Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Starcraft 2: No LAN, cuz of pirates

Via Shacknews

We don't currently plan to support LAN play with StarCraft II, as we are building Battle.net to be the ideal destination for multiplayer gaming with StarCraft II and future Blizzard Entertainment games. While this was a difficult decision for us, we felt that moving away from LAN play and directing players to our upgraded Battle.net service was the best option to ensure a quality multiplayer experience with StarCraft II and safeguard against piracy.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mark Jacobs "restructured" out of Mythic, BioWare takes over

Press release from Warhammer Online Herald

06/24/2009 @ 11:03:28 EST
Today we have important news to share with the community. EA is restructuring its RPG and MMO games development into a new group that includes both Mythic and BioWare. This newly formed team will be led by Ray Muzyka, co-founder and General Manager of BioWare. With this change, Ray becomes Group General Manager of the new RPG/MMO studio group. BioWare’s other co-founder, Greg Zeschuk will become Group Creative Officer for the new RPG/MMO studio group. Rob Denton will step up as General Manager of Mythic and report to Ray. BioWare’s studios remain unchanged and continue to report to Ray.

Mark Jacobs, co-founder and current General Manager of Mythic, will leave EA on June 23, 2009. We thank Mark for his contributions at Mythic and wish him the very best going forward. Mark played a major part in the success of Mythic with his contribution as General Manager and Lead Designer of WAR.

Mythic retains a strong team led by Rob who co-founded Mythic in 1995. Rob played a critical role in the development of Dark Age of Camelot. In his previous role as COO, he was responsible for all day-to-day management of the studio including all development, operations and support.

Please join us in celebrating the union of these two award-winning studios.

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Zero Punctuation Reviews: Prototype

Gee, I'm sure glad I reviewed Prototype yesterday or this would have taken the wind out of my sails to do my own review after ZP'd already done it.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review: Prototype

I have to admit I wasn't all that jazzed about this game going in. The marketing campaign was a little too... I don't know... self-aggrandizing and yet emo. Reading about it made the game's concept sound like something a bored junior high school student came up with in an hour when handed an assignment entitled "come up with something totally rad."

But, after playing it, I have to admit, that middle schooler has a pretty good idea of what's "rad."

Prototype is a 3rd person action game that puts you in the shoes of an amnesiac anti-hero who has been infected with a genetically engineered disease that gives him superpowers. He's a super-angry badass with a gravelly voice who, thanks to his infection, can shapeshift to look like other people, physically absorb people into his body to heal himself and/or take their place, form cutting blades and smashing clubs and any other number of weapons, sprint up the side of buildings and, of course, absorb an unbelievable number of bullets without dying. You get plopped out with no memory in the middle of manhattan with the disease "outbreak" coming into full swing, turning people into mutant killer zombies and the army coming in to try to contain the situation. And everybody wants you dead, but you're just too goddamned badassedly deadly for them to get the job done.

I know it sounds corny and over the top. I groaned as I installed the game. But you know what? Give your inner Jr. High student a hug because he hit this one out of the park. Yeah, it's like somebody took Venom, Hulk and Wolverine and threw them in a blender and poured this out as the result, but you know what? It's goddamned fun to be Venulkerine. I also felt echoes of Assassin's Creed, GTA and Resident Evil. Put em all together and you've got one big amalgamated game of "you are unbelievably powerful and you can pretty much do anything you want."

The gameplay itself is extremely reminiscent of The Incredible Hulk with one important difference: They did it right this time. Similarities? It takes place in New York, you have full freedom to explore the entire game area, you can take part in minigames or go find trouble on your own or just go straight for the plot advancing missions. But everything else is better. The graphics are better, the controls are better, the fights are more fun and less bullsqueeze, New York feels like a crowded city again with hundreds of people on every street, and as laughable as it sounds, the character progression is more believable.

For the achievement/unlock crowd, the game has lots to do. There's the usual "find all 400 of these glowing balls in the world" scavenger hunt, of course. But the game also takes a page from the drug dealer handbook: The first mission gives you a taste of your character's full power... and then it takes it all away for the second mission. From that point on, you have to buy upgrades to your abilities and whatnot using points you collect from doing all the things you do in the game.

For the exploration/sandbox junkie, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from just going on a rampage and doing your own thing for as long as you want. There's plenty of guys to fight outside of doing missions or minigames. You don't even have to be a particularly good guy, as the game doesn't seem to penalize you for hacking up innocent civilians along with infected zombies or military troops.

Of course, no game is absolutely perfect. There are a couple issues - the plot takes itself WAY too seriously, and the dialog is often locked in "see how much we curse? That's how you know this is a mature game" mode. The camera and controls, while better than Hulk's, still have some issues, especially when trying to turn quickly or fight something behind the camera. Sometimes it isn't entirely clear exactly how you're supposed to go about accomplishing the mission objectives, and often the description of a power or upgrade isn't really informative enough to help with the decision to buy it or not. And finally, often the minigames feel a little too contrived and the requirements to complete them successfully are too stringent for too little reward.

But by and large, the game is a fun romp through slaughtertown. And yes, you get to kick helicopters out of the sky with gusto. I heartily recommend it to anyone who isn't afraid to paint the town red with entrails and isn't fazed by a little blue language.

Grade: A.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mythic delivers human skull to Kotaku


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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Zero Punctuation Reviews: inFamous

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

5 Bloody Minutes of Left 4 Dead 2 Footage

Again ... at Kotaku.

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Supreme Commander 2 impressions

From Kotaku - Gleeeeeeeeeee

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Gas Bandit's Recommended Warhammer Mods

As I did before with Gas Bandit's Recommended WoW Mods, here is the Warhammer version that shows you what mods I tried, kept, and why.

The simple fact of the matter is, you need this mod to make most other good mods work. That's all there is to it.

There's a category of mods that I like to call the "Mythic should have done this anyway" category, and right at the top of the list is this mod. In Warcraft, using an ability while riding a mount automatically dismounts you and starts the casting of the ability. Not so in Warhammer... you have to manually dismount before using an ability, or face gigantic white letters slowly scrolling up the screen in an annoying fashion reminding you YOU CANNOT USE THIS ABILITY WHILE MOUNTED. This mod changes things to closer to how they should have been. It's not as seamless as WoW, but it's light years better than mythic's default.

Another "why the hell did mythic do this" fix to the UI. When you die and click "respawn," you are treated to a countdown timer in an unnecessarily large black box that obscures the center of your screen. This mod removes that black box and replaces your countdown timer with a small progress bar that is more out of the way.

Bloody Mess
This one is purely for aesthetics. Whenever you take damage or deal damage, the damaged party will have a bloodspray cloud rendered over them. Reminds me of the one thing I really liked about age of conan. Now if only I could arrange for complete dismemberment...

Most people have experienced the glitch in the default UI, where if you enter a scenario while a PQ timer is still on your screen, the PQ timer will continue to obscure the scenario information even after the timer has expired, often causing you to have to relog to fix the problem. This mod is a band-aid fix for that, hiding the PQ information window whenever you enter a scenario, so that the PQ information can never obscure scenario status.

Killing Blow

Probably my favorite UI mod. By default, if you score a kill, Warhammer barely makes note of it in the combat channel. How anticlimactic. This mod causes a kettledrum to beat and giant letters of recognition to come upon the screen whenever you score a kill proclaiming "YOU HAVE KILLED SO AND SO." Much more gratifying.

Short for "Mouse Over Target Hover," this makes the tooltip for whatever your mouse is on (which is normally crammed down in the lower right hand corner of the screen where you can't read it and look at the target at the same time) appear and follow your mouse cursor. It takes a little getting used to, but you will do so quickly and then come to wonder how you ever did without it.

By far the most complicated mod I use, NerfedButtons allows you to assign multiple functions based on conditional statements to single hotbar slots. By using NerfedButtons, you can, for instance, put all your debuffs on one button, pressing it multiple times to cast each one, complete with automatic checking for "do I already have this debuff on this target?" logic kicking in and selecting appropriate abilities each time. My engineer uses this to stack and refresh dots. My warrior priest uses it for dot and debuff abilities, as well as offensive-invocation buffs (hit person A to buff person B). A guildy of mine uses it to make sure that his target isn't immune to knockdown before it lets him use the knockdown ability. It is wonderfully versatile and frankly almost feels like cheating. Its only drawback is that to set up your custom buttons is very unfriendly and arcane, relying entirely on slash command lines input on a command line without a UI. It takes some real homework to understand how to make this mod work right, and then even more to learn all the different things it can do for you. But if you can put in the time, it will enhance your play greatly. Example, my engineer has one button that basically goes, "If I press 3, if my target doesn't have my acid bomb debuff/dot on him then throw acid bomb, else if target doesn't have my frag grenade dot then throw frag grenade, else if target doesn't have my incendiary rounds dot then shoot incendiary rounds, else if target doesn't have my signal flare dot then fire signal flare, else if target doesn't have my sticky bomb dot then throw sticky bomb, else throw firebomb DD grenade." Basically, this means under any circumstances I can just spam the "3" key at my target and I will always use an appropriate ability ensuring that all my dots are going on a given target at all times, and flawlessly doing direct damage when no dot needs refreshing. This leaves hotbar space and brain capacity free to worry about things like napalm placement, crowd control, knockbacks, morale abilities, pets and everything else.

This mod is another in the "fix something mythic did in a stupid way" line. For some reason, common error messages were deigned to need to scroll slowly up the screen in gigantic type, so that a rapid pressing of a wrong key (or a right key on a target out of range) would cause a backlog of error messages that would continue to block visibility on your screen for long seconds after you had stopped performing the erroneous action. SmartAlert removes these error messages from the announcements scroll area and simply places them in the chat window as normal text, like it should have been all along. A slight tweak is required to make this mod play nice with the Killing Blow mod.

State of Realm is a must for any RvR enthusiast. Combining data from server-provided map updates with a secret unseen SOR chat channel to disseminate information among SOR users, State of Realm (usually) provides the most concise, accurate and up-to-date information on the state of the realm war between Order and Destruction. Who has what keeps, what BOs, percentage controls of zones, time left on sieges, everything you could need to know in a handy, efficient panel with customizable colors and levels of information. SOR takes you from being largely in the dark to being informed about nearly everything... except for the 5% or so of the time that it "wigs out" and stops showing factual information.

This mod puts an additional "ring" graphic over your current target(s) that is visible even through walls, floors, ground and other obstructions. It is very handy for finding targeted friends and foes alike without having to puzzle out extrapolated vectors from the arrow at your feet.

Healers like it when you say "thank you" when they rez you. I know when I'm on my warrior priest, I can't help but bump rezzing grateful people a little higher in my priority list. This mod automatically says one of a customizable selection of indications of gratitude when you accept a resurrection. I wish it included the name of the healer for personalization, but that's a small gripe. One warning, the default text strings include l33tspeak/IMspeak... "thx 4 rez," which I went in and edited out post haste.

This mod lets you preselect automatic choices on rolling for medallion and crest loot. Simply change settings in its UI attached to the inventory screen to set need, greed, pass, or always-ask for recruit, scout, soldier and officer medallions as well as conqueror, invader, warlord and sovereign crests. The mod will also pop up a colored link in your chat window every time you receive a crest or medallion.

Warhammer Scrolling Combat Text
I'm still not entirely sold on WSCT. All most of what it really does is change the way damage and healing numbers are presented on the screen, and I'm not entirely sure the way mythic was doing it by default was bad. But what I do like about it is the alerts that tell you when you gain or lose buffs, and especially the alert that pops up to let you know you are low on health.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Bionic Commando

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Duke Nukem Forever

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