The Week's Highs And Lows In PC Gaming

Tim Clark

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Each week the PC Gamer team clambers onto a really big couch and recounts the best and worst moments of the past seven days. On this page you get the good stuff. On the next page, the not so good stuff. Guess which one the Oculus buyout is in…

THE HIGHS

Andy Kelly: I rarely get giddy over technology, but I loved the GDC video demo of Ubisoft Massive's Snowdrop engine . It's too early to say whether The Division will be any good, but there's no denying it's a handsome game, backed by impressive tech. As someone who appreciates good world design, I like how the software has been designed to make the environment artists' lives easier. That explains those hyper-detailed streets in the first Division trailer. I hope the game matches their quality.

Tom Senior: I experienced an enjoyable burst of existential ennui during a long session with Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls this week. There's a thread of humour running through the expansion that gives the fourth wall a good prod, even if it never fully breaks it. One character laments that Diablo will inevitably return again as he always has done and always will. Another complains about being trapped in an "endless game" between heaven and hell. There's a slight weariness among the supporting cast, as though they know that killing Malthael won't end the eternal boss rush that began with Diablo's release in 1996.

I started to see the game from the perspective of the townsfolk. There they stood, never talking to one another, never eating, never sleeping. The only excitement in their lives happened once every few hours, when a manic level 70 wizard teleported into their village to sell a load of clothes. Sanctuary is located somewhere between heaven and hell, and I suppose that those NPCs are all trapped in a horrible purgatory, cursed to serve as room-meat in a wizard's amazing adventure. I felt sad for a moment, then I lasered a boss in half and got over it.

Phil Savage: Galactic Civilizations 3 is coming! I'll not be jumping in to this week's early access launch – I'm too much of a pacifist to play a 4X before diplomacy is added—but anything that brings us closer to its eventual release is enough to make me smile. Specifically, this week, it was the unveiling of the first game footage . It might not seem like much, but various interface and map changes suggest what could be vast improvements on the previous game.

And what a game GalCiv2 was. Its AI felt like the Deep Blue of the 4X strategy genre, only without the accusations of cheating. For a taste of why it's so challenging, your life can be immeasurably improved by reading Tom Francis' excellent GalCiv diaries . Wait… It costs how much ?

Cory Banks: I haven't encountered a lot of cheating in Titanfall, but I know it's there. Which is why I'm glad Respawn announced that it's finally acting on the data its anti-cheating system has detected. But it's the way cheaters will be punished that delights me most.

Instead of outright banning offenders, Respawn will let cheaters continue to play – but only against other cheaters. “You can play with other banned players in something that will resemble the Wimbledon of aimbot contests," the team wrote on its blog. "Hopefully the aimbot cheat you paid for really is the best, or these all-cheater matches could be frustrating for you. Good luck.” Seriously, how rad is that?

Tim Clark: As a lover of both stupidly high-end graphics and weirdo horror fiction (I'm currently reading The King In Yellow off the back of all the references in True Detective), I can't wait to see more of The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter. Both Phil and I were so struck by The Astronauts' startling use of photogrammetry to create eye-wateringly realistic visuals that we decided to write about it this week – here and here . Oh, and Andrzej Poznanski's blog post explaining how the technique works really is worth your time. Come for the lucid explanation of a complex graphical technique, stay for the spinning screenshots!

Evan Lahti: Nvidia's announcement of the Titan Z adds a “ludicrous” GPU tier to the market. The benefit of a $3,000 graphics card doesn't seem like it'll be proportionate to its cost, but do we care? There are plenty of reliable Toyotas, Fords, and Audis in PC gaming—I love that we have a fully absurd, Bugatti-of-a-videocard again. It's aspirational and ridiculous, and we'll look forward to benchmarking. Selfishly, too, it's a reason for us to upgrade the LPC .

One more bright spot: Smite came out this week and I've been having a terrific time with it. Fellow MOBA-curious FPS players should give it a look—it's a WASD game.

THE LOWS

Andy Kelly: Anyone who reads The Rift Report will know that I'm a tedious VR evangelist. I have a Rift on my desk and spend much of my working day plugged into it, staring open-mouthed at things that aren't really there and going “Wow!” So I've been following the Facebook buyout news closely—and the predictable backlash—and I'm really not sure what to think. I'm no fan of Zuckerberg's social media empire, but I also don't think (perhaps naively) that it'll have an adverse effect on the hardware.

The nightmare scenario is that Rift becomes a closed platform like iOS, and you'll only be able to download games for it through some horrid blue-coloured Facebook bloatware. But the idea that VR experiences will suddenly be full of floating banner ads seems a bit short-sighted to me. They might well ruin it, but not like that. I'm fully prepared to be proven wrong, but it'd be mad for them to buy something so revolutionary and then turn it into a jumped-up Farmville console.

It's just a shame that there's now all this negativity orbiting the Oculus Rift, because, for me, it's one of the most exciting things in gaming at the moment. I wasn't convinced at all when I first heard about it, but after experimenting with the office development kit for the last couple of months, I'm convinced it's going to be a big deal. I do feel for the Kickstarter backers, though. Their anger is justified. Virtual reality is a difficult concept to sell, and it doesn't need all this bad press stinking the place up.

Tom Senior: Bethesda revealed their Wolfenstein: The New Order Panzerhund Edition box this week, which comes with a model of a robot dog, some story materials and a metal tin, but not the game itself. Bethesda advise you to "hold onto your pre-order" and have that delivered separately. It's as though a factory's worth of marketing tat has gone rogue and charged off into the world without a master. Without the game to give them context, the contents of the Panzerhund toybox look a little sad.

Collector's Editions can be nice, however, especially if they come with cloth maps and lovely art books, but the culture of pricey pre-orders is as dodgy as ever. Pre-orders are great for publishers: they get early sales data and circumvent reviews. For customers, they're a gamble. I'd almost always recommend saving your money and waiting for recommendations from friends and reviewers you trust before paying full price. Failing that, a Steam sale is never far away.

Cory Banks: The Facebook/Oculus news just seems to bring out the worst in everyone. Markus 'Notch' Persson canceled plans for a Minecraft-Oculus project after hearing about the deal, tweeting that Facebook “creeps him out” and writing a blog post that questions his $10,000 Kickstarter pledge. Then Cliff Bleszinski, formerly of Epic Games and current Oculus investor, weighed in on the potential benefits that Facebook can bring for the impending release of the Rift, and took a moment to call Notch a “pouty kid.”

I get it: everyone has an opinion on the surprising news of the acquisition. But the name-calling and fingerpointing is, frankly, a bit too far. You don't have to be happy about Facebook and Oculus joining forces, but you can show your displeasure in a more civil manner. Notch, Cliff, I respect you both, but leaders in this industry need to conduct themselves at a higher level than a Reddit commenter. When the mainstream looks for stereotypes to apply to our beloved hobby, this level of immaturity is what stands out. Let's grow up a little bit.

Phil Savage: Like Andy, I'm waiting to see how Oculus's buyout plays out. But even though I'm not convinced it's the end times for VR tech, I can't help but sympathise with those who feel let down. You can see the pain all over the comments of the Kickstarter community , where people are using emotive terms like “betrayed”, “saddened”, and “douchebag”.

These are the people who originally believed in Oculus. They invested in it—not in the banking sense, but in the emotional one. The counter-argument to their complaints is that they received a Dev Kit, and so completed the “Kickstarter transaction”. That seems to go against the service's spirit, but perhaps the real problem is that nobody really knows what that spirit is. Is it about fostering ideas and creativity, or securing a cheap version of a potential future product? Whatever the ultimate role of crowdfunding, leaving so many feeling so unhappy seems to go against it.

Tim Clark: Shit. It's happened. I've started dropping actually money on Hearthstone expert packs. If anyone's looking for me over the course of the next month or so while this jag lasts, I'll be under the arches offering services rendered in exchange for sweet rares.

Evan Lahti: Not that we'd expect anything less from a franchise that's been mired in delays and development controversy for more than a full decade, but it's worrying to see Gearbox and 3D Realms still apparently engaged in a tug-of-war over the rights to Duke Nukem.

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