Ubisoft has released the minimum, recommended, and "hi-performance" specs for the PC version of their upcoming tropical, open-world, action sequel Far Cry 3, which is set to release on December 4th. They are as follows:
DirectX9c graphics card with 512MB Video RAM
Dual core CPU
Example minimum 1 (NVidia/Intel)
Intel Core2 Duo E6700
DirectX11 graphics card with 1024MB Video RAM
Quad core CPU
Example recommended 1 (NVidia/Intel)
Intel Core i3-530
Example recommended 2 (AMD)
AMD Radeon HD5770
AMD Phenom II X2 565
Latest DirectX11 graphics card
Latest quad core CPU
Example hi-performance (NVidia/Intel)
Intel Core i7-2600K
Example hi-performance (AMD)
AMD Radeon HD7970
AMD Bulldozer FX4150
In addition, they've confirmed that the game will NOT feature the publisher's dreaded always-on DRM, keeping to their recent statements that the scheme has been shelved for good. Instead, it will require the installation of Ubisoft's Uplay client software and a one-time online activation, after which point it will be possible to play single-player without being connected to the internet.
This latest pay-what-you-want, DRM-free, charity fundraiser effort from Humble Bundle Inc. includes Torchlight, Vessel, Space Pirates and Zombies, Shatter, Rochard, and, if you beat the average (currently $5.77), Dustforce. All of them are redeemable on Steam. Get it while it's hot!
I started playing Borderlands 2 as soon as it launched late Monday evening and, boy, were they right about it being even bigger and better than the first game. Right off the bat you have a new snowy environment and an introduction to several much more fleshed out characters, including antagonist Handsome Jack. The voice acting is quite well done, and the dialogue as weird, witty, and funny as ever. A really neat system of meta-progression called "Badass Ranks" rewards you for unlocking achievements with customizable bonus attributes that are utilized by any characters you play with.
Gunplay is more solid and robust, with improved weapon handling and ballistics behavior. The visuals have been enhanced with the usual modern trimmings (lighting, effects, shadows), but the support for NVIDIA PhysX really makes the combat come alive with copious amounts of debris and dynamic liquids (blood, acid, etc.) flying all over the place and littering the ground for a surprisingly long time.
Gearbox also kept their promises about enhancing the PC version with a wide variety of platform-specific options such as FOV, HUD scaling, and mouse smoothing toggle. Steamworks has done wonders for the multiplayer functionality, enabling seamless drop-in/drop-out sessions and a display of which friends are playing, their character's level, as well as what mission they're on, all laid out on the game's main menu.
Needless to say, I'm having a whole lot of fun with it. I'm playing Axton, the soldier class with the deployable sentry turret. I spent most of my time with the sniper in the first game, so I figured it was time for a change. Here's a tip for those of you who are playing now: go into the Extras menu and sign up for a Gearbox Shift account to get a Golden Key redeemable for two legendary (purple) items, scaled to your level, in the main hub city. For those of you around the world still waiting to get your hands on Borderlands 2, feast your eyes on the launch trailer below.
Over the weekend Activision announced PC system requirements for Call of Duty: Black Ops II, via the long-running series' community website. This includes news that the world's most popular FPS franchise will be receiving a facelift, as Treyarch is introducing DirectX 11 functionality to achieve "enhanced lighting, shadows, antialiasing, bloom, depth of field, ambient occlusion, and other enhanced effects that are still in the works." As such, the minimum specs now include Windows Vista/7 and DX10 video cards such as the GeForce 8800 GT or Radeon HD 3870 -- Windows XP support is officially out. Here they explain:
Can I run the game on Windows XP?
No, sorry. Since we upgraded the engine to use DirectX11, Windows XP is no longer supported. It requires Windows Vista or later.
What performance optimizations have you introduced for Black Ops II?
Performance has been a top priority for Black Ops II PC from day one and we have achieved significant improvements. We’ve improved the way the engine handles multiple threads. Additionally, we moved the engine from DX9 to DX11. The DX11 API is leaner than DX9 and requires less CPU time to do the same amount of work. It is important to point out that this benefits the entire range of supported GPUs, not just DX11 hardware. We have also added more “quality vs performance” options than ever before so you can customize your experience to either run faster or to satisfy your taste in eye candy.
As Rock, Paper, Shotgun points out, there are many PC games these days releasing without support for that dinosaur of an operating system, but it is a pretty big deal when the biggest game in town (literally) decides to stop supporting it. Valve's Steam Hardware Survey estimates that about 12% of PC gamers still use Windows XP, which is a decent chunk of an audience for any greedy mega-corporation to ignore. Still, this kind of news can only be good for the stagnating Call of Duty brand; it definitely makes me more interested. I won't be lining up to buy it this November, but I probably won't be skipping it entirely like I did Modern Warfare 3, either.
In a refreshing change of pace for the MMORPG business, developer and publisher of the recently-released Guild Wars 2 has announced they are temporarily halting sales of the game through their website. ArenaNet released a statement on Facebook last night explaining that this is to help ensure the experience of existing players is not compromised while they work to increase capacity of their nearly full-to-the-brim infrastructure:
Ensuring the best possible play experience for our fans is our highest priority. We’ve said before that we would be willing to temporarily disable first-party digital sales if we felt our high player concurrency may compromise player experiences. We have now reached that point.
Effective immediately we have disabled sales via buy.guildwars2.com. To be clear, box and digital sales are still available via our retail partners. We are tracking our concurrency closely while expanding our infrastructure. We’ll re-enable first-party digital sales as soon as we feel that we can do so safely.
This is just the latest move by A-Net that deserves to be applauded, following a near flawless launch of one of the most anticipated MMORPGs of recent memory. Personally, I've been playing almost non-stop since the early access period began last Friday night, and the unique Overflow system allowed for virtually lag-free play even during peak times. (Basically, when specific areas are heavily loaded with players, you're put into a sort of standby server where you can continue to play while queuing to enter your home world.) Not to mention, there have only been a few instances of downtime that lasted less than 60 minutes on each occasion; that's a far cry from some companies whose name rhymes with gizzard taking their single-player RPGs offline for 8-10 hours at a time...
The only real issues have stemmed from the absence of the Black Lion Trading Post, Guild Wars 2's version of an auction house, which has been under maintenance almost the entire first week. They've just recently been opening it up to random segments of the player population, and since there is no player-to-player trade function, most have been turning to the mail system as a way to exchange money and goods. Then the lack of a cash-on-delivery option meant that you really had to trust the other person would come through with their end of the bargain, as we all know the honor system is quite easily exploited.
But even though it may take a while for the economy to work itself out -- no thanks to a bunch of exploiters taking advantage of a pricing error to generate hundreds of gold for themselves when most other players have no more than 5 or 10, which was thankfully quickly addressed -- Guild Wars 2 is probably the best MMO I have ever played. From the flexibility of each class to fit several different roles on a whim and the combat system that allows for skill-based dodging and high mobility, to the emphasis on free-form exploration/adventuring and an incredibly deep and mysterious crafting system... I'm hooked.
The Bethesda Blog has announced the next piece of downloadable content to become available for last year's epic fantasy RPG sequel, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, will be called Hearthfire. It involves the ability to build your own homestead with your own two hands and furnish it with extensive new crafting options, as well as create a family by adopting a child. You will also need to defend your home against various threats, including giants!
There are more details in the sneak peek trailer above. The add-on will cost 400 MS points when it is released on Xbox Live September 4th, which means we can likely expect it to cost $5 when it's released on Steam for PC about a month or so later. On a pleasant, related note, this is the last Skyrim DLC to be subject to the Xbox timed-exclusivity agreement, so future releases ought to become available at the same time for all platforms.
Rockstar has let loose this past week with a dozen new screenshots from the upcoming sequel in their cornerstone series of open-world action games, Grand Theft Auto V. They depict a variety of stunning environments and activities, some of which are recognizable from California- and Nevada-inspired locations featured previously in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' titular setting. Check out the gallery above to see a prop plane flying over a mountain stream, cycling toward a beach-front carnival at dusk, parachuting through a sprawling canyon, a backyard tennis court in the Vinewood Hills (presumably), police helicopters patrolling a metropolis, fast cars, and more.
Dark Souls, the notoriously difficult and unforgiving action role-playing game made by FROM Software, was finally released on PC yesterday. The Prepare to Die Edition contains all of the hardcore gameplay goodness as the console versions that were released last year, plus the debut of several hours of new content that will be available as DLC on Xbox 360 and PlayStation sometime soon. Ultimately, its being ported to PC at all was the result of a successful community campaign that gathered tens of thousands of signatures from gamers interested in buying the game would it come to their favorite platform.
However, it seems that due to limited resources put forth by publisher Namco Bandai, the PC version of Dark Souls is about as barebones a port as anyone has ever seen. Only basic work on enabling keyboard/mouse controls and little to no changes to the UI were both expected, from remarks made by the developer that no significant amount of extra work was being put into it. But just a couple weeks before release, it was discovered by reviewers that the framerate was capped at 30 fps, and that the game's rendering resolution was locked at that of the console versions: 1024x720. Increasing the screen resolution on the meager PC graphics settings menu only changed how much that tiny image was upscaled and/or stretched to fit your screen. Understandably, this led to some outrage and many people cancelling their pre-orders; after all, the least you could expect from a PC port of any game is higher resolution graphics, right?
Fortunately, one of the key strengths of Windows as a gaming platform is its openness and moddability, which shone through with this particular title as many people were hoping it would. Within half an hour of Dark Souls PC becoming available on Steam Thursday, NeoGAF poster Durante offered his self-made fix for the internal rendering resolution problem, instantly enabling comparatively crystal clear visuals for all. He modestly remarks, "I did not do the entire work for this in 23 minutes. I developed an interception dll framework during this week to prepare for the job. I did the actual work to make the game render at higher res in that amount of time though -- based on the framework -- and spent a few more hours testing and adding the config file."
You can download DSfix v0.3 from his personal blog, which reflects a couple of updates in the past 24 hours that fixed a problem with text not displaying properly and enabled forced anisotropic filtering, among other things. Though Durante discourages viewing his work as something that makes FROM Software and/or Namco Bandai look bad, you can't help but wonder how it is that the professionals can so egregiously overlook something that is fixed by an amateur programmer in such a short time.
Ubisoft executives continue to stick the proverbial foot in their company's mouth, and generally piss off PC gamers, with the latest round of comments explaining why they're shifting development of their computer games toward the free-to-play model. Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, company CEO Yves Guillemot stated they can make the same amount of revenue or more with F2P as traditional full-priced games because the proportion of actual paying customers is basically the same:
"We want to develop the PC market quite a lot and F2P is really the way to do it," said the French CEO. "The advantage of F2P is that we can get revenue from countries where we couldn't previously - places where our products were played but not bought. Now with F2P we gain revenue, which helps brands last longer.
"It's a way to get closer to your customers, to make sure you have a revenue. On PC it's only around five to seven per cent of the players who pay for F2P, but normally on PC it's only about five to seven per cent who pay anyway, the rest is pirated. It's around a 93-95 per cent piracy rate, so it ends up at about the same percentage. The revenue we get from the people who play is more long term, so we can continue to bring content."
On the surface, it might be possible to understand where they're coming from. Ubisoft is a global company, after all, and there are plenty of other countries where piracy rates of all forms of media are sky high compared to the US. However, there is absolutely no way for them to know exact figures, so to keep throwing out that there's a 95% piracy rate on PC (we've heard it before from others in the company) is more than a little brash. Then to punish your paying customers in the name of mitigating so-called "lost revenues" is even worse.
They also seem to be the only publisher (or at least, the largest one) so openly concerning themselves with piracy and using it often as an excuse to justify business plans to investors or absurd countermeasures including their uPlay online platform and always-on DRM. Their insistence that the number of pirated copies, as if they were somehow able to track that with any accuracy, equates to lost sales is erroneous at best. Not to mention the fact that, in making a comparison between the number of people who pay for things in F2P games and those who actually purchase PC games in general, they effectively call anybody who doesn't spend money on Ghost Recon: Online, et al. a filthy pirate who would just as soon illegally download Assassin's Creed 3.
At least, that's the implication, since you're not giving them your money in either case. That doesn't give me high hopes for any F2P title Ubisoft ever releases for PC... Apparently just playing their game wouldn't be enough for them to consider you a customer that should be taken care of. Can you imagine trying to contact support? "Sorry it took us three weeks to answer your request. We prioritize our premium members, so next time don't be a cheap-ass."
Yesterday, a new website for famed RPG developer of yore Black Isle Studios popped up on the interwebs at www.blackisle.com. The domain is registered to CEO of Interplay Herve Caen, so it's the real deal, but what does it mean? The teaser page consists only of what you see above, including the tagline, "Our goal has always been to make the world's best RPGs. Black Isle Studios is back." The problem with that is, most of the talent from the studio that created classic games including Fallout 1 & 2, Planescape: Torment, and Icewind Dale went on to form new outfits such as Troika Games, Obsidian Entertainment, and inXile Entertainment, the latter two being headed now by Chris Avellone and Brian Fargo, respectively.
Indeed, Avellone took to Twitter to express his confusion: "I know nothing about the Black Isle Studio news announcement, doesn't involve me or Obsidian... or well, anyone that I know. ;)" Fargo, meanwhile, has said that there's not enough information for him to comment, but remarks "A game division is obviously only as good as the talent it employs."
We'll have to wait and see what happens, if anything ever does. Interplay as it exists today has become somewhat infamous for lingering too long in the games industry without actually producing anything. Massive debts led to the cancellation of their most recent projects -- a third game in the Fallout series and later an online adaptation of the same post-apocalyptic RPG -- but that was years ago. Brokering a deal to transfer the rights of the franchise to Bethesda Softworks, as well as settling a subsequent lawsuit over their failure to follow through with the MMO, are presumably the only things keeping the company afloat beyond what little royalties they might be getting from GOG.com and elsewhere their games are still sold.
Hi-Rez Studios have announced that an eighth content update for Tribes: Ascend is now live. Dubbed 'Blitz' for the new spin on CTF gameplay it introduces to the fast-paced free-to-play shooter, this patch also brings a set of brand new weapons for the Technician class, as well as classic voice packs from Tribes 2. Check out the trailer above for a peek at what awaits you the next time you load up the Shazbot Express.
CTF Blitz aims to make matches in that perennially popular game mode a bit more interesting, by moving the position of the flag deeper into your base after every capture the enemy makes. In theory, it will neutralize the advantage one team might have over the other simply by having one or more experienced and skilled cappers, which can easily sway the outcome of a normal CTF match in public matches.
Further patch notes, including the latest round of balance adjustments and bug fixes, follow:
Added 3 new items for Technician:
New Primary: The TC24 can fire four short-range explosive projectiles before having to relod.
New Belt Item: The Repair Kit will automatically repair any damaged structures or targets around it.
New Pack: The EXR Turret has a longer range than the Light Turret and fires a small explosive rocket. It deals less focused damage than the Light Turret, but makes up for it with flexibility.
Reduced reload time on Brutes Gladiator by 7%.
Increased damage on Pathfinder’s Light Twinfusor by 12%.
Increased damage on Soldier’s Twinfusor by 7%.
Increased damage on Juggernaut’s Heavy Twinfusor by 10%.
Increased projectile size on Sentinel’s Nova Blaster and Nova Blaster MX.
More than tripled the activation range of the Rage Perk.
Increased mass reduction on the Rage perk to 20%.
Animations in the main menu have been shortened, making for faster menu navigation.
Various cleanups and fixes to existing maps.
Fixed a bug where deployable sensors, such as the Sentinel’s Drop Jammer, could permanently affect players.
Fixed an issue where a mastered Safe Fall perk was resetting the health regen time even though the player took no falling damage.
Fixed an issue where deployables were not deploying properly on certain surfaces, such as the threshold between the ramp and interior of the Sunstar temple.
Fixed issues where overlay effects on the Mercenary Sentinel skin could cause a flashing side-effect.
Fixed an issue where shotguns would not properly perform a passive reload and therefore could cause odd behavior when the player shot subsequent rounds.
Fixed a bug in which the “Screen Crack” setting would not store properly server-side.
Fixed a bug in which featured news ticker items would show under the “Watch Now” menu.
A new settings option has been added to enable Alienware FX. For Alienware machines, colors will change on the hardware based on your health status. Be sure you have the latest Alienware drivers.
Non-Steam users may add the option “-steam” under “Optional game command line parameters” in order to access Steam-related features, such as use of the Steam wallet (note: You must be logged into Steam prior to launching the game for this feature to work).
Fixed a bug with health multipliers on custom servers.
Implemented several cleanups and fixes to the clan tag functionality.