PC Gamer

After months and months of uncomfortable silence and nebulous date ranges, Ubisoft has finally announced that the PC version of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag will sail into view around the same time as its next-gen console versions on Nov. 19.

Of course, with new information comes a new trailer, though this one shows off the game’s crew of buccaneers more than Caribbean foliage or the proper way to harpoon a shark (it’s all in the wrist). I imagine Ubisoft’s afraid to show off another 15 minute video as we’d probably deduce the ending through the sheer amount of footage that’s been released thus far.

Personally, I don’t care that the PC verison isn’t hitting the original October 29 release date if it means we get a more optimized PC game from Ubisoft than we have in years (or months) past. Ubisoft PC ports have traditionally been, well, less than spectacular, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change. A new team’s building this game, and with that comes new expectations.
PC Gamer

You can't run Arma 3, but you want to get into military simulation? Or maybe you're ready to try to survive the horrors of DayZ? If you're ready for a history lesson, PC Gamer is giving 30 readers Arma X: Anniversary Edition: the entire Arma and Arma 2 collection from Bohemia Interactive, including each game's expansions, original soundtracks, and more. All you have to do to win is like us.

On Facebook, that is. Just fill out this simple form at PC Gamer's Facebook page. Entries must be submitted by Oct. 13, and you must be 18 or over to be eligible. Thirty winners will be selected and given Arma X: Anniversary Edition for Steam. One entry per user, and this promotion is valid only for US readers. Good luck!

PC Gamer

John Gibson has been making PC-exclusive games for more than a decade. As President of Tripwire Interactive, he’s helped push Killing Floor, Red Orchestra 2, Rising Storm out the door of the developer’s Roswell, Georgia studio. He also happens to have a pretty nice sound system for his PC. We asked Gibson to weigh in on Valve’s trinity of announcements.

PCG: What's your reaction to SteamOS?

John Gibson: An open platform OS created by a company focused on gaming and meeting customers needs--how could we not be excited by SteamOS?

Are you actively developing for SteamOS?

Gibson: We actually just learned about SteamOS a few days before the rest of the world and we haven't gotten our hands on it just yet. Fortunately Valve gave us a heads up a while back that adding Linux and Big Picture support would "be a pretty good idea going forward." So we started working on Linux and Big Picture support soon after that. We've now got three of our four games released on Linux and one of those games with Big Picture mode support. That has put us in a really good position to take advantage of SteamOS when it is released since it is essentially Linux + Big Picture + Awesome Performance Optimizations + Other Cool Stuff. We'll be working on setting up the rest of our recent titles with SteamOS support in the not too distant future. We also plan on releasing our next unannounced title with SteamOS support right out of the box.

John Gibson, President of Tripwire Interactive
"For years we've seen the Windows OS getting in the way of game development in many ways."
What impact do you expect a Steam-centered OS and set of hardware to have on PC gaming?

Gibson: I believe that the combination of SteamOS, Steam Machines, and Steam Controller will be the best thing to happen to PC gaming since digital distribution, perhaps the biggest thing to happen to gaming itself in a generation. For the first time ever the entire path from game developer to the customer's hands is being created by a company focused on game development and giving gamers what they want. Digital distribution, particularly Steam, took two roadblocks out of the path--the big publishers and retail stores. Before digital distribution you couldn't get your game into customers’ hands without a big publisher and retail stores--both of which in most cases didn't add value at all for the end user, the gamer. This blocked a lot of innovative games from getting into gamers hands. Then you've got the OS as another step in the path. For years we've seen the Windows OS getting in the way of game development in many ways, and Apple has been pretty apathetic about gaming on Mac OS up until just recently. Getting an OS completely geared towards gaming, with all of the OS bloat that slows games down removed sounds like a godsend to game developers and gets another roadblock out of the way.

Next you have the hardware. PC gamers have been loath to move to the consoles because they are outdated so quickly and can't be upgraded, the game prices are bloated, and they can't stand the idea of giving up the quick responsiveness of the mouse and keyboard. Console gamers on the other hand have been limited to the closed console ecosystem where modding is cut off and things like Counter-Strike, Desert Combat, and Dota would never have existed. In the closed console ecosystems games like TF2 or our own game Killing Floor that constantly put out free content and provide value to the gamer wouldn't have been allowed to do all those free updates.

Steam Machines sound like the best of both worlds. It opens the door to the living room for developers like us to get our games into the living room on a platform that is open and allows the kind of innovation that PC game developers are used to. It also opens the door for a whole generation of console gamers to experience what they have been missing out on. It sounds like there will be a wide variety of Steam Machines that fit all gamers' budgets which is great. Since Valve have done the smart thing and left their platform open that will encourage competition between hardware manufacturers, which can only serve to keep the cost of the machines down and bring value to the gamer. Finally, if the rumors going around are true and this "input" that Valve has hinted about is a controller that allows you to have mouse-like aiming and control while sitting on your couch--well that is the holy grail of gaming right there.
"We're incredibly excited about Steam OS and Steam Machines and will be supporting them fully."
What are your concerns regarding adding SteamOS as a development platform?

Gibson: There are a few concerns that a developer has to look at when releasing a game on a new platform. What is the cost going to be to port/maintain compatibility and will we make our money back? How is the performance going to be? Is there good driver support? What we've seen in the past since Steam has come to Mac and Linux that about 10 percent of our game sales are now on those platforms. That extra 10 percent in sales was definitely worth putting our games on those platforms.

For our newer games we do have some concerns about maintaining two rendering paths--DirectX for Windows and OpenGL for Linux, Mac, and SteamOS. But actually the biggest hurdle for us is adding controller support to our existing games. Since they were designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, and the interface was designed for a mouse and keyboard it will be quite a bit of work to get them functioning well with a standard console controller. We're now designing our newer games to work well with both mouse and keyboard and controllers from the start. Even with these concerns, we're incredibly excited about Steam OS and Steam Machines and will be supporting them fully. We think like most things Valve do this is going to be huge, and if I were Sony or Microsoft I would be very concerned right now.

Valve released this diagram of a hypothetical set of Steam Controller bindings for Portal 2. "What I like about the device is that Valve clearly took a 'clean slate' approach to it's design," Gibson says of the device.

Tripwire’s known for making PC-exclusive FPSes. How confident are you that Steam Controller is going to be an improvement over the Xbox 360 controller for first-person shooters? What do you like about the device?

Gibson: Valve actually gave us the heads-up about the controller a while back although we didn't know all of the details until we learned them today with the rest of the world. We haven't gotten our hands on one yet (very soon though) so I can only make assumptions at this point. The thing about Valve though, is they don't make claims lightly. They are PC gamers and shooter players. So if they say they made a controller that works as well as a mouse and keyboard then I'd put my money on them having done it and done it right. As a hardcore PC FPS player, and former competitive FPS player I really can't stand playing FPS games on a console controller like the Xbox 360 controller. Playing shooter games with the instant aiming and precision that a mouse provides is an extremely exciting and visceral experience. It is an experience a whole generation of console shooter players have been robbed of.
"Honestly I couldn’t be more excited about this controller."
If the Steam Controller can provide mouse-like instant aiming and precision then it will be a vast improvement over all previous console controllers. I actually play quite a few shooters on my mobile phone, and one of the things I had noticed was that using the touch screen on my phone to aim actually gave me pretty similar control and precision to using a mouse. So if the trackpads on the Steam Controller have that level of resolution and fidelity, I could see them working well for playing shooters.

What I like about the device is that Valve clearly took a "clean slate" approach to it's design. The ability to look around/aim as well as with a mouse was clearly at the top of the list, and I'm glad someone finally had the balls to take on that problem. Every new standard console generation I've waited with baited breath to see if any of the big console makers would tackle this problem only to be let down when I see their new controller is just like their old one. I also think the touch screen in the middle will be a really cool feature. I can't wait to talk to our design team and see what type of cool functionality we could use it for. Honestly I couldn't be more excited about this controller. I've been dreaming about something like this for over 10 years, and from the looks of it it's finally here.

Thanks for talking with us, John.
PC Gamer
MechWarrior Online - Buccaneer

New information on MechWarrior Online's Community Warfare came to light at the game's launch event in San Francisco last week, describing for the first time how the upcoming expansion might function. MWO creative director Bryan Ekman said faction warfare will add a leveling system and affect multiple areas of the game's economy as well as territory on its Inner Sphere star map.

After a long open-beta process that resulted in an official launch September 17, Community Warfare represents a major addition. The free-to-play game currently supports 12v12 play in two different game modes, but the expansion should bring an added level of significance to each battle as its content is unveiled over the next six months.

"Every single match has a reference now, a meaning, a purpose," Ekman said about the eventual introduction of faction warfare.

Mercenary lone wolves represent the first role envisioned by the MWO developer Piranha Games. These players play primarily on public servers and are not allied with any specific unit or Battletech faction in the game. Loyalist faction players, the second proposed role for mech pilots in MWO, will gain prestige within that faction by earning loyalty points and additional ranks. The third and final role is the mercenary unit player. This is a mercenary who wants to have a more structured approach to the game than a singular lone wolf, in that the pilot can gain prestige by completing group contracts with other members of a particular Mercenary Corporation.

Ekman said the contract system is designed to be a stable addition to the game, but at the same time the developers didn't want to build any kind of public auction house. "We made contracts a personal matter," he said. "This is something you do as an individual or you're in a merc unit as one of the leaders who is entitled to actually try to acquire contracts."

Successfully completing contracts earns an individual, a unit, or a faction loyalty points, XP, and C-Bills, MWO's in-game currency. C-Bills shouldn't be confused with MC, the game's real-money credit system. As a pilot or a faction finishes contracts, better contracts should become available in the future, according to Ekman. There's no limit to the number of contracts players can accept, but failing to complete a contract may result in a penalty. Ekman pointed out that the penalty system is not fully designed yet and he didn't elaborate on what those penalties might be.

The types of contracts mentioned by Ekman included planetary assualt/occupation, which asks players to assist occupying a particular territory in-game. There are also skirmish contracts, which will pit groups of players against each in specific battles. The final type of contract described by Ekman are bounties that offer rewards for the elimination of targeted pilots might come-across in MWO.

Community Warfare will be delivered in three phases over the next six months, Ekman said. For more on MWO's upcoming Community Warfare expansion, check out the full video here. The video also features some footage of MWO's upcoming revamp of its interface system, UI 2.0, which is set to be released in the next four weeks, according to Ekman.
PC Gamer

Coming hot off the recent Valve living room news, Xi3 has announced that its modular gaming PC, the Piston, will be available for $999 in the US on the darkest day of deals—Black Friday.

The Piston is equipped with a 3.2 AMD Trinity Processor, a Radeon 7000-Series GPU, 8GB of  DDR 3 memory, a 128 GB solid state drive (upgradeable to 1 TB), three display ports (HDMI, DisplayPort and miniDP), and an assortment of USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, adding up to total of 12. The Xi3 site also says the Piston supports the more popular operating systems, such as Windows and Linux, rather than using its own operating system like the consoles. As for whether the Piston would be compatible with SteamOS, Xi3 was optimistic but didn't want to get ahead of itself.

"SteamOS should be able to run on PISTON Consoles (PCs) as well, but we’ll have to wait until SteamOS is available to confirm this," the company said.

Xi3 also says the Piston will run the same peripherals your PC runs, including controllers, keyboards, mice, and printers, along with the usual TVs and monitors. Basically, if it works on your regular PC, it probably works on the Piston.

The timing of this announcement feels like anything but a coincidence, given that Valve released a slew of announcements last week, including SteamOS, Steam Machines, and an odd-looking Steam Controller, while unveiling its plan to take over your living room. After all, Xi3’s Piston made headlines back in March when people speculated it was the rumored Steam Box, though that turned out to be false. Xi3 released a Q&A in which it denies calling the Piston a Steam Box, but then proceeds to call the Piston a Steam Box.

“Xi3 has never described its PISTON Console (PC) as the Steam box or a Steam Box, especially since it appears that Steam Box is a term created by journalists and not by Valve,” the Q&A reads. “To be clear, however, PISTON Console owners will be able to access and play games on/through Steam since it is a Web-based platform open to anyone with an Internet connection and a Steam account, either on a Windows- or a Linux-based system. So in this regard, PISTON could be considered the first commercially available Steam Box.”
PC Gamer
Star Citizen

Star Citizen continues to rake in the money, and at this rate Cloud Imperium Games will be able to fund its own real-life space program. We’ve previously made note of Star Citizen and developer Chris Roberts’ unstoppable crowdfunding effort; this time, the new $20 million milestone adds planet-based combat to the game. Now, in addition to combat on space stations and while boarding enemy ships, players will be able to fight for control on individual worlds.

"It’s especially fitting to me that we reach this goal today, on the anniversary of the release of the original Wing Commander,” Roberts wrote in an announcement. “Thanks to the support of this incredible community, Star Citizen embodies everything I dreamed of doing with that series, and opens up the potential for so much more. Each of you has helped to make this possible and you are allowing us to create a game the way games should be created.”

My greatest fear as I watch Star Citizen’s coffers fill is that all of these new unlockable stretch goals will bog down the core game with unpolished extras. According to Roberts, however, most of the stretch goals involve adding new art to gameplay that is already in development. “The first person combat on select planets is a great example of this type of goal,” Roberts writes, “We already have FPS combat as part of the game in ship boarding, and we already have most of this already functional thanks to CryEngine, as we essentially have Crysis3 functionality out of the box. But creating all the environments and assets to fill them is a huge task, so we were planning on not doing any planetside combat initially, simply because of its cost, with the idea that we would slowly roll it out once the game is live.”

See? He’s on top of it, which I guess is why they crowdfund him the big bucks. Star Citizen still has a ways to go before its estimated release date of late 2014, so we'll meet here again for the big $21 million announcement.
PC Gamer
Minecraft and the VandA

A child of around ten years old walks past me accompanied by his mum. He is noteworthy largely because he is carrying a gigantic cardboard squid under one arm.

We were all part of a crowd of people being politely but firmly propelled through the revolving doors of London's Victoria & Albert museum and onto the street. The previous few hours had seen the sprawling galleries and central garden given over to all things Minecraft. Now, peppering the crowd were cardboard replicas of Minecraft's inhabitants and blocks.

They were used as props and set dressing during the evening but donated to visitors rather than rack up a massive excess baggage charge on the Mojang credit card lugging them back to Stockholm. "You have to do it in a careful way, though" says Lydia Winters, Mojang's Director of Fun (more on that later), "so people don't assume everything can be taken away."

I presume she is worried about ten-year-olds (and me) happily wandering off with handfuls of the museum's permanent collection but she explains that she is actually more concerned about the artworks contributed to the show by artist and prop maker Greg Aronowitz. It's fair enough - there is a pickaxe in the Silver Gallery which would have looked lovely on my bookshelf.

Minecraft's presence at the V&A owes its existence to the UN. Well, sort of. Senior curator, Kieran Long went over to Stockholm to interview Winters about the Block by Block project - a Mojang/UN collaboration which lets people with no architectural training whatsoever get involved in the rebuilding of their communities, presenting their ideas as Minecraft creations.

"He said, 'I work at the Victoria & Albert museum, if you guys are interested it would be cool to do something,'" says Winters. The V&A has already shown an interest in gaming, appointing a designer in residence - Sophia George - to work on a game from October onwards. But the Minecraft evening was a way to bring gaming within the museum in a way it hadn't previously been able to do.

"It's an old setting but the people want to do cool new things," says Winters. "It's very us. We're a company who wants to think really far outside what everyone else is doing. have the Friday Late programme where they take one theme and each month. It was a good way to ease into gaming happening in the museum. The plan was based on being as true to Minecraft plus art plus design - not just bringing a computer to game in a new area but going to a place you've never been."

The finished programme sprawls across the whole museum and caters to a real variety of potential visitors: animated projections featuring Minecraft torches and vines flicker in the pendentives of the entrance hall; a katana sword made by Aronowitz nestles amongst the rest of the artefacts in the Japan Gallery; a giant pop-up book can be thumbed through in the art library; 3D printing and papercraft workshops generate a queue from the Sackler Centre to the sculpture hall.

It's Aronowitz's work which has Winters most excited. "Greg is an artist in Los Angeles and he's worked on a bunch of Minecons with us and he has a repertoire as long as they come, with Spielberg and Lucas. He's worked on tonnes of films. I said, 'Can you make one piece? I want something where a kid will come into a gallery they've never been to because they see a Minecraft piece there.'

"I listed out all these ideas I had for him to pick one and he was like, 'I want to do them all!' Final total, it's 22 art pieces that were put into the museum. It's weird mashup things like an Enderman version of The Scream, a Minecraft version of a Japanese samurai sword."

After the V&A the artworks will turn up at Minecon, Orlando in November. Orlando is a right pain to get to from Finsbury Park (Florida is at least Zone 5) so I ask whether they would mind terribly hosting one in the UK. "We won't do another this year but we try not to even propose places because it would be sad to get people excited but yeah. The UK is our second biggest fanbase after the US so it's a natural place at some point, it's just when it happens."

Given its interest in gaming and that, over in New York, the Museum of Modern Art is keenly collecting games as examples of design I ask whether the V&A is likely to try to acquire Minecraft for itself. "We haven't discussed that at the moment," is the response. It isn't a no, though, and the MoMA collaboration seems to be an entirely positive experience from Mojang's point of view.

"The founders founded the company based on wanting to be the most influential independent game studio in the world and when you can move into different spaces even though at the core we're a game studio? It's amazing that MoMA would be like 'We want to have you in our permanent collection'."

For those not based in the UK or near Florida, Winters adds that other museum collaborations are likely. "I have a few in my inbox at the moment. After the Minecon tickets sold out so quickly I've made it my personal thing to work on, finding cool collaborations to do so we can have people interact with the game in new ways around the world."

And what about the reverse - bringing art into Minecraft? "I don't know. The developers do whatever they want - they're never directed in anyway so it's just if one of them goes 'That would be cool'. The nice thing is that people are already doing it. There's not a specific thing in the game that helps you do it but people are creating museums and art and creative things so we kind of have the crossover."

Having covered off all things arty (and because I said earlier in this piece that I would get back to it) we circle round to the Director of Fun job title. The short story is that it was a jokey suggestion made to her boss which then stuck around. The slightly longer version is that what Winters does at Mojang would probably be called Community Management at another company.

"We would never use the title Community Manager because I'm not managing the community. The community is out doing crazy things all the time. What we do at Mojang and what we do pretty well I think is work alongside the community versus directing them."

It's why you won't see Mojang complaining about YouTube Let's Plays and tutorials. "We don't need to have a grasp and say everybody needs to hear about Minecraft from us," says Winters. "It's a natural flow. The community has been there since the beginning - that's what built the game."

PC Gamer

Facts about the word inescapable: it sounds like a Beyonce song, I can never spell it right first time around, and it's the name of an intriguing Amiga-styled sci-fi platform/adventure game that also finds time to mix in a few Lovecraftian elements for good measure. There's no demo, and few details, but there is a lot of atmosphere, nostalgia, and an old guy in a blue space suit in the following trailer, which also shows off the game's impressive (and optional) scanline effect.

The website reveals that the platforming, shooty action will be broken up by "adventure style puzzles" (I particularly like the adventure-style dialogue), while the game features "a large world to explore with an intriguing story and an unusual, thought-provoking ending". I'm hoping for a The Prisoner-style hippy freakout, myself. Inescapabababable is available now for $9.99, and like all the best things in life it's DRM-free.

Thanks, IndieGames.
PC Gamer
truck stop

In the absence of a new Burnout game, something that's quite a lot like a new Burnout game will have to do, particularly when it's quite a lot like the best bit of Burnout: the messy playground of destruction that was Crash mode. Truck Stop, from one of the creators of Burnout - 'creator' is a word which here means 'he worked on a couple of games' - is such a thing, and if you approve of causing mass vehicle-based catastrophes you can now vote for it on Steam Greenlight, or buy into an unfinished version over on IndieCity.

Can someone remake/be inspired by/copy Destruction Derby now, please?
PC Gamer
batman arkham origins

Killing The Batman is about to become a whole lot easier, thanks to one of Batman: Arkham Origins' many extra modes. It's called I Am The Night, and it sounds like quite the challenge. As revealed at the Eurogamer expo, the mode gives you no saves and only a single life; it's joined by a "really difficult" New Game Plus, and of course those new multiplayer shenanigans. Producer Guillaume Voghel also outlined the upcoming Initiation DLC, a single-player slab of story that moves the action to Asia.

Initiation will see you playing as a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne, who goes to a monastery in Asia to learn how to be a ninja, and master all those fancy techniques he's always busting out on The Joker's henchmen. It sounds a lot like the opening to Batman Begins, the bit where Christian Bale climbs a mountain, picks a flower and then (sorta) kills Aslan.

Warner Bros Games Montreal demoed Origins at last weekend's Eurogamer Expo - there's a video of their presentation below.


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