Archived News:

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010 Happy Australia Day, Mate

Red 5 Layoffs?

Approximately 30 employees of Red 5 Studios have been laid off from the California and Shanghai-based developer formed by former World of Warcraft developers, reports Gamasutra. They say: "Multiple calls to Red 5's Orange County studio were not answered, and exact headcount and layoff figures are unconfirmed." Red 5 has mostly been operating in stealth mode since being formed, and we haven't heard from this developer since late 2008, when they had a bit of a management shakeup.

Global Agenda Launch Schedule

The Global Agenda Website has a launch schedule for Hi-Rez Studios' multiplayer action/RPG, which is wrapping up its closed beta testing today. They outline plans to make the game available tomorrow when name reservations will begin, with the early start program to kick off on Friday. The game will launch on Monday, and Conquest Zones are expected to unlock for all players beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Thanks Massively.

Lord of Ultima in Beta

Lord of Ultima is now in beta, offering an online strategy game that uses the name of the famed series, some would argue in vain, since Ultima has always been about role-playing. The game is developed by EA's Phenomic Studio, and word is: "Lord of Ultima is an online strategy game where you build your own unique city and play with thousands of other players. Join now and rule a mighty empire which you can access from wherever and whenever you want. All you need to enter is a normal web browser..." Thanks Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

New City of Heroes Guest Missions

The City of Heroes Website announces new missions are now available for free in Cryptic's superhero MMORPG that were created by guest authors Mercedes Lackey, Troy Hickman, and Austin Grossman. This forum post has further details and there are details in an article on GamePro while a later GamePro story interviews the authors of these new missions.

On Sale

  • Psychonauts on Steam. Save 80% ($2/€2/£1 through Thursday).

    Still on sale (previously reported)
      Continue here to read the full story.

BioShock 2's Scout Plasmid Detailed

The Cult of Rapture has a new preview of The Scout Plasmid, which allows you to enjoy out of body experiences in BioShock 2, as you can leave your body behind and scout ahead as an invisible scout (think The Vision from Marvel Comics), while retaining the ability to use a few other plasmids before returning to your body. They also point the way to an article on voice acting for this plasmid promising audio samples, but this article does not actually seem to have been posted as of this point. Finally, they have released a Scout Plasmid trailer in distinctive duck-and-cover style, which is embedded below. Continue here to read the full story.

Evening Previews

Into the Black

Link of the Day: The iState of the Union. Thanks Ant via Boing Boing.

SyFy Star Trek Online Preorders

The SyFy network offers their own Star Trek Online Preorder offer, adding another choice to the ever-larger array of preorder bonuses and special editions of Cryptic's upcoming Trekkie MMORPG. This offer includes an in-game Neodymium Deflector Dish that "grants a bonus to Auxiliary power, boosts maneuverability, and increases the effectiveness of a ship's Science abilities." It will also include 500 Cryptic Points that can be used to purchase in-game items and unlock unique bonuses and a 15% discount off your next purchase at the SyFy store.

Live Action Dead Rising Movie

The Capcom Blog has details on a live-action Dead Rising movie that is being directed by Dead Rising creator Keiji Inafune. The movie's official website is Japanese as the movie is planned for release in Japan on Xbox LIVE. There are no indications at this time that this will be released outside of Japan. Thanks GameSpot.

Mass Effect 2 DLC Issue Workarounds

A post to the BioWare Social Network by BioWare's Chris Priestly outlines solutions and workarounds for problems users have run into with Mass Effect 2, particularly involving DLC and the new Cerberus Network. There's also a forum post with complaints that the game's preorder armor doesn't include the ability to remove your helmet. Thanks Kotaku. Here's the post with DLC solutions and workarounds: Continue here to read the full story.

Ubisoft Ubi.com Q&A

Ubisoft has posted an Online Services Platform Q&A about the just announced plan to require online authentication through Ubi.com to play Ubisoft's PC offerings. The FAQ, which we have posted locally, clarifies a number of aspects of the plan, key points include how the service means games can be played without a DVD in the drive, that there will be no offline mode, that players must remain online the entire time they play, and how they will offer 24/7 support for those experiencing problems. They also promise that if the service is going to go offline they will patch games to no longer require it: "Ubisoft is committed to being a forerunner in providing new exciting online service. If any service is stopped, we will create a patch for the game so that the core game play will not be affected." Some of the key questions and answers are posted below. Continue here to read the full story.

Painkiller: Resurrection and Nation Red Patched

Steam News announces a new automatic update is now available for Painkiller: Resurrection adding a new AI system, new character models, in-game multiplayer hosting, co-op support, and more. It is warned that old save games will not work with the new version. Steam News also announces a new update that is automatically available for Nation Red, adding a French version and other changes to this arena-based shooter. The Painkiller: Resurrection patch notes follow. Continue here to read the full story.

Napoleon: Total War MP Trailer

A new trailer from Napoleon: Total War shows off more of Creative Assembly's real-time strategy sequel and features narration by Jason Isaacs. Chapter three in their series of gameplay trailers focuses on multiplayer play, following up on the recent announcement of multiplayer details. The clip can be viewed on the YouTube or below. Continue here to read the full story.

Star Trek Online End of Beta Event

The Star Trek Online Website announces an "End of Beta Event" for later today at 5:00 pm EST. Word is: "A massive Klingon Fleet is forming near Qo'noS for an invasion into Federation Territory. Klingon Warriors who wish to join this fleet may rendezvous near Qo'noS at 2pm PST (We're GMT -8 right now)."

Ships Ahoy - Mass Effect 2

As noted already, today is the North American launch day for Mass Effect 2, BioWare's sci-fi action/RPG sequel, and the digitally distributed editions on Direct2Drive and Steam have unlocked. Here's the official press release announcing the game's availability, which points to early reviews, saying the 97 rating on Metacritic for the Xbox 360 edition makes it the "second highest rated game for the platform of all time," and that the PC version has earned a 95 on Metacritic (actually 94 as of this moment). Here's the word on the game and the Cerberus Network DLC that's free to those who purchase the game new:
The Mass Effect trilogy is an epic science fiction adventure set in a vast universe filled with dangerous alien life and mysterious, uncharted planets. In Mass Effect 2, players will once again step into the role of the heroic Commander Shepard, commanding their crew of some of the most dangerous operatives from across the galaxy on a mission so challenging that it’s potentially suicidal. Featuring intense shooter action, a rich futuristic storyline, space exploration and emotionally engaging character interaction, the game delivers an unparalleled cinematic experience.

Gamers who purchase a new copy of Mass Effect 2 will also be able to activate the ‘Cerberus Network’, an in-game portal in Mass Effect 2 that will keep fans engaged with the Mass Effect universe through downloadable content (DLC) and news at no extra charge. The first piece of DLC is available today, featuring a new mission around the Normandy crash site. For players who do not buy the game new, the ‘Cerberus Network’ can be unlocked through a one-time, in-game purchase of an activation code for 1200 MS points on the Xbox 360 and $15 on the PC.** BioWare will release additional news on future ‘Cerberus Network’ content in the coming weeks.

Microsoft Points Class Action Lawsuit

InformationWeek reports on a class action suit filed against Microsoft by a Philadelphia-area attorney over Microsoft Points, the pointless ersatz currency that acts as a middle-man in transactions on the Xbox LIVE marketplace. The article mentions two aspects of the system cited in the suit, being charged for incomplete downloads (which sounds a little like suing a store because you left the items you bought sitting at the checkout) and how the points are sold in bundles that rarely match up with the prices of items, leaving customers with unused funny money in their accounts. Interestingly, this comes shortly after indications from Microsoft that they may allow the use of real currency in their service. I.W. also notes that this is not the first high-profile lawsuit by this lawyer: "Records show he sued Google in 2006, claiming the search ads he placed fell victim to click fraud. He also sued Bally's Casino in Atlantic City in 2005, claiming he was attacked by a drunken patron while sitting at a poker table."

Mass Effect 2 Trailers

A new Mass Effect 2 trailer introduces Zaeed, the character introduced in the day one Cerberus Network DLC for Mass Effect 2, BioWare's sci-fi RPG sequel, which should be in stores even as these words are written. According to Zaeed, who is one of those Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions, "Rage is a hell of an anesthetic." There's also a new biographical trailer for Mordin, the genius Salarian professor who should consider trying decaf. On a related note, there's an interview with Jennifer Hale on Original-gamer.com discussing her voice acting in Mass Effect 2 as she has the role of the female Commander Shepard. The Zaeed trailer follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Divinity II - Ego Draconis Montage Trailer

A new "montage" trailer from Divinity II - Ego Draconis features gameplay footage from the action/RPG sequel from Larian Studios. The game features the ability to do battle as a dragon, which is featured heavily in the relatively short clip. The embedded version follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Single-player Trailer

There's a new Battlefield: Bad Company 2 trailer on the YouTube, showing off single-player gameplay from the upcoming military shooter sequel. The clip was found on French site jeuxvideopc by BASHandSlash. Thanks Joker961. The clip is embedded below. Continue here to read the full story.

Supreme Commander 2 PAL March 5

Square Enix announces March 5 as the release date for the PC edition of Supreme Commander 2 in PAL territories, three days after the release of Gas Powered Games' RTS sequel on North America. They also announce a March 19 release date for the Xbox 360 edition. The announcement is accompanied by some new screenshots.

Valve Seeking Mac & Linux Engineers

The LinkedIn profile of Chris Green, "Person of interest at Valve Software," says Valve is looking for senior Linux and Mac engineers. Actually he says they are: "REALLY looking for senior Linux + Mac engineers." Thanks superannuation, who are setting themselves up for potential disappointment in hoping this means to expect Steam for MacOS.

Phantasy Star Universe PS2 & PC Servers to Close

The SEGA Forums have the news that the PC and PS2 servers for Phantasy Star Online will close on March 31, 2010. Word is: "SEGA would like to extend its sincere thanks to those who have played on the PC/PS2 servers over the past several years. The final update for PC/PS2 servers will be this January 29th, 2010, which will start the long-awaited MAG+ event. This event will receive the same updates & web support as the event on the Xbox 360 servers." They also add that the game will be free for the remainder of its run: "Please note that after January 29th 2010, no new PSU subscriptions will be available for purchase for PC/PS2. Those who are subscribed as of that time will be able to play, for free, until service closure." A subsequent post to that forum offers regret over the change, and discusses the future of the game in the west on Xbox 360. Thanks Massively.

StarCraft II Beta Nears?

StarcraftWire.net reports that another StarCraft II fan site is revealing they have received StarCraft 2 Beta Keys, and though they are cagey over whether they have gotten any themselves, they say they know the mail reproduced on the other site is not faked. Also, the teaser for The Jace Hall Show, Season 3 (NSFW) features a momentary glimpse of a toast at the Blizzard offices where a "welcome to the StarCraft II beta" screen can be seen in the background. StarcraftWire.net has a good freeze-frame showing this off, and express their renewed hopes that this indicates testing of the RTS sequel is imminent.

Ubisoft Plans Mandatory Online Authentication

Ubisoft is going to require an internet connection to Ubi.com to play its PC games as it looks to protect games from piracy, reports GameSpy, where they offer details on the plan, which they liken to Valve's online authentication through Steam. This will also involve online saved games handled through the cloud and unlimited activations: "If you own a hundred PCs, you can install your games on a hundred PCs," explains Brent Wilkinson, Director, Customer Service and Production Planning at Ubisoft. They asked if Ubisoft was concerned with potential backlash from gamers concerned over being required to be online to play, but Wilkenson seems unconcerned: "We think most people are going to be fine with it. Most people are always connected to an Internet connection."

Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2 Preorder Sale Postmortem

Wolfire Games Blog has a postmortem of the recent Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2 preorder bundle. They offer sales figures on the unusual bundle of two games that are still in development, and a great deal of analysis of the response to the promotion. Word is: "The promotion greatly exceeded all of our expectations and blew up to be the biggest thing to ever happen to us. We sold more preorders in one week than we had sold in a year, previously." Thanks Shacknews.

VGA Ratings Dip

Spike's VGA broadcast dipped in the ratings for the third year in a row, reports Variety.com. Word is: "Things got a little better when you factored in DVR viewership. When you add in playback numbers for the seven days following the broadcast, viewership jumps to 691,000. Viewership was off in all key demographics. Among males aged 12-17, it slipped roughy [sic] 17 percent. Males 18-24 were down 5 percent and males 35-49 were off by 12 percent." Thanks Big Download.

Op Ed

Bitmob - On the Contrary: Unlockable content sucks.
Sports games are a classic example of a design that creates a fair playing field from day one. With most of these games, the skill of the player is what determines the outcome of the match not the unlockable content. Sports games also have a high replay value - until the next season – and the replay lies in the drive to perfect the control mechanics and not the quest to unlock all that is hidden in the game.

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

There's a hidden counter at the bottom of this page that's been ticking off visits on-and-off since 1997. At some point late last week the counter passed the 500,000,000 mark, representing our half-billionth visitor, which is a little startling. Thanks Quboid, who somehow managed to notice this, and thanks to all five of you for having visited 100 million times apiece over the years.

R.I.P.: Pernell Roberts of 'Bonanza' and 'Trapper John, M.D.' dies at 81. Last of the Bonanza cast.

Counting Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez.
Play: Icescape 3.
Spartaman 2.
Little Big Balance 2.
Links: If Videogames Were Named After the Phrases Said Most While Playing Them. Thanks Joker961.
The forgotten fathers of gaming you really should know about.
Five Mission-Critical TV Shows Conan O'Brien Can Save.
Stories: Syfy's 'Caprica' gets disappointing start.
Oh deer! 10-to-12 point buck breaks into Ill. home.
Science: NASA test drives all-composite prototype spacecraft.
Female teachers transmit math anxiety to female students.
Jumbo-jet laser cannon tested against missile. Thanks brother19.
Media: Chell's Mind. Thanks Barney's Mind.
The Matrix Pill.
Couple makes Epic Wedding Trailer, "Save the Date."
Auction: EA SPORTS Active Auction to benefit March of Dimes.
The Funnies: Steve Jobs drops the big bomb. Thanks Digg.
Follow-up: Plotting a Future for the Spirit, a Hobbled Mars Rover. Thanks j.c.f.
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