The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

H1Z1 error

THE LOWS

Chris Livingston: H1Z-When?
H1Z1, the eventually free-to-play (but currently $20 in early-access) online zombie survival game, got off to a somewhat slow, shambling start. It's not unusual or unexpected for a new online game to have day one issues, but you always hope, at the very least, people will be able to get in and actually play for a bit. That wasn't really the case Thursday afternoon, as issues with Sony's login servers meant hours of trying, waiting, and retrying. I personally collected enough error messages to fill a Buzzfeed listicle.

I even dropped by Twitch to see if others were having more luck. I saw a lot of menu screens, a lot of error messages, a lot of people just chatting with their viewers, and someone doing karaoke. One enthusiastic streamer had even engaged in zombie cosplay with decomposition makeup and tattered clothes, but sadly, she was just sitting there waiting like everyone else.

Things are marginally better today: I was able to join a couple servers, though often after waiting in a queue for a while. I punched a guy to death, another guy punched me to death, I punched a deer, I saw a rabbit, I got chased by a zombie, all before I was disconnected by another server outage. Total playing time: about six minutes. Here's hoping for more the next time I connect.

Wes Fenlon: I'm ready to game in 4K, my PC isn't
4K is getting scary close. Actually, it's here now. More and more 4K monitors are coming out every month, and they're actually becoming affordable. Boy, do I want that 40-inch 4K Philips monitor at $850. But even if I bought the monitor, I wouldn't be able to enjoy it, because today's top-end graphics cards still aren't ready to play most demanding games at 4K. Yeah, an SLI rig can probably hit 60 fps in most games at 4K, but I don't have $900 to spend on graphics cards on top of the price of the monitor. For my personal gaming rig, I'll probably hold off moving to 4K until I can get decent performance out of a single GPU. Can it be 2016 yet?

GTA V slide

Samuel Roberts: Everything is happening in March now
Which is fine! January is traditionally a quiet time anyway, but GTA V moving to March and Pillars getting a release date for the same month guarantees that almost nothing will happen in the next 15 days (Dying Light! Sorry, Dying Light, almost didn’t see you there). Is that a bad thing? Not really. At the dead end of last year came the brilliant Elite: Dangerous, which I pretty much count as a January game, and there’s little chance that players have got the most out of it yet. Last year, the big releases didn’t stop in the first six months. I think we’ll all have a bit more room in our lives when Pillars and GTA V get here in March—it just leaves the January calendar looking emptier for new releases.

Tom Marks: You make my heart go Boom, Boom, Boom
I finally saved up 1,600 dust in Hearthstone, a feat that doesn’t happen often for me and one I don’t take lightly. I don’t have many legendaries, and the ones I do have aren’t exactly the best, so deciding what to craft next feels huge. The problem is my main focus in Hearthstone isn’t laddering, it’s having fun. But Dr. Boom is just so good…

Maybe oppressively good, even. To the point where I have no real desire to play him in my decks, but the idea of not crafting him when I can seems ludicrous. I don’t care if I hit legend, I care if I have fun getting there. It might seem crazy to the diehard players, but I would prefer to craft Nozdormu just to make a secrets deck and watch people struggle to finish their turn after each secret’s ten second animation burns away the rope.

I’d also like to craft Mimiron’s Head and try to make a Mech Rogue with Conceal just for that one game it manages to stay alive. I’d rather craft Iron Juggernaut and fill a warrior deck with Brewmasters and taunts to watch my opponent draw himself towards explode-o-death. None of these decks would help me climb, but they would be fun. But that Dr. Boom… he’s just so hot right now. Maybe I should just craft him before his inevitable nerf.

Doom Wad Slide

Phil Savage: 21 years later
Here I'm going to do the ol' highs-lows switcheroo, to stealth in a cheeky second high about how much I enjoyment I got from a selection of Doom wads. I just need to find a way to frame the continued output of a 21-year-old modding community as something negative.

Got it! How many recent games could sustain a 21-year-old modding community? Half-Life 2, sure, although Source mods are increasingly standalone games. The Mount & Blade community clearly can't be stopped, and Skyrim is enduring—although perhaps only until Bethesda's next release. None of these are particular recent, though.

Modders are still doing amazing things. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is being cracked apart right now. Far Cry 4 will likely get some great tweaks and improvements. But imagine what could happen if modders were given the keys to these systems playgrounds. To the tools required to toy around with impunity. There's a chance it could turn great games into games that are worth buying 21 years later.

Chris Thursten: 500 EDM tracks does not a Music Library make
Even though I understand the legal ass-covering that mandates it, I was pretty disappointed when Twitch shut down music streaming. I’d done the best part of a Dota 2 A-Z challenge accompanied by hero-specific tracks - Hit Me Baby One More Time for Abaddon, Macho Man for Beastmaster, The Chemical Brothers for Alchemist. On one occasion, I drove myself insane by playing the theme tune from British radio serial ‘The Archers’ for an entire game in which we drafted only characters with bows (a match that, bizarrely, we won.)

Losing music made Twitch less entertaining. This week, they unveiled a library of royalty-free music that streamers are free to use. It’s a good first step, but the selection leaves a lot to be desired. Now, don’t get me wrong—I’ve attended too many e-sports events to be offended by fifty hours of dance music. But the competitive scene is already desperately enamoured of that one Monstercat mix: what made music on Twitch fun was the variety, the creative ways in which people could match music and games. No longer. EDM is, according to Twitch, the theme tune for live gaming. They promise greater diversity in the future, but I somehow doubt that’s going to include radio serial themes from the 1960s.