Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Till We See The Sunlight: On Miley

Night's over. Time to head home.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Last Dinosaur to the Mammal Party? PS Vita

Sometimes I'd like to not be such a realist.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Ubisoft Won't Let You Play Their Games

 Okay. Here's the headline. From next Tuesday, Ubisoft are taking their Uplay servers down to move them to a new location, which means that a whole raft of their games with the abominable always-on DRM will be unplayable. The games that you bought will not – through any fault of your own – work. In single player. They're not saying when the games will be playable again.

 Settlers 7, HAWX 2, and Might and Magic: Heroes VI are affected for sure, but they're guarenteeing that Driver: San Francisco and Assassin's Creed: Revelations will stay up. The status of games like Assassin's Creed 2 are a bit more up in the air post-anti-DRM patching. This is, obviously, terrible and stupid. For a method apparently designed to stop the piracy of games to frequently provide a worse service than the pirates – or, as here, no service at all to legitimate paying customers – is an absolute disgrace.

Rayman Origins being released with virtually no DRM suggests that this attitude is not all-pervasive in the company, and that Ubi may be considering changing direction, but I'm not too sure. Driver: San Francisco recently saw the attempted return of always-on horribleness, before being changed to the still-not-good-enough always-needing-to-be-on-at-launch watered-down version, and the less said about PC-only Anno 2070's hardware-tied DRM the better.

You do wonder about Ubisoft's internal politics. Obviously piracy is a convenient straw man for all sorts of ills within PC gaming, but you can't treat it as a kill-or-cure cancer. It's the one case where this sort of cure won't fix the disease, and won't kill the patient, but could rebound and take out the doctor. It's not too hard to look at the record industry and see just that taking place. Until then, my advice is to vote with your wallets.

Galactic Council: SWTOR Wants You

Run a guild in The Old Republic? Bioware wants to talk to you. Now. Well, not actually now. On the 4th-6th March. In person. Bioware have announced that they are holding their first 'Guild Summit', which I prefer to think of as the Galactic Council, in Austin, Texas, and they're inviting any guild leaders who are willing to stump up the airfare/hotel costs if they apply via this link. While there, they'll get to attend Q&A sessions with the developers, see new features planned, and give their feedback on the game.

I think that the only way such meetings will truly capture their subject matter (and justify the cost of getting there) is if they insist that all attendees dress up in full character costume, hold their meetings in the Death Star conference room, and that the eternal matter of Who Is Better, the Sith or the Jedi, be settled by a foam lightsaber duel between the guild leaders. 

I also demand, in my capacity as a non-attendee, that the winner of the Sith/Jedi duel then face-off against a representative of the development team, with the prizes on offer being:

a) If the guild leader wins, a new feature of their design being incorporated into the game whatever it may be.
b) If the development team representative wins, the guild leader has to man the customer service telephone lines, for a week.

I think that's fair.

For more details, click here.

We're Gonna Build This Land: Skyrim Creation Kit

Skyrim was a special game. So special, in fact, that it was officially RPS' Best Game of 2011. But, like all Bethesda games, there was the feeling that it could be even more special. Worry no more! The Skyrim Creation Kit is out on Tuesday, and finally lets modders (who have apparently been tweaking Skyrim since almost before release) play around with building bits of Skyrim themselves. So far most of the tweaks have been cosmetic, but the Creation Kit will allow players to make their own models and maps.

This is potentially fabulously exciting – you only have to look at projects like Nehrim or Morroblivion to see the quality that people can produce when let loose with Bethesda's Creation Kits, and we already know that much of the surrounding Tamriel is present in blurred form over the edge of Skyrim's mountains:

I can't wait for someone to add in the details. So come on, modders. Impress us. You know what to do.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Unassuming Group of Robots: Humble Android Bundle

I do wonder about the Humble Bundles. Surely a time will come when every indie game ever made will have been wrapped up with its peers, and sold for whatever the customer is willing to fork out. Ah-ha, says Humble Bundles – there is a solution. They're indie games, Jim, but not as we know them. This time, the games can be played on a phone.

So, here we have the genius puzzler World of Goo (does anyone not own this game? Where have you been for the last four years? No, seriously, where?), the ambient-but-strangely-stressful Osmos, inverse tower-defence Anomaly: Warzone Earth, and Tim Langdell-irritant puzzle-platformer EDGE. World of Goo, the one game of the bunch to have been an RPS game of the year, is only available if you pay above the average (as has become standard for the cherries on these particular cakes), which for this bundle is a quite respectable $6.05. As always, as much money as you want goes to the developers, or to the charities Child's Play and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

PC codes are available for all the games here, but the real reason to be interested is the Android versions. Where once games like these cost £30 and came in boxes the size of those you'd keep cereal in, now you can buy them for whatever price you like, in no box at all, and play them on a pocket telephone the size of a wallet. Truly, we live in the future.

King of Payne: Max Returns

Male pattern baldness is a genetic curse. An affliction. Look at those poor men without hair. Do you think they want to be like that? Do you want to be like that? Cricket legend Shane Warne doesn't. But who is Shane Warne kidding? Bald men are cool. Just look at Sir Patrick Stewart. There is only one way to look even better than bald. Bald with a beard. Truly mankind has never looked more dapper. Join me in nodding appreciatively at Arsenal hero and statue /despicable handball cheat (delete the second if not Irish) Thierry Henry.

Max Payne understands this, because Max is, as André 3000 would say, ice-cool. For his next game, the first in nine years (it's been nearly a decade since the last Max Payne game. Think about that. Are you scared yet?), Max is shaving off his spiky locks and migrating that hair southwards. He's also added a bit of weight, and become a bit of a drunk. He'll have to be careful with those painkillers – hasn't anyone told him you can't mix paracetamol with alcohol?

This game is developed by Rockstar rather than Remedy (Rockstar were the publisher on the first two games) and from the first look it doesn't have the same big American city noir vibe that the first two so successfully exploited. Good – there's only so far you can take that, and I felt that by the end of Max Payne 2 the series had probably done it. Shifting the focus to the slums of San Paolo while keeping the noir plotting gives it a fresh lick of paint, and I for one am excited. Welcome back, Max.

Uke-ant Always Get What You Want: MS Flight

You-kel-lay-lay. Oo-kal-el-ey. Yuke. Hawaii is the land of tiny guitars, and not, as you might have thought, the only sound you'll hear before being kung fu'd by a ninja. It also doesn't have seasons, which to a British person is like finding out that other countries have semi-skimmed milk bottle-tops in colours other  than green. It blows your mind. Warmth, all year! What luxury, whatever George Clooney might think.

It's also the starting setting for Microsoft Flight, the Seattle giant's brand new free-to-play pay-to-expand sequel to Flight Simulator, the epic franchise which gave sim-journo extraordinaire Tim Stone one of the most boring, yet rewarding, days of his career. I would guess that you will be able to purchase add-ons to fly elsewhere before too long (thereby suggesting Microsoft Studios are taking their DLC inspiration from David Bowie), but for now you'll have to make do with one of the most beautiful places on Earth, looking for fictional secret hatches  and real plastic beaches. Any additional purchasing will be through GFWL.

I like the idea of Flight, though – a scalable free sim experience could be just the way to build up an audience for this very unique and special style of game.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The British Are Coming! Empire: Total War Game Diary

Empire: Total War is a sprawling mess. It's an insanely huge game, upgrading the theatre of war from the country or continent of past Total War games to three enormous landmasses – all of Europe, the East coast of the Americas (the Caribbean and the top of South America included) and the Indian subcontinent. Play the Grand Campaign, and you're having to navigate all of them.

It's entirely appropriate.