Overwatch’s second short animation releases – spiders, societal tensions, and ‘ssassinations

It should be obvious that Blizzard’s short Overwatch animations owe a lot to Team Fortress 2‘s “Meet the Team” series. And thankfully, they’ve inherited the characterisation, engaging narrative, and quality of animation from Valve, rather than “Valve Time”, that curious phenomenon that meant releasing ten videos took five years.

Valve Time
Never forget.

But who cares about that? These shorts are doing a fantastic job of building the surprisingly deep world of Overwatch – any ideas that this was going to be yet another multiplayer shooter can be safely put aside. With this video, we’re introduced to the idea that there are larger issues in the Overwatch universe than just the war the players are engaged in. Who was the robotic messiah-figure “Halo”? What implications do his assassination have for the wider world of Overwatch? Add this intricate world-building to the compelling and fun characters that we’ve seen so far, and it’s clear that Blizzard know the key elements that are going to keep people shooting at oversized gunbots and Cockney women until long after launch. The game comes out in May, but now all I care about is seeing the next video and seeing how the pseudo-Deus Ex narrative continues to build.

And to think, all I previously wanted to do was shoot people. Shame on me.

Tracer - Overwatch
That, and to spend time gazing at this fine derrière.

Coupled with the positive feedback coming from the closed beta, Overwatch is clearly set to be one of the most anticipated hits of 2016. As long as Blizzard doesn’t “do a Blizzard” and mess up the launch, this could be huge. If you’re a Blizzard employee, keep that in mind. Oh, and send me a beta key.

If you missed the first Overwatch short, catch it here. It’s similarly great, and features baby gorillas. D’awww.

Video game sites give own audience a bad “Rapp”

These days, I only seem to post if I’m angry about something. My “buggery of the highest regard” tag is getting one hell of a workout of late, and mostly because there’s a lot to get angry about.

Nintendo staffer Alison Rapp has under a sustained smear campaign ever since she was accused of being behind the supposed censorship of Nintendo’s games. And because this is the Internet, this led to a bunch of fuckwits digging into her past, her university papers – and most shockingly of all – her Amazon wishlist in search of dirt to tarnish her name. And unfortunately, they succeeded. On Wednesday, Rapp announced her dismissal from Nintendo via Twitter.

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The real reason 2GD was fired – and how Valve can fix it

A week or so ago, I wrote a piece on James “2GD” Harding being fired from the Dota 2 tournament, the Shanghai Major, and I was at as much of a loss as everyone else to explain why it happened. GabeN knew, but obviously wasn’t telling anyone, choosing to limit his explaination to “James is an ass”. James himself wrote a rather lengthy post speculating everything from the last few years involvement with Valve, from a rogue Valve employee, to his demeanour on the show, to alien involvement.

Alright, he didn’t really blame aliens. But he might as well have done, because there were no real answers to be had. James’ hosting had been tamer than some of his past performances, and seemed well within the acceptable lines for e-sports presenters – so what gives, man?

According to Redditor /u/BalboaBaggins, it may have less to do with a salty Valve employee, and more to do with the fact that the Shanghai Major is – somewhat obviously – based in China.

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Top Dota 2 presenter fired by Valve during Shanghai Major

Oh dear.

Valve seem to have pulled something of a Sochi 2014 on us. Like the infamous Russian-hosted Winter Olympics, the Shanghai Major was supposed to be one of Dota 2‘s biggest events. Instead, it’s been a technical shambles, with dropped streams, commentary going MIA, and a myriad of other technical issues. What was meant to be a poster child of the rapidly growing e-sports scene has become a veritable comedy of errors.

And since this clearly wasn’t enough, Valve pulled a leaf from the React Bros playbook, and decided to turn the community against them. How? By sacking James “2GD” Harding, one of the most prominent personalities in the Dota 2 world.

James has always been a divisive figure in the community, with off-colour remarks and common usage of curses, including das ist verboten itself – “cunt”. He’s as reviled as he is supported, and calling him the marmite of Dota 2 wouldn’t be an awful analogy. But Valve knew this, and if they’re going to get upset at a presenter for doing what he’s known for – especially after allegedly being told to “be himself” – then they’re fully deserving of the ire coming their way.

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Is VR useless in simulators? [Elite Dangerous]

Elite Dangerous is the poster child for a game that would be incredible with VR. But I honestly think it would be to the detriment of the game itself. Read on…

This week, I bought a flightstick because I was so enthralled with Elite Dangerous.

Elite is every space nerds wet dream. If, like me, you spent your childhood watching Star Wars on repeat, built X-Wing cockpits out of boxes, and get tingles looking at a clear night sky, then you’ll be familiar with the feeling I got from playing Elite. From the moment you step into your cockpit,  you’re immersed in a living,  breathing universe. Comparisons to Eve Online are understandable with a similarly steep learning curve, focus on galactic economics, and player-driven events. But where Eve is not a simulation game – the ship perspective, skill system, and other elements mark it firmly as a third-person MMO – Elite puts you right in the cockpit. You are that pilot, sweating in dogfights, and watching stars zip past. Look down and you can gaze at your own space-thighs, happily space-clad in space-lycra. From the moment you step into the game, your ship is your own; from the preflight checks, to planning warp jumps to other systems. You even need to refuel your ship, which means you need to take regular pit stops, either by popping into a station, or by flying close to a star with a fuel scoop.

Because that went so well last time.

It’s such a real experience that I screamed out loud the first time I dropped out of hyperspace into a close orbit with a star. Watching the inside of a station as it rotates around you left me in awe. An interdiction bubble pulling me out of supercruise left me shaken and confused, and the all-too-brief battle with the pirate responsible led to swearing and anger as I watched my ship explode around me. On a normal PC monitor, Elite is one of the most amazing immersive experiences that I’ve ever taken part in.

So really, Elite should be the poster child for VR headsets. People should be rushing out to drop £500 on an Oculus Rift. Steam VR should have them foaming at the mouth. Even Google Cardboard’s limited functionality should be celebrated.

But it’s not. But it did highlight a flaw that everyone should have seen coming a mile off. And it’s nothing to do with the usual technological, or even ethical problems that VR throws up. It’s actually tied into Elite‘s very genre. Despite the fact that it’s based in outer space, Elite is best described as a simulation game. Think about other simulators; Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Train Simulator 2016, even Euro Truck Simulator 2 – what do each of these titles share?

Apart from fanatical devotion

If you said “buttloads of controls”, you’re right. Simulations aim to simulate real life (big surprise there) and so, generally have re-bindable controls for everything and anything – Euro Truck Simulator 2 has six different controls just for lights. Each of those controls has a button bound to it, and God help you if you forget to use the right one. This “controller complexity” has generally been the reason that you don’t see many simulators on consoles – the average gamepad simply doesn’t enough controls available. My T-Flight Hotas X has a whole bunch of controls available for binding, but they’re still not enough to completely eliminate the need to have the keyboard nearby and ready for action.

But it’s not really about that at all. The problem involves having so many controls, often with niche uses. You might not use many very often, and so you might not be able to instantly recall where it is, without looking. Hell, I currently have 500+ hours in Dota 2, and sometimes still look at the keyboard to be sure of which key I’m pressing. VR headsets give you an amazing all round view of the simulated world, but they also block off all sight into the real world. If I’m wearing a bulky VR headset, how can I look down and be sure what I’m pressing?

Sure, with time and patience, you’ll be able to learn these keypresses off by heart – but does that mean that VR technology should be avoided by anyone without a photographic memory and/or 200+ hours in the game?

The worst part is that this doesn’t really put me off. The allure is just too strong. But… I can see my ardour being dampened if I constantly have to lift the headset to peek at my keyboard. Or worse, find my keyboard, since I’ll be primarily using a joystick. And since Elite Dangerous can’t be paused, I’ll probably fly into a star while I’m doing it.

Probably not the best time to remove your headset
Or another ship. They make awesome “vwum vwum vwum” noises. 

I’ll be honest. I know this is a small complaint. And it’s one based in ignorance one too. I have no real experience of VR headsets, and I have no idea if this truly will be an issue. But you see a lot of VR users using controllers – the Oculus even ships with one – and that makes me think that these limitations have already been realised. But why has no-one highlighted this as a real issue in the simulation genre? That’s where VR will have the biggest impact, but is also the genre where controllers are of limited use. So, will the inherent complexity of simulators like Elite Dangerous make using a VR headset with them just too damn hard?

Only time will tell.

Despite the negative article, I really love Elite Dangerous. Go grab it over at Steam.

Amazon releases free triple-A game engine “Lumberyard”

Amazon have decided to drop a free Triple-A standard game engine on us. Could this revolutionise the gaming industry as we know it?

Last night I bought 64 rolls of toilet paper from Amazon. Why? Because Amazon Prime meant I could, and because Amazon are trying very hard to become the first and only stop for absolutely everything.

And they show no signs of stopping, because today they’ve released “Lumberyard“, a game engine that can be used to develop games for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One (thanks to deals with Microsoft and Sony). And it’s completely free.

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Rocket League should be the next big e-sport

Rocket League could be huge, and I reckon it will be. Here’s why I want it to be.

If you haven’t heard of Rocket League, let me ask you one question: do you like football?

If no; you’ll like Rocket League.

If yes; you’ll like Rocket League.

Take all the whiny teenagers out of football and replace them with rocket-propelled cars (because you would if you could), that have little regard for gravity, cosmetic damage, and the fundamental laws of physics, and you have Rocket League. It’s a frantic, five minute long, bonkers-fest with exploding cars, rocket flips, and goals that cause smoky explosions. It’s tense, exhilarating, and it rarely stops being fun.

It’s easiest to understand it by watching. And I’m not just saying that because I made a video of it.

But I reckon I’d enjoy watching Rocket League even more than I enjoy playing it.

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The Assassin’s Creed gap year is great because I hated Assassin’s Creed III

I love the fact that Assassin’s Creed is taking a gap year. Why? Because of AC3.

I was thinking about making some sort of “Top Ten 2015” list – after all, everyone else is doing one. All I needed to do was get a bunch of games from 2015, rank them, talk about them, and post it online. Easy.

Simples.

I started with the usual suspects, and… I realised that outside of Fallout 4, I couldn’t name another game from last year. This troubled me, so I booted up my Steam, and trawled through my recent game list to find out how many games from 2015 I’d actually played this year.

Five. That’s five games including Fallout 4. Two of them I’d played for a collective timespan of three minutes. My top ten was now a top five, and I didn’t have much say what went in it. Yay.

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A Russian man is suing Bethesda because Fallout 4 is "addictive"

So, some Russian bloke is suing Bethesda for 500,000 Rubles because of how addictive Fallout 4 is. According to various gaming news websites, he lost his job and his wife because of it, and believes that Fallout 4 should carry a warning about how addictive it is, and that if he had known, he wouldn’t have started playing it until he had the free time.

We’ve seen these stories before – “tragic teen gamer dies after playing computer for 22 days in a row“, “man dies in Taiwan after 3-day online gaming binge” – there was even an episode of Boston Legal about a gaming publisher being sued for a game being too addictive.
So does this mean it’s time to really start looking at the very real dangers of video games, and to crack down on a dangerous sub-culture? Is it time for Obama to declare The War on Games?

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No more free packs in Tavern Brawl?

One free pack per week during the opening celebration of Tavern Brawl.

I think we were all ignoring that second part. But I guess it’s time to pay the piper. Last week’s Brawl was the first to not have a free pack as a prize for your first victory, instead granting a Christmas-themed card back.

Which was good, because last week’s Brawl was shit and I really didn’t want to play it.

I mean, I did anyway. But I didn’t enjoy it. And that card back can go into the ever-growing pile of card backs I simply do not give a fuck about.
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