So Valve has been busy updating some games recently to include support for their “Big Picture” mode that will allow Steam to be used on TV. It’s a welcome update for those with the capabilities and, for most games, is taking nothing more than a 70 MB update to help incorporate.
Except for one game though. For some reason “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” is requiring a 400 MB update. This being the internet, suddenly everyone started having a theory of how this would lead to “Half-Life 2: Episode 3” or even “Half-Life 3”. Nobody has any real idea about how this works, but hey, since 400 is a way bigger number than 70, it can only mean the release of one of the most anticipated games of all time right? The madness surrounding the update is so consuming, that a completely unrelated video from Machinima featuring a series of binary code, and vaguely “Half-Life” music playing throughout, was thought to be part of the conspiracy, and players are now feverishly scouring “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” to find any changes.
The “Magic Bullet” Of the “Half-Life 3″ Conspiracy
Of course, the whole thing is nonsense to the sane mind, but it does bring up a very real problem for Valve, in that the next “Half-Life” (in whatever form it may take) is slowly reaching some pretty unrealistic expectations. Whenever an extra 330 MB of unspecified, probably insignificant data can bring the entire PC gaming community to a furor, the hype meter has definitely spiked, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Valve’s exhibited an uncommon level of craftsmanship over the years, but even they are setting themselves up for a scenario where gamers are having years to craft their own game in their minds that even Valve might not be able to match. While this doesn’t mean they should rush the development of a game, it may be time to give gamers something (anything) regarding the next title in the beloved series before the hype machine claims another victim ala “Diablo III”.
Called Scream Fortress, the event (which runs through November 8th) once again includes the evil wizard Meramasus who is back to rule the world of TF2, only this time in the form of a ghost. At his disposal is the wheel of fate which affects a new king of the hill map where players must defeat Meramasus. The wheel produces a variety of random effects that an aid or harm the player. Also, it would appear the wizard of questionable competence Meramasus has left some of his random spells strewn about, and finding them gives player’s items new, holiday specific effects such as new paint on items, or fire and ghost summoning abilities.
I used to love when TV shows had special Halloween episodes, and I really love it when online games do the same. If you for some reason have been waiting to get into “Left 4 Dead” or “Team Fortress 2” now would be the time, as these are some great deals and additions that Valve has once again cooked up for the occasion.
Steam Green Light finally approved its first 10 games to be featured on the site, and (for the most part) they’re proving why this program is such a great idea in the first place. From zombie games, to samurai simulators, to “Half-Life” mods, back to zombie games, just in the initial offering of titles we are seeing some really remarkable ideas that will soon become available for all. Ranking those initial 10 titles is no easy task, but if you want the best of the best of Green Light so far, here it is.
10. McPixel – Probably the type of game that looks fun to vote for, but won’t get that many buys, “McPixel” is an odd title to say the least. It’s made up of a series of 20 second levels where you have to achieve a goal (usually getting rid of a bomb) without many instructions on how to do so. It’s reminiscent of “Wario Ware,” and carries a very unique since of humor, but looks like it may wear its welcome faster than that classic ever did. Nothing to see here, move along.
9. No More Room In Hell – “No More Room In Hell” is a “Half-Life 2″ mod that more than favors “Left 4 Dead,” but this zombie squad based FPS gets some serious points for knowing its genre. I like the variety of zombie enemies, weapons, and appropriate environments, but what I love is the scarce ammunition, lack of crosshairs display, multiple game modes (including an awesome survival mode where you hold down a zombie fort) and overall fun factor. If you’re not tired of “Left 4 Dead,” but crave something new, keep your eye on this one.
8. Cry of Fear – A “Half-Life” mod, this is one of two horror games to make the final cut. “Cry of Fear” uses the old “you have amnesia” story to throw you into a world of fear and constant terror. The goal of “Cry of Fear” is to simply throw as many unexpected atrocities at you as possible and test your limits of composure. “Cry of Fear” reminds me of a really good carnival haunted house, and its use of sound, light, and atmosphere are top notch. Also, you have to see the above video of people playing it and losing their minds to the game’s scares.
7. Heroes and Generals – Maybe the most technically proficient of the initial Green Light games, “Heroes and Generals” looks to breathe a little life in to online FPS shooters. “Heroes and Generals” allows players to either take to the frontlines in a variety of combat situations FPS style, or take the role of a commander and manage the battle in more of an RTS format. This type of game has been tried before, but has never really produced a big hit. However, the media released so far is intriguing, and the team behind the game is some of the same people who worked on the “Hitman” series and “Freedom Fighters.” It’s got a lot of pedigree going for it, and could be a quick hit.
6. Project Zomboid – ANOTHER ZOMBIE GAME? Yes, but don’t hold that against it. This may be the most conceptually intriguing zombie game I’ve ever seen, as the emphasis is on survival and not shooting. Using a sandbox mode and isometric perspective, “Project Zomboid” allows players to scavenge supplies, build safehavens, maintain their hunger and boredom levels, and of course, fight the occasional zombie. It’s so in depth, you have to consider things like hanging sheets over your windows so zombies don’t spot your lights, and already features an active mod community who contribute to the game regularly. I’m a BIG fan of this one, and you should definitely consider it if you’re a fan of the first two “Fallout” games.
Valve may be my favorite video game company in the world.
It really has nothing to do with their games either. I mean, I’m as big as a fan of “Half-Life,” “Left 4 Dead,” “Team Fortress 2″ and the rest of the lineup as anyone, but it’s more the general vibe of the company that appeals to me so much. They’re living proof that it is possible to maintain a respectable bottom line, without having to sacrifice artistic or personal integrity. Maybe it’s their supposed ‘no bosses’ atmosphere at the office, but you actually do get the impression that they make moves for the benefit of their fans and not their figures.
Case in point is the new Green Light section on Steam. In case you weren’t aware, Steam Green Light allows indie developers a forum to submit their projects to for approval to be featured on Steam. The games are voted on by the users, and run the virtual gamut of just about every genre and concept you could possibly imagine. It’s similar to Kickstarter, with the key difference being that most of these developers aren’t asking for money, but rather the kind of exposure to open consumer minds that only Steam can provide.
Valve may have found a solution to the problem though, and it comes in the form of a “pay to play” type entry fee. Now for a developer to feature their idea, it’s going to cost $100 dollars. In the grand scheme of things, most developers can easily write this off as a minor investment in their own project, with the potential reward being worth far more than that figure. And in case you actually believed that Valve would do something like pocket the money, you forget who you’re dealing with. They’ve announced that all proceeds from this fee will be donated to the Penny-Arcade sponsored charity Child’s Play.
Only Valve could manage to solve a nightmare of a logistical problem in a way that somehow manages to help children’s charities. It’s that surreal level of forward thinking and personal responsibility the company has that even makes me believe that their newly rumored venture into the physical console market that their pet project “Steam” is slowly helping to destroy, might somehow work after all.
Oh joy of joys, oh bliss, sweet bliss — the annual Steam Summer Sale is back again. As if Steam wasn’t glorious enough, once a year (well twice if you count the holiday sale) they run wild on their deep catalog of downloads and slash prices to insane degrees.
The sale runs until July 22nd and kicks off today with such deals as “Portal 2″ for $4.99, “CoD Modern Warfare 3″ for $29.99, and entire developer collections like Rockstar, Ubisoft and friggin Bethesda for severely reduced prices on complete collections and individual titles. That means you can buy “Skyrim,” “Fallout: New Vegas” (plus all the expansions), and “Brink” and “Hunted” thrown in for the hell of it for $49.99. It’s such an unbelievable deal, it should have an infomercial at 3 A.M.
Apparently, though, not everyone shares my enthusiasm over this epic event. Particularly, a rep from EA named David Demartini, who heads up the direct download service Origin. According to David, the Steam sale represents a desperate act that will ultimately hurt the industry by making gamers believe that there is no need to buy a game immediately if the same title is going to be available later at incredibly reduced prices. He even goes so far as to compare Steam to Target stores saying, “We’re not trying to be Target. We’re trying to be Nordstrom.”
Valve, being awesome, responds to this with the usual, saying that first day, first week, and even first month sales are all bigger than they have been in a while, and even remind Mr. Demartini that they offer their own titles on sale too, saying, “If we thought having a 75 per cent sale on ‘Portal 2′ would cheapen ‘Portal 2,’ we wouldn’t do it. We know there are all kinds of ways customers consume things, get value, come back, build franchises. We think lots of those things strengthen it.”
The thing is, of course, is that EA is right. If companies wanted to make more bottom line money, they would follow EA’s strategy. But that’s not the point, is it? This sale isn’t done for Valve’s benefit, or the benefit of the industry at large, but rather is ten measly days out of the year they set aside to do something just for gamers. As far as EA’s theory that they are trying to be Nordstrom, and Steam is Target, it doesn’t really hold water when you consider they are selling the same quality products. Also, doesn’t Nordstrom offer sales also?
But hey, picking on EA is like criticizing a Michael Bay movie. Too easy, and a little sad. No, instead, let’s continue to ignore the fact that EA has a stream service at all and focus on this incredible Steam Summer Sale, of which right now I would recommend jumping on the “Walking Dead Season Collection” and the almost unbelievable 24-game Valve complete pack. To quote Ferris Bueller: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
I don’t want to restart a video game war that went cold over a decade ago, but it’s hard to deny that the PlayStation was the better buy than the Sega Saturn.
I know, I know, here comes the usual Saturn fan argument. “Panzer Dragoon,” “Guardian Heroes,” “Nights Into Dreams.” That last one, in particular, has been a longtime cult favorite, and fans have been clamoring for years for Sega to re-visit “Nights.” Sure, there was that Japanese exclusive PS2 remake, and a mediocre semi-sequel on the Wii, but none of it has fully satisfied fans’ bloodlust following the original title.
Well, not long after releasing a teaser image related to the game, Sega has gone all-in and announced a full-on HD remake of the original “Nights” to be released on Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, and Playstation Network. Besides including little pieces of the blown minds of hardcore fans everywhere, the remake will boast standard upgrades like HD graphics, widescreen compatibility, achievements, and a “Saturn Mode” that lets you play the game in its original format.
If you never played “Nights,” the reasons you should be excited for this remake are a lot of the same reasons I outlined previously for why “Earthbound” is my favorite game of all time. It’s a title brimming with style, that’s all about exploring the world of dreams via flight. Appropriately then, the best way to describe the majority of the games features is dream-like. The flying controls that make up the majority of the game handle loose and free, while a brilliant soundtrack fills the landscapes you explore, giving you a sense of freedom that has nothing to do with a concept like sandbox gaming. Instead, “Nights” surrealism frees your mind and makes you believe that even though the game has well established parameters, that somehow anything is still possible.
Yet there’s a reason this game is considered a “cult classic” and not a runaway contender for best game of all time. It’s not entirely due to the fact “Nights” came out in the dying days of a mostly underwhelming system, either. Truthfully, once you get past the game’s thrill of flying, it’s hard to not see that the majority of “Nights” is standard platforming item-fetching that is handled in a style that’s not quite on the rails, but is still more linear than it initially appears to be. Even the flying aspect has lost some of its appeal over time as it was largely based around the appeal of exciting new “analog stick technology” that has of course become anything but novel since.
I know that remakes and re-releases are big money in the video game market right now (and some, like the “Metal Gear Solid” and “Splinter Cell” collections are wholly justified), but Sega is putting their fans in an awkward position with a release like this. On one hand, not supporting this game by buying it may make Sega believe that there is not the interest in their classic library that there definitely is and should be when it comes to generally good gaming ideas. However, if fans jump on this title with the same rabid ferocity that they have shown in clamoring for its release all these years, then they will be effectively sending the message that a bare bones HD re-release is good enough for them.
There’s a group of people out there that will be happy enough buying a title like “Nights” to enjoy for an afternoon of nostalgia and be perfectly happy with it. Maybe, with the right expectations, there is nothing wrong with that. I just hope that game developers are also taking time to consider the little aspects of titles like “Nights” that have made them remain so beloved over the years, and are looking to expand those ideas into future original properties. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking, but if it’s not the case, then in the end, releases like these really are nothing more than cash grabs.
If you head over to Adult Swim’s website right now, you’ll find an interesting teaser. Apparently, next week Valve and Adult Swim are going to be revealing a collaboration that they describe as “their video game peanut butter… our network chocolate” and “something that you’ll probably enjoy.” The picture accompanying the announcement makes it pretty clear that this is something “Team Fortress 2“-related, and speculation everywhere has it at everything from the long-awaited “Meet the Pyro” episode of the “Meet the Team” series, to a full-on new TV series based on the insanely popular online shooter.
Considering that “Team Fortress 2″ is one of the most purely entertaining games of all time, with a comic style and personality that is unmatched in its medium, and that those “Meet the Team” videos are some of the funniest things ever produced in relation to a video game, whatever comes of this announcement is sure be a bonafide success.
Personally, I’m hoping for a “Red vs Blue” style online miniseries.
It is odd, though, that video games and television shows are two mediums that don’t have much of a celebrated history, or anticipated future of collaboration. Video games made into movies have been a popular subject of discussion for years, but for some reason very few people ever consider the potential for games as TV shows. While “Team Fortress 2” might be the strongest argument for the games to series transition in the history of video games, the truth is that I think there are at least five other titles that would do very well in an episodic format.
How It Would Work: Three letters. H-B-O. The world of the “Fallout” series is one of the most brutal, bleak and terrifying of all time. Around every corner waits a new horror and atrocity, and just about every person left has become a hardened bastard because it’s the only thing that’s allowed them to survive.
It’s the perfect world for HBO’s no limit programming.
More than the violence, though, this show would need HBO’s creative freedom to really showcase the ”Fallout” series’ biggest success, and that’s the world it takes place in. The 50s style atmosphere, mixed with the total apocalypse, is the thing that made the series stand out above all others, and it leads to some of the greatest dark humor in any medium. From the always gleeful “Fallout Boy” mascot to the incredibly inappropriate yet oddly fitting classic soundtrack, there is so much in this series that you wouldn’t have to change a bit of to make it shine as something truly unique and incredible.
What’s better is that you wouldn’t be stuck with the parameters of the series story either. There are so many tales waiting to be told that you could just borrow ideas from the established parts of the series and have more than enough foundation for even a mediocre script writer to build something truly compelling with.
In fact, with the possible exception of “Team Fortress 2,” “Fallout” is the series perhaps most primed for television. Just please… no Deathclaws. They scared me enough in the game already when I accidentally found Old Oney too early, and I certainly don’t need any more of them.
Fanboys rejoice! It looks like Steam is finally joining the cult. Six media outlets were given teasers today, all of which came from Valve with some kind of Mac theme. There’s the heavy pictured at right in all his iPod glory. There was also an image of Gordon Freeman with a Mac logo on his chest and a little homage to my favorite Valve game, Portal.
As more consumers consider the Mac alternative to PCs, we’ll see a lot more of this. Gaming is extremely lucrative and publishers aren’t going to stand by and watch as a simple platform choice steals away potential customers. Steam for the Mac isn’t a world-shattering release, though. Will it be a nice choice for Mac users? Of course. But we’ll probably only see Valve titles in the immediate futures, and a lot of the smaller games that make Steam so great won’t make it over for several years, if ever.
This is a step in the right direction, though. Few things would please me as much as playing Portal 2 on my lappy during a flight.
I can’t imagine why this would ever be the case. I mean, the original Bioshock is like $15 most places, often less. Why you still wouldn’t have the game, or haven’t played through the game, is totally beyond me. I suppose it is possible, though, so this deal is still worth mentioning.
When you pre-order Bioshock 2 from Direct2Drive they’ll throw in a copy of the original for free. You can get the same deal on Steam if you prefer the Valve method. Hell, even if you have the first this is still a great deal. Install the original on a friend’s machine who just refused to buy it.
Yes, the end of that title is “highlander.” That’s the new mode that made its way into the latest Team Fortress 2 update. The update also includes a bunch of bug fixes and some map edits.
For highlander mode each team can consist of up to 9 players. For each team there can only be one of each different class. I really like the idea. Part of the intrigue of the class system is feeling like you have a special role that others can’t quite perform as well. What better way to showcase it than making each player truly the only one.
Among the other changes is cloud support for key bindings and custom spray tags.