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Monday, Jun 29, 2009

  

Red War Open Beta

The Red War: Edem's Curse Website now offers downloads of the open beta client for this subscription-free MMORPG, while participants in the closed beta can get an automatic update to the open beta client, though they warn this will take "NUMEROUS large patches." This is all in advance of the beta opening to all, which is expected in about an hour, at 9:00 pm EDT (6:00 pm PDT). Word is beta characters will not be wiped when the game goes live, and here's a description of what this is all about:

Red War: Edem's Curse is an isometric MMORPG in the vein of Diablo and other dungeon crawlers that revolutionizes dungeon crawlers with new features such as the Red War tournaments. Red War's daily tournaments are a pure test of skill rather than character level or equipment. All participants are set to the same level at the beginning of the tournament, and only stats and skills are allowed to be customized.

Left 4 Dead Patched

Steam News tells us a new version of Left 4 Dead is now available via the magic of an automatic update. Here's what's changed:

    • Removed the "Are you ready to play Versus?" confirmation
    • Fixed a crash when using mouse wheel or keyboard to select Campaign chapters
    • Fixed sv_steamgroup_exclusive servers advertising for public lobbies
    • Restored the ability to vote for a new campaign in Versus mode

Mass Effect 2 Replay Changes

Mass Effect Forums have an explanation from Mass Effect 2 Lead Designer Preston Watamaniuk on why you will not be able to replay the game with the same built-up character after completing BioWare's upcoming RPG sequel, leading to a corresponding change to how insanity mode will be handled, as explained in a forum post by Lead System Designer Christina Norman (thanks 1up). Here's word on the change:

The reason is progression. We have been working very hard to make sure we design the abilities system to offer smooth progression into ME3 from ME2. Allowing double progression on characters makes that almost impossible. We have to have reasonable knowledge about where a character could end up finishing all content on a playthrough. We also want to offer choice of character build within specific classes.

We replaced that feature with playing after you were done because it preserves progression and allows for smoother downloading of PRC.

Evening Previews

Evening Consolidation

Evening Tech Bits

WoW Faction Switching Plans

The World of Warcraft Forums announce plans to introduce a faction-change service in World of Warcraft (thanks nin and WoW.com). There is no ETA yet, as it sounds like this will be rolled out in "bits and pieces." Here's word:

We wanted to give everyone a very early heads-up that, in response to player requests, we’re developing a new service for World of Warcraft that will allow players to change their faction from Alliance to Horde or Horde to Alliance. There’s still much work to do and many details to iron out, but the basic idea is that players will be able to use the service to transform an existing character into a roughly equivalent character of the opposing faction on the same realm. Players who ended up creating and leveling up characters on the opposite factions from their friends have been asking for this type of functionality for some time, and we’re pleased to be getting closer to being able to deliver it.

As with all of the features and services we offer, we intend to incorporate the faction-change service in a way that won’t disrupt the gameplay experience on the realms, and there will be some rules involved with when and how the service can be used. The number of variables involved increases the complexity of implementing this service, but we plan to take the time needed to ensure that it lives up to expectations before officially rolling it out. We’ll go into much more detail on all of this here at http://www.WorldofWarcraft.com as development progresses. In the meantime, we wanted to let you know that because this type of functionality requires extensive internal testing well in advance of release, you may be seeing bits and pieces of the service in the test builds we use for the public test realms moving forward.

China Bans Gold Farming

InformationWeek reports that China has banned trading virtual goods for real money, making the practice of "gold farming" illegal (thanks Slashdot). The report quotes a 2008 survey conducted by Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester estimating that between 80% and 85% of the world's gold farmers are in China, and says this of the new ruling:

The Chinese government estimates that trade in virtual currency exceeded several billion yuan last year, a figure that it claims has been growing at a rate of 20% annually. One billion yuan is currently equal to about $146 million.

The ruling is likely to affect many of the more than 300 million Internet users in China, as well as those in other countries involved in virtual currency trading. In the context of online role playing games like World of Warcraft, virtual currency trading is often called gold farming.

The most popular form of virtual currency in China is called "QQ coins," a form of virtual credit issued by Tencent.com.

Tencent.com, which has about 220 million registered users -- about as many as Facebook -- is quoted in the Chinese government news release as "resolutely" supporting the new rule. The government justifies its ban on virtual currency trading as a way to curtail gambling and other illegal online activities.

QUAKE(s) & More of id's iPhone Plans

There's a John Carmack interview on MTV Multiplayer talking about DOOM Resurrection, the upcoming DOOM iPhone game. A separate topic that comes up along the way is future plans, as the id Technical Director reveals ambitions to bring QUAKE, QUAKE II, and QUAKE III Arena to Apple's Smartphone as well. He says there's "no doubt" that QUAKE and QUAKE II are coming to the iPhone and that QUAKE III Arena will be possible "if Apple winds up addressing just a few things in their system software," though he says QUAKE III Arena "would not be a problem at all" on the iPhone 3GS. He also touches on plans for a RAGE-themed iPhone game, that possible confusion with Wolfenstein RPG is what's holding up the release of Wolfenstein 3D Classic, and that he envisions a DOOM 2 RPG in the future as well. He acknowledges this is a pretty heavy schedule, saying, "I expect we’ll have an iPhone project every two to three months over the next year." On a semi-related note, Joystiq has a brief story on how DOOM Resurrection was originally planned as a Wii game.

Dreamkiller Announced

Aspyr Media and Mindware Studios (Cold War) announce Dreamkiller, a "fast, frantic and mega-bloodbath" first-person shooter to be released this fall for Windows and Xbox 360. Here are the first Dreamkiller screenshots, and here is the announcement:

AUSTIN, TEXAS – June 29, 2009 – Aspyr Media and Mindware Studios probe the insidious depths of the subconscious to bring Dreamkiller to the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC. A fast, frantic and mega-bloodbath first-person shooter, Dreamkiller takes gamers inside the dark and twisted nightmares of tortured souls possessed by unknown forces.

Gamers will take on the role of Alice Drake, a psychologist with the extraordinary ability to enter the minds of her patients and combat the ravenous foes haunting their dreams. Utilizing a host of fantastic weapons and her own special abilities, Alice confronts our common demons only to discover an even deeper menace reigns within. The ultimate showdown becomes inevitable between that which would torment and she who will protect, and only one force will prevail amidst a variety of dreamscapes as varied and bizarre as the human mind itself.

Dreamkiller features 12 rich levels of single-player gameplay each laced with swarms of hideous and disturbing enemies reflecting the mind’s infinite palette of fear. The onslaught continues with numerous multiplayer modes and a host of over-the-top weapons and supernatural abilities. Stay awake, Dreamkiller will be available this fall.

EA Interview

A Different Track: Frank Gibeau Talks Strategy on Gamasutra is an interview with the president of EA's Games Label that covers the broad topics befitting his position at the top, discussing layoffs, the mood at EA following recession-related cuts, EA's corporate culture, their roadmap for reinvigorating the company, new IPs, renewing the company's focus on quality, and more.

No StarCraft II LAN Confirmed

IncGamers has a confirmation to their previous report that StarCraft II will not support multiplayer play over a local area network. They received a partial explanation of the reasons for this from Blizzard, who inform them this "is because of the planned technology to be incorporated into Battle.net." Blizzard plans on revealing more about this in the future.

QuakeCon 2009 Moves

The QuakeCon 2009 Website announces a venue change for QuakeCon 2009, which has moved from the Hilton Anatole Hotel to the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX, though is will still take place as scheduled, from August 13-16. Reservations already placed at Hilton Anatole will be automatically cancelled, and that with id and the Gaylord Texan currently in the process of finalizing the transition, and the hotel will begin taking room reservations for QuakeCon 2009 "very shortly." Thanks Shacknews.

Men of War: Red Tide Website, Trailer

A new Men of War: Red Tide Website is live for the recently announced standalone expansion to BestWay's World War II RTS sequel. The site includes a detailed overview of Red Tide, screenshots, artwork, and a link to the first official trailer on the YouTube. Thanks Mike Martinez.

Friday Night Fights

Friday Night Fights at Destructoid will offer Flash and web gaming tournaments at for $80K in prizes, beginning Friday with a QUAKE LIVE tourney. There are also random prizes for those who would rather be lucky than good.

Harry Potter Launch Trailer

A launch trailer for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince offers another look at the wizardly game tie-in on the eve of its release in North American stores and Friday's release in Europe. The clip is posted on the YouTube and it is also available on AtomicGamer and FileFront.

NecroVisioN Patches

1C Publishing now offers patches for the European Boxed editions of NecroVisioN, updating The Farm 51's supernatural World War I shooter to the same version 1.2 as the recently released patch for the North American edition. As before, version 1.2 adds dedicated server applications; physics, memory, and rendering optimizations; a secret areas counter; bug fixes; and more. The various language patches are also mirrored on The Patches Scrolls.

StarCraft II's WoW Setback

WOW held up StarCraft II for a year on Eurogamer reflects comments from some of the StarCraft II development team on how assisting with World of Warcraft was responsible for setting back the upcoming release of StarCraft II by about a year, which may offer comfort to players whose productivity in other areas has likewise suffered at the hands of Blizzard's MMORPG. Interestingly, this project management error delayed the first of their recent games that didn't suffer one of Blizzard's famous returns to the drawing board: "This may be the first game in our recent few games that we haven't done that major reboot with," said Rob Pardo. "It's been a long project for sure, but if you look at say World of Warcraft, or Warcraft III - or even the original StarCraft - there was a halfway point where we took a dramatic left turn and took a different direction. We haven't done that with Starcraft II. That said, it's certainly taken a long time to get to where it's at, for a variety of reasons."

ARMA II Everywhere

A new post on the Steam Website says ARMA II is now available "worldwide" via Steam. Bohemia Interactive's military shooter sequel appeared on Steam late last week, and it was released in Europe before that, so it's not clear what previously unserved territories are now entitled to the game, but there it is. The boxed retail edition of ARMA II is expected in North American stores on July 7.

Meridian 4 Sale

Steam News announces a sale on Meridian 4 games, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the indie publisher. They are offering a 50% discount on all Meridian 4 games through July 6, including Shadowgrounds Survivor and Meridian4 Complete Pack.

Street Fighter IV PC Next Week

Impulse is now accepting preorders for the PC edition of Street Fighter IV, as the Windows version of the fighting game sequel will be released in North America one week from tomorrow on July 7. There is no bonus associated with the preorder, but your account will not be charged until the game is available for download.

No StarCraft II LAN Support?

There's another new StarCraft II preview on Kotaku with round three of their hands-on impressions of Blizzard's upcoming RTS sequel, including discussion of the solo campaign and the new Battle.net. There's also a StarCraft II hands-on preview on IncGamers with their own thoughts on seeing the game first hand, and there is also a StarCraft II interview on IncGamers where Rob Pardo, Chris Sigaty, and Dustin Browder answer questions about the game, the new Battle.net, serving the map-designer community, the solo campaign, and more. They get contradictory answers to a question about multiplayer support for LAN play, but the question about console support was less equivocal, as Pardo puts the chances of a console edition of StarCraft II at "zero percent." As for multiplayer on a LAN, both Dustin and Sigaty said they were still discussing it, but "we don't have any plans to support LAN," is what Pardo had to say about LAN play. "We will not support it." Also, Joystiq has a clip showing seven minutes of StarCraft II multiplayer play and yet another hands-on StarCraft II multiplayer preview.

Age of Conan Interviews

The Age of Conan Interview on Ten Ton Hammer chats with Craig Morrison and Erling Ellingsen about the recently launched Chapter 5 for Age of Conan that introduces the Tarantia Commons and other new features to the MMORPG. Chapter 5 is also one of the topics in an interview with Craig Morrison on IncGamers to be published tomorrow, and while the HTML on that dries, they've posted a small excerpt on why Chapter 5's new RPG mechanics weren't part of the game on launch, another excerpt on the game's rocky launch, and still another snippet saying the Xbox 360 version of the game, like Duke Nukem Forever, is "is still being worked on."

Ron Gilbert at PAX 2009

The Penny Arcade Expo announces famed designer Ron Gilbert will be the keynote speaker at PAX 2009, the gaming convention scheduled to take place at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center from September 4 to September 6. Here's the announcement, which includes word on some of the other festivities planned for the three-day extravaganza:

SEATTLE - June 29, 2009 - PAX 2009 organizers humbly announced today that industry legend Ron Gilbert will grace the stage as keynote speaker at the sixth annual gaming festival to be held Sept. 4-6 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.

Legendary storyteller, game designer, programmer and producer Ron Gilbert has created countless classic video games, including the seminal LucasArts works Maniac Mansion and first two installments in the Monkey Island adventure series. His more than 20-year career in the games industry encompasses co-founding three game studios, creating the famous SCUMM scripting language and being inducted into the Computer Game Hall of Fame. He is currently creative director at independent development studio Hothead Games in Vancouver, Canada.

"This is an unbelievable moment for us," commented Penny Arcade's Robert Khoo. "I wasted an entire family vacation one year trying to figure out how to win that stupid spitting competition." Gilbert joins an illustrious group of past PAX keynote speakers, including noted geek icon Wil Wheaton and innovative game designer Ken Levine.

In addition to the highly anticipated keynote address, numerous panels and game demonstrations, Omegathon and The PAX 10 independent games showcase, PAX 2009 will offer attendees an unparalleled musical experience with performances from Freezepop, Jonathan Coulton, MC Frontalot, Paul and Storm, Anamanaguchi and Metroid Metal. As if all of this weren't enough, PAX organizers further confirmed that this year's Exhibition Hall is down to its final availability. Prospective exhibitors interested in securing these last coveted booth spaces can write to paxsales@paxsite.com for more information.

On Trine Pricing

Shacknews has word from publisher Nobilis that the PS3 edition of Trine will be half the $40.00 MSRP of the PC edition of Frozenbyte's upcoming fantasy-themed action/platformer for which a playable demo was just released. It should be noted that many listings for the PC edition of Trine do have a lower price point, but the $29.99 listed on Steam is still 50% above the PS3 MSRP. There is an discussion of pricing from Frozenbyte on the Frozenbyte Community Forums:

I'm sure the price will be something what will generate a lot of discussion. While guidelines are set by our publisher, in my opinion price around $/€ 30 is very reasonable for a game which production values are very close to a retail title. While we are labeled indie as developers, Trine is far from a game created by a solo hero developer (we have over 20 employees and Trine has contributions from a double amount of people). We are very confident that we can deliver a full retail experience with Trine (hence PC version is sold in retail also for approx 35 to 40 eur/usd!).

However, if players, sales and press show we are wrong we will definitely check the pricing. In the meantime, please check out the $/€ 0,00 demo, add a total of 15 levels and judge by yourself!

The Guitar Hero of Movies

Variety outlines plans by startup YooStar to launch a system that lets fans insert themselves into classic movie scenes and act "alongside" the movie stars with a package that includes a green screen, a high-resolution webcam, and software that includes scenes from real movies and TV shows in which to participate. The package should cost around $170 when released in August, and while it is not technically a game, they are aiming to create "Guitar Hero" for movies. Word is:

Once fans have inserted themselves into a scene, they can share the clip on their own computer or upload free to a YouTubelike site hosted by YooStar, where anyone can view it.

Five studios -- Paramount, Universal, MGM, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate -- have partnered with the company, as have the National Basketball Assn. and Sesame Workshop's "Sesame Street" franchise. The package will ship with 14 clips (11 from films, one from "Sesame Street" and two "moving backgrounds," which allow users to improvise a scene).

Included are single scenes from pics as old as "Double Indemnity" (1944) and "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) and as recent as 2006's "Rocky Balboa" and "Employee of the Month." The original "Terminator" and "Beverly Hills Cop 2" are also in the starter pack.

Overlord II DLC Plans

Strategy Informer highlights a tidbit from their Overlord II Interview chatting with Lennart Sas about Triumph Studios' just-released action/adventure sequel. Word is Overlord II DLC is already in the works, though the only concrete thing he has to say about this is that "it'll be announced soon."

StarCraft II Q&A, Screenshots

There's a StarCraft II Bonanza on Shacknews talking with Dustin Browder about the coming RTS sequel. They fail in their efforts at wringing a beta start date out of him, but do get Dustin to open up about the solo campaign, and have a couple of new screenshots to illustrate the story.

Dave Perry and Jacko Game Plans

A post on Dave Perry's Blog has thoughts from the former Shiny front man on the passing of Michael Jackson. It turns out Dave visited Neverland ranch a couple of times, and there were discussions of releasing new material through a video game, which Perry seems to think would have introduced a new audience to games, rather than vice versa:

Our discussions lead us to plan for him to release his next music album as a video game FIRST, then as an album. This would have introduced many new players to video games. He was incredibly interested in the idea, and we got quite far down that road, working on the story, mechanics etc. We were excited about the press potential, I remember saying to him, "Oprah never talks about video games", to which he replied, "Oprah is a friend of mine". This was a theme I learned, he had so many friends, and actually spent time with them all. It was really impressive.

War in the East Announced

Matrix Games announces Gary Grigsby's War in the East, a new turn-based strategy/war game based on Gary Grigsby's invasion of the east... No wait, that's not right: It's actually based on World War II's eastern front, as is clear from the game's full title: Gary Grigsby’s War in the East: The German-Soviet War 1941-1945. Here's word on this recreation of the bloody combat between German forces and the then-Soviet Union:

Gary Grigsby’s War in the East: The German-Soviet War 1941-1945 is a turn-based World War II strategy game stretching across the entire Eastern Front. Gamers can engage in an epic campaign, including division-sized battles with realistic and historical terrain, weather, orders of battle, logistics and combat results. As with all the award-winning titles made by the 2by3 Games team, factors such as supply, fatigue, experience, morale and the skill of your divisional, corps and army leaders all play an important part in determining the results at the front line. Gary Grigsby’s War in the East will come with a massive Eastern Front scenario as well as smaller scenarios all with different strategic and operational challenges.

Epic Games Korea

Epic Games announces the launch of Epic Games Korea, following up indications that surfaced last week that such a plan was in the works. Here's a bit from the official announcement on what this is all about:

SEOUL (June 29, 2009) – Epic Games, Inc. today celebrated the launch of Epic Games Korea, its wholly owned and operated business unit based in Seoul. Select members of the media attended a press conference and private reception to honor the new subsidiary, which extends Unreal Engine 3 licensing services and dedicated support resources to game developers in Korea.

Epic Games Korea is led by territory manager Ray Park, who was previously the business and strategy development manager of Massive, Inc., where he launched Microsoft’s dynamic in-game advertising network in Korea. Prior to Massive, he helped third-party game publishers and developers ship over 100 games for Xbox and Xbox 360 across Asia. Park also worked at Sony Computer Entertainment Korea as one of its early founding members, managing the third-party software licensing group to prepare games for PlayStation’s successful launch in Korea.

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Consolidation

Morning Tech Bits

Mobilization

Metaverse

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Okay, I'm going try evolving the posting patterns here a little further this week, so we'll see how that goes. The plans is to keep all the bulleted lists as part of the first update in the morning (there will still be evening consolidation and tech bits roundups), and ceasing to stage the evening news, so later stories will just go up as they come in. I've contemplated this for a while, and am succeeding in convincing myself it will be for the best. We shall see: I certainly welcome your feedback on this topic.

Topical Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: The Circular Blot 2.
Mini Train.
Links: The Answer is NOT always C.
The Wienermobile is the Greatest Vehicle in America. Thanks Digg.
Media: Qd100Qlite2 - Part 1. Thanks LittleMe.
WKUK- Fight Club. NSFW.
Quarterback spikes ball and it hits himself in the nuts. Thanks Digg.
Follow-up: Report: Michael Jackson's Horrific Autopsy Results. Thanks Devicer.
The Funnies: ActionTrip Comic Strip- Not The Payne He Used To Be.



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