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Judging Universe Sandbox as a game seems a little unfair. There are no bosses, no buffs or power-ups, no levelling-up system, and no objective. It’s simply a physics sandbox that focuses on doing one thing right: gravity. The premise is simple. You put rocks in space, set various physical properties such as velocity, mass and density, then watch them whizz about while cackling with glee at your power over the universe. If you get it right, their orbit carves a graceful arc across the empty darkness of space. What’s more fun is getting it wrong. Accidentally making Earth the same size as the Sun and pinging Mercury and Venus out past Uranus, Neptune and the Kuiper belt into the interstellar medium, for example. Or accidently blowing up Jupiter and watching the debris form into a second asteroid belt.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds. I have exploded the Sun. I have exploded Venus, Mercury and Mars. I have exploded Saturn, and watched its rings and moons spiral off into interstellar space. I have, perhaps inevitably, exploded Uranus.
Is it actually like Terraria in space?” I’m talking to Finn ‘Tiy’ Brice, lead developer on Starbound – a game habitually described as ‘Terraria in space’ and which shares some of the same development team. “I guess that description is a little misleading, because when you play the game it doesn’t feel at all like Terraria. There’s a massive emphasis on the atmosphere, the combat is very different, and the building is entirely different,” says Brice. ‘Terraria in space’ is a handy basiclevel explanation but not an accurate description, he adds. So that’s what Starbound isn’t. What it is is an ambitious 2D sandbox game set in a procedurallygenerated infinite universe. In addition to the sandbox elements, there will be a main storyline that will alter depending on which race you play, as well as a slew of side quests and the potential for co-operative multiplayer as well as PvP.
SpaceChem is a game about circuitry pretending to be a game about chemistry. You have to create a machine that will build molecules, building routes that will bring the required atoms into the correct arrangement and deposit the finished product into the exit zone. It's a smart, challenging puzzler that earned a lofty score of 89 in our SpaceChem review. If you're intrigued, SpaceChem has just gone cheaper to celebrate the addition of a new sandbox mode.
When Josh called Lego Universe his game of E3 this year, we just assumed he'd gone slightly wrong. But now I've played it, I get it. I'd assumed it would either be a very polished and not terribly interesting MMO by the numbers, or a very rough and glitchy experimental one that allows the kind of creativity Lego itself does. But what I've seen so far looks like the best of both those worlds: freedom to build anything from scratch, cleverly couched in an MMO that's as polished and satisfying as the Lego Star Wars or Lego Harry Potter games. Here's how it works.
On the eve of LEGO Universe's closure, we sit down with one of the game's concept artists, Mike Rayhawk, who shows off some of the game's gorgeous concept art. Along the way, we ask him questions about the game's development process, what it was like to build, and why he was so excited about where the game was going before it was shut down. If nothing else, enjoy the awesome LEGO artwork and click any of them to view higher-res versions.
Chris and Toms Francis and Senior introduce new Web Editor Marsh Davies to the podcast, discussing Hotline Miami, Guild Wars 2, Universe Sandbox, Planetside 2, XCOM and more, including the Steam charts and your questions from Twitter.
OMG Space compresses 10.1 billion kilometres into onto a 1:647 scale visual recreation of our solar system. Wired spotted the work, completed by graphic designer Margot Trudell. The aim is to give everyone a working impression of how stupidly enormous our solar system is. The distances between planets and the size of the planets themselves are to scale. When you eventually find Earth, it's a pinprick. I like to imagine launching a satellite from that blob to, say, Mercury, about five minutes of scrolling away, and getting close enough to get pictures. Then I realise humanity has already done that, and have a sudden urge to high-five science. If only there were more games that let us play with space in a more interactive way, perhaps something that'd let us throw Jupiter at Saturn just to see what would happen. It turns out there is. It's called Universe Sandbox, and it's on sale on Steam now at 40% off. It lets you do stuff like this:
It's a big month for PC Gamer UK. The disc is gone. We put it in a paper boat and burnt it at sea (or, rather the river next to our office). In its place we have 64 extra pages. That means more reviews, more previews, bigger features and more adventures in Extra Life. To celebrate, we're giving everyone who buys the new issue free stuff, whether you subscribe, buy online, in a shop, or even digitally. Everyone will get an exclusive Team Fortress 2 hat, and a month of OnLive access. The issue will be arriving with subscribers now, and will hit stores this Wednesday. But what's inside? The screaming warrior on our cover gives away our huge Skyrim preview, but there's more. Much, much more. We turn the office into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. We talk to Gabe Newell about his Dota 2 obsession, delve into Firefall, take a look at Planetside 2, invent the perfect version of Left 4 Dead 3 and Tim strokes a Tribble. Read on to find out why.
Planetside is going to be enormous. Its battles will rage across entire continents and support hundreds of players at a time. It will have tanks, ships and, according to the man on our cover, gatling guns with laser sights for precision mass-destruction. You can read all about it in our preview in the latest edition of PC Gamer UK. It hits store shelves today. It's also available online, digitally through Zinio and Apple Newsstand, and it should already be with subscribers now. There are few things less subtle than a gatling gun with a laser site, but Max Payne is one of them. We catch up with the gravelliest hero in gaming on his new adventures in Max Payne 3, chat to Ken Levine about Bioshock Infinite, get rich quickly and horribly in Runescape, play Diablo 3, take a look at the new Syndicate and much, much more. We also give away a load of free stuff. This month our issues come with codes for six free games on Good Old Games, £20 worth of items in Runes of Magic and free money in any Sony MMO.
If you haven't been following the drama afflicting the PC gaming community throughout the warmer months, you may not be aware that Steam is well overdue for its annual, wallet-eviscerating Summer Sale. It's that joyous time of year when we forward our paychecks directly to Valve for lots of cheap reasons to not go outside and face the angry, merciless sun. After having heard barely a peep about its absence from Gabe and Co well into July, a Redditor named Dweezy has stumbled in out of the desert proclaiming that the time is nearly upon us.
CCP have announced the 20th free expansion for the jerk-filled MMO sandbox EVE Online. It's called Rubicon, and it won't just be the usual round-up of new features and balance tweaks. Instead, according to senior producer Andie "CCP Seagull" Nordgren, it marks the first step in a plan to give players "more power over this universe than ever before".
CCP's decade-old space sandbox (starbox?) will be changing once again on June 4. Odyssey, the 19th free expansion to the game, is slated to bring more incentives for exploration and a "fresh and accessible user interface." This will not be the first such overhaul for Spreadsheet Commando's UI, and seems in line with a general design direction of making the game less dauntingly byzantine for new pilots.
The developers of Terraria-ish 2D sandbox Starbound are preparing to send their game into the uncharted wilderness of beta testing. In a post made to the Starbound blog, game designer Tiy outlined the structure of the beta, which he says is "really not very far off now." And if you're guessing that this beta structure will take the form of a series of unfinished builds that'll be made available for public consumption, you wouldn't be far wrong.
---TRANSMISSION FROM THE FUTURE--- The year is 2053; the world is on the brink of financial and social collapse. It started innocuously enough. Star Citizen - Chris Roberts' multiplayer space sim - took to Kickstarter, making a healthy $2,000,000 from backer pledges. But the money kept pouring in through the game's website at Roberts Space Industries. By the end of April 2013, Star Citizen had raised a staggering total of $9,062,402. ---MESSAGE CONTINUES---
Today the twentieth free expansion to Eve Online goes live. There are tweaks and balances, new units and changes to the interface, but when you give something a name that means 'a point of no return' and then, in case anyone missed that, add the tag line "There's no turning back" there's cause for a closer look. "Rubicon is an important moment in Eve. It's the beginning of a vision we articulated at Fanfest in Reykjavik earlier this year - the idea of going forth and colonising space," CCP's chief marketing officer David Reid tells me. "It continues this idea here of giving the players more and more control over the Eve universe. Our designers aren't the gods of the Eve universe, they're the janitors. We build tools, we clean up messes, we keep the lights on and we allow the players to go be the stars and figure out how they want to do things."
This new space MMO has been released on Steam Early Access by Artplant, the team behind the browser-based Battlestar Galactica Online. It’s their attempt at recreating the dynamic, player-driven universe of EVE Online, giving players the opportunity to mine, trade, explore and fry each other with lasers across 120 explorable star systems. CCP’s game has had the benefit of ten years of iteration and updates, so it’s a hard act to follow. When you load the game you’re dumped straight into the character creation screen. They could really have done with some kind of cinematic here, introducing new players to the universe, but I imagine we’ll see that in a more complete build. The editor is impressively flexible, enabling you to freely mix and match human and alien features without any the limitations of sticking to a particular race. I created a jug-eared, green-skinned thing, although players will only see me as a still portrait.
The core group at Bethesda Game Studios announced on the studio's blog today that they will be leaving the jagged, snowy climes of northern Tamriel behind for an unknown location. While minor updates and fixes to Skyrim will continue, the bulk of the development focus is being shifted to the next major release, which they hope will be their "biggest and best work yet."
Are you the hunter or the hunted? The DayZ Mod development team has released a new version of proposed changes and fixes to the zombie survival simulator and is seeking input from the community about anything that has been left out. The community changelog for the next update is a fascinating look at how the game has evolved since I first landed on Chernarus almost a year ago.