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Tuesday, Nov 01, 2011 All Saints' Day

  

Ships Ahoy - The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Snowblind Studios announce the North American release of The Lord of the Rings: War in the North for Windows Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, offering an action/RPG based on Tolkien's fantasy world. Here's a bit:

In The Lord of the Rings: War in the North gamers will play as part of a three-player Fellowship including Farin the Dwarf Champion, Eradan the Human Ranger, and Andriel the Elf Loremaster. Each character boasts different strengths and abilities needed to defeat their foes, requiring players to play together or perish. The Giant Eagle, Beleram, lends crucial support to the Fellowship, and can be called in by players for strategic attacks against hordes of Orcs, Trolls and other remorseless creatures of Middle-earth.

“The Lord of the Rings: War in the North blends unrelenting combat with a great co-op experience for players to journey through an original story in a dark Middle-earth like the one portrayed in the original novels,” said Samantha Ryan, Senior Vice President, Production and Development, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “The game delivers high quality graphics and customization perfect for The Lord of the Rings fans.”

More Origin Spyware Accusations

SystemLink has a video from a German gamer (thanks Joao) showing what's alleged to be spyware activity from Origin, EA's online service. This uses a process monitor to attempt to show what sort of data from your system is being reported back to Electronic Arts. Eurogamer has EA's response to this, which denies any wrongdoing:

EA Germany has now updated Origin's terms of service in response to the furore and issued a statement denying its software was spyware.

"We have updated the End User License Agreement of Origin, in the interests of our players to create more clarity," EA Germany announced in a statement yesterday. "Origin is not spyware. Neither do we use nor install spyware on the PCs of users.

"We do not have access to information such as pictures, documents or personal data, which have nothing to do with the execution of the Origin program on the system of the player, neither will they be collected by us.

"EA takes the privacy of its users very seriously. We have taken every precaution to protect the personal and anonymous user data collected."

Saints Row: The Third PC Features and Specs

The Saints Row: The Third Website celebrates All Saints Day with an outline of PC-specific features in the upcoming open world action sequel, saying: "Saints Row: The Third on PC is not a port, and it's our goal here at Volition to prove that to our PC fans. We hope you enjoy the game when it releases to the public on November 15th!"

Word is: First up, the Steam version of Saints Row: The Third will feature the Saints Video Record Mode, allowing you to record and save your most over-the-top gameplay clips, which you are free to share on social media sites and of course right here on SaintsRow.com. And if you’re a true cinephile, you can switch off the HUD and showcase your cheerleader assassin character in all her unblemished glory. Post launch, the PC version will receive exclusive customization options, including oversized bobblehead masks of characters from your favorite non-THQ online shooter, Valve’s Team Fortress 2. They’re free, so Strap Them On! Stay tuned for more details in the future. Meanwhile, the game's Steam page offers system requirements (thanks Destructoid). Here are those: Continue here to read the full story.

Lineage II Going Free-to-Play

NCsoft announces details of the upcoming Goddess of Destruction add-on for Lineage II, which will bring a new free-to-play business model to the MMORPG sequel when it launches later this year. There are details on this page, and here's a bit:

Unique among MMO offerings in the west, Lineage II will be available to players completely free – there will be no restricted zones, no limited class selection and no gear stuck behind a pay wall. Players will enjoy a superior Lineage II gaming experience that features a new shared starting area along with new and redesigned zones. New game guides are available at key milestones of a character’s career to provide advice along with free booster packs to enable rapid progression.

As players make their journey from level 1-99, they will have the opportunity to buy supplemental in-game items and premium item packs from the L2 Store™ that provide significant bonuses and improvements to accelerate their character’s progression. Upon reaching level 85, players will experience the game’s all new classes, skills, bosses and zones that amplify epic castle sieges, arena-style battles and more, all for free.

The Humble Voxatron Debut Expands

The Humble Voxatron Debut, like all the Humble releases before it, has added some new content following the announcement of the pick your own price bundle. The debut of Voxatron is now joined by Blocks Tat matter and The Binding of Isaac. As of this writing, the bundle has taken in more than $400,000 USD.

Dragons vs. Unicorns Announced

Digital Harmony announces Dragons vs. Unicorns, an "action-packed" multiplayer game for Windows and OS X browsers, iOS, and Android smartphones & tablets in early 2012. Word is: "While the war rages on between the elitist Dragons and the carefree Unicorns, other creatures are being dragged into the fray - whether they like it or not! Minions are the only elements that can directly damage an opponent's tower without the use of abilities. These player controlled minions, travel across the terrain from one opponent's tower to the other opponent's tower wreaking havoc along the way! Players choose the minions that they wish to set in the 4 minion slots before the game begins, so choosing the right creature to inflict damage upon your enemy is key."

WoW Guardian Cub Tradable Pet Available

The World of Warcraft Website announces the Guardian Cub is now available in the Pet Store for Blizzard's MMORPG. Here's a reminder of this pet's special power to turn cash into gold:

Unlike the other Pet Store companions, the Guardian Cub is a tradable, one-time-use pet that permanently binds to a single character upon use. When you purchase the Guardian Cub from the online store, the character you designate will receive a bind-on-use item in his or her in-game mailbox, which can then be added to the character’s inventory. You can either use the item yourself to permanently add the pet to your character's collection (consuming the item in the process), or -- after an initial 24-hour cooldown period -- you can trade the item to another player so he or she can add it to one of their character's collections. Note that once the pet has been added to a character's Companions list, it can no longer be traded, so make sure you're giving the cub a happy home.

LEGO Universe Welcome Back Weekend

The LEGO Universe Website has news that previous members of the toy-based MMORPG are invited to return this weekend to play for free, celebrating the game's first anniversary. This includes the following offer: "After your free week-end, you can choose to continue playing the full game by using our special 1 year celebration offer available from Nov. 4-20: Get 1 month FREE with every 1-Month Membership purchase."

TrackMania 2 Demo Absence Explained

Another forum post by Nadeo CEO Florent 'Hylis' Castelnerac follows up on his earlier comment that they don't have a playable demo for TrackMania 2: Canyon by outlining the reasons for not offering a sample of the racing sequel (thanks Frans). Here's a bit, which leaves open the possibility that a demo will come down the road:

You have two categories of games: the one that are great for launch and which the price decrease fast, and the one that stay in time but that sell less at start. I think it is linked to the degree of importance of the multiplayer part in the game. For exemple: on the charts of Valve, Counter-Strike source (2004) is ahead Portal 2 (2011) at the moment. Counter-Strike (2000) is a lot before Portal 1 (2007) which cost even less.

There is no demo for these games as well in fact. Because a long term seller is based on the fact that the interest of the game is also on long term. It is true that many people can enjoy TM in the first hour, but the average time of play of games like United is ten times more than short term games. So, we rely on word of mouth a lot at the moment. Maybe we will have a way to get more people in by making more people test, but I have other scheme than a demo. We did many demo in the past, and maybe things have changed a little in that perspective. But your question was about long term. To put simply, I think we would make more sells short term with a demo, but that there are more ways to bring people in by not having a demo that makes you have a wrong idea of the full potential of the game. Also, if our systems are still being improved month after month, maybe a demo would be better later.

About demo, there is already something about the evolution of the way of making games. The more I see studios to create "free-to-play" games, where you have most of the content for free, but some items to be paid, I feel that their job is likely to change from game makers to item sellers a little. I feel that if our job is to make games, then it is good to sell what we do. If you give two hours of fun with a demo, it is less normal to sell the full game after at the same price somehow, since they arlready "used it" For TrackMania, it is even more difficult since you can spend 20 hours on a same track to try to improve your time (I did it and I like it ^_^) We even received poetry from players that did not wanted us to close the demo servers, years after the release, since their clan where enjoying it so much.

So, we want to sell the game at the same price as possible for everybody in time and space (there is already some little price distortion because of countries) for the real job we are doing is for me a real long term strategy. I feel it more fair.

Panzer Corps Patch

Matrix Games announces the release of a new patch for Panzer Corps, updating the World War II armored combat game to version 1.04. Word is: "The update includes a massive list of tweaks on unit costs, stats, and even a few game rule tweaks to improve balance. Also included are a large range of new scenario design options and extended support for modders and scenario creators to enjoy, including things like the ability to enable captured units. It also includes German language support. The update can be installed by running the auto-update feature from the game’s launch menu." A manual edition of the patch is available on this page which is mirrored on AtomicGamer, Gamer's Hell, and Worthplaying.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim "Making of" Trailer

Behind the Wall: The Making of Skyrim trailer offers a preview of the extensive, behind-the-scenes video which will be included in the Collector's Edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Continue here to read the full story.

New Via Digital Distribution

On Sale

  • Evil Genius on Steam. Save 75%.
  • Jurassic Park: The Game on Steam. Save 10% on pre-purchases.

Evening Previews

Evening Screenshots

Evening Consolidation

Evening Mobilization

Evening Metaverse

Evening Tech Bits

Evening Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Global Ops: Commando Libya Demo & Soundtrack

A new playable demo is now available for Global Ops: Commando Libya, the squad-based action game depicting events straight out of recent headlines. Word is: "The single-player demo includes previews of the 'Misrata Factory' and 'Training Camp' levels." You can find the demo on AtomicGamer, ComputerGames.ro, Gamer's Hell, and Worthplaying. The soundtrack from the game is also now available, and this can be downloaded for free from Gamer's Hell.

Naval Warfare Demo

A Naval Warfare demo is now available, offering the chance to sample this steampunk-themed shooter from Slovak developer Games Distillery. This is presented on AWOMO.COM a German cloud-based portal, as explained in this vague statement: "Depending on the game, the first 30 to 60 minutes of playing the game will be made available to everyone free of charge. If gamers buy the game, they can resume the game exactly where they left off when the test period came to an end." There's more on this page, which is in German.

Ships Ahoy - NCIS

Ubisoft announces that NCIS is now available in North America for Windows PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, offering a game based on one of those procedural crime dramas they use to break up the reality shows on television. Word is: "For the first time ever, the world of the NCIS TV drama series comes to life on home gaming consoles and Windows PC. Fans can play as their favorite characters from NCIS and and [sic] travel around the world in search of clues to solve complex murder, espionage and terrorist cases. The game features four original cases written and developed with the writers of the hit TV show."

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Demo

A playable demo is now available for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, offering the chance to sample this game where Harry and his comrades take on the minifig who must not be named. The demo can be downloaded from AtomicGamer, Gamer's Hell, and Worthplaying.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer Trailer

A new Modes & Match Customization Trailer from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Infinity Ward's imminent military shooter sequel. It features gameplay and the developers outlining the game's "best in class" multiplayer support. Continue here to read the full story.

MechWarrior Online Art & Details

Here's the official press release for MechWarrior Online, the next installment in the MechWarrior series that was revealed yesterday. Accompanied by some Jenner concept art, the announcement offer further details on the game:

Set in the year 3049 during the early stages of a massive interstellar war, MechWarrior Online puts you in command of the most powerful war machine to ever walk the field of battle, the mighty BattleMech™. Command your Mech™ and customize it to suit your battlefield role; upgrade systems, replace weapons, and tweak armor with endless options.

MechWarrior Online lets players command at will: go head-to-head online alone or with friends in high-octane Conquest and VS modes. Band together and form your own Mercenary Corp, invite friends and battle other player-made Merc Corps for prestige and power. Pledge your allegiance to one of the five great houses and fight for control of precious Inner Sphere planets.

You will play a key role in a dynamic and ever-changing universe where player exploits impact the world around you and daily story updates and frequent content additions create epic changes to the Inner Sphere universe and its many inhabitants.

MechWarrior Online delivers a rich online experience, rewarding everything a player does with experience points, C-Bills, unlocks, and recognition. Upgrade skills and refine your role in gameplay using an all-new leveling system, and up-to-the minute detailed player statistics allow you to compare, track and share your progress with other players.

On the TrackMania 2: Canyon Launch

In response to a forum question about data suggesting 70,000 copies of TrackMania 2: Canyon have shipped since the release of the racing sequel, a follow-up post by Nadeo CEO Florent 'Hylis' Castelnerac offers his outlook on the game's launch (thanks Frans). He notes that multiplatform games like BF3 have an advantage in terms of sheer numbers, but also that TrackMania United is up to 500K sales after their previous racing game sold on 9,000 copies in its first month of availability. He also outlines how this fits into their future plans:

Also, we have divided our work on Maniaplanet, TrackMania 2, ShootMania and QuestMania. But even on TrackMania 2, it is split between environments. So, for our studio, it was important to have Maniaplanet up and running and first title out. Maniaplanet 2 is coming. Once the platform is more developped, it will also be better for new players, even if as a player, I like to see things evolve, and I think that to be in at the moment is good. The price is very unlikely to drop, so you have more when you get earlier ^_^

The most important thing to see is that Maniaplanet is what we do. It is a multiple title strategy with updates in the pipe. We made many short term sacrifices in order to be stronger on the long term. With one environment, one mode, ManiaPlanet 1, only racing genre, not much marketing, only direct sells, no price reduction and no demo, some reviews that suffered maybe a little of all this (even if sites like Eurogamer, Destructoid gave 9/10), we still made a good number on PC. There is 2215 players online at the moment (the connected solo is quite popular) It would rank #29 on Steam and nearly top #20 out of Valve games. And it is without saying it would be the #1 racing game.

So, the goal now is to release Maniaplanet 2, that will concentrate on mode making and economical system. Then it will be the time for the first version of ShootMania. We are less than two months after release and things are shapping up well. Nadeo Live is also building itself up as well to support all this.

Consoles Became "Lead Platform" Late in BF3 Development

The console versions of Battlefield 3 became the lead platform late in development of DICE's military shooter sequel, reports Computer and Video Games by way of the latest issue of PSM3. Earlier this year DICE's Karl-Magnus Troedsson said the PC was the "main" platform for the game, but he now explains that this changed late in the process due to time constraints:

"We said originally that the PC was the lead SKU of the game, but in mid-production we switched to console as lead platform to make sure we could get all the versions done for release," Troedsson confirmed.

"Our ambition at DICE is to use the power of each individual platform to get the most out of the game," he added.

Syndicate Co-op Trailer

A new "Hostile Takeover" trailer from Syndicate shows off four-player cooperative multiplayer action from the upcoming first-person shooter based on the real-time tactics game. The clip includes gameplay and cinematics, showing off all sorts of weapons. Continue here to read the full story.

World of Tanks Patch Plans

Wargaming.net announces plans for an upcoming version 7.0 update for World of Tanks, their free-to-play armored combat third-person shooter. This will include new features, a couple of new maps, and more, including a new skinning system for stealth and customization, as outlined here:

Along with unveiling two new maps, Fjords and Swamp, Update 7.0 will feature the long-anticipated camouflage system that will fit tank skins to the battlefields they fight on. Available in different options, camouflage will provide enhanced invisibility and add more to the strategic element of tank combat.

Clan members will be able to represent their membership by using clan emblems on their vehicles. In addition, battles within the Clan Wars will feature the fog of war, where the teams will not see each other's rosters

The new Update will also include a special model SU-85 (I) available within special World of Tanks events.

Army Men III Revealed

Indie DB has details on Army Men III, a non-commercial, independently developed third-person shooter that continues this series with the help of the Unreal Development Kit (thanks Gamer's Hell). A gameplay trailer is online showing off the project, and word is we can expect its release on November 11. Here's word: "Army Men III, unlike its previous isometric predecessors, is the 2nd and unofficial sequel to the original Army Men series taken to a 3rd person shoulder perspective. While Sarge returns to the series as a companion ally, instead you are now taking the role of Corporal Wallace Aron Niles of Foxtrot Squad. Given an arsenal of over 9 weapons, over 5 vehicles, the ability to melee attack your foes, and command Green soldiers at your disposal, you are the Plastic World's last hope to defeating the Grey Doctor once and for all."

DreamHack Dota 2 Tournament

Corsair announces sponsorship of the DreamHack Corsair Vengeance Dota 2 Championship at DreamHack Winter 2011. The prize is a little shy of "The International," the recent million dollar tourney using Valve's MOBA game. Here's word:

JÖNKÖPING, Sweden — November 1st, 2011 — Corsair®, a worldwide designer and supplier of high-performance components to the PC gaming hardware market, today announced sponsorship of the DreamHack Corsair Vengeance Dota 2 Championship at DreamHack Winter 2011.

The tournament for one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the year, Valve's Dota 2, is presented in conjunction with DreamHack. Total prize money is 100,000 SEK, or approximately 11,000 Euros. The tournament will be played by paid attendees of DreamHack Winter 2011 and will be open to up to 64 teams of players, with the top two teams competing in the final match at the DreamArena Extreme before a crowd of thousands of DreamHack attendees. The finals will also be streamed worldwide in HD with play-by-play by widely acclaimed ESports commentator Tobi "TobiWanKenobi" Dawson.

Teams who are planning to rent table seats at DreamHack may sign up for the tournament at http://www.dreamhack.se. All teams accepted into the tournament will receive Dota 2 beta keys.

Jurassic Park: The Game Deluxe Edition Preorders

Telltale Games is now offering preorders of Jurassic Park: The Game Deluxe Edition at a 20% discount off its normal $49.99 price-tag. This includes all four episodes of the game for Windows and OS X, as well as several extras. Word is those who preorder this can download the game when it's released on November 15th, and the Deluxe Edition content will be shipped in time for the holidays for those in the U.S. who order before December 4th. Thanks Destructoid.

Op Ed

PC Gamer - Trouble in "always on" paradise. Thanks Joao.
And then Darkspore’s dark days happened. As originally discovered by RPS, Darkspore is an absolutely chilling example of what could possibly go wrong. For nine days, new players were completely unable to access the game they’d purchased. Nine days. Nine days of pleas on the game’s official forums. Nine days of moderators saying, “Please, be patient.” When your system’s supposed to keep you connected to players like never before, that level of distance is absolutely unacceptable.

Joystick Division - Why the audience is destroying games journalism. Thanks Ant via Digg.
I'm not going to blame games journalism outlets for proliferation of this content. Nor for turning press releases into blog posts, which fulfill much the same function as previews (information drip). Any large, mainstream outlet which refuses to produce this tripe for the gaping orifices of their audience will not be a large, mainstream outlet for much longer. Nor am I going to feel bad for writing this content myself when the opportunity arises. If you want to make a living at this gig as a freelancer you take the work that's offered, or you don't work. There's the milkman analogy again. We just deliver what the customer has ordered, and the customer isn't the games journalism outlet. They're just the distributor. The customer is the audience.

I don't actually think anything is "killing" video game journalism. My column title this week has all the subtlety of a mallet to the skull, but I hear Adam Sessler's pain in regards to being stuck with review scores and I'm sure if he could make that change, he would. I read that article about "kamikaze bloggers" and I wonder why anyone would even find the event worthy of comment if they understand how this business works.

Morning Consolidation

Morning Mobilization

Morning Metaverse

Morning Tech Bits

Morning Safety Dance

Morning Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Well, in a very odd twist, we got a robo call from our village yesterday afternoon informing us that they were postponing Halloween due to the danger presented by limbs and power lines still down after the freak winter storm on Saturday. Their caution seemed reasonable, but it seemed obvious that not everyone would heed this warning, and sure enough, we got a load of trick-or-treaters, and I'll be curious if we actually get any visits on the night the village eventually designates as Halloween. The kids were as cute as always, and delighted in the doggies, who wore their football jerseys as an easy bit of dress up.

Twisted Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez and Acleacius.
Play: Open Sails at the Golden Isles.
Super Kitty Rocket.
Links: What the Law Says About Selling Haunted Houses.
Stories: 'Super pack' of 400 wolves in remote Russian village. Thanks Dark Roasted Blend.
Domino’s Managers Charged With Burning Down Papa John’s Store. Thanks Fail Blog.
Hobbiton Set To Become Permanent Tourist Attraction In New Zealand.
Science: Let Kids Gorge on Halloween Candy, Dentists Say. Thanks Neatorama.
Images: What A Rotten Build.
Google....nailed it.
Media: The Gmod Idiot Box: Episode 10.
Shock Troopers.
Bad Dog - The Secret Life of Lucky.
8-Bit IRL FAIL.
Auction: The Blizzard Charity Auction benefitting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Continues.
The Funnies: Does Whatever Cartoon - Savage Chickens.
Follow-up: Gaming Setup of the Day.
Sam Mendes shakes up his Bond cast with a top secret.



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