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Post-apoclayptic RPG, The Technomancer coming to Xbox One, PS4, and PC

Developer by SPIDERS studio, a new cyberpunk RPG set on a terraformed Mars planet will soon be coming to new generation consoles and PC. A more detailed presentation will be shown at this year’s E3 showing in Los Angeles. For now, Focus Home Interactive has already revealed a collection of screenshots and game art in addition to a few details about the game’s plot.

The game is set in a postapocalptic world during the “War of Water” as players take on the role of the Technomancer with the help of a variety of companions. The screenshots showcase a glimpse at Noctis, a “free city” that has distanced itself from the rest of the planet which has plunged into chaos over the struggle for water.

Players take on bandits, pillagers, and mutated creatures with three differing combat styles and various weaponry including guns, swords, axes, spears, and more to survive the destructive new world. A detailed crafting system as well as character customization options are also open to players.

All of this will aid players through a world where in-game decision impact the course of events throughout the game.

More details will come June 16 when E3 2015 is kicked off.

The Technomancer is slated for a 2016 release on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Gangs of tribalistic bandits clash and cause unrest for people during the War of Water.
Fight back to survive with augmented weaponry.
Combine close-quarters combat, magic, and firearms to take down bandits and pillagers.
A dangerous world awaits beyond the human attackers.
A dangerous world awaits beyond the human attackers.
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Digital game revenue continues rapid expansion | Grows 15% over the last year

SuperData Research has detailed just how successful the video game industry has grown in digital-only games. In the United States the digital revenue of the industry has broken the billion mark at $1.1 billion for the first time ever. The jump is a 15% increase compared to last year.

The entire industry as a whole has benefited greatly outside of social games. The free-to-play browser-based games and phone games often connected to facebook or twitter have suffered significantly. This section of the industry relies heavily on users buying in-app purchases, and for the first time in six months the average spending per user dropped to $40.

Highlighting the successes though, is Grand Theft Auto V and its PC release. GTA V has already locked the most successful game launch ever and even today the quality experience is still appreciated. 441 thousand PC copies of the open-world shooter have been sold in the United States.

The strangle-hold of digital games is beginning already with massive gains in digital sales being reported by Activision ($538 million in Q1 2015), Square Enix ($233 million in Q1 2015), and Ubisoft ($124 million Q4 2014). Electronic Arts has penciled in a $602 million total revenue (year over year) and with the recent release of Battlefield Hardline, the upcoming release of Star Wars Battlefront, and the growing EA Access service on Xbox One, that number will certainly grow.

As it stands now the control of digital games is just beginning and gamers are responding positively to the change. No longer are developers and publishers scared of burning bridges with the relationships between themselves and retailers. The ease of access and improved functionality of digital games make it a bad time for brick-and-mortar stores like Gamestop.

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An FPS during the Dinosaur age; ARK: Survival Evolved comes to Steam Early Access in June

An open-world dinosaur survival game is soon coming to major platforms. ARK: Survival Evolved gives players an MMO first person shooter in a natural Jurassic environment with lush forests and dark, murky caves.

Players can work together to survive through hunting, harvesting, growing crops, and/or building shelter to fend off the deadly creatures. ARK’s stand-out feature is the ability to tame and ride dinosaurs to benefit the small civilization you and the hundreds of other players can work to create.

Though the multiplayer experience certainly won’t be benign between players. The survivors can also turn and form groups against each other adding an element of survival beyond avoiding the dinosaurs.

Craft weapons and take advantage of guns to survive.
Craft weapons and take advantage of guns to survive.

ARK will begin to first roll out on Steam Early Access June 2. The game comes during a time where there’s a notable lack of Dinosaur based games on the market relative to the general popularity of the subject.

The most memorable and successful run with the series came from Turok — a game that released nearly two decades ago on the N64. The only contemporary game to gain significant traction is Primal Carnage when it released on Steam in 2012.

No retail price has been confirmed for ARK as of yet, but the developers at Studio Wildcard promise to give “200%” to the project with future plans involving expanding to the Xbox One and the PS4.

“The next 3.5 weeks to Early Access release will continue to be tireless development for us, but we’re also going to be here reading what you have to say, letting you know what’s going on with our side of the project, and polishing every single system we possibly can to make sure when this hits Early Access, it’s already everything that we’ve described on our Steam page.” – Studio Wildcard (Steam Community Announcement)

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Rockstar Editor and DLC on the way to GTA V on new-gen consoles

When Grand Theft Auto V released for PC back in April a few notable bonus features were included that made it stand out from the consoles even more than just the improved visuals. The Rockstar Editor was introduced to allow the creation of custom video clips from players. Now that feature is coming to Xbox One and PS4 — albeit in a limited fashion.

The Rockstar Editor, available for both the single player and GTA Online, will give video makers extensive access to characters, pedestrians, and animals to manipulate and direct short clips however they see fit. While Rockstar has said the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the Editor will be specifically tailored for the limited processing power they have in comparison to high-end PCs.

More notable features coming to the consoles is “The Lab” radio channel, but as for custom radio stations, they “just wouldn’t technically be possible” on consoles according to the developer.

Various DLC is also ensured for the near-future but as far as heists go, new ones seem unlikely to release any time soon.

“For those asking for more Heists, please understand that Grand Theft Auto Online Heists were a tremendous undertaking so it’s not the sort of thing where we can easily create and publish additional Heists like other Job modes and missions. We are, however, working on other cool updates for GTA Online that you can expect over the coming months.” – Rockstar Asked & Answered

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Valve introduces new paid-mod store Steam Workshop | Why it helps the industry

Ah, so the hysteria begins as a major gaming company looks to increase revenue just as any company would. For many fans Valve’s recent introduction of paid mods has been acknowledged as the figurative end of days with heightened concerns over the seemingly more and more chopped up products that people get with DLC often being needed to experience a full game.

Though the current outrage comes from an inability to consider the exact intentions of what Valve is doing here. Many seem to suggest that the standard process of downloading any of the freely available mods independent of Valve is no more, but that is not the case. All current mods remain unaffected. Valve simply offers the opportunity for these mods to be monetized with the Steam Workshop.

(Note, opportunity; mods can still be offered for free even on the Steam Workshop.)

When gaining an understanding of the reasons behind the new addition to Steam, it becomes much more reasonable why it has been implemented in the first place — the biggest reason being incentive.

Modders have long created incredible projects with millions of users downloading mods for Steam games, but those developing these mods have done it for little reliable monetary gain. Sure, donations can offer some compensation, but the skills of some of these modders is clearly incredible. That type of money simply does not do a good enough job to create great, consistent mod teams who work independently from major companies to create significant additions to games.

Valve is creating a profit-driven, high-quality mod industry

If a modder can support themselves (or at least partially support themselves) based on the hard work they do to benefit the gaming community there is no adverse impact other than people needing to pay a few dollars for a reliable market to access custom content from.

This is exactly what Valve is offering and it should be seen as much as an opportunity for mod developers as it is a market for consumers. Modders can set their prices, track their revenue, and work as a team with Steam offering payment methods that accommodate multiple people.

The biggest problem with the current stance of the system is the lopsided revenue distribution with Valve taking the majority of all profits. The idea of giving modders a platform to support themselves and create bigger and better content is fantastic, but Valve’s being a bit too greedy when it leaves these modders with only a 25% return.

The current revenue going directly to the mod developers is not good enough for independent modders looking to support themselves.

Still, the more successful pieces of content should be profitable enough to bring dedicated workers to the field and even the possibility of devoted mod studios could come to fruition. Imagine high quality designers, audio specialists, and coders coming together to create small custom additions to games like Skyrim, Call of Duty, Borderlands, or Grand Theft Auto. Financial incentive is how you can make this happen.

The new Steam Workshop addition will create a professional environment and platform for modders and mod teams to monetize their work and create incentive for higher quality content to come as affordable mods from this point forward.

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Uncanny Valley | Review

Uncanny Valley(UVa), what can I say? It stands above the Steam Greenlight breeding grounds for cash grabs and horrifying attempts at video game design, but how far does it stand?

Uncanny Valley is a horror/psychological thriller developed by Cowardly Creations. Much in the same way Lone Survivor plays, Uncanny Valley is side-scrolling, pixelated, and utilizes an atmosphere of darkness, solitude, and symbolism to evoke feelings of dread in a kafkaesque nightmare.

You play as an unassuming security guard for a decommissioned worksite conveniently located in the middle of nowhere with little information and less-than-lethal torch.

Sounds safe enough, right?

I love pixelated art, horror games, and an enthralling adventure story to boot. For this review I’m going to splitting coverage into those three sections because something that came quite apparent through my playthroughs was the eerie gap between the elements of design, and the increasingly terrifying way they try and fit together.

The first thing you’ll notice about Uncanny Valley is the exceptional art design. Pixelated art is a very rough medium to transcend, but when you understand the fundamentals, it’s only a tip-toe away from staging scenes that pronounce synergy and fluidity. All the models, backgrounds, and what-have-you’s matched up very quaintly, especially when the environment radically shifted.

The scenes were painted together so that the ebb of concentration was never undermined by imposing graphical conundrums, and when the occasional error did spark up, I was so engrossed in the environment that my double-take became a venial afterthought. That may be subject to game design, but when I walked into a room, I didn’t feel as if I was simply walking from A to B, engrossed in nothing more than my character, I felt as if the room presented itself to me and told a unique story of its own.steamworkshop_webupload_previewfile_254647598_preview (1)

The rooms themselves are probably the most interaction you’ll get the entire game. There’s only a few NPCs muddling about, and each of them are just as disinterested in you as they possibly can be, so there’s incredible moments of introspection or, adversely, deep-seated boredom.

Now, as far as horror goes, it stands to reason that scaring people is incredibly difficult through whatever artform you’re exploiting, especially if the audience has witnessed the tropes, knows the tells, or are generally someone who is undaunted (we all know they are secretly wetting their pants).

If you came here for horror, then I’ll assume you go to Vine for comedy, iTunes preview for your music, and Costco sample tables for your meals. Don’t get me wrong, Uncanny Valley wields the juggernaut sword of terror in the most imposing ways possible. I mentioned earlier the kafkaesque world, and when you combine that with eldritch undertones of unnatural, Gothic narratives, Uncanny Valley lives every word up to its name.

Let’s take the level design for instance. There’s a lot of head space in many of the environments juxtaposed by incredible silence. It’s just you walking around in an open space, expecting something to come out of the thousands of possible places. It’s comparable to the enormous size of a leviathan in the sense that something so great and powerful should not exist, but instead of an imposing monster, we pale in comparison to the great expanse of the void, thereby making the player character seem insignificant.

The lighting is equally ambient, and therefore doesn’t serve the purpose of masking unseen horrors as much as it’s used. It feels rather like the gristle on an unfinished steak.

All that being said, UVa is great at serving me bite-sized horror. There are moments of impending doom in which I panicked, most of them to be exact. I was scared for various reasons, intent on not being enveloped by pilfering shadows, and UVa does this perfectly! Kudos! Listen, if you want to make a horror game, the unseen is always worse than the enemy you can see, however, when the enemy approaches so quickly that you have no time to comprehend what they are, this promotes just as much regret when you accidentally run the wrong way.steamworkshop_webupload_previewfile_254647598_preview (3)

They kind of dropped the ball the second half, trading the adrenaline exercise I was having with shock terror and dystopian set pieces for a Dead Space/Silent Hill gore factor, one I admired but didn’t particularly agree with.

Here’s where we unveil the horrifying truth of UVa, unfortunately.

It feels clunky, and not in the way most indie games usually do. It really is uncanny the way everything else fits together, but the controls and button prompts are neither decisive nor accurate. Some bugs I was particularly disenfranchised by included not being able to use my inventory and the inability to leave rooms while talking to someone for fear of the game crashing. These were pretty major, but I managed to look past them and see the even more upsetting features.

Now, if you don’t understand the story by the halfway point, I can only imagine you happened to run past all the computer monitors littering your workplace, laden with exposition, or perhaps you didn’t read them because you were turned off by the awful input prompts, or lack thereof.

I distinctly remember approaching a story item at one point, pressing ‘E’ to interact, and reading some text. I hit ‘Esc’ to back out because I wasn’t ready to commit to exposition. This brought me to the pause menu. I hit ‘Esc’ to get out of that, to no avail. Turns out a game marketed around the keyboard utilizes the mouse in the most exclusive ways possible. tumblr_nl9qo8aoVZ1tud87po1_500

Imagine doing this for multiple computers, items, and people, unable to skip dialogue and unsure of what the interact button is. Granted, I got used to the controls, but even then I was still hitting roadblock after roadblock, my immersion wearing down like the tread of my adventuring tires.

The story itself is pretty mundane, but they did make room for replayability and variation. There’s not much to interact with, but if you can bear through the hamfisted dialogue and the few diminished or droll sequences a few times over, then maybe you can bring some colour to those poor, lonely Steam achievements.

In games like this the ending is never as satisfying as the game itself. I loved the first half, expecting to find myself in a city, surrounded by people, but feeling more alone than ever. The experience went from being inside the painting to simply looking at it.

Gamers, here’s my advice: wait for a Steam sale or pick this up in a bundle. I really admire what this game was so close to doing. I can tell there is immense talent within these developers, but from what I can see it wasn’t utilized to its full potential.

I’m keeping my eye on them, ready to reach out my hand for when they decide to step out of their own uncanny valley.



Uncanny Valley is developed by Cowardly Creations and is available on Steam or their website for $8.99