The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

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THE LOWS

Samuel Roberts: Faster, Snake
Just a very tiny gripe for me in an otherwise pretty great week, coming out of a strong GDC. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s release date was announced this week, almost exactly six months ahead of release. The PC version, though, is arriving a fortnight after the console versions. Not bad compared to the gap for Ground Zeroes, sure, but with half a year to go, you’d hope they could achieve parity with that much notice.

Chris Livingston: Not More Shield
Nvidia announced Shield, a $200 console, which demonstrated that it's not very good at naming things (this is the third product called Shield) and possibly that it's not very good at making consoles. Claiming it was the first Android TV console (while conveniently forgetting about the Ouya) and claiming GRID was the first game streaming service (while forgetting about OnLive), Nvidia Shield ultimately just didn't look that great. They showed off some games running on it, like Doom 3, and even considering that Doom 3 is a decade old, it sure didn't run very well.

The worst moment, I think, was when Nvidia attempted to show off Crysis 3 running on their console. It looked very pretty, as Crysis always does, but it seemed odd that they were holding their characters very, very still as the game started. The reason why became apparent when one of the players turned and the framerate devolved into a Powerpoint slideshow. It basically looked like the original Crysis back when I tried to run it on whatever clunky, outdated PC I had in 2007. I understand Shield is not finished yet, but demonstrating old games running poorly on a new console isn't gonna have anyone reaching for their wallets.

Roller Coaster Tycoon World Slide

Tim Clark: Life is a Roller Coaster. Not in a good way
The trailer for Roller Coaster Tycoon World came out yesterday, and it’s fair to say that long-standing fans of the series had some pretty serious reservations about what they were seeing. The commenters under our article were brutal enough, but Kotaku collected some of the most virulent reactions in a piece titled ‘New Rollercoaster Tycoon game looks like shit’. I suspect that if they’d seen the game demoed, as I did yesterday, that headline might have been less polite. I can’t claim to be a series superfan, but I did used to love seeing the startlingly complicated creations which my little sister, who did was an expert coaster designer, used to come up with. But this new game feels like it has been created by people who’ve had the Frontier/Chris Sawyer originals explained over fax.

Everything about it seems retrograde, from the glitchy assets to the lack of genuine new ideas. There was some talk of banding together with other players to form theme park companies, but it sounded like a glorified leaderboard. The developer behind the wheel on RCTW is Area 52 games, which I was told includes veterans from Tropico and Railroad Tycoon. The senior producer, who let the record state seemed lovely, admitted the team needed to be fleshed out with more resources, but given that RCTW is due out mid-2015, I wonder how much time there is to apply the ocean of polish needed to justify its existence. Right now my impression was that it looked more like a mobile game being given a full PC release. Moments like this are honestly the worst part of the job. Mother said if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Sorry mum, but as of now this one looks like a fire at a theme park.

Tom Senior: Microsoft’s magic dongle
I’m very happy with my Xbox One pad, which I’ve been using a lot recently to play the sublime Rayman Legends. I’m less happy with its dormant wireless capability, and positively annoyed that I’ll have to buy a dangly dongle thing to unlock that capability. I remember paying quite a lot for the Xbox 360 equivalent years ago, and rather wouldn’t shell out again. Maybe I’ll take Tyler’s advice and hook up one of my PS4 controllers instead.

No One Lives Forever Slide

Wes Fenlon: No One Lives Forever can't catch a break
One of my favorite things about GDC are the classic game postmortems. Veteran developers talk about a game they made 10 or 20 years ago and offer interesting insight into its design, and usually some great stories from behind the scenes. The postmortems always make me appreciate the history of gaming as a medium—something the games industry is often bad at doing itself, as evidenced by its difficulty preserving classic games. Case in point: No One Lives Forever, one of the best PC games ever made, which has been churning in rights hell for a decade. There's currently no way to buy the game digitally. For a year, Night Dive Studios has been trying to track down the rights and re-release the game. Apparently the situation is such a mess, they finally gave up.Also, Warner threatened Night Dive with legal action if they tried to make a new NOLF, and had no interest in helping re-release the game. What a waste.

Tyler Wilde: I’m not Jonathan Blow
Do I look like Jonathan Blow? I guess I look a little like Jonathan Blow, even though he’s over 10 years older than me. I should have known the guy I was talking to after GDC the other day had mistaken me for him when he mentioned that he had been inspired by Braid, but it took a good five minutes before I went “Oh.” Oops. Being mistaken for the creator of Braid isn’t really so bad—flattering, even—but what burns is that I didn’t even get on Canadian radio! (See Samuel Robert’s high from last week.)