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Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009

  

Left 4 Dead Patched

Steam has another new automatic update for Left 4 Dead. The new version of the co-op shooter introduces fatigue to the melee attack in versus mode and Boomer vomit will now pass through common infected. The update also fixes some bugs in the client as well as the dedicated server. Meanwhile, the Left 4 Dead Blog explains the changes and outlines future plans for the PC and Xbox 360 editions of the game:

We recently updated the PC version of Left 4 Dead with some exploit fixes and Versus balancing. We are going to be releasing another small update later today that contains some server issue fixes and one small, but very large, gameplay adjustment. We have made a change to the melee mechanic in Versus and the soon-to-be-released Survival Mode.

Xbox 360 users will see these same gameplay changes in an update coming out with the DLC — which, in case you missed the announcement, will be coming out April 21st.

As we continue to work on Left 4 Dead, our plan is to release more frequently on the PC, and then group those updates for the 360.

With the upcoming release of the SDK, and the community servers already available on the PC, matchmaking is one place where the two platforms will diverge. A future blog post will detail our roadmap for PC matchmaking.

Game statistics help us evaluate the success of the changes we've made to the game. In Versus, for example, we flipped the order in which teams play the next round based on who was winning the round before it. We were confident this would help to better balance the game and give neither team a lasting advantage. That would, in turn, translate into more people playing through the final maps. Since making that change, we've noticed the percentage of games being played to the end jump 5%. It is a small increase, but a step in the right direction.

But statistics are only part of the picture. We also use direct feedback from players themselves. One of the questions people ask is if we read the forums: the answer is yes. So please post your feedback on the melee and other changes as we make them. We promise to keep listening to your feedback, making changes and improving the gameplay experience of Left 4 Dead. Remember: If you don't see an issue addressed with this update, that doesn't mean it isn't coming.

Utah Games Bill Vetoed

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah vetoed the truth in advertising bill aimed at regulating the sale of violent games that's gotten wide notice thanks to the involvement of Jack Thompson. In a move that likely saved the Utah taxpayers some money, Gov. Huntsman cited constitutional concerns: "While protecting children from inappropriate materials is a laudable goal, the language of this bill is so broad that it likely will be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional."

Mac Prince of Persia Released

GameTree Online is offering digital distribution of the MacOS edition of Prince of Persia. The Mac edition of the platformer requires an Intel Core Duo Processor and an ATI X1600/NVIDIA 8600 or better graphics card. Thanks Ant and MacNN.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway Sale

Today's installment in Steam's week-long Ubisoft special is Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway for half-price, bringing Gearbox Software's World War II shooter sequel down to $14.99.

Empire: Total War Patched

Steam has word that a new update for Empire: Total War is now automatically available. The new version of the RTS sequel will allow players to find friends across regions for multiplayer games, and addresses a number of bugs and other issues. Also now on Steam is a patch for Garry's Mod with a bunch of bug-fixes.

BF Heroes Beta on Hold

The Battlefield Heroes Website has a status report on beta testing of DICE's upcoming free multiplayer shooter. Here's a portion:

As you will have seen in our recent Twitter post, we simply never expected that so MANY of you would be THIS keen to get into the Beta, at exactly the same time.

Imagine the web servers to be the two-man army of Royals and everyone else the horde of Nationals storming the lines. Perhaps they got a bit scared ;)

We want to make sure that everyone (re-)joining the Beta gets the best playing experience we can possibly offer, so at this time, although it was a hard decision, we bit the bullet and decided to temporarily keep the Beta site down.

This will let us properly investigate and bring in some reinforcements.

The investigation will be taking us through the night and likely occupy some of our morning, so unless your day just started, it is safe to go to bed soon, get some rest and think up strategies to apply on the battlefield tomorrow.

FileFront Closing

FileFront announces it is closing on March 30, so if you have something you need to download from there, you need to make haste. Word is: "We would like to give a warm thank you to all of you who have been part of the FileFront communities we have built together. Your support has had a meaningful impact for all of us here at FileFront. Again, we want to give you a sincere “thank you” for your support over the years and wish you all the very best."

Evening Previews

Evening Consolidation

Evening Tech Bits

Mobilization

Metaverse

Safety Dance

Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Ships Ahoy - Wheelman

Ubisoft, Midway, and Tigon Studios announce that Wheelman is now available, offering the chance to experience high speed car chases in a virtual Barcelona, Spain as you portray Milo Burik, a virtual Vin Diesel. A launch trailer for the game can be found on AtomicGamer, Gamer's Hell, and Gamesonice, and here's the announcement:

SAN FRANCISCO — March 25, 2009 — Ubisoft, Midway and Tigon Studios announce that Wheelman(TM), the action-packed driving game featuring film star Vin Diesel as undercover agent and expert driver-for-hire Milo Burik, has shipped and is available at retailers starting today. Wheelman is available for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC and is rated "T” for Teen by the ESRB.

In Wheelman, Milo Burik gets caught in a crossfire of chaos and corruption while trying to stay one step ahead of local law enforcement and rival gangs in the beautifully re-created city of Barcelona, Spain. In Wheelman, the player's car is the weapon. Players weave in and out of traffic, engaging in intense vehicular warfare, leaving wreckage in their wake as they take out anything or anyone that gets in the way with innovative super moves like "Vehicle Melee,” "AirJack” and the "Cyclone.”

"First and foremost Wheelman is designed to be action packed, accessible and over-the-top driving fun,” said Tony Key, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Ubisoft. "Wheelman's dynamic systems adjust to the player's experience level so that everyone – from a novice to an expert gamer – can play and feel as if they're an action hero in a driving game.”

Inspired by Hollywood's most famous action-sequences, Wheelman will deliver powerful cinematic moments throughout the game's compelling storyline. In addition, there are more than 100 side missions available, giving players plenty of opportunities to steer through the streets of virtual Barcelona, while earning vehicle upgrades, achievements and trophies.

For more information about Wheelman, please visit www.ubi.com.

Combat Arms Gets Ballsy

Nexon America announces a new "nut shot" feature is now live in Combat Arms, their subscription-free online shooter. Don't worry that this shows you have a dirty mind, as this is exactly what you think, a reward for shooting below the belt, thought this applies to male victims only, as they have not yet introduced the hu-hu shot. Word is: "Providing Combat Arms with a unique, comical dimension, Nut Shots are celebrated in game with a large graphic of exploding walnuts. Other players are made aware with a corresponding icon in the upper left-hand corner kill display featuring a golden squirrel, similar to the golden skull that denotes a head shot." There's a "nut shot" video on YouTube.

Stardock's DRM Goo

Stardock unveils their promised plans for Game Object Obfuscation (Goo), a system they feel is a more elegant alternative to current Digital Rights Management, especially for downloaded games. Goo will be part of the launch of Impulse Reactor phase 3 on April 7, offering a way for publishers to protect their games from piracy with a one-time online activation:

PLYMOUTH, MI, March 25, 2009 – Stardock announced today that the forthcoming update to its digital distribution platform, Impulse, will include a new technology aimed to pave the way to solving some of the common complaints of digital distribution.

The new technology, known as Game Object Obfuscation (Goo), is a tool that allows developers to encapsulate their game executable into a container that includes the original executable plus Impulse Reactor, Stardock’s virtual platform, into a single encrypted file.

When a player runs the game for the first time, the Goo’d program lets the user enter in their email address and serial number which associates their game to that person as opposed to a piece of hardware like most activation systems do. Once validated, the game never needs to connect to the Internet again.

Goo has a number of unique advantages that developer Stardock believes both gamers and developers will appreciate:

1. There is no third-party client required. This means a developer can use this as a universal solution since it is not tied to any particular digital distributor.
2. It paves the way to letting users validate their game on any digital distribution service that supports that game. One common concern of gamers is if the company they purchased a game from exits the market, their game library may disappear too. Games that use Goo would be able to be validated anywhere.
3. It opens the door to gamers being able to resell their games because users can voluntarily disable their game access and transfer their license ownership to another user.

“One of our primary goals for Impulse Reactor is to create a solution that will appeal to game developers while adhering to the Gamers Bill of Rights,” said Brad Wardell, president & CEO of Stardock. “Publishers want to be able to sell their games in as many channels as possible but don’t want to have to implement a half-dozen ‘copy protection’ schemes. Game Object Obfuscation lets the developer have a single game build that can be distributed everywhere while letting gamers potentially be able to re-download their game later from any digital service. Plus, it finally makes possible a way for gamers and publishers to transfer game licenses to players in a secure and reliable fashion.”

Because Goo ties the game to a user’s account instead of the hardware, gamers can install their game to multiple computers without hassle.

Goo will be released on April 7 as part of the upcoming Impulse: Phase 3 release. Stardock also expects to be able to announce multiple major publishers making use of Goo in April as well as adding their libraries to Impulse.

Impulse is poised to exceed one million customers in the next week despite only being launched nine months ago.

To learn more about Impulse, visit www.impulsedriven.com.

geePlay for Cash

If you've ever played an arcade side-scroller and thought the only thing better would be if you could play online opponents for real money, then you're in luck, as geePlay is a new online gaming service offering just that. You deposit cash in an account, which will grow as you win and shrink as you lose playing a game based on TeeWars, an open-source side-scrolling shooter. It seems the service is aimed at Europeans, as all currency figures are in Euros, and laws in Europe tend to be more liberal about online gambling, though one of the tenets of this system is that it is skill-based, not gambling. A free training mode is offered, and upcoming plans include tournaments with large-scale payouts. The site is owned by Skillgames s.r.o., a company registered in Slovakia. There's a video of this in action on YouTube.

Lighthouse Interactive Bankrupt

The Lighthouse Interactive Website has the unfortunate news that this Dutch/Canadian publisher has declared bankruptcy (thanks The Patches Scrolls). Here's the announcement:

Dutch/Canadian videogame publisher, Lighthouse Interactive has officially been declared bankrupt. A spokesperson pointed out that due to the demise of its parent company Silverbirch Incorporated and the bankruptcy of its largest debtor Pinnacle Entertainment, Lighthouse was unable to carry on.

Lighthouse Interactive was sold to SilverBirch Inc in 2008 and was a wholly owned subsidiary. The company was best known for publishing many critically acclaimed PC titles including Ship Simulator, Sword of the Stars and Overclocked.

The Lighthouse personnel would like to thank all business partners, press and its customers for their support over the past years.

PC & Mac Guitar Hero: World Tour

Aspyr Media and Activision Publishing officially announce plans for PC and Mac editions of Guitar Hero: World Tour, which were first revealed in a preview posted last night. The ports will be released this summer along with corresponding wireless controllers:

ASPYR MEDIA AND ACTIVISION UNVEIL GUITAR HERO® WORLD TOUR FOR WINDOWS PC AND MAC

AUSTIN, TEXAS – March 25, 2009 – Aspyr Media and Activision Publishing, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) have teamed once again to rock the computer gaming world with the announcement of Guitar Hero® World Tour for Windows PC and Mac. Transforming music gaming by expanding Guitar Hero’s® signature guitar gameplay into a cooperative band experience, Guitar Hero World Tour for PC and Mac offers state-of-the-art wireless controllers to computer gamers for the first time, new online and offline gameplay modes and a Music Studio feature for composing and editing original rock and roll anthems. Guitar Hero World Tour is the most complete music game to-date with 86 on-disc tracks from music legends such as The Eagles, Van Halen, Metallica, Michael Jackson and The Doors and features in-game appearances by world famous artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Corgan and Travis Barker.

“Guitar Hero World Tour is the standard for music games on consoles and we can’t wait to unleash this incredible experience on computer gamers,” said Ted Staloch, Executive Vice President, Aspyr Media. “With full band play, support for the new wireless controllers, the ability to create their own music and an amazing array of customization options, Guitar Hero World Tour will be the definitive music game on PC and Mac. We are proud to once again be working with Activision to extend this powerful brand to an eager audience of gamers.”

Guitar Hero World Tour delivers more ways to play than ever before. Virtual musicians can live out their rock and roll fantasies by playing either a single instrument in-game, or any combination of instruments within the game, in addition to the full band experience. Building on all of the online gameplay modes from Guitar Hero® III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero World Tour introduces Battle of the Bands mode, which allows eight players to join online and challenge each other band-to-band to determine who is the best of the best. In the Band modes, up to four players can jam together, online or offline, as they progress through the game. In single-player Career Mode, players can jam on any of the instruments in-game utilizing the controllers in branching venue progression enabling them to rock out in the order of their choice.

The game’s innovative new Music Studio lets players express their musical creativity by giving them access to a full complement of tools to create digital music from scratch, utilizing all of the drum kit controller and guitar controllers, and then play their compositions in the game.

Guitar Hero World Tour for PC and Mac will be available summer 2009. The game is rated “T” for Teen by the ESRB.

Women's Murder Club: a Darker Shade of Grey Ships

James Patterson’s ‘Women’s Murder Club- a Darker Shade of Grey’ for Windows PC Ships to Retail Outlets Nationwide announces the US release of the second casual game based on the Women's Murder Club series of mystery novels by James Patterson. Probably of most interest is the participation of highly regarded adventure game designer Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight) in the project, and THQ has this to say on the topic: "This latest offering captures both James and Jane at their finest with a thrilling and evolving storyline, driving thought-provoking and fast-paced action. Fans are in for an unprecedented game experience." Update: A playable demo is available from AtomicGamer.

GameSpy Courts Indies

GameSpy Technology Makes Advanced Online Gaming Services Available to Independent Developers announces new middleware features for independent developers, with the first game to take advantage of this being a reissue of Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy. Word is: "Through this new program, GameSpy Technology is now being made available to smaller developers that can benefit from high value online services but may have been prohibited in the past due to resource or implementation barriers. The program expands the reach of GameSpy’s industry-leading suite of technologies and services, which are available for every existing gaming platform."

OnLive Beta Signups

The OnLive Website is live for this just unveiled cloud gaming service, and accepting signups for the OnLive Beta Program, which is slated to get underway this summer. Word is: "You need to be at least 18, based in the US and have a broadband-connected PC running Windows Vista®/XP®, or an Intel®-based Mac." Also, Engadget has video of OnLive being shown off at GDC, where playing Crysis over the service is demonstrated, and the burning issue of how lag will be handled is discussed, as they outline the careful distribution of data centers to keep things humming.

Flock Preorders, Demo

Steam News announces a 10% discount of preorders for Flock, Capcom's flocking platform game that's due for release on April 7. In order to help you decide on this commitment, Steam now offers a Flock demo, offering a chance to test-fly the game's UFO and try your hand at Flocking some sheep, or at least helping them over that fence.

Dave Perry's Cloud Plans

Following the revelation of the OnLive service, GameDaily has a conversation with Acclaim's Dave Perry, who describes ambitions for Gaikai, a similar cloud computing-based service, admitting the unveiling of OnLive has "forced his hand" into revealing these plans. The description is of a very similar service to run games on the server end, allowing high-end gaming on lower-spec systems, and one of the advantages of such a system he stresses is its ability to curtail the impact of those darned used-game sales. A timeframe for launch is not offered, but Dave says they already have World of Warcraft and EVE Online running, interestingly specifying MMOGs, a segment that doesn't have much in the way of a used-game market.

Atari Sells Arm, Can Still Bite You

MCV has word that Infogrames/Atari has sold off its remaining 66% stake in PAL-fulfillment arm Distribution Partners to Namco Bandai. This follows Atari's stated goal of moving away from boxed game distribution. According to Infogrames CEO David Gardner: "This will now allow Atari to focus its financial resources and creative energy exclusively on developing and publishing online-enabled games, shifting our operations towards servicing recurring revenues and a higher-margin online business model while still benefiting from access to Distribution Partners strong international distribution network."

Morning Consolidation

Morning Previews

Gatherings & Competitions

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

Yesterday around midday I noticed something that seemed terribly wrong with Hudson the wonder dog's eyes, as she seemed to be unable to open her inner eyelids and seemed to have trouble opening her eyes altogether (and when she could, the redness of her inner lids just made her look like Kujo). I made an appointment to take her into the vet, but a short time later she seemed perfectly fine again, so we cancelled the appointment. I'm thinking I may have just caught her having trouble waking up, but I'll keep an extra close eye on here to make sure this wasn't something more serious. Presuming it isn't, I'm sorry I was so freaked that I did not take a picture, as she made quite a sight as a devil dog.

Devilish Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: Assembler 3.
Gunrox - Zombie Encounter.
Links: Tax Information for Parents of Kidnapped Children. Wow. Thanks Devicer.
Top 10 Peep entries.
It's Back -- Why the Terminator Is Unstoppable and The Terminator as Metaphor for Life.
Stories: American Jobs Threatened by Cheap Chinese Condoms. Thanks theAntiELVIS.
Parrot gets award for warning about choking tot. Thanks brother19.
Cops: Woman Sought for Stealing Breast Implants. Thanks theAntiELVIS.
Science: Brain On A Chip? Thanks Digg.
What’s So Hot About Chili Peppers? Thanks Boing Boing.
Brain waves 'foreshadow mistakes'.
Images: Periodic Table of Controllers. Thanks DESTRUCTOID.
Media: BSG Alternate Ending.
People Skydiving to See Space Shuttle Launch.
Real-Life Tetris Under a Microscope.
Follow-ups: Fireball! Thanks j.c.f.
The Funnies: UserFriendly.



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