An anonymous reader writes "The folks at Ars Technica scraped a ton of gameplay data from Steam's player profiles to provide statistics on how many people own each game, and how often it's played. For example: 37% of the ~781 million games owned by Steam users have never been played. Dota 2 has been played by almost 26 million people for a total of 3.8 billion hours. Players of CoD: Modern Warfare 2 spend six times as long in multiplayer as in single-player. This sampling gives much more precise data than we usually have about game sales rates. 'If there's one big takeaway from looking at the entirety of our Steam sales and player data, it's that a few huge ultra-hits are driving the majority of Steam usage. The vast majority of titles form a "long tail" of relative crumbs. Out of about 2,750 titles we've tracked using our sampling method, the top 110 sellers represent about half of the individual games registered to Steam accounts. That's about four percent of the distinct titles, each of which has sold 1.38 million copies or more. This represents about 50 percent of the registered sales on the service. ... about half of the estimated 18.5 billion man-hours that have been spent across all Steam games have gone toward just the six most popular titles.'"
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An anonymous reader writes "Ars reports on a panel at PAX East which delved into the strength of the PC as a platform for games, and what its future looks like. The outlook is positive: 'Even as major computer OEMs produce numbers showing falling sales, the PC as a platform (and especially a gaming platform) actually shows strong aggregate growth.' The panelists said that while consoles get a lot of the headlines, the PC platform remains the only and/or best option for a lot of developers and gamers. They briefly addressed piracy, as well: 'Piracy, [Matt Higby] said, is an availability and distribution problem. The more games are crowdfunded and digitally delivered and the less a "store" figures into buying games, the less of a problem piracy becomes. [Chris Roberts] was quick to agree, and he noted that the shift to digital distribution also helps the developers make more money — they ostensibly don't have everyone along the way from retailers to publishers to distributors taking their cut from the sale.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Today at PAX East, Firaxis announced Civilization: Beyond Earth. It's a new Civ game inspired by their sci-fi strategy classic Alpha Centauri. Beyond Earth is currently planned to launch this year on the PC. According to Game Informer: 'Beyond Earth presents an opportunity for Firaxis to throw off the shackles of human history and give players the chance to sculpt their own destinies. Civilization games typically have a set endpoint at humanities modern age, but Beyond Earth has given Firaxis the opportunity and the challenge of creating a greater sense of freedom. ... The five different victory conditions that represent that next major event in human history are tied to the new technology web. At the start of the game, players will choose leaders and factions (no longer bundled with one another) and choose colonists and equipment to settle the land. Once descending from orbit, the technology web allows players to move in a number of directions.'"
An anonymous reader writes "For over a decade, GameSpy has provided and hosted multiplayer services for a variety of video games. GameSpy was purchased in 2012, and there were some worrying shutdowns of older servers, which disabled multiplayer capabilities for a number of games. Now, the whole service is going offline on May 31. Some publishers are scrambling to move to other platforms, while others are simply giving up on those games. Nintendo's recent abandonment of Wi-Fi games was a result of their reliance on GameSpy's servers. Bohemia Interactive, developers of the Arma series, said the GameSpy closure will affect matchmaking and CD-key authentication."
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, Respawn Entertainment launched Titanfall, a futuristic first-person shooter with mechs that has been held up as the poster child for the Xbox One. The Digital Foundry blog took the opportunity to compare how the game plays on the Xbox One to its performance on a well-appointed PC. Naturally, the PC version outperforms, but the compromises are bigger than you'd expect for a newly-released console. For example, it runs at an odd resolution (1408x792), the frame rate 'clearly isn't anywhere near locked' to 60fps, and there's some unavoidable screen tear. Reviews for the game are generally positive — RPS says most of the individual systems in Titanfall are fun, but the forced multiplayer interaction is offputting. Giant Bomb puts it more succinctly: 'Titanfall is a very specific game built for a specific type of person.' Side note: the game has a 48GB install footprint on PCs, owing largely to 35GB of uncompressed audio."
hypnosec writes "The Chinese government has officially banned Battlefield 4, stating that Electronic Arts has developed a game that not only threatens national security of the country, but is also a form of cultural invasion. The country's Ministry of Culture has issued a notice banning all material retailed to the game in any form, including the game itself, related downloads, demos, patches and even news reports. According to PCGames.com.cn [Chinese language], Battlefield 4 has been characterized as illegal game on the grounds that the game endangers national security and cultural aggression."
An anonymous reader writes "The NY Times has a story about the imminent release of Battlefield 4 on 29 October, as it's one of the most highly-anticipated video games of the year. The most interesting part of the article is where it highlights what a mammoth undertaking such 'AAA' games have become. There are hundreds upon hundreds of people working full time on it, and hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in its development. These number have been rising and rising over the years; how big do they get before it becomes completely unfeasible to top your last game? The article also points out that the PC platform is beginning to wane in popularity. Nobody's quite sure yet whether it'll level out or go into serious decline, but you can bet development studios are watching closely. With bigger and bigger stakes, how long before they decide it's not worth the risk? Even consoles aren't safe: 'Electronic Arts is nevertheless trying to extend franchises like Battlefield to devices, because it must. But at the same time, it has to grapple with the threats undermining traditional gaming. Though the classic consoles are getting reboots this fall, there is no guarantee that new models will permanently revive the format's fortunes.' And of course, the question must be asked: do we even want the 'AAA' games to stick around?"
The original Warcraft and Diablo games hold a special status in the hearts of many gamers. Each game brought its genre into focus, and their success elevated the status of Blizzard Entertainment and Blizzard North to the point that further games are still hotly anticipated more than 15 years later. In an effort to discover and document that part of gaming history, author David L. Craddock conducted extensive interviews with early Blizzard developers. His intent was to investigate how both of the Blizzard studios succeeded at breaking into a saturated and competitive industry, and how their design process influenced both their acclaimed releases and the projects they discarded along the way. He's writing a series of books about the history of Blizzard, titled Stay Awhile and Listen. The first is due out on October 31st, and David has agreed to answer your questions about his investigation into those early games. David will be joined by Blizzard North co-founders David Brevik and Max Schaefer. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
jones_supa writes "A trademark application for Half-Life 3, possibly the next entry in Valve's excruciatingly dormant Half-Life franchise, has been filed in Europe, according to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, the European Union's trademark and designs registry. The OHIM's database lists the Half-Life 3 trademark as owned by Valve Corporation, and filed on its behalf by Casalonga & Associés, a patent and trademark firm. The trademark covers 'computer game software,' 'downloadable computer game software via a global computer network and wireless devices' and other goods and services. The application was filed on Sept. 29. There is no equivalent trademark on record at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office."
Now that we have the full picture of Valve's efforts to bring PC gaming to the living room (SteamOS, dedicated hardware, and a fresh controller design), people are starting to analyze what those efforts will mean for gaming, and what Valve must do to be successful. Eurogamer's Oli Welsh points out that even if Steam Machines aren't able to take the market away from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, they put us a step closer to the final console generation. "Valve has hopefully sidestepped the most depressing aspect of console gaming: the enforced obsolescence that makes you consign your entire games collection to a dusty cupboard every five years." GamesRadar notes that Valve's approach is fundamentally different from that of the current console manufacturers because it's about putting more power into the hands of the users. "The takeaway from SteamOS, then, is that openness breeds innovation. Valve's putting the very source code of its operating system in the hands of everyone who wants it just to see what happens. Comparatively, Microsoft is pushing its Windows Store, turning Windows into an increasingly closed platform (i.e. one that charges costly development licensing fees and restricts access to certain content providers)." Everyone's curious to see how the controller will perform, so Gamasutra and Kotaku reached out to a number of game developers who have experimented with prototypes already. "[Dan Tabar of indie studio Data Realms] said the configuration map for the controller allows you to do 'pretty much anything.' For example, developers can slice up a pad into quarters, each one representing a different input, or even into eight radial sections, again, each section representing whatever you want, mapping to key combinations, or to the mouse." Tommy Refenes, co-creator of Super Meat Boy, wrote an in-depth description of his experience with the device. He summed up his reaction by saying, "Great Start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine."
Today Valve unveiled their third and final announcement about living room gaming: a Steam controller. The company made the determination that existing gamepads simply weren't good enough for bringing PC games to the living room, so they made their own. Instead of having directional pads or thumb sticks, the Steam controller has two circular trackpads. The trackpads are also clickable, and Valve claims they provide much higher fidelity than any previous controller trackpad. Valve also eschewed the traditional 'rumble' feedback mechanism: "The Steam Controller is built around a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback, employing dual linear resonant actuators. These small, strong, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement." The center of the controller holds a clickable touchscreen. "When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven't thought of yet." The design also breaks up the common diamond-shaped button layout, instead putting the A B X Y buttons at the corners of the touchscreen. The controller is designed to be hackable, and Valve will "make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering." The controller is being beta tested concurrently with the Steam Machines they announced on Wednesday, so you can expect them to be on sale in 2014.
Deathspawner writes "Valve has today announced its next attempt at a console-killer: 'Family Sharing' is a feature that will allow you to share your Steam library with family and close friends. This almost seems too good to be true, and while there are caveats, this is going to be huge, and Valve knows it. As Techgage notes, with it you can share nearly your entire Steam library with family or friends, allowing them to earn their own achievements, and have their own saved games. 'Once a device is authorized, the lender's library of Steam games becomes available for others on the machine to access, download, and play. Though simultaneous usage of an account’s library is not allowed, the lender may always access and play his games at any time. If he decides to start playing when a friend is borrowing one of his games, the friend will be given a few minutes to either purchase the game or quit playing.'"
SmartAboutThings writes "Microsoft is definitely changing things in its gaming department: it has now announced in a support note on the Xbox site that it will be shutting down the Xbox.com PC Marketplace on August 22nd. This comes shortly after news that Microsoft hired former Steam boss Jason Holtman, whose mission at Redmond is to 'make Windows great for gaming.' The Microsoft Points system will be retired on August 22nd as well. The Games for Windows Live client software will not be affected, at least initially, letting you play previously purchased games."
An anonymous reader writes "PC Gamer has put together a huge list of PC games that are due to come out in 2013. They've broken out the lists by genre, and each list is pretty long. It looks like a good starting point for finding the games you want to keep an eye on. Here are some highlights: Star Wars 1313: 'Early glimpses suggest the game will ignore lightsabers and force powers in favor of gadgetry and guns, and the claims are for a more grounded and gritty fiction, instead of the fruity pan-galactic melodrama to which we are accustomed.' The Elder Scrolls Online: 'The real reason to watch The Elder Scrolls Online is the talent behind it – the ex-Mythic developers responsible for the innovative Warhammer: Age of Reckoning and, before that, Dark Age of Camelot. Don't write off the old-school MMO just yet.' Mars: War Logs: 'Say it with me: a cyberpunk RPG set on Mars. That's all you need to know.' Ring Runner: 'Missions challenge you to escape exploding trenches, battle bosses bigger than your screen, race against NPC pilots and engage in spectacular space skirmishes in an engine modeled on the laws of Newtonian physics.' There will also be new installments of Dragon Age, SimCity, Grand Theft Auto, StarCraft, Command & Conquer, and Everquest."
New submitter RMingin writes "Bruno Ferreira at Tech Report has a number of suggestions that he feels could improve PC gaming. Some are quite thought-provoking. For example: 'When technology advanced [in the '90s], the industry came up with a certification specification to ensure punters didn't miss out—and consequently spent more on better PCs. That spec was called MPC, short for Multimedia Personal Computer. The first version of the MPC spec said, in simple terms: Thy computer shalt be blessed with a sound card and speakers. Thou shalt be provided a CD-ROM drive in which to receive silver discs. Thy processor shalt not be completely crap. At the time, this spec meant a lot—and, to be honest, I think it worked marvelously. We need something like that again. People wanted MPC, everyone sold the better hardware, and everyone was happy. Let the powers that be come up with a new baseline specification. Call it MPC-HD or whatever acronym the marketing Nazgûl want to give it. I'm fine with whatever, as long as it gets the job done.' He also calls for an end to the unintuitive model numbers for GPUs and CPUs, and more consistent driver support."
symbolset writes "The Verge is reporting that the Steam Console we discussed in November is a real thing. Gabe Newell said it will be a locked down platform for the living room. The source is a Kotaku interview with Newell at the Video Game Awards. Newell said, 'Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment. If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general-purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room. The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions, and customers can find the ones that work best for them.'"
New submitter OldTimeRadio writes "Over the last month, both game publishers and gaming communities alike were surprised to find their GameSpy multiplayer support suddenly disabled by GLU Mobile, who purchased GameSpy from IGN this August. Many games, including Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Swat 4, Sniper Elite, Hidden and Dangerous 2, Wings of War, Star Wars: Battlefront are no longer able to find (and in some cases even host) multiplayer games. While games like Neverwinter Nights are still able to directly connect to servers if players know the IP address, less-fortunate gamers expressed outrage on GLU Mobile's 'Powered by GameSpy' Facebook page. In an open letter to their Sniper Elite gaming community today, UK game developer Rebellion explained it was helpless to change the situation: 'A few weeks ago, the online multiplayer servers for Sniper Elite were suddenly switched off by Glu, the third-party service we had been paying to maintain them. This decision by Glu was not taken in consultation with us and was beyond our control. We have been talking to them since to try and get the servers turned back on. We have been informed that in order to do so would cost us tens of thousands of pounds a year — far in excess of how much we were paying previously. We also do not have the option to take the multiplayer to a different provider. Because the game relies on Glu and Gamespy's middleware, the entire multiplayer aspect of the game would have to be redeveloped by us, again, at the cost of many tens of thousands of pounds.""
CowboyNeal writes: "Last week was a big week for gamers, with the release of both Borderlands 2 as well as Torchlight 2. I already shared my thoughts on the former last week, so I got to playing the latter over the weekend. Torchlight 2 is the follow-up to Torchlight, the 2009 point-and-click ARPG created by Runic Games. What's new that the first game didn't have? And, the big question, how does it stack up against Diablo 3? Click the link below to learn my impressions of the game."
RogueyWon writes "In an interview with gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Ubisoft has announced that it will no longer use always-online DRM for its PC games. The much-maligned DRM required players to be online and connected to its servers at all times, even when playing single-player content. This represents a reversal of Ubisoft's long-standing insistence that such DRM was essential if the company were to be profitable in the PC gaming market." The full interview has a number of interesting statements. Ubisoft representatives said the decision was made in June of last year. This was right around the time the internet was in an uproar over the DRM in Driver: San Francisco, which Ubisoft quickly scaled back. Ubisoft stopped short of telling RPS they regretted the always-online DRM, or that it only bothers legitimate customers. (However, in a different interview at Gamasutra, Ubisoft's Chris Early said, "The truth of it, they're more inconvenient to our paying customers, so in listening to our players, we removed them.") They maintain that piracy is a financial problem, and acknowledged that the lack of evidence from them and other publishers has only hurt their argument.
Deathspawner writes "The future of PC gaming is oft-debated, but one thing's for certain: modding has always made it better. With that, wouldn't it make sense for developers to focus more on giving the community the modding tools it needs? Further, couldn't publishers look to modding as a way to increase revenue, by allowing modders to sell their sanctioned creations? Valve already offers robust community options in its Steam platform — and already has payment processing in place. Is this the natural next step for PC gaming?"