Shacknews - Steve Watts

Sony Online Entertainment's free-to-play shooter Bullet Run has officially gone live for the PC. The game uses the conceit of a reality TV show, though with a good deal more violence than you see from the crew on The Apprentice.

It supports up to 20 players with six maps and several game modes. You can customize your contestant with vanity items, level perks, weapon mods, and more. Plus, the game takes a page from the Gears of War franchise with active reload. You can grab it the downloader here.

"We have watched this game grow from an idea to a complete experience," said creative director Jan-Eric Lauble, in the announcement. "The level of detail we put in the game--from the competitive gunplay features to the unique storyline--will offer players an experience they have yet to find in the FPS world. We are all incredibly proud of the work the team has done and look forward to offering players more options and exciting new features in regular updates to the game going forward."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

As expected, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going free-to-play later this year...

And as expected, there are tons of caveats. The F2P option will grant access to the first 50 levels of play in BioWare's MMO, with restrictions on access to new content and "advanced player features."

"Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe," BioWare Austin's Matthew Bromberg said in a press release. The game's lackluster performance has already led to downsizing at The Old Republic team.

Of course, while the game may be "free-to-play" later this year, it won't actually be free. A copy of the game must still be purchased. It will drop to $14.99 in August, which includes one month access to a paid subscription.

Paid subscribers will get access to new higher-level game content beyond the current level 50 cap, including new space combat missions. In addition, subscribers will also get ongoing monthly grants of "Cartel Coins," a new virtual currency that unlocks in-game items, such as customizable gear and "convenience features." Presumably, these Cartel Coins can also be purchased by free players.

Additional rewards will be distributed to current and former players. Current subscribers will quality for "special benefits," and receive additional Cartel Coins and in-game items. Lapsed players that reactive will also receive special benefits. For example, according to the official site, subscribers will get 150 Cartel Coins for every month paid for since launch.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Marcus "Notch" Persson has created a mini-empire out of Minecraft, using its success to create a bustling studio juggling multiple projects. But he isn't expecting to turn out gold constantly, and thinks that the studio's smash hit will probably be the exception rather than the rule.

"If people are expecting [another game as popular as Minecraft], they will be disappointed," Persson said in a Reddit thread (via Beefjack). "Minecraft is a one in a million fluke." Persson will be able to prove if he's right with the upcoming releases of Cobalt and Scrolls.

He also said he's hands-off with Minecraft now (except "broad strategy decisions"), and so he has "no idea" what the future holds for the game now. "Sales keep going up all the time, and there's an infinite amount of stuff we can do," he said. "Hopefully modding will become easier soon, too."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

With such a tumultuous drop in stock price, it was bound to happen. Zynga executives are being targeted in a class action lawsuit over allegations that insiders profited from dumping the stock. For example, CEO Marc Pincus sold 16.5 million shares for a gain of $200 million. Various insiders gained over $500 million by selling their stock.

Law firm Newman Ferrara is the first to go after the social gaming company, with others expected to follow. At the heart of the lawsuit is a trading "lockup" that prevented regular employees from selling their shares until May 28th, while many insiders were able to dump their stock well in advance.

"Zynga's regular employees were still locked up from selling their shares. But the guys at the top, who saw what was coming down the pipe, got to cash out," Ferrara attorney Roy Shimon told The Verge. "It's not easy for employees to see that the executive team were selling their shares while most people were still locked up."

Pincus' sale represents "only a fraction" of his total investment in the company, meaning any decrease in share value would negatively affect him as well. However, Zynga COO John Schappert sold 45% of his shares, and CFO David Wehner sold more than half of his stocks, which certainly raises a few eyebrows. Four additional law firms are currently investigating allegations of insider trading at the company.

Shacknews - John Keefer

The poor quality of the last Medal of Honor game is fueling apathy in the upcoming Medal of Honor Warfighter, an analyst said in a report released in anticipation of a Q1 earning update from publisher Electronic Arts later today.

Doug Creutz, an analyst who covers video game companies for Cowen & Company, dropped his sales estimates for the upcoming Medal of Honor title from 2.3 million units to 1.4 million. "This is based on a very soft performance since E3 in Amazon's top-selling game rankings compared to other recent titles," he wrote. "We think the most likely culprit for apparent gamer disinterest is the poor quality of the last 'Medal of Honor' game in 2010."

Creutz is also down on Star Wars: The Old Republic, expecting subscriber numbers to drop from 1 million to around 500,000 for the current fiscal year "due to continued poor server density trends." EA had said the MMO is "not a top 5 game" for the company, and has been examining a free-to-play model for the game.

We will know more about EA's situation on their earnings call this afternoon.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The United States Army is considering making another first-person shooter to head up its Games for Training program. The title is tentatively planned for 2013, and hopes to incorporate a host of new features that will more realistically simulate battlefield conditions in current conflicts.

Kotaku reports that among other realistic touches, the game will feature the ability to call in artillery fire, medevac missions, and Arab and Afghan female suicide bombers. The Army also reportedly wants updated graphics and tech underpinnings, and so it is proposing that it gains input from the gaming industry.

The Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) put together nearly 250 pages of technical requirements and a 13-page checklist -- most of which is extremely specific detail about terrain and equipment. The current simulator, Virtual Battlespace 2, has been adapted to be used for cultural awareness training and IED detection, so this follow-up would probably be used for similar purposes.

The new title seems targeted at "small wars" and counterinsurgency training. It would replace Virtual Battlespace 2 from Bohemia, and both Bohemeia and America's Army are expected to bid on the Pentagon contract.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Twisted Metal certainly has striking imagery and characters, but most players probably aren't getting hooked on the plot. But hey, maybe you are concerned with the fate of Sweet Tooth and his cadre of sociopaths, in which case you'll be pleased to know that game director David Jaffe has posted deleted endings to the game.

The first alternate ending on Jaffe's blog is presented without explanation. The second, he says he tried making himself with iMovie when the game was still finding its tone. He says it was him "taking the story line darker for both the M rating (because we now could go darker) and because it didn't seem like Tooth fans would be ok with him taking the 'noble' high road and walking away. It just didn't feel right for the world/character."

Shacknews - John Keefer

In anticipation of Activision Blizzard's Q1 earnings report later this week, Cowan & Company analyst Doug Creutz said he expects Blizzard may delay StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm to 2013. While that may be bad news for consumers, the good news for the company is that he projects Diablo 3 sales to be much better than originally forecast.

Creutz said in a report that "Typically, Blizzard puts its new titles into beta for 3-6 months before they are officially released. With only 5 months left in the year, while it is still possible that Swarm could make the fiscal year, we are now assuming it ships in FY13." The sequel, a followup to StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty's Terran campaign released in late 2010, follows the Zerg and its queen Kerrigan.

Creutz said the news isn't all bad for Blizzard, as he is projecting Diablo 3's worldwide sales to hit eight million units, up 60 percent from the original forecast of five million. The game went on sale on May 15 and sold 3.5 million copies on the first day.

Blizzard also just announced September 25 as the release date for its World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria.

For Activision, Creutz predicts that the dollar figure from the Call of Duty settlement with former Infinity Ward heads Vincent Zampella and Jason West could be in the "tens of millions." He believes, however, that investors will probably ignore the settlement's impact when looking at the company's overall financial health.

The Activision Blizzard earnings call is on Thursday.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

When a game vaguely resembling Dungeon Keeper is announced, we often lose control of our mental faculties and get in a tizzy hoping it'll come close to Bullfrog's glorious dungeon management strategy-sim. They never do. So listen with interest but keep your cool for Paradox Interactive's announcement of Impire, an dungeon 'em up made by Blood Bowl and A Game of Thrones developer Cyanide.

Yes, as a mighty demon trapped in the body of a puny imp, you'll have to build and manage a fine dungeon. You design your dungeon's layout, as in That Game We Miss Sorely, with different rooms and traps and whatnot. And, of course, you have to raise and power-up an army of darkness. It's set in the same universe as the Majesty series, if that means anything to you.

Along with a campaign playable in single-player or co-op, Impire offers several multiplayer modes.

Impire is slated to launch for PC in the first quarter of 2013.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

After the cancellation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, members of the dev team at GSC Game World went on to found a new studio and start their own irradiated shooter-RPG, Survarium. Yet, according to a fresh rumour, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series may live on at Bethesda.

A strange rumour indeed, but the source has been reliable before. Nival marketing director Sergey Galyonkin was the chap who broke news of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2's woes, and now he claims a little bird whispered in his ear that Bethesda has picked up the rights to publish a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun). GSC founder Sergiy Grygorovych still owns the brand, though.

According to Galonkin's source, Bethesda will put out a multiplatform S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game built upon its own tech, though Fallout 3 and Skyrim developer Bethesda Game Studios wouldn't necessarily be the team behind it.

This isn't the first time rumours about Bethesda dabbling in S.T.A.L.K.ing have swirled. They were denied in April, but something may have changed since then. Bethesda's declining to comment on this latest report, as it usually does with rumours.

Story image from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat.

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