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Monday, Feb 27, 2017

Middle-earth: Shadow of War Announced

WBIE officially announces Middle-earth: Shadow of War, following the leaked revelation of plans for the sequel. Word is this is coming on August 25th, and they only specify Windows 10 as a PC target, though they also mention Steam, so this may come to other versions of Windows as well. Here's a trailer, and here's the plan:
In Middle-earth: Shadow of War™, players wield a new Ring of Power and confront the deadliest of enemies, including Sauron and his Nazgul, in a monumental battle for Middle-earth. The open-world action-adventure game is brought to life through the expansion of the award-winning Nemesis System. The robust personalization from the first game is now applied to the entire world where the environments and characters are all shaped by player actions and decisions, creating a personal world unique to every gameplay experience.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War™ will be available for Xbox One, Project Scorpio, Windows 10 PC (Windows Store and Steam™), PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®4 Pro beginning 25 August, 2017. Middle-earth: Shadow of War™ will be available as an Xbox Play Anywhere title.

“Monolith Productions continues to innovate by introducing deeper, more personalised gameplay experiences, coupled with authentic storytelling,” said David Haddad, President, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “Middle-earth: Shadow of War™ truly drives the genre forward by taking the Nemesis System to new heights and allowing players to create their own personal journey within Middle-earth.”

“Following the amazing reception to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor™, we massively expanded every dimension of the game, including the world, the story, the RPG systems, the core gameplay and of course the personal player stories of the Nemesis System,” said Michael de Plater, Vice President, Creative, Monolith Productions. “As lifelong fans of Middle-earth, we are so grateful to have the privilege to bring to life the most incredible fantasy world ever created in a new way, for a new generation. With Middle-earth: Shadow of War™, we can’t wait to see the amazing stories players are going to create and share.”

The innovative Nemesis System created unique personal stories through procedurally-generated enemies who remember every encounter and are differentiated by their personality, strengths and weaknesses. Middle-earth: Shadow of War™ expands this innovation with the introduction of Followers who bring about entirely new stories of loyalty, betrayal and revenge. The Nemesis System is also expanded to create a unique personal world through Nemesis Fortresses, which allows players to utilize different strategies to conquer dynamic strongholds and create personalized worlds with their unique Orc army.

Set between the events of The Hobbit™ and The Lord of the Rings™, Middle-earth: Shadow of War™ continues the original narrative of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor™. Players will be engrossed in a richer, more personal and expansive world full of epic heroes and villains, iconic locations, original enemy types, even more personalities and a new cast of characters with untold stories.
Continue here to read the full story.

Hearthstone Un’Goro Expansion Announced

Blizzard announces Un’Goro, a new expansion coming to Hearthstone in April, bringing 135 new cards to the game. This page is home to the project, and the announcement has some pertinent details:
Are you seeking adventure and fame with a dash of danger? Azeroth’s finest scholars and explorers have today begun preparing for Journey to Un’Goro™, the new expansion coming to Hearthstone®, Blizzard Entertainment’s smash-hit digital card game, in April. Those brave or at least curious enough to embark on an expedition to a land of primordial wonder will encounter ancient elementals, frightening flora, and some of the fiercest predators to ever inhabit Azeroth—all while unearthing 135 new Hearthstone cards to add to their collections!

Journey to Un’Goro will take adventurers to the heart of the Un’Goro crater, a prehistoric region of Azeroth preserved in time. Rumor has it that previous explorers left some unfinished business in Un’Goro—daunting quest cards that, should you complete their requirements, grant rewards of monstrous power. It’s also said that the crater’s dinosaurs can adapt to any threat through a newly discovered form of evolution, and can be quite territorial. Though you’ll be tested at every turn, worry not! Your safety is virtually guaranteed . . . just make sure not to touch anything!

Coming to Windows and Mac PCs; Windows, iOS, and Android™ tablets; and mobile phones, Journey to Un’Goro card packs will be winnable in Hearthstone’s Arena mode and purchasable with in-game gold or real money at the same prices as Hearthstone’s other card packs. Starting tomorrow and up until the expansion is released, players can pre-purchase Journey to Un’Goro card packs in a special 50-pack bundle, on any platform, for a one-time price of $49.99 (one purchase per account). Eager explorers who pre-purchase this bundle will receive a unique themed card back to help set the proper mood for the upcoming expedition.

Thimbleweed Park Next Month

Terrible Toybox announces March 30th is when to expect Thimbleweed Park for Windows, OS X, Linux, and Xbox One. This is a new adventure game from a team led by Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick that was funded by fans through Kickstarter. Here's a reminder of what to expect:
Welcome to Thimbleweed Park. Population: 80 nutcases.

A haunted hotel, an abandoned circus, a burnt-out pillow factory, a dead body pixelating under the bridge, toilets that run on vacuum tubes... you've never visited a place like this before.

Five people with nothing in common have been drawn to this rundown, forgotten town. They don't know it yet, but they are all deeply connected. And they're being watched.

...Who is Agent Ray really working for and will she get what they want?
...What does Junior Agent Reyes know about a 20 year old factory fire that he's not saying?
...Will the ghost, Franklin, get to speak to his daughter again?
...Will Ransome the *Beeping* Clown ever become a decent human being?
...Will aspiring game developer Delores abandon her dreams and stick by her family?
...And most importantly: how come no one cares about that dead body?

By the end of a long, strange night in Thimbleweed Park, all of this will be answered -- and you'll question everything you thought you knew.

In a town like Thimbleweed Park, a dead body is the least of your problems. Switch between five playable characters to uncover the surreal secrets of this strange town in a modern mystery adventure game from the creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. The deeper you go, the weirder it gets.

Stories Untold Released

Stories Untold is now available, offering a throwback interactive text adventure for Windows. That said, this trailer offers a look at why this isn't your father's Zork. You can find more on the game, including details on where to buy it, on the official website, and here's the super-short pitch: "Stories Untold is a compilation tape of four experimental text adventures, including a remaster of the original episode The House Abandon." Continue here to read the full story.

Stellaris Utopia in April

Paradox Interactive announces the road to Utopia will end on April 6th with the release of the Utopia expansion for Stellaris, their sci-fi strategy game. Here's a new trailer along with the news:
Paradox Interactive and Paradox Development Studio have set a release date for their first expansion to their celebrated space grand strategy game. Stellaris: Utopia will be shaping galactic civilizations as of April 6, 2017 and will be found at Steam and the Paradox Store for $19.99/€19.99.

One of the core improvements in Utopia is the introduction of Ascension Perks. As your species advances and gains new traditions, it can choose how it wants to evolve as it is further enlightened. You can choose between a biological path, a psionic path or a synthetic path, with various options within these broad categories. Body, Mind or Machine - how will your species challenge the future?

See how one civilization's take on Utopia can dramatically affect another's here.

Utopia also includes:

  • Megastructures: Build wondrous structures in your systems including Dyson Spheres and ring worlds, bringing both prestige and major advantages to your race.
  • Habitat Stations: Build “tall” and establish space stations that will house more population, serving the role of planets in a small and confined empire.
  • Rights and Privileges: Set specific policies for which of the many species under your thumb will have the rights and privileges of full citizenship. Build an egalitarian paradise or follow a caste system.
  • And even more improvements and updates, including (as is traditional with all of our paid content releases) free updates for every Stellaris owner!

Stellaris: Utopia brings even greater depth and variety to a game already celebrated for its story-telling power and near endless possibilities. Are you ready for perfection?

Continue here to read the full story.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Trailer

A new story trailer from Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition shows off the remastered version of People Can Fly's first-person shooter. Here's an excerpt from the clip's description:
Step into the boots of Grayson Hunt as he battles his way through throngs of mutated inhabitants of the former resort planet, Stygia. An exiled member of the elite assassin group, Dead Echo, Grayson is driven not only by his desire to escape Stygia, but to exact revenge on the corrupt Dead Echo General who sent him there. Orchestrate masterful kills throughout the single-player campaign or 40+ co-operative multiplayer and competitive challenge maps using Bulletstorm’s unique “skillshot” system that rewards you for performing the most creative and deadly kills imaginable.
Continue here to read the full story.

On Sale

Twitch to Sell Games

Twitch announces you will soon be able to buy games directly through the service, saying this should kick off in the spring. This will involve a revenue share with partnered streamers, taking the role of the influencer another step away from the appearance of objectivity. Here's word on the plan:
So, how does this all work?
People already use Twitch as a way to 'demo' games and get a feel for what they're all about before committing to a purchase. Soon, when you watch a stream, you'll see an option to purchase below the video on the channel page if the game or in-game content is available on Twitch.

When you buy, if the streamer is a partner who has opted into the program, he or she gets a 5% share of the revenue. So now you can help support your favorite partnered streamers just by getting a game on their channel. And, purchases come with a special digital Twitch Crate filled with surprises!

Indeed. Any purchase over $4.99 will earn you a Twitch Crate, a digital loot box with a special reward like a game-specific emote, a chat badge, or some Bits. The contents of each Crate are randomly generated so you never know what surprise will be inside.

Get it on Twitch, soon…
We’ll be rolling out this new feature shortly, so watch for more news coming your way. Happy streaming!

Sparc Announced

CCP announces Sparc, a full-body physical sport played in virtual reality coming to "all major high-end VR platforms" later this year. They say this is the first wholly original IP from the developer outside the EVE universe, and offer this trailer with glimpses of what to expect amid mostly live-action footage. Keep the five Ds in mind, as this sounds a bit like dodge ball. They say to expect more details soon, and in the meantime, here's the announcement:
Today, CCP Games is thrilled to announce Sparc, a unique virtual sport only possible in virtual reality. In Sparc, players connect online to compete with each other in fast and fun full-body VR gameplay.

Currently in development for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, Sparc will be the first wholly original IP to be shipped by CCP outside of the EVE universe when it releases in 2017.

Sparc's skill-based, full-body gameplay makes for a fast-paced and fun physical sport. Players use their motion controllers to throw projectiles at their opponents from a distance, and in turn defend themselves by dodging, blocking, or deflecting the incoming attacks. Players can join one-on-one matches with friends online or find opponents via matchmaking.

Sparc enables players to connect and compete in an online community. Players can watch matches in-person and queue for the next match in VR through Courtside, a freeform social area for spectating in VR or on screen. Sparc includes multiple two-player game modes as well as single-player challenges and training modes, plus a range of customization and personalization options for competitors.

"After our early experiments with standing VR gameplay, we were excited by the idea of building an original sport designed for the current generation of VR hardware. We've designed Sparc so that players can express and improve their skill through their physical actions." said Morgan Godat, Executive Producer at CCP Atlanta. "Ultimately, we want players to think of Sparc as a virtual court in their living room where they can meet and compete with other players from around the world."

"At CCP games, our goal is to harness our passion for virtual reality as a new medium and create the killer apps for the first generation of VR technology," said Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP Games. "We set out to achieve that in mobile VR with Gunjack and in seated VR with EVE: Valkyrie, both released in the first year of VR becoming publicly available. With Sparc, we want to capitalize on the unique strengths of standing VR and deliver a game with all the depth and excitement to keep players returning long into the future."

Today's announcement is only the beginning for Sparc and CCP Games plans to reveal further information about Sparc's gameplay and feature-set ahead of release later this year.

For more details about the game, please visit You can also find Sparc on Facebook via, or follow the game on Twitter via @PlaySparc.
Continue here to read the full story.

LG Developing "Next Generation" VR HMD

With the Game Developers Conference getting underway today in San Francisco, Valve announces that LG Electronics is at the show with a prototype virtual reality head-mounted display. Word is LG's first entry in the market is still being refined, but that it will offer a "a high fidelity, next generation VR experience" when it is eventually released:
LG Electronics will unveil its first VR HMD prototype at this year's GDC in San Francisco, CA. Being shown in Valve's GDC booth, the LG HMD prototype is designed to deliver a high fidelity, next generation VR experience.

During the show, LG will be meeting with developers to collect feedback and impressions as part of its effort to define the first commercial units. Pricing, launch dates, and territories will be announced at a later date.

Leak Reveals Middle-earth: Shadow of War?

NeoGAF has box art and details for Middle-earth: Shadow of War, an unannounced sequel to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (thanks Kotaku). This is unconfirmed, but according to the post, this was accidentally revealed on the Target website. The leak includes details on a gold version that also reveal apparent plans for expansions. Here's word:
Gold Edition includes:

  • Slaughter Tribe Nemesis Expansion
  • Outlaw Tribe Nemesis Expansion
  • The Blade of Galadriel Story Expansion
  • The Desolation of Mordor Story Expansion
  • Gold War Chest
  • Over $125 in total value

Nemesis Expansions include a new Orc Tribe featuring new enemies, followers, missions, abilities, weapons, Fortress and wilderness updates, and a Mythic Gear Set.

Story Expansions introduce a new campaign, playable character & abilities, side missions, enemies, allies & more.

Experience an epic open-world brought to life by the award-winning Nemesis System. Forge a new Ring of Power, conquer Fortresses in massive battles and dominate Mordor with your personal Orc army in Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™.

Go behind enemy lines to forge your army, conquer Fortresses and dominate Mordor from within. Experience how the award winning Nemesis System creates unique personal stories with every enemy and follower, and confront the full power of the Dark Lord Sauron and his Ringwraiths in this epic new story of Middle-earth.

In Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™, nothing will be forgotten.

Mass Effect Andromeda Promises "Totally Softcore Space Porn"

BioWare responds to a couple of fan questions following a post a few weeks ago on the BioWare Social Network Fan Forums revealing an "M" ESRB rating for Mass Effect Andromeda (thanks VG247). The rating says the game includes partial nudity and strong sexual content, and Aaryn Flynn tweets a reply to a query about this, saying "Yes it's totally softcore space porn." When asked if he was trolling his followers, he follows up with a tweet saying simply, "Oh I'm not."

Red Faction 2 Off German "Index"

THQ announces that Red Faction 2 is now legal to openly sell in Germany, as it is no longer listed on the country's "index" of games restricted from sale due to violent content. The emancipation of the sequel comes just a few months after the original Red Faction was freed from the index. Here's their explanation of what happened:
Numerous discussions, tact and some skillful powers of persuasion were required to achieve this result. “At THQ Nordic we were aware of the implications of this momentous decision, and needed to adopt a bold approach.” says Jans Binsmaier, Publishing Director at THQ Nordic.

After the incredible news of our removal from the list, THQ Nordic is currently in (youth-free) party mode knowing that the Vienna-based team will be having further discussions with the BPjM (Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons): “We will of course still be nurturing our extensive games portfolio that now comprises over 265 titles, and will do our utmost to ensure that gamers can play our games in the future.” says Jan Binsmaier. We can still celebrate “small” successes like this even a decade later!

Steam Top 10

Here's Valve's accounting of the 10 bestselling games on Steam for last week. The results have been carefully guarded by the accounting firm of Pricewaterhouse Coopers:

  1. Grand Theft Auto V
  3. H1Z1: King of the Kill
  4. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  5. Conan Exiles
  6. Northgard
  7. Sniper Elite 4
  8. BERSERK and the Band of the Hawk
  9. theHunter: Call of the Wild
  10. 10 - Fallout 4

U.K. Sales Charts

The Sims 4 remains number one on GFK Chart-Track's Top 30 chart of the bestselling PC games in the U.K. for last week. Halo Wars 2 and Football Manager 2017 swapped places from the previous chart, and are now number two and three, respectively. Halo Wars 2 debuts at number two on the all platforms chart, where For Honor retains the honor of the top spot. This summary rounds up the details:
On the All Formats Top 40 (Units) Ubisoft’s ‘For Honor’ holds on to No1 for a second week even though sales are down 72% over week 1.

Microsoft/THQ Nordic have to settle with No2 as ‘Halo Wars 2’ debuts at No2 for Xbox One and PC. The original ‘Halo Wars’ also debuted at No2 in week 9, 2009 – beaten to No1 back then by Sony and Guerilla’s ‘Killzone 2’ on PS3. Next week’s chart will have a hotly anticiptated new IP from Guerilla Games, as ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ launches on PS4 in the same week as Nintendo Switch. Turning back to this week and Rockstar/Take 2 remain stable at No3 with ‘Grand Theft Auto V’, as do EA, remaining at No4 with ‘FIFA17’. The second big new release from last week, Sold Out and Rebellion’s ‘Sniper Elite 4’ drops 3 places to No5.

Hardware Reviews

  • Creative Sound BlasterX Siege M04 Mouse on Vortez.
  • Intel Kaby Lake Core i3-7350K versus non-K Showdown on Mad Shrimps.
  • Logic Supply ML100G-50 Fanless Skylake vPro Industrial NUC on AnandTech.
  • Patriot LX Series micro SDXC Class 10 256 GB Flash Memory on Modders-Inc.
  • ROCCAT Skeltr Smart Communication Gaming Keyboard on Mad Shrimps.
  • TerraMaster F2-220 Small Business-Home Cloud Storage NAS Server on Nikk Tech.
  • Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum Keyboard on APH Networks.

Out of the Blue

Watched about five minutes of the Oscars last night, so I didn't manage to catch their Steve Harvey moment. It's okay, I have not seen a single movie that won anything at the ceremony, so it wouldn't have made sense to watch. Sounds like I missed a bit of a circus.

R.I.P.: Bill Paxton Dead: Actor Dies of Surgery Complications. Thanks TheFlyingPenguin.
R.I.P.: Joseph A. Wapner, Judge on ‘The People’s Court,’ Dies at 97.

Slip-up Links: Thanks Ant and Acleacius.
Play: Stick Empires.
Link: Oscar Winners 2017- The Complete List - 89th Academy Awards.
Stories: Storm Chasers Unite to Give Bill Paxton an Epic Tribute.
The wrong envelope please: 'La La Land' mistakenly named best picture, 'Moonlight' really wins.
Oscar Broadcast Flubs In Memoriam Segment.
Science: Cheap plastic film cools whatever it touches up to 10°C. Thanks HARDOCP.
Images: Amazing truck save GIF. Thanks The Flying Penguin.
FOR HONOR!!! (React Gaming: College Kids).
Clever creatures! (Cat vs. Man). Thanks Rhialto.
Follow-up: This pre-Oscars commercial for Avatar World is terrifying people.
The Funnies: Brevity.
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