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Thursday, Mar 17, 2011 Happy St. Patrick's Day


Eschalon: Book III Teaser

Basilisk Games teases Eschalon: Book III, the next installment in this turn-based single-player role-playing series. There's not much to go by, just an image with a poem on it, which concludes with the following stanza: "This faraway realm where your fate has led, your final journey still lies ahead…" Thanks Acleacius.

Darkspore Delay?

Though a March release was recently announced for Darkspore, Big Download notes several indications that the Spore-based action/RPG in the works at Maxis is being delayed until May, based on the listings of multiple online game sellers. GameStop now shows the game with a May 3 release date, the date on is now May 31, and Steam now shows the game being available in May 2011.

World War II Online Patched

World War II Online: Battleground Europe Website has word that a new version 1.33 patch is now online in the military MMOG. Included in the new version are new infantry models. Here's a summary: "Like 2010's major terrain update, this infantry upgrade impacts the look and feel of the game players are expecting in a modern MMO. Late in 2010 it was announced that the infantry were undergoing a complete transformation, one that includes new models, new kit objects and new animations."

A.I. Training Game

The Collective A.I. Blog offers a game which is a collaboration between the Media Lab and the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab called Improviso! This involves two players paired anonymously online and placed in the roles of the lead actor and the director of a low budget sci-fi movie, with the twist being that the players are serving as an A.I. training tool (thanks Ant via Slashdot). Here's a bit on how this is supposed to work:

Gameplay in Improviso is similar to The Restaurant Game, where players are given a role to play through typed text and physical interaction in a 3D environment; however rather than teaching characters how to play a role in society (e.g. a customer or waitress), we will use the data from Improviso to teach characters how to play roles in a story. The Restaurant Game had a nice tie-in to Schank’s idea of the restaurant script. Here we are hoping to show that the same methodology can automate characters from recorded gameplay in a less mundane situation, that we wouldn’t assume has a shared cultural script, yet we expect to find some recurring behaviors dawn from our shared pop-cultural knowledge of science fiction.

Monday Night Combat Free Weekend

Steam News announces a free weekend for Monday Night Combat. Here's word:

This weekend only, play Monday Night Combat for Free until Sunday at 1pm Pacific Time!

Monday Night Combat is a class-based, third-person shooter… and the most popular lethal sport of the future! Enjoy intense combat, finishing moves, and gameshow-like challenges to win cash, fame and endorsements!

Enjoy 33% off until Monday, March 21st at 10am Pacific Time!

On Sale

Direct2Drive offers 20% off all first-person shooters when you use the code "specwar5" at checkout. Week two of the 5th Anniversary Sale on GamersGate offers another huge selection of games up to 75% off.

Gatherings & Competitions

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Into the Black

Link of the Day: Art For Japan. Thanks Neatorama.

R.I.P.: R.I.P. Michael Gough - March 17th 2011. Thanks Ant.

Portal 2 TV Spot

This trailer offers a television commercial from Portal 2, Valve's upcoming first-person puzzle/platformer sequel. The cinematic clip features Atlas and P-body, the game's co-op robot protagonists, the voice of GLaDOS, and, of course, portals. Interestingly, MCV quotes Valve's marketing VP Doug Lombardi talking about how they've found ad agencies to be unhelpful in helping market their games. "No one knows the product better than the folks who made it," he tells them. "We've had many creative kick-off meetings with agencies over the years, and you’d be shocked by the treatments that have come back. Copycat treatments. Cliché treatments. Treatments that reveal the agency wasn’t listening in the initial meeting." The embedded version follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Crysis 2 Trailer

A new "Gatekeepers" trailer from Crysis 2 is the third part of "The Crysis 2 Experience" series looking at Crytek's upcoming first-person shooter sequel. The clip includes footage from the Windows edition of the game, showing some stealth as well as some run-and-gun combat in what appears to be Manhattan's Bryant Park. The clip is accompanied by a couple of screenshots, and it is embedded below. Continue here to read the full story.

WBIE Makes Unreal Commitment

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has signed long-term deal to use Epic's Unreal Engine 3, reports Develop, saying the engine will be used by WBIE's internal developers Rocksteady Studios and NetherRealm Studios, and the deal also gives them the option to use the engine on any games it publishes between now and 2014. "We're very excited that the talented production teams at NetherRealm and Rocksteady will continue to make Unreal Engine 3 their exclusive core technology for the next few years to create the exceptional titles they are so known for," said Epic Games VP Mark Rein.

PC Rocksmith Plans

The reveal of Rocksmith we saw on Tuesday only mentioned the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as target platforms, and the Rocksmith Website and the trailer it hosts likewise only mention the console versions of the real guitar playing game. However, the press release for the game mentions the PC as well, so we contacted Ubisoft for a clarification of target platforms. They confirm it is coming to Windows in addition to consoles in the fall of this year, and say they are in the process of updating the website to reflect this. Here's word on the game:

Rocksmith is the first and only game where players can plug any real guitar with a standard quarter-inch input jack into an Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, a PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system or PC, and play through an in-depth library of music including everything from the latest hits to classic rock songs.

Featuring gameplay that automatically adjusts to the player’s skill level and innovative game design that makes reading music visually fun and intuitive, Rocksmith engages experienced musicians and those who are picking up a guitar for the first time. The game includes a sizeable library of music from classic rock bands to current artists, such as The Animals, The Black Keys, David Bowie, Interpol, Nirvana, and The Rolling Stones,.

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood Patch

The first patch is now available for the Windows edition of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, updating Ubisoft's action/stealth sequel to version 1.01. The game is due in North America next week and in Europe tomorrow, though this forum thread indicates some folks are playing the game already. The new version should be available automatically through the game's internal update function, but there are also manual versions of the patch for download on AtomicGamer, Gamer's Hell, Strategy Informer, The Patches Scrolls, and WorthPlaying. The change list follows, outlining a few single-player and multiplayer changes. Continue here to read the full story.

Dragon Age II Patch

The BioWare Social Network now offers the official version of the recently beta tested patch for the Windows and Mac editions of Dragon Age II, which will update the action/RPG sequel to version 1.01. The patch is available on this page and mirrored on AtomicGamer, Gamer's Hell, Strategy Informer, The Patches Scrolls, and Worthplaying. They also note that they are looking into other things that need addressing, saying: "BioWare and the Dragon Age II team are continuing to investigate and work on fixing issues for all platforms. When we have information about the next patch we will let everyone know." The notes for this patch follow. Continue here to read the full story.

World of Tanks Launch Next Month announces that April 12, 2011 is the official launch date for World of Tanks in North America and Europe. They say the MMO third-person shooter is "gradually entering the release phase" after nine months of closed and open beta testing, but in the meantime there's still an opportunity to join the open beta, which North American players can do on this page and European players can do on this page. "Our team has been working really hard to create a unique blend of action, strategy, simulation and RPG elements in World of Tanks, and now the moment all fans across the globe have been waiting for is right around the corner," said Victor Kislyi, CEO of "We are delighted to be finally announcing the release date for this ground-breaking title and invite all veteran players and those new to the game to enjoy tense and uncompromising armored warfare on World of Tanks battlegrounds."

The First Templar Delay

A post on the Kalypso Media Forums in German reveals a new release date for The First Templar, saying it is now expected in May of this year. Haemimont Games' cooperative action/adventure was announced last June for release in Q1 this year, which will end in a couple of weeks. The new release window was offered after forum members noticed a shift in the game's release date on Amazon, but no reason for the delay is offered. Thanks

More World of Warcraft Hotfixes outlines more version 4.0.6 server-side hotfixes now live in World of Warcraft. There are balance changes for classes, dungeons & raids, items, professions, PvP, and quests & creatures. Thanks Ant.

New Premium QUAKE LIVE Maps

The Bethesda Blog notes that two new maps are now available in QUAKE LIVE for premium subscribers to the free-to-play online first-person shooter, who now have access to a new map called Toxicity for Duel and a CTF map called Distant Screams. There are further details on this page, where they also summarize the changes in Premium Pak 7: "Today's update, QUAKE LIVE Premium Pak 7, introduces 2 new Premium Arenas to QUAKE LIVE, adjustments to our hit detection, expansions to our social networking features, the ability to assign your own country flag (for use on profile and in-game), tier info displays on player profiles, and due to popular request - a fun killBeep option for premium & pro users."

Atari Signs TERA

En Masse Entertainment announces they've signed a North American distribution agreement with Atari for this year's launch of TERA, their upcoming MMORPG. "We put a lot of focus on finding the right company to distribute TERA in North America, and Atari emerged as a leader with an emphasis on high-quality online titles," said Chris Lee, Publishing VP of En Masse Entertainment. "Their strong distribution network, culturally iconic brand, and passion for what makes TERA a uniquely compelling game make them the right distributor for this launch."

Second Canadian Square Enix Studio Planned

Square Enix is considering setting up a new studio in either Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto, reports La Presse (en Français), saying they are looking to take advantage of tax incentives. They have already decided to pass on offers from Raleigh, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida. A decision on the new studio's location will be made in May, and it is likely to open next year. Thanks Gamasutra.

Op Ed

GameSetWatch - Brian Moriarty's Apology For Roger Ebert. Thanks Ant via Slashdot.
These quotes are boulder-size clues to Ebert's sensibilities.

He objects to the idea of self-directed effort as a means of experiencing art. He sees the intention of a single artist as primary. He speaks of inevitability. He's jealous of his free time, those 'precious hours' he has left for cultivation. He sees art not as an escape from life, but as a way to understand and accept life as it is.

No doubt about it. Roger Ebert is, like me, a hopeless Romantic.

GameFront - Electronic Arts Needs To Get Off of Call of Duty’s Nuts.
It doesn’t look like EA’s modus operandi is going to change anytime soon. Battlefield 3 is currently turning heads, but already the comparisons to Call of Duty are circulating around the Internet. It seems the cycle that we saw with Medal of Honor is happening once again, with EA claiming that this is the year it will become a major force in the first-person-shooter genre, and that Battlefield 3 will lead the charge. I have every hope that Battlefield 3 will be a good title, but if EA insists that DICE do the same thing Danger Close did, and make a concerted, conscious effort to beat Call of Duty at its own game, then I don’t predict we’ll have a great product on our hands. I’d rather see Battlefield 3 stand out on its own merits and not attempt to ape another franchise. I want to see the game strive to be different, and have that unique, personal touch that helped Call of Duty become the major player it is today. You don’t become top dog in this industry by blatantly copying something else — just ask the PlayStation Move how that works out.

Games On Net -- Everything New is Old Again.
I’ve asked FPS developers this many a time, point-blank, including the guys working on Homefront: “Why aren’t you innovating from scratch?” They all say the same thing in response: “We don’t want to mess around too much with what everyone’s comfortable with.” What they’re really saying is, “It’s worked for those guys, and our publisher’s bottom-line is crapping itself.” One day, it will stop working. Don’t wait for that day, seize it. What nobody seems to realise is that, if they were braver – like the guys who threw caution to the wind and bundled you up inside a ghillie suit – the potential for establishing a new status quo is right there, waiting, looking around, feeling kind of awkward, possibly wondering why nobody’s asked it to dance yet.

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