Samuel Roberts: Specs-Wing
I upgraded my PC just over a year ago to what seemed like a fairly solid i5/GTX 780 combo, and over the last year, I’ve raised an eyebrow or two at some increasingly demanding PC specs. This week it was the turn of Star Wars Battlefront, which recommends a ludicrous 16GB RAM to play it, a proper Imaginary Land requirement for many players that immediately made me worry the port wasn’t going to be particularly well-optimised.
Luckily, Tyler investigated and found that things weren’t quite as grim if you didn’t necessarily hit the recommended specs, but even so, it doesn’t send the most reassuring message. Hopefully Battlefront will run without issue on modest PCs.
Tom Senior: Jessica Curry leaves The Chinese Room
Today brings the sad news that Jessica Curry will be stepping back from The Chinese Room. Her moving blog post speaks for itself, outlining her struggle with illness, the difficulties of working with a publisher, being sidelined in coverage of The Chinese Room’s games, and more. If you haven’t already, check out her extraordinary compositions for Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. The soundtrack is on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and you can hear some snippets here. The good news is that Curry is “about to embark on a large-scale music project” with UK poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, so we’ll hopefully be hearing more of her work in due course.
James Davenport: Rise of the Price of the Tomb Raider
I’m super excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider. The reboot was a lovely refresh that nailed light exploration and action, a marriage of my favorite Metroid-y ideas with some disturbing archery. It was a lovely, self-contained game, but we’re getting some new Systems™ in the sequel I’m not too jazzed about.
Expedition Cards to give the player a bunch of modifiers or advantages, which sounds fine on their own. You play the game, earn in game XP, points, Survival Scars, or whatever they call ‘em this go around, and use them to purchase new cards that do dopey tricks. Sure! Fine! But, you can also buy the cards with real money.
Oh, damnit. I get that games are expensive, I just wish perks and extras weren’t held behind what is likely going to be some highly throttled progression. The publisher will want you motivated to buy those cards, so expect unlocks and status bars in your face all the time, and expect the unlocks to slow down quickly. There has to be some candy behind the glass to get your mouth watering. Is it curmudgeonly to complain about microtransactions and expect the worst? Maybe. I’m all for change and experimentation when it comes to how we buy our games, but this feels a bit too grabby for a game like Tomb Raider.
Tyler Wilde: Valve texted us an ambiguous winky smile
I’m a bit tired of covering the mystery of Half-Life 3. I still sort of enjoy all the goofy theories and clues, but it was getting old before even “the cake is a lie” was getting old. And then Valve goes and drops ‘hl3.txt’ into a Dota 2 update, and here I am again, scouring it for clues. I can’t just ignore something like that, especially when the file actually references “combine” stuff.
To be fair, complaints that no one should care anymore are just as tiring. I don’t want to be the grumpy guy who goes “ugh, just get over it” when everyone’s having fun playing sleuth—I’m not sure a bunch of fans eagerly anticipating something is anything to complain about. But if Half-Life 3 ever is announced, for real, I’m not sure how I’ll feel. Its existence has become a joke, and no joke is endlessly funny.
Phil Savage: Shedding a tear for the Battlecry team
I'd hate to be working on Battlecry right now. It can't be a good feeling when your publisher publicly voices its “concerns”. But for us—the consumers—it's a healthy thing to see. Battlecry's E3 appearance didn't dampen Bethesda's press conference (it was no Pelé,) but it also wasn't a highlight. And Evan didn't sound overly impressed after his hands-on time with the game. The hyper-colourful team-based shooter is going to have a busy year, thanks to games like Overwatch and Paladin. If you want to compete against that calibre of competition, you have to be pretty damn good.
There was a time when Bethesda would have released it anyway. Remember the games Wet and Rogue Warrior? Bethesda may not have the best history with quality control, but more recently—probably since Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Skyrim helped them to earn all of the money in the world—they have demonstrated a commitment to not releasing heaping piles of shit.* It's nice to see that in a publisher, even if it must be awful for the developers involved.
*What do you mean, “The Elder Scrolls Online”?
Tim Clark: Mo’ music, mo’ problems
I made the bitter mistake about 10 years ago of trusting iTunes with all the music I own. Having migrated a library which contains about 200 GB of tracks and north of 100 playlists (“Hey girl, let me make you a mixtape”) between four successive Macs, it’s now in a nightmare realm of permission errors that kills any new install. Even the backups are rotten with some sort of digital palsy. I mention it here because, well, I had to moan about something, and also my plan is to remove the music from what I now regard to be Apple’s blighted ecosystem and stick it somewhere safe on my PC, ideally with playlists intact. Any advice in terms of doing that will be gratefully received. I might even make you a CDR.