October 19, 2012, 8:30 AM — Greetings gamers and happy Friday. We had a quiet week on the software front but I do want to talk a bit about two new games, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and The Unfinished Swan. But first let's run through some gaming news.
Zynga and competing social game developer Kixeye are having a slap fight, with Zynga
suing former CityVille general manager Alan Patmore (who now works at Kixeye). Zynga says Patmore took some confidential files with him when he left his former employer; files that contained game design documents. In response Kixeye CEO Will Harbin lashed out at Zynga, saying the company is "burning to the ground and bleeding top talent" (hard to argue there) and that the company's behavior "feels pretty desperate," and finally:
"...We make synchronous combat-strategy games. They make asynchronous cow-clicking games. We have two of the top seven highest-grossing games on Facebook. Why on earth would we want to emulate a business that has seen a 75 percent decline in share price since their debut? According to their S1, their games average $.06 ARPDAU [Average Revenue Per Daily Active User]. Our games generate up to 20 times that. You do the math..."
Kixeye was probably happy to shift our attention over to Zynga since the company has just come through its own publicity challenge after an employee raised allegations of racism in the workplace. These allegations lead to the termination of four employees earlier this month.
OK let's move on to happier topics. How about Mac gaming? If you're a Mac owner you might be glad to learn that the folks over at GOG.com now support you, with 50 games available right now. GOG used to stand for Good Old Games and a lot of these are older classics that haven't previously been available on the Mac (part of GOG's service is packing older games with some kind of virtual machine to allow them to run on a modern OS), but they're also making The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings available. Head on over to GOG.com to see the full list of Mac titles available.
The Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard update is rolling out. Did you get it yet? I didn't. Apparently we should all be on the new version by next Tuesday. The big change is the addition of IE; now you can browse the web on your Xbox 360 if you really want to. With this update Microsoft is removing the Twitter and Facebook apps, according to The Verge. If you already have these apps you won't lose them, but they're no longer available for download for new users. (So if you haven't got the new update yet and think you'd ever want to use these apps, now's the time to grab them.)
Joystiq did a good walkthrough of the update:
Keep in mind we'll see a few more new features (like Smart Glass) going live once Windows 8 ships next Friday.
Users in PAL regions got the new Playstation Store this week, but it sounds like the roll-out was anything but smooth and in some regions Sony actually reverted back to the old store. North America gets the update next Tuesday; let's hope things go smoother for us (though I wouldn't bet on it).
Sony posted a look at what's inside the new store.
Metro Tiles are all the rage these days, I guess:
Over on the mobile front, Developer Epic Games has announced that Infinity Blade: Dungeons will not ship this year. They give as a reason that the new developer, Impossible Studios (a studio compiled primarly of ex-Big Huge Games personnel, Big Huges Games being a casualty of Curt Shillings' 38 Studios implosion) is "busy adding their great ideas to the game."
We first saw Infinity Blade: Dungeons at Apple's iPad unveiling last March, leading Cnet's Josh Lowensohn to speculate that it may become an iPad 4 launch title. I hope not; Dungeons looks like a better game (less frantic swiping, more actual gameplay) than the first two Infinity Blade titles and I want it to run perfectly on my 3rd gen iPad. AllThingsD has the full story on the delay.
Remember the first reveal of the Wii U back at E3 2011? As part of the demo, the player used video chat to ask for advice on a problem he was having in-game. We haven't heard a lot about this aspect of the Wii U since then, so Kotaku went looking for info; their focus was in-game voice chat. Unfortunately it sounds like this feature will not be universal; it'll be something developers choose to support. And to make matters worse, it'll require a third party wired headset from Turtle Beach or Mad Catz. At least that's how things seem to stand now, but this story is still developing. For now let's assume that out-of-game video chat is still in there using just the Tablet Controller (which has a microphone and camera, after all) but plan on having to buy a headset if you want to chat with your team while playing.
So you're all probably still playing Dishonored and XCOM but this week I checked out two new games. The first, Unfinished Swan, is for the PS3. It's out now for Playstation Plus subscribers and for everyone next Tuesday, and it costs about $15.
This is one of those 'artsy' games the PS3 is becoming known for. The story is about a boy who is transported into an unfinished painting of a swan that his mother had made before she passed away. The narrative (I've only played the first hour or so) is reminiscent of a fairy tale about a King who banished all color from his realm.
In terms of gameplay, you play from a first person point of view and at the start of the game everything is a featureless white. Gameplay consists primarily of flinging balls of black paint around. This paint reveals the environment you're in, after which you start to explore. The game is primarily one of exploration.
In my first few moments of playing, I was totally disoriented and confused. Wasn't sure which way was up. I started throwing paint (I used the Move controller but I think a regular controller would work just as well) and finally started making sense of my environment. The trick is to throw just enough paint to start making things out. If you throw too much you'll just replace the pure white environment with a pure black one and be just as lost.
After that is a long segment of doing nothing but throwing paint and exploring. Every so often you'll catch sight of the swan's footprints, or a golden item. In either case these are the breadcrumbs you need to follow. I was getting a bit bored with this mechanic when I came to a place in the world where the King had decided to allow shadows. This gave the world a richer texture and so let the exploration aspects get a bit more complex.
I'm still not sure how I feel about The Unfinished Swan. It's a quiet game with a slow pace and I think you need to be in the right mood for it. It could be a really fun game to play with your young kids; there's no violence and no 'bad guys' that I've encountered (again, only an hour in) and you reveal 'story panels' here and there that are accompanied by a voice-over telling the tale of this land. It's definitely an unusual game, that's for sure. If you're a 'student of gaming' I think it's definitely worth the cost of entry just to play with the unique mechanics of revealing the world through blobs of paint. I'm not unhappy to have purchased The Unfinished Swan but I'm not in a huge hurry to get back to it, either.
The other game I picked up this week couldn't be any more different. It's Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and it's a first person slasher. I actually got this game via a Kickstarter campaign and had forgotten all about it when the key showed up in my inbox, but anyone can buy it from Steam now for $25. Chivalry is a competitive multiplayer game featuring combat via maces, swords, axes, bows and polearms. It feels a little like a cross between a FPS and a fighting game, as each matchup between melee opponents consists of feints, blocks, dodges and several types of attack (slashing, stabbing and an overhead swing). Archers and crossbow users play a bit more traditionally but woe be to them if a knight in armor gets in their face.
The developers, Torn Banner Studios, have tried to give the game an authentic feel. You can almost feel your sword bouncing off an opponent's shield, and it only takes a few hits before you're dead and in spectator mode. Even fewer if you happen to get decapitated. It's a brutal game that is almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.
I am absolute rubbish at the game, to be honest, but I was happy to find that I could spawn a local game, populate it with bots and practice to my heart's content. That was almost as much fun as playing with real people and it got me to where my Kill/Death ratio was closer to 1/1 than the 1/12 it was after my first night playing!
I'm liking Chivalry an awful lot. Just being in a match is a real spectacle at times. I recommend you get started (after the tutorial) with a Last Team Standing match. Stay near your teammates and focus on staying alive (blocking, dodging) at first. Be careful of friendly fire, particularly when you see a crazy knight with a two handed sword flailing around. When you die use the down time to fly around in spectator mode watching the better players; this can be not only informative but fun. The other night I watched one player hold off and eventually defeat four opponents, pulling out a win for his team. It was an epic battle and inspiring to see.
There are a ton of Chivalry videos on YouTube. Here's a pretty good one featuring a pole-arm wielding Vanguard player. This could probably be considered NSFW due to violence:
And that about wraps things up for this week. If you've been playing anything interesting, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from folks playing War of the Roses in fact, since it seems similar to Chivalry in a lot of ways. Might be interesting to compare notes!