It has been another busy year for features on PC Gamer, so we've collected together a few of our favourites before we stand ready to produce a whole lot more in 2019.
As 2018 draws to a close let's step back and look at PC gaming as a whole, to celebrate the history of the platform and enjoy the variety of games that have crossed our hard drives in the decades gone by. This year the magazine ran two enormous features across four issues charting the history of the RPG (opens in new tab) and the history of the strategy game (opens in new tab). We also took a long look at the rise and fall of Ion Storm (opens in new tab), a studio that still proves influential today. Of course we ran our Top 100 PC Games 2018 (opens in new tab) mega-feature, and hosted the PC Gaming Show (opens in new tab), which featuring a ton of new announcements and exclusive previews of upcoming PC games.
You can't have the highs without a few lows. There have been a few missteps along the way, just look at the dumbest armour in PC gaming history (opens in new tab). PC hardware has gone through some dubious phases too, though I have a soft spot for some of these horrible old 40-year-old keyboards (opens in new tab).
Behind the games
As always, we're keen to get inside game development to see how everything works. Alex Wiltshire spoke to developers about the art of flavour text (opens in new tab) and looked at how blockbuster games are written (opens in new tab). The first piece shows how much thought goes into elements of a game that many of us may tend to gloss over, and the second piece shows how difficult it can be to create a coherent story in a project at such scale.
Samuel also spoke to a bunch of horror game developers to see what they really think of jump scares (opens in new tab), and Andy obsessed over the making of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's awesome bank (opens in new tab). At the beginning of the year the Battlefront 2 loot box controversy was still fresh on everyone's mind, but some games' relationship with money is murkier still, as we found when we examined how microtransactions can be used to launder money (opens in new tab).
Turning a mod into a game and bringing it to market is still extremely tough in 2018. We spent time with a few teams to find out what it's like to launch an indie game (opens in new tab), hour by hour. Inevitably, for some studios, things don't work out, or a game reaches the end of its natural lifespan. Here's what it's like to kill a game (opens in new tab). Sometimes projects continue to evolve over a long time, in unusual ways. Pip examined the story of Somewhere, a game that might not exist (opens in new tab).
We also examined some of the more serious themes running through our favourite games of recent years. Xalavier Nelson Jr. discussed how Deus Ex: Mankind Divided nails the personal side of prejudice (opens in new tab). Emily Marlow also looked at how The Witcher 3 deals with religion and belief (opens in new tab).
Community and culture stories
Let's pause for a sec to note that the biggest games in the world wouldn't exist today without modders, and modders and community members are remarkably keeping many 80s and 90s PC games updated today—the story of the resurrection of Genesis LPMud is another great example.
Games increasingly offer pathways for modders to make a buck from their contributions. Steven met a struggling artist who escaped poverty by designing a Warframe scarf (opens in new tab). Games can be great at bringing people together, and this story about what 4000 hours of Kerbal Space Program has taught a father about space, engineering, and passion (opens in new tab). There are darker stories too. Steven looked into accusations directed at a Final Fantasy 14 community leader accused of blackmail and sexual harassment (opens in new tab) by over a dozen women.
Now it's time for the necessary EVE Online contribution to this annual round-up feature. Steven told the story of how one EVE Online player's stubborn obsession (opens in new tab) with one particular ship turned him into a hero, and documented the life and death of EVE Online's first all-woman pirate gang (opens in new tab). EVE stories are amazing, so we've rounded them all up in one place (opens in new tab) for you to browse whenever you like.
Also Steven rated every penis in Assassin's Creed Odyssey (opens in new tab). Is this a culture story? I'm going to say... yes.
It wouldn't be a PC Gamer features section without some diaries. Though sometimes frivolous, in-game stories are a great way to capture the way we truly experience games, not as abstract pieces of design or as nice pictures, but as quite stupid adventures. For example, I'm not sure what Joe was trying to illuminate when he hunted down some trophy hunters in the woods (opens in new tab) in a GTA Online roleplay server. He also robbed a string of banks (opens in new tab) posing as a journalist and, my personal favourite, sang at a faux American Idol audition (opens in new tab) and then started a riot.
There was also that time Pip raised a baby in the Sims 4 (opens in new tab), the PC Gamer way. And Phil let an AI loose on Crusader Kings 2 (opens in new tab), a game that seems to auto-generate fantasy novels for you. The release of Dominions 5 was the perfect excuse to try take over the world again (opens in new tab) as a living god. Steven Messner also made a desperate escape (opens in new tab) from a deadly planet in No Man's Sky Next.
Chris Livingston has been at it again, and frankly I can't improve on just listing the headlines here.
—The Skyrim guide to following your followers (opens in new tab)
—Survival game Green Hell made me so mad I pummeled an innocent armadillo (opens in new tab)
—I bought this Steam game just to see what the hell it was, and after playing I still don't know (opens in new tab)
—I destroy everything I touch in god game The Universim (opens in new tab)
—Graveyard Keeper turned me into the most evil character I've ever played (opens in new tab)
—Trying to murder a tavern full of people with Oblivion's poisoned apples (opens in new tab)
—I ruined santa's life and career by giving him diseased raccoons in The Sims 4 (opens in new tab)
A huge amount of time goes into testing the latest hardware and keeping our broad suite of recommendation articles up to date. You might be trying to find the best graphics card (opens in new tab), or a classy gaming chair (opens in new tab), we've got a guide for you. Browse all of our buying guides (opens in new tab) for more.
In addition to trying out tech and looking for deals, the team are on a mission to demystify PC gaming hardware with explainers such as how to build a gaming PC (opens in new tab), or what to do when a game won't run (opens in new tab). Ray tracing is one of the most interesting graphics technologies to arrive this year, so naturally we took a deep look at what ray tracing is (opens in new tab), and whether the new RTX GPUs can really handle it. We've also tried to answer your most common questions in pieces such as what is microstutter (opens in new tab) and how do I fix it? And should I use a 4K TV as a computer monitor? (opens in new tab)
Wes has been WASDing wrong his whole life. (opens in new tab)
See you in 2019!