PC Gamer
the walking dead season 2
Lee asks another citizen if he's the lead character of The Walking Dead's second season.

Though a followup saga to the first season of The Walking Dead is as sure as a zombie-shaped surprise behind a blood-smeared door, Telltale has yet to determine the exact direction the series' second season will take. Speaking to Polygon, CEO Dan Connor says that the first season's heavy conclusion means "anything is possible" for a return to The Land Where Zombies Roam.

"We're talking through different scenarios, though I don't think we've talked through one where we just start with a new set of characters," Connor says. "For us, it's just really important to make sure we are delivering on what people have played and liked in season one."

Connor believes The Walking Dead's second season will be shaped by the series' staple of hooking an audience through intricate narrative and character relationships, saying, "A huge goal for us is what happens between episodes. How do you carry the experience through? How do you use this ability we have to keep people engaged and talking."

Future Walking Dead episodes could tie more closely with characters from the AMC TV show: "There's nothing saying our characters couldn't cross over with their characters at some point in the timeline," Connor suggests. "It's a very interesting concept for us."

Overlapping with the TV show is the least interesting of these possibilities to me because it runs the risk of feeling referential—a cameo by Glenn in the first episode demonstrated that Telltale's game doesn't need to rely on existing characters to get us to care. But whatever approach they take, I'm confident Telltale's writing team will find a way to turn me into an emotionless husk once more.
PC Gamer

This week in eSports: League of Legends Season 3 hits the ground running, MLG is already hosting competitive Heart of the Swarm, In Dota 2, only four teams are still standing in the upper bracket of The Defense 3.
StarCraft II

Heart of the Swarm creeps closer, and at least one major eSports organization is making the switch before it's even officially released. For the first time ever (outside of streams), you can watch high level play of both Swarm and Wings in the same sitting.
Upcoming Events
The GSL 2013 Season 1 Code S Round of 16 in Wings of Liberty is well underway, with Squirtle, MarineKing, DongRaeGu, and Bomber having been knocked out already. InnoVation, TaeJa, Soulkey, and Symbol have secured their spots in the playoff bracket, with the quarterfinals scheduled to begin on February 21. There are still two groups of four left to be decided, however, with the likes of MC, LosirA, Life, and PartinG competing for the final four playoff slots.

Watch it: GomTV

MLG is doing things a little differently for its Winter 2013 season, leaving Wings of Liberty behind in favor of the Heart of the Swarm beta. This has led to some controversy, considering the expansion isn't out yet, and balancing patches are still being dropped in fairly regularly. The format of the Winter Showdown throws each of the 56 players into a best-of-five match against a single opponent  The 28 winners will be guaranteed a spot at the Winter Championship at MLG Dallas in March. Qualifiers so far include PartinG, herO, and InnoVation.

Tonight's match is Rain vs Flying, beginning at 5 p.m. EST/1 p.m. PST.

Watch it: MLG on Twitch
Other Stuff
If you're looking to dip your toe into competitive play for the first time with Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard is trying to make it as gradual and painless a transition as possible. Here's how.

Day has carried his Sky Terran Funday Monday over to the Protoss, requesting that viewers send in videos of playing with only one Gateway and one Robotics Facility. Moral of the story: Phoenixes are really, really "balanced."

Axslav breaks down the HotS Winter Showdown matches between PartinG and Fantasy and RoRO vs. herO on Rules of Engagement. He'll be putting his usual weekly topics on hold to continue recapping these matches throughout the Winter Showdown set. If you're confused about what all these new units are and what it is they're doing, it's not a bad place to get up to speed.
League of Legends

Is Riot's Season 3 a "new beginning" for League of Legends as an eSport? The viewership numbers for Season 2's World Championships seem to suggest that competitive League has already pretty well begun. At the same time, 2012 and early 2013 were laden with player controversies. Though, to be fair, the same thing happens with athletes in just about every other sport imaginable... so it's possible that player bannings and ego trips are a part of the game's growing up. In any case, I'm anxious to see how much higher Riot's shooting star can go.
Upcoming Events
Season 3 of Riot's Championship Series is live. The kick-off was last night, with Counter Logic Gaming besting Team SoloMid and Good Game University, Curse taking a match off of Dignitas, and SoloMid defeating Vulcun. The action continues tonight with Curse vs CLG, SoloMid vs Dignitas, GGU vs Curse, and Vulcun vs Dignitas.

Watch it: League of Legends Championship Series
Other Stuff
In a continuing effort to reward positive behavior in the community, some changes are being made to the Honor Initiative. It's now easier to unlock the Great Teamwork, Leader, and Mentor crests, but more difficult to get Honorable Opponent. This change will retroactively remove Honorable Opponent from players who earned it under the old criteria. You can read about the reasoning behind this change on the official site.
Dota 2

Only four teams remain in The Defense 3 playoffs: Dignitas, No Tidehunter, the come-from-behind Virtus.Pro, and Evil Geniuses. Virtus vs EG will be take place on February 11, and Dignitas vs No Tidehunter has been postponed. Fan favorite teams that still have a shot at the lower bracket (and thus, the overall championship) include Team Liquid, mousesports, Na'Vi, and Fnatic.eu.

Watch it: The-Defense.com
Other Stuff
YouTuber ReevoHGames has put together a set of "visual patch notes" giving you in-game illustrations of the changes made in the most recent balance patch. Check it out at the beginning of this section.

That's it for this week, eSports faithful. Let us know in the comments what you think of this week's stories, if there's anything we missed, and what eSports events you're most looking forward to in the coming weeks.
PC Gamer
StarCraft II Heart of the Swarm matchmaking

I don't know about the more experienced commanders out there, but my fun in StarCraft II relies a lot on whether or not I'm satisfied with the feng shui of my barracks placement relative to my base's refinery. Such a quirk usually doesn't bode well for me against humans, but I may find enough time and space to fuss over the spiritual alignment of my buildings in peace in Heart of the Swarm's new Training and Versus AI modes.

Part of Blizzard's intention in its redesign of matchmaking is striking a balance between catering to grizzled StarCraft II warhorses and helping fledgling players grasp the fundamentals. In Swarm, Versus AI mode now automatically picks what difficulty is right for me after I complete initial placement matches. Training gets even more basic, showing players the ropes of basic army and base construction techniques.

Unranked mode sets up matches against similarly skilled players sans the added pressure of ladder standings. Ranked play remains as it did in Wings of Liberty—competitive, aggressive, and something I'm deathly afraid of stepping foot in.

Hear more of Blizzard Community Manager Kevin "Cloaken" Johnson, the narrator in the video above, in last week's walkthrough of the changes Heart of the Swarm is making to StarCraft II's social features. StarCraft II's second coming is coming March 12.
PC Gamer

The Witcher 3! Dragonborn! A Half-Life movie? This and other topics get tackled this week by Evan, Tyler, and T.J., who returns from Iceland to tell us about the games he saw at Paradox Interactive's annual event. We also touch on the merits of Linux gaming and SSDs.

Listen to PC Gamer Podcast 343: Bear-On-Werebear Violence

Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Leave a voicemail: 1-877-404-1337 ext. 724 or email the MP3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com.

Subscribe to the podcast RSS feed.

Follow us on Twitter:
@ELahti (Evan Lahti)
@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)
@asatj (T.J. Hafer)
@belsaas (Erik Belsaas, podcast producer)
PC Gamer

Everyone expects the Dragon Age 3: Inquisition, mostly because it's already been announced and therefore doubting it would be very silly. We know it'll be based on the Frostbite 2 engine, and thus has no excuse not to offer a rather bigger, more attractive world than Dragon Age 2's deserted city of chains. Everything else though, from story to design, is still under wraps. That's not going to stop us making a few wishes though, so here are some of the things we want to see...

Fix The Dragon Age 2 Problems, Obviously. You know the list. The re-used areas, the spider jump-scares, the empty streets of Kirkwall... Dragon Age 2's problems aren't exactly a secret, and while many of them can be put down to it feeling like a very rushed game, nobody wants to see them appearing again. Dragon Age 3 has no such excuse, with its development starting around two years ago according to the announcement letter, and no release date or even a single screenshot yet to be revealed.

Warning: Melee fighters in the first three rows may get wet.

A Song Of Guts And Maturity. For a series that supposedly owes such a creative debt to A Song Of Ice And Fire, the Dragon Age series - while not necessarily playing it safe - has always felt like a pretty sterile, unsurprising world. The first game established itself as something of a cliche storm when Loghain and his thunderface walked on to be the villain. Dragon Age 2, as much as it wanted to explore darker themes, often struggled by resorting to fantasy horror archetypes rather than anything with punch, with its attempts to do more - Hawke's mother for instance - often just coming across as silly.

In the wake of The Witcher 2, that's just not good enough. It's not a question of making Dragon Age a dark universe so much as actually living up to the darkness already written into it, instead of just claiming to be for adults and then cutting away to people having sex in their underpants or mistaking big gory combat hits for impactful violence. Geralt's controversy-shrugging adventures make it look like a cartoon in comparison, and without coming across as gratuitous. Well, mostly anyway.

The Inquisition title gives this sequel the perfect chance to really sink in deep with the demons and whatever we've already seen, but also tell dark, more relatable human stories of sin, corruption and consequence that put the player into tough moral places throughout. Speaking of which:

No Light/Dark Side Counter. Childish. Boring. Any system where you can commit atrocities and make up for it by handing over a few presents is a system in sore need of being ripped out and replaced with something more effective where deeds rather than integers are what counts.

'What's wron-' 'Morrigan just said she approved of my decision. I'm a terrible person!'

A Fresh And Motivating Story. Well, yes, obviously. However, specifically, more of a hybrid between Dragon Age 1 and 2 in terms of approach. Dragon Age 1 nailed the motivation, but the individual stories it told were fairly stock fantasy stuff. Dragon Age 2 braved new territory, but all too often gave little reason for the characters to be involved or even particularly care. Dragon Age 3 needs to do both.

Story And Game Integration. It also needs to actually play by its own rules. To pick one element, the Circle of Mages is an interesting idea in lore-terms, but one that the game routinely breaks over its knee by filling the world with blood mages on the grounds that mages are fun to fight, by having guards completely ignore you wandering around in a mage's robe and holding a mage's staff and having fireball battles in the streets of Kirkwall, and by the game simply not having the guts to instil spellcasting with the risk it's supposed to have. Mages can be taken over by demons from the Fade at any point? Yeah, right. Not if they're the player character of a 20+ hour RPG, they can't.

This kind of thing simply breaks the fiction, and even if you can find some "But Elves Are Nymphomaniac Nudists In The Lore!" type justification, makes the world far less interesting than if Bioware had actually changed things. Some things can obviously be handwaved. Making the entire plot of Dragon Age 2 unsupported by Dragon Age 2 can't. Dragon Age 3 needs to be built around the rules as established so far, rather than taking the easy road and hoping we just don't notice.

A mage? Who, me? Pffffffft....

Open World, Open Heart. The idea of setting an RPG in a city or other small, densely packed area isn't inherently a bad one. It doesn't however fit Dragon Age, with its more old-school, epic sweep. Let's see a map bursting with possibilities and secrets, that rewards exploration and puts new area types and cool things to discover around every corner. Oh, with one caveat:

No More Deep Roads. Dullest. Location. Ever.

Leaving Ferelden. Yes, yes, Kirkwall was in the Free Marches rather than Ferelden itself. The differences weren't exactly huge though, and this time it would be good to spread a bit further to some of the locations we've only heard of so far - chasing a heretic through the Tervinter Imperium for instance, or taking a trip to the corrupt court of Orlais. Provided that Bioware can find actors whose Orlesian accents aren't like nails down a chalkboard, of course. (This is far from guaranteed.)

Character Customisation. Commander Shepard was a great character, and there's no reason that she couldn't have a fantasy equivalent. Dragon Age isn't the game to do that in though, and Hawke added nothing to the game except for a bad British accent, some forgettable family members, and even less reason to care about what was going on in Kirkwall if you weren't (sssh!) a mage.

To get that "meh" though cost so much. Outright origin chapters aren't really needed, but race and similar choices were sorely missed - especially in such a fractured world. The nature of the story will obviously determine how much freedom there can be - creating a Qunari for instance for instance would mean immediate difficulties with the name field, never mind finding helmets that fit - and dwarves are tricky for a few reasons. Elves at least should be an easy enough alternate race to play as, and one with plenty of scope for extra political drama due to their poor social status in Thedas.

No more giant spiders. Say that Flemeth got rid of them. I don't care. Just ban them.

No Main Character Voice. For the above reasons, really. A fixed character having a voice is one thing - it would be silly for instance if Geralt didn't. When it's your own creation, the immersion lost by having them be a heroic mime is more than made up for by them not sounding like a complete cock/cockette. Once again, Hawke, looking at you. Over a whole RPG though, you soon get used to silence.

Party Customisation. Personally, and this is somewhat heretical, I prefer characters to retain and develop a unique look over the course of a game rather than everyone just ending up in plate armour by the half-way point. Still, as the head of the party, you should feel like you're in command.

Jobs For The Boys And Girls. As part of that, these slackers shouldn't be spending ten years sitting in a pub, hanging around at the campsite, or sitting in some mysterious void when they're not in the party. Let's send them out on missions, a bit like in Star Wars: The Old Republic, to earn their keep, practice their skills, and find more goodies and secrets. Ideally that wouldn't be purely random missions though, adding some of the tactical element of Mass Effect 2's suicide mission throughout the game and giving you a reason to switch around your team if your regular sword-and-board guy is elsewhere.

NPCs Responding To You Showing Up In Your Pants. It just bugs me when they don't. Anyone else always take a moment to check when playing a new RPG? Oh. Well, moving on...

Action/RPG Choices. Ignoring the dreadful waves mechanic, I didn't mind the more active combat of Dragon Age 2. With Bioware's resources though, it would be good to see a choice between classic, hardcore RPG combat and something faster that can be either more exciting, or simply skip to the next bit of the story a la Mass Effect 3's Narrative Mode. Bioware already made the (arguably bad) decision to split its audience between the two styles. Neither can really be left out of the next game.


Return Of The God Baby. Morrigan's son really needs to play some part in this story - even if it's only a side-quest that can be cut out depending on imported saves. That decision was far too important in Dragon Age Origins to be just thrown aside or consigned to a crappy bit of DLC that nobody played. While we're on the subject, David Bowie's plans from Dragon Age: Awakening really need to be addressed as well - a quick "Oh, yeah," line of dialogue doesn't count. In both of these cases, and the political chaos at the end of Dragon Age 2, it's not simply about tying off old plot threads - it's about conveying the idea that these stories mattered, so that Inquisition feels like it does too.

No More Starmap Design. Compartmentalised design (where the quest is secretly split up into intro/outro, four isolated zones and the ending run) is obviously easier on the designers than integrating everything. It's also really hard to ignore these days. The different parts of Dragon Age 3 should really mesh together to feel like a world, where some quests are isolated, but others draw in elements from around the world. At the very least, it would be good to see Dragon Age 3 blur the edges.

Fluid Politics. A good start would be a proper politics system, where tough decisions can actually follow you around and kick back at unexpected moments. Get a reputation as a liar? Good luck getting anyone to help the next time you shout "Wolf!" Alpha Protocol exists. Steal from it.

You look distracted. Is it my werewolves? It's my werewolves, right?

Separated Multiplayer. Multiplayer is inevitable, not least because Mass Effect 3's was so popular. That's fine. It shouldn't however have any impact on the single-player game, beyond - at most - minor cosmetic stuff. Certainly, no War Assets type system to try and force everyone into it. If it's fun, we'll play it. If not, we don't want to be coerced by the threat of getting the crap ending.

Built For PC. Consoles can play too, but for a Western RPG experience and all the trimmings, you're looking at the PC. The Witcher 2 raised the bar, and it's unlikely that The Witcher 3 will be any less. If Dragon Age 3 is targeted for current-gen console systems, it'll never be able to match up Even the initial batch of next-gen games it might be part of won't come close to what our machines can do.

It's not just raw tech of course, but better interfaces and desktop play vs. sofas.

DLC That Actually Feels Like It Was Designed To Integrate Into The Game In A Satisfying Way Yet Not Just A Chunk That The Core Game Is Lesser For Lacking. That.

And More Specifically? It's a very difficult line to draw, but there are possibilities. Instead of trying to give the main character more adventure for instance, fleshing out the stories of the party members. If they're not interesting enough for that, they're probably not interesting to be on the team.

Character Vault. Finally, a really small one, but a necessary one. Bioware has long talked up the benefit of keeping your saves. With Origin (and Steam, but I think we all know how likely DA3 is to benefit from that), the game itself should keep characters on file for use in future games. Dragon Age 3 should offer the chance to at least upload the gamestate for the next one and the DLC. The first two games should also offer some way of storing characters safely, rather than expecting everyone to back them up. This is something that should have been standard as of the Cerberus Network in Mass Effect 2.

And those are our ideas. What others can you think of?
PC Gamer

"Man of Adventure," Ragnar Tørnquist and Red Thread Thread Games need 850,000 of your dollars to complete the Longest Journey saga. A Kickstarter launched earlier today for Dreamfall Chapters, and has already taken $149,476 in pledges.

Dreamfall Chapters will be a 3D adventure game that promises a "rich, detailed, interactive and living world that mixes a cyberpunk vision of the future with magical fantasy, along with a broken and decaying dreamworld." Expect many returning characters, recurring locations, and sweet release from the grip of Dreamfall's cliff-hanger ending.

As you'd expect, the pitch is firmly aimed at those that have played the first two games. I only made it a few hours into the first one, so much of it is high nonsense to my ears. Red Thread assures that the following questions will be dealt with, however: "What is WatiCorp planning? What are the Dreamers for? Who is the Prophet? What is happening in Arcadia, and how are the Azadi involved? And where in the world is Crow?"

"The Undreaming is Unchained," as well, but there's no way that sentence can mean anything to anyone.

There are plenty more details on the Kickstarter page, but be warned, it's chock-full of spoilers for the first two games. There's a cryptic trailer and lots of chat from Ragnar in the Kickstarter video, too, which you can watch right here:

Feb 8, 2013
PC Gamer

Waking Mars is not a game about gardening. True, your primary interaction with the world is to fly around 2D caves gathering seeds, throwing them in patches of fertile land, then watering and feeding them compost. So far, so Titchmarsh with a jetpack.

At some point though, after the slightly-too-long intro phase, you realise that Waking Mars is actually about ecosystems: organic machines running autonomously, and the satisfaction of knowing that it was you who built the engine.

Functionally it’s an adventure game. You’re Liang, an astrobiologist who discovers life in an ancient Martian cave network. Dour and serious, Liang has a support team consisting of the upbeat Armani, and ART, the ‘wacky’ AI. Think pedantic Claptrap. Yes, that bad.

ART’s incessant chattering aside, Liang’s task is mostly a solitary one. He must explore the cave and make observations about the plants and animals he finds. Each has a checklist of behaviours to discover: how they reproduce, their predators, their defence mechanisms. But separating Liang from the bulk of his research are ‘cerebranes’: alien membranes that block your progress until you raise a chamber’s biomass.

This means bringing the dormant networks to life. Everything you plant has a biomass value, but you’ll need a mix to hit the highest levels. The standard plant is the seed-spitting halid. First, though, their ground must be watered, using collectible liquid orbs produced by hydra plants. Animal-like creatures, such as the skittish phyta, will then feed on scattered halid seeds to asexually reproduce.

In the later, larger caverns, the workings of these interconnected species can produce a beautiful clockwork display. Phyta chase halid seeds, prax (a sort of aggressive venus flytrap) feed on phyta, generating their own seeds to be collected in turn. Plants beget animals, animals beget plants. At times I was happy to sit back and watch its self-sustaining, hypnotic rhythm.

The downside to this is that, once you’ve seen one open room at full biomass, the game’s only response is to get larger. Working out how to maximise a chamber is a trick you only need to learn once, at which point the game becomes more about the busywork of doing rather than the thrill of discovering.

Themed areas sometimes hold clever interactions to spread life, but they’re rarely challenging as much as passively interesting. Waking Mars peaks around its second third, at which point it settles into the more sedate experience of travelling around, collecting the materials and shepherding the animals to cultivate each new room. It’s enjoyable to the end, but the focus shifts into the relaxing and sedate pursuit of perfection and the tactile pleasure of manipulating the environment.

I guess it is a game about gardening after all.

◆ Expect to pay: $11 / £7
◆ Release: Out now
◆ Developer: Tiger Style
◆ Publisher: In-house
◆ Multiplayer: None
◆ Link: www.bit.ly/RTVqBs
PC Gamer
Total War Rome 2 Arverni

The Gallic Arverni are the fifth of eight factions to be revealed as playable forces in Total War: Rome 2. Their chieftains lead the counter-charge against Roman advancement according to the will of their king, inspired by the sentiments of their druids. The Arverni were most notably led by the fierce Vercingetorix, who united the Gallic tribes against Ceasar in the great revolts of 52BC.

In combat, they're "heavily dependent on infantry," according to the Arverni page on the Rome 2 site. They'll "make great use of javelins and the devastating impact of the charge, led by elite warriors such as Spear Nobles and Oathsworn." More importantly, they'll do it while shouty faces and hairy, hairy chins.

At home, they're good goldsmiths, and turn a fair trade selling the produce of their prodigious craftsmen. It's the charisma of their leaders that makes them tempting campaign avatars, however. Their ability to unite tribes and amass great numbers should make them a good underdog choice for those of us who'd rather burn down the Roman Empire than help it prosper.

Rome 2 is a videogame I'm very much looking forward to. It's out in October.
PC Gamer
Nvidia Project SHIELD

We’ve all heard about Nvidia’s Project Shield, their Android-powered handheld that can plug into your PC and let you play the latest games on a wee mobile device in your hand. Now, to show all that off, Nvidia is posting a weekly series of short videos, called PC Monday, on its blog and YouTube channel.

The first video from earlier this week shows the Nvidia Project SHIELD running Borderlands 2, via Steam, from a GTX 680-powered machine in the background.

The lack of input lag is incredibly impressive - even if the rig is only a few feet away. I spoke to one of Nvidia’s top tech bods at a small event this week and he said they’d managed to knock the lag on a local network down to just 120ms. For comparison, the lag you get from a wired controller plugged into an Xbox 360 sits at around 150ms.

Obviously all these demonstrations are in very controlled environments to show off the best possible Shield experience, and we won't know how well the local game-streaming tech works in the real world until we get our samples through. But with the release only a matter of months away we ought to know very soon.

Personally I love the idea of having a powerful desktop machine, with the option of using the mouse and keyboard as normal, but with the versatility of playing certain games AFK on my high-def tele from my sofa. But with the Shield likely to be a rather pricey little device it’s tough to see how many PC gamers will want to spend the cash on the handheld when they’ve already forked out a good chunk of cash on a GTX 600 series gaming PC.

Nor is Shield going to be the only device that lets us do this. Theoretically any Nvidia Tegra-powered device ought to be capable of connecting, via GeForce Experience, to your GTX 600 series card or up, once the device and its software is released. That’s going to suddenly make Tegra tablets a much more intriguing prospect for us PC gamers.

Check out the next PC Monday on the 11th, though it is running on US time so you UK folk are going to have to wait til the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
PC Gamer

SimCity's second closed beta will go live next Saturday February 16 at 2PM GMT, offering an "enhanced version" of the one hour trial we got a couple of weeks ago. You can sign up for a chance to participate now on the SimCity beta page, though you'll have to do that before Monday to have a chance.

Planning on buying SimCity? How would you like to pay more for the same game? Well, the limited edition will give you that opportunity, but Maxis have thrown in the Heroes and Villains set to make it a bit more tempting. That'll let you introduce superheroes and super villains into your towns, though when I played it I polluted my town to the extent that most of my citizens deduced that I was a super-villain so I CRUSHED THEM. None shall defy the might of the Mayorinator.

You can hear more about all that on the latest PC Gamer UK podcast. Meanwhile, busy your idle eyeballs with a heroes and villains trailer, replete with stomping robots and deadly laser beams. SimCity is due out on March 5 in the US and March 7 everywhere else.