The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Oculus Rift consumer version


Wes Fenlon: Why, Oculus?
Valve isn’t coming to E3, which means now is the time for Oculus to show exactly how much they get it, that they’re the ones we should be putting our faith in. Yesterday’s press conference was an opportunity for Oculus to do that, and they completely whiffed it. They stuck to their ambiguous “Q1 2016” release window instead of announcing a date. That would’ve been okay, if they’d finally announced a price. That didn’t happen, either. And Oculus’ executives themselves seem to be regressing in presentation skills. They were once casual and calm, but it seems like the weight and pressure of their endeavor has caught up to them, leading to stilted stage PR-speak about the ‘incredibleness” of VR. And Oculus knows, better than anyone, that you have to experience VR to feel the magic. Why, then, did Oculus roll demo footage of a dozen games on a 2D screen?

On top of the event’s awkwardness and missed opportunities, I was disappointed that exclusive games seemed to be such a major selling point. There was a time, just six months ago, where it seemed like there was a decent chance the VR market would remain as open as the PC itself: that VR would be a platform, with Oculus’s headset being one subset of that platform. Now it looks like SteamVR and Oculus will be very separate platforms, with very separate games, and I think that’ll make things just a little bit worse for everyone.

But I suppose it’s not all bad news. The Oculus Touch could be an amazing controller, and I’m excited to check it out at E3 next week.

Dark Sould 3 Slide

Tom Senior: Dark Souls 3
Can sequels dilute the impact of a near-perfect original? That's the question that comes to mind when I think about the heavily-rumoured Dark Souls 3. I completed and greatly enjoyed Dark Souls 2, largely because DS1's port and performance problems were excised in the sequel. However, there's no denying the first game's superiority. Dark Souls is special because its mechanics are extensions of its narrative themes—which explore death, rebirth, power and the nature of humanity, no less. When Dark Souls 2 replaced 'Humanity' with 'Human Effigies' the systems/story link was lost, along with the significance of bonfires in a world without Gwyn and the other gods of the age of fire. The elegant design of Dark Souls has been distilled into a structural blueprint. The formula can still entertain of course—Dark Souls 2 proves that—but the framework now carries none of the significance it was designed to impart. If Dark Souls 3 is real, I think we'll get another fairly decent action RPG, but it won't be a work of art.

My low point of this week is probably that I can’t tell you about my secret high of this week, a subject with a Non Disclosure Agreement so robust that I can taste copper just for having got this far into this sentence. No, it’s not Half-Life 3.

I’m also sad about the passing of Sir Christopher Lee, but his legacy was never really represented by his list of gaming credits. We should all watch this and remember him, mind, and think about how we might live to our nineties and retain such a low quantity of fucks-given-over-time. If Sir Christopher Lee gave any fucks, modern science was not able to detect them. He gave a homeopathic quantity of fucks. He was one of the very best.

Let’s go with this instead: Rockstar’s attitude to the Steam Sale. Did you hear? GTA V’s on sale! 25% off! Except it’s suddenly about 125% as expensive as it used to be, so in order to take advantage of this fine offer you should be willing to spend about the same amount as you’d have spent last week.

This is a clever trick, in the same way that taking a chainsaw to a pinata is a clever trick. Congratulations! You solved the puzzle. Yet you’ve also violated something integral to the event itself. If a pinata represents human submission to absolute fairness through the violent death of a paper mache donkey, then a Steam Sale represents the notion that no developer is too big to offer players a better deal from time to time. Except Rockstar, apparently, who have just wandered into your garden party, bellowed ‘FUCK THIS PINATA’, and started revving.

This wasn’t a very good analogy. Have a great weekend.

Skyrim Book Slide

Chris Livingston: Skybrary
Bethesda announced they'll be selling The Skyrim Library, Volume 1: The Histories, a physical book containing game lore. This sounds like a nice idea, but I strongly suggest you don't buy this book for the following reasons:

  1. It says it's 232 pages, but you know it'll actually be about six pages written in a large, ugly font.
  2. Opening the cover might increase your skills, but most likely won't.
  3. While trying to put it on your bookshelf, you'll accidentally knock everything else over.
  4. If it's on your desk, you'll often pick it up accidentally while reaching for something else.
  5. If you carry it around, you'll probably find something more valuable and have to drop the book so you can keep sprinting.
  6. If you decide to sell it, you'll get a lot less than you originally paid.
  7. Reading it might result in a quest being added to your to-do list that you'll never complete.
  8. If you don't store it in a Vault-Tec vault, it'll wind up burned and useless when the apocalypse happens.
  9. You'll just wind up waiting for a modder to make a better cover.
  10. You already have 36 copies of The Lusty Argonian Maid.

Tyler Wilde: I stole a slice of pizza
Evan Lahti—you know, US editor-in-chief Evan Lahti—was in a meeting and he left half a pizza on his desk. So I took a slice of that pizza and ate it. I was hungry and I ate his pizza and I did not ask. I blame this terribly sinful act on E3 planning, which has consumed my schedule and requires me to consume pizza. I’ll probably eat a lot of pizza next week, too.

But seriously, the past couple weeks have been really busy: first a Doom teaser, then a Fallout 4 trailer, then an Oculus pre-E3 press conference. We’ve had previews of Street Fighter V, Hellblade, MGS 5, Fortnite, and lots of other stuff I’m forgetting. None of this is bad (I’m probably the only person in my circle of friends who isn’t infinitely cynical about E3), it’s just a bit overwhelming—for you, too, I imagine. Let’s take a moment, then, to put all that aside and have some quiet time. Think about how cool Adr1ft looks, maybe. Watch it on the monitor facing your pizza box, maybe.

Samuel Roberts: Time is running out
I love procrastinating before I buy anything, because I always believe in getting value for money. That’s why I’m torn on whether to pre-order the Steam controller, which according to Valve are now through 35% of their initial stock. I think I’ve got just days left to decide if I want to put my money down and get one in October—but even though I liked the feel of trying one in The Talos Principle briefly at GDC earlier this year, I’d really like to see someone else from the team try it before I put my money down. Are you buying one, or waiting to see what the verdict is first?


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