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Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009

  

PC Braid Dated

Preorders of the PC edition of Braid are now being accepted via Impulse. No incentives or discounts are offered, so this is just peace of mind for those worried they may run out of the downloadable game before they get a copy. The listing does provide a release date for the Windows version of the puzzle/platformer, which was previously predicted for a February/March release, saying the game will come on March 31. Here's a description of the game: "Braid is a puzzle-platformer, drawn in a painterly style, where the player manipulates the flow of time in strange and unusual ways. From a house in the city, journey to a series of worlds and solve puzzles to rescue an abducted princess. In each world, you have a different power to affect the way time behaves, and it is time's strangeness that creates the puzzles. The time behaviors include: the ability to rewind, objects that are immune to being rewound, time that is tied to space, parallel realities, time dilation, and perhaps more. Braid treats your time and attention as precious; there is no filler in this game. Every puzzle shows you something new and interesting about the game world."

Battlefield Heroes Keys Sent

The Battlefield Heroes Website has word that 4000 keys have gone out for new beta testers for the online military shooter, saying they expect to accelerate the rate at which keys are sent out over the next few weeks. As previously announced those who signed up at QA Boss are first in line, and they will make an announcement when those are all out and keys will start going to those who signed up more recently.

Orange Box & Saints Row 2 Patched

Steam News announces an update to the Orange Box engine; among other things, this fixes problems in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Source mods running under the Orange Box. They also announce an automatic update is now available for Saints Row 2, addressing some bugs, adding custom graphics settings support, and support for 16:9 monitors.

On TF2 Changes

A post on the Team Fortress 2 Website by Valve's Robin Walker offers further explanation of the changes made to Sticky Bombs in yesterday's Team Fortress 2 patch. The explanation entails how damage is calculated and the complications of the Sticky Bomb code (complete with a graph for board meeting fans), and why they feel balance is now better served: "Why did we do this? We didn't think that the Demoman was overpowered at medium & long ranges, where the charge up time provides an existing penalty. If we did a straight damage reduction across the board, we would affect that. In addition, by weakening the Demoman specifically at short range, we've created a weakness that enemies can take advantage of in combat, and makes the Demoman wary of specific enemy classes (like the Scout and Pyro)."

On Midway's Fate

Edge Online reports that the future of Midway is dependent on the courts, as their recent Bankruptcy filing is under consideration. The court approved first day motions concerning the payment of employees and some vendors, which CEO Matt Booty called "an important first step in this planned and orderly reorganization." On a semi-related note, GamePolitics reports unconfirmed indications that Midway has departed the ESA.

Dawn of War II Q&A

Dawn of War II is an attempt to save real time strategy on Fidgit offers a conversation with Jonny Ebert about Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, and how Relic is looking to save their favored RTS genre from extinction. Topics include their bold step away from the base building a resources of the first Dawn of War, how non-RTS junkies have reacted to the changes, balance tweaking, how beta testing went, changes to units and how they are handled, the use of that GFWL "skill" matchmaking for multiplayer, races, plans for DLC, why they are only shipping with seven multiplayer maps, and more. Here's part of his explanation of rethinking the genre: "Most genres, like first person shooters and massively-multiplayer and free-to-play games, the ones that are experiencing strong growth, were constantly working to simplify themselves and make themselves more approachable, where RTS is going in the opposite direction. It seems like each one was more complicated than the last. The other genres were having constant breakthroughs in pacing, reward structure, drawing players systematically into the experience, whereas RTS had stayed the same across the board. To us, it felt obvious that we were falling behind for a reason. We decided we needed to simplify the entry point but retain the depth at the back end."

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X Movie

A brief new trailer shows off a Kulbitinscy (or Kulbit) performed in the upcoming Tom Clancy aerial combat game; one of the more exotic aerobatic maneuvers in the book. If you're curious, grab your parachute and your Dramamine and head over to AtomicGamer or MyGameTrailers for a gander.

Evening Previews

  • Battlestations: Pacific on GamesRadar.
  • Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim on GameSpy.
  • Street Fighter IV on IGN.

Evening Screenshots

  • Demigod on the Official Website. "Random Beta 3 screenshots" from Gas Powered Games' action/strategy/RPG.

Evening Consolidation

Evening Tech Bits

Mobilization

Metaverse

Safety Dance

Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

TF2 Scout Update Next Week

Team Fortress 2 Website now offers the first in a series of media releases to tease a Team Fortress 2 patch next Tuesday that will include the long awaited revamp to the Scout class. The first feature covers the Sandman, saying:

Your Scouts are going to love this highly collectible bat that smacks baseballs at the other team, stunning the living crap out of anyone dumb, slow, drunk, mute, or Australian enough to get in the way. The farther the ball flies before ricocheting offa some chucklehead's skull, the longer he's gonna be stunned. And guys who think they're tough because they're invulnerable? It works on them too. Now the bad news: You can't double-jump when you're carrying this little beauty. On the other hand, double-jumping never put anyone in a coma.

Sin City and Heroes over Europe Woes

Joystiq reports that publisher Red Mile is running short on cash, and may be on the verge of going under, saying this jeopardizes the future of the Sin City video game and Heroes over Europe. This problem apparently began when Atari pulled out of the deal for Heroes over Europe for unnamed reasons earlier this month, leaving Red Mile over a quarter of a million dollars in the red to developer Transmission Games, who shifted gears and drove away from the project. The company is considering suing Atari for compensatory damages, but with only enough cash on hand to stay open through next month, and needing an estimated $10,000,000 to operate over the next two to three years, there may not be enough time left to rescue the company. Thanks Mike Martinez.

On the LEGO Universe Delay

Ten Ton Hammer follows up on release plans for LEGO Universe, the LEGO-themed MMORPG that was announced with a Q4 2008 release date. A quick check of the calendar shows the game has suffered a delay from that plan, and the hammer-wielders spoke with Mark Hansen of LEGO, who indicates the toy maker is in control of the game's release schedule:

The decision has been made within the company to wait to launch [LEGO Universe]. We're trying to align the physical play with the virtual play. We never know what products are going to be "hitting" or not, and we actually have a lot of products that are out there right now that are "hitting." We want to get the feel of LEGO into this game to match those products. We also don't want to detract from those products that are out there that are doing very well.

A lot of our decisions have been focused around what we're going to gain and what we're going to lose by holding this game back. We don't know how long we're going to delay the launch of [LEGO Universe], so I can't tell you anything specific on that. But we can say that it is going to be a delay of some time. Not a long period of time, but we don't know exactly how much.

BlizzCon 2009 in August

Blizzard announces August 21-22 as the dates for the 2009 edition of BlizzCon, the Blizzard-focused gaming convention. Details like ticket pricing are not announced yet, but here is what they are revealing:

IRVINE, Calif. -- February 17, 2009 -- Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced plans for its fourth BlizzCon® gaming convention, to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22. BlizzCon is a celebration of the global player communities surrounding Blizzard Entertainment®’s Warcraft®, StarCraft®, and Diablo® universes. In response to the festival’s increasing popularity, this year’s event has been expanded from three convention halls to four.

“We’ve been amazed by the incredible response to each of our previous BlizzCon events,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re pleased to be bringing the convention back to Anaheim this year, and we look forward to this new opportunity to meet Blizzard gamers from around the world.”

BlizzCon will offer a wide variety of activities throughout the two-day event. In addition to serving as a gathering place for Blizzard Entertainment gaming communities, attendees will be able to enjoy:

        • Hands-on play time with upcoming Blizzard Entertainment games
        • Discussion panels with Blizzard Entertainment developers
        • Competitive and casual tournaments for players to showcase their talents
        • Community contests with great prizes
        • Commemorative merchandise based on Blizzard Entertainment’s game universes
        • A silent auction
        • More exciting activities and attractions to be announced

Further details, including ticket availability and pricing, will be announced on the official BlizzCon website, www.blizzcon.com, as the event draws closer.

The Guild 2 - Venice Patches

New patches are now available for The Guild 2 - Venice, updating this medieval life add-on described as a "blend of RPG, strategy and business simulation" to version 3.5. Word is: "This patch fixes many bugs, the most important: Problems with the load / save function are fixed. There may be still issues with Quickload and Quicksave on some systems, so we recommend heavily always using the save via menu function. The Patch is thought to be installed on a system where the release version only is running (no beta patch applied). It ads the new Map 'Vienna' to the game." An English patch is available on AtomicGamer, a German patch is available on AtomicGamer and FileFront, and an international patch is available on FileFront.

StarCraft 2 Status

A post on the Battle.net Forums by Dustin "Cavez" Browder, lead developer on StarCraft 2, answers some fan FAQs about Blizzard's RTS sequel, covering topics like the beta, saying "Unless something crazy happens, the Beta is going to happen this year," and their lack of a firm release schedule, admitting, "Let’s be realistic. Our target dates are not something we hit more than half the time." He follows that tempering of expectations with some optimism, though it's not 100% clear if he means they are in the final stretch of game development, or just the final stretch in producing the next battle report: "We don't want to lie about the Beta, and we don't even want to lie about the next Battle Report. When we know a date (for anything) for certain, we'll let you know. Hang in there. We're in the final stretch." Thanks StarCraftWire.

Drakensang: The River Of Time

Publisher dtp entertainment announces Drakensang: The River Of Time, a prequel to the RPG Drakensang. The Dark Eye that's under development at Radon Labs for release early next year. The announcement is accompanied by a screenshot, and here's word on the game:

Hamburg/Germany, February 17th, 2009 – Hamburg/Germany based publisher dtp entertainment has today confirmed that developer Radon Labs is working on a prequel to the award winning title: The Dark Eye: Drakensang, which has won the “best German RPG 2008” award at the German Developer Awards. Drakensang: The River Of Time is going to tell a new story within the Drakensang universe. The prequel is scheduled to be released on the PC early 2010.

“Fans of Drakensang and RPGs get exactly what they want: A new story in the embosomed Drakensang universe, bringing as much innovations as tried and true game elements”, describes Bernd Beyreuther, Creative Director at Radon Labs, Drakensang: The River Of Time.

“We continue the success story of Drakensang. The Dark Eye players can look forward to another precise realization of their favorite RPG system. Those players who will experience The Dark Eye for the first time won’t miss a thing and can just start right into the fascinating medieval RPG fantasy scenario of Drakensang: The River Of Time”, Markus Windelen, COO of publisher dtp entertainment, adds.

Cuts at Rare?

GamesIndustry.biz reports developer Rare is planning to restructure its operations in order to "speed development and better manage the scale required to create high quality games," granting "a small number of current positions could be lost as a result of these changes" at the MGS-owned studio. They say with four projects currently in the works, "now is the right time to make this change," and the story says going forward the company will focus on expanding the Xbox 360 user-base, help grow the New Xbox Experience, and "continue delivering AAA gaming experiences."

Dell's Online Store

Dell is following a hot trend of the day with the launch of its own online digital distribution store, selling games and DRM-free music through that series of tubes we've heard so much about. The site is on a UK domain (for which they, oddly, do not possess the dot-com variant), and the music store is only available for customers in France, England, and Germany due to publishing and licensing agreements with their partners. Thanks MCV.

Men of War Demo

A playable demo for Men of War is now available, offering a sample of the upcoming installment in Best Way's World War II strategy series that began with Soldiers: Heroes of World War II and continued with Faces of War. Here's word on the contents of the demo: "The entire opening stage of the Russian campaign, which sees a small unit from the Red Army taking on the might of the Germans. This initial mission helps players to get to grips with the controls before culminating in a tightly fought battle between a Russian tank and a convoy of German vehicles. There's also an opportunity to try out Men of War's 'direct control' feature during the demo. This enables you to manoeuvre units using the directional keys, rather than pointing and clicking. You can get behind the controls of a tank to smash through obstacles, crush soldiers under your tracks and fire armour-piercing shells at enemy placements." The demo debuted on IncGamers, and the 249 MB download is now mirrored on AtomicGamer, ComputerGames.ro, Gamer's Hell, Games On Net, and Strategy Informer.

Morning Consolidation

Guild Wars 2 Release Follow-up

A Letter to Our Fans on GuildWars.com follows up on recent reports of a Guild Wars 2 delay, as ArenaNet's Mike O'Brien accurately points out that because the game has never had a set release date, it can't really be delayed, and since he is correct, we apologize for helping cause confusion in that regard. When the online RPG sequel was announced there were plans for a beta test in the second half of last year before testing was delayed, so there does seem to be an acknowledgement of fan disappointment that Guild Wars 2 won't be released this year (which is what the investor materials he refers to seem to indicate), but he wants it to be clear that recent changes at NC West will be to the game's benefit:

There have been some published rumors over the past few days about Guild Wars 2 delays, and I'm writing you today to set the record straight.

You've all seen announcements about restructuring at NCsoft West, and it's natural to wonder whether that restructuring impacts ArenaNet's Guild Wars 2 development. In fact, the reason NCsoft West is restructuring itself is so that the company can put all of its focus into its top-tier games like Guild Wars 2. Our team continues to grow, and has the strong support and financial backing we need to achieve our goal of making Guild Wars 2 the best online role-playing game ever created.

On Friday, NCsoft released investor materials that showed a very broad release window for Guild Wars 2, with the explanation that release timing is still "to be announced." ArenaNet has never given a release date for Guild Wars 2 other than "when it's done." NCsoft's investor materials are a reflection of that philosophy.

I know some fans had hoped for a smaller gap between the launch of Guild Wars: Eye of the North and the start of beta testing for Guild Wars 2, but we communicated last summer that it would be some time before we could commit to any beta or launch dates. Guild Wars 2 is a large and ambitious game, and we're going to take the time to do it right.

I'm immensely proud of what our team has accomplished and continues to accomplish with the development of Guild Wars 2. We'll have a lot more to say when we're closer to release. Until then, we thank you for your continued interest and ask you to stay tuned.

Op Ed

Hellforge - Why MMORPGs Suck- The Community. Thanks Mike Martinez.
"So what's the deal here? We get that WAR is this PVP-centric game that focuses on large scale battles, but this also means that any attempt at organization inevitably devolves into mindless swarming as most players just hang around to farm renown points (PVP experience). Needless to say, if you try to play the game seriously, you're going to get frustrated. Likewise, if you don't play the game seriously, you're going encounter the frustration of the self-described elites who troll the upper level of PVP renown with hundreds of hours logged to their characters."

Feeding The Machine- Shut Up About Game Reviews.
"The problem is that game reviewers want to be a part of the worldwide discourse on popular culture – in this case specifically video games – but they alienate themselves by catering to an extremely niche audience. Game reviewers talk to the people who have their Google Reader feed them from fifteen different gaming sites rather than the millions of people who would benefit from the review. The issue is not how to review a video game, which is a simple matter. If game reviews are to ever be taken seriously in the way movie, TV, and book reviews are then they’ll have to put away the self indulgent tripe and focus on the job at hand."

Morning Previews

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

You know, I lapsed on a grand tradition here yesterday in failing to commemorate President's Day, the holiday honoring past leaders here in the U.S. The grand tradition, of course, is to remember those presidents who get less notice on this Washington/Lincoln-heavy event. Better late than never, I would like to honor Harry S Truman, who is the most recent of the nine U.S. presidents who did not attend college (a group which includes both Washington and Lincoln), and the only one in that category after the 19th century. He once called Nixon "a shifty-eyed goddamn liar" (Give 'em hell Harry!), but it's interesting to note that Truman's approval rating was actually lower than Nixon's at the time each left office.

Educated Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: The Space Game. Thanks Jay is Games.
Castle Clout- Return of the King.
Story: Nuclear subs collide in Atlantic.
Science: Scientists stop the ageing process.
Frozen Sperm Keeps Dogs’ Championship Bloodlines Alive.
Auction: Famicom- The Crappy $10,000 Famicom Game.
Images: Team Fortress Fan Girls.
Team 4tress.
Media: Spore + Fallout 3 = SporeOut 3. NSFW.
Inglourious Basterds - Official HD Trailer. Thanks Stadius.
Follow-ups: Mario-Princess Road Sign is the Pinnacle of Sign Hacking.
Record Number of Peregrine Falcons in New York State. Thanks j.c.f.



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