Archived News:

Wednesday, Apr 16, 2008

Vivendi/Activision Approved

EU approves Vivendi purchase of Activision (thanks Mike Martinez) has news that the Vivendi/Activision merger/purchase (story) has met with approval from The European Commission, who did not deem the deal a danger to fair competition. As the article states: "The merged company would still face stiff competition from rivals such as Electronic Arts and game console manufacturers such as Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft."

Steam TrackMania Releases

Steam News has word that they are now offering the Steam release of TrackMania Nations Forever, the new free TrackMania game (story) as well as the free TrackMania United Forever update for TrackMania United owners, as well as sales of TrackMania United Forever for new users interested in the full experience.

Iron Man Movie

A new Comic-Con trailer for Iron Man shows off more of the upcoming game based on the upcoming movie, which is of course based on a trailer, err comic book series. ActionTrip, AtomicGamer, FileFront, Gamer's Hell, and MyGameTrailers.

Age of Conan Presales

Funcom announces that in preparation for the full launch of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures on May 20, presales of the MMORPG are underway in many territories. They also unveil an "early access program" that will allow access to the game a few days early, though this will cost an extra five bucks:
DURHAM, North Carolina - April 16, 2008 - Funcom and Eidos today announced that Age of Conan pre-order programs are now fully available in all major territories including USA, Germany, France, Spain, UK, Oceania and the Nordic countries. Conan fans and MMO gamers are already raving about the incredible pre-order items, including the War Mammoth and Killer Rhino, and today Funcom goes one step further to confirm that pre-ordering Age of Conan will grant players early access to the land of Hyboria.*

Ever since Funcom and Eidos started the first pre-orders in early 2008, the program has received great feedback. The exceptional Age of Conan Collector's Edition has topped the charts in numerous online retail chains for weeks, including being #1 on several all-format lists. The most eager fans are therefore urged to order their copy of the Collector's Edition immediately as it only comes in one print-run.

Funcom now also confirms an early access program which will give customers a chance of a head-start in Age of Conan. Funcom reveals that American, European and Oceanic players may enter Age of Conan as early as the 17th of May. Mere weeks away, early adopters can now live, fight and explore in Hyboria, as well as getting an essential head-start before the hordes invade.

"We are very pleased with the reception Age of Conan has had in retail and we naturally hope that the early interest and our early access programs will materialize in an eventual success," said Morten Larssen, VP Sales and Marketing of Funcom. "The positive indications are naturally an honor, but they also bring a great responsibility. As we prepare the roll-out, we know our servers will be put to the test. We therefore hope potential players will aid us by signaling their interest as soon as possible so we can scale our servers and services accordingly."

Age of Conan launches on May 20 and is consistently mentioned as one of the most anticipated PC games in development. It has received more than 25 magazine covers and more than 15 major awards including numerous "Best MMO of E3" awards and the "Best Online Game of Show" award at GC 2007. Age of Conan is a key title in Microsoft's Games for Windows lineup, as well as a showcase title for nVidia.

Visit www.ageofconan.com to join the thriving community or to sign up for the Beta

For a list of participating retailers or to get more information about the game, please visit: www.ageofconan.com

* The early access program is only available with certain retailers; a participant list can be found on the official Age of Conan website. The early access is entirely voluntary and opens up on the 17th of May for Oceanic and North American gamers and on the 20th of May for European gamers. Pre-loading of the client will commence in advance. You need to pay a nominal 5 USD / EUR fee to take advantage of the offer, which includes client download and 10 days of subscription. When the early access offer expires you must enter the physical retail box gamekey to continue playing.

Jumpgate Evolution Q&A

Jumpgate Evolution Q&A on The Vault Network checks in with NetDevil community manager Nicole Hamlett about the upcoming MMOG revival, discussing control schemes, the gameplay impact of the game's improved graphics, professions, and more.

Alone in the Dark Q&A

The Alone in the Dark Q&A on PC Pointer.de has the German site's English conversation with Nour Polloni about the upcoming survival horror game. They discuss gameplay, weapons, settings, and the NPCs who will keep you company as you are alone.

Evening Previews

  • Europa Universalis III: In Nomine on IGN.
  • The Orange Box on IGN. Goldrush map hands-on. There's a new Goldrush movie on FileFront and Gamer's Hell.

Evening Screenshots

etc., etc.

Thanks Mike Martinez.

New ATI Catalyst Reference Drivers

The ATI Drivers & Software Page is where to locate new version 8.4 Catalyst reference drivers for ATI graphics cards. A number of game-related issues are addressed in the Windows drivers, which also provide support for a new Folding@home GPU2 open beta (here's a FAQ on that). The new Linux drivers add support for the ATI Radeon HD 3000 series and Ubuntu version 8.04.

Pirates of the Burning Seas Server Closures

Pirates of the Burning Sea Shutters 7 Servers reports that Flying Lab Software has closed seven of the eleven servers for Pirates of the Burning Sea. This type of move by an MMOG is usually to improve population density, and this case is no exception, as captains from the shuttered servers will be transitioned to those that remain. Word from the developers is:
Through feedback from our players and evaluation of our server populations, it has become clear that key game features require populations of higher density in order to function at optimum levels," said developer Flying Lab Software.

"When you take into account both the disparity in player time zones and the delayed launch of our title in some countries, we were spreading our overall population too thin."

TrackMania Nations Forever Free Release

The TrackMania United Website now offers the promised release of TrackMania Nations Forever, the free installment in this stunt arcade racing series that allows players to compete against owners of the retail TrackMania United and the free TrackMania United Forever upgrade for it that was released yesterday (story). The 504 MB download can also be found on 4players.de, AtomicGamer, ComputerGames.ro, FanGaming, FileFront, FileShack, Gamer's Hell, GameSpot (registration required), and PixelRage. The announcement is pretty lengthy, as it includes an explanation from Florent Castelnerac of Nadeo about their faith in the PC platform as the best place for their efforts because it allows them to offer content creation tools and to integrate social networking-style features. Here's the announcement minus that part:
Launched two years ago, TrackMania Nations became a true video game phenomenon. The free downloadable racing game attracted an unbelievable number of players around the world who were obsessed with the game's fast cars, spectacular tracks single- and multiplayer play and simple yet powerful tools for creating tracks and race videos. For the past two years, it has been installed more than 30 million times and nearly four million players have created an account to play the game online on the game’s servers.

Its highly awaited sequel, TrackMania Nations Forever, is now available as a free download. TrackMania Nations Forever offers a new complete "Forever" version of the Stadium environment, a complete solo mode and 65 brand new, progressively difficult tracks. TrackMania Nations Forever will unite an even larger number of players thanks to its engaging multiplayer modes, innovative online functions and revolutionary interactivity between players.
[…]
The release of TrackMania Nations Forever will also allow the convergence of the huge TrackMania community. For the first time, players of the free versions will be able to play online with players from the retail version of TrackMania United on servers dedicated to the Stadium environment that is common to both games. Players of the TrackMania United retail version also gain a brilliant free extension named "United Forever". In addition to being compatible with Nations Forever, this extension offers many bonuses - including tracks that have never been seen before, new design blocks for the game environments and a spectacular graphics update for the three historic environments Desert, Snow and Rally.

Penumbra: Requiem Announced

Paradox Interactive announces Penumbra: Requiem, an expansion for Penumbra, adding more content to Frictional Games' horror series that at one point was to be episodic. The add-on will be only available via download, but no release date is offered at this time. Here's the skinny:
Paradox Interactive announce Penumbra expansion The horror continues in Requiem

New York, USA (April 16, 2008) – Paradox Interactive announced today an expansion to critically acclaimed horror series Penumbra. Like previous installments of the already proclaimed cult classic, independent team Frictional Games has developed the expansion.

"Requiem" will tie up loose ends from previous installments and as Philip progresses he will encounter various characters from his past. Penumbra: Requiem delves deeper into the world of the Tuurngait infection and personalities from the previous two games, Overture and Black Plague. Long lost friends will return and aid Philip on his quest, but can they really be trusted?

"We believed very strongly in this team and their skills from the start and now that the Penumbra series has become such a hit worldwide, those who doubted have been proven wrong", said Fredrik Wester, Executive Vice President for Paradox Interactive. "Therefore it was a no-brainer for us to sign this expansion, and we are convinced fans of the series will be equally excited about the news!"

In the bizarre world of Penumbra: Requiem players will experience another psychological thrill on a level unheard of before Penumbra: Black Plague. This time telling what is real and what is not will be even harder and not always trusting your senses will be essential in order to survive.

"After the launch of Penumbra: Black Plague we realized that we still had some unfinished ideas for features and story line that we wanted to implement. An expansion like this will be the perfect end to a series that has given both us and the players so much", said Jens Nilsson, Co-founder of Frictional Games.

Penumbra: Requiem will be a download only expansion and available exclusively via GamersGate.

Penumbra: Overture and Penumbra: Black Plague are both available on http://www.gamersgate.com.

Petroglyph's Free Game Plans

Petoglyph [sic] announces free online on GamesIndustry.biz is short on details, but announces RTS developer Petroglyph is working with publisher True Games to create a free-to-play game that will earn its keep via microtransactions:
Petroglyph has announced it is working on an online game with newly-founded publisher True Games.

The title, already in development, will be free to play and funded through micro transactions. Post-launch, True Games will operate the Western versions of the game, with plans to collaborate with foreign publishers for different territories.

"Many free-to-play games on the market today have already launched in other territories giving the US market little to no input into the development and features," said Bob Drobish, chief operating officer at True Games Interactive.

"This product will be a true cohesive effort between the development and publishing teams and we have total faith it will produce a high quality product."

Petroglyph has previously worked on titles such as Star Wars: Universe at War and was founded as a split off group from Westwood, while True Games is a relatively new publisher it was founded by former executives of K2 Network, an MMO specialist publisher.

PC Mass Effect Specs

The Mass Effect Community Forums (thanks Strategy Informer) now offer the recommended system specifications for the PC edition of Mass Effect, BioWare's RPG:
Minimum System Requirements for Mass Effect on the PC

Operating System:
Windows XP or Vista

Processor:
2.4+GHZ Intel or 2.0+GHZ AMD

Memory:
1 Gigabyte Ram (XP)
2 Gigabyte Ram (Vista)

Video Card:
NVIDIA GeForce 6 series(6800GT or better)
ATI 1300XT or better (X1550, X1600 Pro and HD2400 are below minimum system requirements)

Hard Drive Space:
12 Gigabytes

Sound Card:
DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card and drivers
----------

Recommended System Requirements for Mass Effect on the PC

Operating System:
Windows XP or Vista

Processor:
2.6+GHZ Intel or 2.4+GHZ AMD

Memory:
2 Gigabyte Ram

Video Card:
NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX or higher.
ATI X1800 XL series or higher

Hard Drive Space:
12 Gigabytes

Sound Card:
DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card and drivers – 5.1 sound card recommended

-----------
Additional Note from Derek French:

The Mass Effect Config program will automatically adjust your settings on first run, to attempt to give you an optimal play experience. As with all PC games, computer performance varies from system to system and adjustments can be made via the Config or through the in-game options to tailor your experience.

Team Fortress 2 Interview, Preview

Valve's Robin Walker on New Team Fortress 2 Content, Future Maps, and Awesomeball on Shacknews is a barroom conversation with Valve's Team Fortress 2 director about implementing new elements into the teamplay shooter, issues surrounding game balance, class weapons, their (euphemism) release schedule, new maps, and more. There's also a Team Fortress 2 preview on Shacknews and a look at the Final Team Fortress 2 Medic Weapons.

Lineage II: Hellbound Interview

WarCry Network's Lineage II: Hellbound Interview transcribes a chat with Producer Tim Tan about the upcoming free Hellbound expansion for NCsoft's MMORPG. They discuss the story, the Kamael race, retail strategies, appealing to hardcore players, and more.

The Sims Apparently Popular

The Sims hits 100m worldwide sales has word that the lifestyle simulation series is now the best selling series of PC games of all time, having sold over 100 million units worldwide. "That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid."

Wednesday Game Reviews

Wednesday Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

Well the cable guy did his thing yesterday; there were actually two of them, but neither seemed to be a stalker, though maybe it's just my lack of resemblance to Matthew Broderick. I have to say I am surprised how noticeable the results are. I knew my old connection was a bit behind the curve (here's a speed test of it when it was working right), but I my goal here was to fix connectivity problems, and I never realized how different using the internet can be with a broader-band connection (I thought we were just talking about the difference beween fast and faster). And broader it is, as overnight I went from having the slowest connection of anyone I know to having the fastest. Here's what I'm looking at now; suffice it to say I am very happy so far. I guess the real test will be what happens if there's a problem. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed (well, that and a backup plan: I'm thinking of keeping the DSL too for the time being).

Cable Guy Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: The Horrors from planet 10.
Dungeon Hunt.
Links of the Morning: The 10 Most Badass Geeks in Film/TV. Thanks Neatorama.
Southwest Airlines Now Taking Passengers To Destinations By Shuttle Bus.
Stories: Joe Simon, a Creator of Captain America, Still Fighting for Comic Book Artists at 94. Thanks Neutronbeam.
Science! German schoolboy, 13, corrects NASA's asteroid figures: paper.
Images: Just When You Thought You'd Seen Everything... WoW Mac Notebook.
Video games are bad [pic].
Media: The Apple i.
Vague Genre Movie - Trailer.
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