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Thursday, Mar 07, 2013

  

SimCity Pares Down Features to Meet Demand

A post to the EA Forums from SimCity senior producer Kip Katsarelis explains the measures they are taking to address launch issues with the new SimCity, which include a server hotfix and a version 1.2 patch, but apparently no refunds (contrary to an early statement that said these would be offered). Word is they have temporarily cut off some features to help their servers cope with demand:

Server capacity is our biggest obstacle. We launched in North America on Tuesday and our servers filled up within a matter of hours. What we saw was that players were having such a good time they didn't want to leave the game, which kept our servers packed and made it difficult for new players to join. We added more servers to accommodate the launch in Australia and Japan, and then more yesterday to accommodate the launch in Europe. As of right now, we are adding even more servers which will be going live over the next three days. And, our plan is to continue to bring more servers online until we have enough to meet the demand, increase player capacity and let more people through the gates and into the game.

Earlier today, we released a patch that temporarily cut off some features including leaderboards, achievements and Cheetah Speed to reduce data stress on the servers and effectively free up space so that we can let more people into the game. These are great features that we're proud of and we'll turn them back on soon, but our number one priority is to bring stability to our servers. This update also resolved some of the bugs and issues that have been frustrating players. You can read all about it at http://forum.ea.com/eaforum/posts/list/9341807.page

Dogs of War Online Announced

Cyanide Studio announces Dogs of War Online, a free-to-play online turn-based, tactical arena game due for release in Q2 of this year. The game is based on the Dogs of War campaign for Confrontation, Rackham's table-top game, which itself is the subject of Cyanide's Confrontation. We have some Dogs of War Online screenshots showing a Confrontation between the Ram and Wolfen (though these are said to be work-in-progress shots which "not reflect the final version of the game, which is still under development"). Here's word:

PARIS – March 7, 2013 – Cyanide today unveiled images of Dogs of War Online, the free-to-play multiplayer game based on the universe of Confrontation. It will be released for PC in Q2 2013.

Dogs of War Online is a turn-based, tactical arena game with gameplay heavily influenced by the eponymous board game published by Rackham. Players are tasked with creating a squad of mercenaries made up of units of their choosing, and must send them to fight in fierce battles against other players. Movement and contact are based on a system of hexagonal boxes.

The player must also demonstrate leadership qualities and cope with frequent unexpected events related to the life of a mercenary company: desertion, tension between soldiers, and theft, among other problems.

To ensure that soldiers do not spend their free time ransacking the neighborhood, players will be able to send them on missions between battles and thus increase winnings.

Continue here to read the full story.

Double Fine Announces Dropchord

IGN has word that Double Fine will be showing off a new rhythm game called Dropchord at South by Southwest this weekend at the booth of Leap Motion, the upcoming "controller" that will allow the game to be controlled via gestures. The game is also planned for iOS devices.

Co-op a "Big Focus" of Diablo III 1.0.8

Diablo III designer Wyatt Cheng notes on the Diablo III Forums that Blizzard is looking to "improve co-op farming efficiency" in the upcoming version 1.0.8 patch for Diablo III, saying "Co-op play in general is a big focus of the 1.0.8 patch." Here's word:

We are looking to improve co-op farming efficiency in 1.0.8. Co-op play in general is a big focus of the 1.0.8 patch and efficiency is definitely one component of that. Co-op is already more efficient for some players, but this is the exception rather than the norm. The degree of co-op efficiency depends heavily on the co-ordination of the party, skill builds, and the relative gear level of the teammates. Since launch we've made some modest changes to encourage co-op play but there's still room to go farther. At the same time, we don't want to go so far as to make multiplayer feel "mandatory" for those who prefer to play solo, but we still want to err on the side of being co-op favorable.

There's also a number of hurdles to co-op play beyond raw efficiency, so we'll be looking to alleviate/solve some of those hurdles too. The Identify All feature in 1.0.8 is an example of this. Sometimes the trip back to town to sort through a bag of gear is enough of a hurdle to make somebody feel playing co-op isn't worth it. Nobody wants to be in the dungeon fighting monsters while your teammate is off in town identifying a full inventory.

Arma III Trailer

A new trailer from the Arma III alpha is an introduction to the series and its new installment, narrated by community mainstay Andrew "Dslyecxi" Gluck. Here's word on how this kicks off a series of such clips: "Over the next couple of weeks, Andrew Gluck - better known as Dslyecxi from the Arma community group ShackTactical - will introduce players to Arma 3 and share tips on topics like infantry combat, co-operative multiplayer and mission editing. The first video, which was just released, takes a more general look at Arma 3 and illustrates the authenticity, diversity and opportunity at the heart of Bohemia Interactive's tactical military shooter." Continue here to read the full story.

Call of Juarez Gunslinger Trailer

Ubisoft offers a new teaser trailer from Call of Juarez Gunslinger, showing off the upcoming installment in Techland's first-person shooter franchise that returns to the origins of the series in the historical wild west after a visit to the present day. They say this trailer paves the way for a fuller reveal trailer is coming on March 14th. Here's what they have to say about this for the moment: "From the dust of a gold mine to the dirt of a saloon, Call of Juarez® Gunslinger is a real homage to the Wild West tales and era. Players will live the epic journey of Silas Greaves, a ruthless bounty hunter who spent his life on the trail of the West's most notorious outlaws. Now it is Silas' time to tell his story, which is linked to the history of the Wild West era: a mix of myths and historical facts. Made of memorable encounters with some of the West's most notorious names such as Pat Garret, Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, the game blurs the lines between man and myth. Call of Juarez® Gunslinger lets players live the greatest legends of the Old West." Continue here to read the full story.

Might & Magic Heroes Online Trailer

A new Might & Magic Heroes Online Blog is online to keep us informed about the upcoming persistent world installment in the Might & Magic series. This includes a new gameplay trailer they describe like so: "For the first time we will give a glimpse on the cooperative battles which are completely new to the Might & Magic series. But that’s not all: if you would like to see the battles, some scene of the Necromancer province and enjoy the astonishing world of Ashan you should – what am I saying – you must watch this trailer." Continue here to read the full story.

Dodgy Steam Key Warning

The Unknown Worlds website has a cautionary tale for those who may be tempted by the allure of discount Steam key resellers. Here's part of their explanation of what this is about:

Recently we asked Valve to deactivate 1,341 Steam keys that were purchased through our website. As a result, some Natural Selection 2 players who were previously able to play the game on Steam are now receiving a “Buy Again” option instead of the “Play” option. This episode is a prime example of why all gamers need to beware discount steam keys and those offering them.

We deactivated these keys because they keys were purchased with credit cards where the card-holder initiated a “charge-back.” A charge-back is a consumer protection mechanism offered by payment companies such as Visa, allowing a card-holder to dispute a charge on their credit card statement. This means we never received payment for the game. In fact, we were charged a fee by the card issuer for the charge-back. For these 1,341 keys, these fees totalled around $30,000.

Op Ed

IncGamers - Can an online petition change EA’s mind over SimCity’s always-on DRM?
Online petitions are often met with scorn as a method of driving change, but what gamers need in this situation is a clear, unified way of expressing displeasure with ‘always on’ DRM. Whether it’s someone who bought SimCity and feels let down, or someone who stayed away from the game due to the DRM, both opinions can be brought together under one heading.

It’s important to send EA the clear message that lost sales and requests for refunds are not necessarily down to the quality of the game, but are the direct result of the DRM implementation. No matter your view on how effective they are, an online petition is one way of demonstrating this in a succinct, organised fashion.

Evening Consolidation

Evening Metaverse

Evening Tech Bits

Evening Safety Dance

Evening Legal Briefs

etc., etc.

Into the Black

Link of the Day: Breaking Bad - 1995 Style. Thanks Ant.

Amazon Stops Selling Digital SimCity

Amazon.com has suspended sales of the downloadable version of SimCity due to connectivity issues with the game. The page carries the following note: "Many customers are having issues connecting to the "SimCity" servers. EA is actively working to resolve these issues, but at this time we do not know when the issue will be fixed. Please visit https://help.ea.com/en/simcity/simcity for more information." This note is also on the page for the boxed version, but this remains available for purchase. EA has announced they are adding servers to address connectivity and authentication issues that have plagued the game since launch, and the downloadable version currently has a one-star rating on Amazon based on 929 customer reviews. Thanks Ant via Geek.com via Slashdot.

Age of Empires II HD Next Month

Steam now offers preorders for Age of Empires II HD, saying an updated version of the RTS sequel will be released on April 9th, and offering a 10% discount for purchases before then (thanks Jason and Glenn). An announcement trailer is online touting remastered HD graphics (though the system requirements are quite modest), multi-monitor support, the inclusion of the Conquerors and Age of Kings expansions, Steam workshop support, a new multiplayer experience, and Steam exclusivity. Here's word:

In Age of Empires II: HD Edition, fans of the original game and new players alike will fall in love with the classic Age of Empires II experience. Explore all the original single player campaigns from both Age of Kings and The Conquerors expansion, choose from 18 civilizations spanning over a thousand years of history, and head online to challenge other Steam players in your quest for world domination throughout the ages. Originally developed by Ensemble Studios and reimagined in high definition by Hidden Path Entertainment, Microsoft Studios is proud to bring Age of Empires II: HD Edition to Steam!

Supreme Ruler 1936 Announced

BattleGoat Studios announces Supreme Ruler 1936, a World War II installment in their Supreme Ruler series of real-time strategy games which has previously explored the near future in Supreme Ruler 2020, the recent past in Supreme Ruler Cold War, and the then present in Supreme Ruler 2010. The game is scheduled for release for Windows PCs in the fourth quarter of this year, and a new product section is online to keep tabs on its progress. Here's the feature list:

  • Play Multiple Campaigns from either Axis or Allied perspective.
  • Take Control of any Nation in the World in Sandbox Mode and see how you can impact the outcome of the era.
  • Challenge yourself with many Historical Scenarios for a quicker and fast-paced gameplay experience.
  • The butterfly effect... Influence the timeline and outcome of thousands of historical events.
  • Use Diplomacy, Trade, Espionage, and Intimidation to influence the policies of other nations.
  • Research new Technologies to give your nation a significant military advantage including the Race for the Atomic Bomb!
  • Modernize your economy to become a world leader and support whatever social and military policies you choose.
  • Manage as much or as little of your military forces and production as you like by setting your Defense Minister's level of
  • control.
  • When diplomacy fails... Sophisticated Real-Time Strategic and Tactical Control of your Military Forces.
  • Battle your enemy and Mother Nature, as a fully integrated weather model influences the outcomes of the battlefield.
  • Significant graphic improvements to 3D terrain and Graphic User Interface
  • Up to 16 players in Multiplayer over local network or Internet

The Showdown Effect Demo

Steam now offers a playable demo for The Showdown Effect, offering the chance to sample the just released multiplayer action/platformer from Arrowhead Game Studios. The demo grants access to the game's single-player training stage to check out gameplay, though it does not allow multiplayer play. For those interested in that, the livestream scheduled at 2:00 pm EST today on Twitch will show off the game's multiplayer action, and will include participants from Arrowhead and Paradox Interactive.

The 7th Guest 3 Announced

The 7th Guest 3 is in development for Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android, as a new installment in the old-school puzzle/adventure series, Trilobyte co-founder Charlie McHenry tells Polygon. The original Trilobyte went under before the turn of the millennium, but was revived a couple of years ago, and sure enough the Trilobyte Games Website now lists The 7th Guest: 3 as one of their projects. McHenry tells Polygon development will include "some of the original team members from the 90's." They have an image with a look at one of the puzzles in the sequel, and word that this project will be the subject of a Kickstarter campaign next month.

Shackleton Crater Revealed

Joe Got Game is a new website from Joe Ybarra, a very early employee of Electronic Arts and former Infocom president who contributed to a number of seminal video games, including M.U.L.E., Starflight, The Bard's Tale, and Seven Cities of Gold (there is a dispute between his website bio and his Wikipedia bio whether he is an EA "cofounder," but as far as we know, Trip Hawkins was EA's sole founder. Ybarra is not actually mentioned in the Wikipedia article on EA). The site introduces Shackleton Crater, a Unity-engine turn-based strategy game described thusly: "Shackleton Crater is a fast-paced, multi-player, multi-platform strategy game spanning 100 years of lunar exploration and colonization. Combining actual lunar data, current space technology, hard science fiction and Joe Ybarra’s time-tested game design expertise, Shackleton Crater offers an exquisitely detailed simulation of mankind’s dream to return to the moon." Tucked away on a website FAQ are details on the game, saying it's targeting Windows, iOS, and Android, and answering questions about gameplay. The FAQ also indicates this will be the subject of an upcoming Kickstarter campaign, and says they plan to release the game by the end of this year. Update: We're told the FAQ is out of date on when this will be released, and it is currently expected in Q1 2014.

A Bird Story Announced

Freebird Games announces A Bird Story, a "narrative-driven top-down adventure short" planned for release in the middle of this year. The A Bird Story website is live, offering a trailer with some music and a title screen, and here's word on how this will serve as "the bridging episode" between the first To the Moon and an upcoming episode 2 of the series (presumably not this):

A Bird Story is a short PC adventure game about a boy and an injured bird. The game takes place between a mix of memories and dreams, delivering a surreal tale without dialogues.

The game is the bridging episode between episode 1 (To the Moon) and episode 2 of the series – the protagonist (a boy in A Bird Story) would grow up to be the elderly patient in episode 2. However, the game is completely standalone, and is meant to be an individual story of equal importance with its own beginning and ending.

GeForce Tomb Raider Fixes Inbound

The GeForce Forums have a statement from NVIDIA about how they are working "as quickly as possible" to address performance and stability issues being reported when playing the new Tomb Raider game on their hardware (thanks HARDOCP). Here's word:

We are aware of major performance and stability issues with GeForce GPUs running Tomb Raider with maximum settings. Unfortunately, NVIDIA didn’t receive final code until this past weekend which substantially decreased stability, image quality and performance over a build we were previously provided. We are working closely with Crystal Dynamics to address and resolve all game issues as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, we would like to apologize to GeForce users that are not able to have a great experience playing Tomb Raider, as they have come to expect with all of their favorite PC games.

SimCity Adding Servers

The EA Forums have word that EA is planning on increasing server capacity in SimCity to help ease the virtual urban congestion the urban planning reboot has suffered since launch. Here's word:

This has been an exciting and challenging week for the team here at Maxis, the culmination years of planning and development. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm from our fans which has made it even more upsetting for us that technical issues have become more prominent in the last 24 hours. We are hitting a number of problems with our server architecture which has seen players encountering bugs and long wait times to enter servers. This is, obviously, not the situation we wanted for our launch week and we want you to know that we are putting everything we have at resolving these issues.

What we are doing is deploying more servers over the coming two days which will alleviate many of the ongoing issues. We are also paying close attention to all the bug reports we are receiving from our fans. We’ve already pushed several updates in the last few days. Our live ops team is working 24/7 to resolve issues and ensure that bug fixes roll into the game as quickly as possible.

While the ongoing issues are troubling, we can also see that players are really enjoying the game. In a single 24 hour period, there were more than 38 million buildings plopped down, nearly 7 and a half million kilometers of roads laid down, 18+ million fires started and (my favorite fact) over 40 million pipes filled up with poop.

This team has put everything into this game and won’t stop until things are smooth. We ask our fans to be patient as our team works diligently to fix the issues. We share your passion for SimCity and thank you for your support and understanding.

Destiny Beta Signups

David Candland tweets about beta signups for Destiny, warning against unauthorized attempts to collect information from those interested in Bungie's upcoming first-person shooter, saying this is where to sign up if you are interested. The game is only announced for consoles, but there are indications and clues that it may come to PCs as well. Thanks GameSpot.

Torment Kickstarter Soars; Stretch Goals in Play

The new Kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera is now funded, as inXile entertainment's upcoming RPG blew past its $900K goal in a matter of hours, and now stands at $1.7 million after one day. This has inspired them to post some stretch goals, and they already cracked the $1.5 million goal that adds two more writers to the project, and their looming $2 million goal will ad another companion, more music, and increased involvement of Monte Cook.

Morning Patches

Morning Q&As

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Previews

Morning Consolidation

Morning Mobilization

Morning Tech Bits

Morning Safety Dance

Morning Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

My failing mouse went from flaky to almost non-functional yesterday, forcing me to run out for an immediate replacement. This time I followed the forum advice of eRe4s3r warning that the Logitech G500 I got was not actually the proper successor to my beloved MX518, but rather the G400 is, something that's confirmed by Logitech's own marketing materials. Obviously the replacement solved the flaky behavior of my last mouse, and its lightweight but very solid feel is exactly right, so I'll proceed with cautious optimism. It's also relatively cheap: I got it at Best Buy for $10.00 off their $40.00 list price, which is already $10.00 off Logitech's list price, so for $30.00 it doesn't have to survive especially long to still be a pretty good deal.

R.I.P.: Guitarist Alvin Lee of Woodstock fame dies at 68.
R.I.P.: Canadian country-folk singer Stompin' Tom Connors dies. Thanks Cutter.

Links: Thanks Ant and Acleacius.
Play: CycloManiacs Epic.
Links: Our Favorite "Very Special Episodes".
Stories: Sam Mendes Will NOT Direct "Bond 24". Boo.
Science: Neil deGrasse Tyson: Has the Future Arrived?
Sleep Deprivation Effects: 8 Scary Side Effects Of Too Little Shut-Eye.
'Viking sunstone' found in shipwreck. Thanks brother19.
Images: Doctor Who- Season 7.5 Photos.
APOD- 2013 March 7 - Thor s Helmet. Thanks brother19.
Media: Homemade Iron Man 3 Trailer.
March 2013 WIN Compilation.
Cat Reacts to Optical Illusion.
Roof Snow Clearing. Thanks nin. And he stuck the landing.
The Funnies: Savage Chickens.



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