Archived News:

Wednesday, Jul 01, 2009 Happy Canada Day, Eh?

Empire: Total War & More Steam Patches

Three new automatic updates are available when you start Steam. There's a new Steam client update that adds D3D9Ex support for the in-game overlay for ArmA II and addresses some bugs. There's also a new Source SDK Update that fixes three bugs with the Hammer editor. Finally a new Empire: Total War Update fixes two bugs in The Creative Assembly's RTS sequel, one that could crash Land Battles when grouping/ungrouping, and one that could make for invisible deployable defenses in the Grand Campaign.

Dawn of Discovery Trailer

A new Dawn of Discovery release trailer celebrates the recent launch of the strategy sequel also known as Anno 1404. The movie is available on AtomicGamer.

Quake Arena Arcade Screenshot

Pi Studios sends along the first screenshot from Quake Arena Arcade, the upcoming XBLA multiplayer Quake game. According to Pi producer Kenn Hoekstra, every map represented in the image is new except Arena Gate, which shipped with QUAKE III Arena.

Quake Arena Arcade

Evening Screenshots

Dawn of War II Patch Beta Delay

Dawn Of War II Website announces a delay to the beta test for the "There is Only War" patch for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II that was scheduled to start around now. Relic expresses regrets, saying: "We are experiencing an unforeseen technical problem and believe it will be resolved in the next 24 hours." As a result, the beta is now scheduled to start tomorrow at 2:00 pm PDT, which is 5:00 pm EDT.

Splinter Cell Conviction Diary Movie

A new developer diary movie for Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction is called "Behind Closed Doors #1 – Re-inventing Splinter Cell," as it features gameplay footage along with commentary from the developers at Ubisoft Montreal about their efforts at redefining the action/stealth genre for the next installment in the adventures of Sam Fisher. They outline what they call a "gameplay loop," called PEV, which stands for "prepare, execute, and vanish," and discuss how this takes some of the frustration out of stealth gameplay. The clip is posted on ActionTrip, AtomicGamer, and Gamer's Hell.

EVE Online Expansions in August & Winter, Novel in November

This developer blog on the EVE Insider by EVE Online Senior Producer Torfi Frans Olafsson has details on a "mini-expansion" for EVE Online that CCP is calling Apocrypha 1.5. He says they are shooting for a mid-August release for a batch of content they have decided to release in advance of a winter expansion that's also planned. This content includes new small, medium, and large classifications for rigs to make ship building more accessible, specialized cargo holds, and Factional Warfare improvements. He also answers a recurring question by saying they devote about half their development time on new features and the other half on maintenance, and finishes off by promising details on the winter expansion soon. In a semi-related note, CCP announces plans for EVE: The Burning Life, a novel set in the EVE Online universe. The book is written by Hjalti Daníelsson, CCP's main creative writer, and planned for a November release.

Impulse Sales

Impulse announces they have already kicked off their weekend sale. Here's the deal on their deals:
· Titan Quest - $3.99
· Red Faction Guerilla Pre-Order Bundle (RF1, RF2 and RFG) - $39.99 USD | $49.99 EUR | 34.99 GBP
· Sins of a Solar Empire + Entrenchment Bundle - $29.99
· Call of Duty 4 - $34.99
· Prototype - $44.99
· Street Fighter IV Pre-Order - $35.99
· King's Bounty - $19.99
· Majesty Gold - $4.99
· Flock - $7.50
· Unreal Gold - $7.49
· Unreal II - $7.49
· Unreal Tournament 2004 - $11.29
· Unreal Tournament GotY - $7.49
· Unreal Tournament III - $22.49
· Unreal Pack - $33.79

Blizzard's Cataclysm TMs

Trademark markers superannuation have uncovered trio of new filings by Blizzard Entertainment for the title Cataclysm. The trademarks cover computer games, paper-based products (comic books, trading cards, coloring books), and online games.

Impulse Preorder Bonuses

Preordering of Street Fighter IV on Impulse now includes a bonus that wasn't listed when preorders began the other day, as they are now offering the same 10% discount announced today on Steam. Impulse is also now accepting preorders of Red Faction: Guerrilla, Volition's shooter sequel coming to Windows at some indeterminate future date. Those who preorder will get free copies of both Red Faction and Red Faction 2. Thanks Weaponeer.

Gaikai Demonstration Movie, the homepage of Dave Perry, now features a video showing off Gaikai, the cloud-based gaming service announced earlier this year. The clip shows off Spore, Mario Kart, LEGO Star Wars II, Need for Speed ProStreet, World of Warcraft, EVE Online, as well as Photoshop (to show non-gaming applications for the service), all running in a browser with no client downloads. The clip is accompanied by more from Perry on the project's background and goals, word that those interested in beta testing should sign up at the Gaikai Website, and this overview: "We are not in competition with any other streaming company or technology, our business model is entirely different. I will be talking about it more during my up-coming speeches at video game conferences. (Develop this month, and GDC Europe are the next two.)." Here is a list of points he makes about the planned service and the video demonstration:
(1) No installing anything. (I'm running regular Windows Vista, with the latest Firefox and Flash is installed.)

(2) This is a low-spec server, it's a very custom configuration, fully virtualized. Why? To keep the costs to an absolute minimum. We had 7 Call of Duty games running on our E3 demo server recently.

(3) Data travel distance is around 800 miles (round trip) on this demo as that's where the server is. I get a 21 millisecond ping on that route. My final delay will be 10 milliseconds as I just added a server in Irvine California yesterday, but it's not added to our grid yet. (So this demo is twice the delay I personally would get, the good news is I don't notice it anyway.)

(4) This server is not hosted by a Tier 1 provider, just a regular Data Center in Freemont California. Also, I'm not cheating and using fiber connections for our demos. This is a home cable connection in a home.

(5) We don't claim to have 5,000 pages of patents, we didn't take 7 years, and we do not claim to have invented 1 millisecond encryption and custom chips. As you can see, we don't need them, and so our costs will be much less. ;)

(6) We designed this for the real internet. The codecs change based on the need of the application, and based on the hardware you have. (Like Photoshop must be pixel perfect.)

(7) Our bandwidth is mostly sub 1 megabit across all games. (Works with Wifi, works on netbooks with no 3D card etc.)

(8) If you hear any clicks, they are coming from my wireless headset microphone. I won't use that next time I promise. :)

(9) I made a few video cuts using Windows Movie maker to cut out dead air. Like Need for Speed has far to many menus with loads & delays between them. So I tried to keep the pace up so you see plenty of demos.

East India Company Contest

The Rule the Waves contest on the Paradox Interactive Forums outlines how the likeness of three winners will be used to represent commanders in East India Company, the upcoming seafaring RTS game. The competition is open to all territories, but entrants must be at least 18 years of age.

Tales of Monkey Island Next Week; Movie

A new trailer from Tales of Monkey Island offers a look at the upcoming revival of LucasArts' classic adventure game franchise, beginning with a cinematic that segues to demonstrate gameplay. The three-minute clip is posted on the Telltale Blog and mirrored on AtomicGamer. The clip concludes promising the release of the first installment in the episodic game for Windows and WiiWare on July 7, and there is now a timer on the Telltale Games Website counting down to that date.

China Hasn't Banned Gold Farming

A post to the ICTs for Development Blog has an explanation from Professor Richard Heeks that interpretations of a new ruling that say China has banned gold-farming are not actually accurate (thanks IncGamers). According to the professor, the new law impacts the reverse situation, banning using virtual currency to buy real items:
This is a government restriction on the use of the quasi-Paypal-like currencies (mainly QQ coins) that are used extensively in China to pay for virtual game stuff. As announced they can now only be used to pay for virtual stuff, and you can’t buy real things with them as game companies were allowing to happen, nor can you gamble. This therefore is not about what gold farming clients do: use real money to buy these virtual currencies; it’s the mirror image. And it’s not about the major trade in gold farming such as World of Warcraft, which relates to other types of virtual currency. And it’s not about buying/selling in-game items. And it’s not about the power-levelling of avatars. Bottom line: it’s not about gold farming.

Steam Street Fighter IV Pre-Purchase

Steam News announces they are accepting pre-purchase of Street Fighter IV, the upcoming Windows edition of the fighting game sequel. Those who commit to buying the game between now and its release on July 7 will receive a 10% discount.

Dawn of War II Patch Beta Today

Dawn Of War II version 1.4.1 patch notes are now online for the "There is Only War" update for Relic's sci-fi RTS game, which will begin testing this afternoon in a beta planned to last two weeks. The Dawn Of War II Website outlines how to participate in testing if you want to: "The massive update that is ‘There is Only War’ will first be available as an open Beta to all owners of Dawn of War II. Players can participate in the Beta WEDNESDAY, JULY 1ST 2009 at 2:00 PM PST (22:00 GMT) through their Steam client."

Wolfenstein Minimum Specs

The Wolfenstein Forums has minimum system specifications for Ravens' upcoming first-person shooter (thanks VG247). Here's word, which apparently comes courtesy of Emeril Lagasse:

Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP or Windows Vista(R) (Windows 95/98/ME/2000 are unsupported)
Microsoft DirectX(R) 9.0c (included & required for Windows XP & Vista)

CPU: Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 3.2 GHz or AMD Athlon(TM) 64 3400+ processor
Video Card: 256MB NVIDIA(R) Geforce(R) 6800 GT or ATI Radeon(TM) X800
Sound Card: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
HDD Space: 8GB (Plus an additional 800MB for Windows swap file)
Media: 100% Microsoft Windows compatible DVD-ROM drive
Internet: Broadband connection and service required for multiplayer

Damnation Team Axed

Former Blue Omega programmer Geoff Rowland reveals via his Twitter Account that the entire Blue Omega team that developed Damnation was laid off last week. This is not so unusual, as this vertical shooter that was once an Unreal modification shipped last month, but in breaking this story, Shacknews has also posted legal documents showing Damnation development was marked by multiple lawsuits, including a lawsuit filed by Blue Omega against publisher Codemasters over termination of their development deal, and another they filed against subcontractor Velvetelvis over the quality of their work.

StarCraft II Tech Trees

Giant Bomb has posted images of the tech trees for StarCraft II, as it's never too early to start plotting your strategies when it comes to real-time strategy games. Thanks Kotaku.

Warcraft III/Diablo II Patch Status

A post on the Forums offers a status report on the planned version 1.13 patch for Diablo II first mentioned in April, adding some detail to their terse statement on the topic a couple of weeks ago that said "higher priority issues" were causing a delay. This turns out to have been a Warcraft III custom map exploit that's described in this forum post, and once their fix for that is released, they can return their attention to the Diablo II patch (thanks Rhialto). Here's a bit:
The Warcraft III patch is now on the Public Test Realm (PTR) and testing is progressing. Once that patch is released work can shift back to Diablo II and the 1.13 patch, and we'll be working to getting that patch up on its own PTR as soon as possible. This could be a matter of weeks. Once it's up and in a testing state for all of you, it's then going to be a matter of ensuring the features are good and it's a solid patch. The more people we have testing the patch and providing valid feedback, the better the patch will be, and hopefully the quicker it will be released. So that's my challenge to you. You've been waiting a long time, you want an awesome patch, you want a reset. To get all that, we need good solid testing and feedback, reproduction steps for bugs, detailed descriptions of issues or errors, etc. So once this goes live on the PTR, I expect some crazed-youruinedtheeconomy-testing.

Age of Conan Interview

Age of Conan’s Craig Morrison Talks Gangs of Tarantia on The MMO Gamer offers another installment in the AoC game director's verbal tour of the entire internet. Once again the game's new content update is in the crosshairs of the conversation, now with some perspective from players, asking about the derisive "age of casters" label being used by some gamers, reaction to item tweaks, and more. As for attracting disenchanted early adopters back into their MMORPG, Craig has this to say: "Firstly I would say that there have been serious changes made to the game! Then I would say that they shouldn’t just take my word for it and to them come back and try it for themselves! I am of course a completely biased opinion in that respect! There is a free trial available and there will soon be a reevaluation offer to previous players so they can come back and try it out for themselves. Try it, speak to people playing the game, and they might just find that the serious changes they wanted to see have been made!"

Op Ed

Ten Ton Hammer - Proposed Death Knight Changes for Patch 3.2.
For tanking, I think that if the PTR notes go live as stated, then they are fairly substantial nerfs to Death Knight tanking. The health and armor drops are fairly substantial and will hurt. Both health and armor are dropping perilously close to warrior and paladin level, but those two classes have shields to help them, while we don’t. Also, cooldowns are the real strength of Death Knight and changes were expected, so no real surprise there. Since Death Knights are still very solid tanks right now, and still dominate end game raiding, it waits to be seen if the changes take them to a level playing field with the other tanks, or remove them from viable play. I personally think they went a little overboard though, and hope they real the changes back a little before 3.2 goes live.

IndustryGamers - Opinion: Should Sony Exit Hardware?
IndustryGamers recently spoke to ngmoco founder Neil Young, who also seemed to think Sony's days in hardware could be numbered. “It seems to me that if you're competing for the living room, and there are three companies competing for it, then one of them is going to have to be on the ropes. In the last generation, it was Nintendo on the ropes, but they were able to rebound with the Wii. I'm not sure that Sony has the same caliber of creative thinkers inside their organization to be able to rebound... I don't know if Sony thinks of themselves as a hardware company or software company, but I bet Nintendo thinks of themselves as a games company,” he said. “So if you're competing in the games space and you need to rebound, then you're going to have to come up with something cool. I don't think it can just be faster, more powerful hardware. As we move through the life cycle of our industry, there are always going to be players that come and go – it happens in publishing and development all the time. I don't see why it wouldn't happen with hardware manufacturers from time to time – it happened to Sega. I think Sony's getting hurt on two fronts as well; they're losing in the living room and on the handset side, and they're a big global company so they're hurting from the recession.”

Morning Previews

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

Okay, the weather here in the greater New York area has been pretty out of control since the end of spring. I can't find a rainfall accumulation figure, but I found a good description of the effect in the words of Forrest Gump: "One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath."

Drenched Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: Bubble Cannon 2. Thanks Jay is Games.
Play Hitstick 4 - International Killer.
Mini Train.
Stories: FDA confirms E. coli found in Nestle cookie dough.
Science: Nazi Stealth Jet Could Have Won War for Hitler. SWOTL. Thanks theAntiELVIS.
Media: Taco Bells New Green Menu! 100% Unnatural!
Hundeshow 09.
You know what's BS? Movie Titles. NSFW.
Follow-ups: Zicam Reveals Holes in Drug Regulation.
Colorado beef company expands recall due to possible E. coli.
The Funnies: Geeked - -What Happens In Vegas...
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