Sunday, January 31, 2010

Battlefield Bad Company 2; misstep or flanking maneuver?

So two strangers walking across a desert meet and decide they'll walk the next hundred miles or so together to the nearest town. The both have plenty of water for the trip but one is carrying a car door. The two men talk about a variety of topics for about an hour when they finally run out of conversation.

After about twenty minutes of silence, one man turns to the other carrying the car door and says, "Listen, I've been meaning to ask you, whats the deal with carrying the car door?"

Without blinking he replies, "If it gets too hot in here, I'll roll down the window."

Stupid joke, but with a point. Is something really something because we're told it is.

DICE, the company developing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 appeared to jump on the complaints from PC gamers over Infinity Ward's decision to exclude dedicated servers and instead build in a matchmaking system for Modern Warfare 2.

Don't worry DICE said, our game will have dedicated servers and players can continue to enjoy the legacy of the Battlefield series.

Although it was the battle call against Infinity Ward, the multiplayer portion only headlined a list of complaints from the serious wing of first person shooter fans which included; an omission of leaning and being able to heal thyself from bullet wounds simply by ducking out of the battle for a minute or so. None of these appeared to adjustable in the options menu.

Now the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 beta/demo has come out and while the promise of dedicated servers is still on the table, there appears to be no opportunity to lean or go prone, both of which were in previous titles in the series.

Will the dedicated servers be enough of an incentive for players to look past such shortcomings? Maybe the further enhancement of a destructable environment will help players along the map to forgiveness.

Then again, there are those players that find the smallest thing to complain about in forums and swear to never buy another game from the development company concerned.

Let the gaming soap opera begin.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mass Effect massively affecting media and sales

Having ventured into space as Sheppard one more time, I'm more than willing to let BioWare toot their own horn.

And they are.

Claiming '40 perfect scores. 2 million units and one pop culture phenomenon' BioWare says Mass Effect 2 has sold over two million units worldwide in its first week of release.

Mass Effect 2 has earned 40 perfect scores, amassed over 30 editor’s choice awards and has donned the covers of 45 magazines worldwide. On launch day, the term “Mass Effect” was in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter and most searched on Google News. said, “Mass Effect will go down as one of the most influential video game series of all-time."

Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder, BioWare and Group General Manager of the RPG/MMO Group of EA said, “Mass Effect 2 is poised to be one of the biggest games of 2010. We could not be more proud of the game’s universal acclaim and early commercial success.”

It seems patting yourself on the back without major injury is a power-up in the game I've yet to find. The same obviously can't be said for EA.

FIFA for free?

Financial experts and gaming developers have long tried to find economic success with free PC games. First person shooters and role-playing games all dot the internet landscape with free offerings, looking to optional, paid downloadable content for their income.

Electronic Arts is venturing into this gratis world with the announcement of a free (internet required), downloadable game called EA SPORTS™ FIFA Online that will make its popular videogame franchise available to soccer fans with a broadband internet connection. Developers are promising the game will be able to run on an average spec laptop computer or desk-top personal computer.

“Listening to and engaging soccer fans has been one of the driving forces behind the success of our FIFA franchise and now we are inviting European football fans--in mass numbers and earlier than we ever have before--to help us develop a new soccer game,” said Executive Producer Kaz Makita. “Fans will determine the features that matter most, and at the end of this process, our goal is to deliver a game for fans looking for a quick soccer fix at home or at work.”

The first to enjoy the free-to-play EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer videogame will be soccer fans and gamers in Europe for the open beta release in June 2010.

Beginning February 3, soccer fans across Europe are invited to register to participate in the closed beta development and testing of FIFA Online. More than 20,000 fans will be involved in the first phase of closed beta testing and then, during open beta in June, hundreds of thousands of fans will test the game, providing feedback directly to the game’s developers through exclusive discussion forums.

EA SPORTS FIFA Online will be released around the world in stages. The English language version will be available to all soccer fans in June, 2010. Over the next 12 to 24 months FIFA Online will launch in other languages across Europe and then in North America. Non-English speaking soccer fans will also be able to participate in the development process of these games.

EA SPORTS FIFA Online will offer an authentic soccer experience with 30 licensed leagues, 500 clubs and more than 15,000 players. During the first closed beta stage beginning February 3, the game will feature a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa tournament mode and a control system that uses the mouse only. At the second stage of closed beta, the game will feature a League Mode that enables fans to manage and compete as their favorite soccer club, and the ability to play online matches. FIFA Online will enable soccer fans and gamers to build their favorite club into their dream team by developing or acquiring players, upgrading skills, and getting unique apparel by earning in-game currency to acquire items or through micro-transactions. Additional content will be designed for the game based on feedback by fans.

“There are a large number of soccer fans who do not want a console gaming experience due to time and other priorities in their personal lives but they still want to be able to play a top-quality soccer videogame,” explained Makita. “FIFA Online will be designed specifically for them.”

While the business model hasn't been openly discussed, any fan of the sport knows there are numerous billboards around the stadium as well as on players. Something tells me EA would be open to discussing terms with interested advertisers for that valuable cyper 'space'.

Activision classics to roll out on the GOG website

Whether its just the vocal gamers being the most heard or the community simply doesn't like DRM, recent news could be cause for celebration.

In what has been called a 'landmark deal for the DRM-free digital distribution movement', Activision Publishing Inc. is bringing a wide range of classic games to With a wealth of PC-gaming gems tucked away in the Activision vaults, the deal gives all types of gamer - from the long-time devotee to the laptop-carrying "newbie" - an unforgettable glimpse into the rich history of the PC gaming. - or Good Old Games offers more than 180 PC games at low prices and free from what is considered by some as intrusive copy protection. The arguments are long and passionate about the merits and drawbacks of Digital Rights Management (DRM) a generic term used for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices.

"Signing the agreement with Activision is the biggest thing that's happened at since the actual announcement of the service. This is a huge step forward for our site and for digital distribution as a whole, as Activision is one of the biggest publishers in the world with a long history in the games industry," said Adam Oldakowski, Managing Director at "We're even happier to bring Activision games back to gamers, as is the only place right now, where you can grab the announced titles. We've also managed to work on those titles to provide full compatibility with modern operating systems."

The recently struck agreement will see games from the vaults of Activision gradually unveiled in the coming weeks so as to encourage maximum enjoyment of the classic gameplay. The first two titles should be instantly recognizable to any fan of games in the adventure and role-playing genres.

Available now for $5.99, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura (Role-Playing Game, 2001) is the masterpiece from too-quickly-shuttered Troika Games. Heralded by The Electric Playground as "the most diverse and open-ended RPG to date," Arcanum was conceived by many of the same minds responsible for the Fallout series and places players in a refreshingly unique setting, as ogres and other fantastical creatures come to grips with life in the midst of an industrial revolution.

The second title now available for $5.99, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (Point-and-Click Adventure, 1993), envisioned by legendary game designer, Jane Jensen, stands as a shining example of adventure gaming at its best. As writer and bookstore owner, Gabriel Knight, players set off to investigate a series of murders, in hopes of using the research to write a new novel. Sins of the Fathers is the first part of Gabriel's adventures, considered by many as the best Sierra adventure-game series.

Bioshock 2's multiplayer shocker

Could one of the most anticipated games of 2010 become the biggest disappointment?
Thats the question facing PC gamers as developers 2K games revealed the company is following in the circuits of Infinity Ward and impelenting Bioshock 2's multiplayer without dedicated servers.
The original game harkened to the golden years of PC gaming. The developers of Bioshock had spent many obvious creative man hours building an underwater world immersed in art deco and technology frozen in time by the deep cold sea.
Creating an alternative past with 'Rapture' being able to 'splice' amazing abilities into the player brought a unique style of gameplaying layered onto a mystery storyline that would make Hitchcock proud.
The only dimension missing from the brilliant breakout hit of 2008 was a multiplayer feature, so when 2K revealed the follow-up would include the opportunity to pit Big Daddy's against in an online arena, forums filled with excited pc gamers and fans of the Bioshock title.
Now we're learning the multiplayer may not be with the dedicated servers so enjoyed by our genre.
On it's website in a FAQ titled 'Multiplayer and matchmaking Q&A', 2K answered the question 'Do you support LAN play on consoles or PC? Do you support dedicated servers?'
Short answer, no and no.
There is always a finite amount of time for the development of a game. Bringing Multiplayer to BioShock was a daunting task between the tech (there was no multiplayer support in the codebase from the first game) and the expectations of the community. Either you try to do everything and so nothing feels finished or you focus your efforts to do a smaller number of things really well like an accessible online experience. We chose to spend the time we had creating a solid game foundation and unfortunately that did not include LAN play or dedicated servers.
According to developers, Bioshock 2 will use the Games For Windows – Live servers. The absence of dedicated servers leads to the next obvious question, 'How do you deal with people who grief or cheat or are otherwise not making a good ranked experience? Can you kick them?'
Even though we are doing everything we can to try to find exploits in our own game, there will always be people who will find a way to grief a game. There is no kick option as we felt like it often leads to more unfair kicking than fair kicking. We hope that because there are a variety of player goals and a multitude of options for ranking up and killing, the player will always feel like he or she is gaining something in a match with mean people and griefers. If you do get matched up with one of those people, please report it, leave that game, and we'll try to smooth out the online experience as best as we can.
In other twists and Bioshock features to the familiar online world, the multiplayer doesn't have ranked/unranked distinctions, but a hybrid system where there is an in-game party system where you can invite up to four of your friends into your party to take into online matchmaking. You can also join in-progress games on any of your friends if there is space available.
Matchmaking will be done on player proximity in both distance as well as ranking, using it would appear 2K's hybrid system.

Tech Stuff
For those interested in the details of what the game will look like;
Bioshock 2 will support single-screen 4:3, 5:4, 16:9 and 16:10 resolutions. The game has been optimized to ensure that all game elements such as menus, HUD, UI, etc appear exactly the same regardless of what resolution the user is running the game at. The only major difference for 4:3 and 5:4 users will be the smaller Field of View compared to a widescreen resolution.

The FOV cannot be changed, and it is set to 75 degrees vertically. The default for users with widescreen monitors will be that they have a horizontally expanded viewport as compared to 4:3 or 5:4 monitors.

2K has implemented some DX10 specific options for users with DX10 compatible Graphics Cards which include DirectX10 Detail Surfaces and 3D Stereo Vision . Bioshock2 will auto-detect whether the user has a DX10 compatible Graphics Card and adjust the settings automatically.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Battlefield:Bad Company 2 declaring war on players?

There is only one thing PC gamers hate more than an obvious console port and that is any kind of DRM.

The arguments are long and passionate about the merits and drawbacks of Digital Rights Management (DRM) a generic term used for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices.

Could war be declared between the latest First Person Shooter and fans as word comes from EA and DICE of a DRM loaded up not only with the upcoming game, but even the demo. The demo has only just been downloaded onto player's computers worldwide.

But DICE's lead programmer, Mikael Kalms revealed a DRM system making use of the controversial SecuROM DRM, that will be put in place for the final and beta versions of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Reportedly, two versions of the DRM will be Available to players, off and online. The offline authentication is intended for those who don't have an internet connection or who aren't comfortable with the idea of an install limit and is a basic disc check system that requires the CD to be in the drive whenever the game is run.

The online option means you only need the disc to install the game, but limits you to only ten concurrent installs. Install credits are automatically refunded, so to speak, whenever the game is uninstalled - though you'll need to be online for both the installation and uninstallation. The online authentication only needs to run once though, then you can run the game for 10,000 days (27 years) before being forced to authenticate again.

A version of the SecuROM DRM will also be applied to the closed beta, which is only available to those who have pre-ordered the game. The beta is set to start on January 28th, while the full game ships on March 2nd.

This news follows the lovefest felt in a recent interview with Gamespot UK where DICE expressed respect for the PC gamer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Command and Conquer 4 beta going public!

Would be generals and tacticians should be preparing for the long awaited beta of Command and Conquer 4!

Starting at 9AM PST, EA is creating and alliance with Gamespot, to open the Command & Conquer 4 Beta to the public. Joining is reportedly simple, interested warhawks need to head over to Command and Conquers beta page and do the following;

Log in to your free GameSpot account, or register for one.

Once you are logged in, you will see registration fields already populated for you, based on your GS profile. Just hit Submit.

The page now includes new information, including your key (the URL), and instructions on what to do.

There is no reregistering if the beta keys run out. EA and Gamepsot are promising to track of everyone and hand out the keys in the orders players registered. After the initial disbursement, additional keys are reportedly going to be handed out everyday.

The beta will be testing the 5 v 5 multiplayer part of the game.

Because we apparently live in the age of pre-order specials, Command and Conquer 4 will offer access to our exclusive prequel bonus mission "Night Moves", the official C&C 4 soundtrack, and a personal autographed headshot of the Messiah, Kane!

Mass Effect 2 charms the critics

So the reviews are in for Mass Effect 2 and the game managed to charm critics.

According to EA the game won aclaim across both the Xbox and PC platforms.

This includes perfect scores from 360 Magazine (5/5), Destructoid (10/10), Eurogamer (10/10), Eurogamer Italy (10/10), Eurogamer Spain (10/10), G4 TV (5/5), Game Daily (10/10), (5/5), GamesRadar (10/10), gamesTM (10/10), Official Xbox Magazine UK (10/10), TeamXbox (10/10), Total PC Gaming (10/10), (10/10) and X360 Magazine (10/10). Time Magazine says Mass Effect 2 is “the Avatar of video games – except it’s better written”, and says “Mass Effect 2 sets the bar high for 2010.”

The rave reviews earned Mass Effect 2 the second highest rated game of all time for the Xbox.

Popular pre-order Bad Company dominates Steam sales

Open warfare is more popular than solving the latest galactic mystery. According to Steam's weekly sales numbers anyway.

The chance to join in the beta process with a pre-order of Battlefield: Bad Company was enough for the game to storm into number one. The multitude of preview trailers and television advertising didn't help lift the presales beyond number 6 in the weekly chart from one of the leading online digital distributors of PC games.
  1. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 LE
  2. Psychonauts 
  3. Modern Warfare 2 
  4. BioShock 2 
  5. Star Trek Online: Digital Deluxe Edition 
  6. Mass Effect 
  7. Global Agenda 
  8. Aliens Versus Predator 
  9. Cities XL 
  10. Left 4 Dead 2
And the numbers always tell a story. The bargain price of $2 was enough to give Psychonauts a number 2 position in the charts while gamers just can't wait for Aliens Versus Predator and BioShock 2 with bot games till in the pre-order period but charting at eight and four repsectively.
Now the real question is, will the great reviews of Mass Effect 2 across the gaming world be enough to help the BioWare game with next weeks chart or could it become the best game of 2010 no-one played?

Mass Effect 2 takes off to stellar reviews

The blanket of commercials did what they could. The gaming community was taken to the edge of anticipation with trailers, articles and developers videos.

Now Mass Effect 2 is out with Sheppard streaking across the depths of conflicted space continuing in the second installment of the successful series.

Across North America and Europe RPG and science fiction fans counted down the hours until the pre-bought, pre-loaded games could be digitally unlocked and played. Mass Effect peaked at 10,790 players today according to Steam and those who ordered their copy through the popular online service.

Reportedly, within eight hours of the much-anticipated release Tuesday, nearly 100,000 people were playing it online, according to Casey Hudson, BioWare's project director.

The rush of players could be seen in the delayed digital unlocking of the game through online delivery stores and bombardment of EA's site with new account openings slowing their servers down. Many players complained on various forums of  having to wait while new accounts were created and existing ones seemed to take too long to verify.

Hopefully things will settle down for the strong DLC Bioware is planning for Mass Effect 2. Purchasers of the game will be able to activate the ‘Cerberus Network’, which serves as an in-game portal to offer downloadable content and news at no extra charge. The first piece of DLC is available today, featuring a new mission around the Normandy crash site, and BioWare plans to announce more content in the "coming weeks."

But what about the game
So I gave in. The original plan was to make my way through the $5 bargain of Mass Effect to see if I liked the gameplay enough to invest the full price of a new release and a more valuable expense, my limited gaming time into Mass Effect 2.

With one great review after another hitting the web, I caved, preordered and downloaded the game so it was waiting and ready by the time I got home.

I'm glad I did. The cutscenes and in-game graphics weren't bad in ME. The follow-up is just amazing.

I won't discuss the opening storyline as not to ruin any surprises, but an attentive player can see all the current influences and gaming trends sneaking their way into Mass Effect 2.

Fast paced action scenes that lead to the same conclusion, but allow the player to feel as though they have control in the situation is the most promenient addition. The fantastic voice acting is back and the universe the game is set in is as believable as any big screen blockbuster. Although I've only played about three hours into the game, it seems to be an X-Files meets Star Wars.

Where as the universe was a clean, controlled place before, Mass Effect 2 pushes the player through the back alleys of Deep Space.

The developers included instant gratification for the players who can't quite take the slower place of an RPG game. Achievements pop up on the screen, ranging from how many more times a deed needs to be done to reach a particular badge of honor to a mouse click to initiate an action which will influence your renegade or paragon characteristics.

Combat is improved, even if the onscreen indicator for taking damage just so happens to blend tackiness and a degree of gross.

Bit-Tech gave the game a perfect score, Gametrailers slightly less with 9.7, CVG weighed in with 9.3 while Gamespot ,Maximum PC decided on 9, which was still good enough to win the editors choice/Kick Ass awards.

Ea continues to woo PC gamers

With PC gamers still warm from the great big group hug the other day with DICE developers and their obvious love shown in the upcoming Battlefield: Bad Company, EA is becoming the game company that keeps on giving.

Long considered a nasty word among die hard gamers, EA seems to be on a campaign to win back the hearts of the PC crowd. Tweets have brought smiles as it was revealed by EA Community Manager Matthew Pruitt promising an electronic makeover for the Medal of Honor series.

To take the creaky title into the gaming of tomorrow, not one but two gaming engines will be used. And it appears EA likes the one-two punch with not one but two teams working hard to deliver the singleplayer and multiplayer aspects of the game.

Its hard to not smile while reading this.

The singleplayer portion of the game will be handled by EA's internal LA team and will use a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3. The multiplayer on the other hand is being put together by DICE and will be built using the game developer's Frostbite engine.

This last engine is the same one being used for Battlefield: Bad Company.

For those worried about more of the same, DICE president Patrick Bach says thats not necessarily the case

"We're using the Frostbite engine and it's amazing to see how it can build a completely different experience," he said.

Medal of Honor is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2010 and battles its way out of the World War Two era and into modern conflicts in the Middle East. The promotional videos give a Green Beret Special Forces feel with the featured characters wearing the long beards and casual combat uniforms.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PC Gamers wait for Assassins Creed 2 is nearly over

Its been a long wait, but after four months of looking over the gaming shoulder of our console cousins. Assassin's Creed 2 will scale its way to the PC.

Gaming magazines were full of Ubisoft's announcement of a March 16th shipping date for the sequel which has already managed to sell 6 million units worldwide on the Playstation and Xbox.

But coming from a lineage of assassins will cost more for this generation, the M for Mature-rated title will be available for a more-expensive-than-usual $59.99. The upside is some include extra content such as the Battle of Forli and Bonfire of the Vanities add-ons. A digital-delivery-only "Black Edition" will run for $64.99, and will include even more content that has not been specified.

Assassins Creed two is set in Leonardo Da Vinci's Italy with a new face taking the cowl, Ezio.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Console game creator digs PC Games

It can be hit or miss reading the Game Hunters column in USA Today. Don't get me wrong, the column's hosts Mike Snider and Bret Molina seem to have a passion about games, but the topics are always covered with the USA Today's fluffy feel to the story.

It was interesting to read the list of the top games of the last decade from the man who made his name for spearheading the best known game on the XBox, Gears of War. Four out of the five games named by Epic's Cliff Bleszinski started life on the PC;

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)

Half-Life 2 (2004)

BioShock (2007)

Portal (2007)

And the console game that made a token appearance on the list? Resident Evil 4 (2005).

The article can be found here.

DICE loves PC Gamers...and they're not afraid to say so

As much as Infinity Ward pushed away PC gamers with their development considerations, DICE is opening up their arms full of presents with theirs.

Not only are they promising the full flexibility with the multiplayer component, but have only just revealed a single player campaign for Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Continuing the love-fest for PC Gamers, senior producer Patrick Bach spoke about a dedicated team of game developers for the PC version of the hotly anticipated first person shooter.

Just released on the website tonight, in an interview with Gamespot UK Bach seemed excited about the host of gaming treasures coming to the PC.

Acknowledging Battlefield's heritage with PC gaming, a full blown computer version was promised along with more players in mutliplayer, rendering features which couldn't be done on the consoles as well as 3D features thanks to Nvidia.

Call it a backhanded dig, but developer Patrick Bach said, "We want to treat the PC player with respect because of our long heritage with PC Gaming."

Oddly enough, the footage used during the entire interview came from a console version of the game.

Deserved criticism, surprised praise

Finally picked up the February issue of PC Gamer this weekend.

All the excitement has been sucked out of going to the bookstore to buy a gaming magazine. It was but three years ago (maybe) two or three titles would dot the rack, all with their own sneaks, previews and different takes on the PC gaming universe.

Sure we all complained about the hype and the occassional bias apparently given for those behind the scene stories, but at least there were choices between reviews and articles. Best of all, there was a lot to help with that gaming fix.

Now its just PC Gamer, and while its a good magazine staffed by people who obviously love PC games, its a title produced between the British and American offices with no clear line between who is who.

Some Sanity, At Last
Affirmation can come in many forms, mine came with the PC Gamer review of Modern Warfare 2. One would think with all the unquestionable praise from its base of PC players the game would get an 'Editors Choice' moniker. There are no dedicated servers but the ingenuity of the limited mutliplayer and revolutionary single player help overlook any shortcomings, the fans claim.

Not according to Tom Francis.

'You can duck behind cover and wait for the bullet wounds to wear off, just like in a real war. Its fun for a while but not indefinitely. When MW2 tries for an atmosphere of explosive pendemonium, it absolutely nails it-but at the expense of any tactical freedom, space to think or choice about where to go.'

Although Francis liked some of the set pieces, such as the much talked about coop play with the AC-130 gunship, the game wasn't everything the forums had claimed. For something that screamed off the shelves in record numbers, it only reached 80% in the final opinion of PC Gamer.

The reviewer could have been publishing my opinions about Modern Warfare with this same review. I bought MW on sale at Steam with the sole purpose to see if I was missing out on anything as MW2 made headlines in conventional newpapers such as USA Today. I had previously dropped out of the Call of Duty series some time back feeling the same that I felt aftter playing MW; Great linear play with some exciting moments, but pretty much leaving an empty feeling afterwards.

In complete contrast, when I finished Dead Space it took all the willpower, as well as a stack of unplayed games, not to dive right back in and play through it again.

Modern Warfare hasn't been booted up since my first play through.

World War 2, but in a good way
What did catch my eye in the current issue of PC Gamer was the review for Saboteur. The open world, GTA-style game has the player sneaking, killing and blowing up his way through Germany-occupied Paris.

This much lesser known title snuck away with a rating of 86% with the gameplay sounding much more like Thief than any GTA game. The graphics look good from the pictures and website, gameplay appears consistent and the voice acting is spot on, according to the review.

Once I get through the multitide of titles that have downloaded themselves onto my hardrive, I'll have to look at Saboteur. Who knows, maybe by then it'll be on sale!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pre-order of Battlefield: Bad Company promises unlocks and beta access

With modern pc game releases developers have to 'have game' before they sell their game.

As digital distribution has taken off so has the early marketing of new titles. Case in point. Battlefied: Bad Company has both Steam and Direct 2 Drive offering six unlocked talents as well as access to the beta at the end of January.

Yes, my fellow gamer, if you plunk down your $50 now, you can be a beta tester for EA on January 28th.

The ironic twist to this tactic is that its not really needed. Battlefield: Bad Company has caused quite a stir among the FPS fans. It has the heritage of following a long line of illustrious Battlefield titles (well if we exclude Battlefields Vietnam and 2142) and even becoming a standard to which other games would strive for.

How many times were gamers told a new title would have the same playability of battlefield?

In that sense, fans who were going to buy the game anyway end up with a bonus pack of sorts.

The six unlocks are;

Improved Vehicle Armor: An up-armor package is mounted on all vehicle types, decreasing the effect of both explosive and penetrating warheads, significantly improving vehicle survivability.

Supreme Vehicle Firepower: Additional weapon packages are mounted for the driver of all armored vehicles, greatly expanding the range of targets the vehicle can successfully engage and destroy.
Vehicle Motion Sensor: Use this electronics warfare package to locate enemy units in direct proximity to the vehicle.

Tracer Dart Pistol: This magnetic dart attaches to any vehicle surface, allowing squad members to track, lock on, and fire rockets onto moving targets even beyond line of sight.
M1A1 Sub-machine Gun: Reliable but heavy this classic weapon is a powerful force in the hands of any Battlefield veteran.
M1911 Pistol: Highly customized M1911 are favoured for its dependability and the power of its large .45 caliber round.

The latest incarnation of Battlefield will bring a new dimension to the game however such as the Frostbite-enabled Destruction 2.0 system, allowing players to take down entire buildings, creating custom fire points by blasting holes through cover. Also sure to bring teamplay back into the online shooter, the match which pits four-player teams in two squad-only game modes.
And the Infinity Ward's last minute exclusion of dedicated servers for Modern Warfare 2 has guaranteed B: BC will have flexible multiplayer abilities.
While MW2 took the world by storm with massive sales and non-pc praise, B:BC could have many saying MW who? by summer.

Even in space, cheap marketing can make you scream

Just in case you may think the distributors of Star Trek Online have run out of ways to market the upcoming massively multiplayer online game, a fast food chain has bee brought into the mix.

With would-be players already navigating Klingon-style minefields of various pre-order offers and lifetime memberships, not a large soda could have you in a federation uniform for free!

Customers who purchase a Macho-sized drink at Del Taco will receive a free limited edition Star Trek collector's cup and a free trial of the Star Trek Online while supplies last.

Each collector's cup will have an individual peel code that can be redeemed for a 48-hour free trial of Star Trek Online. Customers can redeem up to four codes and receive 48-hours of gameplay with each code. As an added bonus, customers that redeem the maximum four codes will receive an extra 48-hours of access to the game for a total of 10 full days.

And look no further if you want more additional in-game content. If consumers choose to purchase the game after their free trial, they will receive a free Type-8 Shuttle "pet" add-on for their Starship, available exclusively from Del Taco.

"Early response to Star Trek Online has been tremendous," said Jim Wilson, CEO and President, Atari, Inc. "Our partnership with Del Taco brings this unique sci-fi massively open online game to an even broader mainstream audience as well as avid Star Trek fans."

"We're excited to be partnering with Atari and the Star Trek franchise," said John Cappasola, vice president of marketing at Del Taco. "We think our customers are going to enjoy the collectible cups as well as the opportunity to get a free trial of the Star Trek Online game.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Beer, and Mass Effect 2?

So its not surprising to see the excellently made trailers pop-up in primetime during shows with a young and hip viewing audience such as The Daily Show, but what about football?

Is Mass Effect 2 ready for some football?

EA and BioWare seems to think so as they are scheduled to join the long list of advertisers such beer companies and the domain registering company, Go-Daddy who promote their wares with commercials during major football games.

The Mass Effect 2 launch trailer will have its big-deal TV debut during the NFC Championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints this Sunday. At about 6:40 pm Eastern time, during the game's fourth quarter, television screens all over the U.S. will be taken over for two minutes by images of blue female aliens with big breasts and other exciting scenes from the game, which comes out this Tuesday, January 26.

If this isn't enough for you, Bioware is also hosting a "Watch the NFC Championship with BioWare" event where you can chat with the Mass Effect 2 development team as they stream live from the BioWare games room via Ustream. This is unprecedented not just because of the weird confluence of football and sci-fi, but also because the Bioware guys are Canadian, so they presumably don't even understand our version of football. Which makes them the perfect patsies to sucker into a losing bet on the game. Participants in this event will also get to see live Mass Effect 2 gameplay streamed during halftime, and be eligible to win free BioWare goodies.

Of course, if you don't like football or don't even know what it is, and if you can't wait until Sunday, you could just watch the trailer on

Star Trek MMO goes from online to in person!

Its very rare for gamers to have the opportunity to meet the creative team behind their favorite title but Star Trek Online really is going where no one has gone before.

This weekend the Star Trek Online team will be at the San Francisco Star Trek Convention having some fun, and they're inviting fans to find them. The invitation extends beyond the convention floor to the bar Swig's from 7 p.m. PST to 9 p.m. PST on Saturday, January 23.

Making the whole thing even more exciting, people who show up in Star Trek costumes will get a free drink!

Well the development team certainly get an 'A' for effort.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Unknown releases and fake betas

Understanding it shouldn't have come as any big surprise, the news that it is very unlikely we will see Half Life Episode 3 in 2010 is incredibly disappointing.

According to the latest issue of Game Informer magazine, not only are there no plans for the next episode but no one at Valve is even confirming whether they'll continue with the mini-releases.

Why care what type of Half-Life comes out?

When Valve went from full-blown games to the buzz of 'episodic-gaming' that was supposedly the new direction of game development in 2006 promises were made. With many FPS fans upset at the five years between the genre-changing Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Valve promised shorter development periods with smaller, episode type releases. True to their word, Half-Life 2 Episode One was produced and distributed in less than two years and Episode Two one year later in 2007.

But three years will have gone by and still no Episode Three. Valve haven't been quiet though, the studios have had incredible hits such as Team Fortress Two, Left 4 Dead as well as an underappreciated but incredibly original Portal.

Whether its a true sequel or not creates some heated conversation, but Valve have even manage to release a follow up to Left 4 Dead (with such an original title - Left 4 Dead 2), leaving Half Life fans asking for T-L-C from G-A-B-E.

Aside from the guaranteed clever gameplay, Valve created this anxious gameplaying fanbase because they are so efficient creating characters gamers start to care for at levels normally onlu found for movie and television character. Barney, Alex and of course Gordon Freeman are all written about across cyberspace if they were real people.

And it seems these 'real' people are ambivilent with excuses about not coming around for a visit.

Faked Beta's
When discussing the lack of computer game magazines on the store shelves, many past readers will point to the endless 'exclusives' and hype without any solid foundation for the loss in readers. So the new medium of online magazines would look to more solid reporting, yes?

Evidently not. At the time of posting, 1UP is featuring a supposed leaked beta of Halo Reach. Something doesn't quite ring true with the beta. There is no actual gameplay footage, just the intro screens with the player making such a pained effort to bring the XBox controller into camera view as they make their way through the menus. Why would they do that?

Personal opinion. Video footage compiled to look like the beat of the next release in the Halo series with the controller thrust into the picture to convince the viewer they are clicking through the options. In reality they are merely following a script.

How this merits front page material at 1UP is beyond me and several people who have left a comment on the website saying so.

And before you ask, would news of a fake XBox beta make it into a PC Gaming blog? Halo is one of those titles along with Gears of War that PC gamers would love to have released for the computer.

Its a floral feel to the annual Game Developers Choice Awards

Although you couldn't have three more different games, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assasins Creed 2 and the revolutionary Flower are dominating categories across the board tenth annual Game Developers Choice Awards.

Infinity Wards chart breaking best seller Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 may have kept the cash registers ringing with its release, but the gaming industry appeared to be too busy pollinating or fighting their way out Gotham's nuthouse to notice. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was only included in two categories and didn't make consideration for game of the year.

The annual Game Developers Choice Awards are considered the leading peer-based video game industry awards. Thatgamecompany's evocative downloadable game Flower leads the pc game nominations while four came for Ubisoft Montreal's well-received Renaissance action game sequel Assassin's Creed II, expected to be released for the PC in the first quarter of 2010.

In addition to the aforementioned Assassin's Creed II, this year's Game Of The Year nominations are rounded out by BioWare's Dragon Age: Origins, From Software's Demon's Souls, and Rocksteady Studios' Batman: Arkham Asylum.

The changes in today's game industry are well represented in the Game Developers Choice Awards this year by the inclusion of multiple iPhone titles (including Flight Control and Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor) as nominations in existing categories, as well as console downloadable titles such as Q Games' PixelJunk Shooter and RedLynx's Trials HD. Organizers have also further diversified the awards by adding a Best New Social/Online Games category this year, with both Facebook and free-to-play online games competing for the new prize.

The Game Developers Choice Awards are open to any video game, with no restrictions or payment for game submission, and Main Competition finalists are chosen via a combination of open game industry nominations and the votes of the leading creators in the Choice Awards Advisory Committee. Starting this year, winners are now being selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards-specific International Choice Awards Network (ICAN), which is a new invitation-only group comprised of 500 leading game creators from all parts of the video game industry. Choice Awards organizers believe that, in tandem with their goal of having the most focused, impartial awards in the game industry, this additional voting transparency will further boost the awards' reputation.

The complete list of nominees for the 10th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards are as follows:

Best Game Design
- Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady)
- Assassin's Creed 2 (Ubisoft Montreal)
- Flower (thatgamecompany)
- Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
- Plants Vs. Zombies (PopCap)

Best Visual Art
- Borderlands (Gearbox Software)
- Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
- Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal)
- Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward)
- Flower (thatgamecompany)

Best Technology
- Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward)
- Red Faction: Guerrilla (Volition)
- Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
- Killzone 2 (Guerrilla Games)
- Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal)

Best Writing
- Brutal Legend (Double Fine)
- Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios)
- Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare)
- Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
- Halo 3: ODST (Bungie)

Best Audio
- Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
- Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare)
- Rock Band: The Beatles (Harmonix)
- Flower (thatgamecompany)
- Brutal Legend (Double Fine Productions)

- Scribblenauts (5th Cell)
- Flower (thatgamecompany)
- Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
- Plants Vs. Zombies (PopCap)
- Demon's Souls (From Software)

Best Debut
- The Maw (Twisted Pixel)
- League Of Legends (Riot Games)
- Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor (Tiger Style)
- Torchlight (Runic Games)
- Zeno Clash (ACE Team)

Best Downloadable Game
- Plants Vs. Zombies (PopCap)
- Trials HD (RedLynx)
- PixelJunk Shooter (Q Games)
- Shadow Complex (Chair Entertainment)
- Flower (thatgamecompany)

Best New Social/Online Game
- Restaurant City (Playfish)
- Farmville (Zynga)
- Dungeon Fighter Online (Neople/Nexon)
- Free Realms (Sony Online Entertainment San Diego)
- Bejeweled Blitz (PopCap)

Game Of The Year
- Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog)
- Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios)
- Demon's Souls (From Software)
- Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal)

In addition to the awards for individual games, the Game Developers Choice Awards committee is in the process of announcing its Special Award recipients. Most recently, it was announced that this year's Pioneer Award is being given to Valve's Gabe Newell for his work in co-creating vital PC digital download service Steam, and helping to make possible some of the most important video games of the past two decades -- from the Half-Life series through Portal to Team Fortress and beyond. Information on the winners of the Ambassador and Lifetime Achievement Special Awards -- as well as the identity of this year's Game Developers Choice Awards host -- will be revealed in the near future.

Winners in all major categories will be honored at the Game Developers Choice Awards show, open to over 3,000 of the world's leading video game developers, and taking place Thursday, March 11th at the Moscone Convention Center during the 2010 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gaming for the easily distracted

Choice is a funny thing, turning the most dedicated fan into a fickle dabbler.

Up until last weekend I was burning through the single player missions in Operation Flashpoint 2.

Before going any further. this game has been the victim of an unfair online bashing, although hindsight should have seen it coming. Game developers really can't expect to produce a 'tactical' first person shooter with the detailed heritage of Operation Flashpoint and forget to include a robust multiplayer component. Codemasters did and consequently mulitplayer fans (who by their very nature spend a lot of time online) took the protests to the forums blogs and quite frankly anyone else who would publish their complaints.

Sadly, the game is quite a good first person shooter. When played in hardcore mode its like Ghost Recon Advanced Warrior but with a huge and open sandbox. Admittedly, the lack of save points throughout the entire mission in hardcore has had me playing through the campaign longer than I would have if there was an opportunity to save wherever I pleased or even with preset autosaves. At least the experience hasn't been as painful as say, Mass Effect whose savepoints can make you sit through the same cut-scene over and over.

Back to the point
So, making my way through OF: DR when I see the pre-order offer for Napoleon: Total War on Steam which not only throws in some elite units but also Medievel War 2: Total War. Call me impulsive, but I bought it. While I was waiting for to download I loaded up Empire: Total War.

Well, 22 gaming hours later Sweden is a bustling nation breaking out and spilling over its nieghbor's borders whether invited or not.

As of this moment and according to Steam (which doesn't track all of the games for playing time) I have given my fickle gaming love to ETW first and and foremost lately with 22 current hours and 120 total, OF:DR a not so close second with 5 recent hours and 65 total and bringing up third is my experiment of playing the original Mass Effect with 1.2 recent hours and 9 total.

As mentioned before, the Mass Effect is to see if I like genre and title enough to invest money and time into the upcoming follow up and new release.

The diagnosis doesn't look promising.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BioWare will ship an in-game portal for Mass Effect 2's DLC

Guess who popped up on the flatscreen in all their hi-def glory during a commercial break in between the political humor of The Daily Show? Another version of the the Mass Effect 2 game commercials with Commander Sheppard speaking into the camera while looking incredibly realistic, thats who.

Is it me or is there an explosive hollywood blockbuster in the air for this gaming title?

Even if they don't open gamers wallets at the theaters, the game's developer BioWare are making sure they aren't too far from them with the latest edition of the role playing game, Mass Effect 2.

The company is shipping an in-game portal with Mass Effect 2 that will keep fans engaged with the rich and dynamic Mass Effect universe through downloadable content (DLC) and news.

Called ‘The Cerberus Network’, it is activated exclusively by original purchasers of Mass Effect 2 through a single-use unlock code that comes included in retail and digital versions of the game worldwide. ‘The Cerberus Network’ is a conduit for players to receive bonus content as well as daily messages and news on upcoming releases for Mass Effect 2 for no extra charge. For players who do not buy the game new, ‘The Cerberus Network’ can be unlocked through a one-time, in-game purchase of a new activation code*.

“The Cerberus Network augments and extends the rich universe of Mass Effect 2,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder, BioWare and Group General Manager of the RPG/MMO Group of EA. “We’re thrilled to be able to reward loyal BioWare and Mass Effect fans with ongoing, high quality content and provide a direct channel for our players to dive deeper into the intriguing lore of Mass Effect.”
Players who access ‘The Cerberus Network’ will receive the first DLC pack on January 26th (launch day in North America) featuring new missions and in-game items. Included in this pack is a mission that introduces Zaeed, a rugged and deadly gun-for-hire who is recruited to join Commander Shepard’s mission to save mankind.

After launch, BioWare will release another DLC pack for Mass Effect 2 that introduces the Hammerhead, a new vehicle in the Mass Effect universe. This agile hover tank features improved handling on rough terrain and maneuvers deftly in combat -- a necessity for players traveling across harsh planetary environments throughout the galaxy. In addition to this new vehicle, BioWare will release new missions and unique in-game items, including Cerberus Assault Armor which boost shields, health and heavy weapon ammo and the M-22 Eviscerator Shotgun.

The Mass Effect trilogy is an epic science fiction adventure set in a vast universe filled with dangerous alien life and mysterious, uncharted planets. In Mass Effect 2, players will step into the role of the heroic Commander Shepard, commanding a crew of the most dangerous operatives from across the galaxy on a mission so challenging that it’s potentially suicidal. Featuring intense shooter action, a rich futuristic storyline, stunning space exploration and emotionally engaging characters, the game delivers an unparalleled cinematic experience.

Mass Effect 2 is scheduled for release for the PC on January 26, 2010 in North America and January 29, 2010 in Europe .

Star Trek fans cause systems overload

It may have been a shock to the game developers, but plenty of beta players knew.

Cryptic's Star Trek Online was swamped with beta players studdering and glitching where no gamer has gone before. Claiming a 'massive surprise' at how popular the beta is, saying, "The actual numbers crushed our predictions."

Having been one of those busting out of starfleet and thrown into command in the beta stage of the new massively multiplayer online version of the legendary science fiction powerhouse I can atest to the online test that tried the patience more than the play loads.

"The first week of Open Beta has been amazing," said the dev in an update. "We have seen more signups and players than we ever imagined we could.

"So very many people have shown interest in Star Trek Online and logged in to play that we've actually had to scramble to support everyone. Our core engineers are this very second working like crazed technology wielding madmen to improve performance and stability across the board. We're also adding a lot more hardware to accommodate our players."

Cryptic continued, "We looked at numbers from Closed Beta, numbers from games we've worked on in the past, and some numbers that float around the games industry.

"Based on those numbers, we predicted that about 65% of the keys we generated would eventually turn into active players (some keys never get delivered, others are lost in spam boxes, some are never redeemed, etc.). And, we predicted about 1/6 of those redeemed keys would turn into players that game at the same time. It's what we call our concurrent users or CCU, for short.

"The actual numbers crushed our predictions."

"So, we tore apart our logs and began doing a lot of extra optimization work even while we stumbled upon some truly bizarre crashes that can only appear with this sort of load. The result? The shard has been steadily improving over the first few days of Open Beta. Given the hardware we're adding and a couple more fixes we have in the pipe, shard performance and stability should continue to improve over the coming week."

The game is getting mixed reviews on various gaming forums not helped by some confusion over retaining ship names and handling quirks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

America's Army and the counterattack

America's Army isn't without its critics and detractors.

The critics range from those that think its wrong for the American military to entice young gamers into the army with a video game to those who feel its wasteful spending by the military.

The detractors don't like the quality or gameplay of the latest version America's Army 3.

The bottom line answer to all of these is - its just a free video game. Don't make it out to be more than that.

The beauty for us strategic First Person Shooter fans is we have a free game that gives an online community and place to hang out with mature gamers were teamwork is rewarded and the spamming found in other online games is nearly non-existent.

After the hiccup which was the release of AA3 last June it appears that the latest development team is making a counter-assault on the gaming community to bring the title back to its former glory. They've created a Youtube channel which features some map and weapon walkthroughs.

Sega going Napoleon on February 26th

The game that brings together real time and turn based strategy fans is going Napoleon when the creators behind the Total War series releases the latest edition on February 26th.

Both the standard edition and the super-special Imperial Edition versions of the Napoleon: Total War will be released on the same day.

The Imperial Edition will include some exclusive game content, such as Elite Regiments. That includes the French 5e Regiment de Hussards, the Russian Pavlograd Hussars, the Prussian 8th Life Regiment, the Austrian 47th (Czech) Regiment and the British 88th Foot "Connaught Rangers".

The Imperial Edition will also include The Heroes of the Napoleonic Wars content, which gives an extra unit for certain nations - the 7th Lancers (France), Brandeburg Uhlans (Prussia), 1st Hussars (Austria), 15th Hussars (Great Britain), 1st East Prussian Grenadier Battalion (Prussia), 6th Regiment d’Infanterie Légère (France), 17th Jäger Regiment (Russia), 1st Regiment Emperor's Own (Austria), 18th Regiment d’Infanterie de Ligne “The Brave” (France) and Moscow Musketeers (Russia).

Empire Total War is on the regular roster to play in the few hours I get to squeeze in. While managing an empire is somewhat challenging to this particular PC player, reliving war strategies from a military age gone by is an experience impossible to find in any other title.

I recently stumbled across the Prince of Macedon' You Tube page which not only features walkthroughs/replays of his online E:TW battles, but also includes self-made mini documentaries about early and mid century battles. Obviously setting up the camera on a stand, the videos are full of interesting information, facts and figures.

Whether new players are looking for a reason to get into Empire: Total War, or those who are already playing are looking for tips and hints, this is definitely YouTube channel to subscribe to.

Right now, I'm heading over to Steam and giving some serious thought to the pre-order offer of Napoleon: Total War Imperial Edition. It comes with Medievel II: Total War for only $10 more than the vanilla version, a bargain at half the price!

Game sucks? What if I give it to you for free?

Free can outwiegh crappy, at least thats the thoughts and business model of a Korean gaming company.

HanbitSoft thinks it can draw the same massive crowds to a free online version of Hellgate: London in North America and Europe as it has in Korea.

Hellgate: London was a much hyped RPG game that was reportedly so terrible it brought down the developer, Flagship Studios last January. But while the game servers for Hellgate: London may have closed down in the West, but it's been going strong in Korea for a while now even though legal issues over the ownership of the rights have prevented wider sales.

Those issues appear to have been settled and the game will be re-released as Hellgate: Resurrection, boasting new features and a new free-to-play business model.

"Hellgate: Resurrection is heading towards success in Korea such that we decided to push ahead with launching the game overseas next year. We will do our best to get the game to the fans as soon as possible," said Kee-young Kim, CEO of Hanbitsoft.

Not being a fan of RPG games, I personally never played it. Did get excited about the trailers which invoked King Arthur in sci-fi, blue LED armor battling demons in a cityscape reminiscent of Gears of War.

But bugs, gameplay and patch issues led to Flagship Studios filing bankruptcy and having all its intellectual property seized because it was used as collateral for funding received from Comerica Bank.

So the question is, if a game is free will the players be more forgiving? Of course it will all depend on how much can be played before having to pay. Also, how many games have folded but kept a special place in gamers hearts?

They have been citing free-to-play models as the next step in gaming with it already being a huge business in Asian markets. This is a great test for the US to see if it can truly take off.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Joysticks, guitars, blood and gore.....oh my....

Interesting how things work.

Just last week I read the different suggestions to a forum post asking about joysticks and there were some good answers. From an inexpensive Saitek Cybrog joystick to the beautiful Logitech G940 system ($300).


Of course being an old fart who remembers the glorious days of a multitude of choices not only in joysticks but also flight sims, Thrustmaster has always been a wishlist favorite.

The Hotas Cougar is a joystick thruster combo that is reportedly used by the US Air Force. It doesn't really get any better than that. Heavy and feels like the real thing, but at $229 the joystick combo isn't cheap and doesn't seem to get good reviews from users on websites like Newegg. Finally, there is no force feedback, something needed in for full immersion.

Why talk about joysticks? Well I downloaded Wings of Prey last night and a quick spin was 'challenging' trying to use my Logitech Wingman, which has collected dust under my desk and in moving boxes for about four years.

I've been meaning to get back into flight sims. I own the latest Falcon game, Microsofts Flight Sim as well as a few classics, but they require so much time to not only become proficient enough to make the game fun, but get anywhere in the missions.

The smart thing to do would be to buy an inexpensive joystick, say under $50 and see if I spend anytime in the cockpit before investing hundreds of dollars.

But since when have gamers done anything smart?

Guitars, blood and gore
Now that the gaming industry has released the sales numbers for 2009, predictions and analysis are pouring in. In a report on Gamespot a few items were touched on;

-You know that wing of Best Buy that's dominated by 'Rock Band', 'Rock Guitar' and every other alliteration? That could be going away the way of the Wii. It appears consumer interest isn't ongoing enough to support it.

-Blood sells. While other categories may have floundered, the games labelled M for Mature managed to M as in move, right off the shelves.

-Just because a roman numeral appears behind a title doesn't mean it will sell, developers need to put thought, effort and heres a novel concept, originality into new titles.

Like most people, my encounter with Rock Band came during a party after a few drinks. The experience didn't leave me with the yearning to buy a console to play it at home. Nope that honor stays with Gears of War, and thankfully it eventually came out on PC.

But it does frustrate me to have the rest of the gaming department squeezed into a small remaining area because of the overflowing shelves of game gadgets and custom guitars dedicated to the various versions of this genre.

As for the Mature games, sort of saw that coming. Nearly every game trailer requires age verification and the standards for mature games appears far tighter than those placed on television shows. Quite frankly the only console titles to do well are fighting and shooting games, and with todays' graphics and details displaying the effects of such, they're naturally going to be considered mature.

With all the major developers having a tough time with profits, one can only hope they pay attention to the last bullet point of good old-fashioned content with a dash of originality. The knee-jerk reaction is to go back to the well and roll out sequels of best-sellers with the next few months and upcoming year full of them.

Bioshock 2, Ghost Recon and the list goes on. Heck Assassins Creed 2 hasn't even hit the PC and the follow up should come out by the end of the year.

"All too often the economy is blamed for the recent industry contraction," Divnich said. "In reality, decreased sales in 2009 had more to do with a lack of innovation than economic recession. The growth of our industry now rests more on innovation than it ever has before, especially since nontraditional and casual markets consist of a larger share than in previous years. No longer can developers update a few maps, design some new weapons, add a few new characters, then throw a roman numeral at the end of the box and call it a 'sequel.' That may work for core targeted games (action, shooters, and RPGs), but this strategy is not ideal for nontraditional and casual gamers."

Developers take note, if you don't put some effort into it, don't blame piracy or gamers when it doesn't sell.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gabe Newell one step closer to ruler of everything gaming

Wow, its official. Gabe is King of the World!

The 2010 Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest honors in video game development, is beginning the announcement of its Special Awards for the tenth annual ceremony, taking place at GDC 2010 this March, and has named Valve co-founder Gabe Newell as the winner of this year's Pioneer Award.

The Pioneer Award -- originated by the Game Developers Choice Awards organizers at the 2008 Awards, and the first award to honor breakthrough figures in the game industry -- celebrates those individuals responsible for developing a vital technology or game design at a crucial juncture in video game history, paving the way for the many who followed them.
This year, the Choice Awards Advisory Committee, which includes notables such as Ben Cousins (EA DICE), Harvey Smith (Arkane), Raph Koster (Metaplace), John Vechey (PopCap), Ray Muzyka (BioWare), Clint Hocking (Ubisoft), and others has voted to give the Pioneer Award to Valve's Newell. He is being awarded for his work in co-creating the PC key digital download service Steam, and helping to make possible some of the most important video games of the past two decades -- from the Half-Life series through Portal to Team Fortress and beyond.

Newell, who co-founded Valve in 1996 after his departure from giant tech firm Microsoft, was instrumental in creating the company's first product, the critically acclaimed first-person shooter Half-Life, which brought sophisticated narrative and cut-scenes to the FPS for the first time, and has sold over 8 million copies. The company's keen, unprecedented encouragement of modding and community based around the Half-Life engine also led to the creation of the Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2 franchises.

Recent years have only buoyed Valve's reputation, including 2004's debut of the much-acclaimed Half-Life 2 episodes, the signing of the DigiPen team behind Narbacular Drop to create 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards Game of the Year Portal, and the Seattle-area firm's work to support and co-originate the co-operative centric Left 4 Dead franchise.

Steam, Valve's PC digital distribution platform, is another particular reason Newell is receiving this honor. Revealed at GDC in 2002 and made available to the public in 2003, the client has evolved from a method of seamlessly delivering game patches to a full community-based digital download ecosystem which regularly has more than 2 million concurrent users. Thus, it has become a key way for many smaller and larger PC game developers to gain fans and make money without requiring a physical retail publisher.

Valve's Newell will be on stage to collect his Special Award at GDC 2010 in San Francisco this March. Over 3,000 of the industry's top developers will be present at the Choice Awards ceremony to honor him and the other, to-be-revealed Special Award winners -- alongside the top games of 2009 in multiple categories.

The Game Developers Choice Awards -- open to any game, and with Main Competition winners being selected by the International Choice Awards Network, a new invitation-only group comprised of 500 leading game creators from all parts of the video game industry -- prides itself on being the most open, transparent, and respected video game awards anywhere. Further Special Award winners and Main Competition finalists will be announced in the near future.
Presented by Think Services' Game Developers Conference (GDC), this year's awards ceremony, held in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival Awards, will be hosted on Thursday, March 11th, during GDC 2010 at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Ghost Recon gearing up for another appearance

Just as tactical first person shooter fans were in mid air jumping for joy over the idea there would be another Ghost Recon game, they all surely wondered if the upcoming release will retain the PC traits it had managed to hang onto over the last few incarnations.

The first inklings of a new game came when it was reported Ubisoft had trademarked a new Ghost Recon title. Then on Friday January 15th, the company confirmed the existence of a new Ghost Recon game.

But with game developers choosing sizzle over substance such as exciting but linear gameplay, allowing the player to heal up with resting and changing to a third person view during the game, could what made the Ghost Recon franchise so popular among PC gamers go the way of Rainbow Six.

Rainbow Six went from a game wthat encouraged careful planning which could be staged with 'go' codes under a hail of deadly, lethal enemy accuracy. The lastest versions have third-person views when taking cover and the ability to heal up by resting away from enemy fire.

The good news is mingling with caution for PC FPS fans. While Ubisoft places the value of Ghost Recon among its hottest current commodities, it is also looking to generate buzz among gamers.

"The evolution of Ghost Recon will bring a completely new and fresh approach to the shooter genre," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said, "The title is so impressive, it has the potential to rival Assassin's Creed as our biggest game of fiscal year '11."

Assassins Creed comeback to save the world as well as Ubisoft's sales

It appears Ubisoft may be looking to the successful Assassin's Creed as the needed cash cow to offset a tough 2009.

No sooner did the gaming giant announce it was following up with the recent release of Assassin's Creed 2 with another edition, but it was going to include multiplayer.

In its third quarter fiscal update, Ubisoft announced that it has revised its quarterly and full-year sales targets down substantially and laid the blame for the move largely at the feet of the Avatar game. A "significant correction" in the DS market, an under-performing back catalog and delays of both R.U.S.E. and Splinter Cell Conviction all took their toll, but Avatar is the only game Ubisoft deemed important enough to mention specifically as a failure.

As if throwing some magical black ink across the company balance sheets, the next Assassin's Creed game will star the hero of Assassin's Creed 2.

"The game will take place with the same hero, which is Ezio, and will follow-up the story that took place in Assassin's Creed 2," an Ubisoft spokesman said.

Being nicknamed Assassins Creed 2.5, its expected to be a stand alone title, but along the lines of an expansion of the last game.

"We have a new Assassin's Creed that we expect will be a very high quality product that as well as an offline complement will have a multiplayer component," said Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot.

More details can be found at CVG.

Star Trek Online wants to assimilate your wallet

So Atari is uping the anty with Star Trek Online, seeing exactly how dedicated the game-playing fans of the sci-fi legend really are. Anyone who pre-orders a copy of STO will be eligible to sign up for either a $240 lifetime subscription or a $120 per year annual subscription.

And theres more!

Not only will players who plan to stick around for the long haul save money, but they'll have the chance to play as the borg.

The Liberated Borg begins with the following two traits:
  • Borg Nanites: +10% Health RegenerationDescription: Ground Trait. Constantly regenerates shields and health.

  • Efficient: +5 Starship Shield Efficiency, +5 Starship Engine Efficiency, +5 Starship Energy Weapon Efficiency, +5 Starship Auxiliary Systems Efficiency Description: Space Trait. Provides a bonus to efficiency stats, improving the effectiveness of many of your power management abilities.

The Liberated Borg also has a unique optional trait.

  • Neural Blast: 30 second debuff. Drastically reduces run speed. Every 4 seconds, Neural Blast has a 40% chance to hold the target for 3 seconds. Description: Activatable Ground Trait. Inject the target with neural toxins, which continually attempt to hold the target for the duration. Also reduces the target's movement speed.
Just whipping out the calculator here, if the online game and players manage to stick it out past 16 months, anyone who took advantage of the lifetime subscription will be ahead of the game, excuse the pun.

Similarly, annual subscribers save about $60 a year based on the month to month fee of $15. Annual and lifetime subscribers also get two additional character slots.

Although not a MMORPG, I ended up playing Planetside, (one of the more successful if not the only MMOFPS) for over six years. While certainly not consistent in the last two of those years, I ended up paying Sony nearly $700. Even when I hadn't logged in for over twelve months, I was bummed to find old credit card information had led to non-payment, cancellation of my account and most importantly, loss of my character with all his ranks and priviliges.

The last point is the one to ponder for potential STOL fans.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

PC Game sales and statistics (really is more interesting than it sounds)

So the powers that be, the NPD Group to be precise, issued its 2009 report for US retail sales. The report was delayed by a week with many wondering if the stay of information meant bad news for the gaming industry.

While the figures were substantially off from last year's mark, US non-PC hardware, software, and accessory sales came in at $19.66 billion for the year, down 8 percent from the $21.4 billion the industry brought in during 2008, industry experts claim the overall trend is looking good.

"When we started the last decade, video game industry sales, including PC games, totaled $7.98 billion in 2000," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said of the industry's performance. "In 10 years, the industry has changed dramatically in many ways, but most importantly it was grown over those years by more than 250 percent at retail alone. Considering there are many new sources of revenue including subscriptions and digital distribution, industry growth is even more impressive."

As for what sold the best?

2009 PC Game Software

1) The Sims 3 - Electronic Arts
2) World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King - Blizzard
3) The Sims 2 Double Deluxe - Electronic Arts
4) World of Warcraft: Battle Chest - Blizzard
5) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Activision
6) World of Warcraft - Blizzard
7) The Sims 3: World Adventures - Electronic Arts
8) Spore - Electronic Arts
9) Dragon Age: Origins - Electronic Arts
10) Empire: Total War - Sega

Yep, you read that right. Gamers would rather live a life on the computer with The Sims, rather than play the latest sensation and shooter on rails, Modern Warfare 2.

Now if you want to know what they're playing online right now, the latest stats from Steam;

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Multiplayer (116,084)
Counter-Strike: Source (90,252)
Counter-Strike (76,284)
Team Fortress 2 (20,361)
Left 4 Dead 2 (18,212)
Football Manager 2010 (24,977)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (14,188)
Empire: Total War (10,743)
Garry's Mod (4,945)
Left 4 Dead (5,266)
Star Trek Online - Beta (2,942)

The number following the game is the peak number of players at any one time today. What is surprising is seeing a real time strategy such as Empire: Total War attracting so many players and a beta (Star Trek) being so popular.

Will Star Trek Online enjoy the instant success of Star Wars; Galaxies and if so will their fate fair better for keeping players and avoiding gamer disappointment?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Game designer, producer, programmer and technologist inducted into gaming Hall of Fame

Next month a legendary name in gaming will get one of the highet honors.

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) has announced that Mark Cerny will be the 13th inductee into the Academy's Hall of Fame, which is bestowed upon individuals who've contributed a significant advancement within the industry while demonstrating proven success and leadership.

The Hall of Fame Award will be presented by Brian Allgeier, Creative Director at Insomniac Games, at the 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards®. The Awards, hosted by actor, comedian and avid video game player Jay Mohr, will take place during the 2010 D.I.C.E. Summit on Thursday, February 18, 2010 at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, and broadcast on IFC-TV February 25.

"Mark Cerny is the closest we have come to a modern-day Da Vinci," said Joseph Olin, president, AIAS. "He is a diversely accomplished game designer, producer, programmer and technologist. Fluent in Japanese and one of the foremost Western experts on the Japanese game market, he's also one of the only top-level independents in a business dominated by institutions. His contributions to projects have been phenomenally successful, with sales of almost two billion dollars and over a dozen titles each exceeding two million units in sales."

Cerny's legacy is more than just an impressive list of games; through his work he was also instrumental in fostering the development of some of the video game industry's top stars.

"Mark is one of the only individuals who have managed to stay on the cutting edge of game development from the heyday of arcade games all the way up to the current generation of gaming consoles," said Evan Wells, co-president, Naughty Dog. "Each step of the way he's redefined how the industry thinks about game design, technology, and production philosophies. The franchises he's helped launch are some of the most influential in the business."

Cerny made an early start in games. In 1982 at the age of 17, he left his studies in math and physics at the University of California, Berkeley to become a programmer and game designer for Atari Games. There he created Marble Madness, an early arcade classic still remembered for its Escher-esque graphics and physics-based gameplay.

In 1985 Cerny joined Sega, relocating to its Tokyo offices and transitioning from arcade games to cartridge-based games for home systems. At the time, he spoke no Japanese, however he quickly became proficient in the language. In addition to creating conventional games such as Shooting Gallery for the Sega Master System, Cerny worked in the extreme high-tech end of the 1980's console business, setting up a line of 3-D games using active shutter glasses, and an online games network - both projects ahead of their time. After three years in Tokyo he returned to the US, where he founded and managed the Sega Technical Institute and oversaw the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Cerny joined Universal Studios in 1994 to set up product development at their interactive group, as VP and later President. Shifting to a producer role, Cerny managed the design and development of the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series for PlayStation, focusing on enhancing the games' appeal for the Japanese market. The games were blockbuster hits, selling over 30 million units internationally. In Japan, the Crash Bandicoot series became the most successful foreign developed, character-based video game of all time, a distinction it still holds today.

In 1998, Cerny founded Cerny Games where he consulted on behalf of Universal Studios of subsequent Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot titles. He then worked with Insomniac and Naughty Dog on their debut titles for PlayStation 2 as engine programmer for Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and game designer for Ratchet & Clank.

At the inaugural D.I.C.E Summit in 2002, Cerny first spoke in public on his unique production methodology, which he calls Method. "Mark's thinking on how best to create games has been truly influential," states Bruce Shelley, 2009 inductee into the AIAS Hall of Fame. "The Cerny Method, with its emphasis on creative freedom and risk taking, has informed the debate on the proper role of preproduction in video game development."

In recent years, Mark has continued to work as an independent, contributing in various ways to Resistance: Fall of Man, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Resistance II, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and God of War III, as well as a number of technology initiatives at Sony Computer Entertainment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Good year, wait bad year...but then again....

Is PC gaming going to start the new year off to a rough start?

According to Bit-Tech, Steam's sales are bopping along with no big surprises. Star Trek Online is following in the neutron trail of its sci-fi franchise predecessor Star Wars' Galaxies by (some would say blindly) bringing in the fans. Modern Warfare 2 still shooting up the sales along with fan favorite Left 4 Dead 2.

The charts;

1.  Star Trek: Online
2.  Star Trek: Online Digital Deluxe Edition
3.  Modern Warfare 2
4.  Global Agenda
5.  Left 4 Dead 2
6.  Borderlands
7. Wings of Prey
8. Dragon Age: Origins
9. Torchlight
10 Mass Effect (I think there was a typo on this one and should read 'Mass Effect 2')

Everything seems fine, right?

Yet over at Gamespot the news is analyists aren't happy with how the games finished up 2009, 'The NPD Group won't release its December US game sales figures until Thursday, but Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter is expecting the research firm to leave a lump of coal in the industry's collective stocking. In a note to investors, Pachter predicted that the NPD Group's figures would show December gaming software sales down 12 percent year-over-year to $2.45 billion.'

Interestingly, I connected these dots right after posting the previous entry that has an online gaming company predicting 2010 is the year PC gaming would take the fight to the consoles.

Aren't opinions funny?