The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

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THE LOWS

Tim Clark: Hearthstone gets plagued
The boss encounters in this week’s Curse of Naxxramas wing were both more fun than those in the first, and dropped a couple of cards which I expect to use heavily in the shape of the Unstable Ghoul and—oh sweet, pustulent, miracle-killing prince—Loatheb. I’m able to say that because I threw down my cash and got entry to the wing on the EU server with no problems at all. Many others haven’t been so lucky, with Blizzard acknowledging and working on fixes for a variety of problems, including people being double charged for entry and having their gold taken but access not granted. As regular readers will know, I adore the game to the point of debilitation, but it shouldn’t go unremarked that after the lag in the first week this doesn’t feel like the smoothest roll out so far. Yes, Hearthstone is a young game, and Team 5 are small and nimble, but honestly it’d be nice for a major release to go without a hitch. Somewhere in his floating Necropolis, Kel’thuzad grins evilly.

Ben Griffin: Failed game-making dreams
Much like my peers, who are pressuring me with something I’ll refer to here as ‘peer pressure’, I’m looking into making a game. It’s a survival game about a man lost at sea. He basically wakes up in the middle of the ocean, because that’s the scariest thing I can possibly imagine, and has to fend for himself. Imagine a wetter Don’t Starve: you scavenge floating debris, maybe build a raft from a toilet seat, or fend off a shark with a tin opener. Oh no, my life jacket is deflating, let me plug it with chewing gum. Is that a mermaid? No, it’s a jellyfish and I’m going mental. That sort of thing. There’ll be Life of Pi moments too, like giant whales and glowing swarms of algae to gawp at. Well, I was looking into making it until I realised making a game is bloody hard work. So you can have my idea, Internet. Just mention me in the credits, yeah?

Andy Kelly: Crytek UK closure
Crytek UK are no more. The studio, who were once known as Free Radical Design, were made up of developers who worked on GoldenEye 64, who went on to make the equally brilliant TimeSplitters games. I was happy when I heard they were rescued by Crytek after the commercial failure of Haze (which was, to be fair, balls), but then they were put on multiplayer for Crysis. What a waste. I reckon the studio should go indie and kickstart a new TimeSplitters. I don’t know who owns the licence, but even if they can’t get hold of it, it doesn’t matter. Look at Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9, which is a Mega Man game in all but name. I hope everyone affected lands on their feet. Remember how brilliant TimeSplitters 2’s challenge mode was? I need that on PC, with online leaderboards. Hopefully someone can make it happen. Long live Free Radical.

Cory Banks: Stained fails to shift
The developers behind indie game Stained refused to give out previously-promised Steam keys to customers who bought the Indie Royale bundle this week. Immediately, my mind thinks, “That’s not fair!” But the developer’s reason disappoints me even more: it’s because the game is a commercial failure.

Stained, described as a "side-scrolling, platforming and combat action game," has sold 300 copies, according to the developer RealAxis’ update. At $10 a pop, that’s $3,000 in revenue. Instead of honoring the agreement to give those who purchased the Indie Royale Debut 3 bundle a Steam code, it’s asking fans to re-purchase the game on Steam. You can imagine what the reaction has been. This is bad news all around: bad for a small developer who can’t find an audience for its game, bad for consumers who made a purchase and expect to receive something in return, and bad for the state of indie games on the PC post-explosion. RealAxis should give out the codes it promised, but maybe the team should also rethink its business plan. What worked three years ago in the indie scene won’t work now.

Evan Lahti: Indie overload
I love pixel art and turn-based strategy, so I was happy to volunteer to review Halfway. I ended up underwhelmed by its simplicity, but honestly, I think my feelings about it are also informed by how ridiculously spoiled we are for games right now, but indie games in particular. There’s so many of them that it’s got to be tough for new studios to get noticed. In a way, I lament that something like Halfway, which definitely has some good appeal as a streamlined, turn-based sci-fi game, has to compete against XCOM, Xenonauts, Unity of Command, Shadowrun Returns, Dead State, Wasteland 2, and a few others. If it’d released in 2009, plenty of people would be talking about Halfway. If I was an indie developer today, I’d be massively worried about all the incredible, affordable games I’m competing with.

Wes Fenlon: 4K isn't ready for primetime just yet
I spent the past two weeks using a 4K monitor for my day-to-day work, and I also played a number of games on it to test out performance. Unfortunately, I concluded that 4K is just a little too much for even beefy video cards like the Titan Black to handle. Most of the games I played struggled to keep 30 fps on Ultra settings, much less 60 fps. At this point, maintaining solid framerates at 4K will cost a couple thousand dollars in hardware. And there are other problems, too: Windows 7 doesn't scale to 4K, and while Windows 8 is better, some programs look gross and blurry. We've got another year or two to wait for 4K to be practical. Too bad. 3840x2160 is sharp.