PC Gamer
The Sims 3 Gaudet Plantation

Since the day the first Sims game was launched, virtual architects have been using its built-in construction tools to create exotic and bizarre monuments ranging from heart-shaped islands to a mansion made entirely out of stacked trailer homes. With the same tenacious ambition but with a stated purpose to do "terrible things," Reddit user BourgeoisBanana presented a project earlier this week of a more sensitive nature: the Gaudet Plantation, a lush colonial farmstead complete with slave workers and affluent white owners. But is it actually a terrible thing to explore the darker periods of history?

On a whim, BourgeoisBanana set out to see how closely he could recreate the living conditions of both slave and owner on a plantation. "I'm a large history and architecture buff, and The Sims is a great outlet for both of those, despite getting a lot of flak for being a 'casual' game," he told PC Gamer. "Being British, the colonial era is of particular interest of mine, and after seeing Django Unchained, the idea sort of came to me. I had the day off, so I thought, 'Why not?'"

A small pile of mods were used to design and model both the slave quarters and mansion. The mods set parameters for reflecting the quality of life (or lack thereof) for the slaves, locking them out from the main building and tweaking the AI to stuff in more Sims per house.

"The general layout of the plantation was of my own design, and several people pointed out that it wasn't entirely historically accurate, but given the tools I think I did the best I could," BourgeoisBanana explained. "The house was more or less of my own design too, loosely based off several colonial plantation houses of the era. My main inspiration for the exterior was the plantation house from a level in Hitman: Blood Money. Django Unchained certainly was a great reference too."

BourgeoisBanana recognizes how his creation's stark depiction of racism doesn't exactly mesh with the game's cheerful suburban innocence. He hopes for a future where more games and gamers explore all facets of history, even where doing so may make us uncomfortable. "I believe that to deny our history is to make it repeatable, and discouraging projects such as this one won't prevent racism in the least," he said. "Not only gamers, but all forms of media should definitely get over this politically correct phase we seem to be going through so we can expose the brutality of our past, rather than covering it up and pretending it never happened."

So, is it really a terrible thing? As the plantation's creator touched upon, ignoring our past mistakes with civil rights won't make them simply disappear. Thus, why shouldn't we reconstruct terrible events from history? If not for the goal of sending a message, then just as a way to satisfy curiosity? How would an in-game replication of a slave ship, for example, look like using Minecraft blocks? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

Gaudet Plantation mansion 1st floor

Gaudet Plantation mansion attic

Gaudet Plantation mansion ground floor

Gaudet Plantation slave quarters
PC Gamer
Diablo 3 Wizard

Blizzard has spoken before on the need to shape up Diablo III's grindy end-game and gear issues. Now, in an official forum thread (via PCGamesN) collating a sizable pile of player concerns and requests, Community Manager Vaneras acknowledged the RPG "needs to be a better game" overall but re-iterated its intention as a sequel with a standalone identity instead of "an HD version of Diablo II."

"A great sequel pays homage to its predecessors and at the same moves forward with new content," Vaneras wrote in a separate post. "It's fairly normal that sequels replace features from predecessors with new features, and I can of course agree that it is an issue if those new features fall short of what is intended.

"All I can say is that we are trying to make Diablo III the best game that it can be, but some things take more time to improve than others," Vaneras continued. "I totally understand if this is hard to accept for some people."

Last week, former Diablo III Director Jay Wilson left to work on other projects at Blizzard. In his farewell message, he commended the team for "making the best decisions we can with the information and knowledge we have at the time" and making "exception efforts" to correct problems.

The player-created list suggests ideas for fixing outstanding issues regarding story, itemization, the lack of PVP, skill trees and attributes, and other topics. Some proposals get quite granular, such as "Sockets that roll as a non-property but an implicit item quality must be brought back" and "Remove those goofy comments from Diablo and Azmodan during acts, revealing tactics and making them sound tryhardish."

It's a comprehensive effort, but what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas? Would you add anything more that's troubled you since the last time you played?
PC Gamer
Dead Space 3 preview

Earlier this week, a photo ostensibly taken of a crafting screen in Dead Space 3 revealed what appeared to be the option to purchasing crafting resources through microtransactions. In an interview with CVG, Visceral Producer John Calhoun acknowledged the existence of microtransactions in the game, and said the inclusion of a quick-buy option is meant for players who "need instant gratification" instead of procuring materials on their own.

"There’s a lot of players out there, especially players coming from mobile games, who are accustomed to microtransactions," Calhoun explained. "They’re like, 'I need this now, I want this now.' They need instant gratification. So, we included that option in order to attract those players, so that if they’re 5000 Tungsten short of this upgrade, they can have it."

According to Calhoun, traditional Dead Space players used to squishing Necromorph brains under heel for materials won't diminish in importance. "Honestly, most of the dev team are that way; we’re kind of old school, a little bit older," he said. "So, not only are the microtransactions completely optional, but all packs are available to purchase using in-game resources you find."

Calhoun also responded to complaints over the addition of buyable items to the Dead Space franchise, stressing Visceral would "never" incorporate a pay-to-win system. "There are genres of games where that is the answer, and you know what? The world has spoken: they suck," he said. "We don't want to make games that suck, we want to make games that people want to hold on to and to keep on their shelves. That is our mark of success."

Dead Space 3 comes out of the vacuum on February 5. Until then, you can check out our preview, where we descend into the darkness to explore the game's co-op.
PC Gamer
Portal 2 WibiData mod

WibiData, a startup data applications developer, uses a rather interesting recruitment process: it tasks prospective hires with puzzling out a lost PIN code in a recreation of the company's offices in Portal 2. Yes, that includes hearing modulated insults from a GlaDOS soundalike as you gather reset keys and jump through walls.

Speaking to the New York Times (via VentureBeat), WibiData CEO Christophe Bisciglia said the mod's genesis arose from how Portal 2's layered puzzles "makes me feel like I exercise the same part of my brain that programming and problem-solving does."

Bisciglia commissioned modder Doug Hoogland to design and create WibiData's virtual workspace and the puzzles housed beneath it. Hoogland earned Bisciglia's attention after he fashioned a Portal-ized wedding proposal for an earlier customer, which is both romantically adorable and the best chance to see a murderous computer become a third wheel.

We presume WibiData's employee insurance policy now covers injuries sustained from teleportation ovals and scheming sentient AIs. You can check out the mod for yourself on the company's website.
Jan 25, 2013
PC Gamer
warz review
The War Z's mindless unpeople are only dangerous in large numbers. Hackers and spawn campers are the real threat.

I can see the benefits to having an identical twin. I mean, being followed around by someone that shares all your genetic traits must be like having a constant, you-shaped reminder to distinguish yourself. It’d probably make you a better person.

When The War Z revealed itself last July, jumping into DayZ’s still-fresh footsteps, the hope—mine, at least—was that the games’ doppelgangering designs would drive a mutual ambition between them. One that gamers would benefit from. Both Zs throw you into a vast, brutal sandbox filled with players and zombies. Both scatter a mix of boring and military items within their worlds, and make scavenging for food as necessary as bullets.

Hammerpoint Interactive wanted The War Z to be a more accessible mutation of DayZ’s ideals, ones rooted in military simulation Arma 2. I think there’s more than enough room for a game of that nature to exist. The problem was Hammerpoint’s recklessly fast pace of development. Four months after being announced, they committed to a pre-release around Halloween, all while promising an impossible-sounding feature set: maps up to 400km² in area, vehicles, bounty-setting, traps, player-owned private instances, and 250-player servers.

All of these features are still to be delivered. The game that exists now, version 1.0.1, is a shell of its own dubious intentions still waiting to be filled. In its haste to release ahead of DayZ’s updated, standalone version, The War Z duplicates most of its step-brother’s problems instead of addressing them.

Hackers still linger, ready to ruin your progress, and their exploits are exponentially less tolerable in a context where dying loses you the hard-earned gear you’re carrying. Server-hopping remains a relatively easy method of item farming. The War Z has its own, original issues too: cheap and inconsistent sound design deflates the game’s mood; the entire melee system feels like a placeholder; and bullets—one of The War Z’s most precious resources—can be bought with real money.

You know those blow-up punching bags for kids? That's what The War Z's melee system seems to be modeled after. Zombies root to their position when you hit them. As long as you're dealing with one or two targets, you won't take damage.

It’s a game that openly lacks DayZ’s experimental spirit, and yet, there are tiny glimmers—beams of light that occasionally pierce through the rubble of technical and design problems that The War Z buries you under. These moments of self-authored apoca-storytelling are rare, but here’s one.

I’m in a police station at dusk when I hear footsteps punctuating mine. I freeze, stowing my flashlight. I hide in the back room, hoping whoever else is in here doesn’t scan every corner. The footsteps get louder. Now, two glaring flashlights are upon me, occluding their owners. I don’t move. They don’t move. I breathe through my teeth. They’re two hovering lights, staring at me like curious aliens. I’m sure I’m about to be bludgeoned to death.

I sprint through them, booking it past dumpsters behind the station. I curl around a fence. Their lights chase inquisitively, but they seem to lose interest. I exhale, loop around, and perch up on the outskirts of town to watch them. I wait. And wait. And within three minutes, there’s a bandit in the street, emptying an AK-47 into the building that the pair of survivors wandered into. I ride a wave of giddy schadenfreude out of town.

On the surface, this is the same family of feelings I experience in DayZ. What I did in a moment of panic—how I problem-solved and reacted—created a small narrative. But anecdotes like this are rare accidents among a heap of damaged systems. As long as The War Z lacks its own identity, a clear vision of what it can offer the genre, a responsible approach to microtransactions, or a proper implementation of its own ideas, it won’t be worth playing.

The War Z claims to have a 100km² map, but you'll regularly spawn in the same spot as other survivors. This fellow instantly  killed me, probably because we were wearing the same outfit.

There’s a huge obstacle to The War Z overcoming the frustrating mess I’ve played for the past two months: the absence of voice communication. Even more than competitive shooters, multiplayer survival games rely on integrated voice to facilitate interesting, coincidental experiences between faceless strangers. It’s an essential social tool, and one that can defuse the natural tension that spikes when you and another survivor come face to face in a barn, an abandoned post office, the woods—wherever.

A non-functional slider for adjusting communication volume implies that some form of voice is coming, but in the meantime The War Z’s proximity text chat forces you to pull your hands off your mouse and WASD to type, leaving you defenseless. It’s unforgivable that Hammerpoint is willing to sell The War Z in this state. The UI element that displays global, clan, and proximity text is a clumsy, immersion-breaking container, too: unless you hit F12 to disable the whole HUD, enjoy watching a steady tick of chat room gossip that you can’t turn off individually.

I wish that the only audio sins committed by The War Z were against your microphone. They’re not, though. Every sound feels homemade in the worst way, or pulled from some public audio library. Whatever virus afflicts the zombies has given them the gentle feet of fairies—other than their grunts, zeds are completely inaudible when moving. In most situations, players don’t make footstep noise either: they’re inexplicably silent on dirt, dense grass, urban outdoor areas, and pavement, except when sprinting (and even then, whisper quiet). But you will hear the clanking, oddly metallic thud of human feet when you or another survivor are moving on indoor surfaces or say, an empty shipping container.

Don’t interpret this as an objection to The War Z’s loose realism. Audio is just one of the many hollow bones in the game’s skeleton, but it happens to be a particularly brittle one. Not being able to hear zombie or player movement makes detecting threats frustratingly difficult and eliminates any possibility of listening being a fun skill, as it is in Counter-Strike, for example. Sound directionality is also an issue, with zombie howls and other effects never quite deciding which side of your headset they belong in. Perhaps worst is the hackneyed horror movie trick the game relies on: telling you how to feel with scary noises.

The sourceless, ominous bonging of a church clock. A haunted airplane hum that steadily rises in pitch. These are the grating, ambient noises you’ll be subjected to every few minutes—and no, they cannot be turned down or off. Why rely on such fake stimulation? The threat of permadeath (on Hardcore mode) or an hour timeout (on Normal), and the loss of your gear in both, are natural fear-inducers. If anything, the inclusion of these bizarre effects betrays how little confidence Hammerpoint has in the game’s inherent ability to spook you.

Military gear, groceries, backpacks, and medical supplies make up most of The War Z's loot.

If part of Hammerpoint’s goal is to create a game that’s more accessible than DayZ, there are a few ways they’ve been relatively successful. Character movement is as effortless as any other average third-person shooter (The War Z allows first- and third-person perspective swapping), and I like that sprinting stamina is a player resource that depletes and fills. The map has some interesting landmarks, including a ski resort lodge, a snapped freeway overpass beside a dense city, and some modest military installations. The War Z also addresses one of DayZ’s defects by making more of its structures enterable, although I’ve built sand castles that are more geometrically diverse.

I don’t like how homogenous the landscape is, though. The level designers treat the Colorado forest simply as dull, wooded filler between points of interest, demonstrated by the ancient texture quality trees and shrubbery are drawn with. Overall, War Z hands you an incongruous but more functional world, while DayZ’s current main map Chernarus has heaps more personality and authenticity. Being satellite-modeled after a slice of the Czech Republic probably doesn’t hurt.

In terms of features, one I like is War Z’s global inventory system. Any items you’re carrying can be deposited to a secure inventory for later use, or to be given to other characters on your account. You can only transfer gear while you’re inside one of the map’s three designated safe zones—protected areas of the map where players can’t shoot, use melee weapons, or take damage. I like the way the shared inventory provides something to do beyond hunting other players. Reaching a safe zone and banking a rifle, some ammo, or some body armor for a new character feels like reaching a finish line. It also makes low-end loot slightly more valuable, as junk like juice boxes, binoculars, or bandages can be used to boost revived characters when you inevitably die.

This feature, of course, is in place in part to give The War Z’s item marketplace a reason to exist. Other than guns, almost all loot can be purchased in the game with real money or a large amount of in-game currency (zombies will sometimes drop enormous piles of paper cash when killed).

I don’t have a huge objection to selling some basic items: it’s a mostly-harmless shortcut for players who hate grinding for staples. But it’s unsettling that Hammerpoint is happy to put on sale stuff like the largest backpack in the game, nightvision goggles and weapon scopes. These are significant tiers of progression that you can simply pay to reach, and pricetagging this gear undermines the significance of finding it in the wild.

But wait: it gets worse. The War Z’s marketplace sells the same bullets you can find in-game, and they’re only buyable with real money. How much does virtual ammo cost? Well, a 30-round STANAG magazine is about $0.32. A 10-round .22 mag is $1.24—more than $0.12 per shot. Five rounds for the .50 caliber anti-materiel sniper rifle will set you back a ludicrous $3.60.

That’s as expensive as it gets, probably because any further irresponsible mark-up would rival the cost of actual ammo. I usually shrug off claims that a game is “pay to win” as wild overstatements, but selling bullets—a legitimate form of power—is such a positively stupid, egregious thing. It sells out the very theme of the game. In firefights, it detracts from the mindset of needing to be hyperconscious of your ammo consumption, or the feeling that you’re fighting an enemy who’s similarly underequipped. I like scarcity in apocalyptic shooters; saving your precious flamethrower ammo in Fallout 3 until a boss fight made that encounter so much more meaningful. I can’t believe the extent that Hammerpoint is willing to put a price on that feeling.

The War Z's real money currency, Gold Coins, can be used to buy a vast amount of equipment, allowing players to sidestep the effort of finding it in-game.

I wish I could better evaluate the level of hacking in The War Z. On January 16, Hammerpoint claims that it has banned 3.5 per cent of its playerbase for hacking, and the forum dedicated to cheating complaints totals more than 9,100 posts. In a dedicated post with more than 14,000 views, loads of players report being killed inside safe zones. That’s unacceptably bad, although it didn’t happen to me.

Anecdotally, I’ve been killed by hackers two or three times in 60-plus deaths. Compared with Bohemia’s game, I’m relatively happy: I haven’t had to watch helplessly as all the players on a server were teleported into the ocean or into a pile of bear traps, as I did in DayZ. Hackers remain an issue but one I’ve experienced less in The War Z. Hopefully things will get better, not worse, if the game sees an influx of players when it re-releases on Steam.

The behavior of legitimate players has actually been a bigger problem. Despite the size of the world, spawn camping is a constant fear in The War Z. Spawn locations for new characters are predetermined, and it’s normal for these areas to be watched—even on low-population servers, I’ve found. I’ve been killed before the game completes loading (off my SSD, no less), with no chance to move or respond, 14 times. On several of these defenseless lives, I’d brought gear into the game that I’d purchased from the marketplace and lost it instantly.

The War Z’s recent attempt to address server hopping actually exacerbates this. Initially (as I complained about earlier this month) players could leave and join servers with no penalty, logging and out of high-volume loot areas to farm items. On January 23, Hammerpoint attempted to solve this by teleporting any players that leave a server and log into a new one to a nearby location. On paper, this seemed like a reasonable stop-gap. In practice, unfortunately, the locations the game teleports you to seem to be shared with the spawn spots available to new players, which simply adds to the traffic of fresh bodies for bandits to execute.

Time passes with an accelerated day-night cycle.

Hammerpoint’s hurry to sell something so openly unfinished is irresponsible. The studio has a pile of technical, design, and exploit-related flaws to address before it should even consider implementing the long list of originally promised (and then omitted) features.

And there are lots of these. Colorado’s open roadways are empty of vehicles. Strongholds—small, rentable, server instances—aren’t implemented. Bodies of water aren’t swimmable, and are blocked off with invisible walls. You earn XP by killing zombies, but the skill system for spending it hasn’t been added yet. Players can’t yet offer missions to other players for rewards, a feature that would formalize bounty-setting within The War Z.

With a dozen more months of effort, I think The War Z could’ve contributed something good to the survival genre. Its accomplishments include a comfortable inventory system, smoother player movement than a famously rigid military sim, and more building interiors. Other than that, it’s simply a reminder of how unflattering imitation can be, and that multiplayer survival games are inherently difficult to make.
PC Gamer
PlanetSide 2

In a pair of tweets (via VG247), SOE President John Smedley triumphantly announced the banning of "a whole bunch of idiots" caught hacking in PlanetSide 2, including one player who apparently spent $230 on in-game items.

our CS guys are banning the crap out of a whole bunch of idiots. Including two guys with 300 hours of playtime. one guy who spent $230— John Smedley (@j_smedley) January 25, 2013

"Buh bye," Smedley followed up. "Thanks for playing. Bunch of aimbots crashing like crazy now." He also claimed two players with over 300 hours of playtime each got the heave-ho. That's quite the magnitude of time sunk by the cheaters before the banhammer swung down, though some more-honest players are already clearing the 600-hour mark.

Smedley has openly expressed unfiltered negativity toward cheaters before, often taking to Twitter to announce the latest rounds of bans as a warning to wrongdoers. Back in December, he revealed his team relished "finding the ability to virtually tar and feather cheaters in-game," calling cheaters "a threat to our game and a threat to our livelihood."
PC Gamer
fallout header

There’s some scuttlebutt regarding a new Fallout floating around the internet: the radioactive smoke is curling up from the burning, irradiated embers. Bethesda have been registering names, and the in-game DJ’s voice actor has promised more from him. Could it be? Is it possible?

With Skyrim out of the stable, there’s definitely room for Bethesda to get irradiating the world again. There’s a really good base, but there’s always room for improvement. And, what do you know, I’ve written down some thoughts on what they could work on.

Livelier roads, cities, and towns. There's a reason these things pop up time and time again on the Fallout mod sites. It’s a basic incompatibility at the heart of Bethesda’s game: most games are a bit more fun with a livelier world, but the world of Fallout follows on from the razing of the human race. Bethesda tend to err on the side of caution with this, though tech issues are probably to blame for the rather empty casinos of New Vegas, but creating a world means populating it, and the mods that add new travelers and people still do that without impacting the overall feeling of loneliness. As it is,the roads of the Wasteland are a bit too quiet for the game they’re part of.

Make it about survival. In Bethesda’s hands, the Wasteland is fun. By the middle of a run through you’re clobbering Deathclaws with concrete capped rebars and sipping irradiated water without a care in the world. Possibly with a pinkie out. The point being is that the notion of survival becomes obsolete in a world dripped in caps to find, traders to sell to, and junk to collect. New Vegas has hardcore mode, forcing you to think about food, water, and rest, as well as altering the way meds and stimpaks work, but it’s still a world that can easily and comfortably be lived in. It needn’t be the main difficulty level, but the option to make the world a harsh place to live, to make the players think about every move, not just their weapon and perk choices, would give the ashy flavour of survival.

Bethesda's Design, Obsidian's Characters. There I was, wandering beneath a line-up of broken satellite dishes, looking for things to do when I spied a door. What could be behind it? A gang of gangers? A terrified NPC? A few steps towards it, a glance around to make sure there was nothing sneaking up. I popped the door. Behind it was a wall with “Fuck You” written on it. Bethesda’s worlds tend to be packed with detail, big and small. They’re places to live in and enjoy, and just brilliant places to explore. Their characters, however, are a lot less engaging. Obsidian’s take on New Vegas was packed with morally dubious Wastelanders with dark stories. Acquiring Boone as a follower, for example, meant leading a person out into a field for the deranged sniper to shoot. That’s dark enough, but as a player you could happily lead an innocent into Boone’s sights. Somewhere in the middle of Fallout 3 and New Vegas is the sweet spot they should be aiming for: dark, compelling characters in a curated world.

Treat us like PC gamers. I've never loaded up a Bethesda game and felt the studio really understood what PC gamers want from them. We have screen space and we have a pointing device that just seems to baffle them. I understand there’s a fictional reason for the Pipboy’s clunkiness, but all too often Bethesda will choose that over usability. Fallout 3 and New Vegas are remarkable examples of how to not lead a player through a game’s menus. I *have* to install a UI mod to deal with the endless scrolling of the inventories. When it comes to pure usability, divorce the theme from the menus

The same is true for FOV: the first thing I have to do in any Bethesda game is to hunt for an FOV hack. That I can do it is evidence that the engine is capable, and I’m still baffled that it’s not a native selection. Give me a damn slider.

Meaningful Character Creation. There are a fair number of perks, abilities and skills to begin with in Fallout. But there’s nothing to set allegiances or race. Bethesda’s Fallouts give you plenty of opportunity to interact with factions, and alliances will be built from your actions, but what if you don’t want to put the work in, or want to roleplay from the opening bell? It needn't allow you to select playing as a Ghoul, but predisposing you towards the NPR would make an interesting challenge to overcome.

Think about the Karma system. I nuked Megaton. I actually destroyed a town full of people. I can’t imagine any game allowing me to claw my way back from that, but Fallout 3 let me. Through good deeds I managed to reclaim my karma and end-up with a reasonably decent character sheet. I wouldn't mind my deeds being somewhat recognised, but I blew up a town. There are no meaningful consequences that you can’t undo. Make it harder to turn myself around, and make some choices indelible. By the same token, if I’m stealing things from bad people, don’t make that a hit on my karma. By all means make the faction hate me, but the world should recognise the good I just did.

More than one city. Bethesda’s games just don’t have the scope of the original series, because building all that content and the space in between in the sort of game that they make would take a decade. But the DLC that they've added to the game has shown a willingness to allow the player to simply hop to another area without worrying about the space in between. Or just choose a reasonably close cluster of cities that the fiction hasn't totaled.

Make it it hurt. My violent streak has never been well-served by Fallout 3 or NV (I like Skyrim’s bows, though). VATs is nice touch, and certainly enhances the basic combat, but whether it’s swinging a concrete caked rebar, or zapping with the Wasteland’s most advanced lasergundeath tech, there’s weediness to it. There’s little heft to the melee weapons, and the report of the guns doesn't match what they do to enemies. Please, Bethesda, play Dark Messiah and Red Orchestra, two games where the combat feels utterly perfect. That’s the level of combat excellence that an action Fallout needs.

A use for everything. Speaking of that, Fallout New Vegas allowed you to mod your guns a little, augmenting them with scopes and such. That’s a good start. This is a world where invention is a necessary part of survival, and where scavenging should be part of a crafting system that allows you build everything and anything, and to mod things on top of that. I’d even lobby for individual components to be brought in from the Steam Workshop. Oh yeah...

Use The Steam Workshop. This is kind of a lock: the Skyrim Workshop is the third busiest of the modder’s distribution platforms. But what I would urge is for Bethesda to make the tools available on launch day. It will help with content, and if none of the above in the list makes it, it’ll give the modders a jump on fiddling with and fixing everything on the list above.
PC Gamer
DayZ Standalone thumb

Dean "Rocket" Hall has posted another development update on the status of the DayZ Standalone release, and by the sound of things, the team have been busy. "This is the first update when I have sat down and thought 'where do I start?' There has been so much going on with the development this month that it is hard to fit it all in a post here."

Fit it in he has, though, and the resulting post contains information on everything from volumetric clouds to diseased clothing. There's also a giant comparison shot of the game's new lighting system. "The result is pretty striking when combined with some of the other improvements we have made in the engine," Hall writes. "These improvements make the world really come to life, improving the visuals overall."

Rocket also talks about the game's new server architecture, assuring that the game will have some anti-hacking mechanics on launch. "DayZ’s game servers will function like servers in other MMO style games, that is the server will control the behavior and the sending of updates. No longer will your machine receive all the updates allowing their analysis by various cheats." The team are also experimenting with spawning all zombies and loot at the start of a server's initialisation.

There's a new clothing system, allowing you to put on and drop clothes of various durability. Clothes can also carry disease. In addition, the team are beginning to focus on a character customisation system. "The obvious starting point for us is to allow players to select the gender and race of their character. Beyond this, allowing ways for your character to become your own are key for us; from getting tattoo’s to finding unique clothing items, trying to deal with your own health aliments, etc..."

Rocket confirms that an internal closed test has begun, but stresses that the server architecture needs to be finalised before any public testing takes place. " have been working with Valve to ensure our new server browser system is working (we utilize Steam for this purpose rather than Gamespy as for ArmA2)."

Despite the progress, Rocket isn't yet prepared to make a guess at DayZ Standalone's release date. "We don’t know. We’re going to take our time. I feel fantastic about the situation, more than ever I feel like we’re doing something really interesting with this development. Now is not the time to rush things, but we do need to ensure our pace is kept up."

There are some new screenshots, embedded below. You can see the rest, and read the full details of the massive update, here.

PC Gamer
Darksiders 2

Darksiders 2 may not have had the care and attention we like to see of a PC port, but that didn't hold back the game's tough, rewarding combat from making the game an overall enjoyable experience. So when the details of THQ's auction were revealed, it was a surprise to see that no-one had bid for Vigil. What gives?

As it turns out, the lack of interest shown in Vigil may have had nothing to do with the quality of the studio, as much as the timing of the sale. Speaking to Game Informer, THQ's president Jason Rubin touched on the difficulties with finding a home for Vigil. "Having just finished a product, Vigil was farthest from release of their next game, and we were not able to garner any interest from buyers, despite a herculean effort. Additionally, they were working on a new IP, which meant even more risk for a buyer."

Essentially, many of the bidders weren't just buying up a development studio, but also their games which, for the most part, were well into development. Relic were preparing for Company of Heroes 2's launch and Volition were well into development on the next Saints Row. Darksiders 2 released at the end of last August, giving the team less time to gear up and launch into development of their next project.

That project was codenamed Crawler, and it sounds like the team were extremely excited about the direction it was heading. In an emotional post to NeoGAF, made from an empty studio, Vigil's lead combat designer Ben Cureton wrote, "I knew, without a shadow of the doubt, that the project we were working on (Codenamed: Crawler) was going to blow people away. In fact, it DID blow people away. We did, in TWO months, what many companies haven't done in a year. The pride of knowing that no one was doing anything like us was so satisfying, it kept us coming to work and giving 100% every single day, even through the dark times."

Unfortunately funding a studio's development, marketing and staff costs for an untested new IP appears to be a risk that bidders involved in the THQ auction found too great. The situation likely wasn't helped by Darksider's 2 financial performance, which THQ's sales projections, taken from the first day motions, put at a loss.

The studio may have closed, but the Darksiders property, along with Vigil's staff, have attracted some interest. Platinum Games' JP Kellams tweeted at Dearksiders 2's lead designer, asking him, and other staff members, to get in touch if they were interested in working with the Bayonetta developer. And Platinum's head Atsushi Inaba also tweeted his interest in picking up the franchise at the upcoming auction, saying (translated by Kotaku), "In THQ's studio and IP selling off auction, Darksiders is unsold? wanna buy it...on the cheap..."

Here's hoping that both Darksiders and the studio's staff quickly find a home.

Thanks to Eurogamer for the Platinum Games info, and to Distressed Debt Investing's Hunter for the analysis of THQ's first day motions.
PC Gamer
GeForce Experience

If you’ve got an Nvidia graphics card then get over to their website now and download the open beta for the GeForce Experience. It’s been in closed beta since before Christmas and now Nvidia has now opened it up so that anyone can have a go.

I’ve been playing with the GeForce Experience on my rigs for a few months and I think it’s an excellent, unobtrusive bit of software.

The more of us that get on the beta, the more accurate the results are going to be, so get on there, test the optimal settings and report back your findings. There’s a feedback button built into the client and it’s comments-based so you can go into full detail about how you find the service and what you think needs to be changed.

Up until now the optimal settings have been based on what Nvidia’s experts reckon to be the best fit for your hardware, but the real test is what you guys think needs to be the ultimate PC gaming experience.

Do you want frame rates prioritised? Do you want native resolution to be the most important? Is is all about anti-aliasing for you?

Even if you’re a hardcore PC gamer there’s a good chance that GFE has something to teach you. You may still enjoy tweaking your settings, so they’re exactly how you want them, but GFE will give you a great starting point to move forward from.

The software is also good at teaching you what the different in-game graphics settings mean, using highlighted screenshots to show you what different options mean for specific games.

To get the optimised settings stuff though you’ll need an Nvidia card from the last two generations, so any GeForce card from the 400 series upwards.

I genuinely think this is an incredible bit of software and important for PC gaming moving forward.

As PC gaming moves ever more into mainstream consciousness (last week I had Rupert Murdoch’s representatives and other mainstream press breathing down my neck asking what this PC gaming thing was...) I think it’s important to have software that simplifies the increasingly complex graphics options without ever taking away choice for the enthusiast.

Granted most of us are pretty clued-up on our games and hardware, but there’s a good percentage of people playing games on PC that might not ever delve into the options screen; there’s folk still playing CoD on the low-res settings it boots with. These people are PC gamers too, and if we can help them get the most out of their gaming experience that can only be a good thing.

Whatever your pre-conceptions are about GeForce Experience, if you’ve got an Nvidia graphics card - especially if it’s not a top of the range one - then get downloading and give it a looksee.

It’s in beta so this is the time to make your opinions heard.