Chris Thursten: Phantom controversy
The tendency for hardcore games communities to transmute passion into disappointment and rage is a source of constant bemusement, for me. It sometimes feels like you’re not allowed to love something unless you’re also convinced that it could be ruined at any moment—that every change, or absence of change, is a disaster. This attitude gives developers no room to move, and can turn exciting reveals sour in moments.
Valve released a new hero for Dota 2 this week, Oracle, along with an event associated with a premium item for Phantom Assassin. This is the first event to substantially interact with the playing of regular matches, and as such its implementation warrants some scrutiny. But that’s not what I’d call the reaction on Wednesday, when a leaked list of the event’s features (many of them false) caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The community set to building ‘THE END IS NIGH’ signs over a set of assumptions that didn’t even turn out to be true: such a waste of energy.
Today’s the first day of the Foreseer’s Contract update and people seem to be having fun with the new systems. There are even reports that the event is encouraging greater cooperation between players. Valve’s tinkering might just have yielded something fun and innovative, but it was still deemed a disaster before the truth was even out.
Tom Senior: Mob-o-geddon
I’m in a positive mood this week, so my low is secretly a second high (shhh, don’t tell anyone), in that I’ll use it to express frustration that I’m not playing Lost Ark at this precise moment in time. I’m a big fan of the ARPG genre, but as much as I enjoyed Path of Exile’s cerebral charms, I’ve always wanted someone to push the genre to new heights of lunacy. Lost Ark lets you sail around the world fighting huge ghost ships. One of the classes lets you shoot huge dragons at mobs, or summon god-sized elemental beings to stomp on enemies. Watch the trailer and just look at how big those mobs are. Look at how pretty it all is. Damnit, hurry up and get on my PC.
Tim Clark: Crying foul
Continuing with Tom’s definition-bending theme, my low eventually became a high. We took some flak behind the scenes this week from Ubisoft, who weren’t pleased that we’d referenced the recent buggy launch of Assassin’s Creed: Unity when we explained why our Far Cry 4 review was late, and that in the interim buyers should probably exercise caution until the state of the PC code could be confirmed. I mean, god forbid a company’s blockbuster game should be mentioned in the same breath as another blockbuster a game it released a few days previously.
In the end I think our scepticism was justified, given that the publisher had to create a ‘live updates’ site to deal with the brace of patches needed on release. For the first 24 hours I couldn’t get the game past the menu screen without it crashing, on a PC that ought to have been capable of handling it on Ultra without breaking a sweat. Andy had a happier time, as his review in progress notes. The full verdict will be up early next week. Here’s where things cheer up for me too: With both patches applied and a new driver installed, Far Cry 4 is now running fine. Better than that, in fact, it looks absolutely sensational—as this video which the other Tom made shows. I can’t wait to make the inhabitants of Kryat’s acquaintance. A weekend of extreme taxidermy awaits.
Shaun Prescott: Official VR support for GTA 5 seems unlikely
With the arrival of GTA 5’s first-person mode on new generation consoles, and its release for PC in January, it seemed inevitable that VR would come into the equation somehow. Indeed, it seems like the only valid reason a studio would bother retrofitting a whole new perspective into an already immensely popular game. Alas, comments this week by Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick seem to indicate that VR won’t be officially supported (Take-Two is Rockstar’s parent company). Zelnick thinks the industry isn’t ready for VR yet, and while there’s little doubt that enterprising modders will get it going, it’s still a little disheartening.
Phil Savage: Expecting the Inquisition
Last week, we successfully landed a probe on a comet. In space! This is a thing that people envisioned and built and made happen. Given this—and, while we're at it, given the entire scope and wonderment of human achievement—how come we still can't release a video game on the same day worldwide?
Dragon Age: Inquisition has only today been released in the UK. The USA and others have had it since Tuesday. A few extra days might not seem like much, but it's a story based game and the internet exists. People are rightly precious about spoilers, because discovering the story is part of the pleasure. And yet, the risks are now out there. YouTube is filled with cutscenes of late-game missions, wikis are being updated with newly learned fates, and pricks are simply being pricks. We don't communicate across national lines any more, but our media is still held back based on arcane contractual tradition. That these restrictions are so easy to circumvent reveals them for what they are: artificial restraints with no justification or benefit.
Tyler Wilde: I want to walk in Dragon Age: Inquisition
I’m really enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition, but one thing is bugging me (well, aside from the stuttering, but I’m hoping the latest Nvidia drivers solve that.) I can’t walk. This is a big deal. Seriously.
With a controller, a light touch on the analog stick triggers the walking animation. But I am not using a controller, and there’s no key to toggle walking. It’s driving me crazy. I spent an hour making my character just right (she looks a bit like Mireille Enos in The Killing), and now she bolts around everywhere like an idiot. Mireille Enos doesn’t run everywhere! She walks purposefully. If she’s going to have a conversation with someone, she doesn’t sprint into their faces, bashing nose against nose. “YOU WANTED TO TALK?” No. She walks. Calmly. Like a human being.
Thank goodness I’m not the only one asking for walking, and Creative Director Mike Laidlaw is on the case. Unfortunately, BioWare sort of needs to make sure the game is working for everybody before addressing a design issue like this. I guess that’s more important. But I can’t wait for the walking patch.