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Monday, Mar 23, 2020

Samurai Shodown and More Coming to Epic Games Store

A Spring 2020 Update on the Epic Games Store reveals upcoming release plans. This includes word that the PC edition of Samurai Shodown is one of the games coming there this spring. None of these is explicitly called an exclusive, but according to Eurogamer Samurai Shodown, and Sludge Life will each be Epic Games Store exclusives. Here's a Spring 2020 Update Video, and here are the games:
Spring just arrived, and there’s no better time to share what fresh new games are arriving on the Epic Games Store!

  • Control: The Foundation
  • Totally Reliable Delivery Service
  • Industries of Titan
  • Sludge Life
  • Samurai Shodown
  • Diabotical
  • Dread Nautical
  • Among Trees

Continue here to read the full story.

HP, Valve, & Microsoft's "Next Gen" VR Headset Revealed

HP announces a VR Headset saying they are collaborating with Valve and Microsoft on a "next gen" virtual reality headset (thanks PC Gamer via David). This follow-up to the HP Reverb is dubbed the HP Reverb G2. They don't have specifics, but you can give them your email address to be notified when they're available. There's also a listing for this on Steam, but the info there is also pretty vague. Word is:
The next generation HP Virtual Reality HMD–developed in collaboration with Valve and Microsoft–delivers an immersive, comfortable and compatible VR experience. It’s the new standard in VR.

Valve on Why Half-Life 2: Episode Three Never Happened

Valve Explains Why Half-Life 2: Episode 3 Was Never Made on IGN is an interview with Valve level designer Dario Casali discussing Valve's failure at executing the episodic model they envisioned for their follow-up to Half-Life 2. They sum it up by saying: "Casali ties it back to two things: the start of Source 2’s development, and Valve’s goal of making Half-Life games more than just another release." The conversation touches on the irony of the 12-year span between Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Half-Life: Alyx since the episodes were dreamt up because they didn't like the six year span between Half-Life and Half-Life 2. But as it turns out, as much as they wanted to crank out episodes, they didn't actually want to crank out episodes. Here's that part of the discussion:
While Episode One was successfully developed in about a year, Casali says “scope creep” became a problem. “We found ourselves creeping ever forward towards, ‘Well, let's just keeping putting more and more, and more, and more stuff in this game because we want to make it as good as we can,’” he explains, “and then we realized these episodes are turning more into sequels.”

Episode Two actually took two years to make – Valve started work on it at the same time as Episode One. The plan for smaller, faster releases didn’t line up with the studio’s ambition for the project, and the scope of Episode Two increased past its original concept. After Episode One shipped, some members of its team even joined the Episode Two team to help out. “I think at that point we realized, ‘Okay, maybe this episodes thing, it was a good concept, but we're not executing terribly well as far as getting things out quickly enough,’” Casali explains, so the team started rethinking things after Episode Two.

Valve on Why They Aren't Making L4D3 or Portal VR

Also on IGN is word from Valve debunking the idea that they are developing Left 4 Dead 3. "We did briefly explore some Left 4 Dead next-gen opportunities a few years ago," Valve explains. "But we are absolutely not working on anything Left 4 Dead-related now, and haven't for years." Robin Walker also tells them they decided against a virtual reality Portal game (aka vomit simulator) after briefing dabbling with the concept. Here are the relevant quotes:
Portal VR was another project which ended up being a blip on Valve's development radar. "We [looked] at our various IPs when we started... before we selected Half-Life... which is a really standard thing for us to do. When you're trying to explore something new, of course you start with 'What are all the tools we've got from the past that could help us rapidly learn here?'

"So we looked at various IPs and, yep, Portal was one of them, [but] we didn't get very far in that. It was pretty clear when we looked at Portal as a whole... If we can't do player movement, not as a result of their choice, but by launching them... momentum...standing on things... all that sort of stuff... then a whole swath of Portal's puzzles... the whole back half of Portal, or more... goes away, and we'd need some alternative thing.
Continue here to read the full story.

February Digital Sales Charts

Worldwide digital games market: February 2020 has the latest market analysis from SuperData, a Nielsen Company. They note that February did not feature any major releases, a stark contrast to February 2019, leading to lower spending on PC and mobile gaming, but that increases in mobile revenue more than make up for this. Therefore they report overall digital games spending is up 4% year-over-year. They also note that COVID-19 had a limited impact on last month's numbers, but that they expect it to lead to increases when they eventually tally the results for this month. Here's last month's super data from SuperData:
Digital games spending totaled $9.2B in February, up 4% year-over-year. Much like in recent months, mobile revenue (up 16% year-over-year) made up for lower console and PC revenue (down 22% and 6%, respectively). A release schedule largely devoid of AAA games resulted in limited spending on console games. In comparison, February 2019 featured the launches of major titles like Anthem and Apex Legends, which contributed to the year-over-year revenue drop across the free-to-play (down 49%) and premium console segments (down 17%).

Top Grossing Titles by Category
Worldwide, ranked by February 2020 earnings
PC CONSOLE MOBILE
1 League of Legends FIFA 20 Honour of Kings
2 Dungeon Fighter Online Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Candy Crush Saga
3 Crossfire Grand Theft Auto V Gardenscapes - New Acres
4 Fantasy Westward Online II NBA 2K20 Last Shelter: Survival
5 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Fortnite Clash of Clans
6 World of Tanks Madden NFL 20 Pokémon GO
7 World of Warcraft West Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Monster Strike
8 Roblox Apex Legends Coin Master
9 Fortnite Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Homescapes
10 Dota 2 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege Fate/Grand Order
Source: SuperData Arcade. Please visit http://bit.ly/sdarcade for more info.
© 2020 SuperData. A Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved
SUPERDATA
A NIELSEN COMPANY

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GOG.com's Free Spring Sale Goodies Collection #1

GOG.com announces the release of their Spring Sale Goodies Collection #1, another batch of freebies that are not actually games. Here's word:
If you love to immerse yourself in games, now is the perfect opportunity. Our Spring Sale Goodies Collection #1 includes free content for some of the top titles available on GOG.COM: A Plague Tale: Innocence, Darkest Dungeon, GreedFall, Styx: Shards of Darkness, Obduction, The Surge 1 and 2, Unforeseen Incidents, and Vampyr.

Be quick and claim this unique giveaway before it ends on March 25th, at 2 PM UTC.

Into the Black

Link of the Day: Just 3 full minutes of cats and dominoes. Here it is folks, your moment of Zen. Thanks Neutronbeam.

Half-Life: Alyx Released

Half-Life: Alyx is now available on Steam, offering a new virtual reality game set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. This requires a VR headset, and is free for owners of Valve's Index. There's also an article on Steam Support on streaming the game, since a headset is not required to spectate. Here's word on Alyx:
Half-Life: Alyx is Valve’s VR return to the Half-Life series. It’s the story of an impossible fight against a vicious alien race known as the Combine, set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2.

Playing as Alyx Vance, you are humanity’s only chance for survival. The Combine’s control of the planet since the Black Mesa incident has only strengthened as they corral the remaining population in cities. Among them are some of Earth’s greatest scientists: you and your father, Dr. Eli Vance.

As founders of a fledgling resistance, you’ve continued your clandestine scientific activity—performing critical research, and building invaluable tools for the few humans brave enough to defy the Combine.
Continue here to read the full story.

New NVIDIA GeForce Drivers

NVIDIA announces the release of their new version 445.75 GeForce WHQL drivers. These add support for NVIDIA DLSS 2.0 and are game ready for Half-Life: Alyx, Resident Evil 3, and the Ghost Recon Breakpoint Ghost Experience update. Finally, these also add support for the ACER XB273GX, a newly validated G-SYNC compatible display. Details on DLSS 2.0 can be found in this story below. NVIDIA says these are offered through the GeForce Experience application, but they are also available for download on the GeForce Drivers Page.

ITTA Next Month

Publisher Armor Games Studios and developer Glass Revolver announce an April 22nd release date for ITTA, the bullet hell shooter they unveiled earlier this year. This is coming to Windows via Steam as well as to Switch, and they celebrate the news with a Launch Date Announcement Trailer. This is described as a "boss-rush style adventure game about loss, grief and hope" that's the output of solo developer Jacob Williams. The origins of the project are interesting to say the least: "ITTA began life during Jacob's stay at a psychiatric facility, which is where he started development on the game. In spite of its bleak origins, the game invites players to fight for survival in a world where themes of despair live alongside those of hope, beauty, and compassion." Here's more on the game itself:
ITTA is a bullet-hell adventure set in a world filled with monstrous bosses. When Itta wakes up and finds herself surrounded by her dead family, her only guide is a strange spirit that takes the form of the family cat who gifts her a glowing revolver for protection.

As Itta, players must seek out the powerful beings locked away beneath this seemingly peaceful world and go toe-to-toe against them in harrowing battles. From hulking ancient golems to toothy horrors, Itta’s journey will push both you and her past their limits. Luckily, you can change up your combat style by finding weapons with unique attack styles, and if the going gets too tough, toggle on invincibility or player damage multipliers at any time.
Continue here to read the full story.

NVIDIA Launches DLSS 2.0

A new post from NVIDIA discusses the launch of version 2.0 of their Deep Learning Super Sampling technology, calling this "a big leap in AI rendering." They say this is already available for Deliver Us The Moon and Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and in separate articles they announce this launching today for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and coming soon to Control (and this week's first Control DLC). They offer screenshots of DLSS 2.0 visuals and this video of it in action, showing this also offers significant performance improvements. Here's a bit:
DLSS 2.0 offers several key enhancements over the original version:

  • Superior Image Quality - DLSS 2.0 offers image quality comparable to native resolution while rendering only one quarter to one half of the pixels. It employs new temporal feedback techniques for sharper image details and improved stability from frame to frame.
  • Great Scaling Across All GeForce RTX GPUs and Resolutions - A new AI network more efficiently uses Tensor Cores to execute 2X faster than the original. This improves frame rates and eliminates previous limitations on which GPUs, settings, and resolutions could be enabled.
  • One Network For All Games - The original DLSS required training the AI network for each new game. DLSS 2.0 trains using non-game-specific content, delivering a generalized network that works across games. This means faster game integrations, and ultimately more DLSS games.
  • Customizable Options - DLSS 2.0 offers users 3 image quality modes - Quality, Balanced, Performance - that control the game’s internal rendering resolution, with Performance mode enabling up to 4X super resolution (i.e. 1080p → 4K). This means more user choice, and even bigger performance boosts.
    Deliver Us the Moon - DLSS 2.0 substantially boosts performance while maintaining --and in some cases improving-- image quality.

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DOOM Eternal More Than Doubles DOOM (2016) Player Count

The SteamDB listing for DOOM Eternal shows the peak player count on Steam for the shooter sequel reached 104,891 concurrent users this weekend. This is a good start for the shooter sequel, and this is all the more impressive since the game is not a Steam exclusive. By comparison, the 2016 version of DOOM, which is exclusive to Steam, topped out at a peak of 44,271 players. Thanks VG247.

Dog Trainer Announced

Just in time to celebrate National Puppy Day, publisher Frozen District and developer Moonlit announce Dog Trainer, an upcoming simulation of raising a four-legged friend without the chance of ruining your carpet or your slippers. This has a Steam Listing showing a TBA release date, but they say they will be announcing when to expect this shortly. Here's a Reveal Teaser Trailer and here's more on this chance to raise a virtual best friend:
Dog Trainer is a unique simulation game that brings the joy and challenges of owning a dog into virtual reality. From the creation of a one-of-a-kind pup to everyday fun and work with their pet, players will take care of their dog, tend to his (or her) needs and most importantly create a powerful bond between best friends! It’s the newest production of two Polish game-dev companies – the developer Moonlit (Deadliest Catch: The Game; Model Builder) and the publisher Frozen District (creators of the Steam hit House Flipper).

The idea behind this game was born from a love of our four-legged friends – and one of them in particular. Meet Sir Miles von Vet (a.k.a. Milo), the joyful border collie owned by Michał (the founder of Moonlit), and honorary member of the company. As Michał says: Milo is my best friend, and I can’t imagine my life without him as I take him everywhere I go – including my office. Making video games is what I do for a living, so I always look for new ways to bring awesome experiences from real life to virtual reality. As a dog person, I’ve noticed there are no games that simulate the real challenges of raising a dog – and I know that it’s hard, but extremely rewarding work. Since taking care of Milo is such an important part of my life and source of multiple emotions every day, I dreamed of making a game about that. And now it’s happening.
Continue here to read the full story.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Free Update Next Month

Capcom Unity has details on the third free title update for Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, saying this is now live on consoles, and will come to the PC edition of the action/adventure on April 9th. They offer screenshots (including one of a development roadmap, video Developer Diary 5, and version 13 patch notes with the details. Word is:
Get ready, Hunters! The third Free Title Update for Iceborne (version 13.00) is now live on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (coming to PC on April 9th), bringing you two of the toughest challenges in the game: Raging Brachydios and Furious Rajang!

For an overview on what’s included in this update as well as a sneak peek of what’s to come, watch our latest Developer Diary below. And make sure to read the version 13.00 Patch Notes for even more details.
Continue here to read the full story.

Out of the Blue

I was mistaken about our virtual party being yesterday, it is actually this evening. This means we got to watch the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which was a great. We also got to catch up with both season three Westworlds as we hadn't yet viewed last week's. I'm glad I got to see them both at once, since episode one was confusing enough that it was good to follow with one that was easier to, well, follow. It was also good to see the new one immediately, as it had a fun Easter egg, and my news feed filled with headlines to spoil it immediately after the show aired. It's not that big a deal, but it was more fun to see it go by unexpectedly. Finally, happy National Puppy Day, though I think this should be International Puppy Day. What could bring the whole world together better than puppies?

Puppy Love Links: Thanks Ant and Neutronbeam.
Links: WIRED’s Video Guide to Extreme Indoor Activities.
Sci-fi film timeline: Next stop Soylent Green.
Science: NASA pauses work on James Webb Space Telescope due to coronavirus, weighs risk to other science missions.
Media: Monster Challenge. Thanks Gizmodo.
The Billion-Euro Nuclear Reactor That Was Never Switched On. Ready... Fire... Aim!
Volunteers show acts of kindness in helping battle coronavirus. Thanks Kxmode.

Sunday, Mar 22, 2020

Prey 2 Hint in DOOM Eternal?

A post on Reddit has a screenshot of a bookshelf in DOOM Eternal with a bunch of Easter eggs, including one for Prey. Alongside a Vault Dweller's Survival Guide shout-out to Fallout, there's a book titled 2 Prey or Not 2 Prey. It is open to interpretation whether this refers to actual indecision of whether a Prey sequel should be made, proof of actual plans for a Prey sequel, or just a clever reference to the Bethesda-publisher shooter. The shelf also includes other game references, including Dopefish, Flynn Taggart, and Rage. There's even a Half-Life gag (which is what inspired the Reddit post), as there is a book titled Mesa Science Monthly: Predicting Unforseen Consequences.

D&D Online & LotR Online Content Free Through Next Month

A Standing Stone Games announces that they are offering free access through the end of April to all additional content for both Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online, their free-to-play MMORPGs (thanks Dave). They are running additional special events throughout that same period as well. Here are the details:
Here at Standing Stone Games our goal is to bring joy to everyone through our games and we feel that is more important than ever. We are making all our adventures and stories open to everyone through April 30. In addition we will be running extra events for the games.

For Dungeons and Dragons Online:

  • All dungeons and raids, including those in expansion packs, are open to everyone through April 30.
  • The Buddy Bonus 5% XP will be active from March 20 through March 29. This will be in addition to the weekend events.
  • Mimic event will be active starting March 26 through April 6.
  • The anniversary event will be active starting March 26 through April 30.

For Lord of the Rings Online:

Continue here to read the full story.

Steam Top 10

Here's Valve's accounting of the bestselling titles on Steam for last week. The new top 10 only includes six titles thanks to repeated entries for DOOM Eternal and Borderlands 3:

  1. DOOM Eternal
  2. DOOM Eternal (Pre-Purchase)
  3. Borderlands 3
  4. Borderlands 3
  5. DOOM Eternal Deluxe Edition (Pre-Purchase)
  6. Stellaris: Federations
  7. DOOM Eternal
  8. Grand Theft Auto V
  9. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
  10. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

More Steam Record-Keeping

With so many cooped up at home this man bites dog story may soon become too commonplace to qualify news, but the Steam Game and Player Statistics Page shows new record numbers for concurrent Steam users and concurrent Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players. The new records show 22,670,375 players logged into Steam at once, and 1,096,442 playing CS:GO at the same time.

Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition Off Steam

The Steam Listing for the Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition no longer allows purchases of the fighting game (thanks VG247). The page includes the following notice: "At the request of the publisher, Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition is no longer available for sale on Steam." There is no further explanation, but speculation on ResetEra is that this is due to the inclusion of Freddy Krueger as a playable character, pointing the way to a Bloody Disgusting report from several months ago noting that the U.S. rights to A Nightmare on Elm Street recently reverted back to Wes Craven's estate.

Out of the Blue

We had plans to visit our close friends today and see them, the twins, and Jedi the Jindo for the first time in a while. We subsequently made the obvious decision that this was ill-advised in light of the COVID-19 situation, so this is cancelled. But we are substituting with a virtual get-together later through video conferencing. Games and adult beverages are part of the agenda, so we're trying to make the best of it. As a huge fan of modern classic science fiction from the masters, like Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, it's been interesting as time goes by to see concepts from their works begin to emerge in our lifetime. But I never imagined I'd live to see the day that the social isolation from Asimov's robot novels would show up in any form. But here we are like the spacers in The Naked Sun, socializing remotely. Strange days indeed.

Links: Thanks Ant and Neutronbeam.
Stories: 'Think about the best-case scenario'- how to manage coronavirus anxiety. Thanks RedEye9.
A Review of The Viral "Whipped Coffee" Technique.
Science: Water splitting advance holds promise for affordable renewable energy. Thanks Max.
How the blood of coronavirus survivors may protect others from COVID-19. Thanks Max.
Media: HeroStorm Ep 71 "Failstad."
Invisible Rube Goldberg machine. Thanks VideoSift (doesn't seem to run through their site).
Spanish police stop person in T-Rex costume.
Follow-up: Smile? The Results From the 2020 World Happiness Report Are In.
The Funnies: FoxTrot.
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