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Tuesday, Apr 12, 2011

BlizzCon 2011 Ticket Sales Schedule

Blizzard announces May 21 at 1:00 pm EDT and May 25 at 10:00 pm EDT are when online sales will take place for tickets to BlizzCon 2011, this year's installment in their annual gaming convention, which will be held on October 21 and 22, once again at the Anaheim Convention Center. Tickets will be sold through the BlizzCon Website for $175.00 USD each, and they will also offer an additional batch of $500.00 USD tickets on May 28 at 1:00 pm EDT which will include BlizzCon admission and attendance at an exclusive pre-BlizzCon dinner to benefit Children's Hospital of Orange County. They will again offer the opportunity to watch a stream of the event over the internet or through DirecTV for $39.99, and whose who attend virtually will receive the same World of Warcraft and StarCraft II in-game items as physical attendees.

World of Tanks Launch

Wargaming.net announces the official launch of World of Tanks, their armored combat MMOTPS. North Americans interested in the free-to-play game can sign up on this page while European signups are conducted through this page. Here are some new screenshots, and here's word on the game:
A flexible system of authentic vehicle upgrade and development allows you to try any of the vehicles and weapons in the game. Whether you prefer to exhaust your foes with fast and maneuverable light tanks, make deep breaches in enemy lines with all-purpose medium tanks, use the force of giant tanks to eliminate opposing armored forces, or become a heavy sniper with long-range howitzers, each unit type has its own advantages and can be extremely effective when operated by a true tank ace.

But being a great tank commander alone isn't enough to win! In World of Tanks, it’s all about teamwork. Victory is achieved by combining your combat skills with those of the other members of your team, each playing their own role on the battlefield. Just add your favorite strategy to build your own iron empire and manifest the indisputable authority of the tank! Feel the TANK POWER!

Dragon Age DRM Servers Down

DRM run amok: how BioWare and EA are screwing users right now is the Ars Technica headline that does not mask the author's frustration at having been locked out of playing Dragon Age: Origins since April 9th because BioWare's authentication servers are failing to let owners of the game play. [H]ard-OCP notes that the problem (and lack of a solution) is addressed by BioWare in this thread, where word is: "We're continuing to investigate, both here and at EA. We have some theories about what is occurring but no firm fix at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience and request your patience while our engineers continue working towards a solution." Ars notes that this game has been plagued by authentication problems since its launch, and goes on to express the following frustration:
It's not really upsetting me that much that I can't play DA:O on a weekday—that's probably for the better. And I'm not by any means opposed to DRM for games; indeed, there's an argument to be made that it's a legitimate response to ongoing piracy problems. No, my beef is with buggy, poorly-thought-out DRM schemes that have legit users sniffing around torrent sites to see if they can get their hands on a working copy of the game they paid for. The fact that DA:O has to reauthorize my DLC every time I log into the Bioware server is just nuts, and it sets users up for all sorts of problems. (On the client side, the authorization service that runs under Windows doesn't always start, so even if Bioware's servers are up, users can still face this problem.)

Then there's the fact that, again, EA/Bioware didn't address this issue for three whole days. For three days, users were locked out of a game that they paid for due to these server problems, and there was no notice posted. Not only that, but they either don't monitor the Bioware forums, or they don't care enough to participate in them, because no one from Bioware showed up during this period to even acknowledge the issue informally. This mix of incompetence and malicious neglect is startling to me, but it's apparently par for the course for these two companies.

Portal 2 Co-op Trailer

This trailer shows off some of the co-op gameplay in Portal 2, with accompanying unscripted commentary by a couple of IGN editors. They show off some of the tools players have at their disposal to communicate their plans. Thanks Ant via VideoSift.

Portal 2 Content in Other Games

A free Portal-themed prototype level is now available in Killing Floor, Tripwire Interactive's co-op survival/horror first-person shooter. The game itself is also currently on sale at a 50% discount. Likewise, a new Portal -themed level is available in The Ball, Tripwire's first-person action/adventure game, which is also on sale for half off. This video shows off the new level in The Ball. Both games are also part of The Potato Sack, Valve's 13-game indie bundle, which is currently 75% off.

On Sale

Direct2Drive offers 20% off all orders with the code "SHOWERS" on checkout. Strategy First is now donating 30% (up from 20%) of online sales between now and April 11th to Japanese earthquake/tsunami relief.

Evening Previews

Portal 2 Early?

The core concept behind Portal involves bending the space/time continuum, but is Aperture Laboratories actually capable of reversing Valve Time? Possibly, as Kotaku points to clues from the Valve PotatoFoolsDay ARG suggesting Portal 2 may be released on Friday, rather than next week (thanks nin). On a semi-related note, Portal 2 pre-loads are now available through Steam. Also, on the topic of Valve Time, Brad Wardell tells IndustryGamers he thinks operating Steam is contributing to delays of Valve's internally developed games, saying: "you look at before Steam and after Steam, it's definitely had an effect." Of course Half-Life, the poster child for Valve Time, was released years before Steam was a gleam in Valve's eye, but he's entitled to his opinion. Finally, there's more on this ARG on the Dejobaan Website (where they offer this mash-up) and the Lazy 8 Website.

Fallout: New Vegas Patch & DLC Plans

An update on the Bethesda Softworks Forums by our old comrade Jason Bergman says the next DLC for Fallout: New Vegas is complete and ready to rumble (presumably Honest Heart), but is being held back until a patch is released to "improve the overall New Vegas experience" (thanks Bill). He says the patch is also now complete, and in the hands of the platform holders, and is to be expected over the next couple of weeks, "although PC will almost certainly get it first." Here's an outline of what to expect from the patch and beyond:
So what’s in that patch? First and foremost, optimizations and stability improvements. While there are bug fixes, our core focus was on improving stability and performance. We worked directly with first party platform owners to identify issues, and we have fixed a great deal of the crashes and lockups that people were experiencing. In addition, we scoured the forums and this patch includes weapon balance tweaks and other requested fixes.

We know we’re not done yet. There’s still more work to do, and we’ll be monitoring the forums very carefully following the release of this patch, looking for more issues. We do have another update planned further down the line.

So I’d like to apologize for the radio silence. Hopefully you’ll be pleased with the enormous amount of work we’ve put into this update over the last few months, and will enjoy the rest of our DLC releases. We have some pretty cool stuff coming soon. Stay tuned!

TrackMania 2 Screenshot

The ManiaPlanet Forum has another new TrackMania 2 screenshot, showing off another couple of cars from Nadeo's upcoming racing game sequel. The forum users made pretty quick work of the second puzzle hiding the image, in spite of it being more complex than the first one. A third puzzle has not yet been unveiled, but the users are clamoring for something revealing environments and car damage. Thanks Frans.

Brink Specs & Steamworks Features

The Bethesda Blog announces Steamworks support for Brink as well as the system requirements for Splash Damage's first-person shooter that's due in about a month. The game's Steamworks features include Steam Achievements, VOIP (in addition to the already existing in-game chat), Leaderboards, Valve Anti Cheat, dedicated servers, Friends support, and Steam Cloud for save data. The system specifications, which oddly omit AMD CPUs, follow. Continue here to read the full story.

Dragon Age 2 Patch

The BioWare Social Network offers a new automatic patch for Dragon Age 2, updating BioWare's role-playing sequel to version 1.02, offering a manual patch for Windows and saying the Mac edition of the game will update itself the next time it is launched, as will the versions purchased through Steam (thanks Dir Wulf). The release includes a note suggesting users make sure their graphics card drivers are up-to-date: "AMD and NVIDIA have recently released new graphics-card drivers. Using old drivers may cause Dragon Age II to crash, run poorly, or display graphics incorrectly." They also warn that some saved games may not work correctly: "Some plot fixes are retroactive, but not all. Players with plot-breaking bugs may need to revert to an earlier save, particularly a save prior to visiting the affected area during the current year in the game." The change list follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Total War: Shogun 2 Patched

A new patch for Total War: Shogun 2 is now automatically available via Steam, offering a bunch of fixes for The Creative Assembly's strategy sequel set in feudal Japan. Here's the change list from Steam. Continue here to read the full story.

Humble Frozenbyte Bundle

The Humble Frozenbyte Bundle offers a third "pay what you want" indie bundle sale, featuring five Mac, Windows, and Linux games from Frozenbyte, free of any DRM. As with the past such bundles, in addition to customers being able to name their own price, they are have the chance to benefit the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Child's Play Charity. Here's word on the bundle, which includes three complete games, a future release that's still in development, and a cancelled game prototype:
Please note, while Trine, Shadowgrounds, and Shadowgrounds: Survivor are very polished games and ready to play on all platforms, the Splot and Jack Claw bonuses are different.

Splot is still under development and will be added to your bundle once it is completed. Jack Claw is a prototype of a game Frozenbyte was developing but canceled before completion.

Portal 2 'Boots' Trailer

This trailer is the fourth and final installment in the series of investor videos from Portal 2, Valve's upcoming first-person puzzle/platformer sequel. The clip actually features Chell this time out, as Aperture Laboratories CEO Cave Johnson shows off her long-fall boots, which besides their obvious fashion value, are also functional, as they prevent the "reproducible human error problem" involving falls from great heights. The embedded version follows. Continue here to read the full story.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Announced

Another revelation from Captivate 11 on Capcom-Unity is the plan for Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, which they call "an all new Dead Rising 2 experience." The game is due this fall for Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. This trailer from the game concludes with Frank West telling you he's "back in the game," and here's a bit on what to expect:
The new, “Off the Record” storyline means an all new Dead Rising 2 experience. Frank will face off against more twisted enemies, build more outrageous combo weapons, follow his own unique mission structure and explore brand new areas of Fortune City to get his biggest scoop yet. Frank’s come back means the return of his trusty camera, with players able to earn Prestige Points (PP) for specific photo opportunities that are graded against criteria such as horror, drama, erotica and brutality.

We listened to fans when it came to Dead Rising 2, so in addition to the new scenario and gameplay enhancements, Dead rising 2: Off the Record offers a suite of technical updates including load time optimizations, improved network performance and a host of system upgrades to deliver a more satisfying Dead Rising experience.

Street Fighter X Tekken PC Announced

Capcom-Unity has word from Captivate 11 where plans were announced for a Windows edition of Street Fighter X Tekken, the upcoming game in which brawling worlds collide. They offer details, screenshots, a Cinematic Trailer and a Gameplay Trailer, and word is: "The game will be out in 2012 on Xbox, PS3, and PC." Thanks Joao.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Gameplay Trailer

This trailer offers the first look at gameplay in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the role-playing game in development at 38 Studios and Big Huge Games based on the work of R.A. Salvatore. The clip shows some environments, creatures, and combat. Here are some new screenshots and you can find the clip embedded below. Continue here to read the full story.

PC Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition in July

A tweet by Yoshinori Ono offers the expected news that Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition is headed to Windows (thanks Joao), saying: "Thank you for waiting. Here you are! We are make prepare for Windows about AE.(Only US and Euro) ;D." A post on the NeoGAF Forums offers more on this from a press release from the recent Captivate event:
Adding new characters, an all new balancing update as well as an enhanced Replay Channel, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition will deliver the definitive version of Street Fighter® when it releases on Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PCs this summer. More specifically, the add-on version of Arcade Edition will be available as a downloadable upgrade for existing Super Street Fighter® IV owners on June 7 for 1200 MS Points or $14.99, with a full console retail product following on June 24 in Europe and June 28 in North America, respectively, and a PC version in July.

Ships Ahoy - Magicka: Vietnam

Paradox Interactive announces the release of the Vietnam DLC for Magicka, Arrowhead Game Studios' action/adventure game. They say the DLC is available through "all leading digital distribution platforms" for $4.99 USD, and that several portals are putting the original Magicka (which is required) on sale at a 50% discount. They are keeping tabs on these sales through this page, though no sales are listed as of this moment. This trailer celebrates the release, and here's word:
Answer the call of duty to take up arms against the Goblin-Cong, trudging through a napalm-scorched battlefield with a bad company of up to four wizard GIs, and earn new medals of honor and achievements as you eliminate scores of enemies with not-so-wizardly machine guns and a new napalm Magick, liberate prisoners from POW camps, and escape to a Huey before it gets shot down by a pistol—all of this, of course, in your stylish robe fatigues and hood-friendly helmet.

Theatre of War 3: Korea Demo

Battlefront.com now offers a playable demo for Theatre of War 3: Korea, offering one hour of play time in the full version of the military real-time tactics sequel. Word is: "This free english-lanuguage [sic] demo from Theatre of War 3 Korea is a full featured version of the game! It allows access to all the missions, features, editors, save games and even multiplayer as the full version. The only restriction is that you are allowed only 60 minutes total gameplay running time before the demo will expire." The download is mirrored on AtomicGamer, GamePron, and Gamer's Hell.

THQ: Layoffs "Just Business"

THQ on the future of Homefront on GameSpot features THQ executive vice president of Core Games Danny Bilson discussing the just-launched shooter franchise. Along the way he addresses the layoffs that followed completion of the game's development, invoking the Godfather philosophy: "Well in the film business, everybody says good-bye at the end of the movie and then they go work on something else. I wish we had enough work to go around and keep everybody employed all the time, but sometimes it's just business." Thanks IndustryGamers.

GOG.com: DRM Causes Piracy

Bit-gamer.net has an excerpt from their upcoming interview with Lukasz Kukawski, PR and marketing manager for Good Old Games, who expresses the opinion that digital rights management (DRM) actually causes piracy, rather than prevents it. On a related note, when GOG.com and CD Project announced that the version of The Witcher 2 sold on GOG.com would have no DRM, we inquired why this stance didn't extend to versions of the RPG sequel sold on other platforms, but never received an answer. Here's what Kukawski says about DRM:
"What I will say isn’t popular in the gaming industry," says Kukawski, "but in my opinion DRM drives people to pirate games rather than prevent them from doing that. Would you rather spend $50 on a game that requires installing malware on your system, or to stay online all the time and crashes every time the connection goes down, or would you rather download a cracked version without all that hassle?"

Quote of the Day

"I think the greatest game in any franchise is always the first, because you do far more than you ought to," Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning lead designer Ken Rolston tells Strategy Informer. "The first rule of game design is 'Don't do too much', but then the first time you always do too much. And you're taking a chance of killing everyone in the company, taking a chance of killing your budget, it's terribly risky... but it's what you have to do. You have to set a bar for yourself for the future... and I think we've set ourselves a very challenging bar."

Streets of Rage Remake Yoinked

The Streets of Rage Remake Forums have word that this community-created remake is no longer available for download at the request of IP owner SEGA. The ultimate outcome of this is not determined yet, but here's word for now: "SEGA have contacted regarding the download hosted on this site. While this issue is being resolved, please do not upload the game for others to download. Any links posted on this site will be removed. Thank you." Thanks Big Download via GamingSurvival.

Morning Previews

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

We have a DLP television, which creates its images by reflecting a bright light off a computer chip. A couple of months ago, for some reason MrsBlue started focusing on the next time the bulb would need replacing, and got me to order a replacement. Sure enough, last night the old bulb blew out, and I was able to get the TV up and running again in a matter of minutes. The thing is that the replacement bulb took a couple of weeks to be delivered, so my better half was very wise in her advance planning. Each of the two prior bulbs lasted a few years, but having learned this lesson, I think I'll order a new one right away.

R.I.P.: Jerry Lawson (1940-2011). Thanks The Root.

Replacement Links: Thanks Ant and Mike Martinez and Acleacius.
Play: All we need is Brain 2.
Rig Wrecker.
Brains Will Roll.
Links: Add Zombies to Video Games.
10 Spectacularly Third-Rate Spider-Man Villains. Thanks Digg.
Story: Jumbo Air France jet clips smaller plane at New York's JFK airport. Thanks nin.
Science: Long-Necked Sauropods Scarfed Down Fast-Food Feasts. Thanks Neutronbeam.
How magnets affect the human brain.
Images: Literate and Comfortable.
No such thing.
World's Largest Lego Tower Erected In Brazil.
Media: 50 Famous Last Words In 4 Minutes.
Sasquatch snowboarding.
A working model of Starblazer's 'Space Battleship Yamato'.
What's inside this MASSIVE chicken egg?
Follow-up: Brevity.