PC Gamer

Telltale Games founders Dan Connors and Kevin Bruner held a Reddit AMA on Tuesday, where they discussed their process for writing stories and their successful episodic model while hinting at their plans for the future, and divulged what the developer's dream setting for future adventure games would be.

The folks at Telltale are presumably throwing crumpled pieces of paper into an already full trash bin while crafting new episodes for The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season 2, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their eyes on other properties as well. When asked what IPs they’d like to use in a new game, for example, Bruner said he’d love to do something in a galaxy far, far away.

“I'll also say a Telltale Star Wars game would make me VERY happy,” Bruner said in the AMA. He then hinted that, “We've got some IP coming up that pretty much checks all of my personal favorites, which absolutely amazes/honors me.”

While I’d be more than happy to see a Telltale rendition of the Star Wars franchise, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, considering that EA locked that license up back in May. It’s possible that Telltale could develop a game and publish through EA, but that ventures deeply into hypothetical space.

I’m more interested in the intellectual property that has Bruner amazed and honored. The best guess I can make is it’s probably not Star Wars. That doesn’t narrow things down too much, but hey, it’s a start.
PC Gamer
The Witcher 3

In many ways, CD Projekt RED is the little developer that could. After hitting it big with The Witcher, CD Projekt has continued to grow and produce games with greater and greater ambition. After six years and six million games sold in the Witcher franchise, the studio is hard at work on the Witcher 3 and the much-anticipated Cyperpunk 2077. As its gotten bigger and struck distribution deals on a larger and larger scale, though, some rumors have gotten around that the developers’ famous anti-DRM stance might be changing. According to the company CEO, those rumors are false.

“I’d like to say it loud and clear: The PC version of The Witcher 3 will have absolutely no DRM from day 0. Zero. Zip. Nada,” CEO Marcin Iwinski said in a blog post. It doesn’t matter if you choose to buy it on GOG.com and support us directly or buy the game in box format, you’ll still get the 100% DRM-free experience. And this goes for the whole world.”

Though The Witcher 3 will be sold on Steam and subject to that platform’s online-verification system, none of the DRM will be put in place by CD Projekt. “Gamers have a choice in where they buy their games,” Iwinski continued, “but where CDPR does have control—like GOG.com—there will be absolutely no DRM.”

Iwinski isn’t turning over a new leaf with this post. He’s been vocally against the idea that DRM protects developer profits and has said that he's "not seen DRM that really worked."
PC Gamer

Kerbal Space Program is already being used in some physics classrooms, but indie developer Squad has just formalized an agreement to bring the fledgling space program simulator to more classrooms with special support for teachers. TeacherGaming, the parent company behind MinecraftEdu, will launch KerbalEdu to 50 schools in mid-November.

KerbalEdu’s first big hurdle is setting up an educational discount and marketplace that schools can actually use. “It may be funny for a private person to think, ‘I have my credit card, I can just go online and buy stuff,’ but schools can’t do that,” TeacherGaming CEO Santeri Koivisto told PCGamesN. “It’s a huge mess of purchasing systems. We’ve tried to work with the different countries’ purchasing systems and been successful with that.”

KerbalEdu will work the same as MinecraftEdu in that the special version of the game will be almost identical to vanilla Kerbal Space Program, but with a few tweaks and special editors for teachers to use with students. “The idea is that we don’t ruin the game,” Koivisto said. “So when the kids come to school they don’t think it’s some rubbish school Minecraft, they just know it’s their favorite game at home and now they’re playing it at school.”

Though it isn’t an exact simulation, KSP can be used in physics classrooms to teach gravity wells and rocket science, or even as a hands-on history-class recreation of the work NASA has been doing with manned and unmanned spaceflight. KSP is a hard game to play, but that’s also why it’s fun.

“There’s a lot of failure,” said KSP developer Mike Geelan. “But there’s some inspiration to achieve better. It’s an iterative process. The first time, it’s just going to explode. The second time, it might come off the pad. The third time, you might get to 30,000 feet.”

Check out the full interview at PCGamesN for more info on KerbalEdu.
PC Gamer
Aaru's Awakening

We’ve been keeping a close eye on Aaru’s Awakening, the striking hand-drawn platformer where you play rooster-bear Aaru, the champion of Dawn. It looks slick and very difficult, and seeing this kind of art come out of a small indie studio is a treat. Aaru’s Awakening now has a new trailer for the domain of Dusk and a new playable demo to help them over climb the summit of Steam's Greenlight process.

Aaru has to travel through the four domains of the world—Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Night—to tangle with the evil brewing in Night. Each domain has its own theme, and the warm purple-pinks of sunset decorate dusk to a nice effect. We’ve already seen the trailer for Day with its scorched yellow palette, so I’m hopeful that the art for the rest of the game will continue to impress.

Aaru’s Awakening is still slated for a release in early 2014. Check out the demo here and its Steam Greenlight page here.
PC Gamer

What are you doing?” asks Maia writer Paul Dean. It is a fair question. The area just outside my latest space colony on the planet Maia is liberally festooned with Union Jack flags. To the point where one of them seems to have joined forces with its neighbours and mutated into a flagsplosion, fluttering in the breeze.

“Building a Queen trap.”

Actually, I was enjoying watching how this sim’s ever-changing weather affects the movement of the flags and wind turbines you can place outside. Flags are decorative – a nod to the tradition of conquering strange new lands by jamming a stick with a facecloth on one end into the earth. Wind turbines on the other hand can be used to supply the interior of your colony with power. Solar arrays do the same job, but they’re less interesting to watch.

“Pip, I’m not sure the Queen is in Maia.”

She isn’t. I’ve been through all the game’s context sensitive object lists and there are fission reactors, work tables, couches and intravenous drips, but no monarch.

Maia is a hard-SF space colony sim. As such you can eventually expect scientifically accurate objects and systems as well as concepts grounded in contemporary research. It’s a complex undertaking so at the moment there are relatively few objects to contend with, but the list is growing. The couches mentioned earlier are found in the most recent build (0.33). The version I’m playing is 0.31, which seems more stable, crashing maybe 20 minutes into a session rather than four or five.

The interconnection between systems and objects is basic but with a promising attention to detail. Placing the solar arrays outside, for example, means you can power objects such as lights inside the colony. When the weather changes – say a solar flare hits the planet or a storm breaks overhead – the lights inside will flicker or dim accordingly.

There are seven types of room: generic, storage, workroom, research lab, medical, hydroponics and radiation containment. For each, you select and place objects from a context sensitive list. If you have a workroom with a worktable the sims will build the objects for you. If not, or if the AI is behaving oddly, you can place them with a keyboard shortcut. Maia 0.31 is like a space version of The Sims’ build mode.

0.31 offers many hints of future content. The research lab contains equipment for conducting autopsies, and hover text reveals that red and blue glowsticks have different effects on mood – blue sooths but also reduces productivity while red promotes productivity but adds aggression.

It is while I’m investigating the hover text that I discover I may have been wrong about one thing. “God save the Queen!” announces a door. The Queen? Startled I mouse over again to check what I just saw. “PLATITUDES.DLL IS CORRUPT AND UNREADABLE,” says the door. “Please register this software to receive more Door GreetingsTM.”
PC Gamer

You may recall our enthusiastic interview, preview, and video coverage of Clockwork Empires. The indie project is a Dwarf Fortress-like, Victorian colony sim that we’re anticipating with zeal, partly due to its Lovecraftian underpinnings.

After months of heavy development (punctuated by a few dev blogs), Clockwork’s Vancouver-based indie creators Gaslamp Games have published the first video of Clockwork Empires. Gaslamp also underlined that it plans to release the game in 2014.

I spoke with Gaslamp about its progress on Clockwork Empires this year and got the studio to clarify its current thinking about the design of some of the sandbox game’s key systems, excerpted below.
Gaslamp on citizen relationships in Clockwork Empires
Daniel Jacobsen, CEO: The characters will sit around and talk to each other, and if they find out they have any things in common when they’re having their conversations, suddenly they’re in a relationship. It’s amazing. If only life were this simple.

Nicholas Vining, Technical Director: You like potato chips? I like potato chips. Let’s get married!

Jacobsen: Anyway, this a pretty superficial thing. That, in itself, is not particularly uncommon as a level of sophistication for character relationships. But for example, the next step is to have characters recall the conversations they’ve had with other characters, and based on having a sufficient number of positive experiences with a given character, they might decide to start a relationship in which they’ll go through what will probably, initially, be very short courting rituals. Then maybe suddenly they’re married, or they’re definitely in a relationship.

Vining: Or spurned.

Jacobsen: Or spurned, yeah. Maybe the other person isn’t interested, or is previously engaged. What’s really cool about this is that the simulation is now working, and we’re basically cramming this stuff in as fast as we can. It’s leading us to these situations where we’re like, we can do anything we want with this. What is the best way to describe these characters?

Vining: We have a lot of good moments in the office where a terrible thing will happen and everyone will cluster around to look at the thing that just happened and see that we’re going in the right direction.
On insanity
Vining: Madness is a thing that will trigger cult-like behavior, as well as other behaviors too. Ranging from walking into the sea, never to return, except as a different person than you once were, to just plain old murdering people with a nearby agricultural implement.

David Baumgart, Art Director: Just running a well-ordered colony will sort of dampen these effects. If everyone goes to church on time and has a drink in the evening, everything will probably be okay.

Jacobsen: If you’re supplying them with the things that will keep the madness at bay, so to speak.

Vining: Objects have madness, buildings have madness, characters have madness. A mad architect will make mad buildings that make people go mad in them when they work.

Jacobsen: It’s an interesting design construct. I think this is one of those things that we’re getting really close to needing to test very thoroughly. Madness on a character level can be managed. But once it starts spreading to a higher level, it may be difficult to convey to the player exactly how to deal with it or where it’s coming from. At this point, the character-centric madness is something that we’re excited to pursue. The other stuff is really interesting, but it has an exponential curve that could be very dangerous. We’re going to try a few things and see what people like.
On the Clockwork Empire itself
Jacobsen: The Empire is sort of… Its effect on the player within the game takes the form of prestige that you can gain for various actions, and also quests or missions that you can complete in the game. Most of the effects of these things… The effect is about 50 percent meta-game and 50 percent within the game. It’s not something that we’ve fleshed out enough to really want to talk about at this point. If we were to tell you about it, it would be basically where we were at before, which is that by accomplishing missions for the Empire, for various groups within the empire, or for perhaps different nations altogether, you can gain prestige with which you can basically buy favors from the various groups, as well as getting some insight into their goings-on, their inner workings.
On the animal kingdom
Vining: Let’s see. We have a great variety of beetles. Beetle collecting is important.

Jacobsen: Quite large beetles.

Baumgart: There’s some naturalist from the 19th century who said that the creator must love beetles, because half the species that exist are beetles. Or something like that. Riffing off of that, we’ve got tiny beetles, large beetles. They act like livestock or work animals, beasts of burden.

Jacobsen: Beetles of burden.

Baumgart: We just have this whole beetle thing going on. There’s this Mongolian… No, it’s just a death worm.

Jacobsen: It’s based on the Mongolian death worm sort of mythos, though.

Baumgart: That’s become our corpse disposal.

Vining: There’s the northern vomiting fox.

Baumgart: We have a fox. It’s adorable. It doesn’t vomit.

Vining: The plan is that it will vomit. And we have an animation for this.

Baumgart: We’ve talked about it. We’ll see. We have a capybara and a tapir. We have all these strange South American mammals. The approach was not to take completely normal animals, but some that are just slightly more obscure, from the Ice Age or something. There are no cows. We have the aurochs, which is a species of cattle that went extinct in like 15-something. A giant cow, basically. It’s stuff that’s at the fringes of the animal taxonomy from the time.
Oct 30, 2013
PC Gamer

Written by Will Uhl.

The majority of fighting games are content to quietly iterate their core ideas. Skullgirls breaks new ground, creating one of the most impressive examples of the genre of the past five years.

Every fighter is distinct. To break past Peacock’s barrage of cartoon bombs, bullets and anvils, reassembling cat-girl Ms Fortune can toss her detached head and dash in while it gnaws away. If undead opera singer Squigly overwhelms sadistic nurse Valentine, the medic can slow her attacks with vicious poison. Where other games stuff their rosters with variants on the same few character types, Skullgirls’ dedication to diversity is refreshing.

The downside to this is a meagre roster of just nine characters. The game permits teams of up to three, so a more ample lineup would seem like a must. Three new crowdfunded fighters are currently making their way into the game, but until they arrive the character pool is going to feel sparse.

Inspired by ’30s and ’40s cinema, Skullgirls’ art style is gorgeous: lavish environmental ornamentation mixed with murky amber hues. Thousands of frames of hand-drawn animation bring a spirited smoothness to each character – such as the liquid ripples and twists of shapeshifter Double. This deft presentation turns the combat into an elaborate dance that looks just as smooth as it feels.

Despite the sophisticated art style, almost every fighter is awkwardly sexualised. In a more crass brawler it wouldn’t be surprising to see femme fatales with copious cleavage, but the way Skullgirls splices panty shots with elegant attacks is incongruent with the maturity of the design elsewhere. It might be a plus to some, but it comes across as an attempt at juvenile titillation, making the game hard to take seriously.

The developers’ experience in the fighting game scene pays off in Skullgirls’ tutorials and training mode. Where other games are happy to rattle off lists of combos, here a comprehensive suite of lessons imparts basics and advanced concepts alike. The training room is similarly full-featured, providing the complex frame data and hitbox info that top-level players need to improve their game. It’s a great entry point to the genre for new players.

Online play lacks automated matchmaking, but a simple lobby system enables you to find sparring partners the old-fashioned way. Impressively, the netcode supports ~200-ping fights without a hiccup. Low player counts can be an issue, but can’t be blamed on the game’s online implementation.

Skullgirls’ flaws are ultimately outshone by its achievements, particularly in reaching out to new players. It does a better job of making fighting games accessible than any of its competitors, and there’s real skill in the execution of its dashing art style. Issues aside, it’s deserving of a place in fighting game history.

Expect to pay £12 / $15
Release Out now
Developer Reverge Labs & Lab Zero Games
Publisher Autumn Games, Konami & Marvelous AQL
Multiplayer Local and online, two players
Link www.skullgirls.com
PC Gamer
Typing of the Dead

We're only one day away from Halloween, and so its fitting that Sega would release a game all about the heart-stopping terror of... typing tests! Sorry for the fright, I'll give you a moment to regain your composure. Typing of the Dead: Overkill is a follow-up to the original series, and a modification of the arcade light gun shooter House of the Dead: Overkill. It's an absurd idea, executed with panache, and it's available now.

Understanding that light guns aren't a particularly common PC peripheral, but that keyboards are, Typing of the Dead replaces bullets with letters. For each zombie, you're given a word or phrase to type out before they reach you and start munching on your thinkmeats. In every other sense, it's the same House of the Dead: Overkill that appeared on consoles, overbearing faux-grindhouse presentation and all.

This version also comes bundled with the gun-shooty version of Overkill, using the mouse for aiming. As a result, it's a bit easy, but it's a handy addition if your APM outstrips your WPM.

Typing of the Dead: Overkill is out now on Steam, and will be half-price until November 1st.
PC Gamer
Scream Fortress

Quicker than you can say "boo" - assuming you elongate it out by a few hours - Valve followed up yesterday's TF2 comic with Scream Fortress, their fifth annual Halloween event. This time around it's the Payload Race map Hightower that's been spookified, turning it into the corpse-pushing Helltower. Also: there are skeletons, and the mercs have magic spellbooks now.

"Everybody gets a spellbook gifted to them automatically, which you can equip in your Action Slot in order to pick up and cast spells," explains the TF2 blog. "The team that wins the race will be granted a buff for the final climactic battle, where you will fight for the ultimate Halloween reward: Your own lives. And a reward."

Naturally, there are a bunch of items and achievements that can also be awarded, found and bought. Scream Fortress is live now, and will run the 11th November.
PC Gamer

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You can submit your entry any time between now and November 8 at Midnight Pacific. The machine you could walk away with features a beastly 24 GB of RAM, a Core i7-4700HQ, and a 4GB GeForce GTX 780M. In other words, Captain Kenway is going to look mighty fine.

One entry is allowed per user. Abstergo employees are not eligible for this promotion. To read more about Asus' ROG line, check out the official site.