PC Gamer
Orc attack

Projects based in the UK can start using Kickstarter to crowdsource extra cash today. Kickstarter has been taking UK submissions for a few weeks in preparation for today's expansion, which will let UK teams take donations in pound sterling. The best way to search for them is to search for projects based in London, United Kingdom and then use the "More in United Kingdom" list at the bottom of the page for a national overview.

There are already a few UK games on there like RPG Sui Generis, slick colony management sim, Maia, RTS/shooter hybrid, Industry and Orc busting Orc-'em-up, Orc Attack. Kickstarter isn't the only crowd funding platform in town, though. IndieGoGo and PleaseFund.Us already support British projects.

Kickstarter's reputation in gaming circles will probably give it an edge in the UK as well. It's a tempting prospect for anyone with a neat idea. After all, if the Ostrich Pillow can get funded, why can't anyone else?
PC Gamer

I'm posting about Phantasmaburbia for three reasons. 1) It's called Phantasmaburbia, 2) it's related to the pagan festival of Samhain, and 3) it has one of the best release trailers I've ever seen. Seriously, that is one mangled Ghostbusters theme. As for the game, well that looks fairly interesting too. It's an old-fashioned, surbub-set RPG featuring ghoulies and ghosts, and turn-based battles by the pumpkinload.

The full game's available for $9.99, at least until the launch sale is over - from then on it will set you back an extra five dollars. In return for your investment, Phantasmaburbia promises "fast-paced battles (no grinding required)", an "eerie midnight suburbia", and "sprawling dungeons full of puzzles and hidden stuff", among other things. You can see if it lives up these promises with this handy demo, but in the meantime have a gawp at the following trailer.

PC Gamer
Left 4 Dead 2

After three years of work the user-created Back to School campaign for Left 4 Dead 2 has reached version 1.0. You can download it now from the ModDB page, where they've also uploaded a trailer that gave me a terrible hunger to play Left 4 Dead again. A terrible, terrible hunger that not even this egg mayonnaise sandwich can help with. If only those eggs were more, I don't know ... brainy. Weird.

Oh well, not to worry. I'm sure everything's fine. Let's just sit back and enjoy this trailuuuuurrrrrrgh:

PC Gamer
AAMFP header

As reported earlier, The Chinese Room have released the latest trailer for Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, the follow-up to Frictional Games’ deeply unsettling Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Set in Victorian London, some sixty years after the events of the first game, Pigs isn’t a straight continuation of that story, but a wholly new tale set in the same universe. That doesn’t mean it won’t be looking to recapture the same sense of giddy terror that the Dark Descent induced in its hapless, cringing players, however. We got in touch with The Chinese Room’s boss-man and creator of Dear Esther, Dan Pinchbeck, to discover how the scares shake down.

“It's fairly true to the spirit of the original game,” says Pinchbeck. “There's a definite case of ‘don't fix what isn't broken’. We're not going to be arming the player up at all - you're still going to be hiding for most of it and running and peaking and not wanting to open doors and things like that. I think that's kind of the core spirit of the game really, so we don't want to take that away from the player.”

That said, Pinchbeck hints at some intriguing changes: “We've tried to do some stuff which will keep the player on their toes a little bit, to stop them from being able to play the same way. So there's changes to the way some of the things behave in the game. It's difficult to talk about that without giving too much away really.”

What can be revealed is that Pigs' relocation to the turn of the 20th century alters much of the aesthetic and philosophy of the game.

“It's New Year’s Eve 1899,” says Pinchbeck. “Because it's set later than Dark Descent, there's an awful lot you can do in terms of technology. The game focuses on industrialisation, so there's an awful lot of machinery you can bring into the game; brilliant factories and engines and all those new power sources. You have this mix between invention and science exploding, and this real obsession with the supernatural, the occult and spiritualism all at the same time."

“By catapulting the game into the industrial period," continues Pinchbeck, "instead of magicians we have the early capitalists and empire builders. What would they make of this supernatural stuff if they got their hands on it? And that in itself is such an interesting thing to play around with.”

Your own character embodies this tension, a wealthy industrialist called Oswald Mandus.

“Part of the game is him picking out his own path, and kind of understanding who he is, where he's come from and what's going on. As it progresses hopefully the player will, in a similar way to Amnesia, feel like they're descending not just into an underground labyrinth, but into the head of the character. We have an absolutely fantastic villain, too, that I'm really really pleased with and very proud of, who I think is maybe even deeper and more than Alexander was in Dark Descent.”

So, being set in Victorian London, do we get to meet any other Victorian Londoners? Pinchbeck says we do, suggesting that there won’t be quite the sense of isolation that its predecessor explored.

“We've just taken delivery of a couple of what have been codenamed ‘civilians’ at the moment,” he says. “So yeah, there's a bit more evidence of humanity. It's not just you and the Grunts in the way that Dark Descent was. We definitely have more of a sense of a hope, of life in the setting. It’s important to us as a company to get that atmosphere of a real, deep, engaging world and place. We want to create the impression that you are, as the player, sitting there in Victorian London and the world is moving around you; you're not holed up in isolation in the middle of nowhere with no one else about.”

Although it uses a modified version of the HPL 2 engine used for Dark Descent, Pigs will be pushing it to its limits to render this more expansive setting.

“We have about five things,” says Pinchbeck, referring to the game’s varied locales. “We just started scripting on our exterior thing - our big exterior level, which is really nice. The player moves from building to building - there are outside linking sections, there are scenes that take you away from the streets, which is really nice. So it's less like one single building and more of a complex.”

If this more mechanised world and bustling cityscape sound like a departure from Dark Descent’s lonely, claustrophobic medievalism, then Pinchbeck guarantees a throughline between the two stories, even if it’s not an explicit sequel in a narrative sense.

“It's set within the same universe, so there are references to things which happen in Dark Descent, and players who played Dark Descent might spot a continuation of the kind of ideas that were in the first game. But it's completely unrelated, the central plotline of it. So, I guess you could say that quite a few of the Lego bricks are shared with Dark Descent, but we're making very different things out of them. If that's not too pompous a metaphor.”
PC Gamer
Amnesia A Machine For Pigs header

Horror sequel, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, has a new and suitably unheimlich trailer, showing off the game's gloomy Victorian locales and the terrible contraptions which lie beneath them. A Machine For Pigs is the follow-up to Frictional Games' indie classic, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, though this time development is helmed by The Chinese Room, makers of Dear Esther. It's not a straight continuation from the last Amnesia game, either - the story takes place sixty years later, on the eve of the 20th century, and swaps the dank confines of the Prussian Brennenburg Castle for the smoggy streets of London.

The Chinese Room's Dan Pinchbeck also has a special request to make of viewers: "What we really need are some screams," he says. "We want fans to record themselves screaming, puking and freaking out. Tape it all, send it through to us, and we'll sift through it and the best stuff will end up going into a background mix for one of the levels."

You can send your submitted howls of anguish and agony as Wavs, Oggs or MP3s to piggies@thechineseroom.co.uk. It shouldn't be too hard to get yourself into such a mindset having watched the trailer. Industrialisation and invention collide with sinister supernatural forces, and for all the Victorian era's nascent modernity, it doesn't seem that technology can do much to stave off the terror. We've spoken to Dan Pinchbeck at length about the game, and we'll be posting that interview later today.

PC Gamer
Dota 2 Roshan Halloween

The great cheese guardian, Roshan, has broken free from the enchantments that would normally confine him to the jungle between Dota 2's lanes and he intends to spend Halloween trick or treating in search of candy. If you choose trick he eats you. If you choose treat he eats the candy and then he eats you. In the worst case scenario, he eats too much candy and then goes on a sugar-fuelled rampage that can only be stopped by a combined Radiant and Dire force. If you fail, he eats you.

The drama plays out across a new game mode that has Radiant and Dire forces hoarding candy. The candy can be used to distract Roshan until, in the final phase, he goes sugar mad and spawns as a boss that will require cross-team co-operation to defeat.

If you win, Roshan will drop mysterious eggs and essences. Once you've got an egg you can feed it with a combination of essences to change what it hatches into. "It is said (by some elder sage or other) that the hatchlings are highly susceptible, and that each essence exerts a unique influence on the incubating creature," say Valve on the Dota 2 Diretide page. "Is there method to this madness? Trial and error, and some comparison of results, will surely reveal the rules of Greevil husbandry."

The event brings new costumes, chests, keys and Baby Roshan to the Dota 2 store and Valve have put out a new Diretide trailer to spread the fear.

PC Gamer
battlefield 3 crossbow

Crossbows are coming to Battlefield 3 in the next expansion, Aftermath. A new post on the Battlefield blog outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the new weapon, which has the power to both kill silently and blow holes in walls thanks to multiple bolts ammo types.

Standard bolts can kill at medium at short range, balanced bolts can kill at long range, scan bolts highlight enemies within a 10 meter radius of the impact site and explosive bolts create a small C4 explosion at the point of contact. You can switch between ammo types "on the fly."

DICE say that the crossbow is designed to be flexible rather than powerful. "The four different bolts and the crossbow become a jack of all trades solution suitable for any class," say DICE While none of the available bolts are as powerful as the standard weapons they mimic (a genuine sniper rifle will always be more powerful than a sniper bolt, for example), the ability to switch bolt types on the fly means any class can adapt to any situation."

If you're a premium member, you can log into Battlelog to see a new two minute video showing all four bolts in action. There's a sequence where the crossbow is used to pepper a chopper with explosive charges, eventually bringing it down. The standard and balanced bolts are almost silent, but will suffer from relatively severe bullet drop. You'll have to reload between every shot, of course.

Aftermath will be with Premium members on December 4 and released to standard players on December 18.
PC Gamer
Hitman Absolution boulevard

Selecting a soundtrack for life isn't easy. You need music for riding the bus, shopping for groceries, or sitting around listening to other music. Hitman: Absolution's Agent 47 lives a life of luxury in that regard, as his handlers over at IO Interactive already selected numerous moody pieces and Inception horn-blasts to accompany him as he jay-walks away from explosions or descends a single step. The trailer shown here shows off Absolution's range of dynamic triggers for aural interactivity, including the buttery-smooth cut of David Bateson's voice. I hope he'll moonlight as an airline pilot sometime soon.
PC Gamer

As I trudge across Star Wars: The Old Republic's planets, my cyborg boots regularly cake themselves with the prismatic mulch of various alien grasses. Despite being a pervasive prop, foliage usually doesn't get much attention, but that's not the destiny the Force deigned for The Old Republic's verdancy. In a brief blog entry, BioWare Senior Technical Artist Ben Cloward revealed the inclusion of shader translucency effects to leaves and grass in the upcoming 1.5 patch update.

After the patch releases, players maxing their shader complexity setting can spot sunlight filtering through slightly translucent grass and leaves for an increased glowing effect. Cloward provided a few comparison shots of the shader level differences and hinted that frolicking in fields of gold marks the start of "even better improvements in the pipe for future updates."
PC Gamer

Piloting one of Hawken’s mechs is an unusual feeling. They’re simultaneously agile and clunky; aerobatic in spurts, but ultimately shackled to the surface by their tonnage. While jetting to a ledge, I usually crunch into the side, but using my thrusters to strafe, I shoot in and out of cover like a water strider.

The claustrophobic cockpit makes wide swings as I scan for enemies. Past my HUD, the world looks like a refinery built of scrap metal and then flooded with salt water for 50 years. Hawken’s rendering is technically great—maps load very fast and the textures are crisp—but the art and sound direction make it. The unnatural, monochromatic theme of each map sells a blighted sci-fi world so cohesive that the idea of observing "good graphics and sounds" takes a backseat to just being there and experiencing it.

During the latest closed beta session of the free-to-play mech shooter, I enjoyed stomping around so much that I was disappointed I constantly had rockets in my face. When it came to actually scoring kills...well, the video above is a bit misleading. I cut together my best moments with three classes—Assault, Sharpshooter, and Rocketeer—but in between those moments were a lot of me exploding.

Fight or flight
It seems odd to compare Hawken to the very different Tribes: Ascend, but the contrast is useful. Tribes uses large, sparse environments and minimalist bases to emphasize player movement. I think of Tribes’ maps less as locations with hills and trees, and more as abstract race tracks. That speed and the slow-moving projectiles make evasion and escape Tribes' primary survival techniques.

Hawken, however, is a cluttered place. While its mechs can jet around too, the "fight or flight" choice almost always ends in a fight. If I’m spotted at close range and the other guy fires first, I might be able to jet around a corner, but I won't get far before he's on me again. Either that, or I'll clip a building, stumble off a ledge, get disoriented, and whir around like a broken clockwork toy. So I turn and fight. Unfortunately, he who shoots first generally stomps away victorious.

Unless I pull off some impressive evasion or get a couple lucky hits with a high-damage explosive, squaring off one-on-one against a mech with full-health while I'm damaged is a death sentence. So in team matches, sticking together is imperative. Alone, you'd better see the other guy first.

Assault, Sharpshooter, and Rocketeer
As an incorrigible sniper, the Sharpshooter class appealed to me, but only on the Sahara map, which is open enough to make long-range combat feasible. I saw others make good use of its high-impact slugs and scoped sniper rifle on the more confined, irregular maps, but I struggled for clear shots. I likewise fared best with the Rocketeer on Sahara. Its sticky grenades, which fire in threes with a satisfying plunk plunk plunk, are a tough shot when the enemy has lots of cover to dart around, and its swarm of missiles is most effective when you can maintain line-of-sight long enough for a lock-on.

I was most successful with the basic Assault class mech. The other two are difficult—and probably more rewarding had I the time to master them—because they lack the Assault class' high rate-of-fire. They're high risk (low fire rate), high reward (lots o' damage), and demand a more carefully-paced rhythm of primary to secondary weapon switching to maximize damage.

The Assault's high-speed rifle, however, steadily depletes armor, and its secondary heavy rockets can be detonated mid-air for splash damage. I got into a pleasant rhythm of pummeling opponents with my primary gun until it was nearly overheated, then finishing them off with a rocket. I would have liked more damage feedback, though. Unless I was paying very close attention to an enemy's little health bar, I didn't get much indication when a rocket hit its mark.

Hawken never strays from the fiction that I'm in a real cockpit, and thus relentlessly bombards me with visual confusion caused by sparks, malfunctions, and the general awkwardness of piloting a walking tank. That consistency and fidelity makes it believable, which in turn makes the fights more meaningful and desperate. But it also means that, without explicit feedback where needed, it can be easy to lose track of what the hell is going on. Did I hit him? Not sure, because SPARKS AND FIRE! I can only imagine what it'd be like with an Oculus Rift.

Mastering the mechs

Hawken's other three mech classes—Berserker, Infiltrator, and Brawler—will have to wait for the next beta event. I'm still a rookie with the three I was dedicated to learning during this brief session. I also stuck to Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch while I became comfortable with combat. I love the idea of Siege mode, in which teams collect energy to launch giant ships at each other, then fight for control of an anti-air silo to take them down, but it was too much while I was still doing my best not to jet into walls.

There's a lot to learn in Hawken—I didn't even get into the mech customization options and special equipment. It wasn't hard to get a few kills in my first round, but mastering one of Hawken's mechs seems like it'll take awfully deep investment.

Say you're slightly damaged and you encounter a full-health Rocketeer. Do you try to evade his lock-on long enough to wear him down, lure him toward your teammates, or try to lose him and find a place to repair? Even if you have enough experience to make the decision, making your clunky metal crustacean cooperate requires a lot of skill. That may be good news, because it means that buying upgrades and items doesn't appear to be Hawken's primary motivator. Hawken rewards players who are good at Hawken.