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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Phil Savage at

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team pile into the war room to fight over the best and worst of the last seven day's in gaming. Up first, the best bits. Read them quick, before the bombs fall...

What we want from Assassin's Creed Unity

Andy Kelly at

I’ve always had a soft spot for Assassin’s Creed. It’s a polarising series, and some of you probably bubble with hatred every time the name is mentioned. But the thing that has always attracted me to the games is being able to explore a well realised historical setting. Ubisoft have taken me from Renaissance Italy to the pirate-filled seas of the Caribbean, and although the series has varied wildly in terms of quality over the years, the world design has always been top notch.


PC classic commentary: Tyrian 2000 with Alexander Brandon

Wes Fenlon at

PC Gamer's classic commentaries are special interviews with the developers of some of our favorite games. Join us for an hour with a classic game and the inside stories of its creation.

Before he composed the music for Jazz Jackrabbit, or Unreal Tournament, or Deus Ex, Alexander Brandon helped design one of the PC's all-time great SHMUPs. That game was Tyrian, which Epic MegaGames published as shareware in 1995. Compared to most Japanese SHMUPs, Tyrian was utterly packed with features—a story mode and an arcade mode, tons of weapons and upgrades, secret levels, secret modes, multiple ships. And at the time, its smooth 2D parallax scrolling was a mini technical marvel. Brandon wrote music for Tyrian, but he also contributed to writing and design. Our hour-long chat is full of stories from the early days of Epic and the 1990s freeware scene.

Pixel Boost: Planescape: Torment at 1440p

Wes Fenlon at

Twice a month, Pixel Boost guides you through the hacks, tricks, and mods you'll need to run a classic PC game on Windows 7/8. Each guide comes with a free side of 4K screenshots from the LPC celebrating the graphics of PC gaming's past. This week: the Nameless One lives (and dies) again.

Obsidian Entertainment's Pillars of Eternity is, essentially, the reincarnation of late-90s Infinity Engine RPGs. Obsidian has captured the look of isometric cRPGs of the early 2000s as we remember them, and nothing drives that point home like playing Planescape: Torment today. It's as well-written and immense as you remember, but you may have to squint to read the UI or find your way around the environment. It takes some work to run Infinity Engine games on modern PCs, but thanks to the amazing fan community, there are great resources for these games more than a decade alter. If you have a hankering to return to the world of Planescape before Torment: Tides of Numenera, though, it can be done. Here's how.

Three Lane Highway: what it means when games become sport—and why you should care

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes serious, sometimes silly column about Dota 2. The image above is from the ESL Flickr account.

We've always had a complicated relationship with e-sports. By 'we' I mean not just PC Gamer but PC gamers: I think it's fair to say that the paradigm shift that e-sports represent hasn't always been widely understood or accepted. That makes sense—it's a form of gaming that the majority of gamers will never participate directly in, and this is a hobby that is defined by participation.

What we want from Doom 4

Ian Birnbaum at

Ready to feel old? It’s been a decade since Doom 3 came out. Game design and technology has come a long, long way since the olden times of 2004, so we’re excited about the prospect of a new Doom taking the shooter world by surprise. Now that there’s finally confirmation that we’ll learn more about Doom 4 at this year’s Quakecon, here’s everything we’d like out of the long-awaited Doom 4.


Why Metal Gear Solid 5 belongs on PC

Andy Kelly at

I love Hideo Kojima. He understands games, and the way people play them, more than any other developer. He’s often accused of being a frustrated filmmaker using the medium to live out his directing fantasies, but only by people who haven’t played his games. His long, indulgent cutscenes are notorious, yes, but they’re only a small part of the whole, wonderful Kojima experience. He’s a game designer first and foremost, and his unique brand of magic and madness belongs on PC.


ESL One Frankfurt: Loda discusses Alliance's tournament performance, rat Dota, and the impact of winning The International

Chris Thursten at

Jonathan 'Loda' Berg has been part of the competitive Dota scene for as long as there's been a scene to be part of. He was the man holding the Aegis of Champions aloft at the end of The International 2013, and his team—Alliance—are one of the most effective, efficient, and idiosyncratic teams in the world. I first met Loda at TI3, when I interviewed him the night before the grand final. That interview became this article. After Alliance's loss to tournament champions iG in the semi finals of ESL One Frankfurt I spoke to Loda for half an hour about the current metagame, that incredible match against Cloud 9, and the way that winning TI3 has affected Alliance for better and for worse. This is a long interview, but I think most Dota fans would appreciate seeing the whole thing so you'll find it all below.


The 10 best Starbound mods

Phil Savage at

As happens with all the best sandbox game, a huge and creative community has attached itself to Starbound. While the game's still in Early Access, through the use of mods you can expand it into something more varied, more vibrant, and specifically tailored to what you want it to be. Here are ten of the best mods, chosen from the many now available in Starbound's growing mod directory.


To the Moon and back: a journey of connection

PC Gamer at

Written by Angelina Bellebuono. Angelina is a photographer and writer living in rural Georgia. This is a combination personal essay and interview about To the Moon and creator Kan Gao. Because it discusses the story and themes of the game, there will be spoilers.

The opening graphics in Kan Gao’s To the Moon reveal starlight first, then moonbeam, before steadying into a night sky and a lighthouse in the bottom left corner of my laptop screen. The game has been out for almost three years, but it’s new to me. And I know only a morsel more about video games than I did a few months ago when I used my goat-farming experience to review Goat Simulator. I expect To the Moon will transport me farther afield, into much more serious terrain.

But I do not anticipate the deeply layered plot or the complex characters. I do not predict that a video game will hold me spellbound for five hours straight, and I certainly don’t imagine that I will have an equally riveting, two-hour conversation with Kan Gao. But I do know, from the opening lines of dialogue and the first notes of Gao’s mysterious, magical soundtrack, that I will not just be entertained—I sense immediately that spending time in Gao’s world will be an experience worth my time. This will be a different kind of adventure, I think, traveling to the moon and back.

4K Screenshot Showcase: Outlast

Ben Griffin at

Every week, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

This week I wanted a grubby break from clean lines and sharp textures. Outlast was perfect. To further tease the scuzz from Red Barrel's horror, I used RB to play through the fuzzy lens of my character's digital camera, then later compressed the images with some free photo editing software called FastStone. The effect, while not necessarily a prime example of 4K power, gave me just what I was after. Next week we'll get back to proper 4K resolution with Project CARS—no flayed corpses there, I promise.

ESL One Frankfurt: day two in review

Chris Thursten at

Images courtesy of the official ESL Twitter account.

'Timing' has been the watchword of this entire tournament. It was a concern this morning, when another late start threatened to force the entire show to run long, with the last quarterfinal match - Na'Vi vs. EG - not starting until 10.30am. It was a concern when the arena's internet connection went down and when Fnatic's voice comms broke for twenty minutes. It was a concern in-game, too, as the strengths and weaknesses of today's greedy, ult-centric metagame came down to who had power at the exact minute when it counted.

Timing problems caused a fair amount of heartache today, but I also got to see a terrific showcase of what the best Dota 2 teams can achieve when they're moving to their own rhythm. In addition, the event itself held together despite the technical problems to deliver one of the best large-scale e-sports experiences that Europe has seen since TI1. Great casting and analysis and a hugely engaged crowd made Frankfurt a great place to spend a weekend - and I'm not just saying that because I've been surviving on beer, sausages and energy drinks since Saturday morning. Well, mostly. The point is: it's gone midnight and I've got games to discuss, so let's get into it. As ever, spoilers below.

ESL One Frankfurt: Mousesports' Pajkatt talks Axe, iG, and why Dota 2 should be played live

Chris Thursten at

Image via the official ESL Twitter account.

Per Anders 'Pajkatt' Olsson Lille has been playing competitive Dota since prior to the first International, which he attended with Online Kingdom. He played for LGD.int at TI2 and will return this year with Mousesports, formerly Team Dog, who earned their place in TI4 with a fantastic performance in the European qualifiers. Yesterday, they got knocked out of ESL One Frankfurt following a close-fought – and very exciting – series of matches against Invictius Gaming.

I spoke to Pajkatt an hour after the game to talk about that first blood, the reasons why they lost, the danger of Pugna and the plan between now and TI4.

The PC Gamer Show Episode 0: E3

PC Gamer at

As we started planning for E3, the busiest week of the year, we decided that simply covering every PC game we could get our hands on at the convention wasn't enough. We wanted to do something ambitious. Something that would make our lives harder. Something like shooting the first episode of a new bi-weekly series about PC games. We're calling it The PC Gamer Show.


ESL One Frankfurt preview: the matchups we're excited to see

Chris Thursten at

Later this afternoon I'll be heading to Germany to begin a weekend of coverage of ESL One Frankfurt, the last major Dota 2 tournament before The International. It's shaping up to be really exciting. The scene is in good shape, with varied and exciting play coming from a broad range of teams. Eight of those teams—Alliance, Na'Vi, mousesports, Fnatic, Cloud 9, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming and Invictus Gaming—will be competing in Frankfurt for a crowd-boosted prize pool of over $200,000. I sat down with fellow Dota nerd Janusz Urbanski to go over our predictions for the event.


Procedural quest: Why there are so few police procedurals in gaming

Wes Fenlon at

Flip through the channels on cable TV for more than a minute, and there's a good chance the weathered face of Detective Lennie Briscoe or the salt-and-pepper shag of Jack McCoy will fill your screen. Law & Order reruns will be around forever; the original series ran for 456 episodes over 20 years. Throw in spin-offs and there are more than 1000 episodes. CSI and NCIS have run for hundreds of episodes. The popularity of procedural shows never wanes: day-in, day-out, the formula never changes, but we keep watching. Procedurals like Law & Order and CSI are the reliable backbone of entertainment: sturdy, consistent, always there to give you what you need without doing anything too new or exciting. We love procedurals. So why, if the genre is so enormously, enduringly popular, on TV and in books and even movies, are there so few police procedural video games?

Predictable-but-entertaining detective stories and courtroom dramas have dominated primetime for 60 years, but you can count the successful, well-known procedural games on a couple hands with fingers to spare. When HBO's True Detective did something bold and new with the formula, it became the most talked-about TV show in years. It also made me realize that police procedural games are practically nonexistent. I couldn't figure out why, so I decided to talk to game writers and designers, from the creator of Police Quest to the writer behind Spec Ops: The Line, to answer that question.


Three Lane Highway: ways to think more usefully about your Dota 2 MMR

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes serious, sometimes silly blog about Dota 2.

Last week I wrote off the concept of MMR as part of a not-entirely-serious list of 'meaningless' numbers in Dota. My thinking at the time was that discussing the problems raised by ranked matchmaking at all was going to attract a particular attitude in the comments, so I'd be better off treating it as a punchline. That was an error. I tried to use irony to mask something that I think and care about rather a lot, falling into the same trap that I'd accused certain competitive players of falling into only a week earlier. Sly winks don't carry well on the internet, and when you're discussing the relative worth of somebody's internet wizard skill rating it's fair to assume that most readers are going to take it pretty seriously.

Kings of comedy: the flourishing art of interactive humour

Chris Schilling at

Few games are designed to make you laugh. And among those that do, laughter is often a happy accident, the inadvertent by-product of a combination of systems that provoke moments of unintentional comedy.

“People laugh at videogames constantly,” says former Irrational Games alumnus Jordan Thomas, who recently worked as creative consultant on South Park: The Stick of Truth. “But largely it’s because they’re laughing at the clumsy and often absurd intersection between the designer’s intent and their own.” Thomas insists there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but the distinction is clear: we’re laughing at games, not with them.

For comedy writer and director Graham Linehan, it’s pretty low on his list of priorities when playing a game. “For me it’s like comedy in porn,” he says. “It’s kind of beside the point.” Valve writer Erik Wolpaw, who co-scripted Portal and its sequel, admits that he once likened the idea of comedy in games to “the guy who talks between dancers at a strip club. Nobody cares what that guy says and anybody who does is probably kinda maladjusted.”


4K Screenshot Showcase: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Ben Griffin at

Every week, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

The Witcher 2 was a watershed moment for videogame visuals when it launched in May 2011. From the river port of Flotsam set deep in a misty forest, the bleached bricks of the towering La Valette Castle, the sprawling Kaedweni camp and the lush green wilds beyond, it buckled all but the best rigs. In anticipation of the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which comes out early next year, enjoy these 4K screenshots of its picturesque predecessor.

The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

PC Gamer at

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team reactivate their opinion circuits to bring you their best and worst moments from the week of digital entertainment. We’ll start with the good news…