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Wednesday, Mar 04, 2009

  

Watchmen Ships, Demo

Steam now offers digital distribution of the PC edition of Watchmen: The End is Nigh, saying: "With six chapters of intense fighting action, Watchmen is a download-only game. Play as vigilante heroes Rorschach or Nite Owl using each of their specific skills to clean up the streets, back alleys and rooftops of New York." This press release has details on the game, suggesting it should be available at other digital distributors as well, though the only other place we've found it is Direct2Drive. A playable demo for the game is available on Steam as well as AtomicGamer, FanGaming, FilePlanet (registration required), Gamer's Hell, and Games On Net.

No US/EU Hellgate Updates

Though Hellgate London recently went offline, Korean publisher/developer HanbitSoft has maintained they had the rights as owners of the IP to operate this action/RPG by defunct developer Flagship Studios, saying in January they were considering operating it in the west as a subscription-free game. Now GameCyte reports they have finally admitted that this is not in the cards, as Namco Bandai holds the rights to operate the game in the EU and the US, and they will operate and update the game for parts of Asia, ironically using the services of a studio based in San Francisco.

Piracy Age

Piracy Age is a new subscription-free MMORPG from the folks who brought us The Mafia Boss. Word is: "Piracy Age is a Massive Multiplayer Online Game based on the real Pirates' Life. Pirate's final objective is to reach absolute notoriety and fear on the seas, and use the means of terror and force to achieve it. You want to be a daring swashbuckler, bloodthirsty scoundrel or wicked rogue of the sea like Blackbeard and having the seas shaking at the sight of your Jolly Roger; then you are at the right place!"

The Hunter

The Hunter Website has word this virtual hunting game is now online and free to play, though there are benefits to being a paid subscriber, and they are also offering a further "Warden" perk, though this does not seem to enable you to cite folks for hunting out of season.

Demigod Diary Movie

A new Demigod developer walkthrough video offers narration from Brad Wardell of Producer Stardock who shows off some of beta three of Gas Powered Games' upcoming strategy/action/RPG. This includes gameplay in a presentation he describes as "barely edited pretty amateurish video narration of the game in action." The clip is available on AtomicGamer, Gamer's Hell, and MyGameTrailers.

Alganon Movie

The Alganon Website now offers the second video from this recently unveiled MMOG. Word is: "The video takes you through the major areas of Xanjuis Plains, Threshmuck, Xukari Ruins, and many other areas throughout Harraja."

EA Interview

Experiments and Innovations: The EA Approach on Gamasutra talks with Patrick Söderlund of Electronic Arts Europe in a sweeping conversation covering their approach to the game business. They discuss Need for Speed SHIFT, EA's choices in development partners, their drive to improve quality, his feelings that Mirror's Edge and Dead Space will be considered successful franchises in the long term, and more.

Terminator Salvation Interview

The Terminator Salvation Interview on GamePro discusses GRIN's upcoming tie-in with the fourth Terminator movie. They set the story's timing as a prequel to the movie, how they are making a Terminator game with no time travel, squad dynamics, Terminators, other SkyNet units, weapons, and the "fantastic layer of authenticity" movie actors bring to the game, though Christian Bale is not one of the actors who is participating in the game.

N'Gai Croal Interview

There's a N'Gai Croal interview on Gamasutra talking with the now-former games journalist about his departure from Newsweek for a future as a creative consultant for game companies. The conversation reflects on his role in the evolving world of game journalism, and discusses his future plans, which sound like they include doing much of what he did as a journalist, only for a different audience: "Some games, I'll come in very early, and in other cases, much further along. In the ideal situation... I would come in once there's enough of a concept to really test, and at the same time, have a lot of room to provide food for thought." He will continue to share thoughts with the audience as well, through a soon to launch blog and his ongoing columns on Edge, though he says he must cease discussing unreleased projects to avoid conflicts of interest.

Evening Previews

Evening Screenshots

Evening Consolidation

Evening Tech Bits

Mobilization

Metaverse

Safety Dance

Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

GFWL Batman: Arkham Asylum in Summer

Games for Windows announces Batman: Arkham Asylum will be a Games for Windows LIVE Enabled game, so the PC edition will have the same achievements and GamerScore points as the Xbox 360 version. The listing on the website indicates the Batman action/detective game is coming in the summer, saying: "Batman: Arkham Asylum adds to a strong summer of Games for Windows — LIVE titles including Stormrise, Battlestations: Pacific, and Red Faction: Guerilla." The GFWL logo and the summer 2009 date are in the video posted on that page that was released over a month ago, so we should have noted this sooner.

Call of Duty: World at War Patch

A new patch for Call of Duty: World at War updates the PC edition of the World War II shooter to version 1.3. Word is: "The most notable additions to this patch are the /record and /demo commands which allow you to record and view your MP matches for submission to tournaments, leagues, etc." Downloads of the patch are hosted on ComputerGames.ro, FileFront, and Gamer's Hell.

Thriller New Media

Thriller New Media announces itself to the world, an Austin, Texas-based game company with a focus on "military and espionage-themed online games in the multiplayer and massively multiplayer first-person shooter, action-adventure, strategy and simulation genres under the brand, Thriller Games," a variation on the plans announced when Thriller Publishing was formed. The company boasts several industry veterans, including Chairman J.W. "Wild Bill" Stealey, one of the cofounders of Microprose. The company is currently evaluating several games, with Thriller president & CEO Fred Schmidt saying: "Thriller New Media affords us the ability to focus specific resources and efforts in the immediate online space to launch services within the next 12 to 18 months, maybe less."

War Leaders - Clash of Nations Patch

A patch is now available on V2play for War Leaders - Clash of Nations, updating the English, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese editions of Enigma Software's World War II real-time strategy game to version 1.3. The patch was release in late January, and was discovered by The Patches Scrolls, where they have it mirrored, and offer the read me. Downloads are also mirrored on AtomicGamer, FileFront, and Gamer's Hell.

CoD: Modern Warfare 2 List Debunked

Infinity Ward sends along a follow-up to the rumored feature list for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 reported last night, saying that theories it was a leak from a knowledgeable insider are false, as are the contents of that list:

The very same neogaf thread posted in the news article already has posts from Fourzerotwo (our community manager) as well as Rayme (one of our programmers) debunking the rumored list.

It didn't come from anyone who has access to our internal builds and indeed contains several features that are already in CoD4 such as grass camo for snipers. In short, it's BS.

PC SBK Delay

Conspiracy Entertainment and Black Bean Games announce the North American retail release of SBK: Superbike World Championship, saying the latest installment in the motorcycle racing series is now available "for next-generation videogame systems." Since that "next-generation" stuff is the bizarre industry euphemism for consoles, we inquired about the status of the PC edition of the game. Word is the Windows edition is not being released at this time, and it does not yet carry an exact release date. The game previously carried a May release date, so technically this may not be a delay, but the PC edition was previously expected alongside its console brethren.

Velvet Assassin in April

The Velvet Assassin Interview on Gaming Nexus talks with Inga Mittendorf, asking the PR manager of Replay Studios about Velvet Assassin, their upcoming World War II stealth game. Topics include general similarities to Assassin' Creed, fighting World War II fatigue, sensitivities about WW2 in their home of Germany, non-stealth gameplay, the difficulty of the stealth genre, the shudder-inducing topic of the "taint stab," and more. The conversation concludes with a new release date following the game's delay to early this year, saying Velvet Assassin is due "End of April."

Square Enix & Eidos Agree to Terms

MCV reports that Square Enix and Eidos have agreed on buyout terms, following reports last month that Japanese publisher Square Enix made an offer for the struggling UK publisher. Word is an agreement has been devised which will result in Eidos' complete share capital being purchased by Square Enix in early May. They say shareholders are expected to approve the deal later this month, and there are hopes a settlement will be in place by May 6.

Stormrise Vista/DirectX 10 Only

The Artem Kulakov interview on PC Games Hardware excerpts some quotes from an interview with the lead designer on Stormrise, SEGA's real-time strategy game that will be released for PCs later this month. The focus of these quotes is how the game will be a DirectX 10 exclusive, with Artem saying Stormrise was designed for DirectX 10 and Vista from the ground up, and that "Integrating DX10.1 was an opportunity to increase performance and improve visual quality even further." He explains why:

DX10 has offered a lot of advantages over DX9. First of all, DirectX 10 allowed us to simplify the rendering engine. It matches capabilities of next generation consoles better than DX9, which is important for us considering that Stormrise is a multi-platform title. We had fewer driver-specific compatibility issues with Stormrise compare to our previous games released with DX9.

H.A.W.X Slips a Week

VG247 has word that the PC edition of Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X will be released on March 20, a week later than previously planned. The aerial combat game is still expected for consoles on Friday, and in the meantime, a playable demo is available. No reason for the setback is offered.

On Digital Distribution

GamesIndustry.biz talks with GamersGate CEO Theodore Bergquist about digital distribution, who says their service grew by 100% last year, and he expects up to 200% more growth over this year. He says brick-and-mortar stores have an advantage in selling hardware, "But if it's games only, then no way - I can't see [them surviving]. I've been in e-commerce since 1996 and I haven't seen a goods business model better than this. It's so pure online in its nature - I can't really see how a traditional retailer can survive, unless they decide to go online themselves." Of course, he is biased, but that doesn't mean he's wrong. An arguably more objective perspective on the topic is offered by Capcom's Christian Svensson who discusses his company's increasing interest in PC games with Rock, Paper, Shotgun in a conversation that also centers on digital distribution:

For me? Absolutely. No question in my mind. Digital distribution on PC ties directly into our strategy. Capcom is trying to lead in digital distribution, and I would go as far as to say that in the console space we are already the leading software publisher. We’ve had the highest revenue-generating Xbox Live title, we’ve had the highest revenue-generating Wii title, we’re definitely in the top three or four on the PlayStation network. To that end, on the PC side, I’ve spent the past year building up a digital distribution channel that has about twenty different partners. We’re ready on the console side, and we were the first Japanese publisher to do anything on Steam.

GameTap Makeover Plans, Mac Support Ending

The GameTap Blog has news that a revamped GameTap will launch in just over two weeks, offering an improved digital download store, and a new way to access and launch your games that replaces the old GameTap player with a new plug-in they describe as "slick…fast, lightweight, and silent." As a result, some GameTap Player features will not be available at launch, specifically: leaderboards, Mac OS X support, challenge play, customizable controls, instant messaging, save states, and some personal playlists. They say some of this will be addressed going forward, though it's not clear if OS X support will return: "Don’t fret too much though, your existing save states, custom controls and leaderboard scores will be saved, and any new high scores will be recorded in the background until the leaderboard system is back up and running. Later in the week we’ll have some tips outlining ways for you to work around these changes." Thanks Joystiq.

Empire: Total War MP Plans

With Empire: Total War now available, Eurogamer has an article with details excerpted from their Empire: Total War Live Q&A about the upcoming update that will offer a multiplayer campaign mode to Creative Assembly's RTS game. They do not know exactly when it will be released, and they are not sure whether the public will be involved in beta testing. They offer an outline of the project from Kieran Brigden:

"Players will be given the option of fighting every battle as the enemy, meaning whoever your friend fights wherever in the world it will always be the two of involved in a deathmatch.

"It's an awesome new feature and one we've been keen to do for a while. The basic code is there, now we're getting the rest sorted!"

THQ Layoffs

Kotaku reports 86 of the 102 employees in Volition's quality assurance department will be let go, and the troubled company's quality assurance will now be primarily conducted through THQ's centralized QA facilities. THQ says these cuts are part of the 600 layoffs they previously announced, and include 47 temporary employees who are not being renewed, and they quote THQ saying: "All laid off employees (both full-time and temporary) will be given at least sixty days' notice. We will do what we can to assist them in finding work in the community or elsewhere in THQ."

Gamer Drone Pilots

Press TV reports Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) has announced plans to use game players to replace the combat-trained pilots operating unmanned Reaper drone planes in frontline missions in Afghanistan. This Last Starfighter strategy is described as a cost-cutting measure, but the story also references studies that suggest video game players are actually better at this than their highly trained counterparts. The article points out that small mistakes by such drone operators can have severe consequences, and the US and NATO have come under criticism for the increasing number of Afghan and Pakistani civilian casualties over recent years. Thanks GamePolitics.

Activision's Acquisition Ambitions

Bloomberg.com reports Activision Blizzard is in a rare position in today's market, as they are carrying no debt and piles of cash on hand (said to be as much as $3 billion) which will allow them to bargain hunt for acquisitions as the recession continues to make things difficult for their competitors. "The combination of Activision holding a fair amount of cash and presumably prices being depressed, not only for publicly traded companies, but also likely for new intellectual property licensing rights, should certainly create opportunities,” says Activision boss Mike Griffith, though they also offer another quote indicating they are remaining prudent, as he says: "we won’t rush to judgment just because we have cash. We will be very disciplined."

Blockbuster Woes

Blockbuster seeks debt overhaul, shares halted reports movie and game rental firm Blockbuster is looking to overhaul its debt, though the company stresses it has no plans to file for bankruptcy. Blockbuster shares plummeted more than 76% on these reports before trading on the company was suspended. According to spokesperson Karen Raskopf Blockbuster can implement a plan to self-fund its debt through 2009 if needed.

Morning Consolidation

Ships Ahoy - Empire: Total War

Steam is now offering digital distribution of Empire: Total War, the latest installment in Creative Assembly's Total War RTS series. Also a launch trailer from the game is posted on ActionTrip, FileFront, Gaming Bomb, and MyGameTrailers. This hopefully means retailed boxed versions of the game can now be authenticated online so they can be played, as VE3D says this has prevented the game from being playable until now. Presuming this has all been cleared up, here's a bit on the game:

Dominate the 18th century on land and sea. Command the seas, control the land, forge a new nation, and conquer the globe. Empire: Total War takes the Total War franchise to the eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment — a time of political upheaval, military advancements, and radical thought, captured in stunning detail in Empire: Total War.

Empire: Total War introduces a host of revolutionary new features, including true 3D naval combat. For the first time in the Total War series, you will be able to intuitively command single ships or vast fleets upon seascapes rich with extraordinary water and weather effects that play a huge role in your eventual glorious success or ignominious defeat. After pummelling your enemy with cannon fire, close in to grapple their ship and prepare to board, taking control of your men as they fight hand-to-hand on the decks of these wooden behemoths.

THQ in Trouble?

Fudzilla reports publisher THQ may follow Midway into Chapter 11, quoting Janco Partners analyst Michael Hickey saying he gives THQ a 50/50 chance of going bankrupt, as there are reports suggesting that THQ "has mediocre titles currently and on the horizon, and that they are running out of cash." They report THQ CEO Brian Farrell's confidence that recent cost-cutting measure will help the company become profitable. Thanks Will and The Bankruptcy Tech.

Fallout 3 Manual Patches

Manual versions of the new Fallout 3 patch are now available to update Bethesda's action/RPG sequel to version 1.4. The new version can be acquired automatically through Games for Windows Live, but manual patches are also now available from the Fallout Website. The US patch is mirrored on ActionTrip, AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, Gaming Bomb, and The Patches Scrolls; the UK patch is mirrored on AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, Gaming Bomb, and The Patches Scrolls; the French patch is available on AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, and The Patches Scrolls; and the German patch is available on AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, and The Patches Scrolls.

Diablo II Patch Plans

The Battle.net Forums have word on plans to update Diablo II once again with an upcoming version 1.13 patch for the action/RPG, soliciting suggestions from the audience. They are not promising to fulfill an entire wish list, but do want users to outline the one patch note they would want to see if they were to get an advance look at the patch notes for Diablo II 1.13. Thanks Bryan.

Wanted Conversation

Dining With Developers, Vol. 1- Pete Wanat and Nick Torchia on Crispy Gamer chats with the producers on Wanted: Weapons of Fate, using dinner as a fulcrum to create a more conversational interview experience. They discuss the game and other game industry topics, including a meta-conversation about the interview that casts aspersions on less creative approaches to the whole 'tell us about your game' scene.

Northstar Interview

The Northstar interview on StrategyCore.co.uk talks with Martin "Mecron" Cirulis of Kerberos Productions about their upcoming science-fiction RPG. Topics include the vastness of their depiction of space, the role of trading posts, trade goods, cooperative multiplayer support, mission variety, experience, NPCs, appealing to fans of the X-COM series, playing as a pacifist, and even a bit on post release support: "We always design around expansions and in the case of Nstar, expect to see a unique twist in the form of Adventure Packs."

The Saboteur Interview

Pandemic's Tom French on The Saboteur on Destructoid talks with the lead designer on Pandemic's World War II stealth game. The game will offer open-world elements, and part of the conversation covers that: "Above all, we’re working very hard to make The Saboteur story one of the most gripping narratives you’ve experienced in open-world games. Our main storyline is filled with intense character performances and missions that will take players on a blockbuster roller-coaster ride in an open-world setting never before experienced: 1940s Paris. When combining the dark and rich story with the style of the period and the world -- from jazz-filled brothels to the black-and-white art style -- this makes The Saboteur extremely special and unique indeed."

Op Ed

Ars Technica - Does a game have to fail to have an ending?
"It seems every game you play ends by pointing at a sequel, with story threads left hanging, characters left floating in the depths of space, or wars left unwon. When was the last time you finished a game and felt completely satisfied by the experience? With Tabula Rasa, at least the ending has come for everyone; there will be no final call from the governor, no last-minute angel investor. The war is going to come to an end, and by all accounts humanity didn't win, and the game ended with quite the bang. Sure, it was a down note, but the game failed, and a happy ending would be somewhat inappropriate for fans."

Morning Previews

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

ABC cancels "Life on Mars." Oh well, another show we liked here in the BlueTower bites the dust. At least they did it with enough notice to allow for a series finale wrapping up loose ends. "Take a look at the lawman, beating up the wrong guy. Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know he's in the best selling show. Is there life on Mars?"

Links on Mars: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: Blush -- Blurst.
Super Mario World Flash 2.
The Bailout Game. Thanks UserFriendly.
Links: Stunning Videogame Locales.
The Top 10 Most Important Dude Ponytails. Thanks Digg.
Real Books That Look Like Photoshops.
Stories: Prince agrees album release deal.
New Mexico woman accidentally swallows ring during marriage proposal. Thanks nin and Consumerist.
Mall wants Manilow music to drive out unruly teens. Thanks Zombie69.
Science: Was Einstein Wrong? A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity. Thanks j.c.f.
Images: Bring Girls or, If Can't, Killzone 2. Thanks Digg.
Media: Eric Cartman Interview On NPR.
Distracted Dad gets Speeding Ticket.
The Big Bang Theory Video- Butt Print Analysis.



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