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1:30 PM on 04.17.2014

I died an embarrassing amount in Hotline Miami 2

Anyone that has even the slightest bit of familiarity with Hotline Miami knows what defines it. The neon-swathed visuals, the gratuitous violence, the quick and unforgiving gameplay, and the blaring soundtrack all made the ga...

Brett Makedonski


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To Leave is one of the neatest games I played during GDC photo
To Leave is one of the neatest games I played during GDC
by Steven Hansen

GDC is full of neat games. There are sentai management sims. Body building cats. Hyper Light Drifter. But one of the neatest games I played during GDC is To Leave, which creative director Estefano Palacios says is the first indie game out of Ecuador. It's definitely the first one coming to PS4 and Vita. (Incidentally, check out the promoted cblog from last year, Gaming in Latin America).

Sony discovered the 12 person team's game as part of its Latin America, Incubation Program and has been "instrumental" in getting it exposure, flying Palacios out to GDC to rep the game, and technology, giving the team dev kits.

Palacios discovered me, hustling to take advantage of his good fortune, while I shambled, eyes glazed over, trying to remember where I was going and where I had been. I'm glad he did, because chatting with him and playing To Leave perked me right up.

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Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls photo
Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
by Chris Carter

After the classic that was Diablo II, expectations for a follow-up were at an all-time high. Although it could never really meet those expectations, Diablo III was a fine hack and slash, and I ended up replaying it time and time again with every possible class.

But it wasn't perfect of course, since loot was designed around the ill-fated and ill-designed Auction House, putting a damper on long-term gear goals. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls may not reinvent the wheel, but it eliminates many of the problems from DIII proper.

And most importantly, the Auction House is gone all around!

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Review: The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville photo
Review: The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville
by Darren Nakamura

Fifteen years ago, The Powerpuff Girls was my jam. I used to watch it (along with Dexter's Laboratory) just about every day after coming home from school, but before firing up a videogame. A couple weeks ago, when The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville was announced, I approached it with a level of caution appropriate for a beloved childhood franchise resurrected with a new look. That is to say, I was prepared for the worst.

Previously, developer Radiangames was mostly known for a handful of decent, but perhaps uninspired Xbox Live Indie Games. Licensed titles are often sub-par, and especially those that are timed to release in the same window as the source material. Despite all of that, Defenders of Townsville ends up as a unique, genuinely entertaining metroidvania.

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Epic Games announces new $19.99/mo Unreal Engine 4 subscription plan photo
Epic Games announces new $19.99/mo Unreal Engine 4 subscription plan
by Dale North

Anyone can gain access to Unreal Engine 4 now with a new subscription plan, priced at $19.99 a month. This was announced this morning in a GDC press conference by Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney. 

With this new plan, users can deploy to four platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Developers will pay 5 percent of revenues for full access to Unreal Engine 4. This fee gets you the tools, access to full C++ source code (via GitHub), documentation, and forum support access. This new plan is available today, letting new developers download tools and get started right now (or in a few minutes -- the site is down right now).

Sweeney calls today the start of something new for Epic Games. He said that they’ve been working quietly behind the scene on new technology for awhile now. The future of the engine is inspired by a lot of changes in the game industry. The assumption was that bigger and better was going to be the continual goal for the future of gaming, but things have changed since, with mobile and VR entering the scene in a big way.

The newest form of  Unreal Engine 4 was built to be highly usable for developers of all sizes.   Sweeney says that even if you don’t know how to program, you could build a game in Unreal Engine 4. He confident enough about its ease of use that noted that the engine could potentially be a new outlet for the motivated Minecraft player.

It used to cost many millions of dollars and lots of licensing paperwork for AAA developers to use UE4 to make games. Sweeney admits that this is an outdated plan now. They’re shooting for practicability and accessibility with their new business mode; every developer on earth will have access to all the tools Epic has when they develop their AAA games now. For $20, cancelable at any time. How great is that?

As an example, they showed off a game they made with the tools, called Tappy Chicken. It was developed in two days with Blueprint in UE4, with no programming. Other examples of the tools were shown -- more on these later today.

You'll find the full details on this new plan here.

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Review: Octodad: Dadliest Catch photo
Review: Octodad: Dadliest Catch
by Darren Nakamura

An interesting exercise in game design is to identify assumptions about the genre or medium in general, then question those assumptions. One such assumption that most make is that control should feel natural and unobtrusive as the player's interface with the game. Octodad: Dadliest Catch challenges that idea, making awkward control central to the gameplay.

While the tasks in Octodad would be mundane in almost any other setting with a typical control scheme, they can be challenging or thought-provoking to an octopus dressed up as a human. By requiring a certain amount of care and effort, things like mowing the lawn or visiting the grocery store are made fun, though they can dip into the realm of frustration at times.

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You must watch this Elder Scrolls Online video right now photo
You must watch this Elder Scrolls Online video right now
by Hamza CTZ Aziz

Yes, it's a cinematic, but it's one hell of an impressive cinematic. Fan or not, you can't help but get excited for The Elder Scrolls Online after watching this eight minute long movie. Makes you really wish for an actual Elder Scrolls animated movie like this. At the very least, we may be getting more short movies like this based on how this one ends.

The Elder Scrolls Online will be out on April 4 for Windows and OS X, and in June for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

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Impressions: Starbound photo
Impressions: Starbound
by Darren Nakamura

Back in 2011, Re-Logic released Terraria, which gained massive popularity for its procedurally generated sandbox gameplay that had combat and objectives for those wanting more than just a place to go and dig.

It was a surprise hit for me, and I ended up spending hundreds of hours with it. Eventually, life happened and Terraria's creator Andrew "Redigit" Spinks announced that it would not be updated any more, but also that artist Finn "Tiy" Brice had moved on to form Chucklefish, whose first project would be what many consider to be a spiritual successor to Re-Logic's title, but set in space. Starbound was born.

Fans backed the project fervently, with its homegrown crowdfunding campaign topping a million dollars in under a month. Currently, they have sold over 180,000 pre-orders, taking in more than $3.7 million in support of the project. Starbound is an indie sensation, but while it does strive to be seen as its own entity, it will always be compared to its predecessor.

For the most part, comparisons between Terraria and Starbound are apt, and they provide a good starting point for discussion, but in the end Starbound is much more than just "Terraria in space."

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Review: Republique: Exordium photo
Review: Republique: Exordium
by Chris Carter

Republique was quite the ambitious Kickstarter project. With big names like Jennifer Hale and David Hayter attached, not to mention the million dollar budget, to say this stealth adventure promised quite a bit is an understatement.

Having played the first of five episodes, I can safely say that most of the lofty goals have been met, but there is a bit more that's yet to be seen.

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Review: Teslagrad photo
Review: Teslagrad
by Darren Nakamura

Ever since it was first revealed, I've been attracted to the basic conceit of Teslagrad. Perhaps due to the volume of available titles in the genre, indie puzzle platformers have become a bit polarizing, but that never repelled me. Indeed, when compared to great titles in the genre, Teslagrad is a(n) (invisible) force to be reckoned with.

Now that the magnet puns are out of my system, here's the review for this beautiful game.

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The Elder Scrolls Online hits PC/Mac first in April photo
The Elder Scrolls Online hits PC/Mac first in April
by Jordan Devore

ZeniMax Online Studios has come out with a suitably memorable release date for The Elder Scrolls Online: April 4, 2014 (aka 4.4.14). That's when the massively multiplayer online role-playing game will arrive on PC and Mac -- hopefully without too many launch-window issues. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions are coming a bit later in June.

Glad to have this news out of the way, but it's the new trailer I'm more interested in. It features some PvP, which basically amounts to crowds of people wailing on one another and some occasional structural damage. A faction-based approach worked quite well in Guild Wars 2, and I'm keen to experience a similar system in TES Online.

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Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within photo
Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within
by Steven Hansen

If you haven’t played the eXcellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you should. However, now there is a caveat to that. You should play it, but you should probably wait until November 12 to do so because that’s when the Enemy Within eXpansion comes out

Those who own Enemy Unknown on PC or Mac will need to plunk $30 down on the expansion and start a new XCOM campaign to eXperience the content. Console owners can nab a bundle of Enemy Unknown, all its DLC, and Enemy Within for $40, which is a particularly lovely deal if you haven’t picked the game up yet.

While things like new enemy types and cybernetic/biological modifications for your soldiers are cool, I recently got to go hands-on with some meatier content that has me satisfied XCOM fans should enjoy this shadowy expansion.

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Valve details its high-end Steam Machine prototype photo
Valve details its high-end Steam Machine prototype
by Jordan Devore

Later this year, Valve will ship out 300 prototype Steam Machines for beta testers. If you thought you wanted in on this action, just wait until you see the official system specs. "The prototype machine is a high-end, high-performance box, built out of off-the-shelf PC parts," says Valve. "It is also fully upgradable, allowing any user to swap out the GPU, hard drive, CPU, even the motherboard if you really want to."

  • GPU: some units with Nvidia Titan, some GTX 780, some GTX 760, and some GTX 660
  • CPU: some boxes with Intel : i7-4770, some i5-4570, and some i3
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB DDR5 (GPU)
  • Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
  • Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
  • Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high

For reference, the current slim Xbox 360 4GB console's dimensions are 12.4 x 11.9 x 7.4.

As we know, multiple manufacturers will be introducing their own SteamOS-powered systems next year. "Some of those companies will be capable of meeting the demands of lots of Steam users very quickly, some will be more specialized and lower volume. The hardware specs of each of those machines will differ, in many cases substantially, from our prototype."

Steam Machines - Prototype Details [Steam]

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BetaDwarf's Forced: From classroom to Steam Early Access photo
BetaDwarf's Forced: From classroom to Steam Early Access
by Fraser Brown

Garages are passé now, it seems. Where once indie game developers would steal precious space from cars, lawnmowers, and bikes, they can now be found living up in a tree or, in the case of Danish developer BetaDwarf, squatting in a classroom. 

"Fuck it, we're going to skip [our] apartments and literally live at university," Steffen Kabbelgaard and his team decided during development of their colorful co-op arena game, Forced. Risk, sacrifice, and no small amount of good fortune characterize the story of Forced's birth, a story that's nearing its end as the team gears up for an October 24 launch.  

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Valve announces free operating system SteamOS photo
Valve announces free operating system SteamOS
by Jordan Devore

In its first of three Steam-releated announcements, Valve has announced a full-blown operating system called SteamOS. Based on Linux and centered around the company's digital distribution platform, this will be available soon for free and is intended for living-room PCs.

"With SteamOS, 'openness' means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to," writes Valve. "Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation."

There are said to be hundreds of games running natively on SteamOS, with more -- including AAA titles -- set to arrive next year. The full library of (PC and Mac) games and desktop software on Steam will be available via in-home streaming. Both Steam and SteamOS are getting Family Sharing, more parental control options, and music and video content.

Exciting news knowing that there are two more announcements on the way. We're ready for you, Steam Box.

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GOG: Indies, nostalgia, and the evils of DRM photo
GOG: Indies, nostalgia, and the evils of DRM
by Fraser Brown

It took a long time for me to be comfortable with digital distribution. I held onto my dusty boxes and physical media with grim determination, seeing no reason for me to move with the times. It was Space Quest that changed all that. I'd lost my discs filled with the adventures of space janitor Roger Wilco years before, but when I realized that I could simply download every single one of them and start playing them mere minutes later, I started to become a convert. 

That was many years ago, and now -- between plaforms like Steam and GOG -- I have almost 400 digital titles, and the last time I purchased a physical PC game, it was for an article I was writing about the experience of going back to a brick-and-mortar store. I want to emphasize this: I only bought the game for an experiment. 

GOG.com, once Good Old Games, started out by appealing to folk like myself. Those who wanted to dive into the classics and bygone titans of PC gaming, but it's transformed into something much larger: a huge digital platform promoting and selling bounties decades old next to modern indie titles, and all the time sticking to its anti-DRM principles. A year after its rebranding, I caught up with managing director Guillaume Rambourg, and some of the developers whose games feature on the site.

[Image source]

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