Archived News:

Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Demo

An announcement on Steam reveals that a free playable trial version of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is now available on Steam, offering the chance to check out the first-person shooter sequel which is eligible to nominate for this year's Steam Awards (more on that news below). For those who like the sample, the game is presently full price ($59.99 USD), but the Digital Deluxe Edition is on sale for 50% off, so the version with both the game and the DLC Season Pass that's normally $79.99 is currently offered for $39.99. Here's word on the demo:
Today we’re happy to announce a free trial for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Starting today players can download the free trial on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC and play through the entire first level of the game. Should players choose to upgrade to the full version of the game, their save data will carry over.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus launched on October 27 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, to widespread praise from the critics and community. Wolfenstein II has also been nominated in several categories for The Game Awards, including Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, Best Action Game and Best Performance (Brian Bloom as BJ Blazkowicz).

Wolfenstein II sends players to Nazi-controlled America on a mission to recruit the boldest resistance leaders left. Players will fight the Nazis in iconic locations such as small-town Roswell, New Mexico, quarantined New Orleans, and a post-nuclear Manhattan. Armed with an impressive arsenal of fully upgradeable retro sci-fi weaponry, including the all-new Dieselkraftwerk, players can unleash new abilities to blast through legions of advanced Nazi soldiers and über soldiers in this definitive first-person shooter.

Steam Autumn Sale and Steam Awards Return

Valve announces the return of The Steam Awards, offering everyone the chance to nominate games and earn Steam badges for their efforts. These coincide with the start of the Steam Autumn Sale which covers many of the eligible games and also offers up to 90% off on Steam Hardware. The sale runs for the next week and the awards will be handed out next month. Here's word:
The Steam Autumn Sale 2017 starts now, with great deals across the Steam catalog throughout Black Friday and Cyber Monday*. Come back every day to see new featured titles, or check out the games that are recommended for you.

In addition to discounts on thousands of great games, join the nomination process for the Steam Awards. Nominate your favorite games across a variety of categories, and earn profile XP and badges for participating! Your nominations will help determine the finalists for each category. In December, you can vote on the winners for each category during the Steam Winter Sale. Learn more about the Steam Awards here.

*Offers end Tuesday November 28th at 10am Pacific.

Dota 2 Seasonal Ranked Update

A Seasonal Ranked Update on the Dota 2 blog announces a new update that's now live in Dota 2 refines the Ranked matchmaking system in Valve's MOBA as they prepare to kick off their first season. Word is this will provide the chance to earn a new medal to show off your prowess:
Today’s update reworks the Ranked matchmaking system, as our inaugural six-month Ranked Season is ready to begin. Entering the season, all players will be able to earn a new Rank Medal on their profile that represents their highest performance level for the current season. A Seasonal Rank Medal never decreases in rank once you’ve achieved it. Initial calibration games will be seeded roughly based on your previous skill.

There are seven levels of Rank Medals, and within each level are five stars of progress to earn towards the next Medal. These Medals are: Herald, Guardian, Crusader, Archon, Legend, Ancient, and Divine.

Your performance in both Party and Solo games is considered when evaluating your skill and determining when your Medal gets upgraded, with Solo games having a bigger impact. In order for players to achieve either the Ancient or Divine Medals, only Solo-game performance is considered.

This update also expands the Leaderboard system to include many more players. Players with 5 stars on the Divine Rank Medal (the highest rank) will now have a leaderboard number listed with the medal that broadcasts their position amongst other players. This leaderboard position will always be displayed alongside the Medal, and will be visible to all players in the game and on your profile.

Planet Coaster Anniversary Update Adds Scenario Editor

A new Anniversary Update for Planet Coaster is now available with another new batch of content for the theme park simulator, including a new scenario editor. The game is also now on sale on the Frontier Store and Steam for 55% off. This trailer offers a look at the new rides and features the update adds, and here's an outline:
Planet Coaster’s Anniversary Update celebrates one year since the game’s launch. Over the past twelve months Planet Coaster has seen the launch of the FREE Winter, Spring and Summer updates, together with a number of game updates and even a collaboration with the world-famous Cedar Point theme park. Today Planet Coaster has over one million players and 142,000 items on the Steam Workshop.

The Anniversary Update is Planet Coaster’s fourth major FREE Update, adding new rides, features and gameplay to Planet Coaster, including:

Scenario Editor
Planet Coaster gives power to the players with the fully-featured Scenario Editor. Players can create their own scenario challenges with an easy-to-use editor and share them with the Planet Coaster community through the Steam Workshop. With new content and community-created challenges available every day, there’s always something new to experience in Planet Coaster.

New Rides
Three new rollercoasters – Hop The Gaps, Cascade and Zenith – bring new coaster-construction options to players’ parks. And two new rides – the retro classic Weisshorn and the compact Monte Leone – expand the collection for all Planet Coaster players.

New Buildings and Scenery
Management gets deeper with the new Staff Management Building – a place for your park staff to rest and receive training before returning to work more capable than ever. New billboard scenery and branding expands advertising options in players’ parks, and new picnic tables allow players to create food courts and plazas for hungry park guests.

And Planet Coaster benefits from a host of new management improvements, a new scenario from the team at Frontier, UI tweaks, custom biome improvements and interchangeable rollercoasters. Place any coaster train on any coaster track, and build without limits.
Continue here to read the full story.

Into the Black

Link of the Day: Boba Fett - Science and Star Wars. Thanks Hypothermia.

Loot Boxes Under Fire

Loot boxes continue to attract negative attention and there are a few new stories reflecting the pushback game companies are getting on what many consider gambling and/or predatory sales practices. Following news last week that Belgium was investigating loot boxes, PC Gamer helps translate a report that the country has decided selling in-game loot boxes does constitute gambling, and is looking to get the practice banned in Europe (thanks Grumpy Sod, ASLayerAODsk, and Quboid). Meanwhile, back in the states, reddit notes a new video from Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee on the topic that calls out Electronic Arts specifically for "predatory behavior" for the loot box system in Star Wars Battlefront II, the game that helped bring such concerns to the forefront. Finally GameWatcher notes a more grassroots effort is underway to protest microtransactions in FIFA 18, as this reddit thread discusses a boycott of the game centered on the ability to pay to avoid an onerous grind to qualify for the game's Weekend League. Back to the video from Chris Lee, the state rep added his own comment to the reddit thread:
Chris Lee here - I'm the one in the suit. My staff just told me someone apparently found this youtube upload before we had a chance to finish putting it together, but I thought I'd leave it up and just post here to explain that this fight can be won if people step up. This fight is about protecting kids, protecting families, freedom from exploitation, and the future of entertainment in this country.

People are more powerful than they think. While we are stepping up to act in Hawaii, we have also been in discussions with our counterparts in a number of other states who are also considering how to address this issue. Change is difficult at the federal level, but states can and are taking action.

Even so, elected officials can't do it alone. They need your support and you can compel action wherever you live by calling and emailing your own state legislators and asking them to act. But don't stop there. Call your allies. Call your pastors and teachers and community leaders. Ask them to call your state legislators as well. Their voices are politically powerful.

I believe this fight can be won because all the key bases of political support across the country are on the same side. The religious community, the medical community, the education community, consumer advocates, parents, even many business leaders and local chambers of commerce. This is a fight that unites everyone, even the most polarized conservatives and progressives. Doing something is a political win for Democrats and Republicans alike. And frankly, we don't need to change the laws in every state - we just need to change a few and it will be enough to draw the line and compel change.

These kinds of lootboxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all.

Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one. You have the power to get involved and decide this and the choice is clear: stand up now, or let this be the new normal from this point forward.
Continue here to read the full story.

GWENT Campaign Delayed

A GWENT: Thronebreaker and Public Beta development roadmap update (thanks Kotaku) explains the single-player campaign for GWENT is now expected next year, when the virtual card-based game will emerge from beta. Here's word from CD Projekt RED's Marcin Iwiński:
We’ve decided to introduce changes to GWENT’s development roadmap, and I’d like to take a brief moment of your time to share them with you.

Thronebreaker, GWENT’s story-driven single player campaign, is moving to 2018. We decided to increase the campaign’s scope and need more time to work on it. Shifting release windows is always something we approach seriously, however, we’ll never hesitate to do it if we feel you’ll get a better game as a result. I would like to apologize everyone who planned to play Thronebreaker over the Holidays — I assure you that we will do our best to make the final game worth the additional wait.

Secondly, since 2018 is the year we plan to take GWENT out of beta, we’ll be increasing the tempo of multiplayer update releases. We want you to have more fun playing, but we also want to welcome new gamers into an already rolling multiplayer ecosystem. Expect content additions like cards, challenges, vanity items, but also game patches, and balance tweaks to be published more frequently.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice Selling Well

Developer Ninja Theory offers a new developer diary video for Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, saying this is the final installment in a 30 video series for the game. The video includes a discussion of how sales have gone since the action/adventure was released this summer. Here's word on how they've surpassed their own expectations:
It has been 3 months since the launch of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and today we are happy to be sharing the final development diary in our 30 video series. In the diary we discuss how the Hellblade Independent AAA approach has turned from experiment into proven model, detailing key numbers from Hellblade’s launch:

  • Over 75k pre-orders across PC and PS4 before launch.
  • 250K units sold in the first week at $29.99.
  • Over $13m in revenue generated in 3 months.
  • 500k units sold in 3 months, which puts the project beyond breakeven and into profit. Our prediction was to be at this point in 6 months from release.
  • Development took 3 years and with an average team size of 20.
  • Game sold as digital-only.
  • About half the sales were on PC.

Some words from Tameem Antoniades, Co-founder and Chief Creative Ninja, on the success of Hellblade:

Continue here to read the full story.

Black Mirror Trailer

Here's a new trailer from Black Mirror, the gothic horror/adventure coming next week to Windows, macOS, Linux, and consoles. The clip includes gameplay to show off how this modern rework of the original game. Here's a reminder of what to expect:
Like in the original graphic adventure trilogy, the Gothic Horror genre and its unique atmosphere of madness and psychological distress remains at the heart of Black Mirror.

The point-and-click gameplay of the original trilogy served as the basis for the re-imagined gameplay, which focuses on close-up investigation and interaction with nightmarish visions that plague the protagonist of the game David Gordon.
Continue here to read the full story.

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Out of the Blue

Thank very much for all the birthday wishes, they are appreciated. I had a fine old time for the occasion, including a delicious steak dinner, and at least one cocktail too many which rewarded me with a bit of a hangover. This is pretty uncommon for me, and I'm wearing it as a badge of honor that proves what a good time we had. Meanwhile, it's Thanksgiving here in the U.S. tomorrow, which will probably make for a quiet day. If you are part of the throngs travelling for the holiday, please be careful on the road.

R.I.P.: David Cassidy, '70s teen heartthrob, dies at age 67.

Links: Thanks Ant.
Play: Poker World.
Story: British water utilities admit they use divining rods to find leaks. Thanks Neutronbeam.
Science: What The Industry Knew About Sugar's Health Effects, But Didn't Tell Us. Thanks Devicer.
Media: The German Town That's Literally Breaking Apart.
First Interstellar Asteroid Wows Scientists.
Goalie Scores Rare Goal and Milks It For All It's Worth.
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