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Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009

  

L4D Free Trial This Week

Steam News announces this Friday will be "Freaky Friday" for Left 4 Dead, their multiplayer zombie shooter. The festivities kick off at 12:01 am GMT on Friday, which by our reckoning is 8:01 pm EDT tomorrow night. Here's word:

Beginning Friday at 12:01 am GMT, the PC version of Left 4 Dead will be available for a free 24-hour trial via Steam. The free trial will include access to the recently released Survival Pack DLC, which introduces a new multiplayer game mode and two additional Versus campaigns. Those who wish to give L4D and the Survival Pack a try may now pre-load everything needed to play with no obligation to purchase.

The Maw DLC

Steam News announces the release of additional content for The Maw, the action game from indie developer Twisted Pixel Games. Word is: "Speeder Lane, the latest "deleted scene" for the hit indie game The Maw, is now available as downloadable content on Steam. The Maw plus all three deleted scenes are also available as The Mawesome Pack for a discounted price."

Dragon Age: Origins Preorder Bonuses

Gamestop's Dragon Age: Origins Page is now accepting preorders for Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare's upcoming RPG (thanks Mike Martinez and DarkZero). The preorder bonuses they offer sound like they could have a fairly noticeable impact on gameplay:

Reserve Dragon Age Origins and receive:

    • The Memory Ring - An in-game item that allows your character to accumulate experience points at an accelerated rate and therefore level up more efficiently.
    • The Memory Band - Made by the Formari, these lyrium-infused rings are supposed to help apprentices retain their lessons.

Light of Altair in June

Indie UK developer SaintXi announces their science-fiction colony-building game Light of Altair will be released worldwide on June 4 via digital distribution (thanks Gamer's Hell). The SaintXi Website has some new screenshots, and here's a quickie primer on the game: "Light of Altair is a colonization game set in our own solar system and beyond. You must set up a strong economy to survive in the hostile void of space as you compete with other factions, the deadly environment and internal conflicts of interest. But most of all it is a strongly story driven game that will pull people in to this vision of the future."

FLOCK! Patch

The manual version of the version 1.01 patch for FLOCK! is now available, following Monday's Steam patch. The patch offering balance tweaks and bug-fixes for the platformer can be found on AtomicGamer and Gamer's Hell.

Crysis War Servers

The Windows and Linux dedicated servers are now available for the new version 1.5 of Crysis Wars released earlier today. The downloads are mirrored on The Patches Scrolls.

More on that Addiction Study

NIMF Urges 'Thoughtful Conversation' In Game Addiction Study Debate on Gamasutra reflects NIMF's statement that "Regardless of whether you agree with the exact statistics in Dr. Gentile’s study, it provides the gaming industry, medical experts, and public policymakers with a new opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation regarding the effects of video games on kids." Meanwhile, Iowa State University Responds To ESA Criticisms on IncGamers talks with Dr. Gentile himself, and he tells them criticisms of his reports' methodology (specifically using "convenience sampling," rather than a "probability sample") is a "trick the ESA is trying to get you to pick up on," explaining, "Every survey is a volunteer survey, you have to agree to do it, so therefore it is a ‘convenience' sample."

Gatherings & Competitions

Evening Previews

Evening Screenshots

Evening Consolidation

Evening Tech Bits

Mobilization

Metaverse

Safety Dance

Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Fallout 3 Patches

The Fallout Downloads Page now offers a new patch for Fallout 3 to update Bethesda Softworks' action/RPG sequel to version 1.5. The patch is also automatically available via Games for Windows LIVE, and the corresponding patch for the Xbox 360 edition can be applied automatically through Xbox LIVE. Here are the patch notes that describe the update:

New Features

New achievements for Broken Steel

Bug Fixes

Fixed issue with VATS calculations not appearing properly for perks (PC)

Fixed crash related to altered references between master files

LOD objects render properly when loaded from DLC worldspaces

Fixed issue with companion NPCs not loading into cells immediately after player

The Witcher: Fall of the White Wolf

This press release has the official statement from French developer Widescreen Games confirming speculation about problems with development of The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, the console version of CD Projekt's action/RPG, as there have been widespread recent rumors the project was cancelled. While it has not been cancelled, development of the game "has been suspended in an attempt to resolve financial problems among the various project partners." Widescreen manager Olivier Masclef has this to say about the situation: "I hope that we can find an amicable solution with our present and former partners involved in this ambitious project," but GamesIndustry.biz has a more straightforward quote saying: "We've not been paid for a few months and we had a very nasty broken payment. We had no choice but to put the product on hold. We've not been able to find a solution." There is an interview with CD Projekt cofounder Michal Kicinski on rpg codex, but this is coincidental, and was conducted before Rise of the White Wolf rumors surfaced, but Voodoo Extreme has a statement from Kicinski saying that their payments were on time based on the milestone plan, but that production delays have caused delayed payments. He goes on to say that delays became a bigger issue as time passed, jeopardizing the game's release, and concludes saying: "Currently the works are on hold. We are evaluating all possible options to continue the production. Making this decision was extremely difficult and sad as we know that many people are waiting for this project. We do our best to find a way out of this situation. But final decision must guarantee high quality of the product, otherwise we won’t continue the production no matter what consequences it will bring. We are committed to the highest quality of all our games, and this is unnegotiable [sic] for us."

Lineage II Birthday Expansion

City of Heroes is not the only MMORPG currently celebrating its fifth anniversary, as Lineage II: The Chaotic Throne is having a fifth birthday party of its own. The event includes the release of the third and final part of the Gracia expansion: "NCsoft®, the world’s premier publisher and developer of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), commemorates five years of Lineage® II service in the West with the launch of Gracia™ Final, the latest free expansion to the legendary Lineage II franchise. Gracia Final, the third part of the Gracia expansion series, brings Lineage II fans a whole new continent and refined player-versus-player (PvP) combat. Other highlights of the Gracia Final expansion include more clan features, territory wars, new items, and new skill effects."

UO: Stygian Abyss this Summer

Mythic Entertainment announces the Stygian Abyss expansion for Ultima Online will be released this summer. The expansion, which will be digitally distributed, will add a new playable Gargoyle race and "a flood of new content for the citizens of Britannia to explore and conquer." The Ultima Online - Stygian Abyss Website offers more on the Gargoyle race and other new content for EA's long-running MMORPG.

Free Dawn of War II Soundtrack

Dawn Of War 2 Community Site announces the release of the soundtrack for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Relic's sci-fi RTS sequel. The site has links to streaming versions of the individual tracks, while Steam is offering the whole shebang for download, completely free of charge, and no Steam account required.

Killing Floor Preorder Sale

Valve is now offering preorders on Steam of Killing Floor, the upcoming co-op survival horror-themed shooter from Tripwire Interactive (Red Orchestra). The game is due for release on May 14, but those who purchase it before then will receive a 25% discount. Word is: "Killing Floor features over 40 Steam Achievements, persistent perks to level up your character and a solo game mode for offline play."

Empire: Total War Patched

A new patch for Empire: Total War is now automatically available via Steam. The release notes for the new version are quite extensive, as a large number of issues are tackled along the way. They also note a couple of changes that will wait for the next patch, one where user-created patches can crash the game and improvements to AI naval invasion behavior.

Crysis Wars Patch

MyCrysis has the release of a new version 1.5 patch for Crysis Wars as well as the promised updated SDK for mod authors to allow single-player mods based on Crysis Wars. They have complete change notes for the patch, and a flythrough movie showing off the included new map called Ruins. The patch is also automatically available for the Steam edition.

Ghost Recon 4 Revealed

Ubisoft financial report reveals Red Steel 2, Ghost Recon 4 has word that Ubisoft's latest financial reporting reveal plans for Ghost Recon 4 among the titles expect in their fiscal 2009-2010 line-up, which includes the following games: Assassin's Creed 2, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction, Rabbids Go Home, Red Steel 2, Ghost Recon 4, and Dawn of Discovery.

Tomorrow War Today

The Official 1C Company forum has posts from some users indicating their preordered copies of Tomorrow War have already arrived from Amazon.co.uk, even though the space sim is not supposed to be released for another week. Thanks InBlack, who can confirm his own copy of the game has already arrived.

Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans

Ars Technica has an interesting article on the reaction of developer ACE Team to finding their recently released combat game Zeno Clash available for illegal download. Carlos Bordeu of the Chilean developer commented on BitTorrent Sites explaining the impact of piracy on an independent developer, saying in some cases they were surprised to find a positive reaction: "We've received several mails and posts in our own forums of people who pirated the game that decided to buy it because of the message. I don't know if it is a significant percent, or whether this is good strategy as a whole... but it has sparked some very positive reactions in the community." Here is the statement they made on the torrent sites, indicating a demo is in the works:

I’m one of the developers of Zeno Clash. I would appreciate you read this if you are about to download this file.

Zeno Clash is an independently funded game by a very small and sacrificed group of people. The only way in which we can continue making games like this (or a sequel) is to have good sales.

I am aware that at this moment there is still no demo of the game, but we are working on one which will be available soon.

We cannot do anything to stop piracy of the game (and honestly don’t intend to do so) but if you are downloading because you wish to try before you buy, I would ask that you purchase the game (and support the independent game development scene) if you enjoy it. We plan on updating Zeno Clash with DLC and continuing support for the game long after it’s release.

Thanks for taking the time to read this… hopefully it will make a difference.

Stalin vs. Martians Released

Mezmer Games announces the release of Stalin vs. Martians, the World War II/sci-fi arcade-RTS game. The Mezmer Games Website lists the digital distributors carrying the game, there's a new music video celebrating the launch on the YouTube, and there's an interview on Mine-Dog.net discussing the game with Alexander "Zima" Shcherbakov of developer Dreamlore. Here's a bit on the game:

Stalin vs. Martians is an absolutely over-the-top PC thriller. Fun and accessible, it takes a simple arcade-like approach to the genre of real-time strategy. The player controls the Red Army, as it defends Earth from the Martian Invasion of 1942, a highly classified military operation which even today remains a closely guarded state secret. Stalin himself conducts the mission briefings and later even becomes a playable unit.

BioShock 2 Interview

The BioShock 2 Interview on Gameplayer chats with Hogarth de la Plante and Melissa Miller, respectively the Lead Level Architect and Producer on 2K Game's upcoming waterlogged shooter sequel. The game received lots of critical acclaim, but Hogarth sees room for improvement: "In some respects when we look back critically over the first Bioshock we didn’t pay off on a lot of those things as well as we could have. There were so many things we were trying to do new. Now we’re really starting to think about how can we give you more meaningful choice. In Bioshock 1 you got to choose to harvest or save the little sisters, but in Bioshock 2 how can we really make that more meaningful than a yes or no and an animation?"

Return to CoH's Anniversary

NCsoft celebrates the anniversary of City of Heroes, the superhero MMORPG that launched five years ago yesterday. There is a City of Heroes Fifth Anniversary Interview with Matt "Positron" Miller on Ten Ton Hammer discussing the milestone, and NCsoft announces that former subscribers with accounts in good standing can return and check out progress on the game between now and May 3 and participate in the various events commemorating the game's first five years. This page outlines the planned anniversary celebrations.

ARMA II Delay

505 Games announces June 26 is the new release date for ARMA II, Bohemia Interactive Studios' military shooter sequel. This is a delay from the first quarter 2009 release window announced last summer. No explanation for the setback is provided, but the announcement is accompanied by a batch of five new screenshots.

Ships Ahoy - Mysteries of Westgate

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate is now available via digital distribution as promised, offering Ossian Studios' adventure pack for the D&D RPG. The pack can be purchased via the Atari North America Store and the European Atari Store. Update: This Forum Thread outlines how DRM limits users to three activations (thanks vrok). Here's the deal on the Mysteries of Westgate:

Mysteries of Westgate is the first Adventure Pack for Neverwinter Nights 2, developed by Ossian Studios. This single-player Dungeons & Dragons® game comes with over 15 hours of non-linear gameplay, an epic story of horror and intrigue with multiple paths and endings, new creatures and tileset, as well as brand new music and voice-over. In this city-based adventure, players can explore 4 bustling districts of the city of Westgate: Harbor Loop, Market Triangle, Arena District, and subterranean Undergate.

Neo Steam Open Beta

Neo Steam announces that open beta testing is now underway for this subscription-free anime-style steampunk MMORPG. Word is: "After selected players were blown away by the closed beta, everyone can now join the epic battle between the mystical Elerd Kingdom and the technophile Republic of Rogwel. Players can register absolutely free at www.neosteam.net download the game and start playing immediately."

Free Realms Live

The maintenance at Free Realms is complete, and this youth-oriented subscription-free MMORPG is now officially live, about a day later than planned. They say: "Once you create your character, you can explore a massive virtual world, learn all sorts of fun jobs, train pets, take on challenging quests, race karts (or destroy them in demolition derbies), play exciting minigames and much more. You can do all of this online with your friends!"

Morning Consolidation

Blurst Subscription Plan

Boom or Blurst- A New Business Model for Videogames is a Wall Street Journal article on alternative game business models that describes plans by Flashbang Studios to see if a subscription plan will work with their offbeat web-based games like Jetpack Brontosaurus and Off-Road Velociraptor Safari that have proven very popular as free offerings. The article also reveals that a new version of Paper Moon is planned for release on Flashbang's Blurst portal on Friday, and the Infinite Ammo Blog has a bit on their collaboration with Flashbang on this project. Back to subscriptions: Later this year Flashbang will see if they can entice enough fans to support their development efforts by subscribing, while games will still be offered for free to non-subscribers, testing the 1,000 True Fans premise put forth by Wired founder Kevin Kelly. Word is: "In addition to giving away its games for free, it'll charge $20 for a six month subscription for additional features such as a downloadable version. Blurst will also be taking requests from fans to add features over time. Mr. Swink and his team calculated how many people they'd need to keep a staff of six and cover a $20,000 per month budget. They arrived at what they considered to be a reasonable goal: only 5,000 people every half-year."

Batman: Arkham Asylum Specs

The Eidos Forums outline PC specifications for Batman: Arkham Asylum, the upcoming Bat-em-up (thanks BeyondUnreal). Word is:

Minimum:
• CPU: Intel single core 3 Ghz or AMD equivalent
• Memory: XP = 1 GB, Vista = 2GB
• GPU: Shader Model 3 NVidia 6600 or ATI 1300 or higher

Recommended:
• CPU: Pentium D 3Ghz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (Dual core)
• Memory: XP = 2GB, Vista = 3GB
• GPU: NVidia 7900 GT or higher

Enhanced for multi-core

• Online features:
o Friends
o Achievements

Demigod Status Report

Inside the sausage factory is a new status report from Brad Wardell on Demigod, Gas Powered Games' new action/strategy offering. Brad admits that after working on things, "the included multiplayer matchmaking is still flakey," and he goes into a good deal of detail explaining exactly what the problem is and why a complete solution has eluded them. His estimate is that 30% of their users are experiencing no issues, and 10% of players can't connect at all, but he thinks they are nearing a solution to help that middle 60% experiencing "flakey" connectivity:

And that is where we are on Tuesday with regards to the connectivity. Figuring out why the message is sent from the NAT but not received by the game. There’s a lot of thoughts on this. UDP (unlike TCP) isn’t guaranteed. You can learn more on this here. Another thought is that the NAT queues up its messages and that by the time it sends it back to the game, it has timed out. The team tells me they think they’ll have this mystery solved today. If so, I’ll report here on this. But this will put us up to 90%.

Mafia 2 Interview

The Mafia 2 Interview on Shacknews talks with 2K's Denby Grace about the upcoming organized crime game sequel. Topics include differentiating the game from other open-world shooters, changes to the driving system, the new 40s-50s timeline, the cover system, linearity, and more. So hat's the biggest difference between the sequel and its predecessor? Denby says: "Ultimately it's a crime action game.. The big differentiation for people who played Mafia 1 to Mafia 2 is this intense gunplay. It's more like a first person shooter for us. So once you get into these combats, in this interior rooms, and the exterior [areas], you have so many dynamic objects going around. The way people use cover, the way you use cover, the way the weapons handle, it feels more like a--we put much more focus on the actual gunplay."

Mr. T Game Interview

ZootFly talks Mr. T on Joystiq offers a tongue-in-cheek conversation with ZootFly about their equally cheeky upcoming Mr. T versus the Nazis game. One semi-serious response indicates the game will be ready for release soon after they secure a publisher: "We're looking for a good publisher to pick up the game. Then time starts to fly as fast as Mr. T's dukes, so, to answer your question, not long. In the meantime, why don't you check the Mr. T graphic novel?"

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Previews

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

My plans to get together with my buddies this evening have changed, so my socializing streak has ended at two (still a record). I will still try to get this evening's news posted a bit earlier anyway, as that's probably desirable in and of itself, but that won't be as early as if I was heading out.

Desireable Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: Stick Bang.
Reincarnation ROA.
Gray.
Link: The Five Most Disturbing MMOs.
Stories: Robot Nearly Kills Man; Owner Pays $3,000 Fine. Thanks brother19.
Gone with the wind: Chihuahua blown away.
Science: A Tiny Hominid With No Place on the Family Tree.
Colossal spy airships with 15-story radars get $400M reality check.
Paying a Price for Loving Red Meat. Thanks j.c.f.
Auctions: Paul Jaquays' id Memorabilia Auction. Thanks GameShark.
Media: This dude could definitely kick your ass. Thanks brother19.
Mythbusters: Homemade Hi-Def Speakers.
Terrible TV Show Ideas.



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