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Wednesday, May 25, 2011 Happy Towel Day

  

BlizzCon 2011 Ticket Sales Tonight

With the first round of BlizzCon 2011 tickets having sold out shortly after they went on sale Saturday, tonight will be the last chance to buy tickets to the upcoming game convention for their face value of $175.00 USD. After this second batch of tickets sells out, those interested in attending the show, which will be hold in Anaheim, CA this August, will have to either buy one of the pricey tickets that includes attendance at the pre-convention charity dinner, or enter some wretched hive of scum and villainy to scalp a ticket. Those scenarios aside, tickets will go on sale tonight at 10:00 pm EDT through this page, where those quick enough at the refresh button will have the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets (per billing address). There are full details on ticket sales in the BlizzCon Tickets FAQ. Tickets that include attendance to the charity dinner will go on sale for $500.00 USD each on Saturday at 1:00 pm EDT.

SSFIV AE Uses Always-On DRM

Capcom-Unity has details on the upcoming Windows edition of Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, explaining what to expect, since though Street Fighter IV was released for PCs, Super Street Fighter IV was not (thanks joao). They also offer system requirements and outline how DRM in the game will work, saying it will require both a Games for Windows LIVE account as well as a persistent internet connection, since "SFIV unfortunately was plagued by pirates and hackers that messed up leaderboards." Here's word on how this is supposed to work:

Now, on the security side of things, SFIV unfortunately was plagued by pirates and hackers that messed up leaderboards. To hopefully remedy that, SSFIV:AE will be making use of what is called SSA technology (similar to what we used in Dead Rising 2). Like Xbox Live, players will sign in when they launch the game. You must have a Games for Windows Live account (which is free) in order to get full access to the title. If you already have an Xbox Live silver or gold account, those would work too and your achievements would be added/displayed in your usual gamescore.

Inevitably the question is: if you happen to temporarily lose your connection in the middle of your session (let’s say you’re working on combos in the training room or working on challenges), no problem. You’ll be able to keep doing what you’re doing until you come to a logical break point, like exiting to a menu, at which point you’ll be asked to sign back in. Assuming your PC is back online, everything will continue as it should, just like on Xbox 360.

Continue here to read the full story.

Ships Ahoy - Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Atari announces that Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is now available for Windows and Xbox 360, as promised. Atari points to GameStop as where to find it, where word is: "Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale will be the first Dungeons & Dragons game to bring episodic, 'module' based adventure to console owners. Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale offers engaging "hack and slash" gameplay, bringing an accessible version of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition to life. Travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms, where the journey begins in the remote Desertsmouth Mountains. From the sulfuric catacombs of the mines of Tethyamar, to the dizzying heights of the Tower of the Void, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale delivers, action packed challenge that will satisfy the most seasoned of adventurers. "

Dark Scavenger Announced

Psydra Games announces Dark Scavenger, an upcoming role-playing game for Windows "that combines strategic turn-based combat with unique point-and-click adventure mechanics." The Dark Scavenger Website is online to support the project, as is the game's Twitter Feed, Facebook Page, and YouTube Channel, the last of which already offers three gameplay videos. The announcement is so economical in its word usage that here it is in its entirety:

Boston, Massachusetts – May 25th 2011 – Dark Scavenger is an RPG that combines strategic turn-based combat with unique point-and-click adventure mechanics.

Players fill the role of a powerful space traveler, guiding the character through hundreds of dramatic scenarios using a dynamic text-based encounter system.

Features

    Forge 100+ unique Weapons from items discovered on your journey.
    Deep, dark fantasy narrative filled with dozens of unique characters!
    Tactical turn-based combat and epic boss battles!
    Experience over six hours of gameplay, encountering beautiful hand-drawn environments and enemies.
    Multiple ways to approach each situation ensures a different experience every playthrough.

Aion Update, Free Trial, Event Plans

A new version 2.5 update for Aion is now live on the North American and European servers for NCsoft's MMORPG. The new version, titled "Empyrean Calling," offers a bunch of new content, as outlined on this page, with this page offering all you need to know to get properly updated to the new version. The new content will be supported by a Reactivation Celebration that will begin a week from Friday and last 10 days, offering special events and daily gifts. Finally, they announce that starting tomorrow they will be offering 10-day free trials, which will allow players to progress up to level 20.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Facebook Content

The Campaign to gain fans for the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Facebook Page is bearing fruit, as enough users have hit the "like" button to unlock nearly 50% of the phase one content for the action/RPG prequel in development at Eidos-Montreal. Now available is a behind-the-scenes video, a couple pieces of concept art, and a new screenshot.

DNF Graphics Card Bundle

EVGA announces the Duke's Fully Loaded Package Bundle, which includes a Limited Edition EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Duke Nukem Graphics Card and the full version of Duke Nukem Forever along with a DNF art book, a limited edition DNF mousepad, and a custom Duke Nukem "Radioactive" belt buckle. Word is those who purchase this card in May or June will receive a free upgrade to a 10-year warranty (insert your own Duke Nukem 5 joke here). Thanks Shawn.

World of Warcraft Patch Plans

The World of Warcraft Public Test Realm Guide offers patch notes from the upcoming version 4.2 patch for World of Warcraft, which is now live on the PTR for Blizzard's MMORPG. They offer extensive detail on new content being added, and a link to BlizzCast 16, which also discusses version 4.2. Thanks PC Gamer.

ManiaPlanet Interview

The Extraordinary World Of ManiaPlanet on Edge Magazine is an interview with Nadeo founder Florent Castelnerac discussing the upcoming TrackMania sequel, as well as their ambitious plans to break into other genres. Topics include their reasons for selling themselves to Ubisoft, the importance of keeping the studio the same size, ManiaPlanet's virtual currency, growing their audience, their feelings about console development, and more. Thanks Frans.

Levine on the Possibility of a BioShock Movie

A new interview on IndustryGamers talks with Ken Levine of Irrational Games about BioShock Infinite, the upcoming third installment in the BioShock series. Topics include the inspirations for the franchise, the new game's underexplored setting, Hollywood influences, and on a related note, the possibility that a BioShock movie may still happen:

I think we’re in the space now of building properties that are appealing to people, and there’s a version of BioShock that makes a great game and there’s probably a version of BioShock that makes a great movie. I think for us as a company, we don’t have any need to get a movie made. We’d like to have a movie made, but it would have to be the right one, and we’ve had the opportunity to get it made and unless all the right pieces are in place – it’s hard enough to get a movie made when all the right pieces are in place. If you don’t start with the right pieces, you don’t have a prayer. We’ve had a lot of great talks with great people about it. We got close to great people, but you always have to have all of those pieces in place and that’s going to be very challenging. It’s a moving puzzle, but I’m going to be continually talking to people about it. It’s definitely something that’s still in the conversation.

New Via Digital Distribution

On Sale

  • AI War: Alien Bundle on Steam. Save 33%.
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    Still on sale (previously reported). Continue here to read the full story.

Evening Consolidation

Evening Mobilization

Evening Metaverse

Evening Tech Bits

Thanks Ant.

Evening Safety Dance

Evening Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Link of the Day: Working Lego HK UMP 45 machine gun. Wow! Thanks Ant.

Portal 2 Soundtrack Part 1

The Official Portal 2 Website points the way to the Portal 2 Music Page where they offer free downloads of volume one of Songs to Test By, the soundtrack to Portal 2, Valve's puzzle/platformer sequel. They say the 157 MB download is the "first of three downloadable aural stimulus packages." Word is: "Whether you're a mega-science corporation with decades of test experience, or a young start-up liberating your first test subject from non-testing with a chloroform-soaked rag, Aperture guarantees results. Wake up your test subject, open the chamber door, and press play--let Aperture's patent-pending rhythmic compliance enhancers do the rest."

Commander – Europe at War Free Expansion Next Week

Matrix Games announces MILITARY HISTORY Commander – Europe at War Grand Strategy 2.0, a community-created expansion to be released for free next week for the Windows and OS X editions of MILITARY HISTORY Commander – Europe at War, the World War II strategy game. They offers some screenshots and a feature brochure highlighting the new features this brings. Word is: "This expansion has taken years to produce and thousands of man hours from a dedicated collection of people from artists to programmers, manual writers and layout experts. The end result takes this great game to a whole new level."

Rise of Immortals Producers Letter, More Keys

A new Producer's Letter on the Rise of Immortals Forums offers the May update on beta testing of Petroglyph's upcoming MOBA game. In the letter producer Steve Wetherill outlines new immortals they've added, plans to add smart AI bots to the PvE maps, and urges players to register for the chance to be selected as a tester. On that subject, we still have a bunch of keys for the beta to give away. Here are instructions on how to get a key.

Boulder Dash-XL Delay, Trailer

Kalypso Media offers a new trailer from Boulder Dash-XL, the upcoming reimagining of this classic puzzle/platformer. At the end of February it was announced the game was due in March, which has obviously come and gone, but the clip is accompanied by word that the game is now expected this summer. They explain the trailer shows "how our hapless hero, Rockford, has been modernized and turned into an HD hero for our times." The embedded version follows. Continue here to read the full story.

New Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Plans

Don't panic! Hothead Games uses the occasion of Towel Day to announce a "new edition" of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Presumably this is some sort of game, but details are pretty scarce at this time, even on The New Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Website. They offer this image and the following explanation:

Hail people of Earth! Megadodo Publications is pleased to announce that we are working with the interactive entertainment development team Hothead Games to bring The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom, to the farthest uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy. This new edition of The Guide will be available not only on your planet but also on all nearby systems including Alpha Centauri.

"We're super excited to be involved with such a legendary creation as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The quirky and hilarious universe that Douglas Adams created became an instant classic for so many. All the hoopiest froods here at Hothead jumped on the chance to work on the project”, commented excitable Hothead human, Joel DeYoung.

The Witcher 2 Patch Nears

The Witcher Website has word that the promised patch for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is near, and that another patch is expected next week. The version 1.1 patch may be released as early as this evening, though "the time still may change in order to be completely sure that the patch will function properly." They outline various changes in this first patch, including more reliable installation, fixes for DLC issues, performance improvements, fixes for random crashes, and more. They also note that this patch will not be available for the Russian version of the game, but that they are working with 1C about solutions for problems with that edition. As for the future, CD Projekt RED says that work is already underway on another patch expected next week to address other bugs, including some related to specific hardware configurations. The partial change list for the first patch follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Realtime Worlds & Project MyWorld Revived

A new studio in Dundee, Scotland called eeGeo is essentially a reboot of Realtime Worlds, reports Develop, as they note the new developer has about 20 former staff members from Realtime Worlds, the studio that closed upon the failure of APB: All Points Bulletin, its flagship project. Though it was recently revealed that APB designer David 'Bowie' Jones is assisting GamesFirst on APB-Reloaded, former RTW executives Ian Hetherington, Patrick Chung, and Harry Weller are all part of the new company. Furthering the connection is word that their debut release will be Project MyWorld, the MMOG IP that was sold off to an "anonymous American company" as part of the closure of Realtime Worlds. They say the revived version of Project MyWorld will be unveiled "in a matter of weeks."

GameFly's Direct2Drive Buy Confirmed, PC Game Rentals Possible?

Shacknews has a confirmation of the report that Direct2Drive is being sold to Shacknews parent company GameFly. Word is they will be investigating Windows game rentals, as they offer this quote from GameFly CEO Dave Hodess: "We know that consumers are interested in PC game rentals, so we will investigate this idea thoroughly."

Age of Conan Going Free-to-Play

Funcom announces that Age of Conan will be going free-to-play this summer, as they plan to re-launch the MMORPG under the new name Age of Conan: Unrated. They also announce an August release for The Savage Coast of Turan, an adventure pack that adds content related to the upcoming Conan: The Barbarian movie. There's an interview on Massively talking with Funcom's Craig 'Silirrion' Morrison about the change in the game's business model, which is further detailed in the Age of Conan Europe Free-to-play FAQ and this Free and Premium Content Overview. Here's more from the announcement:

The new business model will give players the opportunity to choose whether they want to play for free or become premium subscribers, and Funcom is also introducing an in-game store to the game where both free players and premium subscribers can purchase exclusive content such as weaponry and mounts. For a full overview of what differs from the free and premium offerings, please view the Frequently Asked Questions now available on ‘Age of Conan’ community website.

‘Age of Conan’ has always been a Mature gaming experience, but going Unrated gives the development team freedom to stay even more true to the original works of Conan author Robert E. Howard, and use even more of the barbaric, brutal and sexy setting that is Howard's Hyboria. Funcom is already in the process of developing new locations, monsters, equipment and storylines for ‘Age of Conan: Unrated’. This includes the movie tie-in adventure pack announced yesterday, that will introduce content and characters from the upcoming ‘Conan the Barbarian’ movie.

Aussie R18+ Guidelines

The Australian government has released this draft document (Adobe Acrobat format) with "Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games," in anticipation of the adoption of an R18+ rating for video games down under. Word is: "Violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified. Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context," and that: "Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is 'simulation, yes – the real thing, no'." There's analysis of this on Gamasutra, where they note that a vote on the new guidelines is expected in July.

Just Cause 2 Data Map

Heatmaps, Point Clouds and Big Data in Processing on JimBlackhurst.com is a blog post from Jim Blackhurst, the Online Operations Manager at Square-Enix Europe, who discusses some of his analysis of the statistics from Just Cause 2, Avalanche Studios' sandbox action sequel. The Just Cause 2 Website has some of the heatmaps he's created from game data, and in this update he discusses some of the work involved in such analysis, and offers a new Player Death by impact - Point Cloud Visualisation, a trailer that takes these heatmaps into the third dimension, showing where players sacrificed their lives to learn the lesson Newton intuited from the apple tree. Thanks Ant via Videosift.

Battle Dawn Galaxies

Battle Dawn Galaxies is a new free-to-play browser-based MMOG built entirely in Flash offering strategic science-fiction gameplay based on the core gameplay of Battle Dawn. Word is: "You begin as the leader of a small space station and through diplomacy, strategy and skill you'll expand your rule over the entire galaxy. Establish your station, expand your borders, and build up a great armada. You will outwit and out-maneuver your enemies and forge long lasting friendships with your allies, the ones that won’t betray you of course."

Op Ed

Ten Ton Hammer - The Casualization of a Classic - An Opinion on Age Of Empires Online.
Even the objectives are downright silly. “Defend your Ally” amounts to just building a few towers and walls and going for a walk while the enemy fruitlessly throws units at them, until you’re well into your teens and start using/coming up against siege units. Hell, you can even tower rush your opponent to death before they can pose a threat to you or your ally. A lot of the economic missions are seemingly random maps with numeric goals. There’s no incentive to go out of your way to find treasure camps either, since you can do it after the mission is completed at your leisure before you exit to the world map.

Kotaku - LEGO Universe Developer- I Will Never Make an MMO Again.
I have a sense this is part of a broader movement in the industry, at least for those of us who have poured our souls into multi-year AAA development. As game makers, we're here to have as much fun making games as we want our communities to have playing them. We want to toy around with lots of ideas and go down weird thought avenues. Variety is the spice of life. Kind of like cilantro is the spice of burritos. Or like how spice is the spice of Dune.

Are you a developer out there, working hard on some corner of a "AAA" title, on the edge of burnout? Why not get together with a buddy or two in whatever off time you can squeeze, and make something for fun. It's invigorating and can get you through that next crunch cycle. As an industry, we've got to remember to keep having fun.

Morning Previews

Morning Screenshots

  • Pro Cycling Manager/Tour de France 2011 on Blue's News.

Morning Consolidation

Morning Metaverse

Morning Tech Bits

Morning Safety Dance

Morning Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Happy Towel Day! Don't panic, and of course, don't forget your towel! Thanks Joker961.

Another commemoration: It was 50 years ago today that John F. Kennedy set forth the challenge for man to safely travel to the moon by the end of the decade, which NASA accomplished in the summer of 1969. Insert your own Duke Nukem Forever joke here.

Towely Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez and Acleacius.
Play: Bloopers.
Tower Battle.
Zombie Crypt.
Links: $1 Billion Star Trek Resort To Be Built In Jordan.
Star Wars Wedding of the Day.
Stories: Getting Lt. Schwenk's Story Right, 112 Years Later. Thanks Neatorama.
Media: Matrix Fan Film of the Day. 55 minutes!
Texting Your Way Through Friday Night.
The Greatest Best Wedding Proposal of All Time Ever Forever.
Follow-up: NASA Concludes Attempts to Contact Mars Rover Spirit. Thanks Jim.



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