Limbo Officially Hitting PSN, PC via Steam

The game everyone loves but Barnes* is making its way to both PSN and PC.

Many rumors were popping up about this but now it’s been confirmed. Look for a release “later this year.”

*I’ve never played Limbo. I am, however, quite certain Mike is going to tell you in the comments why he likes this game as much as a root canal performed by the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors. It’s why we love him.

Earth Defense Force: Armageddon – Destruction

One of Brandon’s eagerly awaited games of the summer has a new trailer available showing off its destructible environments. The game drops on July 5th on 360 and PS3.

You can read Brandon’s E3 write up here:

Can You Play Space Marine on PC?

THQ has revealed the specs for Space Marine on the PC.

Side note: THQ is flying us (well, not me, but a GameShark rep as I am all traveled out at the moment) to see Space Marine’s multiplayer on July 14th so look for a preview in a couple of weeks.

Minimum Configuration

* OS – Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP1, Windows 7

* Processor – 2.0Ghz Dual core CPU (any Core 2 Duo or AMD X2 or better)

* RAM – 1GB (XP), 2GB (Vista), 2GB (Windows 7)

* Hard Drive – 20 GB space free (10 GB free after install)

* Video Card – 256MB Video Card using Shader Model 3 & DirectX 9.0 or better (Performance equivalent to an AMD Radeon 3850 or NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT)

* Online Steam account

Recommended Configuration

* OS – Windows 7

* Processor – Any Quad-core AMD or Intel Processor

* RAM – 1GB (XP), 2GB (Vista), 2GB (Windows 7)

* Hard Drive – 20 GB space free (10 GB free after install)

* Video Card – 512MB Video Card using Shader Model 3 & DirectX 9.0 or better (Performance equivalent to an AMD Radeon 5750 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260)

* Online Steam account

Hellgate Open Beta

Yep, Hellgate is back. I had no idea anyone was clamoring for Hellgate to be back but there it is– open for beta testing and nearly ready to roll. The game is going to be free to play. Honestly I thought the idea for Hellgate: London was a good one.

It just wasn’t very good.

Here’s hoping the new developer can make it work.

You can download the beta client here.

Todd Howard Talks About Skyrim

No High Scores

I’ve been seeing this excellent AusGamers interview with Bethesda’s Todd Howard make the rounds on various sites because in it Howard mentions their intention to do bigger DLC for Skyrim that’s more in line with doing an expansion pack. A good notion, that, but if Skyrim is on your must buy list you should read the full interview for everything else discussed there. Lots of good details about the mod community and Howard’s desire to find a way to put them on the Xbox. Some good nuggets about the quest engine, “Radiant Story,” how they unintentionally rebuilt the Gamebryo engine for this game, and why they demo on the 360 even though the PC version will look better. Here’s the bit about the evolution from Gamebryo to Creation:

Well we came off of Fallout 3 and we’re always moving our own technology forward. Whether that’s using a piece of middleware or doing AI or things like that. We had a pretty big list of what we felt the 360, the PS3 and the high-end PCs could do, and it wasn’t like we said “we’re going to re-write the engine”; we just sort of started with “okay, let’s do this to the graphics; let’s do this to the gameplay”.

We started hitting that hard right after Fallout 3, so I’d say after the course of the next year and a half it turns out we’d re-written all of this — look how it looks; we’re not using this anymore; we’re not using that anymore. So that’s when we actually decided to brand it; we should call it something of our own.

But it wasn’t from the get go “we’re going to re-write the whole engine”. It was a priority list and we ended up re-writing more than we thought we were gonna, but it worked out.

Conduit 2 Post-Mortem

No High Scores

It’s a bit of a slow news day, so why not take the time to read a four page post-mortem on the Conduit 2? It’s an interesting read, particularly the bit about the story. In a nutshell, High Voltage hired a writer and said writer came up with this epic tale that was unfeasible due to the size of the necessary cut scenes and the fact that the development team wanted to go lighter in tone. As a result, a lot of what the writer wrote was scrapped and the internal team worked last minute to get the script where they wanted it to be in time for the recording sessions. That explains a whole lot as the “comedy” in this game is just plain lazy. Lots of dumb quips and cheeky video game references, things I would expect from a frazzled team looking to meet a deadline rather than someone who gets paid to write as a full time profession. Then again, Gears of War 2 was written by a Writer with a capital “W” and that game’s dialog is abysmal, so what do I know?

Post-mortems are always interesting to read and this one is particularly interesting to me as it involves a franchise I enjoyed and a development company that I’ve always had great dealings with. Hopefully they can learn from their mistakes on Conduit 2 and come back swinging.

Video game news at its absolute finest

Pictured is either an impressionist painting or a random abstract image that is reported to be the first screenshot of the game that Respawn Entertainment is working on at EA. I believe it’s the latter. Respawn, as you’ll remember, is the landing pad for former Infinity Ward wardens and current defendants Vince Zampella and Jason West. In other words, the hot-s#!t guys that made Modern Warfare.

I’ve seen this news item turn up in the headlines at a couple of sites. Is this how far advance marketing has fallen, that a blurry screenshot of nothing is enough to pique interest and spark discussion? I bet these guys could take a picture of their post-chimichanga buffet dump and it’d make the news.

Go on, try to find the hidden pony or secret codes that may be there. Stare at it for four hours and chant “Soap McTavish” 150 times and maybe it will clear up and show an all-new military shooter. Are those bits of corn?

Team Bondi Running Developer Sweat Shop?

According to a story on Develop, they very well might be. If you follow the industry at all outside of just playing the games, you know this sort of stuff isn’t all that uncommon. EA took a ton of heat a while back for the same type of thing — EA spouses petitioned the company because their husbands and wives would spent 18 hours a day at the office, especially during “crunch” time. Major burnout was the result.

Sounds like Team Bondi is doing the same — and I think this is just a singling out case because I know for a fact that a “12 hour day” is not at all rare in this business, again, especially in crunch time. Now, that said, the list of accusations is…yeah I wouldn’t want to work there either; I like my weekends…

“There was simply an expectation that you’d work overtime and weekends. I was told that I was taking the piss by saying that I couldn’t give every single one of my weekends away. We were looked at as a disposable resource, basically. Their attitude is: ‘it’s a privilege to work for us, and if you can’t hack it, you should leave’. I heard one of the upper echelons say pretty much that. I thought it was disgusting. I don’t understand how they can’t see that maintaining talent would actually be good for them.”

Says Brian Robbins, chair of the IGDA Board of Directors:

“Certainly reports of 12-hour a day, lengthy crunch time, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and harmful to the individuals involved, the final product, and the industry as a whole. We encourage any Team Bondi employee and/or family member to email with comments about the recent past and current situation – positive or negative.”

Now, if I were a jerk (or Barnes) I would make a snide remark about how those 12 hour days should have been 15 to make LA Noire a better game, but I’m really not that mean. I’m a nice guy, unless you’re seven years old and have a compass whistle.

Bodycount Release Date Set for August 30th

I was going to post the PR for this but it’s filled with so much hyperbole it’s one big strike-through, with a lot of “high octane” and mouth watering” references.

So, instead just know that the game is set to drop August 30th and you can read our brief E3 recap by Jason McMaster here.

Let's Talk Toys

No High Scores

Along with being a huge fan of games, I also like to while away my hours playing with toys, specifically Transformers and LEGO building sets. Many the lunch hour are spent at Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us looking for toys and my basement and work cubicle are a testament to my inability to grow up. That’s ok. The toys keep me young.

One of the very first things I posted about on this site, was Hasbro’s intention to make a line of Transformers building block sets called Kre-O. The sets aren’t supposed to officially come out until July but Toys R Us apparently knows more about selling toys that are tied to summer blockbusters than Hasbro does, and have put some of the sets out for public consumption. I was originally skeptical but broke through that skepticism to purchase a set and I’m here to talk all about them. How lucky for you!

One would think that between my love of LEGO sets and my love of Transformers, these sets would be a no-brainer, but to that I would say two words: Mega Bloks. Mega Bloks are, in a word, terrible. Their instructions are terrible and the pieces have almost a supernatural ability to not stay together, somehow in defiance of the physical laws of this universe. Mega Bloks has the Halo licence, and as much as I have bagged on Halo in the past, I still have a love for the franchise, a love I wanted to express through their building sets. The SPARTAN armor sets I have aren’t too bad, despite the fact that the labels on Master Chief consistently peel off, but the Warthog set I have falls apart if you look at it wrong. I have played my fair share of Halo in the past, but that’s not enough to spend money on sub-par sets.

So when Hasbro announced the Kre-O line, yeah, I didn’t have high hopes. The sets are an odd mix of old and new designs, drawing from the original cartoons, the newer cartoons and the Bayformers of the movies. Optimus, for example, is a Peterbilt in his 70 dollar incarnation, but is a more traditional cab in the cheaper, eight buck version. Bumblebee is a Camaro, or some similarly designed vehicle, but the robot mode has his old head. Megatron comes with the most changes, being a truck, a form he has only taken in the latest movie, and only sporting a G1 head to give old school fans something to latch on to. Other bots such as Mirage, Jazz, Prowl and Sideswipe look like their G1 counterparts with Starscream being similar to Megatron in that he doesn’t look like he comes from any particular incarnation. The difference is that his set is pretty dang sweet while Megatron’s set is one I can, and probably will do without.

I was originally disappointed to hear that the sets don’t transform. If you want the bot in car mode, you build it as a car. Then, when your tired of the car, you have to take it all apart and rebuild it as a robot. In practice though, I actually like this idea. For one, it doubles the value of the set for me, without doubling the price. The sets are all priced in line with similarly sized LEGO sets, however unlike LEGO sets where I’m finished once I build it once, with these sets I get to build the model twice. Now, I know that technically, LEGO sets have infinite replayability but you have to understand that I buy the sets to build what’s on the box. I don’t have the imagination or talent to go off of the reservation and build something else, and besides, I’m buying the sets for what the set builds. I don’t want a Raiders of the Lost Ark themed jungle rocket, I want to see a Indiana Jones mini-figure running away from a giant, plastic boulder. Similarly, I don’t want Bumblebee to be a dump truck. I want him to be a Camaro. Then, I want him to be a robot and stay that way.

The other side to this whole non-transforming thing is that the designers didn’t have to take transformation into account when designing the vehicle modes or robot modes. The designers of the action figures do an amazing job with making toys that transform in (mostly) satisfying ways, but as talented as the designers are, they do have limitations, limitations that usually manifest themselves as robots that have bits of cars hanging off of them (we call that “kibble” in the toy collecting business), or vehicles with robot limbs hanging off of them. Me, I like the truck version of Optimus Prie in the movies, but for the smaller toys, he usually has half of a truck as a backpack. With the building sets, the kibble is done away with. Not every piece in the set is used in either mode and it allows for a much more streamlined vehicle and robot.

The blocks themselves are pretty dang close to LEGO blocks. The package states that they’ll work with “popular building sets”, something I haven’t tried but based on what I’ve seen, have no reason to not believe it. The blocks are slightly lighter, without feeling flimsy and aside from one circular peg on every piece being hollow, at first glance you can’t tell that these aren’t LEGO blocks.

The instructions are well done, as well as using a 2D picture to explain how to build a 3D object can be. I wish the sets had numbered bags, one of my biggest complaints about some of the LEGO sets, but given the dual nature of the building sets, I can understand how that would be difficult. The stickers that come with the sets are paper based, not plastic based, and as such they’re not as good as the LEGO sets, but they do stick well, I’ll give them that. Almost too well. Make sure they’re on the way you want them the first time.

The models they make are very satisfying in both size and heft. Bumblebee is a bigger set than Sideswipe but Sideswipe’s vehicle form is no less solid. When you’re making the cars, there’s a lot of layering going on, layering that seems like the result of some serious over-engineering, but the result is a car with some serious heft. I haven’t tried, but I would imagine that these sets can withstand some serious play sessions with only minimal piece loss, which is more than I can say for a lot of LEGO sets I’ve made. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t made the robots yet, but if the cars are any indication, the robots will be just as sturdy. I know, I know, the goods are with the robots, but so far I’m really digging these sets and I wanted to talk about them. My apologies if the robots end up sucking. The mini-figures the sets come with, called Kre-ons, are adorable even if I have a problem with a tiny, robot version of Bumblebee riding in a larger, vehicular version of himself. I’m also not sure why every set needs a huge selection of weapons for the Kre-ons, including a sniper rifle, but hey, whatever.

I don’t think I’ll buy all of the sets, but there’s a really nice variety of sets at different price points, from an eight dollar Optimus Prime and Bumblebee all the way up to a 60 buck Optimus Prime set which I own but haven’t put together yet. Now that LEGO only makes Star Wars sets from the Clone Wars, or remakes of classic Star Wars sets I already have, and with no new Batman sets on the horizon, these Transformer sets will more than sate my appetite for building sets. It will be interesting to see what sets and characters they come up with for the next batch of models. You can be damn sure that if they release Dinobot sets, I will buy two of each so that I have them in both robot and dinosaur mode. Grimlock best have a crown or there will be problems.

If you’re at all curious, then pick up one of the eight buck sets and see if it suits your fancy. If you like LEGO sets, then I think you’ll be right at home here.