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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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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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