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Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012

  

Diablo III Beta Ending; Monk Trailer

The Diablo III Website has a new feature on the Monk class in Blizzard's upcoming action/RPG sequel, pointing the way to this reveal with details and a new trailer. They also announce the beta test for the game is drawing to a close in two weeks:

In preparation for the launch of Diablo III on Tuesday, May 15, the beta servers will be brought offline on Tuesday, May 1. At that time, all beta accounts and character information will be reset. Leading up to Diablo's May 15 launch date, players will only be able to create comments and forum posts on the official Diablo III community site if they have pre-purchased Diablo III or have a StarCraft II or an active World of Warcraft game license attached to their Battle.net account. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to stay tuned to this website for exciting news and updates regarding the upcoming release.

The Settlers Online Launches

The Settlers Online is now live and out of beta, celebrating the full launch of this free-to-play online strategy game with a name change to The Settlers Online: Castle Empire. They celebrate the launch with a new in-game event "bringing new quests, adventures, special buildings, a new general and a Raving Rabbid statue." Here's an overview of the game:

Developed by Ubisoft Blue Byte, The Settlers Online: Castle Empire combines the popular gameplay elements of The Settlers franchise with brand new features suited to a persistent, web-based browser game. Players are able to settle a new city and join thousands of gamers already online to create or join guilds, trade resources and acquire and exchange bonuses to help each other out along the way to building a mighty kingdom.

Mercenary Ops Announced

Kalends Publishing announces Mercenary Ops, an Unreal-engine third-person shooter planned for launch this summer on Windows PCs. The Mercenary Ops Website has art and info, and here's a bit on the game:

Like other third-person shooters, Mercenary Ops implements cover-based mechanics and an active reload system as the foundation of the game's design. Along with these familiar gameplay elements, the developers added the precise control and aiming abilities found only on the PC. In addition, the game was enhanced by adding destructible cover, an encumbrance system and maps designed with multiple threat vectors to shake up the stop-and-pop gameplay often found in third-person shooters.

Combat in Mercenary Ops puts an equal emphasis on both competitive play and team-based cooperative missions. In competitive multiplayer, up to 16 players can faceoff in five different, intense game modes, while in co-op, teams of 3 - 8 players take on hordes of AI controlled enemies and mini-bosses in a fight for survival.

Dishonored Trailer

The Dishonored Website now offers the debut trailer from Dishonored, a mostly cinematic look at Arkane Studios' upcoming steampunk shooter (thanks Chris). The post about this on the Bethesda Blog offers an updated description of the game:

Dishonored casts you as a supernatural assassin driven by revenge. You are the once-trusted bodyguard of the beloved Empress. Framed for her murder, you become an infamous assassin, known only by the disturbing mask that has become your calling card. In a time of uncertainty, when the city is being besieged by plague and ruled by an oppressive government armed with strange technologies, dark forces conspire to bestow upon you abilities beyond those of any common man.

In Dishonored, creatively eliminate your targets with the flexible combat system as you combine the numerous supernatural abilities, weapons and unusual gadgets at your disposal. Pursue your enemies under the cover of darkness or ruthlessly attack them head on with weapons drawn. The outcome of each mission plays out based on the choices you make.

Continue here to read the full story.

EverQuest F2P Stats

SOE offers some statistics to show the impact of the recent change in EverQuest to a free-to-play model:

  • Join the Fun! - Concurrent usage is up 40% since going F2P
  • Flourishing Economy - 125% increase in Item Sales
  • Quest with More Players - Unique log-ins have increased by 150%
  • Get Your Game On - EQ registrations have increased 3.5 times since F2P
  • Pointed Ears, It Is - The most popular Races purchased are Dark Elves and Drakkin
  • EQ Players Have Class - The most popular Classes purchased are Necromancers and Shaman
  • Time to Mount Up - The most popular Mount purchased is the Black Pegasus (AKA Onyx Skystrider)

Analyst: Blame CoD Decline on PC/Wii

Following up on a recent report that suggests sales of Call of Duty; Modern Warfare 3 are trailing behind those of Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gamasutra has a statement from an analyst blaming this on the game's afterthought platforms, the PC and Wii (thanks Joao). Word is: "Cowen's Doug Creutz said in his latest report that while life-to-date Modern Warfare 3 retail sales are indeed down 4.6 percent year-over-year compared to Black Ops, sales of the game on the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms are actually slightly up year-over-year. However, large declines in sales of the versions of the game for Nintendo Wii, handheld platforms and PC have driven the overall decline, he suggests."

World of Warcraft Patched

The World of Warcraft Website announces a new patch is now live, bringing Blizzard's MMORPG to version 4.3.4. The new version implements the new customer support changes outlined in an earlier post.

Telepath RPG: Servants of God Patch

Sinister Design announces the release of a new patch for Telepath RPG: Servants of God, updating the action/RPG to version 1.815. In addition to some fixing some bugs, word is: "This patch speeds up the early game, making it possible to go off and explore sooner."

New Via Digital Distribution

On Sale

  • Ancients of Ooga/Cloning Clyde Bundle on Steam. Save 66%.
  • RAGE on GameFly. Save 85%.
  • The Walking Dead on Steam. Save 10%.

Evening Previews

Evening Consolidation

Evening Mobilization

Evening Tech Bits

Evening Safety Dance

Evening Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Grim Dawn Kickstarter

A new Kickstarter campaign by Crate Entertainment looks to fund the competition of development of Grim Dawn, their upcoming action/RPG (thanks nin and Grudgebearer). It was just a couple of weeks ago that they described plans to release the game as a work-in-progress like Minecraft, but now they are turning to crowd funding to turn up the heat, saying: "While we could still finish a fine little game on our own, that would be rough around the edges but very fun, we believe there is a much greater potential that could be realized if we were more adequately funded and staffed. So we're hoping you can help give us some proper funding so that we can get the team together, start making faster progress and ultimately release a bigger, better game for you and everyone else." Here's word on the game:

Grim Dawn is an action role-playing game for PC and a spiritual successor to Titan Quest. For the past two years a small team of former Iron Lore veterans at Crate Entertainment have been developing Grim Dawn with their own, improved version of the Iron Lore engine and tools; the same technology used to create Titan Quest.

We’ve listened to years of feedback from the Titan Quest community and continue to do so every day on the Grim Dawn forums as we strive to improve upon past performance and make this our greatest work yet. The creation of Grim Dawn is guided by traditional design and old school sensibilities, with innovation only in the areas where we feel it truly improves the game and isn't just a gimmicky back of the box feature.

Something Growing at The Farm 51

Nordic Games reveals that Polish developer The Farm 51 is working on a new unannounced project. They don't offer any details yet what the NecroVision developer is creating, though they note that the team includes contributors to Painkiller and The Witcher. "In The Farm 51, we found a great partner with a lot of experience and a highly passionate team - just like us - with regards to one of our upcoming key titles," says Reinhard Pollice of Nordic Games.

Wasteland 2 Kickstarter Concludes at $3M+

The Kickstarter Campaign for Wasteland 2 has concluded, with inXile entertainment's post-apocalyptic RPG sequel taking in well over triple its initial USD $900K goal. The finally take listed on the website is $2,933,197, though a note on Shacknews states that this does not count almost $110K in PayPal pledges, so the final total exceeds $3 million. Update: Apologies for misstating the "kick forward" principle at first, which is a pledge of 5% of the project'a eventual profits, not these pledges. Thanks Alex.

Microsoft Not Dropping GFWL

Since Microsoft plans to include Xbox LIVE functionality in Windows 8, Neogamr approached them asking if this meant a possible end to the Games for Windows LIVE service, since there is some obvious overlap between the two. The reply was no, offering the perspective that Age of Empires Online and "Microsoft Flight" are targeted at "the core PC gamer." Here's word:

Answer is no, Microsoft continues to support the Games for Windows platform, but we are making new investments in Metro style games. For the core PC gamer we launched “Age of Empires Online” last year and “Microsoft Flight” on February 29.

When it comes to the living room, Xbox 360 was the number one selling connected TV device in 2011 and we have 40 million Xbox LIVE members. We are committed to delivering extraordinary entertainment experiences across devices in a uniquely connected way. Xbox LIVE on Windows 8 is a milestone in that journey. With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, you’ll get a taste of some of the features we’re bringing with Xbox on Windows, but we’ll have more to share later this year as we get closer to launch.

Star Trek Footage

There's a Star Trek Preview on IGN that includes a teaser trailer for Digital Extremes' upcoming co-op action game based on the sci-fi film reboots. The clip is heavy on action, showing Kirk and Spock doing their best Kane and Lynch impression, running around and shooting everything in sight. The clip concludes reconfirming we should expect the game in "early 2013." Thanks VG247.

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Consolidation

Morning Mobilization

Morning Metaverse

Morning Tech Bits

Morning Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Today is the last day to file one's taxes on time here in the U.S., the deadline being 48 hours later than usual thanks to the 15th being on a Sunday. The way electronic filing has taken over this process seems takes some of the drama out of this, however... I guess I'll never again experience the striking scene I remember from years ago at the giant main post office in Manhattan on filing day where there were people crammed into every available space actually filling out their tax forms on the spot to put them in the mail. Talk about tension filling the air!

Taxing Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez and Acleacius.
Play: Flashcat.
Cruel Balls.
Links: World's most exasperating alarm clock. Thanks Neatorama.
Stories: Boston marathon runner survives Heartbreak, beats the heat.
Man attempted to rob three banks with a toilet plunger. Thanks Neatorama.
Science: Tupac "hologram" merely pretty cool optical illusion.
Evolution in motion: organisms once stuck to rocks can now evade predators.
Images: Breathtaking new photos of Space Shuttle Discovery preparing for its final flight.
Media: Christopher Walken Plays Skyrim.
Why the scariest sci-fi robot uprising has already begun.
Double Dutch Dog. I double-dog dare you to do that. Thanks dakslf.
The Funnies: The primary difference between North and South Korea. Thanks Digg.

Monday, Apr 16, 2012

The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition Released

GOG.com announces the release of the promised Enhanced Edition for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, CD Projekt RED's action/RPG sequel. To celebrate, they have the original The Witcher: Enhanced Edition on sale for 50% off and The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings for 15% off (the Enhanced Edition is a free upgrade if you already own the game). Here's word:

The Enhanced Edition of The Witcher 2 features new locations, like the underground system of chambers beneath Loc Muine and a temperate forest in the Loc Muine mountains. A batch of new characters is introduced to the Witcher storyline. All new cinematics and cut scenes expand upon the story, including a new three and a half minute pre-rendered cinematic depicting the assassination of King Demavend of Aedirn, created by BAFTA Award winner and Academy Award nominee Tomasz Baginski.

In additon to more than 4 hours of extra gameplay, improved graphics, new characters, locations, quests, 36 minutes of new cinematics, GOG.com has added the Witcher comic book, new game map, game guide, manual, and soundtrack to your free goodies list, simply because we love you.

Note: This upgrade is available to everyone who has bought The Witcher 2, not just folks who bought it from GOG.com. The upgrade will be free to download from now until a few days after the apocalypse, and is available through the in-game launcher. Note that for faster connections and better error checking, we strongly recommend that you download your new copy of the Enhanced Edition through the GOG.com downloader

Jane Jensen's Moebius Revealed

The Kickstarter Page for Jane Jensen's Pinkerton Road announces the selection of the adventure game that will be developed as one of the rewards for supporting this "Community Supported Gaming" effort spearheaded by designer Jane Jensen. The game is Moebius. a point-and-click, third-person adventure expected around March of next year, presuming the project attracts the remainder of its $300,000 funding goal. The game will have a "2D graphic novel look," which perhaps makes the title an homage, as Moebius was the pseudonym of famed French comic artist Jean Giraud. Word is: "The game will have two modes: Casual Adventure and True Adventure. Casual Adventure mode includes hints, a hotspot revealer, and a simplified interface. True Adventure will be more of a challenge along the lines of Jane’s past adventure games (Gabriel Knight, Gray Matter)." The site has concept art, a trailer of Jane revealing the winning proposal, and new supporter rewards. Here are some further details on Moebius:

Moebius is a metaphysical sci-fi thriller in the vein of Fringe, Jane’s novel Dante’s Equation, and (of course!) Gabriel Knight. Antiquities dealer Malachi Rector hunts down artifacts all over the world and compiles dossiers on their history. He has a knack for sensing “the soul” of an object. After his upscale Manhattan store is destroyed in a fire, Rector is hired by millionaire Amber Dexter to investigate a series of events and document them in his meticulous way.

The first event is the death of a young woman in Venice, who was found hanging from a bridge. As Rector investigates her life, he soon realizes that this beautiful and talented young woman -- and the interrupted path of her life -- had great hidden significance. It appears that Amber Dexter and his associates are playing with the fabric of life in a way Rector never imagined possible. Even he, Rector himself, is part of a larger pattern.

Malachi Rector must figure out who is doing what -- and whether their intentions are for good or ill -- before he can decide whether to play his pre-scripted role or try to change the outcome.

On a related note, GOG.com is soliciting questions for an upcoming Q&A with Jensen.

Telepath Tactics Announced

Sinister Design announces Telepath Tactics, a multiplayer free-for-all set in the world of Telepath RPG, their recently released action/RPG. Word is:

Telepath Tactics features a gorgeous new art style, a totally redesigned UI, and a brand new combat engine that both expands upon and deepens what players saw in Telepath RPG: Servants of God. Matches feature elevation effects, status effects, random item drops, multiple play modes, and multiple elemental strengths and weaknesses for each of the game's 22 unique unit classes.

WoW Customer Service Changes Coming

Battle.net Support outlines customer support changes planned for World of Warcraft in the upcoming version 4.3.4 patch for Blizzard's MMORPG. Word is: "We are implementing brand new interfaces to report harassment, naming violations, and potential cheating. By building these reporting methods directly into the game client, you can automatically gather information on who you are reporting and what you're reporting them for. In addition, we've also added options to report bugs and submit suggestions for World of Warcraft."

New Via Digital Distribution

On Sale

Op Ed

Wired.com - Videogames Can't Afford to Cost This Much. Thanks nin.
I also seem to remember something about a global financial crisis and a deep recession that caused consumers of everything from homes to toothbrushes to stop spending so much money at retail. Experts still disagree on what caused the meltdown: Too much government meddling in markets? Fat-cat Wall Street bankers? I can’t be sure, but at this point I feel like Richard Browne would blame it on used videogames.

Evening Previews

Evening Mobilization

Evening Metaverse

Evening Tech Bits

Evening Safety Dance

Evening Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Crysis 3 Announced

Following recent clues, EA officially announces Crysis 3, saying the next installment in Crytek's first-person shooter series is due in spring of next year for Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. "Crysis 3 is a thrilling mix of sandbox gameplay, advanced combat and hi-tech human and alien weaponry that shooter fans will love," said Cevat Yerli, Chief Executive Officer of Crytek. "Leveraging the latest CryENGINE technology, we’re able to deliver seven unique themes that offer stunning and visually loaded gameplay experiences. We cannot wait until people get their hands on the game." Though still a year off, they already outline three early multiplayer unlocks you can earn by preordering the Crysis 3 Hunter Edition (though the link they provide doesn't lead anywhere yet) as well as additional perks like a nanosuit module and an XP boost. Like Crysis 2, the sequel is set in a future version of New York City, here are some screenshots, and here's word:

Players take on the role of ‘Prophet’ as he returns to New York, only to discover that the city has been encased in a Nanodome created by the corrupt Cell Corporation. The New York City Liberty Dome is a veritable urban rainforest teeming with overgrown trees, dense swamplands and raging rivers. Within the Liberty Dome, seven distinct and treacherous environments become known as the Seven Wonders. This dangerous new world demands advanced weapons and tactics. Prophet will utilize a lethal composite bow, an enhanced Nanosuit and devastating alien tech to become the deadliest hunter on the planet.

EA Denies Layoff Rumor

An unconfirmed rumor on Startup Grind states between 500 and 1000 layoffs will hit Electronic Arts as soon as this week. They have a list of factors leading to this, including general business downturns, and specific recent aspects of this like disappointing sales of Battlefield 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the expensive incremental marketing campaigns attempting to boost both games after launch. There's a follow-up to this on Develop denying this. "There are no lay-offs as such, we always have projects growing and morphing," reads a statement they received from EA, which also adds: "at any given time there are new people coming in and others leaving," but that the company "is growing and hiring, building teams to support the growing demand for digital games and services."

Origin Bans No Longer Cover Solo Play

A new Electronic Arts Account Suspension Policy indicates that being forum-banned from EA's Origin service will no longer result in being prevented from playing single-player games (thanks Blend Games). Here's word:

If you find yourself with a disabled account, please note that you can still play EA games in single-player mode. For PC games you will need to enable Origin's offline mode to play games with a disabled account. Go to the settings tab in Origin (the gear icon) and select Go Offline.

If your account has been disabled, please follow the instructions in this article if you wish to appeal the action.

U.K. Charts

The list on GFK Chart-Track of the 20 bestselling full-priced PC entertainment titles in the U.K. is now updated for the week ending April 14th. This week Skyrim returns to number one on a reasonably stable chart. The all formats chart is pretty consistent as well. This week FIFA Street returns to number one.

Op Ed

Ars Technica - Why are video game sales looking so weak lately? Blame Nintendo.
But the same probably doesn't apply to the Wii, which definitely had a longer way to fall than its competition. For years after its late 2006 launch, the Wii dominated both hardware and software sales charts. It did so primarily by attracting consumers that hadn't been a big part of the video game market beforehand. But around 2009, Creutz says, those consumers started shifting over to mobile phone and Facebook games in a big way, leaving Nintendo nowhere to go but down from its historical highs (this transition has also caused a lengthy dip in sales for the portable system segment that Nintendo has traditionally dominated).

Even with Nintendo reverting to the mean, though, there's reason to believe that the overall game market might not be in as bad shape as NPD's topline numbers suggest. The company's measurement of new retail sales leaves out the increasingly important market for downloadable games, including free-to-play titles that are bringing in big money on PCs and mobile phones. Even on consoles, NPD's core data doesn't include significant money brought in by downloadable content.

Morning Consolidation

Morning Metaverse

Morning Safety Dance

Morning Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

  • Cooler Master QuickFire Pro Keyboard on PureOC.
  • Cooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1300W PSU on TweakTown.
  • Cooler Master TPC 812 Performance Cooler on Ninjalane.com.
  • Epic Gear Meduza HDST Gaming Mouse & Hybrid Mousepad on eTeknix.
  • GIGABYTE B75M-D3H Motherboard Sandy Bridge Motherboard on eTeknix.
  • RAZER Naga Hex Expert MOBA-Action RPG Gaming Mouse on Mad Shrimps.
  • Toshiba Satellite L745-S4130 Laptop on Tech Review Source.
  • Western Digital VelociRaptor 1TB Hard Drive on AnandTech and The Tech Report.

etc.

Out of the Blue

We're apparently getting an odd one-day heatwave here in the northeast today. This is poor timing, as there are going to be some miserable runners in today's Boston Marathon, but of course, misery is part of the fun in a marathon. This is nothing compared with the weather in the middle of the country, where they've been having tornadoes. Stay safe out there!

Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez and Acleacius.
Links: 10 Nerd Dreams That Will Never Come True.
Installed Coffee Faucet FTW. One nerd dream does.
Stories: Granny 'Drug Kingpin' Busted in Oklahoma.
Images: Gamer Is Having A Kickass Summer.
Everyone hates robochat.
The World’s Nerdiest Bathrooms.
Media: James Burke takes a ride on the Vomit Comet.
Firefighter Helmet Cam Captures Rescue Upclose and Personal.
Cats in Space.
Follow-up: The Harsh Reality Of Trying To Bring Firefly Back.



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