Mass Effect 2 Free (Sort Of)

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BioWare wants to thank you for purchasing Dragon Age 2 with a shiny, new download of Mass Effect 2 for the PC. Wait, you bought Dragon Age 2 used and it doesn’t have the code for the Black Emporium? Well, BioWare wants to thank you for nothing. Those of you that actually care about developers can go to the BioWare site for all of the information. If you’re thinking of picking up Dragon Age 2 and haven’t done so yet, don’t worry, you have until April 30th to get in on all of this hot, free, space squad action.

Konami Announces Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Clothing Line


OK, I’m going to eat crow on this one. Bill Abner, knowing that I’m a silly Hideo Kojima fan, sent me the press release from yesterday wherein Konami announced that they’ve partnered up with Musterbrand, LLC to produce a line of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker clothes. Having just last night witnessed a tubby teenager in a Halo: Reach t-shirt creepily prowling the aisles of a local Target, I was reminded of why I do not nor will I ever wear video game apparel. I mentioned this to Bill and made fun of gamer clothes, and he related a funny anecdote involving an “Ultima Rules” T-shirt. Gamer t-shirts make me think of body stink and failure.

After seeing some pictures, I have to say that I’m really impressed. Instead of the typical no-taste, tacky-ass logo branding and huge graphics designed to stretch over potbellies that I expected, the line appears to be some very cool, tasteful replicas of some of the in-game clothing designs. Which is to say that the line is mostly very chic, stylized military silhouttes. I adore the shirt pictured above, and as long as it’s not designer priced I’m planning on getting at least it and a pair of the fatigue-style pants. There are a couple of logo t-shirts, but they’re likewise tasteful with a Peace Walker emblem on one and the Foxhound/Kojima Production logo on the other. Very nice. Look for the line starting April 11. As for where, I have no idea, the press release didn’t say but the Konami website is probably a good place to start.

Randy Pitchford Rages Against Multiplayer Machine

Gearbox Software (Borderlands, Duke Nukem Forever) president Randy Pitchford told Edge something that I’m pretty sure we’ll all agree with — that publishers are in effect forcing developers to tick boxes off a feature checklist just for the sake of feature creep. In particular Pitchford is railing against adding multiplayer just for the sake of multiplayer, which is sucking away time and resources for developing a game’s core single player mode. Some games, I think we all agree, are simply better single player experiences and tacking on multiplayer just to “have it” usually leads to weaker games.

Regardless of what you think of it, it makes you appreciate Bethesda sticking to its no MP guns with Skyrim.

Says Pitchford to Edge:

“Let’s forget about what the actual promise of a game is and whether it’s suited to a narrative or competitive experience. Take that off the table for a minute and just think about the concept-free feature list: campaign, co-op, how many players? How many guns? How long is the campaign? When you boil it down to that, you take the ability to make good decisions out of the picture. And the reason they do it is because they notice that the biggest blockbusters offer a little bit for every kind of consumer. You have people that want co-op and competitive, and players who want to immerse themselves in deep fiction. But the concept has to speak to that automatically; it can’t be forced. That’s the problem.”

He goes on to correlate this plight to EA’s Dead Space franchise:

“It’s ceiling-limited; it’ll never do 20 million units. The best imaginable is a peak of four or five million units if everything works perfectly in your favour. So the bean counters go: ‘How do I get a higher ceiling?’ And they look at games that have multiplayer. They’re wrong, of course. What they should do instead is say that they’re comfortable with the ceiling, and get as close to the ceiling as possible. Put in whatever investment’s required to focus it on what the promise is all about.”

Preach it, brother.

Study Suggests Violent Games Turn Kids Into Unsympathetic Asses

Researchers at Simmons College have concluded that children who are overexposed to violent videogames are less likely to sympathize with other people in everyday life. The study, published in the Journal of Children and Media, surveyed 166 kids aged 7-12 about their favorite games, how often they played them, and asked questions related to violent behavior and proper response.

“To make a judgment about violence, at least two skills are necessary,” the paper explains. “First, a child must be able to imagine the point-of-view of both parties in the aggressive conflict. Second, he/she should be able to feel some sympathy or imagine some sympathy towards each party. Only at this point can a moral judgment be appropriately made. Those who play more violent video games perceive violence in the name of retaliation and self-protection as more justified, much like the view of violence presented in video games.”

“Certainly not every child who continues to play violent video games is going to go out and perpetrate a violent act, but the research suggests that children — particularly boys — who are frequently exposed to these violent games are absorbing a sanitized message of ‘no consequences for violence’ from this play behavior.”

Apparently, the kids who played a lot of violent games failed the test and have the sympathy of a diseased badger.

Thanks GameSpot

You can read the entire release here from Simmons College: http://simmons.edu/overview/about/news/press/1013.php

Spiral Knights Officially Launches

The online action-rpg Spiral Knights, published/produced by Sega and developed by Three Rings (the Puzzle Pirates people) is officially out of its beta period and is ready for public consumption. It’s also free.

Above is the launch trailer and below is the PR.

SEGA of America, Inc. and SEGA Europe Ltd. today announced that Spiral Knights, the newest title from online game developer Three Rings, has officially launched, offering players around the world classic, console-style adventuring in a persistent world. Spiral Knights is completely free-to-play, meaning that anybody who dares to face the perils of these dungeons, whether alone or with a group of up to three other friends, can start their journey to the core of the Clockworks right now at http://www.spiralknights.com

“The response we have seen from players during the preview has been fantastic,” said Daniel James, CEO of Three Rings. “We are tremendously proud of the team; they have worked hard over the last four years to bring the co-operative fun of Spiral Knights to life and we are delighted to be bringing their game to the world in partnership with SEGA. All that is left to say is: Watch out for those jelly cubes!”

Spiral Knights pits players against the creatures of Cradle, where they must fight to survive by scavenging materials from the ever-changing worlds beneath the surface.

The game features:

* A constantly changing world brought to life in a vibrant, retro-inspired visual style
* Intuitive Pick-up-and-play controls (including both mouse-only and gamepad control)
* Opportunities for players to create guilds, craft new gear, and customize the looks and abilities of their characters
* Easy matchmaking for co-op mayhem with parties of up to four players
* Gear and weapons upgradeable through adventuring or through the purchase of Crystal Energy

Players can download and play Spiral Knights for free today by visiting http://www.spiralknights.com

The Anno Series Leaps into the Future

The Anno series is known for its strategic world building gameplay set in the 1400s to the 1700s. So when i got this PR in the mail yesterday, I was a bit surprised.

Today, Ubisoft announced Anno 2070, the latest iteration of the award-winning real-time strategy and simulation franchise. Set to release in Winter 2011 for PC, Anno 2070 moves the Anno franchise into a new era, taking players into a world inspired by today’s challenges and tomorrow’s technologies.

That’s right, Anno has gone “SyFy” and on paper it sounds…pretty darn cool.

More PR ahead…

Developed by Related Designs in collaboration with Blue Byte, Anno 2070 takes place in a near-future environment where climate change has forced humanity to adapt to rising sea levels that have left stretches of once-fertile land completely inhospitable. Players need to master new technologies while facing numerous ecological challenges to build their empires.

Key Features of Anno 2070:
- A new era: while adhering to the fundamentals that made the Anno franchise a success, the near-future setting will bring numerous new gameplay mechanics, architectural breakthroughs, and all new challenges. Additionally, players will be able to build cities, the scope of which has never been seen in prior Anno games.

- A dynamic world: the world of Anno 2070 will evolve differently depending on each player’s playing style and choices. Players’ decisions will have an impact on the environment, the architectural look of their world, and the needs of their populations, leading them to refine and better understand the impact of their personal approaches to managing the world’s resources.

- Factions: players will be able to select between two factions when building their empires. Players can choose between an industrial and efficient course by joining the Tycoons or a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly direction by siding with the Ecos.

- Rich and Varied game modes:
o Single player campaign: a story-driven single player mode with a deep variety of challenges.
o Single player “continuous mode”: the renowned endless game mode where the objective is to build the biggest civilization possible without time constraints.
o Multiplayer and Online features: Anno 2070 will include innovative online modes offering players brand new possibilities to get in touch with gamers all around the world.

- Outstanding (New) graphics: A new version of the game engine, developed specifically by Related Designs for Anno 2070, allows the game to deliver a breathtaking visual experience never before seen in the Anno franchise.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes Basic Tips Video

I am not a DS gamer. I have nothing at all against Nintendo’s popular handheld, but I rarely find the need to use it. Most of my gaming time is in front of my PC or sitting on the couch holding a gamepad. I don’t ride subways, I don’t have a long commute, and if I tried to sit and play the DS at night when my wife is home there’s an excellent chance I’d be assaulted by flying objects. So my time with the DS is…limited.

However, thanks to Brandon and all his wisdom, last year I fell to the lure of Clash of Heroes when we went on vacation. My wife drove so I was able to sit and play the DS. What was she going to do? Assault me while driving? I think not! So my daughter was in the backseat playing her DS and I was in the front playing my DS and my wife was questioning her life choices.

Anyway, the point is that Clash of Heroes made that car ride fly by. It’s utterly addictive and if you don’t like this game then you must also hate puppies and kick old people when they aren’t looking. UbiSoft and Capy have created this (very) basic strategy video for when the game drops on XBLA and PSN in about 10 days. When that day comes, you need to buy it.

Now, this video isn’t very deep and actually isn’t terribly useful BUT — if you have no idea what this game is all about it does do a good job of laying out the basics of gameplay.

Enjoy.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Gets Its Fight On

Sometimes, a good co-op hack and slash romp through a monster infested mine is the cure for what ails ya. I remember playing the PS2 Baldur’s Gate on the couch with my friend Dennis and having a fantastic time. Well, I had a fantastic time but I’m not the one who had to constantly pull my ass out of the fire. This trailer for the upcoming Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale game shows off the fighter and, like all good fighters, he hits things with whatever weapon he has on hand. I would expect nothing less.

AEG Announces L5R Board Game; First Nightfall Expansion


Alderac Entertainment Group has come a long way from its days peddling a couple of Legend of the Five Rings products and that terrible collectible poker chip game, Clout. They’re quickly becoming a publisher to watch on the tabletop scene with very nicely produced, well-written and thematic games.

I reviewed AEG’s new deckbuilding game Nightfall very favorably a couple of weeks ago and before the ink is dried on the first press run of that game, the new Martial Law expansion has been slated for July release. Expect 300 new cards to continue the post-apocalyptic war between vampires and werewolves as well as a couple of new mechanics. AEG’s track record with the expansions for Thunderstone has been very good, so this could be a nice addition to a good game.

Also, they’re coming forward with War of Honor, a 2-4 player board game set in their popular Legend of the Five Rings setting. It’s kind of a mythical take on Feudal Japan, if you’re not familiar. According to AEG’s description, the game actually uses cards from their L5R CCG but in a board game setting so that might be interesting. Apparently, it’s also expandable with any L5R cards you might already own- or by on the cheap in the aftermarket. I’ll be reviewing it when it releases in June.

Brandon's Tree: Or How PC Gave Way to Consoles

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Well, here it is, my gaming tree. In it you can see how an ardent PC gamer turned into a lover of console games, and multiple consoles at that. Paring this down was a monumental task, but well worth it. I wish I had room for all of the arcade games I plugged quarters into, but alas, Visio’s page setup only goes so big.

So, without further ado, my gaming tree.

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