The Week's Highs And Lows In PC Gaming

Phil Savage

Each week the PC Gamer team stares into its swirling palantír and assesses the best and worst things to happen over the past seven days. As usual we kick off with the stuff that made us happy...

The Highs

Samuel Roberts: FTL: Advanced Edition came out! For me, this is the game equivalent of finding 30 minutes of cut footage from the Angel finale, or something—I'm very happy to have more of a space management sim I love so much, and my one playthrough today threw in a lot of new story scenarios to consider on my journey through the eight sectors (I got to sector six on Easy mode, honestly. It was a Thursday night, I was weak). All of the new features seem well considered, especially the idea of clones who replace your dead crew members, and it's generous as free upgrades go. If you've never played FTL, it's now somehow better than it was before.

Tyler Wilde: I'm really enjoying The Elder Scrolls Online . I know , I'm confused about it too. I'm a huge critic of standard MMO design. I don't like waiting in line at theme park rides to kill bosses I have no desire to kill, reeled in by empty, extrinsic rewards: a line of boring dialog, a bit of XP, a cutlass I won't use. I don't understand why there are ever single-player story quests in MMOs, and I hate watching other players mob the same NPC as they complete the same quest. It exposes the truth: This isn't really a shared world. Our interactions are superficial. Nothing here will make my personal story different from anyone else's. We're all doing identical quests, and it's impossible to pretend we're actually unique. The only things that separate my character from any other are static systems: my goofy mustache, how I spend skill points.

And yet I'm enjoying The Elder Scrolls Online. I feel all those things about it, but I'm still compelled to log in and finish the quests I've started, to level up so I can wear the cool armor I found, to keep my horse well-fed, to check in on my guild and see if anyone wants to go kill the same damn monsters over and over again. It's going to take me a while to process this. I'm enjoying TESO. I like an MMO that isn't EVE Online. I'm finding value in game design I believe is fundamentally flawed. Maybe it demonstrates that entertainment can defy reason. TESO doesn't challenge or inspire me, but it's nice to let go of the instinct to think critically. I can enjoy the illusion of a shared world without dissecting it or projecting my ideas of what it should be onto it.

Andy Kelly: This week I played the newest build of the Elite: Dangerous alpha, which adds docking. Now, I never played the original Elite, but Tony told me about the tension of trying to guide your ship into a tiny spinning slot. In Dangerous it's not as, well, dangerous, and I managed to squeeze in first time, although I hadn't requested docking permission and the station's auto-cannons blew my ship up. You live and learn. I'm becoming increasingly impressed by this Elite reboot, and between it and Star Citizen, I think there's a bright future ahead for big, open space sims. It's the best Rift game I've played as well, and that space station looks especially enormous in VR.

Cory Banks: Amy Hennig landing a new gig after her impressive run at Naughty Dog is pretty good news on its own. The fact that she's joining EA's Visceral Games as the creative director behind a Star Wars game? Even better. I'm sure there are plenty of PC gamers that haven't experienced the Uncharted series, since it's exclusive to the PS3, but Hennig's direction of the game's mechanics and—more importantly—its brilliant writing makes her a fantastic fit for a new Star Wars game. Not much is known about what that game will be, but I'm hopeful for it. There's nothing better than a great Star Wars game.

Phil Savage: Megaservers. No, sorry, MEGASERVERS . It's a name that demands capital letters. It's also a concept worth shouting about: doing away with Guild Wars 2's home worlds for multiple “cloned” versions of each zone, and a matchmaking system that tries to place you among your friends and guild mates.

It's not an original idea—both TESO and WoW have similar systems—but if implemented properly, it could fix two of the game's biggest problems. Underpopulated areas will become busier, because maps can accept players from multiple servers. At the other end of the scale, players looking to fight world bosses will no longer be scuppered by a full map. Currently, if you want to battle Tequatl—one of the game's trickiest dragons—you need to guest on a server with the PvE prowess to take him down. For the EU region, that means players flood to Desolation, and anyone who wants in on the main map needs to arrive over an hour early. Hopefully, when the MEGASERVER fully rolls out later this year, those who want to smack a dragon will be more easily able to smack a dragon.

Wes Fenlon: I'm so happy that Goat Simulator exists. It reminds me of a point Evan made when Octodad came out—comedy, especially slapstick, is painfully rare in games. Andy didn't have much fun with Goat Simulator , but our guest writer Angelina loved it . I think this is one goat that's going to have legs, too—the developers designed it to be moddable, and there are already some funny mods on Steam Workshop. There's one called "Super Ripped Goat" that's making me laugh, and I haven't even installed it.

The Lows

Andy Kelly: Although it was released a few weeks ago, I've only just got 'round to playing Deus Ex: The Fall, Square Enix's PC port of their mobile Human Revolution spin-off – and it sucks. I detail my reasons why in the review, which you can read in the next issue, but all it did was make me hungry for another proper Deus Ex. This Deus Ex Universe thing has me slightly worried, but only because series have a habit of ruining themselves. Apparently it's an 'umbrella' title for a bunch of linked Deus Ex games, and I really hope one of those will be the sequel we're all asking for, not just a bunch of mobile games or MOBAs or whatever. GIVE ME MORE DEUS EX. But the good kind.

Wes Fenlon: It's a sad week for the legacy of PC gaming with GameSpy shutting down . Technically the legendary online multiplayer service isn't dead quite yet, but the end is near: it's shutting down on May 31. We were all happy to see Games for Windows Live shutting down, and many developers have taken steps to transition GFWL services over to Steamworks. Many of the PC games that use GameSpy for matchmaking are too old to see the same treatment. With dedicated PC communities, there are always workarounds, but it bums me out how fragile and impermanent gaming's history can be.

Samuel Roberts : Any gaming April Fool's stories released this week. Except Blizzards', which were all brilliant and admirably elaborate.

Phil Savage : Sam's being a grumpy old man, albeit a sickeningly youthful one. There were plenty of great April Fool's jokes this year , and not just from Blizzard. There were also, inevitably, missteps, the biggest of which came from the Frostbite Engine's Twitter account . I don't care that the now deleted tweets— which you can read here —were making fun of the WiiU, even if the tone was strangely mean-spirited. It's that they also made a joke of DICE's inability to fix their own game.

“Good news, we have finally fixed and optimized our 'netcode'. Uses quantum entanglement for Zero Latency connections. Exclusively on #WiiU,” they wrote, while pretending Nintendo's latest console is the most powerful machine known to man. Haha, good one guys, people still can't reliably play a game they bought! The punchline arrived the next day, when DICE detailed a problem with “rubber-banding”, admitted that they were “unhappy with [their] server performance,” and claimed that “reducing lag for these players is absolutely a TOP priority”. ROFL.

Tyler Wilde: I'm disappointed by Betrayer. As I say with many more words in my review , it's full of great ideas, but most of its four-to-six hour running time is filled with rote combat and walking through empty woods. I can see how that happened. I can't speak for its developer, Blackpowder Games, but in my experience, being in love with good ideas can blind me to flaws in their execution. This is such an interesting topic , I'll think, but when I hand my article off to someone else to read, they tell me I'm trying to communicate too much, that it's meandering and unfocused, that I never fully realize any of my ideas. Oh, the ideas are good, sure, but what I made with them isn't. That's a very frustrating criticism to face, and I imagine the team at Blackpowder must feel a little disheartened by Betrayer's reviews. I hope they aren't discouraged, though. Their first draft shows a smartness that is going to result in something great.

Cory Banks: It's really not cool when your testers leak your game. That's what happened to the creators of Stalker: Lost Alpha , who had worked so hard to secure a commercial release with Stalker's original publisher, CSG Game World. Now that a build of the mod is out in the wild, the deal is off. Luckily, Dez0wave has at least decided to release an official version of the mod on April 26, but it'd be so much cooler if the team could get paid for its hard work.

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