The week's highs and lows in PC gaming



Samuel Roberts: $40 Witness
I was going to choose the intense internet speculation about whether or not Jonathan Blow posted a picture of a bottle of piss on Twitter yesterday, but I think that might actually be a high of the week. Instead, I’ll nominate the small backlash towards the news that his new game, The Witness, will be priced more like a triple-A game at $40 than a typical indie release.

I think we’ve gotten very used to prices bottoming out on PC relatively quickly, and that means our perception of value can be skewed. I’ve played FTL for way more hours than Mad Max, for example, but one’s obviously a lot cheaper than the other. There’s no exact science to it, but I think for a game that’s taken Blow over seven years to finish, with tens of hours of game to get stuck into, that fee is fair enough for those who can’t wait to play The Witness. For everyone else, they can wait for the sale until it’s priced at a rate they consider fair—but without anyone having played the game beforehand, how can those criticising the price be so sure it’s not worth $40?

Andy Kelly: Voicing concerns
Dragon’s Dogma is brilliant, but there’s one thing that makes me occasionally hate it: not being able to preview a pawn’s voice before you hire them. When you talk to a pawn, their voice is at the default pitch. But then you hire them, and they suddenly sound incredibly squeaky, or really, really low. If you play the game, please, do the world a favour and don’t give your main pawn a daft voice. I’ve had to abandon so many well-equipped, powerful pawns because I couldn’t stand them constantly squeaking “Wolves hunt in packs!” in their chipmunk voices.

Honestly, I’ve had a pretty good week, and that’s the only ‘low’ I could think of. So I might as well use this space to tell you about this mod, which restores the game’s original main menu music, which is MUCH better than the default one. It’s a remix of a song called Into Free by a Japanese band called B’z, which starts out as a lovely, gentle piano piece, before suddenly turning into the most exciting song ever. FLYING INTO FREEEEEE.

Banner saga vinyl

Wes Fenlon: Vinyl game soundtracks may bankrupt me
Austin Wintory’s wonderful soundtrack for The Banner Saga was released on vinyl this week, and it is holy-shit-how-was-this-made-by-human-hands beautiful. Those red and white records. That striking slipcase. Dear god. I want it, but hoo boy it’s a bit expensive at $40 (and another $12 or so for shipping, I believe).

And it’s not the only one. Data Discs has recently put out some amazing looking vinyl collections of classic game music. Streets of Rage and Shinobi III may not be PC games, but I covet their vinyl soundtracks all the same. The problem with these gorgeous vinyl pressings is that they’re mostly limited editions, and thus come with premium costs attached. As attracted as I am, I must resist buying each one to keep my bank account solvent. I couldn’t resist this special edition arrange album of Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger music, though. It was very exclusive.

Chris Livingston: Stamina blarrgh
I can't think of a specific low from this week, so I'm gonna go with this general low: stamina bars can get stuffed. There are things that go into games because they've more or less always gone into them—eating food heals wounds, for example—and stamina bars are beginning to feel like that for me. There must be a limit on how long a player can run at top speed. Why? Because that's what games do, and have done forever. And I hate it.

Realism can help a game, but it can also make a game less fun. If you pop a magazine out of your gun, but the mag isn't empty, you don't have to physically remove the bullets from the spent mag because that would suck. It's realistic that my character can't run at top speed endlessly, but it's also not fun. I'm okay with depleted stamina having an effect on combat, like maybe I can't swing a sword at full power if my stamina is drained, or maybe it's harder to aim a rifle if my character is out of breath after a long run. But repeatedly slowing my movement speed as I run from point A to point B, making me constantly re-toggle the sprint key when the meter refills, making me invest precious skill points into how long I can run... bleah! Please join me in my efforts to ban stamina bars from games forever. Write your congressperson. Picket the nearest developer. Utter a daily prayer to Hermes. Use hashtag #SpeedDoesntKill. Thank you.

Steam Controller Slide

James Davenport: Unhaptic feedback
I’ve only been using a Steam controller for a day now, but my first impression is not a good one. Playing RTS games on my TV with a controller? A noble goal. The execution? Eh, we’ll see. True judgement takes time, but god damn, that thing is bulbous. The hand grips protrude so heavily into the heel of each hand it’s as if it’s actively trying to wrestle away your grip. The trackpads are accurate, sure, but the haptic feedback feels like a sentient penny trying to eat its way out of the thing. And those face buttons? Like trying to press a pimple on an orc’s elbow.

The configuration options are plentiful, sure, and loading up highly rated community controller maps is super easy, but you’re still using an awkward, hollow, wholly unnecessary mid-point between console control and keyboard-mouse control. Maybe time will prove me wrong. Dual analog controls were once an impossibility too, but they were all we had. Until the Steam controller begs to be used, it’s hard to muster the motive to master it.

Chris Thursten: Filler in Manila
As the Dota 2 calendar fills up with official events, it was always inevitable that smaller tournaments would suffer. I’ve never really considered ESL One ‘small’, however, so it’s a surprise to see two high profile teams, EG and Team Secret, withdraw from the forthcoming ESL One Manila. It’s taking place only a month before the official Dota 2 Major in Manila, so presumably both teams want to avoid excessive travel to and from the Philippines in the run up to the higher-profile playoff. That’s speculation, however—no concrete reasons have been given.

It’s definitely a blow for ESL, but it also suggests that there’s more demand for international Dota 2 than teams can currently provide. This hopefully presents an opportunity for squads that would currently be considered second-tier: in the absence of the big names, there’s a slot in Manila for somebody else to come along and win over the same hearts and minds.


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