Archived News:

Thursday, Mar 31, 2011 World Backup Day

Dawn of War II – Retribution – Dark Angels Next Week

THQ announces Dawn of War II – Retribution – Dark Angels, a DLC pack for the standalone real-time strategy expansion that will be available on April 6th. There are some screenshots on THQ Insider's Flickr Photostream, and here's word:
This DLC will allow fans to purchase a custom Dark Angels Space Marine chapter for use in the multiplayer game, with eight unique models for the major multiplayer units, and new colour schemes for the rest of the army.

The Force Commander will be replaced by the Dark Angels Company Master with winged helmet, the Tactical Marine squad will be in their Dark Angels robes, while the other squads will also be given their chapter-specific revisions. Vehicles will also get a make-over, with custom designs and emblems being added to differentiate them from the standard vehicles.

Pi Closed, Category Six Announces Blackout

Big Download posted a rumor that Pi Studios has closed, citing "unnamed but reliable sources" in reporting the demise of the Houston-based developer. They follow this up with word from Kenn Hoekstra, who apparently does not confirm the closure of Pi, but does say he is now at a new developer called Category 6 Studios. They touch on Category 6's plans, which begin with a game called Blackout, a survival/horror-themed first-person shooter being developed with the Unreal Engine 3 for Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360.

Earthrise Plans

Iceberg Interactive has a development update for Earthrise, Masthead Studios' MMORPG. They outline plans for updates in April and May, including resurrection mechanics, quest hints on the mini-map, shared battle points for parties, item and vehicle painting, guild diplomacy, and more.

A Valley Without Wind Public Alpha Scrapped, Beta Plans

Games By Design has word of a change in prerelease plans for A Valley Without Wind, saying Arcen Games has decided not to release a public alpha version of the upcoming action/adventure game, but rather will wait until they can release a public beta. They explain that the game's "lopsided" development has concentrated on the engine and technical matters, so that it's a little light on gameplay for now. Here's the assessment of how this affects the game's release plans: "It means that instead of having a version for preorder/demo in 3-4 weeks, our timetable is shifted to "we don't know." It might be May or June, or it might be even further along. We don't have a crystal ball, but things are proceeding well so far, and we'll know when we see it. In the meantime we'll keep you as informed as possible about both our progress and plans."

Fallen Enchantress Weapons Revealed

Elemental Website has a preview of the weapons in Fallen Enchantress, the upcoming 4X strategy game using the same setting as Elemental: War of Magic. There is an explanation of how the weapon system works, saying: "There are currently 124 weapons in Fallen Enchantress including 17 base weapons." They offer screenshots of these arms as well as a spreadsheet with loads of numbers to crunch.

Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead & Reinforcements Patch

The Arma 2 Website announces the release of a new patch for Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead & Reinforcements, updating the military shooter expansion and its DLC to version 1.59. The patch is mirrored on Gamer's Hell and WorthPlaying, and the change list follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Skyrim Interview

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim interview on IGN talks with Todd Howard of Bethesda Softworks on the next installment in the RPG series. They discuss the events leading to the game's story, the new game engine, fast-travelling, auto-leveling, dragons, melee combat, NPC conversations, and more.

On Sale

Direct2Drive offers a 15% discount on the "hottest games in March" when you use the code "MARCHMAYHEM" on checkout. Strategy First is donating 20% of online sales between now and April 11th to Japanese earthquake/tsunami relief. The 5th Anniversary Sale on GamersGate offers a huge selection of games up to 75% off.

Evening Previews

Into the Black

Link of the Day: Woops, it's World Backup Day! Are you covered?

GameStop Acquiring Impulse

GameStop announces the acquisition of streaming technology company Spawn Labs and an agreement to acquire Impulse, the digital distribution service started by Stardock in 2008. According to GameStop CEO J. Paul Raines: "With these important acquisitions, we will continue to make appropriate investments related to our multichannel strategy. GameStop is uniquely positioned to be the leader in both the physical and digital gaming space." There's also a Stardock Community FAQ about Impulse Acquisition by GameStop on Impulse saying this should not affect users' accounts, they do not foresee any layoffs as a result of this, and this does not impact Stardock or its current development plans, as this is a completely separate business.

SOE Cuts Confirmed, The Agency Cancelled

Sony Online Entertainment has confirmed rumors of layoffs, as Bloomberg has word that SOE is closing its Denver, Seattle, and Tuscon studios, cutting 205 jobs, and cancelling development of The Agency, their planned PC and PS3 espionage-themed MMOG. They say SOE president John Smedley has said the company will develop more free-to-play and casual games. They also quote spokesperson Taina Rodriguez saying: "This strategic alignment of development resources better positions SOE to remain a global leader in online gaming and deliver on its promise of creating entertaining games for players of all ages."

THQ Layoffs

THQ has laid off over 30 employees from Kaos Studios and Volition, reports Gamasutra. 16 jobs were cut at Volition on Tuesday, where the headcount is now 220. THQ explains: "We must adjust our workforce to fit the studio's current needs, which is a relatively common occurrence in the game development industry." As for Kaos Studios, rumors have circulated for a while that the THQ-owned studio might be closed and/or moved after the release of Homefront, and now word is THQ has cut 17 jobs, leaving about 80 at the developer. "Kaos has a dedicated team in place that will continue to support Homefront with an ongoing, robust DLC and content plan, as well as working on pre-production for future games," says THQ in a statement. "We have made changes to ensure that the team size aligns to the current stages of internal product development." THQ says they will assist the fired employees in finding new jobs.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Trailer

This new trailer from The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is titled "Blood and Steel: Combat in War in the North," as it discusses the battles in the upcoming Tolkien-inspired action/RPG. Word is: "The video offers a look at the upcoming Action RPG The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, delving into the violent, detailed and varied combat in the game. As described by key members of the Snowblind Studios team and depicted in visceral gameplay footage, players can switch between melee and range attacks, and enhance their character’s power with kill streaks that augment their abilities." Here are some new screenshots from the game, and below is the embedded version of the trailer. Continue here to read the full story.

Crysis 2 Anti-Cheat Measures Live

This thread announces the promised security updates are now live for Crysis 2 as Crytek aims to curtail cheating in their just-released first-person shooter sequel (thanks Bill). Word is: "Today we released the first of a number of security updates, accounts that we have identified as exploiting an unfair advantage have been reset and if the activity persists they will be banned permanently. If you find yourself being kicked from every MP game it is because our systems have detected you cheating. We will continue to update anti-cheat software in Crysis 2 and strive for a cheat-free community." There is also a follow-up post noting that players should not assume that anyone having connection difficulties is cheating. The Crysis 2 Update Thread now also reflects this change, though the links they refer to are just plain text:
31/3 - Our fix thread has been updated to add an acknowledgment to more issues we're currently investigating

31/3 - Today we released the first of a number of security updates, accounts that we have identified as exploiting an unfair advantage have been reset and if the activity persists they will be banned permanently. If you find yourself being kicked from every MP game it is because our systems have detected you cheating. We will continue to update anti-cheat software in Crysis 2 and strive for a cheat-free community.

31/3 - If you are having problems signing into Crysis 2, you should try using your Crysis 1 login details. If you cannot remember your Crysis 1 username, please visit this page to retrieve it, using your MyCrysis account e-mail address and password.

If you do not have a Crysis 1 username, this link may still be useful as it provides you with your Crysis 2 username if your account was created successfully.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover Trailer

This launch trailer from IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover shows off 1C: Maddox Games' upcoming combat flight simulator set during World War II's pivotal Battle of Britain. The clip features several different aircraft, and snippets of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. The clip ends saying the game is due Spring 2011, and a couple of weeks ago Ubisoft announced it is due on April 26. Here's the embedded version. Continue here to read the full story.

Take On Helicopters Announced

Bohemia Interactive announces Take On Helicopters, a PC-exclusive non-military helicopter flight simulator which will offer high-fidelity flight mechanics and an open-world sandbox environment when it is released in the fourth quarter of this year. The game will support competitive and co-op multiplayer and ship with a "powerful & intuitive" mission editor. The Take On Helicopters Website is online offering this announce trailer using in-game footage from an early build of the game, here are some screenshots, and here's more on the game:
Take to the air above two beautifully rich and expansive environments, based upon real-world North American and South Asian terrain-data.

Take on cutting-edge technology, helicopters modelled in stunning detail, a large-scale, open-world sandbox and authentic flight dynamics...

Take On Helicopters!

In the latest instalment of Bohemia Interactive's line-up of immersive games, the player takes on the role of a civilian helicopter pilot. Harry Larkin's aviation business has fallen on tough times. Built up over decades, it's now only days away from closure. His sons face an uncertain future, struggling to save the company their father spent his whole life building. Together, they must take on contracts and competitors; together, they take on helicopters!

Magicka: Vietnam Next Month

Paradox interactive announces a release date for Magicka: Vietnam, saying the DLC that takes Magicka in country is expected to be available on April 12th through "all major digital distribution channels" for $4.99 USD. The first batch of screenshots accompany the news, and here's word on the DLC:
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like if wizards were allowed to roam the jungles of war-torn Vietnam, attempting to bring peace and stability to the region by casting spells on all opponents? Magicka: Vietnam features a lengthy challenge scenario that puts you in the combat boots and stylish robe of a Wizard GI. Venture deep into the Goblin-Cong jungle with up to three fellow soldiers in a heroic attempt to liberate prisoners from a POW camp and face off against deadly Vietnam themed enemies. Destroy enemy positions, escape the perils of the jungle and return safely to the evacuation helicopter (“Get to the chopper!!”).

Magicka: Vietnam also contains a new survival challenge map with increased difficulty in direct response to the request from the community. In the Magickal jungles of Vietnam you'll have an array of Vietnam-era weapons and a special Magick that calls in a napalm strike on enemy positions. Players will of course still have access to what makes Magicka truly unique – the dynamic spell casting system and a healthy dose of humour.

Spider-Man: Edge of Time Announced

Marvel and Activision announce Spider-Man: Edge of Time, an upcoming superhero action/adventure game scheduled for release this fall. The game is in the works at Beenox, developers of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, as they were recently named official keepers of the franchise. Here's word on the game:
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is a focused, action-packed adventure set in two connected and evolving timelines, from the contemporary times of the Amazing Spider-Man to the corrupted future world of Spider-Man 2099, against the backdrop of a rich, tightly crafted narrative by acclaimed Marvel veteran Peter David (co-creator of the comic book series Spider-Man 2099). The game features all-new "cause-and-effect" gameplay, where players will see how the immediate and sometimes unexpected effects of their actions as one Spider-Man changes the timeline of the other Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Edge of Time is slated for release this fall.

Battlefield Play4Free Early Access, Cousins Leaving EA

The Battlefield Blog has word that while Battlefield Play4Free will not officially launch until Monday, anyone who has played a previous Battlefield game can access the free-to-play military shooter now, saying: "All you need to be eligible for this 4 day head start is having played Battlefield: Bad Company, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 or Battlefield 1943 online at some point. That will automatically give you the rights to start playing Battlefield Play4Free right now." On a related note, Ben Cousins tweets about his plans depart EA (thanks MCV), where he's helped foster free games, including Battlefield Play4Free: "@bfplay4free launches this week and it's time for me to leave EA. Very proud of what I've achieved in the last 4 years."

SOE Cuts Rumored

George Broussard tweets: "Word that Sony Online Entertainment Seattle is having layoffs and that studio closure is possible.," and: "SOE Seattle and other studios (Denver is rumored) will be closed tomorrow. Good luck to all impacted." Kotaku follows up saying they have "confirmed through a source familiar with the matter" that SOE has cut staff at their Seattle, Tucson, and Denver studios. Saying: "Half of the workforce at SOE offices in Austin, Texas were pink slipped along with a sizeable portion of San Diego. In sum, it accounts for nearly one-third of SOE's manpower before today." SOE has three announced MMOGs in development, The Agency, EverQuest Next, and PlanetSide Next.

Hawken Gameplay Trailer

The Hawken Media Page now offers a new first-person trailer showing gameplay from Adhesive Games' recently announced UDK mech-themed multiplayer first-person shooter. The clip shows a load of combat in a futuristic urban setting. As impressive as these visuals are, the clip carries a note saying: "Early prototype video. Does not reflect the quality of final product."

Fable III PC Specs

IGN offers system specifications for the PC edition of Fable III (thanks VG247). This should assuage non-existent fears that a Windows port of an Xbox 360 game will tax modern PCs:
The minimum requirements are:

    • Operating System: XP 32 SP3, Vista 32/64 , Win 7 32/64
    • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz or AMD Athlon X2 4000+
    • Memory: 2GB
    • Hard Drive Space: 12 GB of free space
    • Graphics Hardware: NVidia 7600GT or ATI HD 2600 Pro
    • DirectX: 9.0c onward
    • Network: Internet or LAN connection required for multiplayer

The recommended system requirements are:

    • Operating System: Win 7
    • CPU: Intel Pentium 2.9Ghz Core 2 Duo or higher
    • Memory: 4GB
    • Hard Drive Space: 12 GB of free space
    • Graphics Hardware: Nvidia 260GTX 896MB or ATI 5770 1GB or higher
    • DirectX: 9.0c onward
    • Network: Internet or LAN connection required for multiplayer

New Revenge Of The Cats: Ethernet

Prototype 2 of the Revenge Of The Cats: Ethernet is now available, offering "a fast-paced, teamwork-oriented, non-stop-action multiplayer PC FPS game that allows players to achieve a high degree of mastery." Their media section has videos showing off the game, which is available for Windows and Linux. Thanks Ant via LinuxGames.

Silicon Knights vs Epic Proceeds

Kotaku has word that the courts are allowing Silicon Knights' legal action to proceed against Epic over Unreal engine licensing. Here's word:
In short, Silicon Knights said it didn't get what it was promised by Epic and it wants a cut of those Gears of War profits as compensation.

Silicon Knights calls a recent ruling in its case a "victory in their litigation against Epic." That's because a federal court has agreed with Silicon Knights that it can go before a jury with its allegations of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unfair competition, breach of contract, and breach of warranty against the Unreal Engine maker.

The Too Human developer may also have an ally in Disney, which Silicon Knights says had "almost identical claims" against Epic in 2006.

THQ Blocked from Ubi Poaching

GameInformer has word via French Canadian website Rue Frontenac that THQ has been C-blocked (court blocked) from attempting to lure employees from Ubisoft Montreal to THQ's upcoming Montreal studio. The THQ studio is still gearing up waiting for Patrice Désilets' non-compete clause to expire, and the court found Désilets in violation of this clause by hiring former colleagues from Ubisoft Montreal. This was followed by overtures from THQ to other Ubisoft developers through former Ubisoft employee Adolfo Gomez-Urda, who has now been added to this injunction.

Op Ed

Benchmark Reviews - How Video Games Killed Desktop PC Computing.
So, to recap the situation, consumers continue to replace their desktop PC platform with notebooks, netbooks, tablets, and mobile phones. These transitions have caused a decline in the number of desktop user, and thus fewer consumers in the segment. Desktop component manufacturers are finding it hard to profit in an economic climate that prohibits enthusiast spending, but they're also being squeezed by the resistance to constant hardware upgrades. Software developers are making their programs more accessible to low-power platforms, in addition to Cloud-computing solutions. PC video games are essentially the desktop platform's last stand, and now that battle is looking bleak.

Morning Previews

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

I think I need to get a Ghost Pepper plant from the (noisy) Ghost Pepper Website (thanks Ant via Boing Boing) and cultivate some of these for use in my chili. I actually toned down the heat this past year, only using three habanero peppers and a few milder peppers for seven pounds of meat, so I could probably get by with one or two of these, but it would make for a fun gimmick/conversation piece to say it included home-grown versions of the world's hottest pepper.

Hot Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez and Acleacius.
Play: Spy.
From Beyond.
Links: Logos' Secret Messages. Thanks
Pedestrian's Guide to the USA. Thanks Neatorama.
Stories: Albany Man Opted Out of Mega Millions Pool That Won $319 Million. Thanks Brother19.
Minty geeks and flirty beermats.
Jailhouse ring smuggled drugs in paint in coloring books. Thanks Slashdot.
Science: Angry Wasps Capture Intruding Ants, Fly Away, Airdrop Them.
Happiness peaks in our eighties. Thanks Neatorama.
Images: I Think This Is Supposed to Be Over WASD.
Largely unseen photos of MLK's killer unveiled.
The Resemblance is Uncanny.
Media: OverAnalyzers- Episode 1.
Tune for Two.
Quadrocopter Ball Juggling. Thanks nin.
Auction: Rare, amazing gaming collectibles auctioned to support Japan.
Follow-up: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Thanks Digg.
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