Caveblazers

You may remember Vadim from Nuclear Throne Together, which added an online mode to Vlambeer's twin-stick shooter, as well as similar mods for Spelunky, Wasteland Kings, and other games. Now he's done the same for Caveblazers, adding online co-op to the 2D roguelike platformer. And it's available on Steam.

Vadim has written a blog post about the process of creating the Caveblazers Together mod if you're interested in a look behind the scenes. He writes about trickiness of creating it while the game was still being updated, but notes that if the game weren't still receiving patches it likely wouldn't have enough of a community to make it worthwhile creating this kind of mod for it.

Vadim says that he'll keep the mod updated, and may add achievements in the future—since it's a separate executable, you can't unlock regular achievements while playing the modded version. It's also worth reading the full blog for the chat commands that make options like 360 mouse-aiming and a quickstart mode available.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories. 

There are a lot of things you can change about vampires and still have them recognizably be vampires. Not liking garlic? That's pretty optional. Being killed instantly by sunlight? Even Bram Stoker didn't have that. Aversion to holy symbols? Super optional.

But if you get rid of the need for blood you don't really have vampires. There are no scenes in Underworld where a vampire bites someone, and so it ends up feeling like a movie about goths with guns instead. Fortunately, in Bloodlines drinking blood is as important as it should be.

There's a blood meter across from your health, and it goes down whenever you use your cool vampire powers. If it runs out the Beast inside you is unleashed, meaning you'll lose control as frenzy takes over and go on a rampage that's likely to end with cops reducing you to ash. To avoid that you feed whenever you can. Sure, you can suck on a blood pack from the corrupt guy at the blood bank, or you might be able to stomach eating a rat. Most of the time, it means finding a person. 

When you're first let loose on the streets of Los Angeles there are a few warm bodies around. A homeless beggar stands near your front door, a confused yuppie looks lost nearby, a sex worker walks down the road. There's probably a guy pissing in an alley near the nightclub, and inside that club someone you might be able to seduce and leave with a vague memory and one hell of a hickey.

The moment you bite is never underplayed. It's always the most dramatic it can be. Even if you're playing in first-person the camera leaves your body to frame things perfectly, the color drains out of the world and everything goes dark except for a spotlight shining down on you and your victim. You rear back and chomp. The viewpoint spins, the blood meter fills as their health falls, and steadily you unk unk unk away at someone's life. 

Maybe you pull back in time, or maybe you let them die and hear that fatal chord play as they drop out of your grasp. Whatever happens, it's never trivialized or meaningless. In a game that plays almost everything over-the-top and exaggerated for effect, from the outfits to the architecture, feeding is no different. Bloodlines understands that you can't have vampires without blood, and doesn't let you forget it.

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has only been out a matter of days, but modders are already playing with its innards. One of them has found a way to unlock the framerate, letting you run it at more than 60 fps—provided you have a powerful enough rig.

The mod, posted on the Widescreen Gaming Forum by user jackfuste, is still being tested and might cause bugs, but it's letting some players run the game at more than 100 fps. 

To get it to work, you'll need to download the mod from the link above, unpack Sekiro using Steamless, run the patcher and apply the patch to Sekiro.exe. I'd only recommend it you've tried this sort of thing before, but if you're confident then it could give you a big performance boost.

If you're having trouble getting it working, make sure you click through the rest of the forum thread, which contains plenty of troubleshooting ideas. It seems to be working better in windowed mode than in fullscreen.

Tom's review in progress of Sekiro is here, and keep your eyes peeled for the full review next week.

Thanks, Dark Side of Gaming.

Dead Cells

During this year's Game Developers Conference Sébastien Bénard, a designer on popular roguelike metroidvania Dead Cells, gave a postmortem of indie studio Motion Twin's hit game. He explained that Dead Cells had sold over a million copies, with about 60% of that number on PC. Of the console versions, the Nintendo Switch port was the biggest seller. He also described Dead Cells as a "last chance project" for the studio, and said that its success saved them from going under.

Dead Cells won our Best Roguelike award last year, and was a perfect example of Early Access being done right.

Thanks, USGamer.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

The soundtrack for Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines included plenty of licensed songs by the likes of Lacuna Coil, Chiasm, and the Genitorturers, as well as an original track by Ministry and Al Jourgensen, but its score composed by Rik Schaffer was also an essential part of its atmosphere. Fans were obviously concerned about whether he would be involved with the recently announced sequel.

Among them was game developer and streamer Outstar, who contacted Schaffer to ask if he was contributing to Bloodlines 2. He replied, "I contributed an hour of music to the OST and am the main composer. Been working on it for over a year."

Bloodlines' lead writer Brian Mitsoda has returned as well, working as a writer on the sequel alongside Cara Ellison and Chris Avellone.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

The creators of ElDewrito, the Halo Online mod that was blocked last year, have claimed they hastened Microsoft's decision to bring Halo: The Master Chief Collection to PC.

In a blog post this week one of the mod team, posting as RabidSquabbit, detailed conversations they had with Halo developer 343 Industries immediately following Microsoft's DMCA takedowns. "After the success of our 0.6 release, where we had 12,000 concurrent players, they were professional, impressed, congratulatory, and even sympathetic and apologetic about the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Microsoft issuing DMCA takedowns against Halo Online and Twitch Streamers," RabidSquabbit said.

They claim the success also prompted 343 Industries to bring forward their plans for The Master Chief Collection on PC. The collection has "always been planned to be eventually on PC", but the ElDewrito team is the reason it is happening "right now", RabidSquabbit said. "They mentioned to us that our success with ElDewrito lit a spark and we were told it 'gave us a kick in the pants'."

The mod team has been acting as an "advisory board" to 343 ahead of the collection's release, and will help 343 explore options for official mod support.

Finally, RabidSquabbit said that the ElDewrito mod "is not dead"—people are still playing it—and the team "is not going anywhere...you’ll be seeing a hell of a lot more from us in the future, whether it be in the existing ElDewrito mod, or MCC PC itself," they said. 

Thanks, PCGamesN.

Fire Pro Wrestling World

Game designer Goichi "Suda51" Suda, of No More Heroes and Killer7 fame, is stepping back into the ring to write a DLC story for Fire Pro Wrestling World, developer Spike Chunsoft has announced.

Suda51 cut his teeth on the long-running wrestling series, and directed Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout in 1993. He wrote a famously dark story for Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special a year later, and it sounds like whatever he has planned for Fire Pro Wrestling World—which came to Steam in 2017—will be similarly disturbing. 

We don't have a release date yet, but it'll no doubt be a good reason to boot up the game again. We reckon it's one of the best sports games on PC and, as Matt said when he played the Early Access version, it puts every WWE game to shame in a number of important ways.

If you're interested in the series, you should read Ramona's excellent feature on how its loyal community gave it a second win.

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadow Die Twice's outstanding combat is clearly a hit with players—as of writing, more than 120,000 people are playing it, and its daily peak is more than 125,000, making it the fourth most-played game on Steam today ahead of Rainbox Six Siege. 

It's a monumental launch, bigger even than Devil May Cry 5's, which was itself Capcom's second biggest PC launch ever, topping out at around 85,000 concurrent players, according to Steam Charts.

Sekiro won't be climbing higher up the Steam ladder—in third place is CS:GO, which has more than 600,000 players at a time. But it's yet more evidence, as if we needed it, that excellent singleplayer games can still pull in huge audiences. 

You can read Tom's review in progress here: the highlight is the timing-based combat, which to me feels more rewarding than in any of the Dark Souls games. 

Into the Breach

Into the Breach, our game of the year for 2018, is a masterpiece of simplicity. But it wasn't always that way: it initially had city building, a tech tree and unit damage that persisted between missions, developer Subset Games has revealed.

In an interview with Kotaku, Subset co-founders Matthew Davis and Justin Ma said that the "closest thing to our eureka moment" was when the team cut out 60% of what they had planned. "We had city-building. We had multiple squads. All that sort of junk," Ma said. "So maybe 60 percent of the game, we just dropped it all and [said], 'Okay, it’s just a bunch of missions in a row. Screw it.'"

Davis added that the team initially envisaged the game being more like XCOM, where "you have lots of missions popping up with times and alerts, and your people get hurt, and you have to devote resources and time to fixing them or healing them".

"We had huge research trees, repairing the cities," he said. "There is an element of just an intuition that this doesn’t feel right."

Davis and Ma talked about just how much they struggled during development—the pair were "very close to giving up on the game", they said.

"It was literally years of just banging our head against the wall, trying to get something to work and be fun," said Ma. "I hope our next project won’t be that, because it’s a little hard after maybe three or four times throwing out six months of work to still feel like, 'There's still something good here'...I think if we’d had to do that one more time, I would’ve been close to giving up."

And how glad we are that they didn't. The game made the top 5 of our top 100 greatest PC games, and I have a feeling it'll be high on that list for many years to come.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord's latest blog update tackles the important matter of party and army speed. You never really know if you're the type of person who gets excited reading about the speed of an unladen donkey or a band of knights until it happens to you. Don't look at me that way. It's interesting stuff!

Like its predecessor, Bannerlord features a system that calculates the speed you can travel across the map based on several factors, but Taleworlds has introduced a bunch of new wrinkles while also adding something Mount & Blade was never great at: clarity.  

"The game, after all, can bring your party to a crawl but it should at least have the decency to explain to you why everyone and their cow can move faster than you on the map," reads the blog post. "Our previous titles were a bit lacking in the transparency department since they didn’t share much beyond the end result."

You'll be able to check on your speed by just looking at the info bar, and for a more detailed description, you can hover over it and see exactly what's having an effect on your party's pace. If you're just watching the world pass you by, you can check the tooltip and see exactly how it's been calculated, giving you a better idea of what you'll need to do to get to your destination faster. 

Generally, you'll want horses. Even if your army is full of infantry, you can still bring along spare horses for them to ride, giving them a boost. They've not spent their life in the saddle, however, so they will still be slower than proper cavalry. Larger armies are also slower, which means you can outrun bigger armies that would wipe you out in a fight. Cargo will weigh you down, too, but only if it goes over your carrying limit. Increasing carrying capacity with more soldiers and animals will help. 

Solutions can create other problems, though. Since larger armies are slower, adding more soldiers and horses to allow you to carry more could still have a negative effect on your speed. Animals also have a herd effect—when there are a lot of them, they'll be more difficult to herd, slowing your army's progress. 

All the fanciful wish fulfilment stuff—winning tourneys, getting a castle, winning epic battles—will be wonderful, probably, but I'm really here for the logistics. Sweet, sweet logistics. 

Still no release date, I'm afraid. I've got it in our fantasy draft, however, so it had better be this year. 

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