The World of Warcraft Website has word that the Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft now comes bundled with the game for $19.99, and is also now available for free to all owners of Blizzard's MMORPG. Also, though this isn't reflected on the site, Blizzard sends word that the game's free trial is no longer time limited, it now allows players to play as much as they want, though they are capped at level 20 (apologies for erroneously saying level 30 at first). The Battle.net forums say: "The restrictions should still all be in place. Trial accounts simply no longer expire." They say more details on this will be revealed soon. Word is:
Starting today, we’ve removed the previous 10- and 14-day trial time restrictions, and players who are interested in trying out World of Warcraft can now play the base game for free up to a maximum character level of 20, including draenei and blood elf characters – all they need is a Battle.net account and an Internet connection. To mark the occasion, we’ve also given the trial a new name: World of Warcraft Starter Edition. Players who had previously signed up for 10- or 14-day trials will be able to hop back into the Starter Edition right where they left off.
Codemasters sends word on the release of a Monte Carlo Track Pack as DLC for DiRT 3, which adds eight new tracks to their rally racing sequel. They also announce they've shipped more than a million copies of the game: "The critically acclaimed DiRT 3 has now shipped over a million units worldwide. According to Codemasters’ Egonet servers, the community has uploaded over 150,000 highlight videos to YouTube from in-game and spent 292 years driving over 150 million miles of tarmac, snow and dirt." The Windows version of the DLC is supposed to be available on the Games For Windows Marketplace, though this may be premature, as we don't see it there yet. The Xbox 360 edition is also available, and the DLC for the PlayStation 3 is expected tomorrow. Here are some screenshots, and here's a description of the new pack:
The new Monte Carlo Track Pack includes eight breath-taking Rally stages featuring dramatic climbs, descents and hairpins set amongst snowy mountain roads. Players can race through the Alps and conquer the legendary Col de Turini pass in single-player, split-screen and online multiplayer. Gamers will race at day, night and compete under brand new foggy conditions as the Monte Carlo Track Pack’s cliff-side roads, tight passes and tunnels combine to create a testing technical challenge for Rally fans.
Stardock announces plans to release a new patch next week for Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity/Diplomacy, updating Ironclad's expanded 4X/RTS game to version 1.3. A pair of developer diaries are now online for the new version, this one on rethinking diplomacy, and this one on changes being made to the game's mission system. They promise a third such journal will precede the patch release.
Joystick Labs announces they are now accepting applications for their 12-week accelerator program, saying they seek "innovative games with intriguing distribution models and cutting-edge approaches to monetization." Word is:
For each game team selected, Joystick Labs provides up to $20,000 seed capital, mentoring, support, and introductions. Joystick Labs creates a Board of Advisors made up of experienced studio heads, programmers, artists, and marketers who work closely with each team throughout the 12 week program. The shared experience with other entrepreneurs in the Joystick Labs environment allows the developer to focus on creating a great game and removes uncertainty and risk from the often intimidating process of launching a game studio. The 12 week program takes place in Joystick Labs at the American Underground in Durham, NC.
TIME - Free-Speech Rulings: Violent Video Games vs. Sexual Images. Is it because sexual images are more harmful to young people than violent images? Supporters of the California law submitted research showing that violent video games may well be making young people more aggressive and that they can cause "long-term harmful outcomes." Is the evidence of harm from exposure to sexual imagery stronger? (Child-pornography laws are another matter entirely; the harm they aim at is much clearer.)
Even if the court's ruling in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association does not make it abandon its approach to sexual speech and images, it might cause the court to rethink it.
The World of Warcraft Website announces the new version 4.2 "Rage of the Firelands" update is now live in Blizzard's MMORPG. The announcement has over a dozen related links, including the Patch 4.2 Notes and a Rage of the Firelands trailer. Word is: "With a new raid, a legendary questline, all-new raid tier and PvP armor sets, the most diverse daily questing experience to date, major story developments, PvP Season 10, user interface enhancements, and much more, patch 4.2 has brought Azeroth a little something for everyone." The manual version of the U.S. patch is mirrored on AtomicGamer.
This clip is the first developer diary for DRIVER San Francisco, the next installment in the Driver series of crime-themed car games. In the clip Martin and Gareth Edmonson, Jean-Sebastien Decant, and Jack Couvela explain what they are doing to try to recreate the feel of the original Driver: You Are the Wheelman, focusing on the return of Tanner and his quest for revenge against his arch-enemy Jericho. The embedded version of the trailer follows. Continue here to read the full story.
Ubisoft announces beta testing of Might & Magic Heroes VI is getting underway today, as promised, offering early access for those who have preordered the turn-based strategy sequel. They also note this franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, as Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum was released for the Apple II in 1986. They supply this trailer celebrate this milestone, and also reveal details about what the beta test entails, which includes a clarification that the game's U.S. release date is September 6, so the previously announced September 8 date is likely for other territories. Here's word on the beta and The Conflux, an online tool built into the game:
Starting with two maps from the Tutorial Campaign, players will hear the story about the father of all the Campaign Heroes, and learn how to control the Haven and Orc units. From there, players will be introduced to Sanctuary faction in ‘The Fury and the Mire’ campaign map. This is the first map in the Sanctuary campaign and gives players the opportunity to explore new environments, the land of the Nagas and discover useful units, powers and cultures.
Biart Studio announcesDeep Black Online, a free-to-play MMO third-person shooter for Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 based on Deep Black, their upcoming third-person shooter previously known as Underwater Wars and U-Wars. The game will enter beta testing in Q2 2012, and here's word on what to expect:
The unique setting of Deep Black comprises an immersive story line, a complex science-fiction mystery, espionage and bio-terror. The story line runs up in the nearest future in the world of unsteadiness, chaos, terrorism, desperate fight for the world supremacy and possession of sophisticated biological weapons. Exciting game play suggests using dynamically both 3 environments for combats: the land, the underwater and the air.
Wargaming.net is proud to announce their partnership with Interactive Gaming Software publisher (IGS) on the distribution of the highly popular free-to-play MMO game World of Tanks through commercial networks.
The essential benefit of this partnership is the strong relationships with retailers across the United States gained by IGS. World of Tanks will be offering special boxed editions to their network.
The Portal 2 Blog announces the winners of the Portal 2 summer mapping initiative. They spent 140 man-hours playing through 280 entries to select the three best user-created maps for the puzzle/platformer sequel: "Patent Pending was the overall winner with Infinifling grabbing second place. The voting was so close, we added an honorable mention for Edifice." They offer instructions on how to play these maps, and outline the prizes the winners are getting, also taking the opportunity to re-pimp their Portal 2 music video contest.
Vapor is a new open-source Steam client that supports cross-platform chat. Word is: "Right now Vapor only supports chatting with immediate friends on your friends list, but there is plenty of room for more features in the future." This video shows how this works. Thanks Ant via Ubuntu Vibes/Linux Today.
NY Times - It's Perverse, but It's Also Pretend. Thanks Neutronbeam. But more important, the state’s case was built on assumptions — that violent games cause children psychological or neurological harm and make them more aggressive and likely to harm other people — that are not supported by evidence. In the end, the case serves only to highlight how little we know about this medium and its effects on our children.
Many people assume that video game violence is consistently and unspeakably awful, that little Jacob spends most afternoons torturing victims to death. But these people haven’t played many video games. The state drew its examples of depravity almost exclusively from an obscure game called Postal 2, which, surveys show, is rarely played by children or young teens. The game is deliberately outrageous; you can, for example, impale a cat on your gun as a makeshift silencer. A trailer for Postal 3, said to be out later this year, encourages players to “Tase those annoying hockey moms or shoot them in the face!”
This may sound disturbing, but it’s also ridiculous. And young people know it: as one 13-year-old said during a study I conducted at Harvard, “With video games, you know it’s fake.”