Evan Lahti: Three’s company?
Dota 2 and League of Legends are the most popular games on PC, and probably worldwide, if we’re excluding mobile games. Other MOBAs have come and gone like seasonal milkshake flavors in the past few years: Heroes of Newerth, Bloodline Champions, Super Monday Night Combat. Barely two months ago EA’s Dawngate was cancelled. Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm goes into beta in just a few days, when we’ll get a better sense of how well it’s likely to be embraced.
Smite has always faced tough competition for attention and players, but this weekend’s World Championship, backed by a more than $2.5 million purse, is proving that there’s at least room for three games in the genre. Hi-Rez was criticized for not supporting Tribes: Ascend for as long or as vigorously as some players hoped, but the dev has done an excellent job of expanding, patching, and promoting its MOBA. Smite’s being ported to Xbox One, where I think its behind-the-back perspective will help it find a stronger audience than other console games in the genre.
Tyler Wilde: USB is getting better
Life before the Universal Serial Bus was a sad thing, full of goofy Mini-DIN connectors and 9-pin DE-9s with one bent pin. I spent every day crying. And then there was USB, an imperfect solution, but what an improvement. This year, as Wes reported from CES 2015, the new USB standard is coming—and it sounds like a dream.
First of all: the new Type C reversible connector. A connector what you can reverse! It’s just an accepted fact that when reaching behind something to plug in a USB connector you’re going to try and fail at least three times. No more—at least when Type C is widely adopted.
More importantly, though, is the new USB 3.1 standard: we’re talking 10 gigabits per second and 100W of power. We probably won’t see it on motherboards until much later this year, but it’s on the way. Oh, the things we will charge, and the data we will transfer!
Chris Livingston: Run, Shepard, Run
This morning Jonathan Cooper posted a Tweet showing his first animation test of Commander Shepard for the original Mass Effect. The test took place ten years ago this month, and it's neat to see the very beginnings of one of the coolest characters to ever grace our monitors. It also makes me want to go back and play the Mass Effect games again, which is odd, because I swore I never, ever would.
Not because I didn't enjoy them, but because I enjoyed them so much I didn't want to overwrite the memory of the choices I made the first time around. They weren't always the best choices, and they didn't always result in the outcomes I desired, but I never had the urge to go back and try something different. What happened in my playthrough of Mass Effect is simply what happened, and going back just to explore paths untaken feels almost like a crime against my memories. Still, I miss my ol' renegade Shepard. A lot. Maybe it's finally time to clomp around in her boots again.
Samuel Roberts: Steam in-home streaming
When was the last time you tried Steam’s in-home streaming function? Maybe you’ve never tried it all—it’s free to all users of Steam and works with every game in your library. Previously, I’d been using it to stream simpler menu-based stuff like Game Dev Tycoon from my GTX 780-equipped home PC to my netbook that barely runs Half-Life 2 at 30fps on lowest settings, but this week I tried it with Alien: Isolation and was amazed by the results.
I downgraded the resolution to fit the 768p screen of my laptop screen and had it running responsively and smoothly, even with my rubbish UK 2mb/s download speeds. The next step, clearly, is setting up my netbook in the toilet. I feel like there’s massive benefit there for someone keen to have both a regular and living room PC setup without having to double down on expensive hardware. It’s completely free—give it a go if you haven’t already.
Tom Senior: Raiding the IGF
My first act on the announcement of the IGF shortlist is to try and hoover up any items on there I haven’t yet played. Every year the IGF serves up a tasting menu of clever and beautiful things, and the games I’ve tried so far have pulled me through a dizzying procession of themes, from life, the universe and everything (Talos Principle) to morbid war-is-hell survival (This War of Mine). Having polished off a lot of last year’s big-budget games, it’s good to use January to investigate the quality indie projects I’ve missed before GTA 5 arrives at the end of the month, then it’s bank heists in Los Santos forever.
Phil Savage: Gotta go fast
Awesome Games Done Quick is a week-long charity stream for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. This year's event kicked off last Sunday, and since then some of the biggest names in speedrunning have demolished everything from Duke Nukem 3D to Transistor. I've had it on in the background throughout the week—a procession of skill jumps, wall clips and trigger skips providing the background to an otherwise painfully slow seven days.
The dedication these communities have to excelling at their chosen game is inspiring. Not inspiring enough that I'm going to try following in their footsteps, but... well, you know. It's great to see people who love games coming together in celebration and admiration of hard-earned talent, and to help raise money for charity in the process. If you've missed any of the action, I'll be putting together a collection of the best PC runs after the event has finished. In the meantime, you can find everything up to now via this Reddit thread.