Star Citizen is still far from being ready, but it now has a more solid underpinning. Cloud Imperium has revealed that it has switched both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 from Crytek’s CryEngine to Amazon’s Lumberyard engine as of Star Citizen’s just-launched Alpha 2.6 release. It was an “easy and smooth transition” due to Lumberyard’s CryEngine roots, but both secures the “long term future” of the games and promises some distinct advantages. It taps directly into the cloud through Amazon Web Services, for instance, and makes Twitch streaming easy.
The studio has already been collaborating with Amazon for “over a year,” so this isn’t a panicked response to Crytek’s financial woes. The timing is more than a little convenient, mind you. It gives Cloud Imperium more of a safety net if Crytek ever has to stop its own development — it won’t have to switch engines while it’s in panic mode. It’s easy to imagine frustration from backers at the thought that the Amazon switch might delay Star Citizen even longer, but that might be better than risking the entire project.
As it stands, Alpha 2.6 is a big step forward: it’s the first release with Star Marine, the game’s first-person shooter component. You now have two competitive multiplayer modes (everyone-for-themselves and a Battlefield-style capture-and-hold mode) for those times when you just want to fight friends instead of exploring the cosmos. Numerous other parts of Star Citizen have received some polish, too, such as first-person animations and third-person cameras. Although this is still no substitute for a finished game, it at least shows that Cloud Imperium is getting a handle on some of the many, many features it has been promising over the years.
Source: Roberts Space Industries (1), (2)
You don’t need a degree in marketing to know promotional material that could offend and alienate potential customers is obviously a bad call. But it’s a fact Indie Gala — an online store selling Steam keys for indie titles — seems woefully unaware of. In an effort to promote its winter sale, specifically a discount on tactical first-person shooter Insurgency, the store bundled an insensitive and years-old Steam recommendation with an equally crass meme to create the advert you see above. The tweet has since disappeared, likely due to the devs of Insurgency publicly deploring the promotion, not to mention a chorus of other Twitter users clearly offended by it. The ad remains live on Indie Gala’s Facebook page, however.
@IndieGala Remove this tweet. We do NOT accept you promoting our game in this offensive manner.
— Insurgency (@insurgencygame) December 22, 2016
Video games in general, whether we’re talking specific titles or the industry as a whole, struggle with diversity as it is. Given that issues of stereotyping and sexism come up all too often, you’d think an online game store would know better than to come up with such an obviously insensitive promotion.
Via: Rami Ismail (Twitter)
Source: Indie Gala (Facebook), New World Interactive (Twitter)
Well-done online role-playing games tend to have a long shelf life, but the Asheron’s Call series has lasted longer than most. It got started way back in 1999, and has lasted through three publisher changes, a shift to a buy-once model and even a full-on resurrection, among other tribulations. However, even classics have to call it quits at some point. Turbine has announced that it’s ending support for both the original Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 on January 31st, 2017. The series will be completely free to play for any account holder until then, but you won’t get to create a new account to see what the fuss is about.
The shutdown wasn’t exactly unexpected. Asheron’s Call support has been limited to maintenance for over two years, so it wasn’t about to experience a revival. And just a day before the closure announcement, Turbine revealed that it was spinning off the Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online teams into a separate company, Standing Stone Games. Given that those are Turbine’s only active projects, it’s not hard to see what’s likely happening — Turbine may still own Asheron’s Call, but it doesn’t have the staff needed to keep the lights on.
Don’t expect a revival like the series saw in 2012. There is a crowdfunding effort from fans hoping to buy the franchise and keep it alive, but that’s contingent on both sufficient support and Turbine being willing to sell. Turbine had talked about shifting to privately-run servers, but that didn’t happen. As it stands, massively multiplayer online games aren’t as red hot as they used to be. Even World of Warcraft is nowhere near the subscriber count of its heyday. It’s sad to see Asheron’s Call go, but the MMO world has changed a lot since it arrived 17 years ago.
Source: Asheron’s Call (Facebook)
Just how powerful is Nintendo’s next game console? We won’t know for sure until January, but if the latest report from Eurogamer pans out, the answer could be kind of complicated. According to specifications provided to developers, the Nintendo Switch performance changes depending on how you use it: in its docked, TV-mode or as a gaming portable.
Specifically, sources familiar with the system have revealed two different graphic processor specifications for the final Nintendo Switch hardware — an undocked portable profile that clocks the NVIDIA Tegra GPU at 307.2MHz and a docked, TV-based profile that more than doubles it to 768MHz. Doing some rough calculations using the Tegra X1 chip the Switch’s silicon is said to be based off of, we can guess the console can push around 400 gigaflops on FP32 while docked. Yes, that’s a lot of numbers, but don’t worry about the math too much. The long and short of it is that the latest numbers show that the Nintendo Switch will definitely outpace the Wii U — but it’s still a few hundred (or thousand) gigaflops shy of its competitors.
That said, nobody really expected the next Nintendo to keep place with the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Nintendo dropped out of the race to the top years ago, and hasn’t made a move to be the ‘most powerful’ game console in over a decade. That doesn’t seem to be changing with the Nintendo Switch.
When Capcom said it was planning tougher penalties for rage quitters in Street Fighter V, it wasn’t joking around. NeoGAF users have discovered that a briefly available PC test release of the game includes a badge that will identify users who are more likely to quit matches in mid-play — as Polygon observes, it’s basically a scarlet letter for fighting games. You’d get another icon if you always stay through the end of a match, too, so you would have an easier time finding players who are just as trustworthy as you are.
It’s not certain when the finished update will arrive, so don’t count on identifying hot-tempered gamers in the immediate future. Combined with gradually increasing penalties, though, this could make it harder for quitters to escape consequences for their actions. That, in turn, could encourage them to honorably accept their defeats instead of jumping ship the moment it’s clear that they’ll lose.
Destiny and Overwatch don’t have a lock on over-the-top holiday gaming modes. Gears of War 4 just got a 99-cent Gearsmas Pack that adds some cheer to a mostly grim and dark game. The centerpiece is a special multiplayer event, Snowball Fight, where you have to fling snowballs at rivals using a custom Snowshot weapon. Akin to a real fight, you can’t just reload — you have to scoop up more snow ammo once you’ve run out of what little you have. There are also three ugly sweater-clad characters (JD, Kait and a Swarm Drone) and 24 holiday-themed weapon skins. Gearsmas lasts until January 4th, so you’ll want to act soon if you’re going to show off.
Microsoft and The Coalition are sweetening the pot, too. They’re currently running a sale on GoW4 that slashes 35 percent off the game ($39 in the US) through December 28th, and there’s a UIR Gear Pack coming later in the month. You should see an Easter Egg in the game on Christmas Day, as well. This isn’t as thorough as what you get in a title like Overwatch (where there’s a snowball fight and 100-plus cosmetic add-ons), but it’s bound to make the game feel festive.
Source: Xbox Wire, Microsoft Store
Mozilla is helping developers figure out if their game or app will run well for average and not just hardcore users. The Firefox Hardware Report, using data from its anonymized Telemetry app, shows what OS and hardware folks are using, along with popular screen resolutions and other information. “Existing hardware reports (such as those from Valve and Unity) are excellent, but represent a different group of hardware users than the majority of people who use the web,” the organization says.
The results are about what you’d expect, given dwindling PC sales — most folks can’t be bothered to upgrade because they’ve switched to mobile for their primary device. Firefox reports that 45 percent of people are still running Windows 7 with less than 4GB of RAM and a large majority have Intel CPUs with two or less cores. Few care about pixel density, as the most common display resolution is 1,366 x 768, driven by on-board Intel graphics, not NVIDIA or AMD discreet GPUs.
Top selling PC games, including League of Legends and Overwatch, can already run on low-spec PCs, so developers are likely well aware of the (terrible) average configuration. As Firefox points out though, there’s much less information on WebGL, Flash (ugh) and other web-based gaming engines. Mozilla may want to heed its own report, as users often complain about browsers like Chrome and even Firefox itself slowing down their computers. If you’re concerned about the privacy aspect of the report or want the raw data, Mozilla has a detailed Medium post on how it collected the data and where you can go to find it.
Nintendo might have some big surprises in store when it sheds more light on the Switch game console in January. NeoGAF forum member Rösti has noticed a slew of just-published patent applications for the hybrid system, and one of them hints that the Switch might have virtual reality support. Effectively, it would turn the Switch into a larger-than-usual Daydream View or Gear VR — you’d slot it into a headset and use the console’s detachable controllers to play. Suddenly, Nintendo’s misgivings over VR seem like temporary roadblocks.
There’s no guarantee that Nintendo will have a VR headset ready and waiting for the March launch, or at all. This is just a patent application, and even fully granted patents don’t necessarily translate to shipping products. Nintendo may just be patenting the concept so that a rival console maker can’t implement the concept themselves. With that said, this is an extremely straightforward and logical idea — it wouldn’t be hard to add a basic VR experience to the Switch. Our only misgivings are over the display quality and processing power: if the Switch isn’t using at least a 1080p display and a reasonably quick CPU, its take on VR may be underwhelming.
Niantic promised more creatures in Pokémon Go on December 12th, and it’s delivering… with an interesting twist. It’s not only adding “several” new critters from the Pokémon Gold and Silver games (such as Pichu and Togepi), but also releasing a limited edition holiday Pikachu. The Santa cap-wearing creature is available “all over the world,” but only until December 29th at 1PM Eastern. If you don’t find one by then, you’re out of luck.
The expansion caps a busy week for Pokémon Go, which included turning Sprint and Starbucks stores into PokéStops. It’s not surprising that Niantic is going all-out as the year comes to a close, though. The company had a runaway hit with the mobile game, and has done everything it could to keep you coming back and ride that success for a little while longer. That’s especially important in December. Winter weather makes it harder to go Pokémon hunting, and visiting family during the holidays is probably more important than evolving your Eevee. An update like this could make the difference between playing in 2017 and letting your mind wander.
Source: Pokemon Go
A host of popular Twitch streamers will emerge from their poster-walled bedrooms next week to give President Obama a masterclass in clutch plays. On Monday, December 12th, Monster-guzzling gaming celebs will huddle around screens at the president’s Washington D.C. residence for the “White House Competitive Gaming Event.” A four-hour livestream starting at 4PM ET will broadcast all the casual and competitive action, with highlights of the first White House LAN party to include a pro-am Rocket League showmatch featuring members of NRG eSports, and a Street Fighter V clash between US fighting game legend Justin Wong and people’s champion Mike Ross, commentated by none other than PogChamp himself. We believe in you, Mike.
The special event isn’t simply an excuse for Barracks Obama to hang out with his favorite streamers before leaving office, though. Instead, it’s intended to “raise awareness about the importance of health insurance” ahead of the December 15th deadline to enroll or change plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, before coverage starts on January 1st 2017.
Before and during his presidency, Obama has reached out to gamers several times, with this special Twitch event being the latest example of the White House going to where the community is (though it’s kind of the other way around this time). As a 2008 candidate, he campaigned in Burnout Paradise and several other games, popping back up in the menus of various EA titles in 2012 while chasing re-election.
Obama has long been an advocate of responsible gaming, urging parents not to let their kids spend too much time glued to screens. That’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy a session himself on occasion, and he was apparently a bit of a dab hand at Wii Bowling in his day. More recently, he’s been spending a bit of time playing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, but it appears he’s not the biggest fan of the latest installment in the popular FPS franchise.