary winnings, and Valve hasn't even officially released it yet. (We did finally go ahead and review it, though.)

So what could be the motive behind this unlikely alliance? It's not much of a stretch to say that Steam users who hadn't previously heard of League of Legends might find their way to the Fields of Justice. But since it's free to play with in-app transactions, it's not like Valve will be getting a cut of anything. The League client is also self-updating, so it wouldn't make much sense for Valve to expect people to use Steam to get updates out of convenience and -- hey, what's this Dota 2 thing?

Whatever the case, this is an example of two of the biggest rivals in the PC space electing to coexist. And that's something we can't really complain about.

UPDATE: It seems Riot's communications director Vladimir Cole has clarified that these entries do not indicate the distribution of League of Legends on Steam in the near future.

"For a brief period of time after League of Legends launched in 2009, players could purchase a digital collectors edition of the game," he said in response to the community. "This was distributed through a variety of channels (Steam included) via our European partners. We ended those distribution arrangements in 2010, but a small number of players still have this version of the game in their Steam inventories, so that's why it occasionally pops up. There are no plans to change our current distribution model of providing League of Legends direct via signup.leagueoflegends.com."
PC Gamer
No Trace 5

It's time to bring the Lord Regent's reign to an end as No Trace reaches its man-possessing, pipe-hopping, accident-staging conclusion. This time, it only takes a few tweaks to the day to day running of Dunwall Tower to turn one guard's innocent clumsiness into, well, one guard's deadly, explosive clumsiness.

Featuring the only shot fired in the series, the problem with scaffolding, and probably the last time anyone will let me near a license-free music archive.

Thus always to tyrants.

If you've watched the series so far, thanks very much! If not, you can see the rest of the episodes here and subscribe to our YouTube channel for everything else we do. Tom's Dishonored review provides a more detailed look at why the game is among the year's best.
PC Gamer
GODUS Volcano Concept

Interview by Philippa Warr

When GODUS, the god game Kickstarter project from Peter Molyneux's 22cans studio, launched in November its promise to reinvent the genre made headlines. But behind Molyneux's characteristically bombastic rhetoric we caught sight of a curiously beautiful game world - part playground, part architecture model and entirely the responsibility of Paul McLaughlin. I caught up with the 22cans self-styled "Dictator of Art" to talk GODUS, 50 metre-high walls of wet death, and the gaming holy trinity.

GODUS has the modest aspiration of completely reinventing the god game genre -- how do you even start with a concept like that?

Even high concept games that seem initially daunting can be broken down to more manageable challenges. You then need an overarching meta style to bind all these elements together.

So how did you come up with GODUS' meta art style?

Forming the art style comes from forming an overview of the experience we're trying to create as quickly as possible, figuring out who our audience is, knowing what's possible technically, being aware of the skills of your team and trying not to panic while you wait for the picture to form.

I sometimes feel my initial responses are 'inspired' but it's generally a deception. They’re usually pretty reactionary and ill-considered but I know myself well enough that if I sleep on the problem, let the various components settle and do enough scribbles that a picture will form. Generally it’s the second or third attempt at solving the problem that shows most promise. It's never a complete solution but it's generally an acceptable beginning.

What were the key inspirations for the project?
The original Populous game and similar titles I worked on since were certainly reference points; if only as a datum to move on from.

Lots of things feed into : satellite imagery, tilt-shift photography, disaster footage, environmental documentaries, flocking behaviour, the paintings of Lowry, Bosch and John Martin, miniature/model worlds -- I'm a child of the Airfix and model railway generation and spent my youth creating miniature escapes. The child inside still loves tiny, detailed things.

It put me in mind of topographical maps and architectural models - god games in their own peculiar way...

Absolutely, I'm so glad you noticed. Architectural models are the key inspiration for the environment. Maps are something I love and am fascinated by too. Once you understand the visual language, they allow us to create worlds in our minds. Extraordinary really.

With GODUS I'm developing the idea of god -- you play a god in the game -- being a combination architect and petulant child playing with the world. From the 'god view' the world will seem like a model, right down to visual effects that are in scale but to the inhabitants of the world everything should seem much more 'real' and relevant. So the god sees a tidal wave behave almost like water sploshing about in a fish tank but to his or her followers it's a genuine 50 metre high wall of wet death.

As an artist does it feel like you're playing your own god game in building this one?

Creating anything is incredibly rewarding and powerful, arguably mystical. I'm sure that the significance we place on human creativity, its ability to take form outside us, and indeed to outlive us, is one of the things that inspired the notion of gods in the first place. In this particular case we're talking about something that requires a group effort, a multidisciplinary team of people, none of whom could create GODUS on their own. We represent the holy trinity of creation; artists, designers and engineers!

Peter Molyneux has referenced Populous a lot, saying he wants to revisit "the glory of the old days in today's format" - were you tempted by an isometric world view or to riff on 8-bit graphic styles as part of that?

Revisit the glory but not rehash the same content. I have been -- and still am -- considering an isometric view of the world but not in a slavish way. We need an elevated view of the world and there was a nice symmetry with Populous to consider. So far it looks great (I think) but if the user experience is poor or it doesn’t support the gameplay effectively then I'm happy to move on.

There are a lot of 8-bit styled experiences out there now, including a very stylish Populous revision called Reprisal Universe. However while it's of the moment I think it’s fast becoming a bit of a cliché and having lived through it the first time around I don't have any personal ambition to revisit it. What it tells me though is that there is a great fondness for the titles of the late 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps it's a reaction against the sanitary, big budget nature of AAA console titles. I find that encouraging and refreshing.

Are there any challenges specific to creating an art style for a god game as opposed to something like an RPG?

Well you have to use the style and themes that detach the player from the 'world' but keep him or her engaged with the experience. An RPG puts you in the world you're a participant in but with a god-game you're more of a voyeur, affecting events on a grand scale but in a detached way. This is why I'm considering the player as the architect, controller, creator rather than the warrior, wizard or whatever.

In GODUS the longer a building or settlement exists, the more it builds up - what other techniques are you using to keep the landscape vital and engaging?

Ha ha, yeah I never expected that one to be pulled out as something significant. The thought was a small one; build on a tiny space and you build tall, on a bigger footprint you build out. I was looking for ways for settlements to develop in an interesting fashion without having to make the world look like a carpark. I was think of how makeshift dwellings organically develop into complex structures like the favelas in Brazil.

Other than that it's early days on how the world will develop. We have lots of ideas but we’ll apply them in response to gameplay requirements and obvious lackings rather than force them all in at the start.

What level of detail can we expect to see on the inhabitants of the GODUS world - are there individuals and races or are they more just symbols of human presence?

For me they’re almost like ants in an ant hill. Their character really comes out (to the god) through their meta behaviour, how they flock, worship, expand, die and so on. I don't feel that they should have individual personalities. Perhaps if we go in close, in a first person view, it’d be nice to pick out individuals and tell their story. That'd be a nice contrast between god and follower although the work involved is significant.

Your LinkedIn profile has you describing your current role as Dictator of Art - how much of the GODUS artwork is your personal vision and how much input do the rest of the team have?

Yes, well I chose that title deliberately. Certainly the other artists are very talented, contribute a great deal and have already helped define much of the look but I’m very keen to retain ownership and can be a bit of a grumpy old man when required.

I would say the 'vision' so far has been 90 percent mine but the realisation is 100 percent down to teamwork. I absolutely love working with other artists and we discuss pretty much everything but in the end it's my call. Having said that I’m pretty sure they all see me as completely charming, a brother, a benevolent uncle, a confidant, a witty raconteur and an absolute dream to work with.

Which other games do you admire in terms of their art style?

Things like Limbo and Journey were very refreshing and, of course, Little Big Planet and Tearaway from Media Molecule, those guys are great. Wildfire Worlds from James Boty is looking like great fun too and we're both referencing similar things at the moment which is interesting.

These are all admirable and I love them but I do prefer to seek inspiration from outside the industry. I'd love to do something referencing the world of particle physics, scientific imaging, electron microscopy and the nano world. But that's another story!

What keeps you coming back to work with Peter?

Like a lot of the world, it seems I find Peter both infuriating and inspiring in equal measure. However while many people infuriate me there are very few who inspire, I guess that's why we're still working together. Certainly there could be easier and more straightforward working relationships but then, what's the point in that?

I signed up for 22cans to be on the front line not in reserve. Peter is always at the front line going 'Come on guys, don't sit down there in the mud, let's go over the top. I've got this great plan, it'll be awesome…' and often it is.

Thanks to Paul for his time.
PC Gamer
Cargo Commander review

Alone in space, with nothing but emails from loved ones, uncaring corporate missives and an endlessly looping folksy theme song for company. Such is the life of a Cargo Commander.

Far from menial labour, it’s a perilous task. When you activate your ship’s magnet, a wave of containers come crashing into it, breaking off panels to provide easy entrance. And, because we’re in space, those containers are full of dangerous mutants. Every workplace is going to have some jerks.

The key satisfaction of the 2D platforming is your ability to create your route. You’ll face impassable obstacles, low gravity, no gravity and hordes of mutants, but your commander has a drill that enables him to remove walls and platforms. Can’t reach the cargo you’ve been employed to collect? Take out a side panel, jump into the vacuum of space, manoeuvre around the container and re-enter through the top. Just try not to think about how you’re able to survive without a helmet or navigate without propulsion. Trade secrets.

Somewhere in there is a ‘sector pass’ to the next level.

You explore each wave, collecting precious cargo, killing enemies for their hats (which serve as currency for upgrades) and grabbing new weapons. Eventually a wormhole will open, dragging everything but your ship into the void. This leads to some fantastic moments as you desperately drill your way out of a container and plunge into open space, hoping to make it home before your air runs out.

It’s fun, if a bit lightweight. The waves of containers get larger and more complex, the mutants tougher and the ammo more scarce. Die and your score, caps and upgrades are reset, and you wake up in your bed ready to start all over again.

While you’re free to make another run through the same waves of containers, you can also travel to a new sector. Cleverly, there’s an online aspect to this. Pick a sector that’s been played before and you’ll be given the same layout and cargo as everyone else, enabling you to compete for high-scores and stumble upon (and loot) the dead bodies of other players. Alternatively you can create a new sector, letting the game randomly generate unique waves.

Hopefully this cargo will be the ultra-rare Alien Sex Toy.

It’s a great feature, but one with a structural problem. You gain promotions (earning permanent upgrades) based on how many of the 88 different types of cargo you’ve collected. It encourages you to do the bare minimum: collecting each area’s six items, finding the pass that allows you to unlock more sectors, then ending the day and travelling somewhere new.

An inadvertent commentary on job satisfaction it may be, but it means there’s no compelling reason to progress to the harder waves beyond high-score boasting. There are some great ideas at the heart of Cargo Commander, but the game gives up the reward without ever pushing the risk.
PC Gamer
Portal 2 Lego thumb

Everything can be made better with Lego. We've already seen this theory proved time and time again with the Lego: Well Known Franchise series of games. But if you're still not convinced, here's a selection of scenes from Portal 2, remade brilliantly into a series of Lego built vignettes.

The five minute film was created by Alex Kobbs for Machinima's Interactive Film Festival, and is the first of a two-part project. Other films on the festival's site include a remake of the first GTA 5 trailer, also made from Lego. Ah, Lego... Is there anything it can't do?

Thanks, Kotaku.
PC Gamer
bioshock news header

It will also be the most ambitious thing Irrational has ever done, according to Ken Levine, BioShock Infinite's creative director.

We sent two intrepid reporters to get the lowdown on Irrational's follow-up to BioShock, this time set aboard Columbia, a floating city inspired by ideas of American exceptionalism circa 1900. Both Tom F and Evan got to sit down and play the game for several hours, and then caught up with Levine for a lengthy chat afterwards - more of which you will be able to read in the January edition of the magazine. But we couldn't resist teasing you with Levine's comments to Tom about how the team reacted to criticism of BioShock's ending - specifically, how that game failed to evolve following its twist.

Tom F: The most common complaint I hear about Bioshock is that after the Andrew Ryan moment it wasn’t as interesting. Do you agree with that?

Ken Levine: Yeah.

What did you learn from it?

KL: I would say that the ending of the game is the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done in our careers as a company. It is either going to be something incredibly wonderful or people are going to burn down our office. We are very aware of that, we want to make sure this experience was the reason you say the end was very meaningful. So I can’t tell whether people will like it or not, I can tell you it is absolutely different to anything you’ve seen in a videogame.

That's quite a promise, no?

Read Tom's initial spoiler-free impressions of the game, or Evan's lengthier analysis.
PC Gamer
Planetside 2 thumb

It's a great weekend to round-up a rag-tag collection of friends, before throwing them up against the defences of the despicable Vanu/NC/Terrans (delete as applicable) until they're a battle-hardened squad of warriors. Or to just aimlessly fly about in a Mosquito, desperately hoping you at least catch sight of a battle before crashing. That's my tactic, and it's working for me.

This weekend, Planetside 2 will begin throwing out double XP, thus twice rewarding your continent capturing efforts. A tweet from the Planetside 2 official Twitter account explains that this is "a Thank You to players for sticking it out through some launch week server instability." Hopefully this is also a sign that those unstable wrinkles have now been ironed out.

Using this tweet from SOE's Matt Higby, which this morning revealed that the XP boost would be active in 12 hours, and combining it with the ancient power known as Maths, we can determine that they'll be kicking off at 5pm GMT. Hey, that's in the next hour! Better get that Galaxy prepped.

Thanks, PCGamesN.