PC Gamer
Elite: Dangerous Hydroponic Stamford

Elite: Dangerous project head David Braben has spoken before about procedural generation in the upcoming space trading sim, describing how the computer's roll of the dice creates whole star systems and majestic nebulae on the fly as you, er, fly. Before the depths of space overwhelms your consciousness, know that Braben claimed (via PCGamesN) "over 100 billion" star systems will exist as navigable destinations.

Braben summarized the colossal constellation count as "a truly giant galaxy of vast numbers." How very Sagan-esque. The designer also said each star could feature up to 100 objects orbiting it, including fuel-rich gas giants and space stations.

Hundreds? Billions? Hunillions? Such sky(space?)-high numbers seemed a little too good to be true, so we asked Braben for clarification on what exactly a player will encounter out in the vast blackness.

"Yes, Elite: Dangerous has over 100 billion star systems, each of which have up to 100 or more bodies in them (these are secondary and tertiary stars—the bigger single systems have up to six stars— then there are the planets, moons, even moons-of-moons and so on)," he wrote over email. "Each of these can be visited in game, though it's not realistic that any one player will do so, even in a lifetime. These systems are created using a rule-based procedural system. Things can still be changed through gameplay—effectively, this gets built into the rules. The reason this number is this is the number of star systems thought to be in the real-life Milky Way."

A near-perfect recreation of a to-scale Milky Way sounds exciting, indeed, and we'll learn more about Elite: Dangerous as Frontier cruises ahead to its targeted March 2014 release date. One thing's for sure: my planned Bubba the Space Trucker character has a long haul ahead of him.
PC Gamer
Blizzard BigOl Kitten Check

World of Warcraft's real money purchasable mounts and mini-pets may have gotten off to an awkward start with Sparkle Ponygate, but the recent initiative to donate all of the proceeds from the sale of the Cinder Kitten to the American Red Cross has produced some results that are pretty hard to argue with. The small, non-combat companion raked in $2.3 million dollars to assist with relief efforts on the east coast of the U.S. in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

At $10 each, this means well over 200,000 fiery felines were snatched up over the course of the Red Cross partnership. This broke Blizzard's previous record, having raised over $1.9 million for Japan earthquake relief with the Cenarion Hatchling. The Cinder Kitten drive officially ended on December 31, but you can still grab one to add to your pet battle roster, and make a donation to the Red Cross the old-fashioned way if you feel so inclined.
PC Gamer
0x10c will definitely support Oculus Rift, says Notch

With all this talk of Steam boxes and Razer Edges at CES, we nearly lost track of Oculus' Rift VR headset, for which dev kits are set to ship in March. Tested's Norm Chan (one of PCG's esteemed alumni) caught up with Oculus VP of Product Development Nate Mitchell for an interview which delves into things like, "Will I need to buy a crazy expensive computer to get this thing to work?" and "When are we going to see a 1080p version?" We've got the highlights lined up for you below.

One of the trickiest issues in creating immersive VR is latency—the total amount of time it takes to run each frame through the techno-wizardry that the Oculus uses to put you in the middle of a virtual environment. Mitchell broke down the pipeline as such: it's about two milliseconds for the sensor tracking your head movements to send that data to the computer, 16 milliseconds for your system to render a frame, about 15 or 20 milliseconds to send that visual data back to the headset, and then finally, another 15 to 20 (sometimes more) milliseconds for the pixels inside the headset's stereoscopic panel to switch over.

That breaks down with a complex, theoretical branch of mathematics called "mental addition" to about 60 milliseconds, or six percent of one second. That might not sound like much, but it is enough to be noticable and cause a bit of "drift" between when you move your head, and when the image refreshes. Additionally, games streamed from the cloud will add their own, additional latency to the stack. Mitchell told Tested that they're aiming to shave that down to about 30-40 seconds, which he described as "the sweet spot for a compelling VR experience," adding, "Obviously, the closer we get to zero, the more immersive it's going to be."

But what kind of hardware are you going to need to run this thing? The good news, according to Mitchell, is that the Rift itself won't add a lot of extra workload to your rig... but you'll need some pretty hefty specs anyway.

"You'll want a decent gaming rig," he explained. "Because you want to be running at 60 frames per second, with Vsync, in stereo 3D, and that takes a decent graphics card. The Oculus SDK really adds negligible overhead. There's not really any more overhead for rendering for our device, or anything like that. The onus is really on game developers to optimize their engines to be running at 60 frames per second."

The new dev kit models being shown off at CES are an updated 7-inch display (as opposed to the 5.6-inch prototypes we've seen previously) that are a bit heavier, but feature faster pixel switching and less "screen door effect" that results from looking at a pixel grid from the point-blank visaul range the Oculus requires. There's no word yet on when we might see a bump from 720 to 1080p, nor when a consumer version could go on sale, but we'll keep an... eye on future developments.

...Get it? Because... eyes...
PC Gamer

We've already heard Maxis' reasons for SimCity's much-debated always-online requirement. The system hooks up your cities with everyone else's through leaderboards, a crazily granular stat tracking system, and enables co-op play with resource sharing for collaborative constructions. Speaking to Polygon, Creative Director Ocean Quigley added justifications, saying the decision was spurred by the way real-life cities interact and the "lonely experience" of previous SimCity games.

"If you look back at previous SimCities, they were almost all self-contained," Quigley said. "Every city wound up doing pretty much everything. That drove all the cities to a certain level of homogeneity, and all the cities sort of converged onto the same sort of thing over the arc of play. That struck me as being a little sad. If you look at real cities, they all clearly do distinct things and have identities based around those things. I wanted to let cities differentiate themselves and let them find some way that wouldn't automatically make them converge and allow them take on unique identities."

Cities with personality? Obviously, Quigley doesn't realize the dangerously short hop between that sentiment and a fully sentient metropolis. Either that, or he's visited Portland one too many times.

"SimCity is always kind of a lonely experience; you're planning your cities all by yourself," continued Quigley. "One of the ways that things you do take on significance is how they affect other people. The things that you do for other people give meaning to your own life and your own existence. I wanted to make cities more resonant and meaningful, and thought they would have more presence if they were doing things for other cities as well. The cities matter to the people around you, not just to you."

I'm worried that I may not even want my cities to matter to the people around me. The important decisions in previous SimCity games only affected my personal urban achievements, but responsibility to others isn't what I associate with the series. The idea of working together to build SimCity's "Great Works" does look attractive, so long as these cooperative projects don't diminish the personal feeling of accomplishment from handcrafting a thriving burg by myself. Older SimCity games pulled that off quite well—yes, while I was all alone—and I'm not sure if I'd much enjoy seeing "MaYoR420BLAZE" of Yolotown on the leaderboards picking apart my stats. But Quigley could be right: it'll all come into clearer focus when SimCity releases on March 5.
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3 menu

Listen, Far Cry 3, I really like you. I like running from your wild beasts and the way your bad guys twirl out of cars when I snipe them through their windshields, and I like you even better with mods. But we have to talk, because your menus are really stressing me out. It's not just that there are too many submenus—I know that granular design is a console holdover—it's something else, and you're not the only one.

I made something to tell you how I feel—a brief episode of our new video editorial series—and I hope you watch it. Oh, and I'm not saying you should add mechs, because I like shooting your crazy kidnappers, but I do highly recommend watching our last video, too. Evan makes a great case for why mechs are the most fun thing to shoot in a video game.
PC Gamer

After the holiday break, we've reconvened to talk about the games we're looking forward to in 2013, Steam Box, PlanetSide 2's upcoming patch, and explore Logan's formerly-repressed fear of a childhood animal.

We also finally discuss Far Cry 3 at length, now that most of us have finished it.

Listen to PC Gamer Podcast 341: Treasure Bath

Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Leave a voicemail: 1-877-404-1337 ext. 724 or email the MP3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com.

Subscribe to the podcast RSS feed.

Follow us on Twitter:
@logandecker (Logan Decker)
@ELahti (Evan Lahti)
@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)
@omripetitte (Omri Petitte)
@AsaTJ (T.J. Hafer)
@belsaas (Erik Belsaas, podcast producer)
PC Gamer

When GSC Game World went nuclear last year, it was feared that the Stalker series would be buried in the irradiated rubble. Instead, the ensuing months have seen no shortage of scavengers attempt to lay claim to the ownership of the gloomy open-world shooter. Meanwhile, the actual developers responsible for building its aborted sequel have dusted themselves off and set up on their own. Though their new project doesn't have the Stalker name, it shares a lot of its DNA - albeit mutated into a new free-to-play MMO form. Alexei Sytyanov, lead designer at the newly minted Vostok Games, tells us all about survival in their online wilderness.

Can you talk about why GSС broke up and why Stalker 2 was cancelled? What were the management’s worries about the game?

The reasons are still mainly unknown to us. The development of Stalker 2 was going full throttle, nothing bad whatsoever was looming in the air.

How different is Survarium from the aborted Stalker 2 in terms of technology and design?

First off, Survarium is an MMOFPS, while Stalker 2 is a single-player game. Those are very different technologies – Survarium requires a server, player lobby and a bunch of other things on top that a singleplayer game wouldn’t need.

In terms of design, there are major differences too – firstly, this is a focus on massive multiplayer. In this context, you expect entire systems like chat, forums, stores etc. On top of the story and game tasks, there is communication and competition between the players, all to add dynamics and unexpectedness to the gameplay. Each game session differs from the previous one. The game constantly encourages players to show their inventiveness and skills, abilities of strategy to achieve victory.

The online market (we believe) is the future. In the virtual world players meet other living players, as opposed to bots. However perfect the bots are, they never will be able to be totally different, alive and unpredictable as real players.

Let me add a few important points here. First, this is protection against piracy which severely affects sales of a singleplayer game, and second, no less important, is a possibility of constant project development. Thus, from the moment of release, online projects only start their path – they constantly open new possibilities to the players and keep improving both graphics and gameplay.

Both games feature the Chernobyl area - but Survarium talks about a global ecological catastrophe, not just a nuclear one. Why the change in focus?

The characteristic feature of our games is their ecological implication. The modern science and technocratic society exists on the verge of a global eco-catastrophe. Our stories of what will happen in case the thin ecological balance is shaken and we end up in an irreversibly bad ecological catastrophe that seizes the entire world. How are we going to survive and what will be happening. There is some food for thought here. We are talking about the importance of saving life on Earth now, while we are standing on the edge already.

I’d like to remind you that Stalker was not about a nuclear catastrophe, but about dangerous scientific experiments that have been secretly held on the territory of Chernobyl zone, which actually led to the emerging of the Zone. The nuclear catastrophe was just a disguise.

As for Chernobyl, some of our locations are from the Chernobyl zone. There are several reasons for that – we want to please the fans and to show the succession of the projects.

Will you face monsters as you did in Stalker, or are the threats more earthly - other humans and animals?

Yes, mutants are going to be horrifying and realistic. There will be both – animal and human-like ones.

Can you tell us about the kind of anomalies players will encounter?

We plan to develop the ideas of an anomalous zone which are familiar to you from Stalker, but on a new quality level. The anomalies and artifacts will be in PVP clashes, in co-op play and during the exploration of the Survarium world.

Will players need to cooperate to overcome some anomalies?

Yes, we plan such a system. Players will need to help each other when coming into contact with certain anomalies.

How will the MMO aspect of the game work? Is it instanced? Is it one server?

We offer several play modes – team-based combat, co-operative adventures of a small group of friends and a free-play mode where players are on their own, they are free to both cooperate and compete with each other, alone or in group, which allows totally unique gaming situations to appear spontaneously. There is nothing even close to this happening in a singleplayer game. We have a session-based design, where a session lasts, depending on the mode, from 15 minutes up to an hour. Thus, the players make sallies into the world of Survarium, and those are backed up by the story – protection and capture of important territories and camps, survival, world exploration and so on.

We will limit the number of players on the map – in this way we will receive balanced gameplay and preserve the atmosphere which can be destroyed by a large number of players in one place.

Will there be any separation of PVP and PVE?

PVP and PVE modes differ – we have three different game modes, each with its own inner logic. Thus, for example, in the team-based mode there won’t be monsters, but in co-op and free-play ones we’ll have them; and besides the monsters, players will be able to compete and kill each other. This said, all the three modes are united by the single world where the players can chat and exchange with each other.

How do the factions work? Are they player-defined organisations, like EVE’s Corps, or more like Horde and Alliance?

There are basic factions, such as Scavengers Camp and Black Market, they provide equipment and give tasks and they also participate in the common story of the game world. The players are unable to join those factions. But on top of the basic ones, there will be factions (similar to clans) created by the players. They will be able to develop those, enroll new members, wear specific colors and insignia, conflict with factions of other players.

Is there an end goal or a narrative? Or is the aim simply survival?

Survival is the basis of the game. We plan a big story which the players can influence, as opposed to the singleplayer games. For instance, one part of players chooses tasks on defending a story-related object, which other part of the players will attempt to get it destroyed. Ultimately, the side accomplishing more tasks will impact the story. Therefore, it will decide whether that story object is to get preserved or destroyed for the entire world of Survarium.

Is DayZ an inspiration for the way it handles survival mechanics? Will players get hungry etc?

We plan to add food, but its use in session-based gameplay will be different as we are not going to implement the notion of hunger for a session lasting less than an hour. We are still considering how the food is going to influence the gameplay.

As for DayZ – our approach to survival in the game differs. How exactly – you’ll find out at the launch.

Will it be as ruthless as DayZ?

It will be as ruthless as Survarium. We are creating a truthful story of a green apocalypse. Our strong point is the realistic science fiction, as it could happen for real. This makes an important feature of the project’s atmosphere. We want the player to have shivers all over the body as he plays.

The game is free-to-play. How will you make money from it?

Premium accounts enabling you to speed up your development increase the experience and the in-game currency gained. In addition, selling exotic goods, decoration and small additional possibilities which do not affect the game balance.

We do not plan to sell any items which would break the game balance. For example, a weapon, which is much more powerful compared to similar ones purchased with the in-game currency. On the battlefield players should be in equal condition. We do not want to destroy the game by turning it into pay-to-win. We are after a fair game where everybody is in equal condition.

Give us a sense of what it will be like to play the game: what sort of things will a player typically do across an evening of gaming?

Participation in massive battles among the destroyed towns and settlements, on dead military bases, in the places of ecological catastrophes. Accomplishing faction tasks to earn money to purchase new equipment and weapons, exploring the world to reveal the story behind the reasons behind the catastrophe and its consequences. By joint effort, saving mankind’s remains from the expanding forest anomaly; influencing the fate of the Survarium world. And, certainly, surviving, surviving and once again, surviving!

PC Gamer
Team Fortress 2 FRO NOOO

"Kiss these items goodbye!" exclaims the title of a new post on the Team Fortress 2 blog, spotted by PCGamesN. A note fron Saxton Hale declares that The Batter's Helmet, The Soldier's Stash, The Pyro's Beanie The Demoman's Fro, The Football Helmet, Mining Light, Prussian Pickelhaube, Trophy Belt and Fancy Fedora will soon be consigned to a giant bin, and never sold again.

Valve say that "these items will no longer be sold in the store, randomly dropped, unboxed as unusuals, or acquired through crafting." Existing instances of these items will still be tradeable, so expect their value to soar. Sales will probably shoot up as players try and get their hands on the soon-to-be rare goods while they're still about.

I have an image in my mind. It's Valve's economist, Yanis Varoufakis, on a swivel chair in a meeting spinning round and round shouting "think of the data! THINK OF THE DATA!" as lines shoot endlessly upwards on a series of glowing graphs on the wall behind him. Hopefully we'll hear how this particular experiment with TF2's hat economy goes down on Varoufakis' blog at some point in the future.

We'll have to wait and see if any of these nine items gain the legendary status of Bill's Hat, long used as a standard unit of currency in the mercantile underworld that is the Team Fortress 2 hat market. More items may be culled in future, but "advance notice will be given if any other items will be retired."
PC Gamer

Following my look at the Steam Workshop’s biggest sellers earlier this week, I got a chance to put some questions to Valve's Robin Walker. He was one of the original developers of Team Fortress, back in 1996, and joined Valve soon after. His work as a modder informed his work at Valve, leading, in a roundabout way, to Team Fortress 2's current use as a platform to pay modders for their in-game work. In this pretty wide-ranging interview, I talk to him about the big numbers the modding scene generates, what makes a good item, virtual ownership, the future of free-to-play and Valve’s evolving relationship with its community.

I know Valve aren't open with numbers, but is there a way we can talk about how much you've taken in revenue since going F2P?

The Mann Co store has now earned more than TF2 did via direct sales, if that helps put a scale on it.

How many items are submitted a day, and how many have you accepted?

TF2's receiving an average of 24-26 submissions a day. There's a ton of variability in how many we ship, because they're tied to the large TF2 updates. So in some months we ship 10, and in others we ship 30. But those numbers right there should show you what our biggest problem is right now: we're not shipping anyway near enough submissions. That makes the workshop too much of a gamble right now - there is high quality work being submitted that we're just not able to ship because there's too much of it. There are two main reasons for our slow pace.

The first is that the process for taking a submission and putting it into the game takes too long. It generally takes us a couple of days to take a submission, clean it up, validate it, set up the back-end database definitions for it, and so on. This is a problem we've solved in Dota's new importing tool (a single Dota artist managed to get 170 items from workshop to ready-to-ship in just 2 days), so the TF2 team is pulling that tool back into TF2 now.

The second is that TF2's items are a mix of weapons and cosmetics, and we've tried to stick to the rule that a weapon that looks different behaves different. So all those custom weapons need game design, and that adds much more time than the amount required just to ship the asset, because we need to playtest the design for a variable amount before we have enough confidence in the design to ship it. There's also the cost on players for the addition of a new gameplay affecting weapon in the game - even if we were able to ship the assets and playtested design for 100 new weapons in TF2 in a single update, the resulting chaos would be something to behold.

So, once the importing tool is up and running in TF2, we hope that the rate at which we release cosmetic only items will dramatically increase. It's less clear that we'll significantly increase the rate at which we ship new gameplay affecting items.

Rozzy's The Gold Digger

And how many have you taken on board for the game?

Right now we're paying contributors for about 264 items in TF2. Depending on exactly what you decide constitutes an item, TF2 contains about 178 weapons and 550 cosmetics, so about a third of the items have been community built. That doesn't quite tell the whole story though, because many of those items were built by us before the Workshop existed. If you look at just this past year, for instance, we've shipped 59 community items versus 28 made by us (and another 36 promotional items where creation is shared across multiple developers).

It's been said the bigger creators are taking in "six figures". How many are now earning that level of income?

The top ten creators are all in that bucket. We're pretty happy with how there's a bunch of people making a good living off it. Compared to the monetary distribution of other places, like mobile applications, the workshop appears to be much less winner-take-all.

The game started out as a mod, and now modders can earn money from it. How cool is that?

Unbelievably cool, and personally rewarding to a level that defies logic. We get much more excited on the team looking at how much money contributors make than we do about how TF2 itself is performing. Many of us come from modding backgrounds, so we often find ourselves having conversations about how we're building systems we wish we'd had access to when we started out. The idea that the system is also allowing professionals in less rewarding jobs to leave and fund their own indie games is pretty exciting too.

Can you tell us how you split the revenue?

Yep, we offer contributors 25% of the sales of their items.

Rain*'s The Maklai Myth

What's your favourite story from the community making money in this way?

It's hard to decide between two of my favourites. The first is the 14 year old kid who got to present a $40,000 check to his parents. The second is a fellow who wanted to make models at a games company, but ended up having to do QA instead. So at nights he contributed models to TF2, and ended up earning more doing that than he did at his "official" games industry job.

What makes a good item? What are you looking for?

Defining what people should submit to the Workshop is a bit of a dance. On the one hand, we want to provide them with a solid foundation for what kinds of things we're willing to ship, but on the other hand, we genuinely want them to surprise us. Part of the value of large communities attacking a problem is that they can search the creative space much faster than we can, because there's simply a lot more creators involved. Some creators focus on building high quality versions of item types that already exist, others focus on trying to find the next kind of thing that players will want.

What's your favourite contribution? This is mine.

Gah, too many to choose from. I still have a soft spot for LaroLaro's original Soldier Tank Buster set. It was one of the first item sets that we sold in the Mann Co store, and when I saw it I thought it was clear this whole Workshop thing was going to work. I thought they looked great, fit the style, but were still distinct from our existing items.

Do players craft more or buy more?

Like all F2P games, the bulk of our players are playing for free, and crafting's one of the primary ways we satisfy their desire to get specific items. So it's still a huge source of new items entering the economy. But we don't think of it as competing with purchasing, it's simply satisfying other customers, many of whom couldn't spend money even if they wanted to. If you play a bunch and craft your item drops into things you want, then you're a happier customer for it, and we think your happiness will pay off for us in the long run. We don't have a zero sum approach where we think if you crafted something, that means we lost the money you would have paid for it, so we don't hold discussions like, "How can we get all these crafters to stop crafting and start buying?"

MultiTrip's Radical Rider

Regarding in-game items, where does ownership sit? People are buying things in-game, very specifically.

It's a lot like a game on Steam. With a game, the developer or publisher owns the intellectual property, and Steam users get a license to use the game. With in-game items, the creator (whether that's Valve, or a Workshop contributor) retains ownership of the IP, and people who buy an item get a license via Steam to use it in the game.

It seems like if they've invested money in items then they should be protected. Have you thought about that?

Sure. Items have become increasingly important to people's enjoyment of the game. We've worked to increase the value of items to users by expanding the things people can do with them, like crafting, and enabling exchange through trading. We try to avoid doing anything that might make them not trust us in the future with their items.

What if TF2 needed to go away for some reason, how would Valve consider their investment people have made in their item-sets?

We tend to think of them as fun features of the game, and not as an "investment”. The items are really only useful within the game, and we don't have plans for TF2 to go anywhere.

People are no longer surprised at how much F2P can earn, and they're no longer surprised at the quality of the games you can get. What *is* surprising you about F2P?

I'm surprised by the degree of confidence game developers seem to have in the current F2P design approaches, both in game design and monetization design. Given that it's something that's so new to the industry, it seems unlikely that the most optimal design approaches have already been found, and yet we're already seeing games lifting each other's monetization designs wholesale. At Valve we've spent the past 2 years exploring this design space, and constantly feel like we're only just starting to understand it.

Merczy's The Pocket Gnome

Is the future of Valve games now tied to a level of community involvement? And if so, what's needed to help people get more involved?

I'm always nervous about making blanket statements, because the nature of game development is that everything has to make sense for the specific game you're building. The right way to involve the community in TF2 won't be exactly the same as it is in Dota 2, and it's likely significantly different to the right way for Half-Life or Portal. But perhaps the core philosophy that we've come to believe, after supporting TF2's for the past four years, will remain true across all these products: that the right way to approach community involvement is not in a developer -> customer relationship, but more as a collaborative approach, where there are some parts of the product that we'll build, and other parts that the community will build, and that the lines between those parts will continually shift.

To help more people get involved, we need to address the two biggest problems we currently have. The first is the one I talked about above, that we're just not able to keep up with the amount of content the community is creating. The second is that there are types of value the community is creating that we haven't built systems to handle. Without a system, the distribution of the value they're creating isn't there, and that means it's hard for other players to find their creation and enjoy it. Even once players do find and enjoy it, there's no way to for them to pay back the community creator. Without that loop in place, creators aren't getting the feedback they need to improve, nor are they getting the financial reward they might need to be able to spend as much time creating as they'd like. You can see this in things like TF2's maps, where there's no good system for players to find new maps, or pay for the ones they feel deserve it, and there's no great way for mapmakers to receive the feedback they need to get better.
PC Gamer
webgame header

Christmas and New Year's are both over, and your browser could probably do with a workout after looking at pictures of hilarious cats/dogs all holiday season. So here are five free games you can play from the safety of your browser - read on for mendacity, memories, metamorphism, mystery and MURDER.

SPOTLIGHT by Seven Cuils Play it online here.

Like Moby Dick, it's all a metaphor (maybe). But as Garth Marenghi would put it, a metaphor what?

Remember that Indie Speed Run jam we mentioned yesterday? Spotlight - sorry, SPOTLIGHT - was conceived as part of that. The team (which includes Sergey Mohov, developer of Paradis Perdus) was given the randomly assigned theme of Gossip and the element of Submarie (?), and in 48 hours they came up with this interesting 3D diorama-ish narrative experiment. It's more than a little bit sepia. (Thanks to Free Indie Games.)

BENEATH by Alcapa Games Play it online here.

Poor guy. As Kermit would tell you, it's not easy being green.

Another Indie Speed Run game, this time with the theme Misinformation and the element Caves. BENEATH is a procedurally generated platformer version of Cluedo; in just eight minutes, you have to work out which of your differently coloured colleagues collapsed the entrance to the mine where you work, and with what tool. Having to bring each tool to each colleague might be cumbersome and annoying, but this is still a neat idea with a pretty good soundtrack.

GRIEF by Diamond Dust Play it online here.

Good Grief (had to slip that it in somewhere), has the tutorial been telling porkies AGAIN?

GRIEF, thankfully, isn't about grief but is instead about griefing, in this case from the guy/gal what does those annoying tutorials for platform games. In this short, fun, one-level game you have to decide whether to ignore what they're telling you or follow it to the letter; about half the time, Tutorial-face is a massive LIAR. GRIEF is kinda like Dark Souls, in that you're never quite sure if the messages are speaking the truth.

Escuro by azurenimbus Play it online here.

As murder mysteries go, the characterisation in Escuro is a little two-dimensional.

A sort of evil rhythm game, Escuro bills itself as "a game about murder", although in this case you're 'murdering' coloured squares by turning them into black ones. YOU MONSTER. You do this with the arrow keys, but be careful - if you hold the wrong one you'll often end up turning it (or another one) white. That's bad, by the way. I'm not entirely sure I understand Escuro, but it's a smart idea and you can't fault the presentation. (Spotted on IndieGames.)

Morf by Big Bad Wofl Play it online here.

There is no (apparent) relation to Morph, the clay scamp that used to get into mischief on Tony Hart's desk.

People often say 'you are what you eat', but as I've still not turned into a giant peanut butter kit-kat, I never believed them until now. Morf isn't quite finished yet, but it's worth a look if you're a fan of roguelikes. The twist here is that you transform into whatever enemy you've just stabbed to death, taking on their form and getting a unique special ability for your trouble. But the best part is that every time I see the name I think of Worf from Star Trek - and then I imagine a Worf-based roguelike. Will someone hurry up and make that, please?