Tom Senior: Getting the Guild back together again
The announcement of Guild Wars 2's first expansion was all I needed to reinstall it this week. It's been so long that I barely remember what my pint-sized Asuran necromancer is for. He likes to give himself diseases and debuff conditions, and then eat them to restore health. He can also turn into a black smoke spirit and destroy nearby foes by sucking hundreds of green globs out of them. Sometimes when I press the wrong button he summons a mechanical golem from orbit.
It's a great MMO that I'd probably never have returned to if there was a subs fee involved. Big new level 80 zones have been added in my year-or-more hiatus, which Arenanet have used to perfect their signature dynamic zone events. These do a great job of pulling dozens of players into spectacular boss fights as you're just wandering about. I thought I'd roll an alt ahead of the arrival of Heart of Thorns and discovered that the game gives you loads of experience bonuses to help you level new characters at exhilarating speed. It's a pleasure bombing through GW2's gorgeous zones again, completing regional objectives, unlocking chests and learning new skills constantly. Guild Wars 2 is a rare gem—an MMO that never wastes your time. Bring on the expansion.
Andy Kelly: Romero plays Doom
If you’re not a subscriber to Double Fine’s YouTube channel, you really should be. They’re doing a great series of ‘let’s plays’ in which developers play through, and comment on, games close to their hearts. My favourite of the bunch is JP LeBreton playing through the original Doom, because he’s joined by none other than John God Damn Romero.
Watching Romero play Doom is entertaining enough, but as he blasts through the game on ultra-violence (of course he plays on ultra-violence), he reveals some genuinely brilliant stories about its creation and the design philosophy behind it. Doom is seen by most as a pretty dumb, simplistic shooter, but those levels are complex masterpieces of design.
Compare any secret-filled Doom level to a Call of Duty set-piece roller coaster and it’s like FPS design has gone backwards. Anyway, check the video out below. Romero seems like a stand-up guy and it’s a real pleasure to share the history of the seminal shooter with him. Hey, I think it’s time to play Doom again...
Tyler Wilde: Instagibbing
I used to love Quake 2 railgun battles, and after work sessions of UT2K4 Instagib were, for a time, practically mandatory for PC Gamer employees. I love instagib, which has become the general term for arena shooters with one-shot-kill hitscan weapons. I love the dance you do when dueling one on one, and I love the big, full deathmatches where you can burst into a room and awe yourself with five kills in a row, having no idea where the hell in your lizard brain those reflexes came from.
And now that’s been purified: Ratz Instagib 2.0 recently appeared on Steam Early Access, and I’m hooked. I used to play it a bit when it was a web game, but there just weren’t enough players to reliably find a match. Now I can get into a game at just about any time, and it’s been a challenge not to make that all the time. Ratz strips everything unnecessary out of instagib, and evens the playing field with total customization. All player models look the same and have the same (ridiculously tiny) hitbox, and if I want enemies to be red and the level totally desaturated, I can do that (helpful as someone with a slight color vision deficiency). If I don’t want to see the weapon model, I can turn it off. Part of the fun has been experimenting with all the settings (mouse sensitivity at 1.5 or 1.6?) to find my optimal competitive edge.
It can be frustrating to have a few bad rounds in a row, or go up against an absurdly talented player (looking at you, ckap and Costa… you guys are insane), but it’s all in the name of learning, and for those meditative moments where every shot connects, even the most absurd across-the-map wrist-flicks, and MONSTER KILL splashes across the screen. When I’m in ‘the zone,’ it truly feels like I’ve ceased normal brain functions and become just a conduit of information from hand to eye and back. It’s a pretty damn good high.
Tom Marks: CD Projekt’s freebie
Earlier this week CD Projekt, the company making a little indie game you probably haven’t heard of called The Witcher 3, said it was “making a statement” by announcing plans to release 16 pieces of DLC completely free. I’m overjoyed to see a studio take that approach. It’s a sign of absolute respect and devotion to its audience, showing that it’s thinking more about the product its making rather than the business plan to squeeze every possible dime out of the market. I am in no doubt that if CD Projekt had opted to charge for four larger DLC packs with an optional season pass, people would have lined up to buy them. CD Projekt probably knew this too, but instead it has taken this route, and the industry, gamers, and The Witcher 3 are all better for it.
Samuel Roberts: Dragon Age: Inquisition is BioWare’s biggest
Big RPGs still sell. Dragon Age: Inquisition is apparently BioWare’s most successful launch, which presumably puts it above even Mass Effect 3’s mammoth debut in 2012. It’s pleasing because this might’ve been the series’ last chance after the disappointing performance of Dragon Age II, and I’d have hated for Dragon Age to vanish due to an era in which blockbusters need to sell five million or the world ends.
I’m only a few hours into it, and the new structure takes some getting used to—a lot of bears have brought me near to death, which didn’t happen in the other two—and I’m up and down on the combat, but I appreciate the scale of the vision. The environments are massive and the presentation of the cutscenes is really impressive. So few developers can build this sort of world, and even fewer can tell a good story within one.
Also on the positive Dragon Age news front—BioWare released a bunch of tavern tracks from the game for free this week. Grab them before they expire on February 9th.
Chris Livingston: Steam Work$hop
Steam workshop creators have been making money, millions, in fact, by creating items that can be voted on and then sold for Valve games like Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, and CS:GO. According to Valve, the amount earned by content creators since the workshop's inception in 2011 is $57 million spread between more than 1,500 different contributors.
Even better, curated workshops for non-Valve games have begun to appear, such as Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, meaning talented creators will be able to start making money from their hard work in more games.
While this is all obviously incredibly beneficial for Valve, who skim off a shockingly hefty 75% of the proceeds, it's still great news for modders, artists, and creators, who deserve to earn some scratch for their work and get a little more attention focused on their creations.