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Friday, Aug 06, 2010

  

QUAKE LIVE Premium Subscriptions

QUAKE LIVE is back online after some scheduled maintenance for the formerly free online shooter. We say formerly free because they have launched two different premium subscription plans for the service, though "standard" QUAKE LIVE play remains free. There is a Premium Subscription Plan for $1.99 a month with some perks including exclusive maps, and a Pro Subscription Plan for $3.99 per month offering further features, including the ability to start your own server and invite players with Standard memberships to play on Premium maps. The full rundown follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Counter-Strike: Source Beta Returns

Steam News announces the reopening of the beta for Counter-Strike: Source, their teamplay shooter remake. They offer a beta release, and this explanation of what this is all about: "Starting today the Counter-Strike: Source Beta will be available to all PC Counter-Strike: Source players. As we continue to update CSS and address issues, we want to make sure to not destabilize the core game. By releasing updates to CSS Beta first, we will be able to solicit community feedback before those changes are applied to CSS."

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light in September

Crystal Dynamics will release Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for PC and PlayStation 3 on September 28, reports Joystiq. This will follow more than a month after the release of the Xbox 360 edition of the platformer sequel. PC and PS3 owners can take heart in the fact that the 360 edition will not be 100% complete, as online cooperative multiplayer will not be present on release. This will be patched in on September 28 as the game is released for other platforms. Also, VG247 has word that the game's release will be supported by no fewer than five DLC releases before the end of the year, offering new puzzles, exploration, combat, as well as playable character packs featuring other "well-known videogame characters."

City of Football TM

An update on superannuation leads the way to an odd trademark registration by Namco Bandai, where they have filed a trademark for City of Football. Some sort of Green Bay, Wisconsin game perhaps?

Star Wars: The Old Republic Races

The Star Wars: The Old Republic Website has details on some of the non-human playable characters in the upcoming Star Wars MMORPG. They offer some new tidbits about the Sith Pureblood, the Miraluka, Mirialans, and Zabraks. There's also further story background on this page where there is a history of the Mandalorian Wars, including a new holorecord narrated by actor Lance Henriksen.

New Left 4 Dead 2 Mutation

Steam News has word a new patch is now automatically available for Left 4 Dead 2. The new version has localization updates and fixes and adds this week's mutation, which is called Gib Fest. The Left 4 Dead Blog has further details on the new mutation: "Blast the infected to shreds with M60s. Swords can slice up some fun. Chainsaws can tear apart the infected. But you need to get close for both and well… chainsaws are really loud! Time to go with the ultimate gun, you and three friends armed with M60s and unlimited ammo. This is going to get messy." There's also an article on the Left 4 Dead Blog with a breakdown of all this mutation madness.

Disciples III: Renaissance Patch

A new patch is now available for Disciples III: Renaissance, updating the English, French, and German-language editions of the strategy sequel to version 1.06.2. The new version includes gameplay fixes and hotseat mode fixes. They also say those who have one of the "small number" of retail copies sold in the US suffering with an "Original Disc not Found" error should contact Kalypso Media for assistance. The patch is mirrored on AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying.

Hearts of Iron 3: Semper Fi Patch

A new patch is now available for Hearts of Iron 3: Semper Fi to update the World War II strategy expansion to version 2.03b. Word is: "The patch further enhances the vast AI improvements found in the expansion, brings balance changes to units and weapons, and also improves overall stability. Combined, the changes make it that much easier for players to re-write the history as they lose themselves in their own version of World War II, set their own hidden victory conditions, and manage their allies." And though they recommend downloading the patch from the same provider where you bought the game, there are also patch mirrors on AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying. The list of major changes follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Pro Cycling Manager 2010 Patch

A new patch is now available for Pro Cycling Manager 2010 to update the bicycle racing simulation to version 1.030. The patch to update the previous version 1.0.2.2 is available on AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, and The Patches Scrolls. The patch to update any previous version is available on AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying.

Next Borderlands DLC Revealed?

A post on the Gearbox Software Community Forums outlines a bunch of details reportedly from the new Borderlands patch revealing plans for the next DLC for the role-playing shooter. This should be avoided by those who wish to avoid spoilers, as it is chock full of them. Thanks Mike Martinez via Destructoid. There's a follow-up to this on IGN. "There are a few things there," Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford tells them. "But I think it's like reading a draft of a script for a movie that hasn't even been announced yet, let alone launched - yeah you might learn something, but it's not the real thing and it could just drive you crazy thinking about it."

Square Enix Profits

IndustryGamers has word on the latest quarterly financial report from Square Enix. Based on strong sales of Final Fantasy XIII they have posted a 1.8 billion yen ($20.9 million) profit for the first fiscal quarter ended June 30. Word is: "This news comes as welcome relief despite a loss of 19.8 million yen from the same period last year. Sales climbed a total of 10% to $377.8 million year over year. The digital entertainment division of Square Enix specifically posted $193 million in sales, with a posted $68.6 million in operating income."

On Sale

Evening Previews

Evening Consolidation

Evening Mobilization

Evening Tech Bits

etc., etc.

Into the Black

T.G.I.F.!

Operation Flashpoint: Red River Announcement

Codemasters follows the recent revelation of Operation Flashpoint: Red River with the official announcement of the next installment in the military shooter series, which is expected for release next year. Here's word:

Building extensively on the successes of Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Red River brings wide-ranging advancements including a deeper narrative-led campaign, streamlined inventory and control system, a refined enemy and squad AI system, player class roles including customisable XP upgrades and loadout choice, close-quarters combat, new air support options and comprehensive tutorials.

“Operation Flashpoint: Red River is being built around four player co-op online play, complete with a strong narrative, new enemies and combat scenarios to deliver gameplay that immerses players in the reality of war like never before. The new setting of Tajikistan is a diverse and exciting backdrop for the wide range of military challenges the US Marines face around the world in real life. We’re excited to push the series in new directions while staying true to the core tactical combat that is the hallmark of Operation Flashpoint,” said Sion Lenton, Creative Director.

PC Hardware Outsells Consoles

PC Gaming Alliance Releases Newest Horizons Hardware Research has data from the occasionally dormant PC advocates on PC gaming hardware sales outstripping all console hardware sales combined, using a discreet GPU as the criterion for a gaming rig (thanks Computer and Video Games) Here's an excerpt:

Among the key findings: Annual shipment volumes for the PC Gaming hardware market in 2009 were over two times larger than the combined Wii™, PlayStation® 2, PlayStation® 3 and Xbox 360® console units shipped in the same period. This trend for the PC Gaming hardware market to outpace all console shipments combined is expected to continue through the forecasted period of the research. In addition, revenues from consumer PCs capable of gaming that shipped with a discrete GPU (excludes Netbooks and integrated graphics-based PCs) totaled approximately $54.6 billion in 2009 and are forecasted to grow to $61.3 billion by 2014. These revenue figures are based on an estimated 61.5 million PCs (Desktop and Laptops) shipped in 2009 that can largely be associated with PC gaming as a key usage scenario.

The report also estimates the worldwide number of consumers gaming with discrete graphics solutions on their PCs (Desktop and Notebooks) to be 212.6 million for 2009 and expects this to grow to about 322 million by 2014. The report also includes detailed breakouts of various PC configurations (e.g. Basic, Mass Market, etc), by form factor and by geographic territory.

Ultima Online Call to Arms

BioWare Mythic is putting out a "call to arms" to enlist new and former players to check out Ultima Online - Stygian Abyss, with a return to the game program centered around "epic online festivities" for the old school MMORPG. Here's an outline of what they are up to:

  • Players creating new (non-trial) accounts will receive a “New Player Token” giving them access to 20,000 gold, a premium armor set, weapons, and increased skill gain for all venturing party members
  • For former players, we’ve updated the templates for the Advanced Character tokens that making them more exciting. As an incentive to invite someone new to Ultima Online and bring forth a new pack of “UOphiles” – current players who journey with new players will also receive escalated skill advancement
  • Ultima Online: Stygian Abyss, UO’s most recent expansion, is available now for new low price. Upgrades for existing players will now cost $19.99 USD while new users will be able to buy the expansion plus 30 days of gametime for $29.99 USD. Purchase Stygian Abyss via digital download from www.UOGamesCodes.com
  • Live Events are back: One of the long lost gameplay elements of Ultima Online is returning with the help of Event Moderators to lead in game events and drive the live story arc. Ultima Online will be re-introducing several characters from both Ultima’s and Ultima Online’s past and pressing toward re-creating the former majesty of the town Magincia during Call to Arms
  • Introduction of PvP “Arena” Gameplay to Ultima Online: For the first time ever, players will have the option of battling in 1 versus 1 player versus player (PvP) combat in one of two brand new arenas

StarCraft II Patched

Battle.net has details on a new patch that's now automatically available for StarCraft II, bringing the RTS sequel to version 1.0.2. The patch notes outline two fixes, one for an issue where campaign mission victories would not always trigger properly, and another where some players were unable to access single player features.

Stronghold Kingdoms Alpha Signups

The Stronghold Kingdoms Website is now accepting further signups from those interested in alpha testing the upcoming MMO version of Firefly's Stronghold strategy series. Word is: "Due to unprecedented demand Firefly Studios are opening up the alpha 4 invites again until the 15th August. Anyone who has registered since the Alpha launched on 19th July will be included automatically (you don't need to register again). This is the last chance to play Stronghold Kingdoms before the beta so get involved!"

QuakeCon Coverage

Live coverage of the tournaments at QuakeCon 2010 will be broadcast live over the internet via QUAKE LIVE (currently undergoing maintenance) and Quake-Live.tv when things get underway at id's gaming gathering next week. Word is: "Quake Live TV has partnered with QuakeCon 2010 to provide complete coverage of the official QUAKE LIVE® tournaments and Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) events, in addition to interviews and community content. The Intel® QUAKE LIVE® Masters Championship will be hosted by world-renowned eSports commentators James “2GD” Harding and Joe "Joe" Miller. They will be partnering with Quake Live TV commentators Steve “GreasedScotsman” Huff and Alex “Jehar” Popa, who will be covering the Capture the Flag, Open Duel and BYOC tournaments. Together, they will capture all of the QUAKE LIVE® action, energy, and excitement."

AI War Expands for Charity

Arcen Games offers the first beta release of Children Of Neinzul, an upcoming "micro-expansion" for AI Wars, their sci-fi RTS game. The beta patch also includes some new features for the original game, and the micro-expansion is also now available for preorder for $3.99 USD. In a generous move, they are pledging all the profits from this to the Child's Play charity: "When you purchase AI War: Children Of Neinzul, you're not only getting an exciting new expansion, you're also supporting an important cause. Arcen Games has partnered with the Child's Play charity, pledging 100% of the profits from sale of Children of Neinzul (any taxes and distributor fees) to helping sick kids in need."

Activision Financials

Activision's has issued quarterly financial results offering a "weaker-than-expected outlook for the current quarter" thought the gaming giant has "reaffirmed its outlook for the full year." Here's word on their reporting: "The company earned $219 million, or 17 cents per share in the April-June quarter, up 12 percent from $195 million, or 15 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Its net revenue fell 7 percent to $967 million from $1.04 billion. On an adjusted basis that excludes special items and accounts for deferred revenue from games with online components, Activision earned $72 million, or 6 cents per share in the latest quarter. This is a penny above Wall Street's expectations. Adjusted revenue, meanwhile, fell 15 percent to $683 million from $801. This is below the $719.8 million that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected." They also quote Chief Operating Officer Thomas Tippl saying "some of our new releases did not perform up to expectations," specifically citing Singularity as one of the disappointments. The article also quotes outspoken Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter expressing concerns over the sales of StarCraft II and Activision's over-reliance on Call of Duty and World of Warcraft revenue. Another point of interest is the continued shift towards digital distribution: "Tippl said that for the first time revenue from online channels — that is, game downloads from the company's Battle.net site, add-on content and subscriptions — outpaced retail sales during the quarter. Though retail is again expected to pick up during the holidays when many people buy games as gifts, this shows that the industry's aggressive push into digital distribution is beginning to pay off."

Machinarium Amnesty Sale

A post on Ars Technica relates the estimate that only 5-15% of Machinarium players have paid for this point-and-click adventure from Czech developer Amanita Design, which contains no DRM. As a result, they are running a pirate amnesty sale, where the game is $5.00 USD, a 75% savings, hoping this will inspire some of those who have pirated the game to buy it.

Civilization V Specs

The Civilization V Website now offers the official system requirements for the upcoming turn-based strategy sequel (thanks Big Download). Here they are. Continue here to read the full story.

XCOM Interview

There's an XCOM video interview on Games On Net speaking with Jonathan Pelling about 2K's first-person shooter based on the beloved X-COM series of UFO defense strategy games. Topics include how they have no fear of backlash over the genre change as he seems to think fans will just need to understand their approach, how the game will include many tactical and strategy elements, the roles of other characters, similarities and differences compared with the BioShock series, and more.

Global Agenda Interview

The Todd Harris interview on Lore Hound checks in with the executive producer on Global Agenda, Hi-Rez Studios' online tactical shooter. Todd says the game is thriving and growing and discusses the evolution of their game design, plans to add more crafting elements, changing game mechanics, classes and progression, problems they've encountered, and more.

Op Ed

StarCraft 2- help us mourn the death of content freedom. Thanks Mike Martinez.
StarCraft 2 comes with a powerful set of tools for making your own maps and game modifications, but there is no local storage; you have to upload your content to Battle.net and let users grab that content from Blizzard's servers. If your content is considered inappropriate or obscene, Blizzard can take it down. The story is making its way around the gaming press, but this shouldn't be a shock... gaming content has long fallen under the control of the company that created the tools.

Does this hurt us as gamers? Absolutely.

The 'FarmVille' Ruse- How Zynga's Creation Ruins Gaming and Steals Your Time. Thanks Ant via Digg.
There it is: Zynga's dirty technique for making its $500 million. It ropes players into the game with the promise that absolutely anyone can play. It will even float you coins the first time you run out, not unlike the casino that gives a high-roller luxury accommodations in anticipation of making back the house's stake. It dangles the prospect of a bigger, prettier, better farm; as the game loads, you're faced with idyllic images of well-off farms, not unlike the glossy ads for high-end residences. But it's nearly impossible to get some of those goods without ponying up a buck or two here and there. When Zynga's got a user base of 61 million digital farmers, it's easy enough to make ends meet, to say the least.

The Escapist Extra Credits - The Future of MMOs. Thanks Morris.
"This week we explore why most modern MMOs fail and what the future of MMOs might be..."

Gatherings & Competitions

Midday Previews

Midday Consolidation

Midday Mobilization

Midday Tech Bits

Midday Metaverse

Safety Dance

Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Well there was a little more catching up today than I expected, but I'm pretty much back on track now after a fairly hectic week. I want to sincerely thank you all for your patience and sympathies during this time.

Grateful Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez and Acleacius.
Play: Victorian BMX.
Moonster Safe.
The Fog Fall 3.
Links: 5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look the Same.
Science: Amazing telescopes produce hot space images.
With Glimmer of Chance, Stardust Is Identified. Thanks j.c.f.
Media: Tron Legacy Trailer.
Incredible Catch In The Outfield.



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