What drives a perfectly sane person to become a videogame company's public relations manager? I can't quite be sure, but I'm willing to bet that whatever it is, it isn't pretty. The mission that -- again -- they choose to accept seems simple enough: deliver information into the eager hands of journalists and laygamers alike, in hopes of eventually building your game's hype-tower up to stratospheric levels. What's so wrong with that? Well, nothing, actually. But all it takes is one quick slip-up at the intersection between mission intention and mission execution to turn that colossal hype tower back into splinters and dust. Those things, for the uninitiated, do not typically mix well with the copious amounts of blood, sweat, and tears that go into game development.
Thus, toward the end of a game's hype cycle, we see little fiascos like the one well-respected journalist Tom Chick encountered with Sony's latest second-party effort, inFamous. Chick had received an early copy of the game for review purposes, and chose to divide his criticism into two separate lists: one praising the game's pioneering efforts in the field of electrically charged super heroics, and the other (gently) reaming the game for pilfering from the plot of Kids WB cartoon Static Shock, among other things. No review scores were assigned to either of Chick's lists, but his somewhat brutal -- though justified -- honesty was enough to send the PR machine into a tizzy. As a result, Sony canceled an interview between Chick and the game's developers.
The stunning plot twist? Chick reported Sony's little gaffe, as journalists occasionally do, and readers weren't too pleased with the publisher's Indian-giving antics. The site's comment section rang with cries of "Gerstmann-gate," the PR explosion between website GameSpot and publisher Eidos that resulted in the firing of Jeff Gerstmann, one of GameSpot's senior review staff, for assigning Eidos title Kane and Lynch a 6 out of 10 review score.
Continue reading for some hot Spy and Mama action.
Things recently dropped by Valve’s new TF2 item system, according to players: duplicates, duplicates, and the ball. And while jumping through achievement-based hoops in order to earn new gear may not have been optimal, at least it made sense. The same couldn’t be said for random drops – at least initially. Thankfully, Valve has decided to pull back the curtain and give us the nitty-gritty on the little orange men who run its drop system. Here’s what the developer said:
"[The] new system watches the amount of time that players are playing TF2, and gives them a chance to find items at regular intervals," wrote Valve's Erik Johnson. "They aren't guaranteed to get the item at those points, but they have a pretty good chance."
How are these “regular intervals” decided upon, though? Johnson explained:
“When we were tuning this system we first looked at the average amount of time that players spend playing TF2 daily. From there, we set the goal of most players having around 20 items in their inventory after a couple of weeks of play. If you're someone who plays a lot of TF2, you're going to get items a lot faster than that.”
Also, if you thought Valve’s hot streak had finally ended with the drop system’s shaky start, fear not. As usual, Valve plans on tinkering with the thing’s inner workings until every rusty bit is replaced with solid gold. Planned improvements include item trading (bye bye duplicate items), more rare items, and some kind of way for players to “influence the system so they can work directly toward getting specific items” that’s not called achievement-grinding. Currently, Valve’s goal is to bring all of those upgrades into the mix before the next class pack.
Well, sounds like there’s no longer anything to complain about here. Back to pacing a hole in the floor and muttering about Half-Life 2: Episode 3, then.
First thing’s first: Team Fortress 2’s Sniper vs. Spy update is live. Hunting bows, new levels, and mother-themed pistols can all be yours after a bit of unlocking. And speaking of unlocking, Valve’s drastically decreased the amount of elbow grease needed to up your arsenal. That’s right – if achievements aren’t your cup of tea, you can now play the game normally and still have a shot at scoring some new gear.
"Items now drop randomly, in addition to the old (pre Spy/Sniper unlockables) achievement tied weapons," Valve’s Robin Walker told Shacknews. "We're going to release info on the new system on the blog tomorrow."
So then, about the whole urine thing. Valve recently blew the lid off the Sniper’s final item, and well, we sort of wish they hadn’t. See, it’s pee. Um, yeah.
You thought the hunting bow was old school? Now the Sniper can fling his bodily fluids about like some kind of primate. Just pop a jar of his patented “Jarate” on your foes and they’ll absorb 35% extra damage for a little while. Also, if you live by the Laws of the Wild, they’ll forever be marked as your territory. Your damp, odorous territory.
Better still, fire doesn’t stand a chance against Jarate. And for your buddies who don’t stand a chance against fire, well, being covered in the Sniper’s yellow stuff is definitely the lesser of two evils.
So, what are you waiting for? The update’s completely free, and – until Monday – the game is too. Or, if you’re ready to commit, Valve’s knocked 50% off its price. Try and then buy. Or don’t. You really can’t go wrong here.
Tread softly and carry a big stick seems to be the motif of the Spy’s latest implement, and the self-described “cannon” sure seems to fit the bill. Nope – no subtlety here. Just big, loud, accurate lead. Oh, and your mom.
“There are two sorts of men in this world: the sort with blood pouring out of a hole in their heads, and the sort holding the Ambassador [hand cannon]. It has the ammo count of a revolver and the pinpoint accuracy of a sniper rifle, even at long range. (But remember, a gun that packs this much heat needs to cool off between shots, so make every shot count.),” says the Team Fortress blog.
The gun’s barrel – in keeping with Meet the Spy’s risqué twist – initiates its potent humiliation-death combo with an engraved picture of your enemy’s mother. And if your mom doesn’t (ahem) have it going on, well, the image actually can be unseen. The death part tends to take care of that.
Update: Valve's brand new "Meet the Spy" video has surfaced on Youtube. It's rib-wrenchingly hilarious, as expected. Go check it out, then try figuring out the, er, fascinating web of relationships found therein. You'll understand after you've seen it, so go now!
Close range hunting bows? Electrically charged shields? How’s a Spy supposed to put food on the table with such uncouth technologies standing in his way? Well, you gotta spend money to make money, as they say -- and it seems TF2’s classiest killer did just that.
Oh, you’re wondering about that whole Sniper update thing? Well don’t. It’s been, er, cut short.
As such, the Spy’s now hogging the spotlight, and as a certain incapacitated gunner might attest, the Spy’s shopping trip was a rousing success. First up, he nabbed the “Dead Ringer” Spy watch which, if you’re hit with a non-lethal shot, cloaks you for up to eight seconds and leaves behind a fake corpse to complete the illusion. After that, you can run or make with the stabbing. Either one's better than being dead, obviously.
Next up in this strange convergence of time-telling and murder is the “Cloak and Dagger” Spy watch. It grants you permanent invisibility – so long as you stand completely still. So if you always thought more games should involve being completely immobile, your particular specialty will bring you infinitely regenerating cloaking abilities.
Both items will be hitting just in time to combat the Sniper’s new toys on May 21. Along with head slot items. And new maps. And a new game mode. All for free. See, other developers? This is how you do DLC.
Shooting people in the head for a living comes with quite a suite of occupational hazards (people trying to murder you quickly comes to mind), but luckily, Valve takes great care of its employees. This time around, as part of its Sniper update blowout, Valve hasn’t quite given the Sniper eyes in the back of his head, but don’t think the developer doesn’t have their favorite sociopath’s back. With his brand new tribal shield that’s apparently older than “recorded time,” the Sniper won’t ever have to worry about pesky backstabbing Spies again.
Well, until the priceless heirloom takes one – and only one – for the team and explodes into itty-bitty pieces, that is. Fortunately, Valve’s expert squad of fun-gineers has a backup plan.
“All the tribal craftsmanship in the world, it turns out, cannot stop a modern butter knife. So we taped a car battery to it. Sure, the added weight of the redesigned Razorback’ll slow you down a little. But any poor sap dumb enough to backstab you while you’re sporting one is getting a surprise to the tune of 10,000 volts. Plus, if they want to stab you again, they’ll have to wait until their knife cools down. Which is lucky for you, since the Razorback collapses into a million finely crafted pieces after a single stab,” reads the Team Fortress 2 blog.
Also coming in the Sniper update is a new mode called Payload Race. The mode, described as “Gladiatorial Cart Combat,” sees both sides attempting to push a cart into enemy territory, while also keeping each other’s carts off their respective lawns. And, on top of that, if you end up too dead to continue pushing your cart, it hurdles back downhill. Them’s the breaks, you might say – until you realize that the cart doesn’t have any. Then you’ll just say some other, less publically acceptable words.
Remember that scene from Lord of the Rings where Boromir was stuck clean through with, like, a billion arrows? And you were all like, “Man, I wish I could somehow apply this awesome form of carnage to a brightly colored Valve FPS”? Well, Valve heard your repeated horn calls cries, incredibly specific reader, and will soon be giving you the chance to rain down pointy doom with the Huntsman hunting bow.
Coming in the upcoming Sniper update (which is, itself, coming later this week), the Huntsman will probably give you some new perspective in your games of Cowboys vs. Indians. Said Valve about the first in a line of new unlockables for the Sniper:
"’Now, hold on,’ you keep saying. ‘Aren't bows and arrows primitive and harmless?’ Why don't you ask the dinosaurs? Except you can't, because the cavemen bow and arrowed them to death. One headshot from the Huntsman can mean an instant crit, in addition to a bolt-riddled corpse hanging from a wall that's gruesome and funny.”
The Huntsman will come equipped with 18 arrows and a special charge shot. The rest of the Sniper’s new toys are to be unveiled throughout the week. We’re hoping for some kind of animal companion. How about you?
Want to play two of PC gaming’s genre bests? Also want to hang onto your cash with no attached consequences? Well, that’s theft. People like you belong in prison. But for once, the kind hearts at NCSoft and Valve are turning a blind eye to your antics, so you can finally live out your typically larcenous dreams – for a limited time, anyway.
For the next 24 hours, Left 4 Dead is in free trial mode, meaning that anyone can download and play Valve’s highly implausible piece of anti-zombie propaganda for free. Don’t dawdle, though; you only have until Saturday to take advantage!
As for City of Heroes, snagging a freebie is tad trickier. In celebration of the game’s fifth anniversary, NCSoft has reactivated all City of Heroes accounts – retail or trial – until 11:59pm EST on Sunday. On the menu for this birthday bash is a brand new player-driven mission editor, special events, and in-game commemorative badges. We can’t really think of any reason not to want to be a friggin’ super hero, but a few extra perks are never a bad thing.
So, how will you spend your free time this weekend – cleaning up crime or drowning in Boomer bile? Or are you gonna try for a twofer?
Looks like E3 won’t be the only time we’ll be seeing more than half of the gaming industry under one roof in the near future.
After totally serving Activision with God as its witness, Valve’s sicking its lawyers on Activision again – this time, because Activision tried to weasel out of the agreement the two gaming giants made last time they duked it out in court. Confusing, right? Let us break it down for you.
Due to a 2002 dispute over royalties, Valve sued Activision. Valve more or less won, and Activision agreed to throw the Half-Life creator a bone to the tune of $2,391,932. So far so good, but without the watchful eye of the law staring the two companies in the face, things fell apart.
Soon after litigations came to an end, Activision decided that Valve had been overpaid by $424,136 in previous years. Thus, when Valve’s hard-earned check finally showed up, it read $1,967,796 instead of the full amount agreed upon in court. As a result, Valve’s firing up the ol’ litigation machine again, and Activision is threatening to counter-sue.
Personally, we’d rather just have respective company heads Gabe Newell and Bobby Kotick hop in the cage and throw hands, but then, lack of widespread fighting is just one of the many drawbacks of today’s legal system. Oh well.
(Disclaimer: Tomorrow, in this case, refers to any point after today. After all, Valve’s not so great with providing release dates, so – surprise, surprise – these items will be ready when they’re ready.)
After a recent patch saddled Team Fortress 2 with a mysterious 50-slot “backpack” – promising further instructions at a later date – players were left wondering what strange turns lied ahead for Valve’s cel-shaded shooter. Well, check your answers and make sure your name’s on the paper, because time’s up. In an interview with Shacknews, Valve’s Robin Walker divined Team Fortress 2’s future. The gist of it all: hats soon and RPG mechanics later.
Obviously, the backpack holds things, as are backpacks’ wont. (Though, in a game where sandwiches can be considered accomplices in murder, it’s always good to check.) Apparently, the deceptively deep storage device will play host to all sorts of items, beginning with your non-equipped head-slot items. For now, hats – scheduled for release before the Sniper update -- won’t do much more than give your opponents some stylish new targets, but Walker held out hope for more down the line.
“Right now they're all cosmetic only, but it's obviously more interesting if they become more than that, so we're still thinking about that. Shipping them without gameplay changes seems like a good way to tackle the first problem, which is to ensure we don't break our silhouette based class identification. It also starts us on another path that we're interested in, which is allowing players to have some control over their appearance.”
As for items with actual stat bonuses – as well as some fly threads for the remainder of your character’s bland, sensually unappealing form – Valve plans on taking things one step at a time depending on player feedback. If the wheel needs a +12 damage modifier, it’ll get one. Otherwise, why reinvent it?
Other important tidbits: Unlockables won’t be coupled with achievements anymore, more “Meet the” videos are still on the way, and deleted backpack items won’t be gone forever following the next patch.
Information overload, right? Well, process it and then come back. In the meantime, we’ll be redrawing this comic with TF2 characters and drinking in the sweet taste of possibility. Valve, please. We need this.