The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

H1Z1 highs and lows


Chris L. H1Z-Fun?
H1Z1's alpha launch, marked by long server outages and other issues, was my low last week. While the game still has a long, long way to go, I did have a fun session recently, and realized something important: the game is so new it's not full of horrible terrible evil murderous people yet.

Example: I ran into a fresh-spawn being chased by two wolves, and I beat the animals to death with a stick while he stood out of reach on some haybales. He thanked me, told me he had a friend in the next town he was trying to link up with, and invited me to come along. This set off my internal alarm: in DayZ, anyone inviting you to come with him to meet a friend in the next town is luring you into a trap involving murder, robbery, or general humiliation.

This was legit, though. We found his friend, who was just as pleasant, and the three of us ran to a police station, at which point I left them. A little later, I ran into a third guy who, as it happens, was trying to find the first two guys I had met. I led him back to the police station for a reunion, and we all traded food and medical supplies after killing a bunch of zombies together. At no point did any of them shoot me in the face or hold me up or strip me to my underwear or beat me to death.

Granted, the tension-filled player encounters of DayZ, horrifying as they can be, are part of what makes DayZ so compelling. (I used to run a tumblr about my experiences.) But for now, I'm happy to have run into some nice, friendly folks. Later, four other players repeatedly tried to run me over with the police car they were driving. Then I was killed by a bear.

Evan Lahti: Storefront
I think we’ve all taken swipes at Origin—it’s definitely still a service that’s finding its legs beyond being a launcher for Battlefield, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age—but its mere existence is something we continue to benefit from as PC gamers. Folks that play on other platforms essentially have one choice of store—Microsoft’s, Nintendo’s, or Sony’s—and retail options will continue to narrow as digital distribution becomes as ubiquitous on consoles as it has been on PC for years. Steam is certainly the giant, but its competition continues to throw incentives at us, as Origin did this week, to give people a reason to consider them. Part of me hopes that we’ll see Steam’s dominance of the market degrade further, because it’s ultimately in our interest.

Star Wars slide

Samuel Roberts: Star Wars!
I have to hand it to GOG and Disney—Lucasarts was, frankly, useless at getting its back catalogue on Steam following the first drop of titles in 2009, and serious money was being left on the table by not getting the likes of X-Wing Alliance, Rogue Squadron et al on a digital distribution platform. This week, GOG re-released some of the best Star Wars games ever, running smoothly on Windows 7 and 8, and is quickly approaching a full collection of the greatest ones Lucasarts made in their time. It makes me think Disney might end up being better custodians of the Star Wars games than Lucasarts were.

Do all these games hold up? Well, I haven’t had the chance to sample X-Wing Alliance again yet—that’s this weekend’s plan—but Rogue Squadron is okay as an arcade-style shooter, even though it doesn’t seem to play nice with any of my USB devices on laptop (I’m not the only one, judging by the forum, but I will keep trying) and it’s hand-breakingly hard to play on just a keyboard. There are certain things about that game that made sense to me as a kid that no longer add up for me as an adult. Mostly nerdy things. In the first chapter set on Tatooine, why is the Empire bombing Mos Eisley? Why is every landspeeder exactly the same as Luke Skywalker’s, and why did they send imperial probe droids to blow up moisture farms instead of little stormtrooper guys? Aren’t they meant for reconnaissance? Is Jabba’s Palace really a 5-minute drive (or 20-minute walk) from Mos Eisley? The answer to all of these questions, of course, is who gives a crap. Star Wars!

Wes Fenlon: Smitten with my favorite PC Gamer show
Okay, so the Smite World Championship actually happened a couple weeks ago—but our episode of the PC Gamer Show going behind the scenes of the event just went up, and it's definitely the highlight of my week. With this video, we had a chance to do more than cover the basics of who won and lost the tournament. We got to go backstage and see the command center for the event, with more than a dozen Hi-Rez staffers (most of them in their early 20s) running cameras and sound and a live Twitch broadcast. It was their first tournament of this scale, but they knocked it out of the park. I talked to Hi-Rez's bosses about how they put the whole thing together, which is part of the show. Even if you're not a Smite player, if you like MOBAs or other e-sports, I think you'll dig it.

Galactic Civ 3 Slide

Tom Senior: Spaceblam!
This week I got quite excited about Galactic CIvilizations 3’s “battle viewer” mode that lets you watch your custom spaceships massacre the enemy with lasers you’ve bought and installed. That probably means I should think about getting in on the Early Access build, but if I’m going to invest 70 hours in a dense strategy game, I’d rather it was finished, tested and balanced first. I might scratch my urge to do space war this weekend by returning to one of the space-laseriest games of them all: Gratuitous Space Battles.

Phil Savage: A smattering of games
Received wisdom tells us that January is a slow month for games, and yet, this week, my inbox has been full of people telling me to check out cool things. Whatever the AAA industry may or may not be up to, someone somewhere is definitely making a game.

Here's a sample of what came my way. On Kickstarter, the charming Children of Morta, the genre-bending Starr Mazer and the '90s aping Strafe. On Early Access, the fiendish Infinifactory and the perplexing Soul Axiom. And on Greenlight, the ontological Pneuma and the experimental Her Story. Each unique in its own way, and it’s hopefully a sign that 2015 will packed with diverse new experiences. And hey, if absolutely none of that appeals, you can always pretend to be John Malkovich. Top work, video games!

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