Rocket League®

Rocket League's Jurassic World Car Pack DLC released today, and while I'm not particularly fond of the Jurassic Jeep Wrangler it includes (you can't change the colors, for one thing), I had to check out the T rex goal explosion.

I thought a dabbing reaper was the most obnoxious Rocket League goal explosion possible, but I may have been wrong. See the video above for the screech of victory (make sure your volume's up for the full effect).

The Jurassic World Car Pack is $2, a small price to pay to summon a flaming T Rex accompanied by thousands of people playing plastic vuvuzelas every time you score.

DEAD OR ALIVE 6

I've never really known what to make of the Dead or Alive series. On the one hand, you have people doing their absolute best to murder one another with their bare hands; on the other, they occasionally take off their clothes and play volleyball. It's weird. The fighting games aren't as blatantly sexualized as the beach blanket 'balling, perhaps, but the lengthy list of DLC available for the free-to-play Dead or Alive 5 Last Round: Core Fighters on Steam includes stuff like, well, this. That much exposed skin is not good, either for prolonged exposure to the sun or in a no-holds-barred bare-knuckles fistfight.   

Developer Team Ninja may be looking to get away from the worst of the games' bouncy excesses in Dead or Alive 6, however. Director Yohei Shimbori told Game Informer during an E3 presentation that the studio is looking to move away from the overt skin show and get the focus back on the fighting. 

"This is a work in progress, a prototype, so we might change in the future," he said. "For this version, we still have Kasumi with her previous costumes, and there are some parts that are going to jiggle or move, but we want to make it a lot more natural. That is one goal, to make movement very natural. Also, each character has a very strong personality and we want to emphasize that." 

But while the game itself may be toned down, the DLC could go in the other direction. Shimbori allowed that DoA5: Last Round may have gone a little overboard with the jiggle physics, but there's no overlooking the fact that sex sells. "We have to see what gamers really want, what their response is," he said. "Not all the gamers want the same thing, but we want to ask their opinions, all of them, and get feedback on it." 

The ultimate goal is to come up with "a very cool, mature look compared to the other games," and also one that's more natural. "Not just for the characters, but for the stages, backgrounds, renderings, and everything." I try not to judge, but I do have to think that maybe nixing stuff like SCHOOLGIRL STRIKERS might not be the worst place to start on that. Dead or Alive 6 is currently expected to be out in 2019

Thanks, RPS.

Tales of Zestiria

Bandai Namco's "Tales" series began in 1995 with Tales of Phantasia on the Super Famicom, PlayStation, and GBA, among other platforms, and was most recently seen a couple of years ago with Tales of Berseria. It's not finished yet: A PlayStation Lifestyle report says the company revealed at the Tales Of Festival 2018 in Japan that it is working on "the newest 'Tales of' game title for consoles."

Nothing else about the project was revealed but the Tokyo Game Show is a few months away and it's not unreasonable to speculate that it will be properly revealed there. Just before the start of that show, on September 16, Bandai will also hold a Tales of Vesperia 10th Anniversary Party, another fine opportunity to reveal (or at least tease a little bit more about) a new Tales game. 

Specifying that it's "for consoles" is perhaps unfortunate, but at this very early stage it's fair to expect that it will come to PC as well. Recent 'Tales of' games including Symphonia, Berseria, Zestiria, and Vesperia have made their way to our platform (with sometimes mixed results), and Bandai Namco recently announced that the Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition will be coming to PC this winter. 

Team Fortress 2

By way of speedrunning, roleplaying servers and performance subcultures, I love communities that tailor games to suit their own esoteric interests. To this end, Team Fortress 2's annual trick jumping competition The Beginnings is underway.

As reported by Rock, Paper, Shotgun, The Beginnings 5 hosts contests in trick jumping, speedrunning and a live race. "Do you have what it takes?" asks this Reddit post. "Beginnings 5 is an organized event for competition within TF2 jumping. This year we will be holding three separate competitions, a speedrun competition, a trick jumping competition, and a live race. 

"There are in-game medals to be won. To be eligible for a participant medal you must send in a run that's faster than the showcase time of the map you submit a run on, send in a trickjump that isn't obviously bad, or participate in the live race."

The Reddit post points those interested this way, and notes that the race will be held on  June 23 and will be streamed on Twitch here. 16 racers for each class will take part, this post explains, with racers going head-to-head till two jumpers meet in the grand final. To enter, players are required to submit eight demos—four in POV, and four in SourceTV. 

The following map showcase is impressive all told, but I was particularly taken by the moves from five minutes onward.

More information on The Beginnings 5 lives here. Here's Evan's words on how Team Fortress 2 changed FPSes forever.

The Witcher® 3: Wild Hunt

Last week's PC Gamer Q&A asked: which of your existing games did E3 2018 make you want to play? Bo answered with The Witcher 3—and while I've finished Geralt's third outing myself, Noelgal's Enhanced Reshade mod is enough to merit a return. 

A number of worthy visual overhaul mods already exist for The Witcher 3, but I reckon this is the most impressive one yet. Here's some moving pictures:

And here are some stills:

"The Witcher 3 Enhanced is designed to offer you the most immersive and real Witcher experience," says creator Noelgal on the mod's Nexus Mods page. "It works with all lighting mods and with Vanilla lighting. It enhances the shadows, the lighting, the colors and the contrasts."

More information, including installation instructions, lives here. And while we're talking visual overhaul mods, I'm also fond of Boostin4kix' Alternative Heavy Clouds. Follow that link for more info, and have a gander at these screens:

Football Manager 2018

The FIFA World Cup 2018 kicked off last week, and, to mark England's first game against Tunisia this evening, Football Manager is on sale on Steam. From now through July 16, FM 2018 costs 66 percent less its normal price—a number presumably inspired by the England international team's greatest achievement

Seriously lads, let it go (says the Scotsman whose international team hasn't even qualified for a tournament since France '98). 

With that discount, Football Manager 18 costs just £12.92/$17, which is a great price for a game brimming with stats, figures, players and, for the first time this year, dynamic personal relationships. As pulled from our 89-scored review, here's more on that last part:   

Off the pitch is where the Dynamics system shines. In FM 2018 success in the dressing room affects success on the pitch. A fractured team is less likely to gel on match day, and, via its own dedicated sidebar tab and corresponding window, you’re now forced to balance ‘Match Cohesion’, ‘Dressing Room Atmosphere’, and ‘Managerial Support’. Each criterion is interlinked: winning games boosts Match Cohesion, which boosts Dressing Room Atmosphere, which boosts your team’s Managerial Support, which makes players try harder to win games, and so on. 

A ‘Hierarchy’ screen ranks players by influence in the dressing room, wherein social groupings are determined by a number of variables—be that nationality, time spent at the club, and/or age, among a number of other factors. Upset a team leader or highly influential player and be prepared to pay the price. 

FM 2018's dynamic system is ripe for story generation—which has always been my favourite thing about the series. 

Speaking of stories, this tale about a Championship Manager player who travelled from China to England to meet his team is fascinating. But not nearly as fascinating as why and/or how anyone in the history of football and music thought this was a good idea:

Visit Football Manager 2018 on Steam this way

PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS

During an interview with Geoff Keighley at E3, Brendan Greene, aka PlayerUnknown, talked about accusations his game is an 'asset flip' because it uses store-bought props. "That kills me a little inside," he said, "because I know we're not. We work with artists like Karol [Miklas] in Russia who does most of our vehicles, most of our buildings are hand-made by artists, and even foliage and stuff like that. Of course we use some props from marketplaces. We had to make a map within nine months and you don't do that without using the work of other artists but, for the most part, most of our stuff is made by hand. So I see these comments and I'm like, 'I want to kill you!'"

A video of that quote was posted to the PUBG subreddit under the heading 'Brendan Greene wants to kill me', and the response was predictable, with many taking it as an excuse to repeat criticisms about "lazy devs" and "bought assets". Eventually PUBG Corp.'s communications lead Ryan Rigney stepped in to explain things, talking through the creation of each of PUBG's maps. "Although a map like Miramar is a combination of in-house and external assets," he wrote, "the majority of the external assets are adjusted by our artists after the fact for visuals and for optimization/performance."

Rigney also quoted one of their art leads on the value of buying assets so they can concentrate their efforts elsewhere: "Why should one of my artists spend two weeks on a generic sculpt if they could instead spend that two weeks adding real value for players elsewhere? How many times should a telephone booth be modeled? How many times do we gotta sculpt a cash register?"

It's unlikely to have any effect on the conversation around 'asset flips', which is at this point just a stick angry fans use to beat games with rather than a meaningful criticism, but you can read Rigney's entire post below.

I keep seeing misinformation about this (including in the comments section here already), so I sat down with our lead artists to get their perspective. They shared a bunch of fascinating information, so I'm passing it on here for anyone who’s genuinely interested.

The first thing to understand is that if you’re just starting up a team, you’ve got to lean on asset store work because that's the only way you can spin up a game fast, and for a reasonable price, to quickly find the fun. Hiring an art team of 40 people to "try a game" and "see if it's fun" is simply not a smart way to work—this is what the asset store is for! It’s a great resource for teams that want to work smart.

From the beginning, our first map (Erangel) was a combination of in-house work at our HQ in Korea, some direct purchasing of assets, and outsourced art work from a team based in the American midwest. Basically, a few Americans built the Military Base on Erangel. That went so well that Korea decided to build a proper PUBG Corp. studio in Madison, Wisconsin for an in-house art team.

Our reasoning for starting up that new studio is the same reason we started up PUBG Corp. as a separate company: we want to build up our teams slowly but steadily, to ensure quality hires and good culture fits, because we want to build a global organization to support PUBG for the longterm.

Anyway, I'm getting riled up here lol. Back to the story. The Madison folks were doing great work, so they began to take on more and more worldbuilding work. Miramar came about as result of collaboration between the new, PUBG Madison team and the Korean team at HQ in Seoul.

As our in-house art teams built Miramar, they began to rely less on store-bought assets, although they continued to use them strategically, because it just doesn’t make sense to build everything in the game world yourself. We also re-used some things from Erangel in Miramar. One of our lead artists (a guy called Dave) puts it this way:

“Why should one of my artists spend two weeks on a generic sculpt if they could instead spend that two weeks adding real value for players elsewhere? How many times should a telephone booth be modeled? How many times do we gotta sculpt a cash register?”

Although a map like Miramar is a combination of in-house and external assets, the majority of the external assets are adjusted by our artists after the fact for visuals and for optimization/performance.

Because we’re steadily investing more and more in building our internal art teams (along with lots of other teams), Miramar used fewer external assets than Erangel, and Sanhok used fewer still. Our fourth map, the one coming out this winter, uses fewer still, but if we’re smart it’ll almost certainly still involve some mix of assets from different sources. This is a good thing.

These sorts of issues are pretty much always more complicated than the Reddit meme version of the story (“hehe XD asset flip”) so keep that in mind whenever you see someone telling oversimplified tales.

Thanks, Eurogamer.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

My favorite Skyrim mods are usually ones that alter the flow of the game, or add more character personalizing options. Every time I reinstall Skyrim, Alternate Start—Live Another Life is at the top of the queue. I'm much pickier about quest mods. Adding new story to Skyrim means new writing and voice acting and those are hard things to get right—Enderal managed it, mostly, but it's a rare exception. One of my favorite narrative mods, Sea of Ghosts, gets around the problem by focusing on new locations that are empty, a string of spooky islands.

The Forgotten City, however, does not shy away from new characters. It's a quest mod that adds an entire settlement full of new people, fully voiced, with their own stories all wrapped up in one overarching plot about time travel and human nature and the role of law in shaping a society. It's ambitious is what I'm saying. It even has its own original score.

As for why I'm playing a mod from 2015, a standalone version of The Forgotten City was announced at E3. It'll be a re-imagining, one that takes away all the specifics of the Elder Scrolls universe, changing the characters and the endings but leaving the basics of the structure in place.

I feel pretty confident that having played the mod won't ruin the standalone version, because there's a lot about it that's specific to Skyrim. Once you enter the city (by traveling back in time to a point before its fall), you find that it's divided along familiar lines. The Imperials run things while the Nords do the work, and although there are a couple of non-humans the beast races aren't visible at all. One of the inhabitants turns out to be a member of the Dark Brotherhood, and one's an Imperial soldier who wants to escape so he can get back to fighting Stormcloaks. It's a place entirely cut off from the rest of the country—once you enter it, jumping down a hole in a cave, you can't leave—but everybody's brought their existing prejudices with them.

If you fail you can go back to the moment of your arrival, starting another time loop armed with everything you've learned.

In spite of all that tension, The Forgotten City should be a place of peace. All the people here, whether they deliberately escaped Skyrim or just blundered down the hole, are under the jurisdiction of the "Dwarves' Law". This place was built by the Dwemer, and they left behind a safeguard for anyone who took up residence after them. If anyone in the settlement sins, the whole population will be punished for it. Fatally.

Having seen the city's future, you know that's about to happen. Something's going to set off the magical punishment left behind by the dwarves and you've only got a limited time to figure out what it was and prevent that from happening. Fortunately, you can make multiple attempts. If you fail you can go back to the moment of your arrival, starting another time loop armed with everything you've learned. There's even new dialogue to take this into account, including some funny stuff when you try to convince someone you know what they're going to say next.

As well as getting to know the people, you get to know the location as well. It doesn't seem huge at first. There's a palace, a single district and a lakehouse, but there are other places to unlock and secrets to find. The limits to the area mean that you learn your way around properly, and eventually figure out where everybody lives and how to navigate it at speed. It's the characters I keep thinking about, though. The two researchers happy to have this opportunity to dive into understanding the Dwemer, even if they can't share what they learn. The paranoiac who correctly believes they're all in danger, but responds to it by wandering around with an axe like a maniac. The self-declared jarl who sounds like someone doing an impersonation of Patrick Stewart, and the merchant who swears he's honest, and the cynical healer who hates being stuck in the Forgotten City but says it "Could be worse, though. You could be living in bloody Skyrim."

It's maybe a bit ridiculous that all these people got here by just jumping down a hole (OK, one of them was pushed), but having them stuck together in one place where they all know each other makes for much more interesting interactions. The Forgotten City feels like an argument in favor of constrained locations, for how great open-world games can be when they focus on depth rather than width. And that's why I'm looking forward to the game it eventually becomes, once it cuts the ties to Skyrim and transforms into something new. 

Cities: Skylines

This 25-minute video, from YouTuber TDB Games, begins like a standard flythrough of a Cities: Skylines city build, albeit an impressive, sprawling one. And then the meteors start falling, and it turns into an epic disaster film.

The introduction is arguably a tad too drawn out—the first ten minutes are basically made up of detailed shots of the city at work set to upbeat music. But I enjoyed them all the same, and they made me remember just how satisfying it can be to tinker with a Cities: Skylines build.

But it really picks up when disaster strikes. Multiple meteors, tornadoes, raging fires: the city of Yoko, which is styled after a Japanese metropolis, is battered by the elements. 

The camera work is excellent, and the scene selection perfectly captures the city's response to the disasters. You'll see a sky filled with emergency helicopters, buzzing around like wasps, and ambulances stacking up bumper-to-bumper on the streets, struggling to meet demand.

I had no idea you could make something this good in Cities: Skylines, and it's led me down a rabbit hole of impressive creators showing off their imaginations (just click on any of the related videos to get lost yourself).

Thanks, Kotaku.

My Friend Pedro

Maybe you remember a little Flash game published by Adult Swim website back in the day, something about slow-motion shootouts and a talking banana called My Friend Pedro? That version of the game was an amusing time-waster you could play in your browser, and it ended with you eating Pedro, growing wings, and then flying up into the sky for a final showdown with a guy in glasses who I assume was the game's creator. He tried to kill me with a flyswatter.

My Friend Pedro is back, and it looks even weirder this time. The new version—subtitled "Blood Bullets Bananas"—had a trailer during Devolver Digital's E3 showcase, but I've been following its development on Twitter and creator Dead Toast's blog for a while now, and its slow-motion guns akimbo skateboard/motorbike/barrel-riding bullet ballet has made for some excellent gifs. Like this, for instance.

That kick's new to this version of My Friend Pedro, and so are the ricochets. Stationary signs and mobile frying pans seem to be the main option for getting bullets around corners and behind cover, as shown here. 

 Barrel-rolling's also a new addition—not to 2D games more generally of course, though I've never seen Donkey Kong pull off a move as gory as this. Note the LOVELY x4 bonus at the end, suggesting combos and perhaps a score attack mode. 

And while much of what we've seen so far takes place in a grimy, urban setting (with a few high-tech touches) the full game will also include visits to a more whimsical location called Pedro's World. Is this a plane of existence known only to talking bananas? 

Pedro's World will apparently involve a break for reality, making even more physics-bending possibilities. I haven't ridden a skateboard since I was 17 but I'm pretty sure they don't work like this.

My Friend Pedro won't be out until 2019 but it already looks impressive, like someone took the opening fight from Deadpool and made an entire game of it. Dead Toast note that not every feature on the dev blog is guaranteed to make it to the full game, but if you want to see more of Pedro in action you can check that out here

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