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Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor project dead

Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor project dead

The most recent Banjo-Kazooie title, Nuts Bolts, was released in 2008.


A spiritual successor to N64 platformer Banjo-Kazooie has died off according to the project’s composer.

The project was revealed in September 2012 by a team of former Rare developers, calling themselves MingyJongo. The original plan was not to try and recreate the original fan favourite, but to create something new instead.

The team was considering Unity for the game’s development and was possibly going to launch a Kickstarter to support the project once it got to the later stages.

During a Reddit AMA, Banjo-Kazooie series composer and Rare veteran Grant Kirkhope mentioned that the project had fallen by the wayside and was no longer being worked on.

’The other guys actually had a secret meeting in a pub near Rare and we even got as far as having a character drawn up and a demo level type thing but it all fell to bits,’ said Kirkhope. ’Everyone’s got other jobs etc.’

Banjo-Kazooie was first launched for the N64 in 1998 and earned a sequel, Banjo-Tooie, in 2000. A third Banjo-Threeie title was teased towards the end of the second game but was never made. Both original titles also got re-released over Xbox Live Arcade in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Banjo-Kazooie did get a third major title in 2008 with Nuts Bolts, which was released as an Xbox 360 exclusive. This game, however, took a departure from the gameplay of the originals and focused on building vehicles instead.

Do you have fond memories of Banjo-Kazooie? Are you disappointed by this project’s cancellation? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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Soulcalibur goes free-to-play with Lost Swords

Soulcalibur goes free-to-play with Lost Swords

Taki is one of the characters returning after an absence in Soulcalibur V. More characters are planned to be added over time.


The Soulcalibur series is dipping its toe into the free-to-play pond with Soulcalibur: Lost Swords which launches today.

Debuting on the Playstation 3, the game will take a slight departure from its previous entries in that it is a single player only title where players progress through a series of quests to gain items including new clothing or weaponry options.

A small element of multiplayer gameplay is included as players can upload their character for other players to use as an ally in their own games in exchange for ‘friend points’ which can be spent on more bonuses.

Extra bonus items are also available for players who log in to the game during its first four weeks after launch.

The Playstation Blog boasts that the game is putting some fan-favourite characters that were cut from the most recent entry to the series, Soulcalibur V, including Taki and Sophitia and that they will be adding more characters to the game over time.

Soulcalibur publisher Namco Bandai has already experimented with this sort of free-to-play formula with Tekken Revolution which it launched in June last year, also only for the Playstation 3.

The free-to-play model in arcade style beat-em-ups has also been demonstrated successfully in Killer Instinct, a remake of the 1994 cult classic and one of the Xbox One’s launch titles. The game was essentially a free demo with the ability to buy additional fighters individually.

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The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Price: £34.99-£54.99 plus £8.99 monthly subscription
Developer: Zenimax Online
Publisher: Bethesda
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Version Reviewed: PC

Playing The Elder Scrolls Online is the most boring experience I’ve endured since I was seventeen years old, when a series of unfortunate events led to my family moving into my uncle’s two-bedroom house. Because there wasn’t an awful lot of room to do our own things, every night we’d end up playing Scrabble. Now, Scrabble isn’t necessarily a bad game, but after six months it certainly starts to feel like one.

The Elder Scrolls Online is like six months of Scrabble, only it manages to perfectly recreate that sensation of repetitive hopelessness within six hours. What Zenimax Online have attempted is to build a halfway house between the traditional The Elder Scrolls games and the familiar MMO mechanics of World of Warcraft. The result is a game that fails to satisfy in either category. Its formulaic quest structure is recycled over and over, unconvincingly disguised with a superficial smear of “story”. Players are corralled down the same pathways in a world that initially appears free and open, but quickly reveals itself to be anything but. Your interaction with the environments are necessarily limited by the fact that ESO is an exhibit built for thousands of players to witness, rather than a malleable world crafted for the individual.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Your character’s life begins in Coldharbour, a prison realm overseen by Molag Bal, the Daedric prince of domination (not that kind of domination). But Zounds! You escape! Thanks to the help of a blind old man thrillingly known as the Prophet. So begins a quest to reunite a band of ancient heroes and defend Tamriel against Bal’s plans to enslave the population.

At this point, the game drops you into Tamriel proper, the specific location depending on which of the three warring factions you’ve pledged allegiance to. Rather than retread my beta steps in Skyrim and Morrowind allied with the Ebonheart Pact, I joined forces with the Daggerfall covenant, an alliance between the Bretons, Orcs, and Redguard. Previously, the game introduced players using a series of starting islands, but this meant it took several hours before you even reached the mainland. Now though, your character begins his adventures on the central continent. Except, you still have to return to the starting islands and go through that before you can get very far. Instead of removing this tedious tumour, Zenimax have moved it from the leg into the brain.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Regardless of whether you take a direct or delayed route through the introductory areas, it soon becomes clear that nearly all the PvE content, meaning every area in the game save for Cyrodiil, is directed specifically toward you. You’re special, you see. You’re special because you, er, don’t have a soul, which handily explains both why your character is so wilfully obliging when helping other people, and why in conversation you have all the personality of a Rich Tea biscuit. Every quest-giver you speak to, whether it’s through the main story, the Fighters Guild, the Mages Guild, or just people you encounter while wandering the landscape, specifically want your help. And that’s all well and good right up until you enter your first dungeon, where you and seventeen other unique world-saving heroes all run through the same corridors to kill the same goblin.

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Apple and Google fighting for mobile exclusivity deals

Apple and Google fighting for mobile exclusivity deals

Plants Vs Zombies 2 was given a prominent position in the Apple App Store in exchange for a two month exclusivity window on the platform.


Apple and Google are offering popular games premium placement in their app stores in order to win exclusivity for their platforms.

According to the Wall Street Journal, sources close to the matter say promotional boosts are being used to ensure that popular games are appearing on one mobile operating system before the other in an effort to win a larger user base.

Plants Vs Zombies 2 received one such deal, launching in August 2013 on iOS and featuring prominently in the Apple App Store. In exchange for this placement, EA withheld the game from Android devices until October. Cut the Rope 2 also had a similar deal in place which saw it available on iOS for three months before an Android version was released.

Whilst exclusivity deals are nothing new for console games, it is something that has been avoided with mobile games up until now. Historically, however, the pattern of a game appearing on iOS first and then Android later is less surprising as developers have previously found iOS to be a more lucrative platform.

Securing exclusivity on popular mobile games is considered to be a sign of the mobile device war stepping up. Amazon has also tried gaining exclusivity deals in the same manner for its Kindle devices which have access to a different Android app ecosystem.

‘When people love a game, and it’s not available on an alternate platform, they’ll change platforms,’ head of Kongregate Emily Greer told the Wall Street Journal. ‘The level of attachment a person has to a game can exceed almost anything.’

For mobile developers, a game gaining a featured spot in the App Store can mean the difference between financial success or failure. Apple has recently been experimenting with new ways of curating gaming content and last month unveiled the Indie Game Showcase section in an attempt to promote more titles.

What do you think of such exclusivity deals? Are they likely to sway you one way or another when it comes to choosing your mobile platform? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle

AMD is today extending its Never Settle Forever bundle to include more games and cards


AMD is today rolling out an update to its Never Settle Forever bundle, promising more titles and variety as well as availability with a wider range of its graphics hardware.

The Never Settle Forever bundle is AMD’s ongoing promotion, whereby purchasers of certain AMD graphics cards from participating retailers are eligible for up to three free games, as well as a few other bonuses.

The company claims that this latest update is a response both to customer demand for more and newer titles as well as to the fact that the previous bundles were a few months out of date and did not incorporate the full range of AMD’s latest cards.

As you can see, everything from the R7 240 series up to the mighty R9 295X2 is now included in the promotion. The tiered system of bronze, silver and gold (one, two and three free games respectively) is being maintained. Users will need an R7 260 or R9 270 series card to qualify for the silver tier, while only those who buy an R9 280 series card or higher are eligible for the gold one.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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While games from the previous offer are being carried over, AMD is adding a number of new and unreleased ones to the lineup from which users can pick. Thief, AMD’s TrueAudio launch title and the latest Mantle-compatible game, was recently added, and will continue to be offered in both the gold and silver tiers. Murdered: Soul Suspect, which is a few months out, is now also available for the gold and silver tiers – users will receive the code upon the game’s release. It doesn’t support Mantle, but will have AMD optimised technologies, much some other recent Square Enix titles like Tomb Raider and Deux Ex: Human Revolution.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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Also introduced as of today are a selection of indie titles, a first for a graphics card package. Guacamelee!, Dyad, The Banner Saga and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack are the current choices. It’s also worth noting that for each game choice you have (i.e. two in the silver tier) you’re able to pick two indie games.

Other new additions include what AMD is referring to as classic titles. For these, AMD is working closely with developers who have optimised their game codes for AMD hardware, and offering a selection of games released in the past few years which users may have missed at the time.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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The full list of the current 21 games and their global availability is listed below – in case where games aren’t available, AMD ensures us it’s due to regional availability issues rather than their own program.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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Finally, each tier of the Never Settle Forever bundle comes with some extra bonus offers. First is a key code for three months’ free use of Splashtop, which lets you stream games from a PC to mobile devices over your home network. Next up is $10 off the AMD Radeon RAMDISK 64GB software, and lastly is the AMD Operator Bundle for the free-to-play game FireFall, which includes some exclusive armour and equipment.

AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle *AMD updates its Never Settle Forever bundle
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The Never Settle Forever codes will be delivered physically or digitally, depending on the retailer and board partner in question. The coupon is good for a single transaction only – you must select all of your games at once. The reason this is relevant is that AMD has promised to continue updating the selection, so it may pay off to wait to redeem your code. The current codes are valid until August 31 2014.

What do you think of the updated Never Settle Forever package? Has such a package ever been the deciding factor in your GPU purchases? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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Goat Simulator Review

Goat Simulator Review

Price: £6.99
Developer: Coffee Stain Games
Publisher: Coffee Stain Games
Platform: PC

Goat Simulator Review

Well, here we have it. The defining moment in gaming. The pinnacle of the form. For the play it was Hamlet, for the novel Ulysses, and for film Citizen Kane. Each took its own medium and elevated it to unrepeatable heights. Now we have our own unrivalled masterpiece, a classic that will be remembered even when the last human on Earth hunches over the dying embers of the final flame. “I was there,” this crooked old man, bent by time and torment, shall whisper to the ether. “I was there when Goat Simulator was released.”

Goat Simulator Review

That’s not a very good joke, I know. But neither is Goat Simulator. As comedy games go, it is the equivalent of daytime TV covering a popular Youtube video. What works perfectly well as thirty seconds of amusement is stretched into half an hour of awkwardly searching to spin it into something more, and ultimately falling back on repeatedly pointing out how funny the original joke was.

Handing you control of one standard-issue Capra Aegagrus Hircus, Goat Simulator plonks you in a small open-world with the simple aim of causing as much destruction as possible. Now even the most nihilistic of goats would usually struggle to do more than churn a farmer’s field into mud before getting its horns hopelessly tangled in a wire-fence. Fortunately for your cloven-hoofed avatar, everything in Goat Simulator’s world appears to be made out of papier-mâché and springs.

Goat Simulator Review

Head-butting a person in Goat Simulator will send them flying across the map like a comet, while doing the same to one of the many stationary vehicles dotted around the environment will cause an explosion that catapults anything nearby into a geostationary orbit, including the twisting, flopping ragdoll of your own goat-y self. In addition, your goat can lick things to attach them to his sticky tongue, things like basketballs, chunks of broken fence, other goats, and the wheels of a fast-moving articulated lorry.

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Julian Gollop’s Chaos reboot successfully funded

Julian Gollop's Chaos reboot successfully funded

Julian Gollop, creator of the original X-Com, has succeeded in his efforts to raise funding through Kickstarter for a reboot of his Chaos franchise, born on the ZX Spectrum.


A crowd-funding campaign to reboot the classic ZX Spectrum title Chaos: The Battle of Wizards has succeeded, raising $210,854 on an original goal of $180,000 for its creator Julian Gollop.

Strategy game giant Julian Gollop published the original title through Games Workshop in 1985, on the back of his partnership with the firm on 1984′s Battlecars. In 1990, Gollop’s now-defunct Mythos Games published sequel Lords of Chaos through Blade Software, expanding the title’s appeal with ports for the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC range and 16-bitters the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga as well as a copy for ZX Spectrum stalwarts. His true breakthrough, however, was MicroProse-published UFO: Enemy Unknown, the first title in the X-Com series and the game for which he is best known.

Having disappeared under the radar after working on Ubisoft’s 2012 title Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, the Bulgarian-based developer kept a low profile until exploding back onto the scene with a crowd-funding pitch for a next-generation successor to Chaos and Lords of Chaos. Dubbed Chaos Reborn, the title asked for $180,000 via the Kickstarter crowd-funding site for a modern reboot of the series. Taking the turn-based strategy theme of its predecessors, Gollop promised an attractive title missing the iconic attribute-clash of its predecessor and switching out the tile-based graphics for the Unity Engine that retained the spirit of his much-loved earlier works.

Just 34 hours before the funding run came to an end, the goal was reached and exceeded with $210,854 from a total of 5,051 backers pledging to the project as it closed this morning. ‘Thank you to everybody who backed the project and promoted it,‘ Gollop wrote in an update to the project. ‘Thanks to my team for working after hours to make the prototype possible, and providing all the art and publicity material during the campaign. And thanks mum for being such a vocal supporter!

More details on the game are available on the official website, while an animation preview – a far cry from the visuals of the ZX Spectrum original – is reproduced below.

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Halo composer fired from Bungie

Halo composer fired from Bungie

Martin O’Donnell was responsible for the score in several Bungie games and had been working with the company since before it was bought by Microsoft in 1999.


Halo and Destiny composer Martin O’Donnell has seemingly been fired from Bungie.

Having previously been the studio’s audio director, O’Donnell revealed over Twitter that the company’s board of directors had let him go last week for no reason.

’I’m saddened to say that Bungie’s board of directors terminated me without cause on April 11, 2014,’ said O’Donnell.

A statement on Bungie’s site contrasts slightly with O’Donnell’s comments and instead states ’today, as friends, we say goodbye,’ and goes on to wish him luck on future endeavours.

He had worked on the scores for several of Bungie’s projects, including older titles Myth 2 and Oni and Halo: Combat Evolved. He was also working on the score for the studio’s upcoming title Destiny, collaborating with former Beatle Paul McCartney. The score is planned as a full release of its own under the title Music of the Spheres.

As well as composing scores, O’Donnell was also responsible for a lot of the general sound work and for directing voice talent in several of Bungie’s games.

O’Donnell had been working with the company since before it was bought out by Microsoft in 1999, originally working on a contract basis out of his own company, TotalAudio.

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Ben Heck builds WASD-replacement footpedals

Ben Heck builds WASD-replacement footpedals

Ben Heck’s footpedals, built in response to a viewer request, are designed to replace the traditional WASD control scheme in PC gaming.


Noted hacker and maker Ben ‘Heck’ Heckendorn has published details of his latest creation under Element14′s auspice: footpedals designed to ‘replace’ WASD gaming controls after their 32 year run.

The WASD control system, which uses the aforementioned letter keys in place of the traditional cursor keys, was first seen in the 1982 game Mazogs where it served to make up for the Sinclair ZX81′s lack of sensible keyboard layout. It caught on in the era of first-person shooters when mouse-look became the norm, allowing the left hand to sit at a more comfortable distance from the mouse-controlling right – unless you’re a sinister lefty, of course – while also providing easy reach to other keys that could be mapped to weapon changes, jumping, object usage or leaning.

WASD as a control layout has become so normalised that gaming keyboards typically come with replacement keycaps for those specific letters in eye-catching colours or with a deeply scooped design. Now, though, its days may be numbered – at least, if Ben Heck has his way.

Known for his innovative controller designs and homebrew laptops, including one based on a Commodore 64 and another on an Xbox 360, Heck is now the resident hacker at electronics giant Farnell/Element14 where he has created one possible successor to the WASD layout: footpedals.

A viewer of the Ben Heck Show, dissatisfied with the ‘finger-twister’ training required to excel at modern games, suggested the creation and Heck obliged. A pair of foot pedals provide mapping to four keys by responding to two levels of motion: a partial press activates one mode, while a heavier press activates the second. The result, Heck claims, is a natural-feeling control system that allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster.

The entire project has been created from scratch, using a 3D printer for the pedal parts and the popular Teensy microcontroller – chosen for the ease at which it can be turned into a joystick, keyboard or mouse Human Interface Device controller – for interfacing with the PC.

If you’re curious how it was made, or how it works, Heck’s video on the project is reproduced below.

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DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

Price: £19.99
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
Date Tested: 26/03/2014

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

Note: Early Access Reviews are critical appraisals of games still in development which are charging money for player access to their alpha and beta stages. This review is intended to give you an idea of whether the game is currently worth investing in, but without offering a final verdict.

Take a cursory glance at DayZ and it appears little has changed in the four months since release. The major content Bohemia are planning for the mod; namely vehicles, craftable bases, and broader communication channels such as radios, are still a long way from being added. Investigate a little further, however, and you’ll discover that significant changes have been made, but they’re many and small rather than large and few.

For example, rain was added about a month ago, and now players can catch the water droplets in their canteens, making it ever so slightly easier to acquire this vital resource. In addition, players can aim their guns while sat down, enabling them to sit around a campfire with friends without completely compromising their safety, or keep watch over player prisoners in a more casual, more disturbing manner.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

There are lots of different little channels that feed into DayZ’s remarkable success since it debuted on Steam Early Access at the end of last year. But one of them is this detailed way in which players can interact with their environment and the other players they encounter in post-apocalypse Chernarus. It’s this granularity of experience which Bohemia have been chasing since the Standalone release.

To understand the importance of this, it’s necessary to grasp the basis of what DayZ is, and the developer’s intent behind it. For all its layers of complexity, your ultimate goal when playing DayZ is the most basic possible. Stay alive. Do not die. See that bucket? Avoid kicking it. This is done by seeing to your needs, avoiding the zombies scattered around the environment like organic litter, and performing the delicate and potentially deadly social dance with fellow survivors you’ll inevitably encounter during your travels.

Your objective may be simple, but achieving it is anything but. Resources are scarce, and you require lots of food and water just to keep your body functional. The first hour or so of a DayZ life are a half-terrifying, half-gleeful rush as you frantically scour the nearest village for supplies, interspersed with moments of bravely running away from the prowling zombies.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

If you’re very lucky you might find enough food and water to keep you healthy. More typically you’ll either bleed to death after being attacked by your first zombie, or find nothing but rotten food, eat that in desperation, become sick, and spend the next half hour hopelessly searching for the right medication before ultimately collapsing. This is of course an entirely hypothetical scenario and definitely not what happened to me in my first and second lives.

Learning how to cope in this extremely harsh environment is a big factor in what makes DayZ so compelling. So is learning how to navigate it. Modern games are obsessed with keeping the player oriented, ensuring they always know where they are and where they are going, and there’s something about the challenge of being lost in a wilderness that is paradoxically liberating. The moment you first find a map in an abandoned car or inside a petrol station is breathlessly exciting. Then comes the puzzle of figuring out where you are on it, googling the Russian alphabet so you can translate the town signs written in Cyrillic to match them with the map names scribed in English.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

It helps that Chernarus is an incredible foundation for a game like this. Its sweeping vistas, highly realistic terrain, foreboding climate and dilapidated Baltic settlements all contribute to the sense that this is a world where nature has wrested control back from humanity, but also as a place where hope still lingers. Trekking through one of DayZ’s many forests, watching the sunlight shaft through the canopy, listening to your plodding footfall and the twittering birds in the trees is an oddly relaxing experience, providing relief between frantic zombie combat and tense encounters with other survivors.

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