PC Gamer
Rift Storm Legion thumb

Gamasutra are reporting that 40 members of the Rift development team - around one third of the game's staff - are being laid off. Trion Worlds have confirmed job cuts in a statement, but haven't commented on how many roles are being lost, or which teams are affected.

"As a response to market conditions, product timelines and the natural evolution of our company," Trion writes, "we have made some organizational changes, which include a workforce reduction. This was a difficult decision and we wish the best for those affected by these changes. At Trion, we remain focused on delivering top quality online game experiences, and are committed to supporting RIFT and launching our highly anticipated new titles Defiance, Warface, and End of Nations in 2013."

Trion Worlds launched the ace Storm Legion expansion only last month. While the MMO has retained its subscription status, despite a free light edition covering levels 1-20 and a Storm Legion trial for returning players, the company has never divulged any information on how many subscribers it was serving.

This news follows on from the 19 lay-offs at Petroglyph, who were working on End of Nations before Trion moved its development in-house.
PC Gamer
Skyrim thumb

I've been playing Baldur's Gate again recently, and it's reignited my appreciation for RPGs that can properly kick your ass. There's nothing quite like the quickload abusing challenge of trying to take down a lone polar bear without it wiping out half your party, deranged Beserker and all.

That desire for brutal, unforgiving encounters seems to be at the heart of Requiem: The Oldschool Roleplaying Overhaul, which tweaks nearly every aspect of Skyrim to make it that much more punishing.

The changelog is huge. Races have been reworked to offer more varied inherent traits, sneaking has been nerfed to stop it being a crutch for people (i.e. me) to survive pretty much every encounter, all the spells have been adjusted and shopkeepers have been given an upgrade to stinginess. Naturally fast travel has been disabled, which is going to make the seven thousand steps a right bugger to ascend.

The biggest change though is to the combat. Enemy difficulty is determined by type, with even spiders now requiring more tactical thought than blindly slashing away. Encounters are also designed to be quicker. Humanoids with light armour can be dispatched quickly (even if that means you), but heavy armour comes at a huge cost to stamina unless you're investing perks to negate their weight.

It all sounds rather tiring, to be honest. But no doubt there'll be some out there more than happy to transform the game into an unyielding struggle for survival.

You can download Requiem from Skyrim Nexus. Unfortunately it's not up on the Steam Workshop, so installation will require some effort. Nowhere near as much as actually playing the thing, admittedly.
PC Gamer
No idea what it was, but I'm glad it's dead.

If you've let your Rift account lapse even though the recent Storm Legion expansion has piqued your interest, well here's good news: between December 14 and 18 former Rift players will be able to play Storm Legion for free. The bonus will be ushered in by the latest game update 2.1: Endless Eclipse, which goes live tomorrow. In their announcement Trion Worlds assured that "former subscribers can dive deep into Storm Legion with no restrictions, while anyone, including RIFT Lite players, can celebrate a huge new Fae Yule World Event and build in private or public, personal or guild Dimensions."

It's worth giving a go if you've got even the vaguest interest in Rift, with our review of the recent expansion promising that "the vast amount of content added makes it practically essential for Rift fans."

PC Gamer
Star Wars The Old Republic Ancient Hypergate Warzone Force Lightning

Patch 1.6 rolled onto Star Wars: The Old Republic servers earlier today, opening access to the crackling Ancient Hypergate PVP Warzone and adding an additional set of rare items found in collection packs purchased from the in-game Cartel Market.

The patch notes also reveal the inclusion of new Elite War Hero PVP gear tier. Christmas-esque Life Day items are available for purchase in the Market, allowing a respected Jedi elder to teach the ways of the Force in Santa-red robes or a Sith swordsman to shower an opponent with a Tinsel Bomb before shoving a lightsaber through them. MMO blog Dulfy carries screenshots of all the new items offered in the update.
PC Gamer
Fallout 3 Terrible Shotgun

Fallout 3's Terrible Shotgun is one of the most powerful weapons vault dwellers can acquire, offering devastating critical damage at close range and plenty of spattered headshots. Now, as Polygon reports, prop maker Harrison Krix has constructed a working model of the shotgun in just a month. Shut up and take my bottlecaps.

Krix's lengthy writeup on constructing the beautiful boomstick details how the weapon's design closely mirrors the Russian PPSh submachine gun, and how the four-week project progressed from concept drawings to a mixture of wood, plastic, and resin. Yes, like most of Krix's other gaming-related works—such as a full-blown BioShock Big Daddy suit (with working drill of death) and a steel axe from Skyrim (functional because, well, it's an axe)—the shotgun behaves like an actual weapon, but the shells aren't included.

Other prop-masters have crafted odes to their favorite games with similarly stellar results—recently, Bill Doran's impressively accurate Handsome Jack mask picked up a flurry of admiration from Reddit.
PC Gamer
SimCity casino

SimCity Lead Designer Stone Librande's casino empire looked fantastic when he introduced it, including a look at unconventional trash handling methods which is seemingly an actual thing among the development team. A new followup video checks in on Librande's progress, emphasizes the nifty resource sharing of multiplayer city zones, and starts a fire with meteors. Seriously.

Librande shows how increasing income and citizen satisfaction is as simple as snapping a few hotels onto a casino or adding a helipad atop a police headquarters. It looks like individual building customization can greatly boost city performance, especially when focusing on a specific role like a giant gambling destination. Assigning further territories in your grid to other players allows delegation of critical infrastructure, which both frees up your zones for commercial and residential expansion and turns your friends into impromptu power/sewage barons.
PC Gamer
The Walking Dead Episode Five

Telltale's episodic Walking Dead series of drama-laced survival hit shelves today as a boxed edition compiling all five episodes of the first season. Retailing exclusively at Best Buy stores for $30, the collection charts the struggles of Lee, Clementine, Kenny, and other memorable characters as personalities clash and mesh during a widespread zombie outbreak.

Previously available as individual digital downloads through Steam and Telltale's Season Pass, the boxed Walking Dead provides a means to scoop up the entirety of the first season's cliffhangers, moral ambiguity, and bloodstained shovels. Seeing as the culminating fifth episode alone yanked enough on our heartstrings to include the series in our Game of the Year selections, it's definitely a worthy buy for those seeking the entire experience.
PC Gamer
Dishonored Dunwall City Trials DLC

Dishonored's mixture of stealth, swords, and the supernatural factors into the skills you'll need to master in today's release of the Dunwall City Trials DLC. Sneaking onto Steam for $5/£3, the pack of ten maps throws non-narrative challenges of freerunning, combat, assassination, and stealth in addition to furnishing a new set of achievements for completionists.

As you jump, slice, and crouch your way through the Trials' jumbled courses, you'll earn a spot on global leaderboards for comparison against your fellow disgraced-bodyguards-cum-athletes. Completing enough challenges unlocks a growing gallery of concept art images showcasing Dishonored's urban decay and technology. If you haven't yet experienced Corvo Attano's journey of redemption in Arkane's sneak-and-stabber, we recommend checking out the holiday sales or putting Dishonored on your Christmas list.
PC Gamer
It's all about you feeling like you're presiding over this world...
"So, it may be that we end up with a hand like in Black & White, which I think didn't work terribly well."

"I want to give them the feeling that they are a god with unbelievable prowess," says an emphatic Peter Molyneux. "Some of these powers are going to be incredibly powerful and tactile while others are going to be incredibly creative and gentle.

"I want it to feel like it's your hand—the hand that's on the mouse or the touchscreen—that's touching this tactile and reactive world, and making you an avatar in the world is something that can demote that."

We're talking about how player representation might work in Molyneux and 22cans' Project GODUS, a nascent god game with brazen ambitions. GODUS is positioned as a messiah to the genre—the game that will reinvent it and evoke the sensations the original Populous once stirred in our chests. At least, that's what the Kickstarter page indicates.

"So, it may be that we end up with a hand like in Black & White, which I think didn't work terribly well," says Molyneux, adding that he found the mechanic "terribly fiddly." "We might make it more abstract. It's all about you feeling like you're presiding over this world, that there are these little worshipers that adore you, yes, and also a sense of powerful responsibility towards them."

Tearing down and building up
Despite that responsibility, there's room for those who don't want to play the benevolent deity, too. "Whenever I play something like SimCity, I let out the dinosaurs and stuff—I'd destroy everything that took me hours and hours to create, but that is one of the core tenets of a god game. If you want to do it, fine. What am I to tell you what to do? I don't want to be your judge, but I want there to be consequences."

"I don't want to be your judge, but I want there to be consequences."

Molyneux doesn't expand on what those possible consequences might be, but he does outline what godhood over the inhabitants of GODUS might be like. "At the start, everyone's games will start with very few of these followers and there will be these tiny little settlements. Just one or two buildings. Too small to even be called villages. Then, with your ability to adapt the land around them, they'll slowly spread out. Those settlements will turn into villages and those villages will turn into towns. From there, the towns will be become cities and metropolises.

"And let me tell you, Cassandra: that metropolis you're growing is going to be amazing. It's not just going to spread out, it's going to spread up as well."

All the way into the sky, or the nether reaches of the galaxy? Not quite that far. "I'd like to stop around the time when gunpowder came about and things became more complicated. It's a fascinating part of history, really. When cannons were introduced in Europe, 400 castles were, in one year, destroyed by cannon fire. That was because, before then, the way wars used to work was: if someone were to start attacking, you'd run away into a castle and just start laughing.

"But then, in rolled the cannon and that ended it all." He laughs.

Though nothing has been directly plucked from the annals of human history, Molyneux cited Greek and Nordic mythology as some of the inspiration. "We're not modeling GODUS on any particular kind of pantheon. I wanted to make it more of a mixture of things. After all, our interpretation of religion has always been a mixture. If you look at the Greek gods and how they turned into the Roman gods and how that went on to influence modern-day Judeo-Christian beliefs, you'll see that a lot of religions are a mixture of different legends and mythologies."

Cooperative pantheons
While players won't be able to cobble together an existing pantheon in the game, outside of the game they’ll be able to assemble a team of gods in the form of co-operative play, assuming joint de-facto rule over their various worshippers. "You and I can do anything together. Up to four of us—my tech people say we might be able to support up to eight people—can do anything together in real-time. We can help each other in real-time, we can even do it in single-player. Our cults or 'clans,' if you will, can all help each other in a slightly non-real time way as well."

Non-real time?

"Non-real time," Molyneux confirms. "The problem is that if we require everyone to be online at the same, it's not going to be very realistic. Lots of people come online and play at very, very different times for varying lengths—you have to support this ability to let people support each other when they're online."

I ask if what he’s describing bears any similarity to asynchronous play in Facebook games, and Molyneux's enthusiasm doesn't falter. "Kind of, yes, but I want to take it even further. I want to be able to go and help you out, and I want to be able to help you with a problem and I want there to be a sensation that you've helped me out. There's a lot of criticism that these games get that I don't really get."

Molyneux plans to enable both real-time and non-real time cooperative play.

Kicking and dreaming
With just over a week left before the end of Project GODUS's Kickstarter campaign, Molyneux has a more pressing problem than figuring out how to achieve his ambitious design plans. Currently, Project GODUS is barely over the halfway mark for its funding goal. If it fails to reach the target figure, 22cans will not receive anything. Nonetheless, Molyneux doesn't seem regretful about using the crowdsourcing platform.

"Why Kickstarter? The first reason, and it is the main reason, is that the way to make, I think, a great game is to play the game and to play it for weeks and weeks and refine it and play it some more. I wondered if we were going to re-invent something from the ground-up, this something that is almost dead: could we use Kickstarter to find enough people to back the project and be involved in its development?

"So, if you look at our pledges on Kickstarter, a lot of them are about how you can get to play the game early. We're going to use the feedback from that and the analytics on the PC to refine the experience. Thus, when we finally finish the game towards the end of next year, it'd have been played lots and lots of times. The thing about Kickstarter that you have to remember is that if someone has pledged money, you know they're going to care about the experience—it's why I want to use it in the design process."
PC Gamer
Indie Mod DB awards

Choosing the best thing out of a pile of really good things is always a tough decision, but hey, we're used to it. You too can participate in the careful choicemaking by voting for your favorite mod and indie game of the year over at Mod DB and Indie DB, where the top 100 nominations were just plucked from a gargantuan pool of over 9,000 mods and 5,500 indies.

With friendly vote buttons large and in charge until December 21, each database's 100 selections are sorted by genre and game for easy perusal. Numerous strong contenders vie for your mouse-click's thumbs-up, including noteworthy entries DayZ, The Dark Mod, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, and Natural Selection 2.

Current favorites leading the pack are Half-Life 2's powerful mod lineup—among which Black Mesa and our own 2011 Mod of the Year No More Room in Hell count themselves among the ranks—and role-playing indie games. You'll find Legend of Grimrock, Dear Esther, Mount & Blade: Warband, and others in the latter category. But like everyone's slowly expanding backlog of shame, plenty of other potentials yearn for your attention. Head to both award pages for the full lists.