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Friday, Jan 08, 2010

  

Irrational Games Name Revived

GameInformer.com has word that 2K Boston, the studio formerly known as Irrational Games, is reverting to that name, and will henceforth again be known as Irrational Games. Apparently there was a realization somewhere along the way that the name change had been, well, irrational, as the studio had built a strong reputation under its original moniker. Word is: "This return to its roots is more than just a new name and logo for Irrational Games. It represents a renewed commitment to the studio's fans, which you can see for yourself at the new irrationalgames.com. The site is currently just a countdown timer, but soon you'll experience an array of cool community features, insight into the game creation process, and never-before-seen tidbits about games like System Shock 2, Freedom Force, and BioShock."

Dawn of Discovery: The Harbor TMed

A post on superannuation points the way to this Trademark registration, which was filed by Ubisoft for Dawn of Discovery: The Harbor. Dawn of Discovery was the North American title for Anno 1404, the latest installment in the Anno strategy series.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Planet Profile, Comic

A new update to the Star Wars: The Old Republic Website profiles the planet of Dromund Kaas, home to the Emperor and his Dark Council. They offer a description of the planet, along with a planet flythrough video and some wallpapers, screenshots, and concept art in their media section. Also, the twenty-third issue of Threat of Peace offers the latest virtual issue of the comic series supplying some of the back story for the upcoming MMORPG from BioWare and LucasArts.

Blood Bowl Patch

A new patch for Blood Bowl is available to update the Warhammer meets tackle football game to version 1.1.3.3. The patch can be found on the Blood Bowl Forums along with details on what's changed. The download is mirrored on AtomicGamer, Gamer's Hell, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying.

Zero Gear Patched

Steam News announces a new automatic update is available for Zero Gear, NimbleBit's cart racing/combat game. The new version adds a new Micro kart, addresses some bugs, and implements initial dedicated server support.

On Sale

  • Aaaaa! on Direct2Drive. Save 50%.
  • Braid on Impulse. Save 50%.
  • King's Bounty - Armored Princess on Impulse. Save 50%.
  • Kings Bounty: The Legend on Impulse. Save 50%.
  • Majesty 2 - The Fantasy Kingdom Sim on Impulse. Save 50%.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire on Impulse. Save 15%.
  • Supreme Commander Gold on Impulse. Save 50%.
  • World War 2 - Time of Wrath on Impulse. Save 33%.

    Still on sale (previously reported)
      Continue here to read the full story.

Rockstar San Diego Revolt

In a story reminiscent of the infamous "EA Spouse" outburst in 2004, a group of wives of developers from Rockstar San Diego has posted a lengthy open letter under the pseudonym "Rockstar Spouse" to Gamasutra decrying the conditions under which their mates work. The issues listed by Rockstar Spouse seem quite familiar from the EA Spouse incident, as they cite quality of life concerns relating to long working hours and high degrees of working stress, also complaining of benefit cuts, salaries not keeping pace with inflation, and abusive management. There is also an extensive discussion of the age-old problem of "crunch time" never going away, saying: "The managers at Rockstar San Diego continue in their dishonesty, pushing their employees to the brink promising temporariness fully equipped with the knowledge of another deadline just around the corner. The reigns whip again, and it becomes mandatory to work close to twelve hours a day including Saturdays, regardless if an employee has finished all his duties prior." They conclude threatening legal action if their complaints aren't redressed:

Conclusively, if these working conditions stay unchanged in the upcoming weeks, preparation will be made to take legal action against Rockstar San Diego. This is the course that naturally presents itself, as either these conditions were manufactured from unawareness and actions to improve conditions will prove such innocence. Or if no action is seen after this letter, it clear that other aspects are the cause of the deteriorated conditions of Rockstar San Diego employees and must be further addressed. Rest assure, all that is desired is compensation for health, mental, financial, and damages done to families of employees.

Dark Void PhysX Trailer

The latest trailer from Dark Void, which has now produced more movies than Hollywood, shows off the PhysX effects when Airtight Games' upcoming jetpack-powered action game is played with an NVIDIA accelerator. The primary benefit seems to be enhanced weapon effects. You can view the clip on the YouTube and below. Continue here to read the full story.

LEGO Universe CES Trailer

A new trailer for LEGO Universe is now available to show how NetDevil's upcoming LEGO MMORPG as it is being presented at CES 2010. The clip shows off a variety of cinematic block-headed activities, and is accompanied by a batch of new screenshots. The clip is available on the YouTube and is embedded below. Continue here to read the full story.

EA Dr Pepper DLC Details

EA and Dr Pepper announce further details on the Dr Pepper EA promotion first revealed the other day. There are codes under the caps of 20 oz. bottles of Dr Pepper that can be redeemed for EA DLC, and some details on this DLC follow. Continue here to read the full story.

Gratuitous Space Battles Patched

Cliffski’s Blog has change notes for a version 1.29 patch that's now available for Gratuitous Space Battles, which should be generally available by now, as about 24 hours ago he said: "If you have entered an on-line code the game will autopatch sometime over the next 24 hours." Also, the Positech developer tweeted the following earlier today: "doing an emergency patch. BAH!"

Evening Previews

Evening Screenshots

Evening Consolidation

Evening Mobilization

Evening Tech Bits

Evening Metaverse

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Metro 2033 Story Trailer

THQ TV now offers a Metro 2033 trailer outlining the story for 4A Games' post-apocalyptic shooter that's due for release sometime this year. The clip features cinematic footage and plot exposition in a few variants on Russian accents (or maybe they're Ukrainian, since that's where 4A Games is located), as well a brief, but intense, snippet of gameplay. The embedded version follows. Continue here to read the full story.

BC2 Beta Dates; No Mod Tools or Public Server Distribution

The Battlefield Blog has a post from today (dated yesterday) with details on the PC beta testing for Battlefield Bad Company 2, saying the test is slated to run from January 28 to February 25 on a 32-player map called Port Valdez, which features a snow environment. They say preordering the game is "the most sure fire way" to get access, and that this can be done now through the EA Store and GameStop and they are working to get this offer on other retailers and e-tailers. They also confirm a recent leak suggesting a Steam beta, but say this does not mean this is certain: "We are however working with Steam to have the Public PC Beta available on Steam, but can't confirm this quite yet so cross your fingers Steam users." The post also has some further details about the game, saying it will use PunkBuster as an anti-cheating measure and there will be no mod tools, "However a majority of the games logic is controlled by the server and there will be Serverside control options for the dedicated servers." Finally, speaking of dedicated servers, while the game will make use of them, the software will not be distributed: "We will not distribute these publicly. There are many factors for why we have decided this with the biggest factor being security & integrity of our game & Dedicated Servers."

Blizzard's MMOFPS?

French site NoFrag offers a rumor (in the site's native French) on Blizzard's upcoming mystery MMOG, as 2010 continues its pace for a record number of game-related rumors. As interpreted by Google Translate, we see they are reporting the game will be an MMO first-person shooter set in a futuristic environment, attributing this information to "d'une source proche du dossier," which is the French equivalent of "a source familiar with the matter." They say the MMOFPS will have two components, one a social/lifestyle element like The Sims Online, with the other being where the combat takes place. Blizzard obviously has an existing IP that would match up with this idea, and it is also quite compatible with Blizzard's explanations that their unannounced MMOG is "significantly differentiated enough" from World of Warcraft.

Crayon Physics Deluxe Pick Your Price Sale

As noted on Kloonigames Crayon Physics Deluxe is now one year old. To celebrate, the Crayon Physics Deluxe Website is offering the chance to pick the price you pay for the offbeat independent game (thanks winnetou). World of Goo had a success with a similar program, and more recently Immortal Defense ran a similar sale, and this post outlines the top ten prices customers chose, ranging from $30.00 to $105.00, with the average price being slightly above $2.00.

Blizzard Discouraging WoW Account Restorations, Considering Mandatory Authenticators

WoW.com reports that Blizzard account administrators are being instructed by their managers to avoid restoring World of Warcraft characters for players whose accounts have been looted by gold sellers, keyloggers, and other nefarious elements from the MMO underworld. They attribute this information to a veteran account administrator who tells them admins are being told to offer ripped-off players a "care package" consisting of 2,500 gold, two Emblems of Frost, and 10 Emblems of Triumph for every day the players had to wait to receive the package. Word is if players accept the package, the incident is closed, and no other measures are taken, while if it is refused, "they are then forced to go into a character restoration queue that is consistently several days to weeks long." This is described as a measure meant to reduce the workload of employees who perform account restorations, and they note: "Similar policies have existed at other times account compromises have been high, such as during the transition from Vanilla WoW to The Burning Crusade." This ties back to an earlier report they made saying "trusted sources close to the situation" inform them Blizzard is giving serious consideration to making hardware authenticators mandatory on all WoW accounts to reduce the number of accounts compromised in the game. They say: "According to our sources, while this policy has not been implemented yet and the details are not finalized, it is a virtually forgone conclusion that it will happen."

Child's Play Raises $1.7 Million

The Child's Play charity announces its 2009 fundraising drive has raised over $1.7 million for sick children, shattering last year's $1.4 million total in spite of a slumping economy. Word is: "Gamers worldwide proved that nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for charity; the annual gala dinner and auction brought in just under $200,000 over a single evening and the Desert Bus for Hope marathon raised an impressive $139,000 thanks to thousands of sadistic online viewers." Though their efforts center around the holiday season, they also point out: "hospitals are in desperate needs of support year round. The hospital wish lists will remain online at Amazon and the foundation will continue to accept donations through PayPal" (here's the Child's Play Website). Finally, word is The next episode of Penny Arcade: The Series will focus on this year’s Child’s Play.

Borderlands Patches

The Gearbox Software Website offers new version 1.20 patches for Borderlands to go along with yesterday's release of the Windows edition of the Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot DLC for Gearbox's role-playing shooter. The only explanation is: "This update adds support for the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned DLC and Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot!" There's no mention of DRM, though the patch for the first Borderlands DLC added SecuROM for the DLC. The Known Issues Status Update for the game was recently updated, so that may shed further light on what's changed. The manual patch is for boxed copies of the game, while for others word is: "If you obtained your copy from a digital distributor (examples: Steam or Direct2Drive), automated digital distribution will provide the update shortly." The worldwide patch is mirrored on AtomicGamer, FileFront, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying; and there's also a German patch on The Patches Scrolls and WorthPlaying. Update: There are now PC Update 1.2.0 notes (1/08) on the Gearbox Software Community Forums (thanks nyr27).

Runaway: A Twist of Fate Patches

As announced in the Runaway Forums, a new patch is now available for Runaway: A Twist of Fate to update the adventure sequel to version 1.11. The new version addresses sound issues during cinematics and dialogs, unspecified issues in chapter 2, and a compatibility issue with ATI RADEON 9500/9800, X300/X1250 and XPRESS 200/1250 graphics controllers with 256 MB of video memory. The patch, which applies to the DVD and digital distributed versions purchased from their online shop, is available in three languages, with the English edition mirrored on AtomicGamer, FileFront, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying; the French edition is mirrored on AtomicGamer, FileFront, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying; and the German edition is mirrored on The Patches Scrolls and WorthPlaying.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Trailer

There's a Battlefield: Bad Company 2 trailer on the Battlefield Blog showing gameplay from the Panama Canal map. This was posted there a couple of weeks ago (it's dated Dec 23), but we skipped it at the time thinking it had been linked here already in this story from December 16 about a clip that was listed with the same title: "Battlefield Moments: Episode 3." Now we see the Battlefield Blog entry that December 16 story was based on has been removed, so we can't reconstruct further what happened, but a different entry is there for that date with a different Panama Canal trailer, which we're guessing was originally listed with the incorrect title that was later fixed. The newer clip still does look familiar, however, so this (no doubt fascinating) explanation can serve in case it is indeed a repeat.

Motion Controller L4D2 Demoed

Razer and Sixense announce a "revolutionary" Wii-style motion sensing technology for PCs they are showing off with Valve at the Consumer Electronics Show. Word is the controller has "ultra-precise one-to-one motion sensing controllers that use electromagnetic fields to track precise movements along all six axes for use in current and future generation PC games. The absolute controller position is tracked to within a mere millimeter for positioning and to a degree for orientation." As noted in this article: "Using Razer's controller, a gamer is able to point the controller at targets to 'shoot' as if he is firing a real gun." There is a video showing the controller in action playing Left 4 Dead 2 on the YouTube.

Infinity Ward MMOG Rumor

Infinity Ward is developing an MMOG is the latest speculation for the Call of Duty franchise, reports Destructoid, where they say they've heard that Infinity Ward is hiring developers from Blizzard and Sony Online Entertainment (one of whom "may be the lead designer of EverQuest II") to help get things off the ground. They attribute these reports to "industry sources," who could not say whether or not this MMOG is actually part of the Call of Duty series. They say "Our Intel seems to indicate that Call of Duty will continue as an annual franchise while IW runs this MMO alongside it." This jibes with yesterday's rumor that Infinity Ward is not the developer on Modern Warfare 3, the presumed eighth installment in the series (even though the seventh installment hasn't been officially announced yet), and both rumors dovetail with an latimes.com story from November that said a third developer had been added to the series in addition to Infinity Ward and Treyarch, and that Activision was considering an MMO Call of Duty game. Thanks Joker961.

Bungie MMOG?

A Gamasutra JobSeeker message from Bungie looks to hire a "Player Investment Design Lead" for their Kirkland, WA studio. The job description includes pretty strong indications that this is for some sort of MMO game, asking: "Can you find the fine line between a reward that encourages players to have fun and an incentive that enslaves them?" They say this position involves: "Designing the mechanics which drive in-game player reward and incentives... so players feel invested in the world and their character...have long-term goals, and can't grief or exploit them." Included in the qualifications are: "Experience with many modes of online play" and "Experience with online incentives (achievements, rewards, economic, etc) and a passion for understanding what drives player behavior within them." Thanks IncGamers.

Op Ed

IGN - Lying to the Masses.
Many of us cut our teeth on hard games. We played Mega Man, Castlevania, and Mario, and when we think of licensed titles from the past they too had the core gameplay that lived up to titles of that era. Rather than pandering to the masses and writing it off as "hitting the mainstream" I'm in favor of a little deception. Rather than sacrificing quality to appeal to the casual masses, this industry is in dire need of publishers and developers that'll take casual licenses or mainstream content and deliver a little hardcore gaming tucked away in there for players to discover. It worked 20 years ago, and it worked well enough to make many of us lifelong gamers.

GameSetWatch - "The Magic Resolution": It's Not All Fun And Games.
Dear Esther seems to have spawned a new trend in indie development: the game that isn't a game. Since Esther, we've seen Judith - a low-fi walk around an unsettling castle, a retelling of the opera Bluebeard - The Path - Tale of Tales' controversial and heavily symbolic version of Little Red Riding Hood - Small Worlds - a pure-exploration game, in which the player slowly uncovers a collection of snowglobe-esque environments - and now a couple of my own pieces. My ongoing Half-Life 2 mod project Post Script is an attempt to see how little interaction you can get away with in something that's still ostensibly game-like. Nestlings just gets rid of the game altogether, and simply uses the Source engine to tell a short story.

GamesRadar - Are some games more about luck than skill? Thanks Joker961.
Sometimes, you can rely on luck to progress. Veteran mode in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ended up being so ridiculously hard in places, the best tactic is often to just sprint towards your next checkpoint, ducking left and right occasionally in an ironic nod to the random walk and hope you make it there alive. Some GR editors swear by this. Yes, we're that good at games. It may take a few tries, but more often than not, you'll soon get lucky and make the unlikely run between the bullets to safety.

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Previews

Morning Consolidation

Morning Tech Bits

Metaverse

Safety Dance

Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

We had another overnight snowstorm around here, just an inch or two, nothing overly dramatic. What I've been trying to figure out is what's been causing these odd tracks in the snow on our sidewalk that I find no matter how early I go out. They look sort of like sled tracks, except there are four of them, as if from a sled with an extra set of runners, and for a while I was trying to figure out what sort of sled that could be, or whether it might be from a snow blower being dragged, or something similar, which bugged me, because the pressed down tracks are hard to shovel and tend to ice up. Today I finally figured it out: the tracks are from a baby stroller, as these have front wheels on a shorter axle than the rears, making for the extra tracks. This made me feel better about the extra effort on my part, as it's hard to resent a baby getting to run a dawn patrol through the snow. It also made me feel clever to finally deduce the cause... I'm a regular Sherlock Holmes of the snowplow set.

Strolling Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: Pole Dance Hero.
Red and Blue Balls.
Alphabet Shoot.
Links: 38 Snowmen Nightmares- Calvin and Hobbes In Real Life.
The 7 Ballsiest Ways Anyone Ever Quit Their Job. Thanks Acleacius.
Story: DUI Expert Charged With DUI. Thanks Mark.
Science: Google’s Book Scanning Technology Revealed.
An embarrassment of Kepler riches, planetary and otherwise.
Images: Mario Question Block Coin Candy.
Amazing Things To Do To Your Friends When They Pass Out. Thanks Acleacius.
Media: George Lucas to Critics: Whatever. Thanks nin.
Gabriel Iglesias- Six Levels of Fatness.
The Funnies: azarimy's sketchstation. BFBC2 comics.



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