The Popular (and Absolutely Insane) Just Cause 2 Multiplayer Mod is About to Get a Steam Release

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While I have no problem calling “Just Cause 2” a good game, I’m hesitant when it comes to giving it praise beyond that.

See if you attend the open world game design school, there’s really only two classes you can go to. One preaches using the large in-game world to provide a more intensely cinematic experience, while the other teaches the idea of using that same space to let players just go nuts with few (if any) design boundaries to limit or guide them.

While neither is inherently a wrong pursuit, “Just Cause 2′s” firm attendance and devotion to the latter design philosophy meant that while the game was insanely large and incredibly fun to just mess around in, elements like mission quality and story structure were either limited or non-existent.

Some time ago, however, a dedicated group of modders found a way to capitalize off of the built-in strengths of the game and give it a longevity that even a more cohesive and engaging storyline structure couldn’t do by simply adding a true online multiplayer mode to the game.

It’s not an unprecedented occurrence for a single player only game to get a modded multiplayer component, but when you consider that this particular mod allows for up to 600 players at once within the absolutely gigantic world of “Just Cause 2,” and factor in the game’s already zany and ridiculously fast paced nature, perhaps you can see why this drew so much attention from users who would have otherwise most likely stopped regularly playing the game some time ago.

Now it turns out it was not only individual users whose attention was caught by the mod, but the folks at Valve as well as it was recently announced that Steam will soon be making the popular multiplayer mod available for download as an official Steam release. This not only makes the mod much more accessible to the average person, but rightfully legitimizes it as an essential component of the “Just Cause 2” experience.

While the only available release date is still 2013, regardless of whenever this does actually hit Steam it’s already a big win for everyone involved. This is especially true for us, the players, who will now get an even easier chance to experience a sandbox action multiplayer game that is without chaotic equal. Expect to see a popular new wave of insane YouTube videos and jaws on floors when “Just Cause 2′s” multiplayer mode is released by the end of the month

The Best of the Most Recent Steam Greenlight Games

Zombies

Though featuring the word zombies in the title, the developers of this indie project are very insistent on letting everyone know, that this game has nothing to do with the “played out” undead.

Instead this is the isometric adventure of an office drone whose had enough and decides to rescue the innocent people trapped by the zombies of the bureaucratic and corporate worlds, and escape their clutches through extreme violence. Featuring a fun pixelated style and some catchy/trippy music, this could just be the spiritual video game adaptation of the 1993 classic film “Falling Down” that we never got.

Pulsar: Lost Colony

For years gamers have dreamed of the ultimate “Star Trek” game that would allow you and your friends to man a space ship and explore the galaxy. Some games have come close, but nothing so far has truly re-created the experience conceptualized by so many childhood imaginations.

“Pulsar” aims to accomplish just that, and might just have found the formula. Featuring randomized galaxies, you and four friends each take a role with unique responsibilities required to keep your ship afloat. Explore and form away teams as you engage on a variety of assignment, but be careful as the game does feature permanganate death should something go awry. Unfortunately “Wrath of Khan” style space funerals are unconfirmed.

The best part? “Pulsar” supports Occulus Rift

Nihilumbra

Born in a dark void, the protagonist of Nihilumbra finds himself in a world not different from our own and discovers that he can use these newfound colors to access different powers, and manipulate his environments. You’ll need to master these new found powers quickly too, as it turns out the void doesn’t like to have a part of itself separated and is trying to overtake this new world to get you back.

Incredibly dark and amazingly stylish, conceptually this game reminds me of a twisted version of “Kirby.” Innovative 2D games never really go out of style, and from everything that’s been shown so far, this looks destined to be an indie cult hit on the PC, just as it has been for the mobile scene.

MouseCraft

Dubious name aside (it has nothing to do with “Minecraft”) “MouseCraft” may just be the biggest sure thing of the newest Greenlit titles.

In it you are asked to use a series of Tetris like puzzle pieces to complete a path for some rats so they may reach the cheese on the other side. Naturally, the difficulty increases as you go along and new pieces become available to throw a wrench in the works, but even in the early levels demoed show an original puzzle experience that screams addiction. So far this is only set for PC, Mac, and Linux, but don’t be surprised to see this come to mobile very soon.

Hyper Light Drifter

A game that wears its old school action/adventure game love on its sleeve, “Hyper Light Drifter” graphically looks like an extremely well designed Sega Genesis game, and it’s colorful cyber-ish world design immediately makes this game noteworthy.

While it’s gameplay is slightly more mysterious, the developer’s description of it as a cross between “Diablo” and a “Link to the Past” is an encouraging sign it will follow suit and provide an advenure/RPG hybrid in line with so many classic games of past. Simple and addictive old-shcool games of this style are not easy to come by, so if you’re a fan of the genre, this is the one to watch.

New Feature Will Allow You To Share Your Steam Games With Closest Friends

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Valve announced today that they are developing the beta for a new feature called Steam Family Sharing that will allow you to share your Steam library with close friends, just like you are lending them a physical game.

Though the full details are still unknown, the basic way the system appears to work is that up to 10 authorized friends can request to access your Steam account and download and play, through the cloud, most games you have available, and vice versa. To prevent abusing the system, if the user whose account you are borrowing from accesses their own account while you are using it, even if they are playing a different game than you are, you will be given a prompt that you have a few minutes to buy the game, or you will be kicked out.

Further details reveal that not every game will be available for sharing, though the specific games are unknown, and that purchased in-game items will not carry over to sharing, though it appears that DLC will. Also actions that can affect reputation in a game that are done by the player borrowing said game will carry over to the lender.

Though a few concerns and questions remain (Can a lender access his account when a game is installing to the borrower? If you’ve installed the game over the cloud and choose to buy it, does it have to be re-installed?) this is a tremendous idea that has been rumored for some time, but is still a welcome and exciting addition to Steam that provides a great opportunity to try out games that don’t usually have demos, as well as revive the borrowing concept, albeit in a slightly limited fashion.

Steam is accepting early beta applications now, while the release date for the full version is unknown.

Valve’s 400 MB Sized Problem

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”.

Or….Well You Know

Love Halloween? Apparently so Does Valve

 

Valve has started their Halloween celebrations early, as they announced that today begins their annual “Team Fortress 2″ Halloween content.

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.

Even better, Valve gets to bring in the recent co-op Mann vs Machine mode to the party, as the machines have been turned into (surprise, surprise) a horde of zombies in the newly dubbed “Wave 666” mode. Speaking of Valve and zombies, they’re also taking the opportunity to offer “Left 4 Dead 2” for free this weekend, and are also marking it down to the brain gnawingly low price of $4.99 until Monday.

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.

The Best of Steam Green Light’s First Approvals

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.

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How Valve is Making Sure Gamers Get the Games they Want, But Only if it Helps Children’s Charity

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.

With any open market of this magnitude, there is naturally going to be problems. Already cases of false titles (more than a few “Half-Life 3s” have been pitched) and morally improper game concepts have been reported, plus you just have the general onslaught of pitches that leads to hard worked ideas being buried under a pile of half-hearted hopefuls.

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.

The Summer Steam Sale is Here????

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.”

Dreams Come True for Sega Fans

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.

Team Fortress 2 and Other Games That Would Make Great TV Series

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.

“Fallout”

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.

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