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Friday, Nov 21, 2008

  

Pre-purchase GTA4, Get GTA Vice City Free

Steam now offers pre-purchase of their digital distributed edition of Grand Theft Auto IV for Windows. Those willing to part with their cash in advance of the release of the game will be rewarded with a free copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to play right now.

Digital Wrath of the Lich King

The World of Warcraft Website now offers a way for World of Warcraft owners to upgrade to the Wrath of the Lich online: "You can now buy account-upgrade keys and download the game client for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King directly through the account-management section of www.worldofwarcraft.com. The direct online upgrade method is the most convenient way to upgrade to Wrath of the Lich King and join the millions of players who are already adventuring in Northrend."

Sins of a Solar Empire Hotfix

The Sins of a Solar Empire Website has word that a version 1.11 hotfix for the space strategy game is now available via Impulse: "A version 1.11 hotfix is now available for registered Sins of a Solar Empire customers via Impulse. This minor update fixes a resource exploit that was reported to us yesterday (thanks to everyone who helped us find this!)."

Tomb Raider: Underworld Review Anarchy in the UK

Videogaming247 reports that Eidos UK's PR firm has been asking British websites to hold off posting their Tomb Raider: Underworld reviews until Monday if they are giving the game lower than an 80 score, admitting this is an effort at maintaining a good Metacritic score "to ensure that we don’t put people off buying the game, basically." The story broke thanks to a Twitter post by a reviewer at GameSpot UK, which brings to mind the scandal dubbed Gerstmann-gate, that involved GameSpot, Eidos, and a respected journalist who lost his job after a lukewarm review for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. VG247 also has a lengthy follow-up statement from the PR firm that stresses they have no problem with negative reviews, and states that reports of "problems" with Eurogamer's review of the game were related to accuracy, and not the game's final score, concluding with this: "Barrington Harvey has been working hard to ensure the launch scores of Tomb Raider Underworld are in line with our internal review predictions over the launch weekend - but to suggest that we can in some way 'silence' reviews of the game is slightly overstating our influence."

Gabe Newell and Chet Faliszek on Left 4 Dead

There's a post by Gabe Newell on Edge Online offering the Valve Managing Director's pleased reaction to this week's release of Left 4 Dead. He offers some fascinating insights into the process they've created for developing and testing games, describing behavioral modeling they do to determine the comfort level of players in their games, and describing the way this enables them to create a proper sense of pace. He offers insights on one of their "theories of fun," challenges they overcame, and the emphasis they place on testing, testing, and more testing. Also, the Left 4 Dead live interview on Eurogamer transcribes a live chat with Valve's Chet Faliszek from earlier today. Along the way Chet explains the game's long development cycle: "That is a common question for people who played it back awhile back. While many of the core mechanics remain the same - the focus on co-op from the ground up etc., many of the polish and tweaking levels still remained. And when Valve was able to supplement the original team of 10 with a team of 50, we were able to give it a complete graphical overhaul as well. And that wasn't just to look pretty, but served gameplay elements as well."

96% of Games Unprofitable?

Cooking Up A Blockbuster Game on Forbes.com reports some data from Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR), who do market research on games for clients like Electronic Arts and Activision. They offer a shocking tidbit, saying only 4% of released games are profitable: "Only 4% of games that make it to market actually make a profit, he says. About 60% of a game's budget is spent reworking or redesigning a game. Armed with all this data, companies can make those tough calls early in the development process." Thanks GameDaily.

Fallout 3 Patch Plans

The Bethesda Game Studios Forums have a very brief post from Bethesda on plans for a Fallout 3 patch: "We are currently working on a patch for all three platforms. When I've got more details, I'll let everyone know." Thanks ActionTrip.

Kivi's Underworld Beta Patches

Soldak Entertainment now offers new patches for Kivi's Underworld to update the Windows and MacOS editions of this casual, hack-and-slash action/adventure game to version 1.001. Word is: "A beta patch means it has been tested, but not enough to be an official patch. So use at your own risk." The benefits to taking that risk can be found in the patch notes.

More Grand Theft Auto IV Machinima

Two new movies from the upcoming Windows edition of Grand Theft Auto IV are now available with more machinima using the open-world action sequel and the movie editor that will accompany the release of the PC edition. There's a dialog-free clip titled "Burgatory" with a twilight zone take on Burger Shot on AtomicGamer, ComputerGames.ro, FileFront, and Gamer's Hell. There's also a clip called "Comrades" on AtomicGamer, ComputerGames.ro, FileFront, and Gamer's Hell that is some sort of buddy movie.

All Aspect Warfare Movie

The All Aspect Warfare Website offers the first in a series of "making of" movies from All Aspect Warfare, 3000AD's upcoming science fiction combat game. Word is: "This first movie, 'The Gank,' shows the player's night time infiltration of an enemy base in order to steal one of their vehicles for use in the search of the R.A.N.D.O.M. weapon that thus far, hasn't gone off." The clip is mirrored on AtomicGamer, FileFront, and Gamer's Hell.

Op Ed

Evening Previews

Evening Screenshots

Evening Consolidation

Evening Tech Bits

Mobilization

Metaverse

Safety Dance

Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Gold - Prince of Persia - Updated

Update: We've gotten a confirmation that the Windows edition will arrive in stores on December 9 a week after the release of the console editions.

Original Story: Ubisoft announces that Prince of Persia is gold, and off for duplication, saying the now-complete new installment in the platformer series is expected in stores on December 2 for all platforms, including Windows. We've previously seen indications that the Windows edition would be out on December 9, a week after the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions, but our pleas to Ubisoft for clarity on this have so far met with silence, so we'll just have to see how this goes. Back to the game itself, the announcement points out there's still time to preorder the game, which gets you an automatic free upgrade to a limited edition of the game, which will include the soundtrack, a strategy guide, special packaging, and more.

Ships Ahoy - Left 4 Dead

Valve announces that Left 4 Dead is now showing up in retail stores worldwide, following the digitally distributed debut of the multiplayer zombie shooter earlier this week via Steam. In case the game's well-publicized $10 million marketing budget has missed you (I actually haven't seen many mainstream ads for it yet myself), here's a bit on the game: "Set in a modern day survival-horror universe, the game casts you as one of four survivors in an epic struggle against swarming hordes of zombies and terrifying mutants. The four expansive campaigns offer single player and co-operative game modes. Left 4 Dead also features a Versus mode that allows players to take control of one of four types of 'Boss Infected,' with each 'Boss' possessing a mutant ability instead of traditional firearms. In addition, Left 4 Dead offers gamers the chance to go 'behind the scenes' of the making of the game via the 'Director's Commentary' mode."

Tabula Rasa Closing

Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa Website has a "Message from the Tabula Rasa Team," saying NCsoft is closing down the science fiction MMORPG at the end of February 2009, expressing their pride in having created a game with "unique features that make it fun and very different from every other MMO out there," but ultimately admitting that "the game never achieved the player population we hoped for." In the meantime the game will go free to play as of January 10, 2009, and they say: "We can assure you that through the next couple of months we'll be doing some really fun things in Tabula Rasa, and we plan to make staying on a little longer worth your while. For more details about what we are doing for Tabula Rasa players, please click here." Kotaku has a follow-up on this from NCsoft's David Swofford who says there will be layoffs as a result of this. Tabula Rasa, which means "clean slate" was designed by Ultima creator Richard Garriott, who recently returned from a trip to space and announced he was leaving NCsoft to pursue "new interests." Thanks nin.

Red Alert 3 Demo Monday; Patch Details

Electronic Arts announces they will release a playable demo for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 on Monday, offering the chance to sample the recently released new installment in this alternate-reality real-time strategy series. The single-player demo will debut GameSpot, where there's a countdown time indicating 3:00 pm EST is specifically when to expect the release, and word on content is it includes the game's entire seven minute opening cinematic, three interactive tutorials and one campaign mission from each of the Soviet and the Allied campaigns. The announcement also says the game's first major patch is to be released "later this year," and will include WorldBuilder for map-making and game modification, enhancements to AutoMatch, balance fixes and a de-authorization tool to manage the game's DRM authentications. They conclude promising: "More details on the patch will be made available soon."

Rise of the Argonauts Movies

The Rise of the Argonauts Movies Section has a pair of new movies from Liquid Entertainment's upcoming mythology-inspired action/RPG. One clip is titled "Honour the Gods," which shows the pleasure the deities in the game take at your ass-kicking ways. There is also a related "Levelling Up" movie, where lead designer Charley Price outlines the game's advancement system, which likewise rewards you for your battles, though this also has another component influenced through dialog choices.

Gamer Web Browser

Rogue from GotGame is a new web browser specifically designed to operate properly while playing games. The announcement about the release explains the reasoning here: "The application is optimized to impact the gaming experience as little as possible. Gamers can set the browser’s transparency so the entire game screen is still visible, even if the browser is open. This means that they can, for instance, watch online videos overlaying their game at 50% transparency, while at the same time 'grinding' for experience in Age of Conan." Thanks Ant and TechCrunch.

MMA Fighter Cut over Game Deal - Updated

Update: A story on MMA WEEKLY has word that this stick has been followed by a carrot, as Jon Fitch is back with the UFC, and he and members of the American Kickboxing Academy are all willing to sign the game contract. Thanks MrBone.

Original Story: UFC drops Fitch, AKA fighters reports an unusual situation where the Ultimate Fighting Championship has cut a fighter from their mixed martial arts league because of his refusal to sign a licensing deal with THQ to use his image in an upcoming UFC game. Welterweight contender Jon Fitch was cut and UFC president Dana White further says UFC does not want to deal with any fighters who are part of the American Kickboxing Academy team in San Jose, Calif. or those represented by DeWayne Zinkin and Bob Cook. According to Fitch, the deal he refused was a lifetime contract which would not pay his family in the event of his death. For his part, White says the fighters, who spend hours a day training to risk life and limb for this extreme sport, so not understand the "sacrifices" being made by UFC management. Thanks GameSpot. The Impact Wrestling Website has an extensive interview on the controversy with Dan Lambert, president of American Top Team, another fighting camp involved in the deal.

Star Wars Galaxies Get Vehicular

Eurogamer has word that the Battle of Hoth is now being recreated in Star Wars Galaxies, the MMOG by SOE set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Chapter 11: The Battle of Echo Base, has launched, adding vehicle combat to recreate the epic battle scene that opened The Empire Strikes Back. Rebel snowspeeders or Imperial AT-STs are usable in the battle, which apparently features appearances by Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and R2-D2. And if my tauntaun dies before I reach the first marker? Well then I'll see you in hell!

Midway Gets Delisting Warning

Midway Gets Delisting Warning from NYSE has the report that Midway has gotten one of those NastyGrams the New York Stock Exchange sends to firms whose stock prices remain below the $1.00/share threshold for 30 days. Midway recently reported $75.9 Million in third-quarter losses, and the NYSE notification gives them six months to get their stock values back above that $1.00 mark or risk being delisted. It's a long climb, though, as Midway was trading at $0.25 a share at the close of trading yesterday.

DirectX 11 & Windows 7

PCGH has word from Microsoft that DirectX 11 will be included with Windows 7, clarifying some confusion on the topic spread by the scallywags at PCGH. Word is DirectX 11 will also be released for Vista, so there will apparently not be a repeat of the attempt to enforce obsolescence technological hurdles that prevented Direct X 10 from being released for Windows XP.

EU Ships Ahoy - Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb Raider Underworld is now available in most European territories for Games for Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and DS, following Tuesday's North American debut of the latest installment in the platformer series. A playable demo is available for Windows as well as consoles, and word is: "Tomb Raider: Underworld™ seamlessly blends exploration, grand scale puzzle solving and combat, taking players on an archeological journey to the ancient netherworlds of the Mediterranean, Thailand, Mexico, the Arctic Sea and more. As fearless adventurer Lara Croft, gamers uncover proof of the existence of the Norse underworld and the mythical Hammer of Thor, and embark on a perilous journey towards a forgotten power that, if unleashed, could lay waste to all of civilization. Lara’s latest adventure introduces scores of new capabilities and state-of-the-art gear, including an active sonar map, multi-purpose grapple and an all-terrain motorbike. With fresh moves that are more intuitive and realistic than ever before, players must master these in order to navigate through treacherous environments and defeat a range of hostile enemies."

More on Sci Fi's TV/GamePlans

This press release sheds a little light on Sci Fi Channel's MMOG/TV show plans, saying former Carbine/Blizzard developer Kevin Beardslee (World of Warcraft) and television writer Peter Egan will be part of this game/television hybrid. Details about the project are still scant, but word is: "This innovative collaboration falls under the aegis of SCI FI Ventures, SCI FI’s portfolio of media and non-media businesses that extend beyond the television screen and leverage the SCI FI brand affinity. The business and creative collaboration model will result in the first-ever truly immersive cross-media entertainment experience that allows the audience to actively participate in the developing storyline that will grow simultaneously in both video game and television form."

Morning Consolidation

Turbine on MMOG Expansion-mania

The LOTRO: Mines of Moria Launch Interview with Jeffrey Steefel on Ten Ton Hammer talks with the Turbine boss about the new expansion for their Tolkien-inspired MMORPG, discussing the launch, and the daunting task of going head-to-head with the launch of the new World of Warcraft and EverQuest II expansions, which "just worked out that way," according to Steefel, who goes on to explain: "A couple things drive when we release our products: what we think the needs of our players are and when they need something substantial besides book updates, and when we think we’re going to have a time frame for when we’re going to be ready with that content. We really decide our own timeline based on that, and although there were some thoughts floating around on when the other developers were going to release expansions, but nobody really knew. I think we – as companies – need to focus on what we need to do and not get in each others way intentionally."

Pirates of the Caribbean Online Interview

The Pirates of the Caribbean Online interview on Massive Gamer Magazine chats with Mike Goslin about Pirates of the Caribbean Online, their youth-oriented MMORPG that ties in with the mascara-heavy movie series. Well, at least it was designed for younger audiences, but Mike says the demographics of their audience was a big surprise: "We got a lot of older players. We were focusing on young teenagers as our audience, and hoping for some of their parents. But a large percentage of players are over 18. Some of them are playing with their kids, but a lot are just older, more casual MMOG players. We wound up much more in the competitive space than we thought we would be."

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Yup, it's been another year already, so it seems to be my birthday once again. I'd like to thank the academy, and to say to all you young people out there, that my example should demonstrate that with enough perseverance, you too can be old some day, just stick with it.

Carefully Aged Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: Scenic. Thanks Jay is Games.
Links: New Video Game Designed To Have No Influence On Kids' Behavior.
Five Centuries of Board Games.
Stories: Dog drives van into NY coffee house. Thanks Devicer. "At these prices, I'm not surprised."
Parrot given Prozac after owner dies. Thanks Anonymous Coward.
Science: Out Of Pure Light, Physicists Create Particles Of Matter. Misdated. Thanks Anonymous Coward.
Scientists Say Copernicus' Remains Found. Thanks Neutronbeam.
Scientists discover long-lost Furby-look-alike.
Auction: Women In Games International Celebrity Ebay Auction.
Media: FarCry 2 - Explosive Dominos Setup.
Duck Hunt Hack - Shooting The Dog.
Nike: "The Next Level". Thanks Kevin.
The Funnies: Three Panel Soul. Thanks rist3903.



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