The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Pillars of Eternity Highs and Lows


Samuel Roberts: Second wind
I worry about the future of big game development when I hear things like Obsidian nearly closing down, were it not for the success of the Pillars Kickstarter. How can you be that accomplished at making quality RPGs and not secure regular publisher work? It perhaps illustrates how risk-averse publishers are to projects that will sell less than four or five million copies in this market. The good news is, of course, that Obsidian doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and that Pillars finally arrives in two weeks.

Evan Lahti: Show me the games
Yes, all the VR news out of GDC last week is terribly exciting. But I can’t help but think that VR is becoming a bit of a cart-before-the-horse situation in how it’s being presented. The Oculus Rift and SteamVR are made by people who understand and appreciate all the math and engineering that goes into designing this new technology, so I guess it’s natural that for the past twoish years, that’s almost all we’ve heard about: latency, FOV, resolution, aliasing, “presence.” We’re able to appreciate that stuff too, but I wish I felt like we were closer to convincing most gamers that VR has the potential to be a life-changing experience. This tweet I received last week reflects the sentiment I see from many readers: until it’s real, why should I be excited?

VR has a unique challenge ahead of it: it’s something that has to be worn to be believed. I hope that Oculus or Valve are able to trot out some flagship VR games soon to sell everyone on it as a concept—the demos and ports we’ve had so far aren’t enough.

Alienware Steam Machine Slide

Tom Senior: Spiky steam machines
I’m all for the idea of an affordable PC that sits under your TV, but does it have to look like the flagship of a Vogon Constructor Fleet? This parade of Steam machines contains a myriad of crimes against case design - more grilles than a classic Bentley collection, dayglo trim, aggressive angles. This might be controversial, but I like the way the PS4 looks. It's understated. It doesn't look like the nerve centre of an evil AI. It's an inoffensive part of my front room. I imagine Sony have spent huge amounts of time and money getting that case the way it is, but it's a practical example of the cliched design mantra "less is more". More “less is more”, less “more glowing bits” please.

Tyler Wilde: Dramatization
Tom makes good points in his high, but this GTA drama has me worried. From the sounds of it, BBC is making a dramatized account of the Housers’ rise, portraying them as heroes (“gaming geniuses”), and pitting them against society’s villainous detractors (“moral-campaigners”). I hope it’s a bit more nuanced than that, as there’s an interesting story in the rise of Rockstar, and one that is not entirely about an ‘us vs. them’ culture war. There's legitimate criticism to me made of GTA, and legitimate defenses, and then there's all the behind-the-scenes stuff (remember the overtime lawsuit they settled, or when the wives of some of their employees revolted?). I’m just not sure a 90 minute drama is the way to tell this story. Then again, I’m skeptical of all biopics—I thought The Imitation Game was tripe—so maybe I’m just a cynic who expects the worst. I’ll crawl back into my cave of skepticism until it’s out.

Evolve current players Slide

Chris Livingston: Devolving
Evolve is getting patched and fixed, but is it already too late? shows a troubling snapshot for the multiplayer shooter: the number of concurrent Evolve players has plunged, from around 25,000 at launch down to roughly 3,000. That's a steep drop for such a short period of time, and presents double trouble for Turtle Rock and 2K: people who own the game will have a harder time finding good matches, and people who haven't bought it yet may decide not to because the player base is shrinking so fast.

How do you fix that? Peeping the game's Steam page, I see it's still priced at $60. Personally, I'd evolve the business plan to include some sales, and quickly.

Phil Savage: Stalling
A mea culpa: in lieu of talking about the death of Terry Pratchett—a genuine low that I'm not sure I'm equipped to summarise in a pithy op-ed—I instead read Phil Spencer quotes in the hope that one of them would annoy me enough to fill this space. We all deal with loss in different ways.

It worked, after a while. Mostly the things the Xbox head says are a kind of executive-level white noise—a weird phenomenon where a person can speak whole sentences of recognisable words but somehow /say/ nothing. But here, in an interview with Eurogamer, he says the following: “There isn't a tremendous request today for racing games like Forza on PC.”

I don't think that's true. I'm requesting it. I'm tremendously requesting it. Forza Horizon was one of the best racing games on the Xbox 360, and I imagine that Forza Horizon 2 is one of the best racing games on the Xbox One. I want to play that. I don't want to buy an Xbox One. Maybe that's selfish of me—maybe I'm the problem—but to say there's no demand seems somewhat disingenuous. There's always a demand. The PC is a format that can support every control scheme, and thus support any genre. The racing sim genre is huge, and I'd be amazed if there was no audience for a more casual, semi-realistic open-world racer.

As usual, I don't think it's about that. I think it's about the fact that if all Xbox One games were on PC, nobody would /need/ to buy a console that Microsoft wants people to buy. In which case, yeah, I get that, but don't use an entirely invented apathy to justify the decision.


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