This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Carmack Rift

The Highs

Ian Dransfield: Carmack-ing history
John Carmack being awarded the BAFTA Fellowship is just a really nice, really good thing to happen, and I cannot think of many more deserving folks in the world of gaming. Sure, there are visionaries and creatives, minds behind great games and studios and all that good stuff—but Carmack is another level. He’s put gaming where it is today from a technical standpoint.

The praise for Carmack might usually just boil down to “Doom! Keynotes! Some engines!”, but it really goes so much further. Without that man we’d probably be 10 years behind where we are right now (at least) with gaming tech—3D engines and multiplayer gaming via the internet being his calling cards. We also wouldn’t have Quake, and without Quake, what is life? Exactly.

Phil Savage: Welcoming Tyranny
This week, we learned a little more about Tyranny—Obsidian's upcoming RPG about a world where evil has already prevailed. Despite the subject matter, the game's existence is definitely a good thing. For one, it means Pillars of Eternity did well enough for the developer that they're prepared to jump straight into a new game based on its Infinity Engine inspired tech. I'm still getting a nostalgic kick out of Pillars, and a continuation of that style is something I welcome.

Tyranny also sounds interesting in and of itself. I'm intrigued to know what evil looks like in Tyranny, because games—especially RPGs—are traditionally quite bad at depicting it. The evil path in RPGs usually means being a bit petty and sarcastic, and killing people for no particular benefit to yourself or your plans. It's less villainous, more sociopathic (and a touch emo, to boot). A game created around the concept will hopefully do a better job. Or maybe not. Just look at Overlord.

Dark Souls 3 Slide

James Davenport: Dark soul, light heart
Two new vessels for displeasure landed in my lap this last week. One, I’m playing Dark Souls 3 for review (read my early thoughts here) and even though this isn’t my first lap around the track, it’s managed to keep me on edge—sometimes to the point of nausea—for nearly 30 hours. Two, The Body, one of my favorite bands, released a new album and it’s been a perfect tonal companion for Dark Souls 3. It’s called No One Deserves Happiness, which might as well be the subtitle for every Souls game from here until the end of time. Give it a listen, if you like.

Sure, it’s hokey that I love wallowing in bleak everythings, but I typically benefit from a voluntary jog through misery. I’m reminded of long winters back home, or the more difficult moments in my life I’ve managed to stumble through. I don’t enjoy these things in the same way I do a comedy or jovial pop tune. They’re valuable because they signify solidarity, that someone else has also seen long winters or tough times, that we’re all just little cartoon mice singing about the same moon.

Samuel Roberts: Phoenix rising
I was lucky enough to talk to X-Com creator Julian Gollop at the PC Gamer Weekender earlier this month. He told me then that he was working on an X-Com-style game as his next project, and this week he announced it: Phoenix Point.

Between this, XCOM 2, Xenonauts and a few others, I like how XCOM-style games are a growing sub-genre on PC, and I can’t wait to see how the creator of the series brings a modern approach to his own influential design ideas.

Jesus Rpg Slide

Chris Livingston: Mary Mary, why you buggin'
Since it's almost Easter and all, I thought I'd get in the spirit by playing a free game called Jesus Christ RPG Trilogy. It didn't go so well. First, the window you play in is tiny and I couldn't figure out to make it any bigger. Second, there's no slider for the music volume, which is louder than one million angels screaming on the head of a pin. Third, I got the Virgin Mary killed almost immediately, and Joseph with her.

Playing as Virgin Mary, things started out okay. The Immaculate Conception went off without a hitch, and hubby Joseph was completely understanding that I'd been knocked up by The Lord. We found some fish, a bunch of gold, and a stone hammer in some treasure chests. As Mary, I accepted a quest to assassinate Herod, and though I've never read the Bible I assume that's not canon. As we headed out of town, Mary and Joseph were accosted by three Desert Bandits. Joseph killed one with his hammer (the game informed me the bandit went to hell) but Joseph and Mary were quickly killed by the other two (the game told me they went to heaven, at least). So, not a great Easter for them.

To be clear, getting Mary and Joseph killed before Jesus could even be born is not my high. My high is that Easter is on Sunday and I am going to eat ham. So much ham, you guys.

Tyler Wilde: Green grass and blue skies
I’m feeling good for two reasons: One, NHL playoffs are around the corner, and two, that means it’s time for baseball season. Green grass! Blue skies! What wonderful synchronicity that my two favorite sports align so neatly, each starting as the other ends.

There are a few ways to get into the baseball mood. You can toss a ball around, for instance, but I have no one to toss a ball with except my two month old puppy, and it would probably just hit her in the face. You can also argue on Twitter about whether or not showing any emotion at all after hitting a home run should be punishable by excommunication from the church of baseball, but I think I’d rather hug a spider. Finally, you can play Out of the Park Baseball, which is widely felt to be the best sports management sim ever, and I was happy to see that this year’s version isn’t an exception. I’m completely overwhelmed by OOTP 17 so far, but I’ll get there. Maybe.

Also, James’ taste in music baffles me and I like it. I’m glad he’s reviewing Dark Souls 3 so I can sit here thinking about bearded men trying to hit balls really hard.


Tuan Nguyen: In the ears of the beholder

I’m swimming in a sea of headphones, and more keep getting dropped off. The FedEx and UPS guys that handle the route I’m on, I’m sure, are now best friends. I became the accidental matchmaker.

At first, it may seem like testing headphones all day long is an enjoyable part of the job. Let me dispel that myth right now: it is a grueling and complicated process. Not only did I have to get training, but I also had to spend a significant learning how to use, and build sequences in a sophisticated program called SoundCheck.

It’s also a slightly physical job. I spend a good amount of time positioning the headphones and taking measurements five different ways to get an average. There’s no perfect way to wear headphones, and while the head and torso simulator has rulers as guides, positions will still vary slightly. Getting the drivers to equalize is also a mission and of itself. You don’t want measurements where one side is louder than the other.

But is it all worth it? Hell yeah it is. I mean, just look at all the headphones and headsets I get to play with!

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