, | Games podcasts
command_hq_podcast

This week I get to hang out with one of my favorite Canadians. We talk about the comparative merits of a monarchy and a Trump election, how to win big money in Winnipeg, potentially illegal immigration, not playing MMOs, and videogame dancing. But most importantly, we talk about a game well before it’s time that far too few people remember.

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Super Mega Baseball was something of an underground sports hit. The goofy big-headed players and cheery presentation evoked strong memories of kids’ titles like Backyard Baseball, but hiding underneath all the cartoon charm was a damn good single player baseball arcade game. Metalhead Software have announced Super Mega Baseball 2, and the developers are keen to refine the experience so the sports audience won’t mistakenly dismiss the sequel as another kiddie game.

First, Super Mega Baseball 2 will have multiplayer gameplay. Either online or in the same room, players will be able to pit their teams against one another. Second, Metalhead is revamping the art style so there isn’t as large of a disconnect between the playful look and the serious sim. Everything still looks bright and exaggerated, but the cartoony assets have been taken down a notch. Finally, the sequel will offer more team customization and stats reporting, so players feel more invested in their teams.

Super Mega Baseball 2 will launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2017.

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Wasteland 3 has been announced. InXile Entertainment will be posting a crowd-funding page on Fig on October 5th for the next game in the series. (Brain Fargo, head of InXile, also sits on the Fig advisory board.) The game is being made for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 and this time, the studio aims to include cooperative multiplayer at launch. According to the press release, Wasteland 3 will feature vehicle travel in the frozen post-apocalypse of Colorado.

You start the game as the sole survivor of Team November, a Ranger squad dispatched to the icy Colorado wastes. This is a land of buried secrets, lost technology, fearsome lunatics, and deadly factions. No one here has ever heard of the Desert Rangers. Your reputation is yours to build from scratch, and your choices may save this land or doom it. With a renewed focus on macro-reactivity, you’ll be picking between warring factions, deciding whether locations are destroyed or saved, and other far reaching decisions that have a marked impact on the shape of your world.

The crowd-funding campaign will have a goal of $2.75 million with equity investing capped at $2.25 million.

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OnLive, the ambitious (and some would say deeply flawed) game streaming service may have died in April 2015, but the dream of a subscription gaming platform lives on. Startup LiquidSky just secured $4 million from Samsung and former Sun Microsystems executives Scott McNealy and Bill Raduchel. The promise? Desktop-as-service gaming, just like OnLive, but without all the problems that plagued the previous company. LiquidSky claims to solve the issues of latency, server cost, scalability, and game support. It’s in private beta already with about half a million registered users. Players can either pay for the service via a $0.50 “SkyCredit” per hour of streaming, or opt for a $14.99 or $39.99 monthly subscription plan depending on the amount of storage they need.

Assuming LiquidSky actually solves the issues the company says it can, it remains to be seen if the service can overcome other objections like questions of ownership and digital rights management, while growing its user base. If the time is finally ripe for game streaming, you can bet that competitors will jump into the market, including publishers that already have their own game clients.

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, | Movie reviews
hidden_review

My takeaway from Stranger Things, which nearly sprains its back bending over backwards to homage the 80s, is that it had enough character, content, and dark charm for a cool 90-minute movie. Unfortunately, it’s an eight-hour series. So the creative team of Matt and Ross Duffer dilutes their cool movie with six plus hours of filler. Isn’t it just like TV to assume more is more?

But consider what the Duffer Brothers, as they call themselves, can do when they don’t have to stretch a script into a season. Consider the aptly named Hidden. If I hadn’t been rooting around to see where the Duffer Brothers came from, I never would have found this. So one of my favorite things about Stranger Things is that it lead me to this movie they wrote and directed.

Hidden is their only feature, and it’s unfortunately going to invite comparison to 10 Cloverfield Lane, which it preceded by six months. Both movies are about the dynamics of people in a bunker when the world above them may or may not have ended. But Hidden isn’t a pressure cooker story about a damsel in distress locked up with a psychopath. It’s a story about a family, told with three very capable actors. Alexander Skarsgaard as fun dad, Andrea Riseborough as no-nonsense mom, and an expressive and capable child actor named Emily Alyn Lind as the daughter they have to protect and sustain. The Road, minus the road.

Since it’s set in a zombie apocalypse, it has to turn into a siege at some point. But how it handles this is what makes the movie special, and here’s where you discover the Duffer Brothers can do more than fondly homage King, Spielberg, and Carpenter. Hidden shows how much heart and creativity they have, and it only takes ninety minutes to reveal.

Hidden is available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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The Chinese Mythology Mash-Up expansion pack is coming to Minecraft: Console Edition on October 4th. Unlike most of the official DLC bits for the console version of Mojang’s building game, this new pack features a pre-made world instead of just dumping themed assets into a random setting. The Chinese Mythology Mash-Up is built around the kind of imagery you’d expect in a blocky recreation of Journey to the West. Serpentine dragons, jade columns, and pandas everywhere. The game’s user interface even changes within the DLC to imperial red and gold. Minecraft: Console Edition will also be updated for free on October 4th with polar bears, beets, craftable banners, and new arctic biomes.

The Pocket and Windows 10 versions of Minecraft are getting some love as well. The Boss Update tweaks some boss monsters in the game and presents Add-Ons, a feature meant for tinkerers. Add-Ons allow players to adjust game values, mix effects, and even create scenarios like a castle siege or an alien invasion. The Boss Update will launch on October 18th.

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Planet Coaster from Frontier Devlopments is still in early access, but in this video, the developers show off what’s really important in a spiritual successor to RollerCoaster Tycoon. Is it a deep economic system? Ride physics algorithms? Accurate seasonal foot traffic simulation? The correct answer is none of the above. It’s the ability to invoke every player’s inner Imagineer.

Planet Coaster hits beta development in November.

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, | Games podcasts
cthulhu_realms_ha_ha

What happens when one person on a podcast likes Cthulhu Realms and the other person on a podcast doesn’t like Cthulhu Realms? Which one of them will prevail? World traveler, bane of iPads everywhere, and kangaroo expert Skip Franklin tries to convince me Cthulhu Realms isn’t just a cheap reskinning of Star Realms. Whether he succeeds or not, I’d like to point out only one of us has been kicked out a bar in Grand Rapids.

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So, yeah, there’s a finally a space battle in Star Wars Battlefront. The Death Star DLC adds this:

A new three-phased mode in which Rebels attempt to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer in order to clear space for a GR-75 and its brave Rebel boarding party. Then, these Rebels participating in an assault on the Death Star in hopes of rescuing R2-D2 before, finally, attempting to destroy the Death Star itself with the help of Luke Skywalker.

Admit it, you had to look up GR-75. You know you did. And I bet you were all, like, “oh, that’s what that thing is called?”

But before you can blow up a Death Star, you have to shoot a lot of stormtroopers. And if you’re like me, it can be confusing distinguishing the stormtroopers from the rebels in the heat of an FPS. If I had a nickel every time I died because I thought some stormtrooper not wearing his helmet was actually a rebel, I would be able to buy the season’s pass for all the DLC.

But no more! In the update accompanying the DLC, stormtrooper helmets are mandatory. They can’t run around bare-headed trying to confuse guys like me. The rationale for this change? According to the patch notes:

With the arrival of the Imperial Officers, the certification for Stormtroopers to remove their helmets in combat has been withdrawn.

Of course, there are also safety concerns. If helmets were optional in Star Wars, this scene would have played out very differently.

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It’s been over twenty years since Richard Garfield and Wizards of the Coast unleashed Magic: The Gathering, and despite the game’s reputation as a money-sink, the veteran game designer thinks gaming is out of control. In a lengthy Game Player’s Manifesto, Garfield details the ways in which “skinnerware” – games designed to exploit addiction – are a detriment to the industry in the long run. The two key elements of skinnerware, according to him, are when a game’s transactions target a tiny portion of the player population (whales) and that purchases are open-ended. He likens these kinds of games to bars serving free alcohol, then charging increasingly higher prices for drinks to the most alcoholic patrons. In Garfield’s assessment, these games are harming the industry because they put pressure on designers to create systems that maximize the whales’ buy-in over actual engaging and interesting gameplay.

I believe it is time to send a message to game designers and publishers. As a game player I will not play or promote games that I believe are subsidizing free or inexpensive play with exploitation of addictive players. As a game designer I will no longer work with publishers that are trying to make my designs into skinnerware.

It’s not the first such declaration from a game designer, but it’s an interesting statement from someone that many would accuse of creating one of the most well-known skinnerware systems in the world.

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gjallarhorn

It’s been a little more than six months since Tom Clancy’s The Division launched and big changes are afoot. Ubisoft has heard the complaints, collected data, and analyzed the information. They agree that The Division needs some attention. The upcoming 1.4 update leans hard into what the developers term “the importance of gunplay” and making progression more intuitive. Character boosting stats like Firearms, Stamina and Electronics, for example, will be on every piece of loot you equip in the endgame tiers, so gear management more closely resembles the journey in the early part of the game. The Division’s all-important firearms are being walloped with the balance stick so oddities like sub-machine guns outperforming assault rifles won’t be as common. There’s a long and detailed set of data the developers have to back up these decisions, including a few charts. Who doesn’t love charts?

Want to build for the highest possible damage? That’s perfectly fine, but you’ll end up with a gun that might have a big recoil or a small magazine. Or if you prefer, you can build a weapon that is incredibly stable and precise, but you’ll have to sacrifice raw damage. It means that there will be more skill involved in using the weapons, just like in a regular shooter and during the level 1-30 experience, and our hope is that it will lead to much more variety and less cookie cutter weapon setups.

The Division’s 1.4 update is supposed to come out in October, and Ubisoft is taking feedback on the announced changes. Players on the PC version will be able to check out the planned changes on the public test server beginning on September 26th.

Meanwhile, Destiny just released Rise of Iron, their latest major expansion since The Taken King. It brings back Gjallarhorn.

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, | Movie reviews
31_review

For about five minutes, 31 might have you believing it won’t be awful. Richard Brake, an actor with a great face, walks up to the camera. He looks straight at you and delivers a “hey, I’m totally a psycho killer!” monologue. He’s wearing ragged clown make-up. It’s shot as if director Rob Zombie has been watching Fellini. It’s even black-and-white. But then the rest of the movie happens.

Some travelling people get kidnapped and forced to play a game called 31. The game consists of them wandering around in a poorly lit basement. They’re supposed to survive for 12 hours while killers in clown make-up supposedly hunt them. It’s like The Purge, but without the budget to shoot outdoors. The killers have names like Sickhead, Psychohead, Doomhead, and Sexhead. I didn’t make any of those up. Rob Zombie did. One of them is a midget with a knife. Do you know how risible it is to have full-sized people armed with baseball bats fleeing in terror from a midget with a knife? Because Rob Zombie doesn’t.

The cast includes no one with the necessary sense of humor or appreciation for absurdity to deliver Rob Zombie dialogue (i.e. Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, and Ken Forree, all of whom elevated Devil’s Rejects from trash to camp). However, it’s really cool to see Meg Foster perfectly willing to wear her years in an industry that all but forces women of a certain age into plastic surgery, botox, and soft lighting. She deserves far better than this artless attempt at horror.

Of course, this being a Rob Zombie movie, his wife Sheri Moon Zombie is given a prominent role that she handles as unconvincingly as ever. When she emerges from the movie’s chintzy hell, she screams. It’s pretty half-hearted. It’s got slightly more feeling than opening your mouth and saying “aah” for the doctor. Slightly. In fact, it might have been a yawn. Then the movie loses interest in itself and just ends. That’s the point when I realized that the definition of insanity is someone who keeps watching Rob Zombie movies and thinking they won’t be awful.

31 is available for VOD at Amazon.com. But so is Devil’s Rejects. Only one of them is worth watching to support Qt3.

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NBA 2K17 can’t boast of an insane campaign written by Spike Lee like the previous installment, but it does have comedian and actor Matt Walsh. Everyone’s favorite fictional White House communications director plays a college basketball coach in the early portion of the MyCareer mode. He’s not in the trailer which instead focuses on Michael B. Jordan, Hannibal Buress, and Justice Young, but that seems appropriate for the hapless McLintock. If you’ve been watched the last season of Veep on HBO, you’ll recall that Matt Walsh’s character desperately tried to get hired for a communications position in the National Hockey League, making this role amusing on a meta level. Congratulations, Mike! You kind of made it into a sports league of sorts!

Aaron Covington, the co-writer of Creed, penned the script for this year’s game. NBA 2K17 is available today for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows PC.

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Erstwhile Quarter to Three contributor Tony Carnevale attended the Roguelike Celebration this past weekend, which is an actual thing that happened in San Francisco. He recounts the experience here.

I paid $37.92 to attend and filled out my nametag as Tony, Alignment: Chaotic Neutral. For the price of admission, I got a t-shirt, a pair of socks festooned with the @ sign, two similarly themed lapel pins, and the opportunity to see [Michael] Toy, [Glenn] Wichman, and [Ken] Arnold reunite onstage for the first time in 30 years.

Toy, Wichman, and Arnold are Michael Toy, Glen Wichman, and Ken Arnold, the folks who created Rogue back in 1980. Which, for all intents and purposes, was still part of the 70s. But unlike that other game made in the 70s, Pong, their game is still relevant. How many games on Steam have the “ponglike” tag? Carnevale also reports on the advantage of being on UNIX, the problem with talking about permadeath, pudding farming abuses, and why ADOM fans can be really scary.

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