CES 2016: Activision Blizzard Confirms MLG Purchase

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 04:44 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mlg, esports, blizzard, Activision

On New Year's Day, rumors flew about MLG being purchased by Activision Blizzard for $46 million USD. At the time, the vast majority of available information discussed how this would affect shareholders, particularly those with lower-class stock in the eSport company. (As it turns out, very poorly.) I wondered why Activision Blizzard would want MLG's assets, especially considering their heavy involvement with ESL, afreecaTV, and others.

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According to a press release from Activision Blizzard themselves, they intend to “create the ESPN of esports.” The Activision Blizzard Media Networks division will be led by the former CEO of ESPN, Steve Bornstein, and the co-founder of MLG, Mike Sepso. The other co-founder of MLG, Sundance DiGiovanni, will remain at MLG. It was previously rumored, during the investor's leak, that he was replaced by the former CFO of MLG, Greg Chisholm. While I expect that some shuffling has occurred, DiGiovanni will apparently remain in a management role at MLG. Granted, it could be equivalent to Hideo Kojima's “holiday” last October, but that would just be silly.

As far as I can tell, other broadcasters have not commented on what this means to them.

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Rumor: MLG "Assets" Sold to Activision Blizzard

Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2016 - 03:08 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mlg, esports, blizzard, Activision

Update (10:10pm ET): Forgot to add "rumor" to title.

So I didn't expect this. According to eSports Observer, MLG has basically been liquidated to Activision Blizzard for $46 million USD. Neither company has confirmed the report. The source is a leaked letter that was allegedly sent to stockholders, many of whom, if the rumors are true, were not informed prior to the sale. That's kind-of crappy.

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We will probably hear this story evolve, if true, over the next couple weeks. The organization was said to have been running on a substantial amount of debt, relative to the company's size, for quite some time. If the organization shuts down as it seems it will, then many investors will probably get next to nothing.

On the other hand, it is interesting to see what Activision Blizzard will do with their acquisition. The publisher holds several popular spectator titles, such as Call of Duty, StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, and soon to be Overwatch. I doubt that the company would roll their games into their own eSport service, especially as they are growing closer to rival ESL, so I would have to expect that these “assets” will be used to support (or leverage control) over third-party broadcasters and/or leagues.

Final Fantasy IX PC Version Confirmed (for Japan)

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 09:23 PM |
Tagged: square enix, pc gaming, final fantasy

Back in September, SquareEnix announced that Final Fantasy V was coming to the PC. I took the opportunity to list all the main-line Final Fantasy titles, sorted by generation, and classified them as having a PC release (or not). The odd one out was Final Fantasy IX. It belongs in the set of three original PlayStation titles, but, unlike VII and VIII, was not given a PC release at the time. I was worried that SquareEnix might not go through the trouble for just a single game.

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Apparently, they are doing a version for PCs and Smartphones. It looks somewhat similar to the handheld remake of Final Fantasy III, although that is similar to the PlayStation graphics. It is possible that it will not make it to a worldwide release, but, since the website is fully translated into English, you would expect that the game would be localized, too. If the game is localized, there's very little reason to block it off geographically.

They only have system requirements for iOS. They will probably list Windows system requirements at a later date, which I assume the disable “System” button refers to. Android 4.1 is required for that platform, but they don't say anything about hardware. Regardless, I doubt that this will require much.

Source: Square Enix

Humble Bundle for Neo Geo 25th Anniversary

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2015 - 11:04 PM |
Tagged: snk, pc gaming, humble bundle

The Neo Geo was created by SNK as an arcade and commercial video game system. The hardware made its way into an (expensive) home console in 1990, with almost every arcade game available for it. This was back in an era where new arcade cabinets overshadowed consoles in quality. Granted, the Neo Geo doesn't quite fit in that pigeonhole, especially when you look at games at the end of its product cycle. Its draw, as an arcade cabinet, was its ability to store multiple games simultaneously.

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1990 is now 25 years ago, and Humble Bundle has a huge collection of their titles for the next handful of days. These franchises include Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Metal Slug, Sengoku, and more. They are all PC ports, of course. While some titles haven't been announced yet, most of them are available DRM-free on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Web (Chrome and Firefox). The two (current) exceptions are The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match Final Edition and The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match, which are both Windows-only Steam keys.

The bundle lasts until Tuesday, December 22nd at 2pm EST (UTC - 5).

These 3 Systems Will Leave You Shocked...

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2015 - 01:41 PM |
Tagged: system shock, pc gaming, otherside entertainment, night dive studios

Otherside Entertainment is a relatively new game studio, founded in 2014, that is working on a crowdfunded fantasy RPG called Underworld Ascendant. Apparently, they are also working on System Shock 3.

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Well, at least a teaser page says the words “System Shock 3” and has a copyright notice from Otherside Entertainment. I believe that it is fairly reasonable to jump to the aforementioned conclusion with the provided information. The rights to Systen Shock are currently in the hands of Night Dive Studios, which has been reviving old (~90s-era) PC games. They are also in the news for a few screenshots of the upcoming Turok and Turok 2 remaster.

One of the most interesting parts about all of this is that Otherside Entertainment was founded by the founder of Blue Sky Productions, later renamed Looking Glass Studios, who co-developed System Shock 2 with Irrational Games. More Looking Glass alumni than just the founder are at Otherside too, but I don't know how many were from that era and team.

Blizzard Says Overwatch's New Heroes and Maps Will Be Free

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2015 - 02:28 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, overwatch, blizzard

Jeff Kaplan of Blizzard has just announced, in the December 7th Overwatch Developer Update, embedded below, that maps and characters will always be patched in as free updates. This is particularly interesting because the game is often viewed as Team Fortress 2 being distilled through a DOTA 2 filter. Those games offer purchases of specific weapons or heroes (Update December 8th @6:15pm ET: I meant League of Legends when I was talking about hero purchasing -- I changed it to DOTA 2 for Valve symmetry, but they apparently don't sell heroes), respectively, which would be an easy way to monetize the title. The problem is that it could lead to a situation where a team doesn't have the necessary tools to counter a strategy that the opponent is fielding, not because of in-game logistics, but because the players didn't buy some piece of content ahead-of-time.

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Note that, while I haven't played the game, I've been hearing that weapon loadouts for individual heros will not be a part of the game, free or otherwise. A chosen hero will be the same across all players. I say this because Blizzard hasn't denied the potential for weapons or loadouts as DLC, but that seems to be because they're not even considering them at all.

Beyond heroes, maps will also be patched in for free. This is likely for a different purpose, of course. Heroes make a huge impact on the balancing of a game and the list of available strategies. The decision to release maps for free is likely to prevent parties from being split up because individual members don't have all the required content. StarCraft II approached this issue by allowing all members of a party to be upgraded to the highest-level member until the group is disbanded. For a game like Overwatch though, which seems likely to have more than two or three tiers of content, segmenting off a handful of maps unless you play with friends is probably too petty to monetize. Might as well just give it to everyone and charge once at the door.

Here is TotalBiscuit's thoughts on this issue and others, from before this announcement.

The beta for Overwatch will be shut down on December 10th for the holidays. It is expected to reopen in January. I'm guessing that they have an update planned, but they don't want to push it until after the holidays for support reasons. Thus, rather than leave an old build open for a month, where people begin to judge its already-fixed quirks with holiday binge-gaming, they decided to just pull it. They might as well let anticipation build, and welcome back users with something new after the holidays. This is just speculation, though.

Source: Blizzard

Valve Time Has Canceled Half-Life 2: Episode Four Images

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2015 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: valve, pc gaming, half-life 2

Today I learned that there was originally supposed to be multiple follow-ups to Half-Life 2: Episode Two. I wasn't really into Valve games at that point. At some point after Valve released Episode Three, which obviously never happened, two spin-offs were planned by two different studios. One unnamed title was supposed to be spearhead by Warren Spector and Junction Point Studios. The deal collapsed when Disney committed to Epic Mickey and the studio dropped Valve.

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The other canceled title was supposed to come from Arkane Studios, which went on to create Dishonored. This one is sometimes called “Half-Life 2: Episode Four,” and “Return to Ravenholm” at others. The narrative takes place before Half-Life 2: Episode Two and is said to star a new, unannounced protagonist.

I bring this up because Valve Time has recently published a post and video that collects a bunch of screenshots from the portfolio of Robert Wilinski. The video goes through the theory of what the game was supposed to be, and how these screenshots fit in with previous leaks and rumors.

Keep in mind that the content is almost a decade old at this point, as Robert dated this folder of his portfolio between 2006 and 2008. This is older than Left 4 Dead.

Source: Valve Time

Valve Adds Permanent Deletion of Specific Games to Steam

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2015 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: steam, pc gaming

I'm not sure how useful this is, but Valve has added the ability to remove a game from your Steam account through their customer support website. When you log into Steam with your web browser, or select “Steam Support” from the Steam Client's Help menu, you can select a game and see its available options. One is “I want to permanently remove this game from my account.”

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I don't exactly know all of the specifics for will happen when you do this, but it sounds like you will need to repurchase the title if you change your mind. This is probably most useful for free little experiences, like Portal Story: Mel or Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, which you've completed and don't want cluttering your Steam library.

On the other hand, users at NeoGAF, who (of course) broke this story, are concerned that it will be abused by trolls who phish accounts. Not only can they sell off their items, they can delete all of their games just because. I would hope that Valve has methods to track deleted games, even just for a limited time, in extreme cases.

On the other hand, a service like GoG could benefit from this feature. Since everything is DRM free, it could provide a transaction and let the user delete the record after they purchase it, rather than flaunt it on a public profile as Steam sort-of does. In that case, deleting the record wouldn't destroy the content -- just place the burden on the user to back-up.

Source: NeoGAF

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist Released for Free

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2015 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, free

Free games are a welcome trend. Sometimes they are older games that were re-released or otherwise used for promotion. You can also find many interesting prototypes after a popular game jam ends and the contestants leave their work on OneDrive or Google Drive.

This game is apparently designed to promote the future works of a new game studio. One of the co-creators of “The Stanley Parable” founded “Crows Crows Crows”. Their first game is now available for free on a few services, although I naturally just got it from Steam because why not.

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It's interesting because it's basically a 15-minute short film, only in a “walking simulator” format. It's limited, though. Most of the enjoyment of “The Stanley Parable” was in seeing how your small choices had comically huge effects. Carefully following the narrator's instructions gave you a peaceful ending, and deviating made the story devolve in some absurdly disproportional way. There was even a part of a level's collision that was disabled to troll players trying to glitch outside the path, greeting them with a message for the sole purpose of saying “Nope. You didn't trick me.”

The new game, “Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist” has no such choices. This is disappointing if you were expecting a smaller The Stanley Parable. Instead, you basically get the equivalent of a single The Stanley Parable ending, which you basically need to follow. The only choices that I found is to pick up a few items, listen to a few tapes, and inaction.

It's cute though, and it was a good use of my time.

Source: Steam

Shadow Complex Remastered Released for PC... Free

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2015 - 02:22 AM |
Tagged: shadow complex, pc gaming, epic games, chair games

At the Video Game Awards, Epic Games announced that the Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) title, Shadow Complex, has been remastered for the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Moreover, it is available on the Epic Games Launcher for free. Some sites are reporting that it's only free for a limited time, but one of the community managers at Epic Games said that it was, in fact, free forever. If you're interested, open the Epic Games launcher and download it so it's available to play whenever you get a handful of hours free. No rush, though.

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While it's been about six years since I played it, Shadow Complex was fun. Chair Games set out to make a Metroid-like side-scroller (apart from a couple of sections) with secrets and items that could only be accessed by backtracking with later equipment. The story was fine.

Shadow Complex Remastered has fairly light system requirements, too.

Minimum:

  • Windows 7 / Windows 8.x / Windows 10
  • Intel Core 2 Duo (or AMD Equivalent)
  • 2GB System RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 7800 / AMD Radeon HD 4600 / Intel HD 4000
  • 512MB Video RAM
  • DirectX 9.0c

Recommended:

  • Windows 7 / Windows 8.x / Windows 10
  • Intel Core i5 / AMD A4 APU
  • 4GB System RAM
  • NVIDIA GT 540 / AMD Radeon HD 5550
  • 1GB Video RAM
  • DirectX 11

Of course, while you've downloaded the Epic Games Luancher, you might also consider downloading Unreal Tournament. Also, if you're a creative type, Unreal Engine 4 is available for free on the launcher too (although royalties are due if you start making money with it).

Source: Chair Games