Friday, May 31, 2013

Opinion - A Tale of Two DotAs

Today in Gaming: What is the most interesting part of DotA? Is it your favorite hero? Is it perfecting the combination of items in your build? Is it the endless pursuit of a rampage?

For me, the most fascinating part of MOBAs are the players -- the quirky personalities on the other end of my headset. Unless you play with the same people every game, your DotA experience during any given match will be decided by the random link you have with nine other humans -- four of whom have been given the power to enrich or ruin your life for upwards of an hour.

At no time has this been more clear to me than last night at about 10pm when I sat down for two starkly different games of DotA 2.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

IdleThumbs Launches New Podcast, Ends Use of Term MOBA

Today in Gaming: DotA Today is a new video game podcast for fans of the on-line third-person, demigod-smiting video game DotA 2 -- developed by Valve.

The podcast features two members of the illustrious IdleThumbs team -- Nick Breckon and Sean Vanaman -- discussing strategy within the world of DotA 2, their personal obsessions with bottling Tinker, and various upcoming marital milestones. The inaugural episode is poignantly entitled, "QOP top and POTM bottom".

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gameplay - HARDWARE: Shipbreakers

Today in Gaming: Blackbird Interactive released the first gameplay trailer for their upcoming scavenger strategy game HARDWARE: Shipbreakers. As Blackbird is made up of several people from the Homeworld franchise, it should be of no surprise to anyone that the game has a very familiar look and gameplay style about it. It's a cool video, but the guy at the end seems oddly calm about the loss of his squad-mates.

Launch - Wargame: AirLand Battle

Today in Gaming: for those of you jonesing for a new real-time strategy game, Wargame: AirLand Battle may be the one that quenches your thirst. Paris-based developer Eugen Systems is known for their passion in warfare games. Previous titles have included Act of War and Times of Conflict. This is the second release in their Wargame series; the first was called Wargame: European Escalation.

In this game you take direct control of over 800 different types of units, which -- using a card based system (aka, your deck) -- you then deploy and use to liquidate your enemy.

The game is currently $39.99US for everyone except for players of European Escalation -- there is currently a 25% loyalty discount for you if you order on Steam.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review - NarcoGuerra

Today in Gaming: NarcoGuerra is a brand new game title from GametheNews.net -- a developer that makes games out of real-life events in order to spread awareness. In this game, you play as the newly appointed chief of police tasked with taking control of Mexico away from the drug cartels.

Launch - Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods DLC

Today in Gaming: for fans of the Paradox Interactive game Crusader Kings II, there's a new DLC pack out today. The Old Gods is actually the fourth DLC pack for the strategy/RPG title. In this episode, you finally get to play as a pagan climbing to the top of the ranks. Also, there's a big focus on the vikings, boats, maps, and beards.

In case you're interested and don't have anything to do tomorrow, Project Lead Henrik Fåhraeus will be hosting a Live Stream on their Twitch TV channel (link below) starting at:

  • 11 a.m. PDT
  • 6 p.m. GMT
  • 7 p.m. BST
  • 8 p.m. CEST

You can pick up the DLC for $14.99US.

Launch - Rock Stars vs. Paparazzi

Today in Gaming: there's a new game out for your Android device. Rock Stars vs. Paparazzi is a game by Advanced Mobile Applications where you play the roll of a rockstar forced to send out waves of adoring fans -- armed to the teeth with more and more disturbing weapons -- to fight back an onslaught of enemy paparazzi.

Each paparazzo is armed with dangerous camera equipment that can be used against you in a court of public opinion. This is a whimsical take on the lane-battle genre.

Microsoft Seeks One Domain Name

Today in Gaming: it has been discovered that Microsoft -- in their infinite wisdom -- has failed to procure the domain name xboxone.com from the squatter who has owned it for the past two years. That's sad. However, there's hope. Perhaps this will shine a light on the horrific practice of domain squatting and maybe someone powerful -- like Microsoft -- might even do something about it.

Endless Space: Disharmony DLC

Today in Gaming: Amplitude Studios announced today that they will be launching their first expansion pack for their 4X strategy game Endless Space this summer. This expansion introduces a new faction called "The Harmony" -- who apparently are anything but. Here's a list of things included in this expansion:

  • units - fighters and bombers
  • battle formations
  • a new targeting system
  • reworking of the ship design interface, including an improved weapons system
  • enhanced invasion mechanics
  • the new Adaptive Multi-Agent Artificial Intelligence System (AMAIS)

The pack is currently scheduled to cost $9.99US -- though, of course, that may change between now and whenever the thing comes out. I will bring you an update whenever they set the launch date.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Reus

Today in Gaming: I have been playing a new 2D god simulation title called Reus. This game features you in the role as a god holding dominion over four giants who serve your every whim. This game was developed by a brand-new independent house called Abbey Games and is available on Steam, GOG, and a few other Web sites.

Storyline

You are God to a teeny tiny planet. Your job is to bring forth life on this barren rock via the command of four giants -- mountain, forest, ocean, and swamp. Each can spring forth it's namesake biome and then add various resources and magical "aspects" to alter the landscape and increase the productivity of the game's land tiles.

Launch - Bug Rush

Today in Gaming: Bug Rush is a free bug-zapping tower-defense game for your Android device where you destroy an army of invading bugs by setting up a maze of plants that shoot the bugs dead as they pass by.

Review - Element4L

Today in Gaming: I took a look at a game called Element4l -- the first from indie game publisher I-Illusion based out of Brussels. This quirky little game was really intriguing. You play as an entity made up of four elements -- air, fire, stone, and ice. You can switch between these forms whenever you like and must do so in order to navigate the world. This game tests your reaction time and problem-solving skills.

Characters and Enemies

So, your character -- we'll call you an entity -- has the ability to switch between four different elements: air, ice, stone, and fire. Each of these elements has different benefits and drawbacks. For instance, air can float but will pop if it comes in contact with anything.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Trailer - Wargame AB: Dynamic Campaign

Today in Gaming: Wargame AirLand Battle is due out in a week (on Thursday, May 30, 2013) and Focus Home Entertainment -- the developer -- has a new video out to talk about the dynamic aspects of the campaign mode. This title is a European war simulator where you have to move your troops and then handle the logistics of keeping their supply lines intact.

Warframe: Update 8 is Here

Today in Gaming: the much anticipated update to the free-to-play third-person space ninja game Warframe has finally been launched according to Digital Extremes -- the developer -- through their Facebook page.

Update 8: Rise of the Warlords will add several key new features to the game (some of them are alpha additions, so expect some turbulence):

  • [ALPHA] Clan members can meet and hang out together inside the DOJO. The Dojo is also a place where potentially players in the future could make their own levels. The Dojo has clan projects that can be constructed as clan members contribute resources. Architects have full control over the construction of the Dojo. There is also friendly 1v1 dueling and they plan to launch dueling leaderboards soon.

Launch - Element4l

Today in Gaming: I-Illusions is an indie developer that has a brand new game out on Steam today. Element4l is a 2.5D platform game. It's very much an experimental title in which you play as four elements traveling together who must avoid not only the nature that you encounter along the way, but the sun as well.

The game offers up some physics puzzles, but not so difficult that kids couldn't play the game. But, there's a secret twist: the game will at times alter the rules to throw curve balls at you -- amping up the challenge as you go along on your journey.

On a side note, you owe it to yourself to visit their Web site -- which is really cool. Pay special attention to the background as you scroll up and down the page.

This title is out now -- being sold stand alone via their Web site or on Steam. Price: $9.99US.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Launch - The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

Today in Gaming: Neocore Games -- most famous for their King Arthur RPG warfare franchise -- has just released a brand new game on Steam. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an action RPG where you play as the titular character and fight to protect the uneasy truce between the human world and the supernatural. The game is gothic-noir and full of massive battles with fearsome creeps.

Oh, and you get a helping hand from Lady Katrina -- a dead chick -- who you get to upgrade along the way. She can also help you set traps to protect your hideout from invading enemies.

The game is currently retailing for $13.49US (10% off for a limited time, normally $14.99US).

Launch - Skyward Collapse

Today in Gaming: Skyward Collapse is a brand new strategy game from Arcen Games (of A Valley Without Wind fame) that prides itself on throwing you into the mix with a motley assortment of rebellious and cranky minions -- as their god! The game begins with a very small board that then builds itself as you play. This gives the game an unpredictability that forces your strategy to run deep and defines your goal as balance -- not conquest.

The game is mostly geared toward single players but does have a co-op mode for up to eight players. It launched on Steam today and is currently available at 10% off ($4.49US) for a limited time.

Announce - Tiny Brains

Today in Gaming: imagine if Pinky and the Brain were a foursome. Spearhead Games -- a new development studio made from several developers formerly from EA and Ubisoft -- has announced a new next-gen console game called Tiny Brains -- which is a funny, cute, and adventurous title about an escape attempt by four laboratory mice.

Each mouse will have one of four powers -- create, force, teleport, and vortex. This will require you to switch between mice in order to solve the various obstacles between you and freedom.

The announce video (link below) is awesome and Spearhead will be showing off the game at E3. So if you're going, keep an eye out for them at South Hall Booth #2359.

Diary - CastleStorm

Today in Gaming: CastleStorm is a new 2D physics castle demolition game that will be released on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. They have launched a new developer diary video on their YouTube channel that shows behind-the-scenes stuff in their offices and footage of the gameplay.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WildStar: "Paths" DevSpeak Video

Today in Gaming: WildStar is an upcoming MMO title that is currently in closed beta. Periodically, they release DevSpeak videos to showcase some of the unique items in their game. In this installment, they talk about the various paths (think classes meets careers) that your character can take and how those choices come into play when participating in a group mission with other players.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Call of Duty: Ghosts Details

Today in Gaming: Infinity Ward ended the Microsoft XBOX One showing off Call of Duty: Ghosts -- a game designed to clear out all the design limitations that a sequel would require by starting a brand new version FPS. In fact, the game will run on a brand new engine that takes advantage of the new console's processing power. Here's a list of some of the highlights they talked about:

  • They brought in the writer from the movie "Traffic" for the single-player campaign.
  • A "lean" feature
  • Interactive smoke
  • Interactive terrain and objects, like goldfish that move when you near them.
  • Multiplayer will feature dynamic maps -- meaning that the players can change the maps as they are playing and.or the maps can change themselves
  • Customizable multiplayer characters
  • 60FPS

They then had a side-by-side comparison of MW3 and the new game. The differences were stark and a great way to show off the graphics capabilities of the new console.

Microsoft Announces Next XBOX: One

Today in Gaming: Microsoft hosted a major event on their campus in Washington to announce their newest game console -- the XBOX One.

From the very start, Microsoft was pushing the new box as a totally connected device. "Truely intelligent TV" was a quote that came up on several occasions. "Devices working in harmony" was another. They asked the question: "Can we improve the living room?". It was clear they are looking to unite the devices in your living room into one hub of multimedia.

When the MC said the words "XBOX on", the console turned itself on -- ready and connected... two words, by the way, that have caused serious controversy on the Web over the past few weeks. Voice recognition makes the XBOX do lots of stuff, including connecting to TV.

The system was all about multitasking, with snap mode. This mode will allow you to interact with multiple programs all at the same time. Theoretically, you could watch TV while playing a game.

Microsoft pushed the Kinect -- which is connected to the box just like current Kinects, not in the box as it was rumored. The Kinect now will also be able to read the turning of wrists and it can register your heartbeat. However, they have not done away with the controller. In fact, they've upgraded it with many new features, including a special D-pad and new trigger controls.

The box runs native at 64-bits. This will allow for amazing new visuals and powerful games. Here's a list of some of the features this box has:

  • XBOX One comes with SKYPE -- allowing you to connect with others to do one-on-one or group video calls to people who are also connected to SKYPE.
  • ESPN has a connected feature with the unit that allows you to watch sporting events and then get fantasy sports details simultaneously. They mentioned live fantasy football on numerous occasions. In fact, they had a whole segment dedicated just to that.
  • XBOX One guide is a television guide that's customized for your local cable or satellite connection. You can then chose the show you want to watch using just your voice. It also has a favorites menu that allows you to pin your favorite shows to a bulletin boards so you can find them quickly.
  • XBOX One will come with a DVR to record game highlights.
  • They went on to talk about personalizing your television experience -- in which the community on XBOX Live can participate in the development of shows. Bonnie Ross came out to talk about a new television show based on the game Halo and included a video of producer Steven Spielberg -- who will head up the project.

It is clear that this new device is about more than games. But what will this mean for us gamers? After all, in focusing on interconnecting all of these other things together, will that diminish the gaming efforts of what this box was originally intended to do?

Microsoft plans to release 15 games in the first year after launch, including eight brand new IP.

To showcase the gaming capabilities of this box, Microsoft showed off the following games:

  • EA Sports got their own segment to hock their gear. EA Sports Ignite is a gaming environment -- a living world -- and just when they were about to tell us what exactly that means... they spent eight minutes bringing in famous people to hock their brand. Then, when they finally got back, they explained that Ignite will allow players to increase their field of view and use the advanced processing power of the One to play better games. So really, it wasn't an actual announcement as a commercial break. They did show off Madden, NBA, FIFA, and UFC.
  • Phil Spencer took the stage to talk about exclusive content to the XBOX. He showed off FORZA Motorsport 5 (available at launch) and Quantum Break from Remedy Studios -- which was all about showing off particle physics when a freighter on a river slams into a bridge.
  • They ended the conference by showing off Call of Duty: Ghosts -- a game designed to clear out all the design limitations that a sequel would require by starting a brand new version FPS. In fact, the game will run on a brand new engine that takes advantage of the new console's processing power. They brought in the writer from the movie "Traffic" for the single-player campaign. They've also added a "lean" feature, interactive smoke, and interactive terrain and objects. Multiplayer will feature dynamic maps -- meaning that the players can change the maps and the maps can change themselves. Finally, your multiplayer characters will be fully customizable -- you can swap heads, bodies, etc. It will run at 60FPS. They then had a side-by-side comparison of MW3 and the new game. The differences were stark and a great way to show off the graphics capabilities of the new console.

XBOX Live is currently run on 15,000 servers; however they are planning to upgrade to 300,000 servers with the launch of the new box. Another big part that they stressed was the ability to create persistent worlds where limits on number of users connected are increased dramatically.

Launch date: "around the world, later this year". Stay tuned for E3.

Sony Announces Dragon's Prophet Open Beta Date, Lifts NDA

Today in Gaming: the NDA on Dragon's Prophet -- a free-to-play MMORPG where you get to tame and ride dragons -- has been lifted. Participants of the closed beta who, previously have been sworn to secrecy, now may speak openly about their experiences. I am one of those closed beta testers and let me tell you this game rocks!

More importantly, Sony has announced that the open beta for Dragon's Prophet will begin on Thursday, May 30, 2013; unless you're a founder, in which case you can play the game one day prior.

22cans: DeNA to Distribute GODUS

Today in Gaming: indie-studio 22cans has announced that DeNA will be the distributor for their mobile game title, GODUS. This title has been turning a few heads behind the scenes in the gaming community even though it hasn't been officially announced yet. It is the "successor" to the game Populous and has been billed as a reinvention of the god-game.

This game is the brainchild of Peter Molyneux (of Fable, Dungeon Keeper fame) -- who left Microsoft in March of 2012 to launch 22cans. It features religious warfare between demigods and the ability to inflict natural disasters on your enemies.

DeNA is based in Japan and has a major foothold in the European mobile market. No word on if they will be responsible for the North American market as well.

New Wakfu Content: Dragon Pig

Today in Gaming: Wakfu is a free-to-play Asian-inspired MMORPG where you attempt to rebuild a shattered world as a fighter/artisan. This title is known for it's flamboyant and unconventional characters. In fact, if you're playing as Ecaflip, you can actually lick someone to death (his tongue is made out of sandpaper). This extends to bosses as well, and their newest boss -- Dragon Pig -- is no exception.

Dragon Pig will be one of several new features available in today's update. You can find out more on their Web site via the links below.

Launch - Resident Evil: Revelations

Today in Gaming: Capcom has released Resident Evil: Revelations -- their action/adventure zombie game -- on Steam today. This game originally came out back in January of 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS. Now, it's being ported over to the non-mobile market.

You can get it for $49.99US on XBOX 360, Steam, PS3, and the WiiU.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review - Thunder Wolves

So, I picked up a copy of Thunder Wolves today. It was developed by Most Wanted Entertainment -- a relatively young game house, most known for their strategy title Defenders of Ardania. This is a 3D helicopter combat simulator with serious attitude and lots and lots of explosions. But is it good?

The game begins with a very fast tutorial level (aka Mission #1) where you have to learn the basics of how to fly a helicopter. Sadly, since you can't re-keybind, you're forced to learn one of the three preset keyboard layouts. I just went with the standard keyboard layout and that worked well enough.

Story and Characters

You play as a very disagreeable chopper pilot and/or his trusty sidekick Blister. You have a woman who clearly hates your guts prattling on in your headset about every little village you blow up. Together, the animosity and the helicopters are the stars of the game.

Mechanics

Shoot guns and missiles at bad guys and deploy flares when their missiles are coming in at you. As long as you're not hovering and letting people shoot you with impunity, you'll be just fine. Oh, and you occasionally need to raze massive buildings down to the ground. Easy to understand and it works.

When you clunk into an object with the blades of your helicopter, you take a tiny bit of damage but you don't crash. This is a good thing, as the game as a whole doesn't take itself too seriously and forcing you to replay the level over and over every time you strike the walls of a cave or a crane would depress most people. This game is not about precision flying; it's about explosions.

Settings/Menus/HUDs

You cannot re-keybind, so you are at the mercy of the developer's choices -- which in this case aren't the worst I've ever seen. On the settings menu, when you change the graphic aspect ratio choices, even if you set them back to where they were -- hence changing nothing -- the game automatically closes and then you have to reboot. This is a huge pain.

Also, there are only two aspect ratios to choose from: 1280x1024 and 720x576. That's really weird.

Then, once you attempt to play the game, if you click on the wrong thing while viewing the mission select screen, you will immediately be launched into the mission without being able to change your stuff.

A very poor job of interface design all the way around.

Graphics

Wolves has a very gritty, at-war feel to it. Everything is dusty; when you destroy buildings there are great clouds of debris. There are times when the mesh for an enemy helicopter passed through my camera. I also had an instance where while dogfighting, my helicopter became entangled with another helicopter for a few seconds. But really, the game was beautiful to look at and I rarely lost my immersion.

Quality

This game appears to be well constructed. I feel like even though it's a game that laughs at 80s action extravaganzas like A-team and Miami Vice, the developers made sure that the game itself didn't end up as the butt of the joke.

Audio

The voice overs are hokey and exaggerated -- but on purpose. This is a game that is, in some respects, very self deprecating and I appreciated that the voice acting reflected on that. Really, there are only a handful of voices in the game at all, but what they had really sold the story.

Replayability

This is a game where once you beat all the levels, you will always know what to expect. Bullets increase their damage as you up the difficulty level and enemies become more accurate. Playing on casual was a cakewalk; the harder levels were more of a reasonable challenge, but don't think you're going to get 30 hours out of this one. That being said, playing through once is an enjoyable experience. And, if you're ever in the mood to just blow things up -- even the first mission features a terrain full of buildings that are completely destructible.

Pros

  • Fun
  • You can blow up buildings -- even the ones that don't count.
  • You can blow up people -- just make sure they aren't friendlies.
  • You can blow up other helicopters using night-vision missiles, heat seeking missiles, standard straight-ahead missiles, or just shoot them until their bird looks like an Alabama deer crossing sign.

Cons

  • Occasionally, game meshes will collide in weird ways.
  • The menus are awful, though this never interferes with the game.
  • Touching the aspect ratio dial in the settings menu will guarantee a forced exit from the game.
  • There's a very narrow limit on how high or low you can fly
  • The edges of the map -- sometimes -- are too close to the action, giving you a warning message.
  • No true re-keybinding.

Final Thoughts

Thunder Wolves was not a cerebral kind of game designed to make you think; rather, it's the kind of game where you had a long day at work and now you just want to veg out and blow some stuff up. And to that end, this game is excellent. While the interface could use major work, the gameplay is properly constructed and loads of fun. I'm glad I had a chance to play this one and you should consider checking it out.

Monday, May 20, 2013

This page updates throughout the day. Be sure to check back.

Announcements/News

  • Chinese MMO developer Perfect World -- creators of Perfect World, Forsaken World, and Battle of the Immortals -- has announced that they are currently working on a new Asian-themed MMORPG, Holy King. This game is adapted from a popular novel of the same name.
    [LINK] Perfect World Home Page (EN)
  • To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the franchise, Konami is re-releasing the first four Metal Gear games in a single collection called Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection. This collection will only be available for the Playstation 3 on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at a cost of $49.99US. The collection also comes with an all-new, 100-page book full of art.
    [LINK] Metal Gear Solid Home Page

Trailers

Launches

  • [Android] Diner Dash is a game that many people are familiar with already. It was quite popular not too long ago. Well, PlayFirst Inc. is porting the game over to Android devices. There are two version: the free one and the "deluxe" edition for $.99.
    [FREE] [GoogPlay] Diner Dash

Release Dates

  • 2013.05.28 - GRID 2 (360, PS3)
  • 2013.05.28 - Fuse (PS3, 360)
  • 2013.05.24 - Sniper Elite V2 (PC, 360)
  • 2013.05.23 - Skyward Collapse (STEAM)
  • 2013.05.23 - Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC, 360, PS3)

Release Dates (New Today)

  • 2013.07.09 - Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection (PS3)
  • 2013.05.29 - CastleStorm (XBLA)
  • 2013.05.24 - Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (3DS)
  • 2013.05.24 - LEGO® BATMAN 2: DC Super Heroes (WiiU)
  • 2013.05.24 - Resident Evil Revelations (WiiU)
  • 2013.05.23 - Air Battle Hockey 3D (3DS)
  • 2013.05.23 - Groove Heaven (3DS)
  • 2013.05.23 - Kirby's Dream Course (WiiU)
  • 2013.05.23 - Kirby Super Star (WiiU)
  • 2013.05.23 - PROJECT X ZONE: A Lethal Surprise Demo (3DS)
  • 2013.05.23 - Swords & Soldiers 3D (3DS)
  • 2013.05.23 - Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (3DS)

Indie/Doujin Support

  • Kyttaro Games is putting together a grant to assist one deserving indie developer or development team to realize their goal of building their own video game. The grant is called the Indie Dev Grant and they are currently accepting submissions between now and Friday, May 24, 2013.
    [LINK] Indie Dev Grant Details/Rules
    [E-MAIL] E-mail Your Submission
  • Exato Game Studios has a new game called Guncraft and they are looking for support on Steam's Greenlight program.
    [LINK] [Steam] Guncraft
  • Trave is a casual platform game where you play as a ball that has to jump from platform to platform collecting stars. Six themes and forty-five levels. They released just under a week ago and now they are looking for support on Greenlight.
    [LINK] [Steam] Trave

Sales

  • None

Got gaming news? Send it to me.

Review - Gimbal

Gimbal is an indie game where you build your own spaceship and then test it in an arena versus other players in an on-line multiplayer match-up. The physics in this game are maybe 90% of the way there and I have one or two issues with the interface -- like not being able to zoom in on your ships or temporarily pull parts off your ship so you can see what you're doing.

However, the rest of the game is solid and I truly enjoyed myself. I even won a free-for-all deathmatch using a ship I built for $1.8 quadrillion -- chump change by the game's standards. When I think of this game, the phrase "nerd porn" springs to mind.

Currently, the developers -- 8888888 Games -- are looking for votes in the Greenlight section of Steam. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes to tinker with customization and enjoys working out the physics behind intra-stellar spaceship design. The game is currently on sale for $9.99 (regularly $14.99).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anno Online Tutorials

For those of you who are playing the beta of the free-to-play city building/strategy game Anno Online, I too have been playing and -- for your educational pleasure -- have compiled several "how-to" videos on various game tactics. I will continue to add more videos to the playlist and the link below will keep you up-to-date on all the videos that I post. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Anomaly 2

I got my hands on a copy of Anomaly 2 -- a unique spin on the tower defense game model in which you command the creeps instead of the towers. A really interesting concept. This game is a sequel -- the original came out in April of 2011 and is 11 Bit Studios' flagship title.

Keep in mind that I did not play the first one, so the entire experience in this video was new for me.

Storyline

The game revolves around a not-to-distant future where a strain of towering, snake-like robots have become hostile to humans. You are a commander of a squad of tanks that must enter the battlefield and attack the "towers".

The game is set in North America -- though it's a snowy, desolate North America where all the highways are ripped up and heading to grandma's house means taking your life into your own hands.

Game Modes

This title has two game modes -- the single player "story mode" and the multiplayer campaign. During single player, you follow along with the story -- which is totally on-rails, though you do have the option to occasionally flip the switch and take an alternative rail.

The multiplayer is a lot more open and fluid, allowing each player to decide how exactly to out-maneuver/corner the other.

Settings/Menu/HUD

The game is a 2.5GB install. The settings menu was great. You can rebind your keys, which is fantastic. The graphics settings don't support anything other than 4:3 aspect ratio, so no 1280x720 for me.

The help menu was perfect. It had text if I wanted just to read something quickly and then video/audio if I wanted a demonstration. It covers every unit and gameplay mechanic.

Mechanics/Units

What kind of mechanics you ask? Well, you have a tactical map that allows you to choose the best path for your guys to follow. You also have a gear menu that allows you to upgrade and purchase new units.

Aside from that, you are a commander and you must personally run around the field of battle, dropping health packs and decoy units that will distract the towers.

Now, keep in mind that you personally can be shot by the towers just the same as your guys. I find it odd that you're a tiny foot soldier who can take the same amount of damage as an army tank, but we're going to skip that part.

Now, units is where this game really gets exciting. You have a vast array of units that all do different things and have various advantages and disadvantages. The object is to mix and match your units to balance your squad as a whole.

Of course, the enemy has various units as well -- which really comes into play during the multiplayer games when one of the players seizes control of the robot snakes.

Graphics/Cutscene

Given the genre of the game, the graphics are beautiful. It's a top-down 2.5D view with lots of stuff in the foreground that obstructs your view, but none of it in critical combat areas, so you never have any trouble seeing your enemy.

The opening cutscene was awesome -- two guys traveling around; couple of best-friend scavengers looking for weapons, food, and chicks. It was so good, in fact, that I was depressed that I couldn't follow their story after the whole thing changed directions and focused on the army and their morph-able tanks.

The one guy was goofy, but he was wearing an American flag banana -- you know he was a badass.

The next couple of cutscenes managed to bring me back into the story. Some were just text on a screen as your guy -- acting as the narrator telling the story to someone in the future -- fills in the details. Others were very engaging and made me forget about the exposition.

Pros

The storyline is great. I love the whole rogue robot meets heroic military vibe they got going. The friendly unit design is well thought out and how they play against the enemy towers works for me -- provided you're not playing on "nightmare" mode where the enemy snake towers spread like kudzu.

This game is not about destroying all the towers. In fact, this game is about destroying as few of the towers as necessary to get from point A to point B.

The sole purpose of the tactical map is to plan the path of least resistance to spare your guys a gruesome death.

Cons

My grief with this game revolves around the same issues I take with all tower defense games. And it's this: why doesn't anyone ever leave the road?

It's a well known fact that 1400 Greeks at Thermopylae incapacitated the entire Persian army by tricking them into taking the road.

In browser-based tower defense games, sure, the enemy creeps in the road are mindless orcs. They don't know about strategy.

In this game, I'm a tank commander. I've read Patton's book; now let me use it.

But let's set that aside for a moment.

In traditional tower defense games, there are hundreds of creeps who advance forward until they overwhelm the defenses and reach the castle.

In this game, you've got six dudes.

But even if we accept the premise that you are strapped for units and must survive where everyone else failed, the storyline of the game is one big long tutorial. It might open up later, but I made it to level five and they still wouldn't let me use all of my skills or all of the units.

I'm not going to wait forever. Stop holding my hand and let me fight off killer robot snakes! If this game was not a tower defense game, it would be a whole lot of fun. If I had a 16x16 city grid to work with and could stop my units from time to time or send out scouts, I could be a lot more effective as a commander.

Outside of the limitations, I also have some complaints about the static in the background of the menu screen -- which you are exposed to for several minutes while you wait for a multiplayer game to start. After a while, it began to make me car sick and I was forced to take a break. That's something that's unique to me and will only effect a few people.

More obvious, that the multiplayer maps are locked until you play X-number of matches is foolish. As is not matching players if they chose different maps.

However, I did like the multiplayer a lot. Ironically, it fixes all of the problems I have with the story mode.

If they can farm a core group of players, I can see this title having a strong multiplayer following. It's very chess-like.

Final Thoughts

I want to love this one. I truly do, because I feel like they took a lot of time and care in making the thing. The units are very creative on both sides of the conflict and being able to out-maneuver an enemy that is bound to a plant-like root system should be a ton of fun.

Combine that with a cool story, and all the raw materials were there.

But it's a tower defense game and with that design choice comes all the sham tactics that tower defense games require -- namely forced marching and on-rails path-finding. And sadly, this game forgot the most important one -- hundreds of creeps.

For me, this title is sabotaged by it's own genre and I can look past neither its limitations nor the straight-jacket I was saddled with long enough to see any bigger picture.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Announcements/News

  • There's a new warframe in the game Warframe! Vauban is a brand new skin that you can either pay for with platinum (using real cash) or with in-game credits. His skills are based on deception and traps -- which can imprison enemies and cause serious damage to groups of incoming creeps.
  • Blue Bite is an Ubisoft studio based out of Dusseldorf, Germany. Today, they posted three new jobs to their jobs board. If you speak German and want to work for the same developers who made the Anno franchise, now is your chance.
  • Happy birthday to on-line MMO Maple Story -- eight years old today. To celebrate, they'll be having experience bonus events throughout the month.

Trailers

  • Narco Terror is a new game title that was announced today by Rubicon Entertainment. I can't find any info for it and Deep Silver's Web site was no help at all. It's slated for the Summer of this year for the XBOX, Playstation, and PC.
    [WATCH] Narco Terror (Announce)
  • Lost Spirits of Kael is an action RPG with a rich atmosphere about a young artist that becomes trapped in a magical wood while out looking for inspiration one day. The game is designed by indie programmer Rablo Coma of Rablo Games.
    [WATCH] Lost Spirits of Kael (Announce)
  • [WATCH] Alien Rage (Teaser)
  • [WATCH] California Super Sports (Launch)
  • [WATCH] The Last of Us (Gameplay)
  • [WATCH] Legend of Zelda: Ages/Seasons (Gameplay)
  • [WATCH] Shin Megami Tensei IV: The Ritual (Teaser)

Launches

  • [iOS] Barnyard Mahjong 2: Around the Farm is a matching game with a twist: the tiles are on a 3D object. So imagine a Rubik's Cube that's all mixed up and you have to spin it around and around to find matching color squares. Same type game, except with pictures on the tiles. Very cool. While aimed at young kids, I could still see this one challenging adults. Developed by EnsenaSoft.
  • [Steam] Reus is a new game title on Steam from Dutch indie developer Abbey Games. It's kind of a sandbox game where you play as God to a tribe of tiny people. Occasionally, when you need to change everything around, you have to send huge golems to change things that displease you.
  • [Android] Puzz-Me is a free jigsaw puzzle game created by Italian developer Indie Construction. The game has a time limit -- though players can choose various difficulty levels to give themselves more time.
  • [DSi/3DS] California Super Sports is a new game out on the Nintendo shop from developer Cypronia. It features six popular beach sports: croquet, dodgeball, lawn darts, rollerblading, shuffleboard arcade and target football.

Dates/Coming Soon

  • 2013.07.16 - Shin Megami Tensei IV: The Ritual
  • 2013.05.30 - Legend of Zelda: Ages
  • 2013.05.30 - Legend of Zelda: Seasons
  • 2013.05.23 - Skyward Collapse
  • 2013.05.22 - Wargame: Airland Battle
  • 2013.05.22 - The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
  • 2013.05.21 - Fast & Furious: Showdown
  • 2013.05.21 - Prime World: Defenders

Indie/Doujin Support

  • This weekend is your last chance to get in on the Theme Park Studio kickstarter and the rewards that are attached to it. They surpassed their funding level earlier this week, but there's still some top-tier items left.

Sales

  • For the whole of this weekend until Tuesday, May 21, 2013, GOG.com will be having a 50%-Off Ubisoft Sale. Titles include Heroes of Might and Magic, Prince of Persia, Far Cry, and Imperialism.
  • Greenman Gaming is proud to announce that they now feature all of the titles from TellTale Games -- renown for their hit game series The Walking Dead. To celebrate, they are having a sale on TellTale titles.

Links

Play It

Got gaming news? Send it to me.

Contact Fuss - How to Promote Your Products

One of the most important parts of business is the interface between company, customer, and press. Together, they form a triangle of communication, and there should always be a line connecting each of the vertices. Companies tell the press about their products, the press tells the people about what's new and exciting, and the people tell the companies what they love and, yes, what they don't love.

But there are too many companies that have cut themselves off from the outside world -- either intentionally or unintentionally.

The Importance of Contact

Sorry I'm going to pick on you guys, but MicroVolts is a perfect example. Today they put out a press release about a new expansion to their MicroVolts game (it's all about pirates). The press release had no contact information to speak of other than "go to our Website". Already, a tragic mistake. Press people do not have time to root around your Web site looking for contact information.

Violation #1. The job of the press release is to open a line of communication with members of the press and allow them to contact you if they have any questions.

But, I bite and go to the Web site. I want more info on the game, so before I contact the company directly, I check out the page they've set up for the game. No screenshots, no video, no details, no specs, no character models, nothing. Just the same old marketing jazz that we've all been immune to since 1985.

Violation #2. The job of the Web site is to be as informative as possible. By hiding the details of your game -- afraid that you might turn away someone who would otherwise download your game client -- you are losing way more people who are cautious and unwilling to blindly try out your game. Always provide all the information to your customers so they can make informed decisions. When you hide things, it makes it look like you have something to hide.

But, I'm holding out hope for this company. That's the kind of guy I am. There's a big 'ole "contact us" button at the top of the screen. That page displays a form (annoying, when compared to a simple e-mail address) and I go to click on the first field. Ploop! Pop-up. "I'm sorry, you must join our Web site to contact us."

Violations #3 - #1872. Are you OUT OF YOUR MINDS! For the love of James Lipton, people, think about what you're doing. You're saying that we only want to hear from the people who have already paid us. That's the exact opposite of what you should be trying to do. You want to hear from all the people who HAVE MONEY YOU DON'T OWN YET!

You want to hear from everybody who took the time out of their day to find you -- you doofuses.

Why Communication Breaks Down

This crap is not unique to MicroVolts. I see dozens and dozens of companies withholding their contact information. Here are the two justifications they make when I finally get to ask them about it:

  • Spammers will send their stupid e-mails to our account and then someone will have to waste time cleaning out their inbox.
  • We need to get all of the money we can because we're a small indie house / we're a large multi-national corporation and we don't answer to anyone just give us your money and shut up.

Yes, spammers are going to send you e-mails. Excuse me while I hunt down a violin. You don't have to shovel gravel or erect a house or pour concrete for a living -- you're sitting at a computer. Muster up some stones and press the delete button. Spam is incredibly annoying and the people who send it are the lowest and most despicable among us. However, each of them only consumes about one second of your day. You have some time to spare. Just delete the e-mails!!! After all, they're all addressed from Anna and they all have something to do with enlarging my penis.

More importantly, holding your contact information hostage because you need money or you've got plenty of cash is a poor business model all the way around. As to the latter, it's impossible to explain to some idiot VP in a corner office somewhere that he's too elitist to understand why his policy sucks, so anonymously send this article to his inbox.

Solving the Problem

Every press release you send out needs to have:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • e-mail
  • phone
  • city
  • and the name/title of a human being attached to it.

Any other forms of communication, including (but not limited to) your:

  • Web address
  • Tumblr link
  • iTunes link
  • Google Play link
  • GOG link
  • Steam store link
  • Press kit download link

should all be in there too. You want as many avenues leading back to you as is humanly possible.

And when you look at your Web site, you should spend some time pretending that you're a customer who needs help or a reporter who wants information and figure out if your Web site fails to service these people. And if it does, fix it.

The ability of your company to maintain clear and open channels of communication is essential to your business' survival. The two are inextricably linked.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Renaissance Heroes Review

I had a look at the new free-to-play, first-person twitch shooter that just launched on Steam. The game is called Renaissance Heroes and it features six-on-six gameplay in various 16th century locales. The weapons of choice are the crossbow, the rifle, a super-buff gun, and a mace. While holding the mace, you can also hurl little spiky grenades.

Pros

  • Fast-paced gameplay
  • Small, beautifully designed levels with variety.
  • Nice, clean interface.
  • Weapon upgrade system is simultaneously fun and dangerous.
  • Long distance assaults on rival players is great.
  • Very difficult to spawn camp.
  • Melee combat actually balances evenly with ranged, so neither is at a clear advantage.
  • Dancing over the dead gives you bonuses.
  • When my chick character picked up a super weapon, she orgasmed.

Cons

  • The tutorial level is -- unpleasant -- and you have no choice but to suffer through it. Also, you can't access the graphics settings until you are done, which is a pain.
  • The help menus are voice-over movies; just give me the information please.
  • Alt+Tab during full screen mode gave me grief.
  • Store and loadout screens are almost identical; confusing.
  • You spawn with half-ammo and must find the rest.

Graphics

The game runs in the Unreal 3 Engine -- which was literally built for these kinds of games -- and comes with a whole host of graphics settings and checkboxes that allow you to turn off practically everything and customize the look of the game to fit the abilities of your graphics card.

Most of the levels are beautiful; I wasn't a huge fan of the library, but the other two (Villa, Hamam) were fantastic.

Interface

The menus are great. They are clean, though it takes a couple of games to really get used to them all. You can upgrade your weapons and add pre-game buffs depending on how you like to play the game. There are also plenty of costumes and gear you can buy with real cash if you are so inclined.

Characters

Each of the characters has their own buffs and debuffs. Some are great with crossbows; others are melee masters. They each have special taunts that you can do when you slay an enemy and if you remember to do it in time, it grants you a buff to your combat skills.

Gameplay

The tutorial is a horrific assault on your manhood (or womanhood, as the case may be). The one thing that managed to save it is that it informed me about the dead taunt game mechanic.

I found the balance between melee and ranged attacks was good. I understand that some people prefer one or the other, but I played both and swapped in between them often and it was quite fluid.

This game is a twitch shooter (think Quake). It's all about reaction time. The levels are designed to be small and push combatants toward each other. You play to one hundred or until time runs out -- though the game never seems like it's long. There are areas where line of sight is broken up and then other areas where long hallways give you great chances to dual each other at fifty paces.

Final Thoughts

Outside of the tutorial level -- which is a shame because first impressions can kill a game -- this game is a ton of fun and I loved almost everything about it. Personally, I think I'm going to be playing this one for a while.

Links

Thursday, May 16, 2013

So, I will continue to write articles and post my video reviews and such, however, I've decided to consolidate all the news articles that I have been posting individually into one single daily post of aggregated news. These posts will update all day long whenever I hear about new video gaming news until midnight.

Announcements/News

  • Warner Brothers released a new teaser trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins. It's short and doesn't tell us much other than the release date, but it is gorgeous.
  • Wildstar -- the hotly anticipated MMO game -- launched it's second beta today. This beta deals directly with the second faction: The Dominion. There's a new dungeon for LVL 20 players, the level cap has increased to 30 (from 22), there's a 10v10 "capture the flag" area, and the milestones and attributes have had an overhaul.
  • Kalypso Media announced the release of a new trailer for their upcoming vampire title Dark. This trailer is the second "skills" trailer that shows off how your hero can interact with the enemies and NPCs of the game.
  • The sci-fi MMO Star Sonata 2 is getting an expansion called Subspace Assault -- set to be released on Saturday, June 15, 2013 according to the developer, Landauer Games. The new content deals with a race called the Aveksaka who keep invading Paxian space. Your job is to fight back this invading force as a member of the Paxians.
  • In preparation for their new title, the guys behind Pro-Cycling Manager 2013 just released a new Web site that's chock full of pics and screenshots.
  • The newest issue (#5) of First Look -- a gaming e-zine is out. Their TOC is full of stuff to keep an eye out for at E3.

Launches

  • [iOS] Yet Another Bird Game is a cute little game for iOS where a mad scientist invents a special electrical current called "Current-X" to destroy the local bird population. You need to move the birds from wire to wire to keep them from being electrified. The trick is understanding the six types of birds and their unique advantages and disadvantages.
  • [iOS] Jack & Jill's Pre-school Adventure is a game that helps toddlers learn skills that will be useful for them in kindergarten. There are six mini-games that teach children how to identify colors, find shapes, and associate letters with objects. The designers consulted a leading pre-school in San Francisco to make the game as useful as possible.
  • [iOS] Wordmare is a really cool word puzzle game from Sharkfish Studios that uses crossword-like clues and associations to previously solved clues to give you aid you in solving the answers. Some clues even have photos or MP3s attached. A great concept and well designed.
  • [iOS] Rugby Nations 13 is the fourth release of Distinctive Games' popular rugby game -- a title that has seen 2.5 million downloads. This version has improved visuals and animations. They have been working with ex-professional rugby player James Waterhouse to improve the game mechanics and flow.
  • [MMO] Legend of Edda: Vengeance launched in open beta today. This is a realm-vs-realm expansion for their main game. Trailer below. It has a very unusual fishing mechanic that grants non-combat EXP.
  • [Steam] Renaissance Heroes is a free-to-play, old-school, Quake-like, first-person shooter game set in 16th century Europe. It uses the Unreal 3 engine.
  • [Steam] Thunder Wolves is a third-person helicopter destroy the environment game that is absolutely gorgeous. It's by Most Wanted Entertainment -- who made Defenders of Ardania (2012) and Joint Task Force (2007). You have your choice of nine helicopters to use through 13 missions. If you don't like explosions, this one isn't for you.

Dates/Coming Soon

  • 2013.10.25 - Batman: Arkham Origins
  • 2013.06.15 - Star Sonata 2: Subspace Assault
  • 2013.05.21 - Fast & Furious: Showdown
  • 2013.05.21 - Prime World: Defenders

Indie/Doujin Support

  • A new game called Life of Pixel is looking for support on Kickstarter for their 2D side-scrolling retro platformer.
  • If you are into the Japanese doujin scene, you may be interested in Flying Red Barrel: Diary of a Little Aviator, a new title out by developer Orange Juice (known for their cult classic SUGURI).

Sales

  • Now through the end of the month (May 29), Shinny Loot is having a "We Got Your Keys" indie sale on over 50 different game titles -- some of which are being discounted as much as 80% off. Titles include Anodyne, Trainz Simulator 12, SpaceChem, Puddle, and Children of the Nile.

Links

Buy It

Got gaming news? Send it to me.

AC3: Black Flag History Photos

Today in gaming: in preparation for the launch of their next title, the Assassin's Creed guys have put together a Tumblr account with photos and "historical" information regarding piracy lore that relates to the game title. It's interesting stuff and if you plan on getting the game when it comes out, you might want to have a look just because -- as with all Assassin's Creed titles -- you'll be able to enjoy it more if you know who all the players are in advance.

Launch - Jack & Jill's Pre-school Adventure

Today in gaming: Jack and Jill's Preschool Adventure is a game developed by Arista Games in conjunction with Little Flowers Montessori -- a leading pre-school in San Francisco -- for iDevices. The game engages pre-schoolers and teaches them important skills they will need to know before entering kindergarden, such as colors, counting, and the alphabet. There are six mini-games in total:

  • balloon picking (colors)
  • birthday cake (counting candles)
  • fruit tree (alphabet)
  • night sky (shapes)
  • clouds (shapes)
  • cards (matching)

You can play as Jack or Jill and can dress up like pirates or firemen or other things like that. This app is now in the iTunes store for $.99US.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Warframe: Introducing Vauban!

Today in gaming: the guys over at Warframe have announced the name of the new warframe on their Facebook page. Vauban -- named I assume after the famed military adviser to Louis XIV, renown for his ability to fortify and defortify at will -- is a new Tenno warframe model that allows players to strategically set traps for enemies to stumble into that can zap, imprison, or crush enemies.

In the same post, they also spoke very vaguely about the anticipated Update 8 -- which could arrive within "days" -- though there's still no confirmed date on when that will arrive. Vauban, however, will be available to players to forge or purchase with platinum this Friday, May 17, 2013.

Ragnarok 2 Introduces PVP

Today in gaming: a big announcement from the guys behind on-line free-to-play MMO Ragnarok 2. Gravity Interactive has announced that starting today, players can participate in PvP and PvM (Monster) battles inside "The Colosseum" twice a day. While in game, you will be "called" to the Colosseum and if you would like to participate, fame-a-plenty is available to those who advance through the ranks.

A colosseum match is played with thirty players at a time. In order to participate, you must be of level 25 or above. It's a five-round match, so if you get wiped out early you'll still have a chance to make a comeback in the later rounds. Points acquired during Colosseum battles can be used towards unlocking unique armor and such.

There's even a PvP-only mount that you can buy. The photo on the site appears to be some kind of armored toucan. Still, a mount is a mount.

Launch - Sanctum 2

Today in gaming: Coffee Stain Studios is an independent games studio that announced the release of Sanctum 2 -- the sequel to the surprise hit tower defense/first-person shooter game. The game will be available today beginning at 1:00pm EST. In the game, you have to physically set up towers in a 3D environment and then aid the towers in destroying advancing creeps with your hand cannon.

The game is available on XBOX Live for 1200 XBOX points or on the PC for $14.99US.

Indie Festival Kickstarter, Keynote

Today in gaming: there's a group of guys up at MIT who are looking to create a new independent games festival on the east coast of the U.S. similar to the Independent Games Festival out in San Fransisco. They tried last year to host their very first event on the campus, but it was so popular (over two thousand attendees) that the thing quickly became overcrowded.

As a result, they have turned to Kickstarter to create an actual indie game conference with proper equipment in an appropriately sized convention space. They are 80% of the way to their goal with 14 days left.

To up the ante a bit, the project's leaders have announced that Robin Hunicke -- executive producer of the multi-award-winning game Journey on PSN -- has been scheduled as the keynote speaker.

As I live in Philadelphia and want to go to this thing, I am asking all of you to consider donating to their cause. This is a great opportunity to further enhance public awareness of the indie game scene.

Currently, Hunicke is building up a new game studio. The 2nd annual Boston Festival of Indie Games is scheduled for Saturday, September 14, 2013 at MIT.

Launch - Hope

Today in gaming: a brand new indie game studio called Mr. Roboto has launched a brand new game for your Android devices today called Hope. The game is an "anti-game" in that it takes many of the tropes you see in classical games and turns them on their heads. For instance: instead of the hero rescuing the princess, in this game you play as the kidnapped party and must keep hope alive (hence the title) while waiting for rescue.

It's odd and quirky, but worth checking out. And it's free.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Launch - Anno Online Beta

Today in gaming: Ubisoft announced that Anno Online -- an on-line version of their popular Anno game series -- has opened up a public beta and is inviting everyone to come and play the game. Current users who participated in the closed beta will keep their current games and receive a special bonus statue as a thanks for their continued participation.

The Anno series of games are real time strategy/city builder titles that give players the experience of being an administrator of a colonial European settlement from which you must explore the world and expand your sphere of influence. I played about three hours earlier and I thought it was quite good. I encourage anyone who enjoys strategy games to have a look.

Indie Support: The Blitz

Today in gaming: I found a game on the indie section of XBOX Live that I think deserves some attention. The game is called The Blitz. You can play the demo if you like and I would encourage all of you to consider paying fifty cents to this person to help them in their quest to become and awesome game designer.

Launch - This is Not a Ball Game

Today in gaming: if you're looking for something truly original to take around with you on your iPhone or iPad, you might want to consider This is Not a Ball Game -- a physics game where you set up Rube Goldberg-esk experiments in a 1910s Paris carnival. The title of the game is a play on the work of Belgian artist René Magritte -- whose most famous painting is titled, "This is Not a Pipe".

The game is developed by Absurd Interactive. The game is free and has some in-app purchases if you're interested. You can pick it up today.

Monday, May 13, 2013

REDKit Beta: Create an RPG

Today in gaming: for those of you who have had a hankering to build your very own open-world RPG, the guys at CD Projekt S.A. -- the development house responsible for the Witcher games -- have a brand new development software package that combines with their game Witcher 2.

The development kit is free, but since you need to have Witcher 2 if you don't then that's going to run you about $19.99US.

Now, REDKit is a flavor of the same development tools used to create the games. The kit allows modders of all kinds to play around with the game assets and create your own RPG. You can also -- assuming you have enough skill -- import your own assets and manipulate the environments, so it's not absolutely necessary that your game look like a new Witcher if you don't want it to.

Of course, if you want your game to look like the product of an affair between Transylvania and medieval London, then stick with what you're given.

Adam Badowski, head of CD Projekt RED, said in part, "REDkit is part of embracing our community as a partner in game development." It's not uncommon for games to be modded and for development houses to accept the results; it is quite rare for a company to openly embrace and assist it's modders. We'll see what comes of it.

I contacted the developers about whether or not the software will allow you to publish your game as it's own executable file or if you need Witcher 2 to play the games you create. No word, yet, but I'll keep this post up-to-date if they get back to me.

Teslagrad/Ethan on Greenlight

Today in gaming: Steam's Greenlight community section has some new projects looking for votes today. Two of them in particular caught my eye, so I up-voted them. I hope you will consider doing the same.

Teslagrad

Take the blink dagger from DOTA, turn it into the "technomancy" glove from Mars: War Logs, and let people zap themselves around the board like Dishonored -- put it all into a side-scrolling puzzle game and you've got Teslagrad. The idea is to get around complex environmental puzzles using your electro-magnetic apparel.

The whole game is set in a steampunk, what the developers call "rainy-and-brainy" setting.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter

So, this guy Ethan touches a fragment of a shattered meteor one day and it changes him. Now, since I'm a part-time astrophysicist, I will point out that what Ethan actually touches is a meteorite -- but since Ethan appears to be an anthropomorphized dormouse, I won't dwell on it. Anyway, in order to regain some normalcy in his life, Ethan must reassemble the shards.

The game takes place across fifty levels and three different environments. My one concern about this game is the intention they have to use the Steam community to decide "what to change for the final version". This is almost always a bad idea, since if the forum guys were qualified to design good games -- they'd be making the games and you'd be voting for them. However, the game itself looks solid (I played the alpha), so they got my vote.

ESRB to Wartune: Grow Up

Today in gaming: in response to an on-line advertising campaign by the developers of cow-clicker inspired "video game" Wartune, the ESRB -- the American ratings board that monitors video games and then tells developers what they can and can't do -- has demanded that Proficient City Limited (the developer) stop using the ESRB AO18+ medallion in their advertising.

So how did this all come about?

First, I saw the advertisement and realized that AO18+ is one of the rarest ratings and I found it remarkable that an on-line game would get such a rating. This rating is reserved for seriously gory or sexualized games. Playboy: the Mansion and one of the Leisure Suit Larrys are in that category.

So I checked out Wartune as part of my Neverplayed series. Turns out, the game is complete crap. It's an old-school Facebook cow clicker where you have to leave the game and come back after several hours. Then I tried to contact the developer -- as I was playing through Kabam, but Kabam is just a reseller -- and they don't exist.

Something was fishy.

Next, I went to the ESRB Web site to find out why they would give such a rating to this dribble. I searched the ESRB's database to get the specifics (as you can with any title they have rated) and it came back empty.

Now things were getting weirder.

So, I contacted ESRB directly and asked them if they could tell me why Wartune got the ESRB rating it did. And they wrote back,

"At this point it appears as though Wartune has not been rated by ESRB. We will address this issue promptly by contacting the game's publisher and appreciate your bringing it to our attention. Entertainment Software Rating Board" - ESRB Marketing, May 3, 2013, 12:49 PM

Ah, so Wartune are a bunch of liars. Not surprising for a company that's thrilled about porting Facebook games to a standalone Web portal and has their address listed on their Web site as P.O. BOX 957, OFFSHORE INCORPORATIONS CENTRE, ROAD TOWN, RORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS. It's a holding company. This is the kind of thing drug dealers do to launder cocaine cash.

So that should have been the end of it. ESRB contacts Google, gets the ads shut down, and I become the unsung protector of 13-year-old boys everywhere.

Then this morning, I wake up and Kotaku has bikini-clad warriors all over their home page.

So let's start with Wartune. These people are disgusting, money-grubbing whores who want to use images of half-naked women to trick young boys and perverts into checking out their game in a puerile attempt to make some money. No surprise there; I'm on Facebook all day long and my right nav bar is a constantly refreshing parade of "oh we have boobies" games. But Wartune stepped over a legal line.

ESRB, on the other hand, is a group of high-holy feckless thugs who attack game developers by threatening game sales by withholding their precious E10+/T medallions -- just as the MPAA does in the movie industry. Except unlike the movie industry, the ESRB didn't realize that the move to on-line distribution would undo their stranglehold on the people who make the games. Now, instead of simply handling the situation, ESRB turned it into a press op.

Everyone is a winner, here. Wartune is getting tons of press. Kotaku gets eyeballs because they can slather women in "battle armor" all over their home page to attract attention. ESRB gets to be the victims now and speak with Gamesindustry International and say things like, "If a game is digitally distributed, we also encourage companies to use our Digital Rating Service, which is fast and easy and assigns ratings without the developer having to pay a fee".

You know who's not a winner in this? We the gamers. Get ready for a whole new blast of fake ads from jerks who see Wartune getting tons of press and want to follow suit.

Kickstarter: PGI 14

Today in gaming: eInfoGames.com is an on-line video game HUB that is looking to conduct a massive on-line survey of gamers and then turn the results into a full-length documentary. Specifically, they are looking to address some of the obvious problems within the video games industry -- things like sexism and studio reaping.

Based out of Great Britain, the company is looking to include opinions and voices from all over the world. And their funding level of 20K GBP is attainable for a documentary project and will go to obtaining the equipment, film, etc. required to make the film plus the expenses of conducting the survey.

As part of the project, they've given you the viewer some homework to do. If you are so inclined, they want you to sit down in front of a camera or put together a video of some kind that addresses a problem in the video game industry that you think should be addressed by 2014. Then post the video on-line (YouTube, Dailymotion, etc) and invite your friends/subscribers to comment on it. Be sure to include "PGI 14" in the title and #PGI14 if you use Twitter.

The idea is that this is going to be a viral documentary -- a new concept practical only as a result of today's emerging global information age.

I hope you will consider participating and/or donating to the cause.

Launch - Derpbike

Today in gaming: there's a wacky new dirt-bike game for iDevices called DerpBike. You can ride through 14 tracks on a dirt bike, a cloud, or a banana as a human or a gorilla -- all the while doing tricks and flips. Looks like some fun for an afternoon trip and it's free.

Stats - Square Enix Loses $134M in Q1

Today in gaming: Kings of the sequel/AAA power house Square Enix -- developer and distributor of games like Final Fantasy, the MMO Dragon Quest X, and their gritty yet exquisite Tomb Raider reboot game -- have announced the financial losses for Q1 of 2013 that we've known were coming.

And they are not pretty.

Despite net sales being up 15.7% (147B yen from 127B yen), total net income for the company was down big. In the period ending March 31, 2013, the company lost 13B yen -- the equivalent of $134,750,000US.

Now, Square Enix has plenty of cash, so they are not in any trouble. However, this is why their CEO Yoichi Wada was asked to resign back in March. These losses are despite the fact that Tomb Raider (2013) was a stand-out success, selling well over three million copies before the end of Q1. Problem is, Tomb Raider came out late; it was originally scheduled for Q4 of 2012.

They were banking on a lot more money from Tomb Raider and it never came. Nor should it have come; they were asking too much from one title.

So the question remains: what went wrong? As in any large business, the problems are systemic and come from various areas. One of the big problems was the release of several amusement games (physical video games that you play while you're waiting around in the mall) that tanked. But there's an even bigger problem.

Meet the bigger problem. This is CORE Online -- a "free-2-play" service that allows users to play Square Enix games live through their browser. Which games? Well, there's six of them. That's it. Just six games. Why aren't there more? Well, for two reasons:

Reason #1 - No One Has Heard of It

The idea of playing a 3D game in a browser is a novel one and has lots of potential. PC gaming is returning to the front of the pack because the console makers got greedy and held back their new hardware for too long. So they timed it just right. But have you played this thing? Probably not. It's user count is abysmal and it is soaking up huge gobs of money -- as a "beta" -- hoping to revolutionize the way Square Enix distributes their games.

That's the key. This is about distribution. They were hoping to get all of the expense of shipping physical games around the world off the books. Tomb Raider would have made a crazy fortune if it didn't have to be shipped anywhere. So not only do they still have to spend money to ship titles, but now they have to spend money to support a games client that isn't being used.

And it's not working. Why not?

Reason #2 - It's Only Got Six Games

Two Hitman games, two Laura Croft games, Gyromancer, and Mini Ninjas. That's it. And if you're not in the mood to murder people in cold blood or look at Laura's boobs, that leaves you with two games. Who would pay monthly for that? Remember, the free service is to play the game for 20 minutes at a clip. No one in their right mind would do that. Is there a single mission in any Hitman game that you would want to rush through in 20 minutes? Right. So, this is a paid service.

By the way, I physically went in (via Facebook) to see how the system works, and it turns out if you want to pay $4.99 for the title, you only have a choice of three of the six: both Hitmans and Tomb Raider Underworld.

Bigger picture: how many 3D games could one company -- even Square Enix -- possibly put out in a year? Half-dozen? Maybe ten? And they wouldn't be good; they'd be rush jobs.

This company needs to reach out to other developers to add content to this service or close it down. Maybe design one or two games that, you know, you can play in 20-minutes.

Thoughts like "let's build a proprietary games client" are going to sink this company. And that's why Wada was fired -- to change the thinking at Square Enix and send them in a new and (hopefully) profitable direction again.