Tom Senior: A newbie challenger appears!
I should be excited about playing fighting games online. Bouts aren't time-demanding, and there's plenty to master. I could never wade witlessly into competition with strangers, though. The Capcom Fighting Network could be the answer. Capcom plans to integrate it into Street Fighter 5 when it launches next year.
Part social network, part matchmaking service, part training program, the CFN could be the perfect gateway for would-be duellists like me who need a structured framework of progression to find online competition satisfying. Built-in spectator tools improve things further, and I'll be even happier if the CFN provides a slick, central resource for tournament viewing. I played just enough Dota 2 to enjoy watching The International this year, and I'd like to reach the same stage with SF5, and more of the world's best beat-'em-ups.
Chris Thursten: Go pro
Launching PC Gamer Pro this week was one of the most stressful experiences I’ve had in four years of magazine deadlines, and the channel’s got a way to go yet—but I’m really glad that we’ve finally taken this step. I’ve wanted to cover esports and competitive gaming more thoroughly for years. I love being able to drill deep on a handful of games, and esports produce more human stories more frequently than any other aspect of our hobby.
The real work starts here, of course. There’s a ways to go before we fully deliver on our goal: reliable, accessible, fun competitive gaming stuff that makes you want to delve deeper into these games yourself. But at the very least, we’ve set ourselves at the start of that road.
Chris Livingston: Two-Face
Oh, but that sweet gaming nostalgia. Facing Worlds, the Unreal Tournament map featuring two castle towers on an asteroid in orbit, has returned. I haven't even played the pre-alpha of the new UT, but just the sight of that sniper-happy map makes me feel good.
It's not just that I loved playing that map, it's that back then I was broke, intermittently employed, had no social life, and didn't even have a TV. Those things all sucked, but when you're broke and sorta jobless and don't socialize, there's no reason not to spend all night—literally all night, until the sun actually rises in the morning—racking up m-m-m-monster kills. I don't have those kind of marathon midnight gaming sessions much these days, but I'm still happy to see it again.
Wes Fenlon: Hardware companies in blissful matrimony
Here's something we don't see every day: MSI and Corsair making a product together. Specifically, a graphics card (something MSI does quite well) with a closed-loop liquid cooler attached (something Corsair does quite well). This liquid-cooled 980 Ti isn't anything groundbreaking. It's not going to change the GPU business. But it's a cool project, because the hardware space is so crowded with companies doing the exact same thing while trying to compete with each other. Everyone has their own line of gaming headsets and gaming keyboards and gaming mice in addition to their core products. It gets monotonous, so it's really just nice to see two companies cooperate on a project that neither would've been able to do quite as well on their own. If this happened more often, I think we'd see a lot more cool stuff happening in the PC hardware space.
Tom Marks: A date to Witness
At long last, The Witness has a release date, and it’s not too far off! I was madly in love with Braid, and have been hotly anticipating The Witness for longer than I can remember. To give you some context, I saw creator Jonathan Blow give a lecture about it at my university in February of 2013, and even two and a half years ago it looked pretty great. What’s encouraging about that is they seem to be taking their time to make sure the game is as polished as it can possibly be, as indicated in their blog posts such as this one from June. I am fine with waiting, because that attention to detail and world-building is what made puzzle games like Myst so captivating. Let’s just hope the puzzles are as good as the world looks.
James Davenport: Giddy MIDI
Within my first twenty minutes of playing Panoramical, an “interactive sensory journey” where you manipulate the music and visuals in a wide selection of psychedelic scenes, I took about forty screenshots (have a peek). The goal of Panoramical is indefinite: you use the keyboard, gamepad, or a MIDI controller to tweak the visuals and corresponding audio tracks to create a scene that is pretty or horrifying or everything at once—basically, chase your bliss, whatever that is. I played around in one of the scenes until I’d rehearsed a method for orchestrating an insidious, unnerving crescendo. As a fan of media that deliberately makes me uncomfortable and/or tickles abstract emotions, it was one of the most satisfying game experiences I’ve had this year. But you don’t need to be as dour as me. Make a scene bright and cheerful. It’s ten bucks.