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Pixel Boost: Sid Meier's Pirates!

Wes Fenlon at

Twice a month, Pixel Boost guides you through the hacks, tricks, and mods you'll need to run a classic PC game on Windows 7/8. Each guide comes with a free side of hi-res screenshots from the LPC celebrating the graphics of PC gaming's past. This week: Yarr!.

First, there were pirates, the sea dogs of the the 17th century Caribbean. Then there were Pirates!, who were very similar, except they lived inside computers like the Commodore 64 and Apple II and were created by Sid Meier in 1987. Finally, there are 2004's Pirates!, who sail the Caribbean as salty 3D scalawags instead of tiny blocky pixel sprites. Pirates, Pirates! and 3D Pirates! all do mostly the same things--plunder booty, trade stolen goods, and swordfight with Spanish sailors. 2013's Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag may have the more exciting swordfighting, but the greatest piracy simulation of them all is still 2004's Sid Meier's Pirates!. Meier's classic blend of fun minigames and strategy hasn't been replicated in a pirate game since, but that's okay—Pirates! still runs just fine on modern Windows, and at high resolution, too.

No coding required: How new designers are using GameMaker to create indie smash hits

PC Gamer at

In May 2013, Tom Francis opened preorders for his 2D stealth hacking game Gunpoint. By the time Gunpoint actually went on sale, a week later, Francis had already made enough money to quit his job at PC Gamer and focus on game development full-time. But for many people, the biggest surprise came not from the game's amazing performance three days after release, but rather the way it was made—that it was developed using a tool called GameMaker.

GameMaker: Studio, the latest version of the tool, has been developed by YoYoGames since 2006. Its goal is to break down the game development process into something approachable and easy to learn, shifting the main challenge facing game designers from technical knowledge to creative ability. But in part because of this ease-of-use, GameMaker has carried a stigma that it wasn't capable or worthy of powering high-quality, "professional" games. ("I can't believe you made this in GameMaker!" Francis recalls people saying. "That's so impressive!")


Firefall review in progress, part two: more missions, currency and crafting

Phil Savage at

Firefall, the free-to-play MMO shooter, is now available. As per PC Gamer's reviews policy, MMOs aren't scored until our reviewer has spent time with the public release. This, then, is part two of a review-in-progress, charting Phil's initial impressions with the game. You'll find part one here.

Things get off to an interesting start. I log in and head towards a new area, and the new campaign mission I've unlocked. As I make my way toward the mission flag, I'm alerted to some "seismic activity". The warning is coming from a resource node. Sensing it would be a bad idea, I blow it up anyway. Yes, it was a bad idea. An insectoid creature emerges from the ground, much higher than my current level. It's takes a few swipes from my health, but, with plenty of jetpack strafing, I manage to bring it down.

Three Lane Highway: surrender buttons, Gordian knots, and other thoughts on giving up

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

When someone describes something as a Gordian knot the presumption is that it's waiting for the sword. There's virtue associated with solving complicated problems quickly and decisively—the legend of Alexander and the knot expresses a cultural preoccupation with the notion that twisted impossible things are deserving of a direct and just and violent 'solution', normally at the hands of somebody with unusual power and perspective (read: some dude with a sword.) Anything else, it follows, is a waste of time.

Last chance: we're giving away a five-game Steam bundle, with Bundle Stars

PC Gamer at

Our five-week, five-million-key giveaway has come to an end. Here's the thing: we've still got some Steam keys left over. This, then, is Giveaway Redux. Over the next few days, you have one final chance to grab a bundle of five games. That's $40 of entertainment, for free. If you missed any of our featured games from the last five weeks—SpaceChem, Dino D-Day, Really Big Sky, Gun Monkeys or GTR Evolution—they're all now back, and available to claim just one last time. Head below for this final set of free Steam keys.


The best RPGs of all time

Cory Banks at

The role-playing game is the cornerstone of PC gaming. Long before shooters or real-time strategy, the earliest PC developers replicated their tabletop RPGs on the PC, building sprawling adventures filled with orcs and wizards and foul dungeons. Those early games slowly built on their tabletop origins, and RPGs eventually became so popular, their elements spread to other genres. Here are our 25 favorites: the RPGs we’d tell anyone to play right now.


The International 2014: Valve's SFM recreations of classic plays in webm form

Chris Thursten at

Remember the International? Twenty million people watched it, so chances are you do. I wrote a couple of things about it, too. But we missed something: one of the best bits of fan service to emerge from the entire event, particularly for people who have followed the pro Dota 2 scene for the last couple of years.


Hearthstone Curse Of Naxxramas interview: "We're keeping an eye on" Zoo

Tim Clark at

Tomorrow sees the second wing of Hearthstone's Curse of Naxxramas expansion opening its mouldering doors to players around the world. So now felt like the perfect time to talk to Blizzard about the current state of the game and what we can expect from the future. I nervously approached the giant ebony coffins of senior game designer Ben Brode and production director Jason Chayes and asked them about the new cards, how close they came to nerfing Leeroy, what's going to be done about the seemingly unstoppable Zoo onslaught, and whether we'll ever get more deck slots…


Gaming in 4K: the future is now, if you give up 60 frames per second

Wes Fenlon at

The future—aka 4K gaming—is made up of very, very small pixels. After spending the past two weeks checking out games on Samsung's U28D590D 4K monitor, I'm still going to call 4K gaming the near future rather than the present. Yes, you can play games at 3840x2160 pixels right now. Yes, 4K monitors are becoming more affordable. But are they worth it? After spending a couple weeks using one, I can comfortably say: no, not yet. Even for a high-end graphics card (or two), 4K is too demanding for max settings and high framerates. If you're willing to play at 30 frames per second, though, 4K is a different story.


Firefall review in progress, part one: arriving in New Eden

Phil Savage at

Firefall, the free-to-play MMO shooter, is now available. As per PC Gamer's reviews policy, MMOs aren't scored until our reviewer has spent time with the public release. Here, then, is a review-in-progress, charting Phil's initial impressions with the game.

Things get off to a bad start when, upon loading into the game, I recoil in horror at what my eyeballs are seeing. I'll cover Firefall's graphics later, but the tutorial map is perhaps the worst possible introduction to its aesthetic. The textures are blurry, the environments murky, and the characters flat and cartoonish. Compared to this year's other MMO releases, there's none of the vibrancy or charm of Wildstar, and none of the relatively higher-res textures of the otherwise visually bland (and oppressively foggy) TESO.

Survival gets serious in The Long Dark

Andy Kelly at

Last week I wrote about the problem with survival games. Some of you loved the idea of the hypothetical game I described—which sidelines monsters and overt danger for a more atmospheric battle against the elements—and some of you thought I was mental. After the article was published I was tweeted by Hinterland Games creative director Raphael van Lierop, who said that their game, The Long Dark, is exactly what I’m looking for. So, of course, I had to try it.


Highlights from the Oculus Rift's Health and Safety guide

Phil Savage at

As part of the new SDK, Oculus VR has updated the Rift's "Health and Safety Warning" documentation, and it's pretty great. There's something about the clash of new technology and old legislation that I find deeply amusing. As such, I'm going to highlight some of the highlights—not in an attempt to over-exaggerate the dangers of VR, but rather to celebrate sentences like, "symptoms of virtual reality exposure can persist and become more apparent hours after use."

Virtual reality exposure is a thing now. A thing with symptoms. That's pretty cool.


Watch Dogs comparison video: TheWorse Mod 1.0 vs. standard at 1440p

PC Gamer at

Last week, modder TheWorse released the final version of his now infamous Watch Dogs graphical mod, and we decided to put it to the test by offering it up to the angry god we call the Large Pixel Collider. Ubisoft has stated that the mod could have a negative impact on performance and gameplay, so I jumped on Watch Dogs ummodded with the settings maxed out, and then installed TheWorse Mod 1.0 to see which version looked better and to test Ubisoft's performance claims.


4K Screenshot Showcase: Trine 2

Ben Griffin at

Every week, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

A 2011 release, Trine 2 is remembered as one of the most lavishly produced platformers ever. Each area is awash with vivid greens and yellows and purples, as if the developers Frozenbyte's primary aim was to hit every single angle on the colour wheel. Whether it's a sun-drenched tropical paradise, fog-enshrouded churchyard, or greasy-walled dungeon illuminated by glowing slime and torchlight, it's essentially end to end graphics all the way. It makes for a richly saturated sugar rush of a game, sometimes sickly but no less sweet.


Make horror games scarier with these three great headsets

Dave James at

I’ve been playing around with the Early Access disturb-o-fest that is Darkwood. Last night I had to stop as every hair on my body stood to attention.

That’s the power of a great audio soundscape, and of linking that up with a quality gaming headset. A decent set of speakers is fine for music and the bluster of a gunfire-racked war zone, but if you want to hear every little touch of a game’s audio track then the aural isolation of good headphones is impossible to beat.


Dominions 4 diary, part one: one monolith's struggle to become top deity

Tom Senior at

Dominions 4 is a turn-based strategy game about warring gods. Each deity commands a nation of beings ready to fight and die to secure their lord’s ascension, and each is borrowed from recognisable mythology. Greek centaurs battle the dark creatures of Nordish Helheim. Atlantean troops wrestle with the Lovecraftian beasts of R’lyeh. It’s as though a literature professor and a history professor got drunk together and started asking “who would win in a fight between this ancient cultural belief and that dark fantasy monster?” And then made a game to find the answer.

I’m going to win Dominions 4 as a giant stationary hunk of rock. Or try to, anyway. I could have been a monster riding a giant grey ape. I could have been one of three dragons. I could have been lots of things, but none have the charm and comedy sprite of the noble, silent obelisk.


Mod of the Week: CivRome, for Civilization V

Christopher Livingston at

Rome wasn't built in a day, but now it can be built in a turn. A new mod for Civilization V, called CivRome, lets you play from 323 B.C., the death of Alexander the Great, to 500 A.D., the fall of the Roman Empire. You can play as one of 22 possible civilizations including the Romans (Caesar), the Egyptians (Cleopatra), the Macedonians, the Goths, the Gauls, and even the Huns (led by one Mr. Attila T. Hun). There are new technologies to research, specific attributes for some of the civs, and a beautiful, historically accurate new map to conquer. In other words, it's a toga party, Civilization-style.


The PC Gamer Hearthstone tournament

PC Gamer at

Hearthstone gets its claws into you. Blizzard’s masterstroke is the way the game rewards you for a win—the shower of fireworks that springs from the screen every time you land a killing blow on the enemy hero.

The moment you start craving more of that experience, Hearthstone’s got you—as it got us. Tim is almost entirely lost to it, spending his early hours researching deck compositions. Chris played played 50 hours when he reviewed the game, before bowing out mumbling something about mages. Andy booted it up for the first time when asked to prepare for this tournament, hated it, and then saw the fireworks—and now he’s been sucked in, too.

The inaugural PC Gamer Hearthstone tournament gathers up all of that emotional and psychological investment, and pours it into a crucible of hot, middling competition. We can’t claim to be the best players in the world, but everybody here wants to win: and everybody who gets knocked out is doomed to spend at least 20 minutes sulking in a corner.


Saturday Crapshoot: Gold Rush!

Richard Cobbett at

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, can an enterprising soul make a fortune... specifically, by charging $10 for a 1988 adventure game with a remake already on the way?

Gold Rush! doesn't sound like it's going to be one of the odder games from the Sierra On-Line catalogue; the company that after all gave us games like Manhunter and Leisure Suit Larry 2. It actually just sounds like, well, a pretty good idea. What better historical adventure could there be than leaving one's life behind in an all-or-nothing gamble in the California Gold Rush at a time of great change and great fortune? The Oregon Trail was a staple at schools for a reason - the call of the frontier still loud and booming, even in an era of planes, trains and automobiles, and many other memorable comedy movies as well.

But then you play it. And in a word... whooooooooooooooooooooo!

The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Tim Clark at

Every Friday the PC Gamer team thumbs through its Filofax, coldly picks out the key moments from the past week, then makes an excuse about having to return some videotapes…