Yes, Valve. Not Blizzard. See, Valve likes to do awesome things, and among those awesome things is offering awesome jobs to awesome modders. So after Defense of the Ancients became the second most addictive landmark in Warcraft history (you know, after that one thing), Valve scooped up one of the gametype's more prominent creators – a guy who goes by the name of “IceFrog” – and set to work on scraping away the crusty remains of the fittingly ancient Warcraft III engine, giving the whole production a nice, even coat of Valve polish, and adding some potentially game-changing community features.
The gist of DotA, for the uninitiated, goes like this: players each take control of a single super-powered fantasy hero, who they then evolve and level-up over the course of RTS-style matches full of constantly spawning CPU armies. Basically, think Demigod and you'll be on the right track.
So, aside from graphics that won't leave your eyes feeling like you just took a dip in a pool full of lemon juice, what's Valve bringing to the table? Well, with the exception of snarky voicework and bots to replace players who disconnect, most of Valve's biggest contributions are focused on the community. Most interestingly, the developer's adding a coaching system that rewards experienced players for taking defenseless newbies under their wings. In-game rewards will also be handed out for other aspects of community participation, although Valve hasn't quite finalized how the system will work just yet.
"I think the interesting thing is us adding a second layer where the community is a service to each other. That's the real shift that we're trying to build here. Valve is going to keep building software around Dota and around the community and around Steamworks for Dota, but we're also going to build this system where the community can bring service to each other and be recognized for it," project lead Erik Johnson told Game Informer.
Valve also compared its plans for post-release support to Team Fortress 2, which is the kind of promise we'd scoff and dismissively readjust our monocles at if it wasn't coming from Valve. The bottom line? Whether you're a diehard DotA fan or you just scanned MPC, saw the word “diehard,” and started daydreaming about Bruce Willis, this is one to watch. 2011 can't get here soon enough.
Used-game sales have been a particularly painful thorn in game publishers' sides (and wallets) for years now, so we can certainly understand why THQ would want to dig its fingernails in deep and yank them right out of existence. On the other hand, however, the publisher's plan to ask for even more of gamers' money up front might be the equivalent of poking and prodding the thorn until it goes in even deeper.
The program's making its debut in WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011, and asks players to hand over a flat sum of $9.99 in exchange for the promise of “select select downloadable content released throughout the life of the game for a one-time anticipated purchase." For now, they're calling it “Fan Axxess,” which caused our spellcheck to run to its room in tears and stop speaking to us.
So, why fork over your dough before the DLC's even finished cooking? Because, in the long run, this method's cheaper for you. For instance, the first DLC pack will go for 560 Microsoft Points (or $7.00) on its own, while the second one will lightly tickle your piggy bank to the tune of 240 Points ($3.00). With Fan Axxess, you'll pay $9.99 up front and get both once they release later this year and next year, respectively, on top of immediate access to all the game's unlockables and -- presumably -- more DLC in the future.
The implication, of course, is that this is only the beginning. Two DLC packs could hardly be called a “life,” so more is probably in the pipeline. A potential problem, however, climbs into the ring and clocks the ref with a steel chair if the game tanks and DLC development stops being worth THQ's while. Fortunately, for now it seems THQ's only sticking Smackdown vs. Raw's giant, steroid sponge of a neck out with this one – probably to gauge players' reactions before deciding whether or not to implement it into other titles.
So, the obvious question: Would you pay for “Fan Axxess” – assuming, of course, that it didn't have a name that made you want to hack THQ in two with an axe? In retrospect, we would've killed for something like this back when DLC-heavy games like Fallout 3 and Borderlands first launched. Of course, we're saying this now – after both games have already fulfilled all their DLC-related promises. What's your take?
Last week, we reported that Gearbox was handing out gold slips to its magical Duke Nukem Forever factory to those who purchased the Game of the Year Edition of Borderlands. The main perk of said First Access Club? Why, that'd be early access to next year's Duke Nukem Forever demo. Of course, plenty of players immediately read between the lines, and the ones who did so with their faces too close to the page got jabbed in the eye by a big ol' middle finger to early Borderlands buyers. Or so they thought.
Turns out, anyone who bought Borderlands on Steam – whether they stuffed the game and its bazillion guns into their PC yesterday or yesteryear – has been given a code to get into the club. Just click on Borderlands in Steam, select the CD key tab, and you'll find your code there patiently waiting for you -- like a loyal and trusty hound, except better because it brings you videogames.
The First Access Club doesn't appear to be operational just yet, but we'll let you know when it is so you can make arrangements to brag at your friends accordingly. While the demo will likely be the main event, Gearbox has also promised a “wealth of goodies,” which should be exciting to people who like free things, which is everyone ever.
BioShock 2 may not have made quite the splash that its predecessor did, but we thought it was just as good – maybe better, in some ways. So it’s with a heavy heart and a dejected, Big-Daddy-like wail that we bring you word that BioShock 2’s DLC won’t be riding the bathysphere over to PC.
“We will also not be offering Protector Trials and Minerva’s Den on the PC in the future – and I want to say that I’m sorry for the disappointment this will cause to PC players out there. As always, if any of these issues change in the future, I will update you guys first, but at this point in time I don’t want to make you wait any longer and these are the most definite answers I have and you guys should deem them final decisions,” a 2K spokesperson wrote on the game’s official message boards.
The worst part? Minerva’s Den has been hailed by many as some of the most interesting single-player DLC of the year. But here we are, stuck out in a cold rain of the same old level and weapon packs while console players are snuggled up nice and warm with BioShock 2’s offerings. It ain’t right, we tell ya! It just ain’t right.
We suppose if Blizzard was hoping to be precise with its forced removals, it would’ve used – we don’t know – a ban rapier or something. Anything other than a banhammer. See, we already knew that gaming’s favorite blue giant was lumbering about, shouting “Fee-fi-fo-fum” as it sniffed around for multiplayer cheaters, but players who cheat during single-player matches? That’s new ground. And perhaps – depending on who you talk to – ground that should be left undisturbed.
After Blizzard followed through on its promise to ban the living daylights of StarCraft II multiplayer cheaters last week, players who only used hacks in the single-player portion of the game found that they too were facing everything from suspensions to outright perma-bans. Which is more or less like the NFL storming into your backyard because you and your five-year-old son are tossing around a Nerf ball instead of complying with official regulations. So, why all the fuss over something that’s not actually hurting anyone else’s experience? Well, depending on your point of view, you’re either going to nod in agreement now, or fling something out a window. So shoe your cat away from your Rage Zone and then read this:
“While single player games only appear to be you and a computer at first, your achievements and gamer score also carries weight and prestige for your online play,” Blizzard replied to incensed players.
Yep. Achievements – which affect your actual performance about as much as those pills you see ads for while watching late-night TV – are the reason you can’t hack or modify your single-player experience. Surely, though, Blizzard can’t actually get away with launching this nuclear strike on your rights, right? Actually, yes it can. Turns out, you agreed to this.
“If a StarCraft II player is found to be cheating or using hacks or modifications in any form, then as outlined in our end user license agreement, that player can be permanently banned from the game. This means that the player will be permanently unable to log in to Battle.net to play StarCraft II with his or her account,” the developer explained.
We have nothing against achievements – especially when they coax us into exploring content we otherwise wouldn’t – but this might be taking things a bit too far. Sure, we’ve seen what hacks and other third-party cheats can do to games like Modern Warfare 2 (Logged-on lately? It ain’t pretty), but an iron-fisted rule where one foot out of line means six feet under can’t be the only solution, can it? Most of us are functional adults, right? We’d really like to think people who can beat us at StarCraft (read: everyone) are past the point in their lives where they need a babysitter.
It's always refreshing to hear a company that 'gets it,' and Nintendo appears to be one of those outfits. During a recent investor call, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata was given the opportunity to blame piracy as the reason why Nintendo's hardware and software sales haven't met expectations, but he didn't do that.
"Even with piracy, as long as we can create products which can attract attention from many consumers and which can greatly entertain them, that software can make it to the number one position of the hit software sales chart," Iwata explains.
"So, we would like to consider it from both perspectives simultaneously. It is true there is always the influence of piracy, but it is important for us to increase the number of our consumers who are willing to shell out their money to purchase our products."
That doesn't mean Nintendo plans to turn a blind eye to piracy, and according to Iwata, Nintendo is working on ways to "beef up the countermeasures" starting with the 3DS console. Just don't expect Nintendo to go all Crytek on us any time soon.
I rank the patience of Blizzard fans right up there with the Duke Nukem Forever crowd. Perfection takes time, we get that, but those who believed that the episodic design of Starcraft II would enable quick releases might be disappointed to learn that the next installment is likely still at least another 18 months off.
Speaking at GDC 2010 in Austin Texas, Battle.net project director Greg Canessa mapped out the timeline for new online features, but accidentally hinted at the release date for Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm during question period. Based on the timelines Canessa discussed, it appears as though we could be looking at an April 2012 ship date for the second chapter in the Starcraft trilogy.
This is bad news for single player fans, but Canessa tried to raise spirits by detailing several improvements planned for Battle.net between now and the release of the sequel. Blizzard plans to patch in support for replay trading, broadcasting, and even a full overhaul to the profile configurator. If we use 18 months as our benchmark for each episode, then gamers should expect to see the Starcraft II story wrapping up sometime in the 2014/2015 timeframe. By then I fully expect to have a CPU core for each and every Zergling. The race is on Blizzard!
Did you order a copy of Duke Nukem Forever back when you thought “Forever” was simply a marketing buzz word? If so the game’s new developer Gearbox Software is looking to make things right by finding a way to honor DNF pre-orders. Company spokesman Randy Pitchford claims they are involved in high level discussions with various retail groups during his London press event last Thursday, and claims “he didn’t want to let those gamers down”.
There are a lot of people who pre-ordered the game," Pitchford told the press. "We’ve been starting to talk with retailers because we didn’t take them directly, and 3D Realms didn’t take them, it was all retailers going 'I'm going to take this guy’s money.' We’ve started to engage them, saying 'Hey, you’ve got customers who you made a promise to, and any bad feelings they have will reflect on us, so can we work together to do something for those people?'"
The retail scene for PC gaming has changed quite a bit since pre-orders started being accepted back in 2001 so it will be interesting to see what if anything can be done. DNF is still slated to hit the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in 2011, and yes we honestly are truly believe them this time.
You may have raised an entire family in the time that it’s taken Duke Nukem Forever to reach near-completion, but Duke hasn’t become family friendly by any stretch of imagination. Duke’s words speak louder than most people’s actions, and his actions speak louder than some Vuvuzelas. We’re talking about a man whose idea of banter with his foes involves tearing off their heads and s***ing down their necks. And he’s had more than a decade to put his razor-sharp tongue to the grindstone.
The result? Well, strippers are a lock, of course, which means gratuitous nudity can’t be far behind. Then there’s the violence, which includes Duke’s disturbingly gleeful willingness to resort to genital mutilation against his alien foes. And then there’s that whole bit with the two, erm, ladies of the night where… things are heavily implied.
Gearbox, at the very least, harbors no delusions that Duke’s larger-than-life legacy will get him a free approval stamp from the ESRB. Speaking during a recent London press event, Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford acknowledged that the ESRB will "not exactly be approving of this." And the big, Duke’s boot-shaped kicker? We’ve been told by Gearbox that what we’ve been shown so far is the “tame” stuff.
That sound you’re hearing? That’s the M-rating. It’s sobbing. Why? Because Duke Nukem wakes up every morning and has 100 Mafia IIs for breakfast. Granted, we do have to worry a bit here. After all, if Duke Nukem gets dipped in glue and dropped in a bucket of sensor bars and strategically placed blurs, what happens to his appeal? Duke Nukem is offensive on purpose. It’s what he does. It’s why he makes us laugh. A compromised Duke Nukem, then, might as well not be Duke Nukem at all.
Right now, Left 4 Dead 2 is cheaper than its own strategy guide. Yeah.
In honor of its brand new free DLC campaign – which brings back the original Left 4 Dead cast for a bit more zombie slaughter and a whole lot more one-character-of-your-choice-dying-permanently – Valve’s slashed the prices of both Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 to a mere $6.79 a piece. We don’t know what you did to piss Valve off, every zombie ever, but from where we’re looking, it seems they’ve signed your death warrant. Or re-death warrant. Whatever.
So basically, if you’ve yet to give either Left 4 Dead a try, there’s no better time than now. Free DLC, nearly free games, and more zombies than you can shake a green, disembodied hand at; there are “deals” – like the kind you see on the Home Shopping Network – and then there are real deals. And then there’s the kind where you get to shoot things. Can you guess which one this is?