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Wednesday, Feb 14, 2018 Happy Saint Valentine's Day

  

Steam Drops Developer Over Self-Reviews

Kotaku reports that Steam has dropped all games from Insel Games after Valve learned the Maltese developer prompted employees to review its own games. They note a post on reddit showing an email from Insel CEO Patrick Streppel urging staff to review their recently released action/RPG Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan. They hear from Streppel who confirms the authenticity of the email and explains his position. He says they are appealing Valve's decision, and reassures anyone who already owns their games that they will continue to operate as before. Valve made the following post explaining their reasoning in this case:

It has been recently reported on Reddit that the publisher for this game, Insel Games Ltd., have been attempting to manipulate the user review score for their titles on Steam. We have investigated these claims, and have identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game. The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously.

For these reasons, we are ending our business relationship with Insel Games Ltd. and removing their games from our store. If you have previously purchased this game, it will remain accessible in your Steam library.

The Evil Within 2 Adds First-Person Mode

Bethesda Softworks announces a new update is now available in The Evil Within 2 that adds the ability to play Tango Gameworks' horror game from a first-person perspective. Here's a trailer showing off some of the game's frightfulness from a new point of view, and here are more details:

If you already have The Evil Within 2, changing to first-person is as simple as flipping a switch in the menu. You’ll be able to change this at any point, so you can experience the game however you like. If you haven’t had a chance to check out The Evil Within 2 and want to try it out, you can download the Free Trial and play through the opening chapters of the game including the new first-person mode. All save data will carry over if you choose to upgrade to the full game.

“A lot of players like playing horror games in first-person, so for those who want to see some of the game’s situations through Sebastian’s eyes, it’s a really neat experience,” said Tango Gameworks’ producer, Shinsaku Ohara. “I think exploring Union in first-person makes the scale feel even bigger than it does when you’re in third-person. Also, being able to see our environments and enemies up close allows players to get an even better look at how much effort went into their designs.”

Continue here to read the full story.

Overwatch PTR Changes Discussed

In a new video from Blizzard, Overwatch overlord Jeff Kaplan discusses changes that are now in testing on the Overwatch PTR, as well as plans for other changes they may be making in the future. The description includes a handy index:

Game director Jeff Kaplan discusses PTR hero updates for Doomfist, Mei, and Sombra.

00:01 - Jeff welcomes listeners to the Developer Update
00:50 - Mei changes in the PTR
01:54 - Upcoming Sombra changes in the PTR
03:50 - Doomfist change in the PTR
04:40 - Ideas on new abilities for Hanzo
07:15 - Thoughts on Symmetra and Torbjörn
7:33 - Jeff thanks the community for their input and invites players to try the new changes on the PTR

Hacktag Released

Hacktag is now available on Steam, offering an asymmetrical two-player co-op stealth game where one player is the infiltrating operator, while the other is the hacker providing off-site assistance. The launch trailer shows off how this works, and the announcement fills in more details:

In Hacktag, the Agent moves physically through a corporate building level while the Hacker moves alongside electronically via network nodes. As the Agent avoids physical guards (watch out for those pandas!), the Hacker avoids anti-virus software moving through the network, with both players seeking to hack computers to steal the data required for mission success. While some tasks can be accomplished by either player, many tasks require the cooperation of both—for instance, opening a locked door requires the Hacker to electronically unlock it while the Agent physically opens it. Other features include:

  • Online and local multiplayer: Play separately or share the same screen using keyboard/mouse and/or game controllers
  • Single player mode: Simultaneously handle the dual roles of Agent and Hacker in frantic, fast-paced gameplay
  • Original asymmetrical gameplay and co-op mini-games: With the timer ticking, deactivate alarms and unlock doors or holding cells
  • “Co-opetitive" gameplay: As mercenaries, your partner is also your best competitor!
  • Three corporations, three mission types and 24 levels
  • Gain experience and add unlockable skills: Choose new active or passive skills as you gain levels
  • Online challenges, ranking and leaderboards
  • Full character creation: Customize your anthropomorphic animal character with more than 360 unlockable items
  • Unique story for each player: Experience Hacktag’s story with each role getting its own unique NPCs

Continue here to read the full story.

Algo Bot Released

Algo Bot is now available on Steam, offering a coding-based puzzle game for Windows that will test your expertise in coding Algo Bot routines. This trailer offers a look at gameplay, and shows that nothing could possibly go wrong with your new job. Here's word on the game:

In Algo Bot, players control the movements of a lovable but down-on-its-luck robot, using basic programming skills to solve puzzles. Set aboard the pan-galactic colonization ship Europa, over 46 levels, players must devise algorithms to carefully control Algo Bot’s path, borrowing concepts from the programming world - including variables and subroutines.

In the rich single-player story campaign, Algo Bot meets PAL, a cantankerous and aloof line manager, and Gemini, the cheerfully eccentric shipboard computer. When a routine recycling job goes horribly wrong, Algo Bot and this unlikely band of heroes must work together to save the sleeping colonists on board the Europa.

Continue here to read the full story.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II

XSEED Games announces the release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II for Windows, offering a PC-enhanced version of this RPG sequel. This is now available with a 10% launch discount on GOG.com, the Humble Store, and Steam, and word is it will draw upon saved games from the first game for those who own it. Here are the details:

XSEED Games, the independent-minded publishing brand of Marvelous USA, Inc., today announced that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is now available worldwide for Windows PC with a 10% launch week discount on Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store by Humble Bundle. After the promotion, the game will return to its regular selling price of $39.99, €39.99, and £29.99. This compelling tale has been expanded with 50% more voiced lines from the original English cast, and an even more personalized experience awaits owners of the first title Trails of Cold Steel on PC through the usage of existing save files to access special dialogue options reflecting the player’s previous choices. As a special bonus exclusively for those who have purchased any Trails in the Sky title on PC, an Estelle and Joshua costume set will be available as a free download to players with one of those titles in their library.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II on PC has been enhanced with ultra-wide resolutions, a new feature allowing players to launch the game directly from their most recent save, and the return of the popular “Turbo Mode.” Cold Steel II also includes higher framerates, improved textures, and other graphical enhancements in line with the 2017 PC launch of Trails of Cold Steel.

Continue here to read the full story.

Evening Patches

On Sale

Evening Crowdfunding Roundup

Gatherings & Competitions

Evening Consolidation

Evening Metaverse

Evening Tech Bits

Evening Safety Dance

etc., etc.

Into the Black

THQ Nordic Buying Koch Media

THQ Nordic is hitting the "buy now" button on another gaming property, as GamesIndustry.biz reports they are acquiring Koch Media, the German publishing group (no relation to the Koch brothers). They say the transaction is worth $149.6 million and reports that it will entail all of Koch's assets, so THQ Nordic will now also own the Saints Row, Dead Island, and Metro franchises. Here's more:

The deal includes the entire of the Koch business, including Deep Silver - which publishes titles such as Saints Row, Dead Island and Metro. It means that Saints Row and Metro now both fall back under the THQ banner, alongside other THQ Nordic brands such as De Blob, Darksiders, MX vs ATV, Red Faction and Destroy All Humans.

THQ Nordic was previously known as Nordic Games before changing its name in 2016 following the acquisition of a number of THQ properties.

The surprise acquisition means that THQ Nordic will now also operate Koch's partner publishing business and its film business. Koch also operates three game development studios, namely Volition - best known for Saints Row, Dambuster Studios - best known for Homefront, and Fishlabs - best known for the Galaxy on Fire series.

Past Cure Demo & Specs

Steam now offers a playable demo for Past Cure, over a week in advance of the full release of this psychological thriller (thanks DSOGaming). Word is: "Past Cure is a cinematic, story driven experience where the player follows the struggle of a broken man searching for the missing pieces of his mind. With intense cutscenes and intriguing story items throughout the levels, the player can unravel a story that will keep them guessing til the end." The game's Steam page now also offers system specifications:

MINIMUM:
OS:
Windows 7/8.1/10 (64-bit versions)
Processor: Intel Core i5-2400/AMD FX-8320 or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2GB/AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB or better
DirectX: Version 10
Storage: 12 GB available space

RECOMMENDED:
OS:
Windows 7/8.1/10 (64-bit versions)
Processor: Intel Core i7-5820K/AMD FX-8350
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 / AMD Radeon R9 270X
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 12 GB available space

Tomb Raider to Rise on Linux and macOS

Feral Interactive announces plans to release macOS and Linux editions of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration this spring, offering the latest installment in the action/adventure series on more platforms. They show this off in this new trailer, and they have also launched a minisite dedicated to the project. As they note, this version of Rise of the Tomb Raider will include all of the game's DLC:

Feral Interactive announced today that Rise of the Tomb Raider™: 20 Year Celebration, the definitive edition of the acclaimed action-adventure, will be coming to macOS and Linux this spring. Developed by Crystal Dynamics® and published by Square Enix® for Windows and consoles, Rise of the Tomb Raider is the breathtaking follow-up to Tomb Raider™, the 2013 series reboot.

Players will become the young archaeologist Lara Croft as she seeks the lost city of Kitezh to recover the Divine Source, an ancient artifact with the power to grant immortality. When Lara’s quest puts her in the crosshairs of Trinity, a secret global organization, she must use all her wits and daring to reach the Divine Source first.

Lara’s expedition takes her from Syria’s sun-baked ruins to the vast wilderness of Siberia, where frozen forests, ancient crypts, a lush geothermal valley, and an abandoned Soviet military installation await. Players climb, swim, grapple, and zip-line their way through the beautiful but lethal environments as they outsmart deadly traps and solve huge, multi-layered puzzles hidden within stunning challenge tombs.

To stay one step ahead of Trinity, players engage in guerrilla combat, configuring Lara’s loadout with everything from poisoned arrows to explosive shotgun shells.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration bundles the base game with all DLC, which comprises:

  • Blood Ties: A standalone story in which Lara uncovers family secrets as she explores her childhood home, Croft Manor.
  • Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch: An adventure in which Lara seeks the truth behind a mythic terror lurking within a new region of Siberia, the Wicked Vale.
  • Cold Darkness Awakened: When a biological weapon is unleashed in the Siberian wilderness, Lara is tasked with ending a viral outbreak as she fights off waves of infected adversaries.
  • Lara’s Nightmare: As undead hordes infiltrate Croft Manor, Lara must become the ultimate zombie slayer.
  • Endurance Mode: Two players team up to survive the dangerous forest while plundering crypts for relics.
  • Extreme Survivor Challenge: In the hardest difficulty setting for the main campaign, players overcome difficult limits of save points, resources, ammunition, and health.
  • 5 Classic Skins: Nostalgic skins from Tomb Raider history: Croft Manor, Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider II Bomber Jacket, Chronicles Catsuit, and Angel of Darkness.
  • 12 Outfits: Ancient Vanguard (Byzantine-era chain mail), Apex Predator (bear fur, animal claws, and warpaint), Shadowrunner (tactical vest and watch cap), and the reimagined Antarctica outfit inspired by Tomb Raider III.
  • Expedition Cards: Players use cards in Expedition Mode to boost their score, modify their abilities, and apply cosmetic effects like Big Head Enemies.

Continue here to read the full story.

Dead Maze Released

Dead Maze is now available on Steam, offering a free-to-play 2D survival MMOG set during one of those ever-more-common zombie outbreaks. Here's a trailer showing off gameplay, and here are some details: "In Dead Maze, cooperation takes center stage. Join thousands of players working together to explore a devastated Western United States. Fight against the constant threat of the undead, scavenge what you can to survive, craft crucial supplies and weapons -- and ultimately rebuild society with friends." Continue here to read the full story.

Diablo III Season 13 Details

Blizzard offers a first look at Season 13 in Diablo III, and the rewards players can receive for participating when this gets underway a week from Friday. They also outline the seasonal conquests that will be available this time around:

Speaking of Conquests, we’re rotating those, too! Love going fast? Sprinter and Speed Racer will be making a return. Enjoy testing your mettle in Greater Rifts? Divinity and Lionhearted are also coming back. If you’d rather max out your kill count with Cursed Chests, Curses! and Stars Align will be right up your alley. Those who enjoy seeing how far they can go without Set Items will get a kick out of The Thrill and Super Human. Finally, if you’re keen to show off your mastery of Set Dungeons, Masters of the Universe and Masters of Sets will be available once more.

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Consolidation

Morning Metaverse

Morning Tech Bits

Morning Safety Dance

Morning Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's hoping this fills your heart with a level of joy or cynicism that suits you. It's an unusual version of the occasion here in the BlueTower, as MrsBlue still has a couple of weeks remaining at her remote job, and is in Pennsylvania at the moment. Thankfully we're old hands at this marriage thing, and we'll just have a makeup date this weekend.

Links: Thanks Ant.
Play: Slenderman Must Die: Silent Streets.
Story: Westminster Dog Show 2018: And the winner is ... Flynn the bichon.
Science: Sea-level rise accelerating around the world.
Picture of Single Trapped Atom Wins UK Science Photography Prize.
Media: ROAD TO 1st PLACE! - FORTNITE- BATTLE ROYALE #2 (React: Gaming).
PVP - Epic NPC Man.
Heroes of The Storm WTF Moments Ep.102.
Follow-up: English-Language Trailer: "Batman Ninja."



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