PC Gamer
PlanetSide 2 The Crown

SOE care what you think. (Well, if you're a PlanetSide 2 player - they're probably not too bothered otherwise.) They care so much that they've implemented a new section on their site called the Roadmap. As the name suggests, SOE are using this space to outline their future plans for the game, with the next six months currently laid bare for all to see. The difference between this and a regular forum, however, is that's a bit more democratic, with users given the ability to up- and down-vote specific features and changes, giving the development team the chance to gauge their popularity before they've gone to the trouble of putting them in the game.

John Smedley, SOE's CEO, explained the changes over on Reddit, making it clear that Roadmap's definitely not a "mob rules" type of thing. "It's just a simple tool for us to be able to gauge sentiment about a particular topic. Remember it's still a forum thread (although with cool nested comments) and we'll still be reading what people are actually saying. However if we list 5 topics for February and people highly vote 4 of those 5 and everyone hates on one of the ideas, it's fair to say that's going to get our attention."

SOE are also planning to introduce a Suggestions area with the same functionality soon, essentially a Web 2.0 version of the humble suggestion box. The difference being that it will (probably) be full of useful thoughts and ideas, rather than 100 handwritten insults to the boss. It's all part of their intention for "this to be a game we all share the vision for" - and with that in mind, it's going to be interesting seeing how PlanetSide 2 develops over the next few months.

Thanks to Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
PC Gamer

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, it's not just one game under the microscope, but our first random grab-bag of stuff that's fun, but not necessarily enough to justify a full write-up of their own.

Writing this column every week, it's not hard to find obscure and interesting games. Often though, things get put on the back-burner for various reasons - usually that while there's something neat about the game, the interesting bit is fairly simple. Weird action games especially tend to be pretty easily summed up, at least unless you're planning to make one of those angry review shows on YouTube and need to complain about things that wouldn't be a problem if you'd actually read the manual. Ahem.

This week then, we're going to speed through some of the games that didn't make it, quickfire style - a few one-shot oddities, with no connection save them all being amusing. Let's dive in!

Historians now know the horns on Viking helmets were a myth. The teddy bears on their ships remain unconfirmed.

Heimdall for example, a rare example of a game whose character creation was much more iconic and interesting than the actual game, even at the time. The actual game was a badly designed isometric RPG with a penchant for deathtraps - and while there was a sequel that followed it up, neither particularly warrant any lingering nostalgia these days. If you're going to play an old game using these characters, try God Of Thunder - a cute little Zelda style shareware game that never got much attention back in the day, but is much more memorable than anything in Heimdall. Except perhaps for this bit!

Note the 'Oops' counter at the back there.

This is actually part of the character creation system - three minigames you played that determined your starting situation. Many games have experimented with different ways, like random chance, point buy, and Ultima asking morality questions. Heimdall opted for the oddly never-again-used 'throw axes at an understandably nervous girl's hair' approach. Beats rolling dice for charisma points...

Now, obviously, you'd never even dream of hurling one straight into her face to see what happened. In the interests of Science though, the answer is that she ducks out of the way - not being quite as trapped in that pillory as she looks. Also, those braids are falsies, presumably because there are only so many Viking maidens around willing to risk not being fast enough at getting out of the way.

From there, you went on to two more sub-games - catching a greased pig and fighting aboard a boat - but it was this first one that stuck in the mind for fairly obvious reasons. With stats set, it was then time to head off for adventure. We however are not following that journey, because it's dull.

Instead, here's the old RPG Eye Of The Beholder 3 inventing the Goatse.

Now that's the worst kind of lich-in-anus.

What could be less sexy than that? Well, let's try an experiment. Imagine you were writing a text adventure about a trip to a brothel, but wanted to kill the erection - this being 1983, we can take it as read that no lady-equivalent was under consideration - of anyone who came across it. Can you think of a better way than calling it Granny's Place? Rhetorical question. The answer is no.

The guy missed twice with his switchblade? Must be embarrassing going to pick it up.

"You are about to visit Granny's Place, a pleasant little house where a man with time on his hands and a pair of tight balls can go to loosen up," says the intro, before dropping you off in front of a small white house that, like its Zork equivalent, wastes little time having you head down a tight passage into a mysterious cave. Ha. No, seriously. This was 1983. This game is milder than milk. It's probably even milder than the Strip Poker game that casual gaming superstars PopCap were making before changing their name from "Sexy Action Cool" and making a fortune with games like Bejewelled instead.

What's that? You think I'm joking? Nope...

Now that's a very different kind of Hidden Object Game, ma'am.

But I digress, which beats having to undress.

What's strange though about Granny's Place that it actually is a Zork rip-off, only with the promise of hookers instead of just frotzing yourself into a frenzy. As you step up to the house, you find a flashlight - which seems a little odd. Going inside though explains everything. As you probably know, the Zork games had a monster called 'grues' - as in "it is dark, you are likely to be eaten by a grue.' In Granny's Place, that becomes "It is now pitch dark. If you go on, a hitman may find you."

I've never been to a brothel, so maybe people who visit them like the danger of knowing they can be killed at any second, but this seems like a somewhat short-sighted way to do business and build repeat custom. And it's not simply a joke either. Go wandering around in the dark, and:

"A pair of gloved hands suddenly grab you by the throat! You struggle, but can't get free..."

If you turn on the flashlight though, inside you meet a bouncer with a walrus moustache, who doesn't murder you, but does just shrug off the whole point of the game with "The girls is all busy, Mac. Where d'you want to go?" Exploring, you won't find much in the way of sexual bliss, but you will find a little old lady knitting upstairs with a sawed-off shotgun ready to shoot at your head, a man with a fire axe randomly yelling "I'll get you, you sun of a bitch!" before hurling it at your face.

It's at this point that even the horniest sane man will simply take himself elsewhere, and take matters into - ahem - his own hands. There is some sex available in the game though. If you find the maid for example, Fifi, you can type something rude into the parser, and in return, get a moment of sheer eroticism that retroactively demotes Lady Chatterley's Lover back to just Lady Chatterley's Gardener.

"First you do it to her. Then she does it to you. Then you do it to each other. Man, oh man! Every which way but loose!"

Wow. It's just like being there. With Clint Eastwood. And a monkey.

Are you brave enough for bad games, or just feeling a little... chicken?

This is however still sexier than Plumbers Don't Wear Ties - one of the most infamous FMV failures ever. I'm often asked why I've never featured it, and the answer is two-fold - I've never been able to find a copy of the PC version, which scored a frankly generous 3% back in PCG UK Issue 8, and also there's not much to say about it that hasn't already been covered in video reviews like this one.

What is it? Let me start by saying that I really hate it when critics use the word 'lazy' to describe games. To make even a simple game, the most cack-handed tie-in piece of crap imaginable, takes effort, skill, blood, sweat and tears, and it's the height of arrogance to dismiss that while sitting in an ivory tower where all you really have to do is play someone else's hard work and then snark at it.

That being said, Christ, this is a lazy pile of shit - a barely interactive photo story that feels like it was written the night before filming, where 'filming' is means 'shooting some random pictures of a girl in her bra and a plumber who does in fact wear a tie'. It's so lazy, at one point a character fluffs a line and they left it in. Its only redeeming feature... and I've calculated this as the same amount of redemption a serial killer would get for dropping 20p into a charity box... is how surreal it is. The only thing stopping it being in the running for worst commercial game ever created is that it's barely a game.

And also Altered Beast exists.

But hey, don't take my word for it! Thanks to YouTube magic, you can play the entire thing right here. It uses YouTube's hyperlinks, so this probably won't work if you're on a mobile device. Check back with on a desktop though, and here you go. Sorry in advance, and don't expect video past the intro.

Hmmm. That's now two for the guys. Let's balance a little with a rare one for the ladies - an obscure little platformer called The Lost City Of Atlantis. What makes it stand out amongst its brethren?

Yep, it's one of the only non-pornographic games ever made with a completely naked main character, and a male one with a penchant for casual full-frontals at that. Though not impressive ones, we can agree, and the setting rather stops him blaming that fact on the cold. Shrinkage, perhaps.

What does soon become obvious though is that hero Raghim is surrounded by easily grabbable cloth things, and thus the only reason he's bouncing around platforms with "Commander Keen" hanging out is that he wants to. Oddly, despite Lara Croft becoming infamous for a nude code that never actually existed, this didn't help Raghim become an international icon, or get his own pop album full of songs with names like "Getting Naked" and "Feel Myself". Hell, he didn't even get decent controls...

Meanwhile, on a more profitable trail than the one to Oregon...

Here's something completely different though - Gold Rush. It's one of the more forgotten Sierra adventures, and probably for good reason. It's also one of the most confused in design terms, with the first half aiming to be a historical story of a man taking part in the California Gold Rush, and then the second half collapsing into dribbling conspiracy and nonsensical puzzles.

The weirdest bit though is how it handles death. Sierra Online was infamous for death - something known to fans as 'Sierra Sudden Death Syndrome'. There's even a song about it. These games would kill you at the drop of a hat, and that's when they were being generous. They would kill you for not having bought a hat to drop onto an angry crocodile's head in Paris. They would kill you for putting on the hat, because it would have razor blades or something in it. In one of the most infamous examples, Leisure Suit Larry has a puzzle where you have to buy a snack in an airport, but when you try to eat it, you die because there was a pin in it. The only clue was that when you ate it, you died. Restore, Restart, Quit?

You can still buy the game, though it costs $20 for the 'Economy' version and $35 for a 'Collectors' Edition

Gold Rush took this a step further, adding random deaths to the mix. What do I mean? A big chunk of the game is non-interactive, with your character buying passage to the second half of the game by sea or land depending on how much you're willing to spend. If you take, say, the land path, sometimes you'll arrive and just drop dead of cholera. Or you'll be walking through a swamp, when a crocodile just appears and murders you. The reason for this sadism? Because sometimes, shit just happens.


Speaking of which, here's the greatest conversation in adventure game history.

I'm also going to bend the rules a little to quickly show this trailer - it's not a PC game, but an adventure for iPad and iPhone. You'll see why I had to link it anyway though, because it's... this.

And I think that'll do it for this first delve into the Quickies pile. Next week, it's back to a single game that warrants the attention, but there's no short of smaller ones that we'll get to later on in the year. I don't want to spoil what they are though, so instead, I'll leave you on a classic musical number from the Sierra catalogue. Laura Bow was a Roberta Williams series (technically - it was only two games and she only made the first) about a 1920s girl with a nose for news and a knack for getting caught up in murders.

The second game, The Dagger of Amon Ra, was one of the earliest 'talkies', made at a time when nobody saw a problem with having developers play most of the parts instead of paying for actors to do it. With the exception of the Tex Murphy crew, this proved to be a Mistake. In this scene, Laura has found her way into the world's least subtle speakeasy, where she catches a little song I guarantee you will never be able to get out of your head. But oh, how you'll try... try and fail so hard...

PC Gamer
Assassin's Creed 3 Washington thumb

The first part of an Assassin's Creed III DLC pack exploring an alternate-reality America in which Washington crowns himself king comes out on February 19, Ubisoft announced today. For $10, grizzled assassins can take a break from giving colonists surly looks and chasing after techno-balls for a chance to take on the imperious Founding Father.

In the first episode, named The Infamy, Connor "wakes from an unsettling dream" to come face-to-smirk with a power-mad Washington who ascended the throne with a platform less about liberty and a lot more about "off with his head." The next two parts, The Betrayal and The Redemption, arrive at a later date, and you can bet Connor won't leave his tomahawk un-bloodied before the end.

Have a close look at Washington's royal jewels in the trailer below.

PC Gamer
PlanetSide 2 Bio Lab bust

This week in our new competitive gaming column: could PlanetSide 2 be the first competitive shooter to achieve RTS/MOBA-level worldwide success? MLG and Sony think it just might. Plus: Who will secure their spots in Dota 2's The Defense 3 playoffs? This and much more below. gl hf!

PlanetSide 2 + MLG = Profit?
The big news today is that Major League Gaming has partnered with developers Sony Online Entertainment to bring PlanetSide 2 into the eSports spotlight. This is an interesting twist, as nothing on the scale of PlanetSide's continent-spanning warfare, often involving hundreds of soldiers, has been presented in a major, competitive context before now. Shooters in general, actually, tend to struggle in terms of viewership beside the more easily-readable presentation of top-down strategy and MOBA games.

The idea of PlanetSide as an eSport presents a lot of interesting questions. Could we see professional teams with dozens of members, operating under a military command structure? On top of this, MLG has officially announced two games for their Winter 2013 Pro Circuit season: League of Legends and Black Ops 2 (on the 360.) They are being rather mum about the unannounced third game. It seems almost ludicrous that a game with the worldwide popularity of StarCraft could get the boot, but this new partnership with Sony certainly has me wondering if we might be seeing Auraxis in place of Shakuras at the Winter Championship in Dallas this March.

StarCraft 2

IEM Katowice has concluded, with South Korea's First of Incredible Miracle and Dream of Team MVP claiming the first and second spots, respectively. PartinG and Socke secured the 3rd-4th spots. All four of them will get the chance to face off again among the 24 qualified participants at the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship in Germany, starting on March 5. In the GSL, the unsponsored South Korean BBoongBBoong pulled a major Code S upset in group D, defeating StarTale's Squirtle in the winner's match.

Upcoming Events
The Iron Squid — Chapter II offline semifinals and finals are set to run this weekend in Paris, France, with a $12,500 top prize. From a bracket practically bursting with fan favorites, only four players remain: MarineKing, Life, NesTea, and DongRaeGu.

Watch it: Ironsquid.tv

Other Stuff
I got to sit down for a massive interview with StarCraft II Game Director Dustin Browder last week. Give it a look to find out more about the state of Heart of the Swarm, and what's yet to come.

Day's Funday Monday topic this week: As Terran, you can only build one Factory and one Barracks. Check out some creative Terran air play in the Heart of the Swarm beta.

Axslav has a Rules of Engagement to help you learn how to stay cool and hold the line when you're being attacked from everywhere at once.

League of Legends

Two pro players have been issued lifetime bans for toxic behavior: StunnedandSlayed and Veigodx of Team Solo Mebdi. This effectively disqualified the team from the LCS Qualifiers this weekend.

Upcoming Events
Riot's LCS European Qualifiers begin tonight (technically tomorrow) at 1 a.m. PST/4 a.m. EST. For us North Americans, that means some serious caffeine will probably be required to tune in live. There are definitely incentives to do so, however, as we'll get to see the likes of Curse EU and Fnatic compete for five spots in the Season 3 Championships.

Watch it: LeagueofLegends.com

Other Stuff

Thresh, the Chain Warden is now available for purchase. He's a support champion with some good tankiness and a focus on positional play.

Dota 2

The active player count in Dota 2 has climbed above three million per month. While still only a fraction of League's numbers, that's pretty impressive for a game that's not even technically released. Team Fnatic has also just announced that their North American team has released four of its five players. According to JoinDota, they hope to build around the remaining member, Johnathan "SMURF" Gorriz.

Upcoming Events
The Defense 3 group stage is getting down to the wire. Fnatic.eu has achieved a perfect 7-0 record. The 6-0 Mousesports would need to win their final game in Group A to catch up. Only one team from each group will advance to the playoffs, meaning we'll be seeing a couple of tiebreaker matches. The deadlock will have to be broken between Empire and Dignitas (both 6-1) in Group B. Group C also currently has a tie, as North American Evil Geniuses managed to match Sweden's No Tidehunter in Group C, at 5-2. The winners of these matches will go on to face Mousesports and Fnatic in a double-elimination bracket for the championship.

Watch it: The-Defense.com

Other Stuff
The Troll Warlord has just joined the roster of heroes, an Agility monster whose pedigree goes all the way back to the mohawk-sporting troll axe-throwers of WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness. His effectiveness up close and at range make him a very flexible carry.

That's it for this week, eSports faithful. Let us know in the comments what you think of this week's stories, and what eSports events you're most looking forward to in 2013.

PC Gamer
Rain vs Flash - Tournament of Champions - Game 1.mp4_snapshot_11.47_[2013.01.25_14.52.12]

Got eSports? The competitive gaming scene has grown enormously in the last couple years, with PC titles like StarCraft II, League of Legends, and Dota 2 leading the charge. Many of you have probably already joined in the excitement and insanity, but if you haven't, I want to change your mind.

All I ask is that you take a few minutes to watch our latest video, in which I Zerg rush the main reasons I keep hearing for why people haven't gotten into eSports. Too boring? Too complicated? Can't take it seriously? Prepare to defend the worker lines of your brain against some three-pronged drop harass.
PC Gamer

Would you sacrifice yourself for victory? It's a dilemma common to story-heavy RPGs and team-based multiplayer shooters, and many players prefer staying alive over flaming out for glory. But in Soulfinity, an action-puzzler in development at Dojo Arcade, offing yourself is the only way to get ahead.

"In order to progress, you must sacrifice yourself which will create a soul that will help you to complete puzzles and defeat enemies," reads Dojo Arcade's description. "Each soul will perform the actions you did before your last sacrifice. Instead of being punished for dying, Soulfinity encourages you to cleverly sacrifice yourself in order to help your future self upon resurrection."

Got that? Good, because things get weirder. You control Odysseus—yes, the mythological Greek king of Ithaca from Homer's Odyssey, who has somehow mastered time as well as death to clash against the Titans in the year 2394 while sporting a glowing blue visor and armor straight out of a Flash Gordon episode to repeatedly kiss the dirt in style.

Soulfinity isn't the first game with puzzles using a clone mechanic—Dojo Arcade cites the browser-based Cursor*10 as a direct inspiration—but generating copies from slicing open your own neck is quite the unique approach. The game doesn't have a solid launch date, but Dojo Arcade hopes for a release sometime this year.

Thanks, PCGamesN.
PC Gamer
The Sims 3 Gaudet Plantation

Since the day the first Sims game was launched, virtual architects have been using its built-in construction tools to create exotic and bizarre monuments ranging from heart-shaped islands to a mansion made entirely out of stacked trailer homes. With the same tenacious ambition but with a stated purpose to do "terrible things," Reddit user BourgeoisBanana presented a project earlier this week of a more sensitive nature: the Gaudet Plantation, a lush colonial farmstead complete with slave workers and affluent white owners. But is it actually a terrible thing to explore the darker periods of history?

On a whim, BourgeoisBanana set out to see how closely he could recreate the living conditions of both slave and owner on a plantation. "I'm a large history and architecture buff, and The Sims is a great outlet for both of those, despite getting a lot of flak for being a 'casual' game," he told PC Gamer. "Being British, the colonial era is of particular interest of mine, and after seeing Django Unchained, the idea sort of came to me. I had the day off, so I thought, 'Why not?'"

A small pile of mods were used to design and model both the slave quarters and mansion. The mods set parameters for reflecting the quality of life (or lack thereof) for the slaves, locking them out from the main building and tweaking the AI to stuff in more Sims per house.

"The general layout of the plantation was of my own design, and several people pointed out that it wasn't entirely historically accurate, but given the tools I think I did the best I could," BourgeoisBanana explained. "The house was more or less of my own design too, loosely based off several colonial plantation houses of the era. My main inspiration for the exterior was the plantation house from a level in Hitman: Blood Money. Django Unchained certainly was a great reference too."

BourgeoisBanana recognizes how his creation's stark depiction of racism doesn't exactly mesh with the game's cheerful suburban innocence. He hopes for a future where more games and gamers explore all facets of history, even where doing so may make us uncomfortable. "I believe that to deny our history is to make it repeatable, and discouraging projects such as this one won't prevent racism in the least," he said. "Not only gamers, but all forms of media should definitely get over this politically correct phase we seem to be going through so we can expose the brutality of our past, rather than covering it up and pretending it never happened."

So, is it really a terrible thing? As the plantation's creator touched upon, ignoring our past mistakes with civil rights won't make them simply disappear. Thus, why shouldn't we reconstruct terrible events from history? If not for the goal of sending a message, then just as a way to satisfy curiosity? How would an in-game replication of a slave ship, for example, look like using Minecraft blocks? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

Gaudet Plantation mansion 1st floor

Gaudet Plantation mansion attic

Gaudet Plantation mansion ground floor

Gaudet Plantation slave quarters
PC Gamer
Diablo 3 Wizard

Blizzard has spoken before on the need to shape up Diablo III's grindy end-game and gear issues. Now, in an official forum thread (via PCGamesN) collating a sizable pile of player concerns and requests, Community Manager Vaneras acknowledged the RPG "needs to be a better game" overall but re-iterated its intention as a sequel with a standalone identity instead of "an HD version of Diablo II."

"A great sequel pays homage to its predecessors and at the same moves forward with new content," Vaneras wrote in a separate post. "It's fairly normal that sequels replace features from predecessors with new features, and I can of course agree that it is an issue if those new features fall short of what is intended.

"All I can say is that we are trying to make Diablo III the best game that it can be, but some things take more time to improve than others," Vaneras continued. "I totally understand if this is hard to accept for some people."

Last week, former Diablo III Director Jay Wilson left to work on other projects at Blizzard. In his farewell message, he commended the team for "making the best decisions we can with the information and knowledge we have at the time" and making "exception efforts" to correct problems.

The player-created list suggests ideas for fixing outstanding issues regarding story, itemization, the lack of PVP, skill trees and attributes, and other topics. Some proposals get quite granular, such as "Sockets that roll as a non-property but an implicit item quality must be brought back" and "Remove those goofy comments from Diablo and Azmodan during acts, revealing tactics and making them sound tryhardish."

It's a comprehensive effort, but what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas? Would you add anything more that's troubled you since the last time you played?
PC Gamer
Dead Space 3 preview

Earlier this week, a photo ostensibly taken of a crafting screen in Dead Space 3 revealed what appeared to be the option to purchasing crafting resources through microtransactions. In an interview with CVG, Visceral Producer John Calhoun acknowledged the existence of microtransactions in the game, and said the inclusion of a quick-buy option is meant for players who "need instant gratification" instead of procuring materials on their own.

"There’s a lot of players out there, especially players coming from mobile games, who are accustomed to microtransactions," Calhoun explained. "They’re like, 'I need this now, I want this now.' They need instant gratification. So, we included that option in order to attract those players, so that if they’re 5000 Tungsten short of this upgrade, they can have it."

According to Calhoun, traditional Dead Space players used to squishing Necromorph brains under heel for materials won't diminish in importance. "Honestly, most of the dev team are that way; we’re kind of old school, a little bit older," he said. "So, not only are the microtransactions completely optional, but all packs are available to purchase using in-game resources you find."

Calhoun also responded to complaints over the addition of buyable items to the Dead Space franchise, stressing Visceral would "never" incorporate a pay-to-win system. "There are genres of games where that is the answer, and you know what? The world has spoken: they suck," he said. "We don't want to make games that suck, we want to make games that people want to hold on to and to keep on their shelves. That is our mark of success."

Dead Space 3 comes out of the vacuum on February 5. Until then, you can check out our preview, where we descend into the darkness to explore the game's co-op.
PC Gamer
Portal 2 WibiData mod

WibiData, a startup data applications developer, uses a rather interesting recruitment process: it tasks prospective hires with puzzling out a lost PIN code in a recreation of the company's offices in Portal 2. Yes, that includes hearing modulated insults from a GlaDOS soundalike as you gather reset keys and jump through walls.

Speaking to the New York Times (via VentureBeat), WibiData CEO Christophe Bisciglia said the mod's genesis arose from how Portal 2's layered puzzles "makes me feel like I exercise the same part of my brain that programming and problem-solving does."

Bisciglia commissioned modder Doug Hoogland to design and create WibiData's virtual workspace and the puzzles housed beneath it. Hoogland earned Bisciglia's attention after he fashioned a Portal-ized wedding proposal for an earlier customer, which is both romantically adorable and the best chance to see a murderous computer become a third wheel.

We presume WibiData's employee insurance policy now covers injuries sustained from teleportation ovals and scheming sentient AIs. You can check out the mod for yourself on the company's website.