The week's highs and lows in PC gaming


Chris Livingston: Sky-O-Stocked: Infinite
One of my favorite early-access games, Space Engineers, is planning to take the "space" portion of its title a bit more seriously. Much like actual outer space, Space Engineers is eventually going to be infinite, practically. In a blog post by Marek Rosa, Founder of Keen Software, he lays out the details of an upcoming Exploration feature:

"The exploration feature will add a practically infinite number of ships and stations to the game world, so there will always be something new to discover, explore, acquire and conquer. You can imagine it like this: you are traveling in some direction and there is an asteroid, so you decide to check it and see if there’s something in its tunnels, in its proximity or on its surface. Or you just fly through empty space and boom, a lost wreck shows near you."

It would take quite a hefty PC to render countless ships and asteroids, so they'll only be generated if you're in their vicinity, and drop out once you've moved on. What's more, Rosa is asking the community if they'd like their custom-made ships and space stations to be used in this infinite universe in exchange for adding the creators' names to the game's credits. They're polling the community now to see if they players are on board, and at the moment, more than 90% of players are currently in favor of using community creations rather than procedurally generated ships or hiring new designers for the task.

Personally, I'd say combine all three of the options: hire the best builders from the community to make new ships and see if they can also come up with a solid random ship generator. Either way, the idea of getting in a ship and doing unrestricted space exploration sounds exciting to me. My current space station is such a shoddy, poorly-planned embarrassment I wouldn't mind rocketing away from it and never returning.

Evan Lahti: Epic gets busy
Fortnite is real! Seemingly. Alpha sign-ups for the game were being offered all the way back in April, and Epic has finally opened up its ambitious Minecraft-like survival and building game up to testers. It's been so long since we've had something new from engine-maker Epic, and with this an a new Unreal Tournament on the way I think we'll have at least two highly-moddable games on the horizon for next year.

Assassin s Creed Slide

Tim Clark: “Sir, when a man is tired of London…”
Earlier this week I found myself reaching for an appropriate image to convey extreme leakiness. A collander? Too obvious. The roof of my old flat which used to gush during any major rainstorm which, living in Bath, meant always? Too personal. I needn’t have bothered. I should have just said “leaky like Ubisoft”, because right now, among major publishers, there are none more leaky. And so it was that with Assassin’s Creed: Unity still being frantically patched into respectability, news broke of the next game, Victory, which we now know will be set in Victorian London.

To which I say hurrah and huzzah. I’ve been banging on about how a fog-shrouded London—all stovepipe hats, Hansom cabs and Jack the Ripper slayings—would be an amazing backdrop for the series for years. Will the game be any good? Probably. I say that on the basis that whilst III was a dull old drag, IV was one of my favourite games in recent years. Given that Unity has been a dip on the graph, it ought to mean Victory is a glorious upswing. If only for reasons of nominative determinism. As to whether Ubisoft leaked it on purpose, I would say absolutely not. I don’t think hinting at a brighter (and, uh, foggier) future while people are struggling with what they’ve just bought in the present is likely to mollify anyone. Nonetheless, for London alone, Victory’s loose-lipped reveal is my high.

Samuel Roberts: Syncing on Big Ben
This is a contentious one, because the reaction I’ve picked up on to the Assassin’s Creed Victory’s announcement is either, “not another one!” or “fix Unity first!” Both fair points, there are too many (I tend to skip years with the series) and Unity is still subject to ongoing updates. But as someone who lives in the UK and is familiar with the Victorian era through a) boring school history lessons in which I was likely daydreaming about Civ II instead of actually working and b) Alan Moore’s From Hell, I thought that Ubi’s interpretation of London looked amazing in the leaked screens for Victory.

The smoke rising above the skies, the slightly exaggerated colour palette so it looks ever-so-slightly steampunk-y. And hey, environmental design and art direction are elements of Unity that most people agree are still pretty impressive, so I see little reason to doubt Ubisoft’s ability to get London right here. The rest of the game? Not sure I can vouch for that just yet.

Shovel Knight Slide

Phil Savage: Keep on Shovellin’
According to its developer's Twitter account, Shovel Knight has sold over 300,000 copies. I'm pleased because, coincidentally, I started playing it this week. It's brilliant; almost surprisingly so. I'm usually pretty cool on 2D indie platformers. There are over 70-gajillion available, but only a handful I really like, let alone feel compelled to complete. Braid, Super Meat Boy, Bit.Trip Runner 2, Spelunky, and now this.

It's great because the controls are perfect—as precise as is necessary for a Duck Tales-inspired pogo-ing platformer. It’s also great because the challenge is pitched just right. Die, and you lose gold. But rather than lose it permanently, it'll float around the site of your demise—giving you the chance to go and get it back. It's one of those clever Dark Souls lessons that desperately needed to filter into other genres. Death isn't a thing to be punished; a lack of progress and improvement is. Great, too, is its size. Shovel Knight is filled with secrets and hidden surprises, inviting you to keep pushing further into the world map. I think I will.

Chris Thursten: ML-GG WP GO NEXT
MLG's return to Dota 2 amounts to more than just another tournament. It's a subtle but significant recalibration of the competitive scene, and unlike most of these announcements it affects amateur players too. They're incorporating the MLG Pro Point system with JoinDOta's own ladders, creating a coherent way for teams to measure their progress.

While those big prizes will almost certainly go to top-tier teams, a system like this allows for greater upsets and more mobility. The lower tiers have needed something like this: a bit of money and muscle behind the concept of a year-round ladder. Dota's in-built team matchmaking doesn't amount to much, and community-generated equivalents are low-impact and isolated. This deal marks a step towards something more permanent, and I'm pretty excited to get my team involved.

By 'involved' I mean 'languish in the starter bracket for another season', but hey. It's still good news.

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