Samuel Roberts: Political Steam
This week it was revealed a Congressman, Duncan Hunter, spent $1,302 of campaign funds on Steam games—don’t worry, he listed it as to be paid back. But I understand, Mr Hunter. It made me think about my bad buying habits on Steam, and how the platform’s constant sales has resulted in my hoarding of games that I’ll never play, just because I’ve seen them drop to that price point that is cheap enough to be a good deal and not significant enough to take a serious hit from my bank account.
There’s something about the consumer experience on PC that makes it very easy to develop a hoarding mentality. The other day I bought Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition for a great price—but I’ve played the original before, and I was hoping to get more than three hours into Pillars or Divinity by the end of 2016. Does Steam bring out the same habits in you? Confess your hoarding shame to me.
Phil Savage: Bore the eyes
My low is the Baldur's Gate expansion controversy that saw the game flooded with negative user reviews on Steam and Metacritic, and led to a statement by Beamdog CEO Trent Oster. It's a lead contender for the Dumbest Thing People Have Been Inexplicably Angry About This Year Award—which is impressive, given that we're not long past the furore over Tracer's bum.
There are weird, prejudicial overtones in how vehement the reaction against Mizhena, a transgender NPC, has been. Even so, I'm amazed that anyone has the temerity to be so upset about such an ancillary character. I think much of Skyrim's NPC dialogue is outright bad, but I've never felt the need to protest against the game because a rural shopkeeper wasn't prepared to give a deep and nuanced rundowns of her thoughts, hopes and fears. I don't find any of the arguments being made about Mizhena convincing. She's an example of "tokenism"? While it's nice that her backstory is being fleshed out in an update, such an argument feels more like a stock response to prevent queer NPCs entirely. As for the idea that Beamdog are pushing an agenda, Mizhena's 'controversial' dialogue is buried two optional threads deep into a conversation. So they're not pushing very hard.
There are ideological links between this controversy and plenty of others over the last couple of years—Tracer's arse included. And, around the shouting, it's healthy to discuss the role of politics, criticism, and boundary pushing in pop culture. Art is made stronger by everyone, from the creators to the consumers, thinking about these things, and challenging assumptions and comfort zones. That doesn't work if it can't be done maturely, and it definitely doesn't work if people are going to lose their shit over the smallest, most insignificant of things.
Evan Lahti: Closing time
It was a bummer to hear that indie dev and publisher Choice Provisions closed its San Francisco studio this week. They’re the folks that made BIT.TRIP and Tharsis, industry veterans that pooled their resources to make a bunch of creative games. Choice Provisions’ Santa Cruz studio lives on, thankfully, but it’s sad to see an independent label shrink in this time of immense growth for PC gaming. We didn’t love Tharsis, but I loved its premise—mashing-up space exploration with board gaming.
Angus Morrison: Black morass
Blizzard has unleashed the dogs of law, forcing unofficial Vanilla WoW server Nostalrius to close. I rarely work up the emotional energy to so much as shrug at another mean move by corporate lawyers, but this time I’ve gone and written a darned feature on the thing.
I spent a couple of months playing Nostalrius, reliving how WoW used to play in the old days. It’s bizarre, so out of step with modern game design that it makes for a poignant museum piece. Nostalrius is a record of a living world long that has since been moved on from by most people. It’s like being able to wander through the 1840s on a whim.
It’s also a phenomenal technical achievement by a band of volunteers. Somehow they got over 11,000 people playing on a single server simultaneously. And it was playable, mostly. Unless Blizzard drops the sudden existence of official legacy servers on us, the move feels nothing more than mean-spirited.
Tyler Wilde: Quantum Broke
I’m a big fan of Remedy, so I was sad to see that Andy didn’t fall in love with Quantum Break. He thought it was OK—an entertaining story, but mediocre shooting and frustrating platforming. Plus, we’re still seeing growing pains with DirectX 12 and Universal Windows Platform apps, and Quantum Break hasn’t escaped them. Andy’s GTX 970 struggled with it, and I don’t look forward to seeing how my system fairs. But even knowing all that, I do look forward to playing it. I’m a sucker for Sam Lake stories, time-travel nonsense (I even sat through Hulu’s ‘11.22.63’ miniseries), and bullets that slow down a bunch and then speed up.
Jarred Walton: Where’s my GeForce!?
This talk about Pascal GP100 and the Tesla P100 is all well and good, but where’s our new GeForce card? Gamers don’t care about FP64, and the Tesla P100 doesn’t even have video outputs. (It also doesn’t work in PCI Express slots.) I have one simple request, and that’s GPUs with frickin laser beams attached to their heads. C’mon, Nvidia. You had one—okay, several—jobs.
Of course, we knew this was coming. When Nvidia didn’t talk about Pascal at the Game Developers Conference last month, it meant that GeForce versions of Pascal were still months away. GTC is a platform for launching professional hardware and software solutions, not consumer models. But if the GP100 has 15.3 billion transistors and only 3,584 CUDA cores, will we actually see a GP104 with more cores but no FP64? We don’t know yet, and so we wait.
But I’m tired of waiting, and Maximum PC’s Dream Machine 2016 is looming ever nearer. We did four GTX Titan X cards last year, and you can darn well bet we’re planning to beat that with this year’s system. The race is still on to see who can get us new graphics hardware first.