Stop us if you've heard this story before: A semi-small dev team, formed in the mid-90's, lovingly crafts two 2D RTSes before upgrading right into the third dimension. The next RTS in their flagship series isn't quite as well-received as the previous two, but still flies off the shelves and perches itself on top of the sales charts. So what do they do next? Why, craft an MMO with the assistance of an extremely lucrative license! Got any guesses as to who we might be talking about?
That's right, Ensemble Studios.
Yes, Blizzard and Ensemble, after a quick make-up job, could probably star in The Parent Trap: Gamer's Edition (A Brett Ratner Film), but cribbed answers from each other's track records are only the beginning.
As early as 2006, Ensemble began work on a Halo MMO. Here, however, we're willing to wager that any similarities to Blizzard's MMO-opus are more than mere coincidence. Sadly, we'll never know what Ensemble had planned for this decidedly PC-oriented jaunt through Halo's universe, because it's been decomposing in Ensemble's recycle bin for nearly a year, according to a thorough analysis by Gamasutra.
This is freaking brilliant. Warhammer Online, as with any MMO, is home to a number of -- in this case, preternaturally quick -- gold spammers. But unlike those other MMOs, whose developers only emerge, spit a "Get off my lawn!" at the gold-amassing fiends, and then stomp back into their lairs, far too uncaring to actually latch the gate behind them, Mythic is taking a different approach.
"Since WAR launched we have been banning these jerks like crazy," Mythic co-founder Mark Jacobs wrote in his blog. "As of Saturday Night, we had banned about 400 of them. My CSRs have a zero tolerance policy. We don’t wait and let them stay in the game and ban them en-masse, my guys ban their useless, time-consuming butts right away. We have a strike team whose sole job it is to get these guys off our servers as quickly as possible."
But that's not even the best part. Jacobs continued:
"This weekend, we unveiled a new wrinkle in the fight against them, the public ban message. Players on our Phoenix Throne server have been treated to special messages when a gold seller/spammer is banned. I’ve given them a wide leash to come up with creative messages to tell the entire community who has been banned and we keep it within the Warhammer universe."
"Messages like 'Tchar’zanek has ordered the slaughter of [Spammer] and all others of his kind who weaken the Raven Host by providing wealth and power to the unworthy' have been seen all weekend. We will continue this policy and expand it to the other servers. We are in for a real fight against these bottom feeders and it will be a long and costly battle but it’s one we are going to take to them and this is only the first step."
We don't know about you, but we've never tossed our hard-earned dollars into a spammer's alchemic pot, and we sure as hell aren't starting now. Now if you'll excuse us, we must return to killing everythingthat moves and rooting through fresh remains. Ah, nothing like an honest day's work to set the mind at ease.
The chipmaker claims that Fusion for Gaming can enhance a computer’s performance by up to 10%. Although it might actually prove to be handy, the chances of it being worth as much as AMD’s rhetoric suggests are slim to none. The beta is only meant for Windows Vista 32 and can be downloaded here.
After fighting the ill-advised fight for nearly two weeks, the powers that be at EA finally decided to take a walk on the sane side. In a statement released today, EA promised to add a touch of intelligent design to Spore's ridiculously restrictive DRM by doing the following:
Expand the number of eligible machines from three to five.
Continue to offer channels to request additional activations where warranted.
Expedite our development of a system that will allow consumers to de-authorize machines and move authorizations to new machines. When this system goes online, it will effectively give players direct control to manage their authorizations between an unlimited number of machines.
Additionally, the Spore Online Account system will soon receive an overhaul -- allowing up to five unique identities per account.
The question, however, is whether any of this actually matters. Spore is still wrapped in the slimy tendrils of DRM, and just because EA decided to lop off a few doesn't mean the publisher has mopped up all of the bad blood it's managed to accrue. But what's your take?
We remember it like it was roughly five years ago. Our wave goodbye. Their shocked silence. Our shoulders gloomily slumped as we trudged out their door. Their faces pressed against the cold glass, rain-like water pouring dramatically, but mostly because the fire alarm was malfunctioning. It was the day we discovered Steam -- our final farewell to a helpful cadre of GameStop employees. And today, it looks like our departure -- along with that of most other PC gamers -- is finally hitting GameStop right in the pocketbook.
However, that doesn't mean GameStop plans to drop PC games without a fight.
"[GameStop's PC game sales] are down probably more than I had anticipated," GameStop SVP Bob McKenzie told Gamasutra. "...We had planned for it to be down. Again, the number of new titles we have on PC is down probably more than what I had anticipated it would be down -- but I don't see that as a threat or a signaling, we're not backing away from it at all."
"A year ago we had 350 stores that didn't carry PC merchandise and today, that number hasn't grown any... [bit] the PC market is definitely still very alive, and a portion of our business that we're hanging onto."
Speaking of the digitally distributed elephant in the room -- the straw currently slurping up his company's PC sales -- McKenzie noted:
"Our position with our publishers is that we're not afraid to compete with them -- against that digital distribution model. We can offer it. It's really another choice for the consumer, as long as they're not making that choice an unfair advantage for them, where they're able to sell it earlier or they add something into the game that we can't get our hands on for our consumer."
McKenzie, you so just lost your place on Dan DeMatteo's Facebook friends list.
That's the last time we press an ear up against this grapevine; sometimes, we'd rather a rumor soothe us with sweet, sweet lies than bludgeon us with a harsh truth -- that truth being, of course, a nebulous delay for the PC edition of Mirror's Edge.
Today, EA sent out a press release that trumpeted the hotly anticipated first-person free-runner's upcoming console release. For those fortunate fuc-- fellows, the game will be bouncing onto shelves November 11. And, as a spot of Mrs. Dash for you wounds, Xbox 360 and PS3 owners can also look forward to a demo of Mirror's Edge featuring "the prologue of the game including the tutorial and a segment of the single-player story mode."
We'd also parrot back the bit about how players who pre-order a console version of Mirror's Edge will break the chains off of exclusive demo content in the form of a ridiculously awesome time trial, but we don't want to upset you any further.
The PC version of Mirror's Edge, meanwhile, will launch "later this winter." Why? EA wouldn't say. However, we prefer to think it's because EA loves us, and people only hurt the ones they love.
Speaking of which, does anyone know where we could find a nice, sturdy tire iron, a plane ticket, and meticulously detailed directions to EA's offices? We want to tell EA how much we love them, and coincidentally, a tire iron is the perfect "thiiiis much" measuring tool.
As we've become painfully aware over the past couple of weeks, game publishers will do just about anything if it means pointing an over-sized foam middle-finger in piracy's direction. But, with EA's recent decision to plunge a grimy claw into an old wound that was finally beginning to scar over, another lesson has been hammered into our collective conscious: DRM doesn't work. It alienates legitimate customers and pushes budding pirates right over the edge.
However, there are other, much more viable methods of thwarting thieves, most of which are only now heaving themselves upward and making awkward, Bambi-esque strides into the limelight. Thus far, however, only one such anti-piracy tool has proven itself stupidly lucrative: the subscription fee.
During this week's Activision Analyst Day event, Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith mused about a possible Guitar Hero subscription service -- part of the publisher's plan to "monetize" the series. In addition, he noted that Call of Duty could fall under a similar, dollar-shaped banner.
Taken on its own, I see no problem with this pseudo-announcement. In both cases, a subscription service would have us lazing in a warm tub of new content with minimal hassle, and, as WoW has kindly pointed out, PC piracy of those games would slope off drastically.
But try ka-ching-ing a few more subscriptions onto your bank account's emaciated form and suddenly, this idea doesn't seem quite so dandy.
Continue reading to find out why subscription fees -- in their current form -- just can't muster the strength to heft the gaming industry above piracy's grasping mitts, as well as how they might be altered to succeed.
It’s the final hour—the last stretch in your race to freedom. Paper footballs litter your desk and paper basketballs surround the trash can. Yet even after these sporting events have ended, the little hand continues to hold a grudge against the 5. It’s high time you find a more efficient—and less obvious—way to pass the time.
Consider this your go-to guide against workplace stagnation. We’ve spent dozens of hours scouring the Internet in search of the most enjoyable and alt-tabbable browser-based games. They require no installation and, best of all, are 100 percent free. When the boss man walks by, you can easily switch to that budget report for accounts payable—he can’t fault you for grinning like a fool at a spreadsheet!
Grin like a fool at totally work-related stuff after the jump.
Allow us to paint you a picture: It's non-denominational politically correct holiday morning. You burst free from beneath your covers, quivering from a mix of the wintery chill meandering through your room and sheer, unbridled excitement. With each successive footfall, your speed builds; the world around you is a blur. Chairs, tables, and boxes impede your path, but it's no matter -- you've been practicing. Bathed in the glow of your fireplace, you shatter the brightly colored paper that encases your gift.
However, within the box's ruins, you find only a small scrap of paper. Obviously composed by your parents, it tells you to check Maximum PC for the sad truth that sullied what should've been your finest day. According to your parents' note, the MPC post is dated 9/16/08.
After hurriedly booting up your PC and searching the article, your eyes shift immediately to a bolded bit of text near the middle of the page. "GameStop's website now lists Mirror's Edge PC's release date as January 6, 2009," it reads. "Additionally, Amazon users who preordered the title have also been notified that the game will be launching on that day."
Disheartened, but willing to wait, you decide to read the rest of the article to pass the time. But the article -- its contents -- seem a little too accurate, you soon realize as your eyes grow wide.
We know everything about you, unsuspecting reader from Applewood, Colorado. Your past, future, and present are an open book -- a brittle-paged tome for our amusement. You can't escape; we will always know where you are.
Update: Looks like this one got blown out of proportion. Willits, after a glance at his inbox, released the following statement: "During my talk at Austin GDC I mentioned that we originally wanted to have around five or six smaller wasteland environments but later decided instead to have two larger wastelands - mostly because we were going to be shipping on two DVDs for the 360 and felt that it would play better with one large wasteland on each disc so there would be no loading between wastelands. Not loading levels while you drive around is a much better decision regardless of platform. There was NO CONTENT removed from RAGE because of the 360--NONE AT ALL. Moving from multiple wastelands into fewer but larger wastelands was a far better decision and is actually giving us more gameplay in the game. We feel the 360 is a great platform and will provide a fantastic Rage experience."
"The PC is limitless in the amount of data you can put on it.The PS3 has about 25GB. But the Xbox 360 roughly has 6 to 8 GB of data. We're hoping we can squeeze the game down to two discs for the 360 version."
"I wouldn't say the overall story was changed in any way in order to fit on the Xbox 360 version," Willits explained, "but how the player experiences Rage's story has been altered."
Foremost, he said, the game's overall structure has changed significantly. Whereas before, Rage featured "several" wastelands in which players could run race and gun, now only two remain. Don't worry, though; the two wastelands have been split into multiple, hardware-friendly instances, so it'll be just like traveling through multiple areas!
Somewhat perplexingly -- though probably in order to wave the game out the door by "When it's done" instead of "When your great grandchild begins balding" -- id elected to take the razor to all three versions of the game, as opposed to merely the Xbox edition.
This, it would seem, is only the beginning of a very slippery slope.