Street Fighter V Revealed: PC-PS4 Cross-Platform Multiplayer

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2014 - 10:47 PM |
Tagged: street fighter v, street fighter, pc gaming, gaming

Well this is something that people have been demanding for quite some time. Not only will Capcom's Street Fighter V be available on the PC and PS4, but multiplayer can be a mix-and-match between the two platforms. You will not need to coordinate a platform of choice ahead of time. Players on both of these platforms will be able to connect to one another.

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While Capcom has not released any further details, previous Street Fighter releases for the PC have supported local multiplayer when extra controllers are connected. The omission of Xbox One is definitely strange as well, given the exclusive agreement between Microsoft and Capcom for Dead Rising 3. Of course, different game, different contract, but it suggests a larger reason to avoid Xbox One. Two possible, not mutually exclusive reasons are: 1 - Sony paid them and/or 2 - Microsoft was too restrictive about cross platform play. In the past, Microsoft would only allow PC-Xbox cross-platform play if the PC title was branded as Games for Windows Live, which I do not think any game took advantage of (Update: Apparently I was wrong and Shadowrun actually launched cross-platform multiplayer before it was sunset). It also no longer exists.

Street Fighter V will be out... sometime... for PC and PS4.

Source: PC Gamer

Broken Age: Act 2 Delayed Until 2015

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2014 - 02:45 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gaming, Tim Schafer, broken age

Tim Schafer and the rest of Double Fine set up a Kickstarter in early 2012 to fund a classic, LucasArts-style adventure game. After being funded over eight-fold more than they intended, they allowed the production to balloon and fit their new budget. This resulted in Act 1 being released in 2014, over a year later than their original deadline, with the second half (Act 2) coming later – expected in late 2014. Within the last couple of days, they announced that the release date has slipped into “early next year” (2015).

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This is one of the problems that a Kickstarter can face. There is definitely an instinct to supercharge an over-funded product, which could lead to delays, hiccups, and other problems. On the other hand, the extra money, and the public knowledge regarding how much extra, can raise the expectations of your audience – they might feel cheated if you fail to over-deliver. Beyond this, I have been told that it is very common for budgets to inflate over the course of regular development, something that you cannot really account for in advanced crowd-funding. Again, this may be wrong – it was what I expected but, of course, hoaxes prey on that.

Since the Kickstarter launched, Ron Gilbert left the company. I pout.

Broken Age: Act 2 will be released in early 2015 and conclude the Broken Age story as a free upgrade for everyone who paid for Act 1. This is nice but, while I could see an argument for Act 1 customers needing to purchase Act 2 in the era of Telltale episodic content, it only makes sense for at least Kickstarter backers to get the whole game. I mean, it was announced as a single title; it would be a supremely bad move to promise a full game and deliver a half of one (torn at an awkward point in the narrative no-less) only to ransom the second half a year later.

Thankfully, it will be free, not just for them, but for everyone who owns Act 1.

Source: PC Gamer

Raptr's Top PC Games of October 2014

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2014 - 11:30 PM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

The PC gaming utility, Raptr, tracks the time its users spend playing titles and aggregates it into a monthly press release. Because its purpose is recording game footage, adjusting quality settings, and so forth, it is not limited to any specific catalog of games. It allows a comparison developers, publishers, and distribution platforms, as long as the average Raptr user is representative of that market.

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It should be noted that, because game-hours are the recorded metric, it is not necessarily a good experiment to judge sales figures from. It is weighted by the average session length per user and how frequently the average user plays it, and not just how many people use it. As such, it will probably over-represent MMOs, MOBAs, and other multiplayer games... unless you are looking for aggregate game time, which is exactly what this survey provides (and sales figures are bad at determining).

From last month, League of Legends lost a bit of share, down from 22.54% of total to 22.25%. The second place contender, World of Warcraft, jumped from 7.63% of total game time to 8.53%. This means that League of Legends dropped from being 195% more popular than WoW to being 160% more popular. World of Warcraft is expected to jump further due to its Warlords of Draenor expansion that released in early November. The October bump, reported today, was likely due to the pre-expansion patch and promotional events.

Diablo III, the other Blizzard title on this chart, lost three places (and almost half of its play time) this month. It currently rests above Minecraft as it dropped below Smite and Counter-Strike: GO and ArcheAge moved up past it. PAYDAY 2 and FIFA 15 represented the capital letters by jumping onto the list (back onto in PAYDAY 2's case) in 14th and 15th spot, respectively.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor are new games for October, and appeared on the list in 18th and 19th place. Both titles bumped Team Fortress 2 down to 20th place, almost spiting the Halloween promotion, although its play time increased from September.

Source: Raptr

Far Cry 4 Will Require Modest PC Hardware and Newer Operating Systems

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 04:07 AM |
Tagged: system requirements, pc gaming, kyrat, fps, far cry 4

In case you missed it earlier this week, Ubisoft revealed the PC system requirements needed to run Far Cry 4. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal and set to release on November 18th, Far Cry 4 is the latest action adventure FPS in the Far Cry series. The game uses Ubisoft's Dunia Engine II which is a heavily modified game engine originally based on Crytek's CryEngine 1 developed by Kirmaan Aboobaker. The player is a Nepalese native that returns to Kyrat, a fictional location in the Himalayas following the death of their mother only to become embroiled in a civil war taking place in an open world filled with enemies, weapons, animals, and did I mention weapons?

Far Cry 4 Kyrat Bow and Arrow.jpg

This bow is a far cry from the only weapon you'll have access to...

According to the developer, Far Cry 4 continues the tradition of an open world environment, but the game world has been tweaked from the Far Cry 3 experience to be a tighter and more story focused experience where the single player story will take precedence over exploration and romps across the mountainous landscape.

While I can not comment on how the game plays, it certainly looks quite nice, and will need a beefy modern PC to run at its maximum settings. Interestingly, the game seems to scale down decently as well, with the entry level computer needed to run Far Cry 4 being rather modest.

No matter the hardware level, only 64-bit operating systems need apply, Far Cry 4 requires the 64-bit version of Windows 7 or later to run. At a minimum, Ubisoft recommends a quad core processor (Intel i5 750 or AMD Phenom II X4 955), 4GB of memory, a Radeon 5850 or GTX 460, and 30GB of storage.

To get optimal settings, users will need twice the system memory (at least 8GB) and video memory (at least 2GB), a newer quad core CPU such as the Intel i5-2400S or AMD FX-8350, and a modern NVIDIA GTX 680 or AMD Radeon R9 290X graphics card.

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Anything beyond that is gravy that will allow gamers to crank up the AA and AF as well as the resolution.

Far Cry 4 will be available in North America on November 18, 2014 for the PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360. Following the North America release, the game is scheduled to launch in Europe and Australia on November 20th, and in Japan on January 22 of next year.

Source: Maximum PC

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Dated for December 11th

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 03:23 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, final fantasy xiii-2, final fantasy xiii, final fantasy

It seems like Square Enix has paid attention to the criticism about Final Fantasy XIII. While it would have been nice for them to go back and fix the problems for the original game (Update Nov 12 @ 5:35pm EST: They are, in early December - Thanks TimeKeeper in the comments), it looks like the sequel, XIII-2, will behave more like a PC title. First and foremost, it will not be locked to 720p and it is said to offer other graphics options. The sequel is scheduled to launch on December 11th for $20, or $18 USD on pre-order (a few dollars above the launch price for Final Fantasy 13).

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Of course, it is somewhat disappointing that screen resolution, a 60FPS cap, and graphics options are considered features, but the platform is unfamiliar to certain parts of the company. Acknowledging their error and building a better, but probably still below expectations, product is a good direction. Hopefully they will continue to progress, and eventually make PC games with the best of them. Either that, or they have a talk with their Eidos arm about borrowing Nixxes, a company that specializes in enhancing games on the PC.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is coming to Steam in a month for $20 USD. The third installment, Lightning Returns, will arrive sometime in 2015.

Source: Steam

EFF Wants Legal DRM Circumvention for Art Preservation

Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2014 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gaming, eff, DRM, consolitis

This is something that I have been saying for quite some time now: games are struggling as an art form. Now I don't mean that games are not art; games, like all content that expresses feelings, thoughts, and ideas, are art. No, I'm talking about their ability to be preserved for future society and scholarly review. The business models for entertainment are based in either services or consumables. In the entertainment industries, few (but some) producers are concerned about the long tail – the extreme back-catalog of titles. Success is often determined by two weeks of sales, and the focus is on maximizing those revenues before refreshing with newer, similar content that scratches the same itch.

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DRM is often justified as maximizing the initial rush by degrading your launch competitors: free versions of yourself. Now I'm not going to go into the endless reasons about where this fails to help (or actively harms) sales and your customers; that is the topic of other rants. For this news post, I will only discuss the problems that DRM (and other proprietary technologies) have on the future.

When you tie content to a platform, be it an operating system, API, or DRM service, you are trusting it for sustainability. This is necessary and perfectly reasonable. The problems arise with the permissions given to society from that platform owner, and how easily society can circumvent restrictions, as necessary. For instance, content written for a specific processor can be fed through an emulator, and the instruction sets can be emulated (or entirely knocked off) when allowed by patent law, if patents even interfere.

Copyright is different, though. Thanks to the DMCA, it is illegal, a federal crime at that, to circumvent copyright protection even for the betterment of society. You know, society, the actual owner of all original works, but who grants limited exclusivity to the creators for “the progress of Science and useful Arts”. Beyond the obvious and direct DRM implementations, this can also include encryption that is imposed by console manufacturers, for instance.

The DMCA is designed to have holes poked into it, however, by the Librarian of Congress. Yes, that is a job title. I did not misspell “Library of Congress”. The position was held by James H. Billington for over 25 years. Every three years, he considers petitions to limit the DMCA and adds exceptions in places that he sees fit. In 2012, he decided the jailbreaking a phone should not be illegal under the DMCA, although tablets were not covered under that exemption. This is around the time that proposals will be submitted for his next batch in late 2015.

This time, the EFF is proposing that circumventing DRM in abandoned video games should be deemed legal, for society to preserve these works of art when the copyright holders will not bother. Simply put, if society intended to grant a limited exclusive license to a content creator who has no intention of making their work available to society, then society demands the legal ability to pry off the lock to preserve the content.

Of course, even if it is deemed legal, stronger DRM implementations could make it technologically unfeasible to preserve certain works. It is still a long way's away before we encounter a lock that society cannot crack, but it is theoretically possible. This proposal does not address that root problem, but at least it could prevent society's greatest advocates from being slapped with a pointless felony for trying to do the right thing.

Source: EFF

GoG Releases LucasArts Classics. More on the Way?

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2014 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, disney, lucasfilm

Lucasfilm games (think LucasArts) and Disney Interactive have recently been re-introducing their back catalog to the PC. Earlier this month, Disney unleashed its wrath upon Steam, including Epic Mickey 2, which was not available on the PC outside of a limited, Eastern Europe release. Today, they licensed (different) titles to GOG.com: three Star Wars titles and three point-and-click adventures.

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As for the Star Wars titles? Two of them are X-Wing Special Edition and TIE Fighter Special Edition. Both titles include their 1994 and 1998 releases, as well as any applicable expansions. They, along with Sam & Max Hit the Road, have never been sold through digital distribution platforms, prior to today.

Honestly, I never had a chance to play X-Wing and TIE Fighter. I liked space combat games, but I pretty much just played Privateer 1 and 2 as well as some console games, like Star Fox and Rogue Squadron. I was a kid. I played a handful of games to death. I keep hearing that X-Wing and TIE Fighter were, supposedly, the best of the genre. I have no experience with them, though.

These titles are currently the top six best sellers on the service, pulling ahead of The Witcher 3 pre-order as I wrote this post. The press release claims that more titles are on the way "in the coming months".

Source: GOG

The Billion Dollar Businesses of Free to Play

Subject: General Tech | October 26, 2014 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, free to play

Year to date, League of Legends, Crossfire, and Dungeon Fighter Online are each closing in on one billion dollars in revenue. Yes, three free-to-play MMO titles are closing in on $1 Billion USD in a single year. All three exceed World of Warcraft, which is still the most lucrative subscription MMO. That might change once expansion pack revenue from the upcoming Warlords of Draenor is accounted for, however. The total MMO industry, free-to-play or subscription, is estimated at almost $8 Billion USD, from January through September.

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This is all according to Gamesbeat and their dissection of a SuperData Research (how is that a real name?!) report on the MMO industry. Of course, there is always the possibility that these products will fall short of that milestone by the time January rolls around, but they are pretty close for nine months in and three to go.

The interesting part is why. The article discusses how easily these games can transition between markets due to how low the barrier to entry is. This is especially true in markets that embrace internet cafes, where the game is already installed. The barrier to entry is creating an account, the customer does not even need to think about payment until they have generated interest in the free content.

The second reason, which is not mentioned in the article, is the curve of revenue by customer type. A flat-fee is some value multiplied by the number of legitimate users you have. You will get at most "X" from a customer, maybe a little less for sales, and zero for pirated copies or customers that simply ignore your content. Subscription games split this off to a recurring income; it is the number of legitimate users for that month, summed over every month. While this will get more money from the most dedicated players, because they are playing longer, this still has a ceiling. Free-to-play and other microtransaction-based models have no ceiling except for all the content you have ever made. This is an unlimited ceiling for consumable content.

This can be good for the consumer or it can be bad, of course. Where a game falls on this spectrum really depends on how it is designed. Also, money is not everything. A game can even be released for free if the developer has a reason to not ignore all claims, whether it was a hobby, tech demo, are art piece. It is up to the player (or their gift giver) to decide what is worth their time or money, and that is okay.

Raptr's Top PC Games of Sept. 2014 (Bonus: A Stats Lesson)

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2014 - 10:14 PM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

Raptr, a PC gaming utility, tracks the time spent within each game and aggregates that data across its user base. Its actual purpose is for game recording, adjusting quality settings for your machine's performance, community engagement, and so forth. Still, it is allowed to collect that data, so it does, and it shows fairly interesting trends of game popularity. Note that these figures represent percentage of total game play, by hour.

Before we get into the numbers, a quick reference about statistics. It may be counter-intuitive, but you can get a pretty accurate result from a relatively small amount of data. Ars Technica's "Steam Gauge" polled 100,000 random Steam accounts, including hidden ones by poking at generated IDs, and came up with fairly accurate sales figures, confirmed by a few indie developers.

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Where you can run into difficulties is if your random sample has some non-randomness, outside of your intended bounds. For instance, if you want to see trends involving PC gamers then it is logical to limit your survey to PC gamers, but you can run into systematic error if the study is voluntary, self-reporting, or has some other bias. Sometimes you cannot control these biases for your experiment, so multiple, different experiments may be necessary to dial in on a causation.

In this case, it seems like Raptr's study is an honest representation of the typical Raptr user. Tens of millions of samples is enough to crush random error. The only question that I can think of is whether Raptr users represent a sample space that you care about. If you want to know about the average gamer, including console, casual, and mobile, then maybe not. The average PC gamer? Definitely closer, but it should be compared to other studies in case there is disproportionate representation of some group. Interesting none-the-less? Of course.

So, that aside, the top three PC games of this poll stayed exactly where they are:

  1. League of Legends
  2. World of Warcraft
  3. DOTA 2

World of Warcraft and DOTA 2 held steady, but League of Legends increased its lead by over 14% (relative to second place). 22.54% of all play time that is recorded by Raptr is done in League of Legends. Diablo III jumped up to 5.23% of total due to the launch of a new "season", which encourages players to create new characters and compete for placement and loot. Basically, it attempts to recreate the feeling at launch where enthusiasts attempt to be the first to reach the level cap, and so forth.

The recently launched The Sims 4 found its way to #16. It launched on September 2nd, so it had basically a full month to collect usage time (including the launch surge). Raptr expects that it will slip off the list for October, and that makes sense for me.

Source: Raptr

Assassin's Creed: Rogue Might Be for the PC?

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2014 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: assassin's creed, pc gaming, ubisoft

Ubisoft's upcoming Assassin's Creed: Rogue is currently only announced for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but it might see a PC release, too. This is particularly weird because Rogue is scheduled to launch, for the two aforementioned consoles, on the same day as Assassin's Creed: Unity is scheduled for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Unless they are planning a delayed PC launch, PC gamers might receive two games, in the same franchise, on the same day.

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I would have to expect that its PC release would need to be staggered though, right? I mean, how would they market two similar games at the same time? In particular, how would they market two fairly long, similar games at the same time? I mean, thanks Ubisoft, but it just seems like an unnecessary risk of market cannibalization.

About that evidence, though. PC Gamer apparently found reference to the title in the Brazillian software ratings board and the title was mentioned on one of Ubisoft's Uplay page for the PC. Those are pretty good pieces of evidence, although we need to take their word on it, which is implicitly trusting screenshots from NeoGAF. Also, PC Gamer really needs to link to the exact thread at NeoGAF because it was buried under the first several pages by the time I got there.

Assassin's Creed: Unity launches on November 11th, 2014 (not the 14th). Rogue -- maybe?