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How I became obsessed with Steam Trading Cards photo
How I became obsessed with Steam Trading Cards
by Jordan Devore

Only a few short weeks ago, I spent approximately four seconds looking at this whole Steam Trading Card scheme and decided that it was dumb. Oh, what a fool I was! The system isn't exactly new -- it's been out of beta since the end of June -- but now that Valve has tied it in with the Steam summer sale and more developers are on board every day, it's finally clicked with me. I'm hooked.

Before we get any further, yes, virtual cards are a bit silly. I'll be among the last to argue in their favor from that standpoint. What's not so silly -- actually, it totally is, but in a good way -- is the ability to essentially earn free money that can then be reinvested in game purchases or, if you're like me, in the acquisition of further cards because you've lost control of your life.

After spending my weekend downloading a bunch of games I already owned just to run them, minimized, for a chance at earning virtual cards that could then be sold for less than a quarter each, I have some tips to share. But before that, it's come to my attention that some of you have no idea what Steam Trading Cards are all about. Let's get you up to speed.

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Blizzard talks about World of Warcraft microtransactions photo
Blizzard talks about World of Warcraft microtransactions
by Jordan Devore

When Blizzard said it was exploring potentially adding microtransactions to World of Warcraft in "certain regions," speculation quickly pointed to that being code for "Asia." Good job, everyone who suggested that! After admitting that "we're still pretty early in the exploration process," the company has given more context for the in-game store.

"We think everyone would appreciate the convenience of being able to make such purchases without having to leave the game, and ultimately that's our long-term goal for the system, though there's quite a bit of work involved in retrofitting those existing items into the new system," wrote a Blizzard community manager.

"First, we'll be testing the in-game store with some new kinds of items we're looking into introducing (in Asian regions, at the outset) based on player feedback: specifically, an experience buff to assist with the leveling process, as well as an alternate way to acquire Lesser Charms of Good Fortune. We've had a lot of requests from players in different regions for convenience-oriented items such as these, and as with other new ideas we've introduced as WoW has evolved -- including Pet Store pets, mounts, and more -- your feedback plays a hugely important part in determining what we add to the game."

Experience? Doesn't bother me. Those Lesser Charms of Good Fortune, however, could be an issue for some players who fear the in-game store will lead to an eventual pay-to-win scenario. "Ultimately it's still too early in the process to make any final determinations about our plans," Blizzard continued, "but in the meantime, we hope you'll check out the in-game store once it's implemented on the PTR and let us know what you think."

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Hero worship gone wrong in Hotline Miami 2 photo
Hero worship gone wrong in Hotline Miami 2
by Hamza CTZ Aziz

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number picks up after the events of the original game and focuses on two different groups of people you'll be playing as. While both groups are very different from one another, they both happen to be dealing with the same subject matter: Hero worship. The "hero" in this case being Jacket from the Hotline Miami, who has made waves after going on his killing spree against the Russian mob.

A new story, but that original brutal satisfying gameplay is very much intact. You'll be smashing, slashing, shooting, and slamming people's bodies into bloody pulps all to the cool tunes of the '80s-inspired music once again, and that's a good thing.

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Diablo III auction houses taken offline due to gold bug photo
Diablo III auction houses taken offline due to gold bug
by Jordan Devore

Following the release of patch 1.0.8 for Diablo III, a bug that allowed players to duplicate gold through the auction house was discovered. And, naturally, some folks ran with the exploit. The auction houses were taken offline while Blizzard worked on a fix, which has since been implemented. Curiously, the company will not be rolling back servers.

"We feel that this is the best course of action given the nature of the dupe, how relatively few players used it, and the fact that its effects were fairly limited within the region," wrote community manager Lylirra. "We've been able to successfully identify players who duplicated gold by using this specific bug, and are focusing on these accounts to make corrections.

"While this is a time-consuming and very detailed process, we believe it's the most appropriate choice given the circumstances. We know that some of you may disagree, but we feel that performing a full roll back would impact the community in an even greater way, as it would require significant downtime as well as revert the progress legitimate players have made since patch 1.0.8 was released this morning."

What will come of players who used the exploit is not entirely clear. "We're currently in the process of reviewing the accounts involved and taking appropriate actions, including temporary locks, suspensions, and/or bans," said the community manager.

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Maxis announces The Sims 4 for 2014 photo
Maxis announces The Sims 4 for 2014
by Jordan Devore

In a short, rather bland announcement, Maxis has announced its next project: The Sims 4. It's due out on Windows and Mac next year, and that's about all we know at this time. I mean, it is The Sims -- not like folks need much of anything to go on at this point. You will simulate your friends, let them die in cruel ways, and then Maxis will put out a bunch of expansions for years to come. We know the drill by now.

"The Sims 4 encourages players to personalize their world with new and intuitive tools while offering them the ability to effortlessly share their creativity with friends and fans," reads a line from the announcement. To date, the franchise has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide.

Before you even finished reading the headline, you were probably wondering to yourself "Will this be another SimCity situation?" Terrible as it is that we have to now ask such questions immediately, it would seem that a constant Internet connection is not required. The Sims Hub received a longer version of the announcement which explicitly calls the game a "single-player offline experience." Lesson learned?

EA Officially confirms The Sims 4 [The Sims Hub]

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The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March  photo
The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March
by Jordan Devore

What a month! Now that March is well behind us (and we remembered to take a look back to ponder), I feel confident in saying that between BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider, and yet another Gears of War, we are well into this year of big-budget gaming.

Take a look at everything we reviewed in March -- there's a lot! What was your jam? What did you miss out on? I still need to grab copies of HarmoKnight and Luigi's Mansion for my 3DS. The poor guy has gotten dusty and now only I'm to blame for it.

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Review: SimCity photo
Review: SimCity
by Joshua Derocher

I love the SimCity series. I played the first one for countless hours growing up, and my younger years were filled with endless play sessions of SimCity 2000 and 3000. I wanted to like the latest SimCity. The visual style looks great, and it seemed like a good idea to streamline some of the games more radical detail. 

Sadly, SimCity has some weird design decisions, and the worst problem with it is the fact that you always have to be online to play. This might be overlooked as a minor annoyance, but the servers aren't up to the task of handling the player load. I've had a hard time getting online to play, and it's made judging it as a game difficult.

We tossed it out there to you to see what you wanted us to do, and you responded loud and clear that the game deserved to be reviewed in its current state. You are why we review games, and you are the ones that care about our opinions.

Things might get better in the future for SimCity, but right now it's bad and unplayable at times. This review is based in part on time spent before release when I was able to connect, but mostly my opinions are formed on the actual retail version of the game.

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PSA: Don't buy SimCity until EA fixes the servers photo
PSA: Don't buy SimCity until EA fixes the servers
by Joshua Derocher

Our review for SimCity is coming, but server issues are making the game unplayable. I'm sure you're already aware of the need to always be online to play, but it goes a lot deeper than just a DRM issue. Data isn't stored locally, so server issues can destroy save games and potentially cause the loss of dozens of hours of gameplay. Amazon has even pulled the game from their digital store.

SimCity has a big focus on region gameplay, where cities can be connected with up to fourteen other cities. This concept is interesting and has some promise, but it just fails to work correctly with the way the servers are right now. Basically, the game is broken, and not worth buying at all right now.

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Torment reaches its Kickstarter goal in less than a day photo
Torment reaches its Kickstarter goal in less than a day
by Fraser Brown

InXile's newest roleplaying game and spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, Torment: Tides of Numenera, has been seeking funding on Kickstarter for well under a day. After three hours, it had already secured half of its $900,000 goal. It's now fully backed. 

Sitting pretty at $935,000 at the time of writing this (and likely a whole lot more when you start reading), I think anyone wondering if people really care about Planescape: Torment any more have their answer. I suspect that the project won't struggle to reach its stretch goals either, meaning that the extra writers and art that inXile mentioned desiring will become a reality.

I spoke with Kevin Saunders and Colin McComb from inXile a day ago about the project and their experiences with Kickstarter, so keep an eye out for that later today. They were cautiously optimistic about the potential success of their latest crowd-funding attempt, and now they're probably feeling pretty damn good.

So, who has backed this thing already?

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StarCraft MMO is now available on Battle.net photo
StarCraft MMO is now available on Battle.net
by Joshua Derocher

The ambitious mod project formally known as World of StarCraft is now being released on Battle.net as StarCraft Universe.

This giant mod is really a whole new game built with StarCraft II's tool set. It's a masively-multiplayer online game featuring classes, character customization with skills and abilities, raids for players to tackle together, and player vs. player content if you don't feel like working together.

StarCraft Universe will be free to play if you own StarCraft II. Just search for it on Battle.net in the mod section.

StarCraft Universe Prologue Launch [Facebook via Kotaku]

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Your first city in SimCity will suck, and that's okay photo
Your first city in SimCity will suck, and that's okay
by Hamza CTZ Aziz

One of the very first games I ever owned that truly showed me the joy of gaming was SimCity 2000 for the Mac. I lost hours of my life managing the shit out of my various towns, altering the land to best serve my capitalist needs, and repeatedly failing to save Oakland after the firestorms.

I never got around to the other Sim City games after 2000, largely due to becoming primarily a console gamer. Now that I own a beast of a PC rig, there's no way I can pass up the new SimCity, even with as intrusive DRM measures as there are.

Last week, I got to visit Maxis's offices just east of San Francisco where I finally went hands-on with the city simulation title. I've certainly kept up with all our coverage, but it didn't really prepare me for what I was about to experience. I went in with the strategy I used to use when creating my utopias in SimCity 2000, but quickly found out that my old plans wouldn't cut it. While a bit jarring to my sense of nostalgia at first, I quickly found myself getting sucked into the experience.

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Erotic game Seduce Me out now for PC and Mac photo
Erotic game Seduce Me out now for PC and Mac
by Jordan Devore

Seduce Me won't be releasing on Steam, but perhaps it's not all bad. When the self-described "erotic strategy game" was taken down from Steam Greenlight, a bunch of outlets covered the removal, calling attention to a title we might have otherwise overlooked. It is available now for PC/Mac directly from No Reply Games, should you be in the market for this sort of thing.

The developers behind Seduce Me, Andrejs Skuja and Miriam Bellard, both used to work at Killzone maker Guerrilla Games. Just goes to show that you can't be too quick to judge based on first impressions. While I have no personal interest in this game, I'm glad to see the pair branch out to genuinely work on a genre that isn't exactly known for its excellence.

Seduce Me, the too-steamy-for-Steam sex game, is out now [Kill Screen]

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Review: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition photo
Review: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
by Patrick Hancock

Baldur's Gate will forever be regarded as one of the classic PC RPGs. A lot of people never experienced it back in 1998, and it's not exactly the best-looking game anymore. To complicate things, it can be a pain to get the old game to run on newer machines, even after GOG.com began selling the title.

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition not only remedies these issues, it also adds a good amount of new content, making it way easier to recommend to someone who previously missed out.

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Review: Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two photo
Review: Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
by Jim Sterling

Epic Mickey is easily among the more tragic wastes of potential we've seen in the videogame industry. It first whipped fans into a frothy lather of excitement when concept images were shown, displaying a twisted and macabre take on the Disney universe, promising a truly dark Mickey Mouse adventure. 

The more the game developed, the more this premise was neutered, as Disney's sugary overseers refused to take the brave steps needed to realize those early visions. By the time Epic Mickey came out, it was nowhere near as remarkable as it could have been. 

Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, however, is quite remarkable indeed ... but only because it's so rubbish. 

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Apple announces the iPad Mini, starting at $329 photo
Apple announces the iPad Mini, starting at $329
by Dale North

Apple's supply chain has grown so big that we'll never see the 'one more thing' kind of surprise again. For example, they announced this morning that 100 million iPads have been sold to date. 

You won't be surprised to hear that Apple announced the iPad Mini at their press conference today in San Jose, California. As expected, it's a shrunk down standard iPad, now sized at 7.9 inches, with the same 1024 x 768 resolution as the original iPad. The Apple A5 chip is doing the heaving lifting inside for this little guy. It weighs just .68 lbs, and is as thick as a pencil. A reduced width bezel makes it holdable with one hand.

It will be available in both white and black, with slate or sliver backs, like the new iPhone 5. It also uses the new Lightning connector, and has the same 10-hour battery life.

The iPad Mini Wifi 16GB model will be priced at $329. 32GB and 64GB are priced at $429 and $529. Pre-orders start this Friday, with the WiFi models shipping November 2.

The 4th generation (non-mini) iPad uses the Apple A6X chipset, doubling the performance for CPU tasks and graphics performance. Wifi performance is now 2 times faster, too. The Retina display returns. Price is exactly the same as always, starting at $499 for 16GB base model.

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LAN version of League of Legends in works for tournaments photo
LAN version of League of Legends in works for tournaments
by Jordan Devore

[Update: As noted by GameSpot, Riot Games has since come out to confirm that the offline mode for League of Legends won't be playable from home or LAN centers. VP of eSports Dustin Beck said that "We built an offline solution for the Finals for the pros to be protected from internet connectivity issues."]

These past few weeks must have been particularly hectic for Riot Games. Despite some technical problems, the League of Legends season two World Playoffs continued after a delay, and now we are all set for the Finals this weekend. Here's hoping that everything goes smoothly.

At a Q&A session, Riot CEO Brandon Beck said that a LAN (i.e., "offline") version of the immensely popular MOBA is in the works for hosting tournaments and should be used tomorrow at the big event. It's unclear if such a client will ever release to the public.

Regarding a possible Mac client for League of Legends, Riot said during the Q&A that "We'll have some news soon on that front."

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