The Early Access Report: Frozen Endzone, Vertiginous Golf and Melody's Escape

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Craig Pearson at

Welcome to the early access report, a regular round-up looking at the most interesting early access games of the moment. Here we try new alphas and revisit old ones to separate the promising gems from the bug-ravaged time wasters.

Major sports are juggernauts and tend to not change all that much. That's probably why rugby hasn't replaced the ball with an angry goose, and why darts haven't instigated see-saws, despite my many emails. We need /real/ games for that (nor real real games - there's a difference), and this time on Early Access I've played alternative takes on American Football, Golf, and Running* in Frozen Endzone, Vertiginous Golf, and Melody's Escape.

Misery 2.1 released, is a massive overhaul of the STALKER mod

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Phil Savage at

Around seven months after the release of Misery 2.0, its team are back with a new update. Misery 2.1 might not be a big change numerically, but the STALKER mod has received some major revisions to AI, weapons, gear, economy, interface and difficulty. It's such a dramatic overhaul that the creators now consider it to be "a completed modding project", and, as such, are moving on to something else.

That something else is a Kickstarter project for The Seed: a post-apocalyptic interactive novel set in Eastern Europe. They're looking for £15,000 to finish their 2D psychological story.


Oculus Rift DK2 hands-on impressions

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Samuel Roberts at

Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 on sale now, an even better consumer version is "the next step"

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Tyler Wilde at

A new model of the Oculus Rift Developer Kit—simply called Developer Kit 2 or DK2—we be available for pre-order today for $350 with an estimated shipping date of July. Compared to the original virtual reality headset prototype, Developer Kit 2 has a higher resolution screen (960x1080 per eye), generates no motion blur, and includes positional head tracking using a CMOS sensor.


The first SSDs of 2014 have been announced

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Dave James at

Crucial have unveiled their new M550 series of SSDs, hot on the heels of Intel’s SSD 730 drives. These are the first new SSDs of the year, and represent two of the big boys in SSD manufacturing.

Crucial’s M550 is an update to their incredibly successful M500 series, and as such still retains the same commitment to performance and pricing. The M550 drives are competitive with the top SSDs on both of these fronts.

Crucial are using a slightly revised Marvell memory controller in their new drive, along with parent-company Micron’s 20nm NAND Flash to provide the storage. The M550 range comes with a little more space than their M500 counterparts, shifting from 480GB to 512GB, and from 960GB to a full 1TB for the relevant drives.


Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls trailer shows Act V zones, strange new powers

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Phil Savage at

The heroes of Diablo 3 are preparing for the ultimate battle against the Angel of Death, and their terrible quest calls for blessed new powers. Those powers come in the form of mighty destructive abilities, like Vengeance, Epiphany, and, er, Piranhas? Yes, for all the bombast surrounding this new Reaper of Souls trailer, never forget that it's a game in which you can summon a pool of flesh-eating fish to deal with your enemies.


Dota 2 documentary Free To Play getting Twitch screening later today

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Phil Savage at

Free To Play, Valve's Dota 2 e-sports documentary, comes out later today. And while you could watch it from the relative comfort of your Steam library, wouldn't it make more sense to see it in a setting more synonymous with e-sports? By which I mean on Twitch, next to a chat box that's spamming emoticons.

Luckily, you have that option. Valve and Twitch are collaborating on an online viewing party that's set to go live in a few hours. It will start at 9am PDT or 4pm GMT, and be shown running throughout the day. Because timezones are confusing, there's also a countdown timer ticking down to when that party gets started.


Paradox Interactive is publishing Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity, will "absolutely ship this year"

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Wes Fenlon at

Update: According to Paradox, Pillars of the Eternity is "absolutely going to ship this year."

Paradox Interactive has just announced that they will be partnering with Obsidian Entertainment to publish the Kickstarted RPG Pillars of Eternity, as well as, potentially, other Obsidian projects going forward.

Paradox, best known for their in-house titles like Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, and Magicka, has also published games from outside studios, such as the Warlock and Cities in Motion franchises. Paradox CEO Fred Wester said he's not sure what working with Obsidian might entail beyond Eternity, but he sees it as "hopefully a long-term relationship."

Former Call of Duty, Tomb Raider developers announce horror Daedelus, talk going indie

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Ian Birnbaum at

Big names from the studios that created Call of Duty, Spec Ops: The Line, and Tomb Raider stand behind Daedelus, a new indie horror title being developed by a small team called Tangentlemen. The full reveal of the game’s core mechanics and screens will come later, but for now, the devs are opening up about why they decided to “jump ship” and go into indie games.


Indie adventure Stranded leaves you on an alien planet

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Emanuel Maiberg at

It’s hard to watch that Stranded trailer and not compare it to The Dig, a golden era LucasArts adventure game known for being written by Steven Spielberg and Orson Scott Card. Both adventure games have you exploring an alien, perhaps abandoned planet rendered in beautiful pixel art, though it wasn't considered retro in 1995 when The Dig was released.


DayZ update to add new towns, fireplaces, more guns

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Emanuel Maiberg at

A post from Dean Hall reveals that the next DayZ update will add new towns and other content. One example, the fireplace seen above, is mostly there to accommodate the cooking system, which will allow you to cook certain items, or create new ones, like soup. Sounds delicious, or at least a lot better than being forced fed a rotten banana. Good thing DayZ already balanced players’ stomach capacity.


Unity 5 unveiled at GDC 2014

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Ian Birnbaum at

Unity 5, the latest version of the popular game development engine, was unveiled at the Game Development Conference in San Francisco today. The new update will include big updates to Unity’s audio and lighting tools and 64-bit engine support, according to Unity Technologies. Unity 5 will be available for pre-order starting today, and is accompanied by a trailer featuring lots of flashy light rendering and a wub-wub distortion soundtrack.

Steam client beta update adds easy "virtual reality mode" access

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Emanuel Maiberg at

Yesterday, Valve released a Steam client beta update that makes accessing the services's “Virtual Reality Mode” even easier. VR mode allows you to browse the store, access your library, and generally use Steam with an Oculus Rift dev kit. Valve first added VR support in January, when it introduced the SteamVR application to the beta client’s Tools library. This recent update simplifies access.


Titanfall review

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Chris Thursten at

Our final Titanfall review has been produced following a week of testing on the game's live servers. The following is the finished version of the 'review in progress' that we posted last week - so if large parts of it feel familiar, that's why.

Titanfall is the last place you'd expect to find restraint. This is a big money multiplayer shooter where robots called titans are summoned from space, where jetpack-equipped 'pilots' dash over, alongside and through sci-fi cityscapes. It's a game where you'll run up a wall, jet into the air, lock onto a platoon of grunts with your smart pistol and eliminate them all as you land. It's a game where you'll drop a 40-foot titan onto another 40-foot titan just to see if you can.

Giveaway: grab a Wildstar beta key for this weekend's test

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PC Gamer at

Last month, we gave away armfuls of codes for WildStar's beta weekends, giving testers an early look at Carbine's most colourful MMO. Today, we're doing it all again. If you fancy another trip through the world of Nexus, we've got 2,000 codes giving access to this weekend's beta. If you're quick, one of them could be yours.

Update: And the keys are gone!


The Rift Report: drifting through space and exploring musical landscapes

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Andy Kelly at

Every Tuesday Andy straps on the Oculus Rift and dives headfirst into the world of virtual reality. Is it really the future of PC gaming? Let’s find out.

There’s no dignified way to use the Oculus Rift. Without exception, anyone who plays on one looks like King of the Dorks – especially if they’re using a flight stick or a racing wheel. If you want to do an impression of a Rift user, lean back in your chair, spin your head around with your mouth hanging open, and periodically say “Wooooaaah!” to yourself. But let’s be honest: PC gaming isn’t sexy. Hardware manufacturers think calling their products things like ‘Cobra XL Venom Singularity Ultra Edition’ makes them sexy, but it doesn’t. So leave your dignity at the door when you’re using the Rift, because the Fonz couldn’t make this thing look cool.

Building Crown, part two: layout design, textures, and the Hammer editor

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PC Gamer at

Building Crown is a three part series from mapmaker Shawn "FMPONE” Snelling and pro Counter-Strike player/mapmaker Sal "VOLCANO" Garozzo, revealing the inspiration and building process for their upcoming map Crown. Their goal with Crown is simple: build the best competitive Counter-Strike map ever. In part two, Snelling breaks down Crown’s level design and the tools used to build map geometry and textures.

The first step in making a multiplayer map is creating a layout. But what is a layout? For level designers, a layout is the floor-plan of a level lurking in their brain, which they often draw out as a blueprint and then sculpt into a 3D “grey box” representation in-game. For everyday players, a layout is how they visualize a level’s available paths and make strategic decisions.

We spent nine months refining Crown’s layout into the final map it is today. And now Crown is ready for the public. It’s available today. You can download the map right now  on the Steam Workshop and play it in Counter-Strike: GO. Read on to learn how we built it.

SimCity offline mode arrives today

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Ian Birnbaum at

After many months of hinting, promises, and—apparently—a substantial amount of work, the offline version of SimCity arrives today. In an update posted to the EA forums, a Maxis developer writes that the latest patch is almost entirely focused on bringing the world of SimCity offline.


GOG announce plan to support Linux, will start this Autumn with 100 games

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Phil Savage at

GOG are taking the advice of a decades old advertising campaign, and choosing to p-p-p-pick up a penguin. Rather than a disappointing British biscuit, though, this penguin is made of electricity and open-source code. The DRM-free digital distribution service will soon support Linux. "At least" 100 games will gain support for the OS, GOG say, and that catalogue will include a selection of classics making their Linux début.


Choice Chamber is a Twitch Plays Pokémon-Inspired Social Experiment

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Samuel Roberts at

Last night I played a little bit of Choice Chamber, a 2D platformer where the parameters of the game are decided by polling the audience watching on Twitch. Which weapon will you have to fight the enemies before you, a sword or a hammer? How high can you jump when faced with flying foes? These options are voted for on the fly as the people opt for the most exciting outcome. Or, at least, the one that'll garner the funniest reaction from the poor bastard sat gawping at the screen on Twitch.

Outside of the novelty of the premise – roughly ten people were watching and no doubt turning against me, on Twitch, as I played through a few screens – it's a straightforward 2D hack-and-slash game with only jumping and attacking as commands. But having your fate in the hands of the audience is a genuinely refreshing idea with an unpredictable element of social experimentation. You're always able to see the three variables being voted on in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and the result no doubt makes you question the way you're perceived by the viewers. Honestly, if I was watching me pull my concentration face on Twitch, I'd probably engineer my own death too.