The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Phil Savage

Each week PC Gamer's writers gather around a seance table and ask the previous seven days to reveal themselves. Not like that.

Tim Clark: What kept you, Snake?

I'm mostly not much one for boss battles, but the fight with The End from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is, by a distance, my favourite. It's funny, tense and startlingly creative—essentially everything that's good about Hideo Kojima's stealth series. [Spoiler: if you couldn't beat him conventionally, you could kill him with old age by altering the PS2's internal clock.] Kojima's detractors inevitably point to his narrative excess and his games' debatable interactivity but, honestly, screw that noise. Metal Gear Solid V coming to PC , in the form of both The Phantom Pain and its Ground Zeroes prelude, is great news. As Tyler pointed out in his

rousing piece earlier this week, this is an interesting, systems-based game running on a powerful engine. The PC version will likely be the definitive one. Now we just need Konami to confirm P.T. next...

Phil Savage: Craving curation

Steam is changing. Today saw the release of some new library upgrades, and, thanks to the dataminers of SteamDB, we've got an idea of the upcoming improvements to the service's store. This is all good news. Few things this week excited me more than realising I can now select multiple games in my Steam library. No, don't look at me like that. I own a lot of games and have a need to categorise them all.

Okay, fine, the potential store changes are more notable. Specifically, the idea of following individual and group curators for personalised front pages. It's a necessary move—the continued sale of games like Air Control proves that Valve aren't interested in running a curated platform. Here's the thing: they never were. For years, they allowed unmitigated shit onto the store because they had deals in place with the publishers who shat them. Being on Steam is not, and has never been, a guarantee of quality. But being on the recommendations list of some reliable curators could be.

Tyler Wilde: Shadow Realms

Last week, I was griping about BioWare's live action 'You've Been Chosen' teasers. I'm skeptical of any game revealed by not telling us what the game is . This week, however, we've all begun forgetting about the teasers in favor of having thoughts about Shadow Realms , the game they were teasing. And Shadow Realms sounds pretty cool. It's a 4v1 episodic RPG, where the 'one' is the Shadowlord, who's essentially a dungeon master. The Shadowlord attempts to stop the party “haunting them, setting traps, casting spells, summoning monsters, and controlling any monster in the level." And despite last week's cryptic marketing, which usually suggests there's nothing real to show, alpha invites are going out next month. Find out more in our interview with BioWare Austin General Manager Jeff Hickman.

Samuel Roberts: Metal Gear? It can't be!

I have to echo Tim's enthusiasm for Metal Gear Solid V coming to PC – I'm a huge fan of that series and I've completed all of them multiple times (except MGS4, since life's slightly too short for me to sit through its ludicrous hour-long closing cutscene again). I now want Konami to take it further. Some PC players would like an education on Metal Gear and why it's been so critically and commercially successful on consoles for such a long period of time. Konami already ported the original to PC years ago. Why not bring it out on Steam? Likewise, a few years ago, Konami employed port specialists BluePoint to remake MGS2 (eh), MGS3 (amazing) and PeaceWalker (very odd, but with a lot of connections to MGSV). MGSV is a great start from Konami, and I'm glad it's not being seen as an afterthought release-wise like Revengeance was, but I think re-releasing the older games on PC could see that series be even bigger on Steam than it is on consoles. As Andy pointed out a few months ago , Metal Gear Solid has always belonged on PC.

Evan Lahti: Go, go, go!

I'm so happy to see CS:GO gaining more popularity as an e-sport. On Thursday, during only the group stages (the seeding rounds) of the ESL One championship in Cologne, Cloud9's match against Titan peaked at 270,000 concurrent viewers. Those aren't Dota 2 or League of Legends numbers, of course, but that figure exceeds what CS:GO drew during the grand finals of its last tournament. Valve made some improvements to CS:GO's spectating experience in a recent patch, and its comment during The International indicates that they might be throwing more of their support behind the game—on most days the second-most popular on Steam—in the future. It's inherently tougher for FPSes to catch on as e-sports because perspective-swapping between players isn't necessarily a great experience, especially for non-players, but continued support from Valve would have a huge impact on the scene.

Tom Senior: Rise of the PC

PCs are everywhere at Gamescom. They're pushing Ryse to 4K monitors in Crytek's booth, rendering 4 vs. 1 battles in Evolve and Shadow Realms. They're powering Firaxis' Civ: Beyond Earth demoes, sitting under tables in Paradox' booths and enabling huge League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive contests on the show floor. The Metal Gear Solid 5 announcement is the big news of the week, but it's symptomatic of the quiet ascendency of a platform that wasn't taken seriously by some publishers five or six years ago. There are a few holdouts, sure. I reckon Rise of the Tomb Raider will make it over late, and we may never see a PC version of Destiny, but these instances are proving increasingly rare. Hopefully in future, if we're lucky, we'll see more simultaneous PC/console releases for more big budget games, but let's not go too crazy.

THE LOWS

Samuel Roberts: Gamescom blues

Gamescom is like the local/mid-term elections in the realm of trade shows. If you're a journalist or one of the thousands of people being squashed in Cologne, I'm sure it's delightful, as the show is notably better for access than it is for news – but from the outside looking in, it felt like a bit of a non-starter for announcements outside of the great news about Metal Gear (I also share Tim's love of The End, MGS3's astonishing boss battle), the reveal of Shadow Realms from BioWare and the Tomb Raider thing that pissed absolutely everyone off (even though the whole thing might be a timed exclusive – it's pretty hard to work that bit out). A bunch of EA titles that probably should've made an appearance – Star Wars: Battlefront, Mirror's Edge, any of the other BioWare games in production – didn't, meaning it'll likely be another ten months before we get even a whisper out of them again. If you're at home watching out for Gamescom announcements, I can't imagine it was nearly as exciting as the E3 shows were. There's plenty to look forward to in the rest of 2014 and early 2015, but for actual new things, it was kind of quiet.

Tom Senior: Gamescom attendees deserve a little more

Three hundred thousand people bought tickets and stormed the Koelnmesse this week, and many queue for a long time to be ushered into a theatre and shown some trailers at ear splitting volume. Ticket holders deserve a chance to catch some advanced access for their cash, so here's a shout-out to the developers who put playable builds on the show floor this year. Often games aren't ready for mass consumption in the wild conditions of a conference hall, but when you walk past rows and rows of packed-out Fifa kiosks every day it's clear how much that exclusive access matters to people. People were even enjoying a few battles in PIllars of Eternity in one noisy corner of Hall 9. I can only admire their powers of concentration.

Tyler Wilde: Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Xbox exclusive

I don't care much about exclusivity deals that keep games off the Xbox One or PS4 (though I'm sure I would if I owned one or the other), but when the PC gets lumped in? And by Microsoft? It makes me feel unwanted, alienated. Why can't you just be an Xbox gamer?

As I argued earlier this week , Square Enix might be getting a good deal by making Rise of the Tomb Raider a timed Xbox exclusive, but I'm still disappointed whenever risk abatement involves withholding games. I get it, though. Developing games is expensive and any way to help ensure success is welcome. But for the brave, a lot of money can be made on the PC, and I fear console-focused publishers will never have a chance to figure it out amid their exclusivity deals and pre-order bonuses. The response to making less money on PC, where there are no discs to print, no used games, and long-term promotion, should be to solve it.

Oh, also, hey Microsoft, I'd buy a PS4 before an Xbox One, so seriously, don't worry about keeping games off the PC. It won't help anyway.

Phil Savage: Exclusively empty

I get that words change their meaning over time. This is a natural and healthy part of the evolution of language. But sometimes evolution goes wrong. This has happened to the word “exclusive”. It hasn't changed its meaning; it's lost its meaning. It is meaningless—a carcass of a word that rots the sentence that it's dumped in.

I watched Gamescom's console press conferences in a state of constant confusion. The word exclusive was deployed in so many ways, for so many scenarios, and none of them applied to what the word should mean. Even worse was the phrase “first on console for Xbox/Playstation,” which was liberally spat out for games already on PC . The phrasing is deliberately ambiguous. It can be read in multiple ways, but specifically applies to one. If a core part of your business strategy is to mislead your customers through empty phrasing, you are doing something wrong.

Tim Clark: A beastly problem

Just when I thought I couldn't QQ any harder about the seemingly endless stream of Zoo players in Hearthstone—this week's highlight: queuing into five straight Zoos in casual —back come the bloody Hunters. Between the Webspinner and Haunted Creeper, the Hunter class already had its early game bolstered by the new Naxxramas cards, but with the arrival of the secret-spawning Mad Scientist this week the class is now likely out of control again. Hey, you like playing against secrets right? Wait and see how much you like playing against opponents who don't even have to pay any Mana for them. The salt is strong with me.

Evan Lahti: Steam needs an overhaul

Steam updates constantly, but the design of the client itself has remained almost untouched for at least a few years. SteamDB sniffed out an upcoming update to Steam, but it only seems to address a few piecemeal issues rather than being a skin-to-bones reimagining of the program, which I think Steam desperately needs. The glut of indie games, DLC, Workshop content, and software that's flooded Steam in the past few years has rendered the store page and other corners of the program less useful; it's unlikely that tweaking Steam's lame tags system or adding a “discovery queue” will address Steam's fundamental problem: there's too much stuff, and it isn't meaningfully organized.

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