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May 09 2013

16:31

Build Your Own MMO Dungeon In Neverwinter

Ten years ago Bioware released a game called Neverwinter Nights. Though disappointing as a single-player RPG, the campaign wasn’t really the point. Instead, the game focused on user-generated multiplayer content built with the amazingly powerful Aurora toolset. Players eventually used the game and its sequel, Neverwinter Nights 2, to build sprawling co-op campaigns and miniature MMOs.

Now, with surprisingly little fanfare, a new Neverwinter title has been released by Cryptic (better known for Champions Online and Star Trek Online). It ignores single-player entirely and instead is a full-blown MMO, but with a twist; you can still make your own content and play campaigns made by other people. Does this make it stand out in the absurdly crowded free-to-play market?

Character Creation

Creating a new character is an important part of any role-playing game, but it’s particularly important for Neverwinter because the game is based of Dungeons & Dragons and uses the standard Forgotten Realm setting. To keep true to these influences, the developers have served up an array of characters from D&D’s Player’s Handbook 1 and 2. They’ve also created five classes based on specializations of classes found in Player’s Handbook 1.

This is an interesting approach, and one that serves up a bit more flavor than the typical role-playing game. None of the races are unique (besides the Tiefling, perhaps) but all of them are backed by loads of lore which is expressed in-game through occasional racial quests. Players must also select a background and deity, two choices that have no gameplay effect but serve to encourage role-play.

While the flavor is great, the game does suffer from controversial character models. Cryptic’s arts have obviously tried to re-create the cartoonish yet conventional style found in D&D’s official books, but this sometimes translates poorly to 3D. Dwarves and Elves are particularly cartoonish and every race suffers oversized eyes, though the advanced character customization panel lets players resize them.

Gameplay

Neverwinter is not a traditional MMO for reasons that go beyond user-made content. The combat system is heavily based off action-RPGs and focuses on proper use of a small selection of abilities. Auto-attack and tab-targeting have been replaced by a reticle and attacks tied to a handful of buttons. What to hit something? Line it up and use a power!

This action-RPG approach throws a wrench into the traditional MMO trinity of tank/healer/damage, but these roles aren’t gone, either. The Guardian Warrior class can attract some threat and has a unique block mechanic that can be used to negate damage, but encounters don’t revolve around every enemy attacking this tank. The Devoted Cleric Class has some heals, but this heals trigger either through damage dealt or through healing beams targeted at players.

The other classes, though technically damage-dealers, all have their own tools; the Trickster Rogue can stealth and flank enemies for maximum damage, the Control Wizard can force-choke and freeze opponents to stop or delay them, and the Great Weapon Fighter can take out multiple opponents while acting as an off-tank.

Questing in Neverwinter is less unique. There’s still a fair number of “grab ten bear butts” quests, and while the combat makes these more engaging, don’t expect to be impressed. The game saves itself some trouble, however, by making the entire world on a smaller scale; there’s simply no room for annoying fetch quests in this game’s claustrophobic dungeons and small outdoor areas.

Players may forget the dull quests, however, because the game quickly dishes out rewards and new abilities. You’ll be using some cool powers by level 10, and that’s just the beginning; at end game, players have incredible powers that are visually stunning and satisfying to use. Part of that satisfaction from physics. That’s right – physics in an MMO! Killing an enemy with a powerful attack can send him sailing into a pit below (but don’t worry; the loot doesn’t go with him).

User-Created Content

Neverwinter isn’t Cryptic’s first try at player-created content. The developer has implemented systems like this in previous games, and its experience shows. There is no veil or obstacle between players and content made by others; instead, the game goes out of its way to help you find it. There are job boards placed across the game world that let players pick a campaign and even NPCs that, when spoken to, will direct players to user content that begins nearby.

As you might expect, all of the user content is instanced. But I think that’s actually a boon because it allows players a great deal of creative freedom. There are dungeon crawls, larger open-world areas, huge campaigns and tiny quests. Difficulty can range from casual single-player strolls based more on lore than combat to grinding dungeon slogs only the toughest groups dare try.

The inclusion of user-generated content should provide end-game variety not typically found in MMOs. Most games in this genre have to rely on repeatable dungeons and daily quests, but there will also be a new user-made campaign to experience in Neverwinter.

You might think that the tools used to create this content would be difficult, but they’re actually quite simple. I’ll even go far as to say this is the easiest level editor I’ve ever used. Levels are built with a toolbox of pre-built assets and scripted story events can be easily handled with the story editor. With that said, even a small level can take hours to perfect, so content creation isn’t a task for those short on time.

The Business Model

No free-to-play game review would be complete without a look at how it generates money. And this is unfortunately an area where Neverwinter stumbles.

The problem isn’t value. The game offers a lot of content for free and I believe all of it is accessible to free players. Extra like bags and special mounts are expensive, yet, but the overall cost of playing this game will should come in far below buying a $40 to $60 game and then paying for a subscription.

So what’s the issue? Confusion! Most vendors in the game come in two flavors, one selling items for gold and another for Astral Diamonds. Astral Diamonds can be bought, but aren’t an entirely paid currency, because you can also earn them in-game (a fact that isn’t transparent in-game). And then there’s yet another currency, Zen, which can only be bought with cash. This is what you need for certain premium items, like costumes and mounts. The confusion of managing three different currencies is only made worse by poor storefront presentation.

Another beef I have is a missing subscription option. I personally don’t like micro-transactions, so I usually pay for a subscription if I think I’ll be playing for more than a week. In most games, subbing will let me ignore the cash shop and just play. But that’s not an option here, so there’s no way to avoid the currency confusion and terrible storefront.

None of this kills the game, but it doesn’t help, either. I’m sure some will become frustrated and simply decide to move on to another, more intuitive game.

Conclusion

Neverwinter is a surprisingly unique entry into the MMO genre. On its surface, the game seems like a standard online fantasy RPG, and you might wonder why it was even released when Turbine’s Dungeon’s & Dragon’s Online is still operating. But jump in the game and you’ll quickly see that Neverwinter is quite different from its competitors and offers a breath of fresh air.

How the game operates in the long term will depend on how well the developers can carry their current momentum. The game has just five classes and lackluster official quests, so players may get bored and move back to their MMO of choice. New classes and content must be added quickly.

But this is a free-to-play game, so the question is simple; is Neverwinter worth your time? Absolutely! At the least, it’s a good action-RPG likely to consume thirty or forty hours of your life. If new content is introduced at a reasonable pace this game could put a wrinkle in the genre. This is the first MMO I’ve played in years to successfully re-think combat.

The post Build Your Own MMO Dungeon In Neverwinter appeared first on MakeUseOf.

April 03 2013

20:01

How To Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions

live stream gamesAs we enter our month of gaming giveaways, it seems only appropriate that we look at the delicate art of live streaming PC and console games. Although it’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to watch strangers playing games, I have to be completely honest and say I found BanadanRob‘s SimCity sessions quite compelling (at least until I bought the game myself).

Note, we’re talking about live streaming here – if you just want to record, checkout WeGame or FRAPS.

The first thing you’ll need to live stream games is an account over at Twitch.tv. I trust you can navigate over to the sign up button. Streaming also requires masses of upload bandwidth, and at least 1.5Mbs (up, not down) for HD. Check your speed over at Speedtest before deciding what to go with.

FFSplit (Free)

If you want to jump right in streaming some PC gaming, FFSplit is the easiest and cheapest way to go. With webcam overlays, audio narration and scene selections, it really offers all the basics for a good livestream, and performance is fantastic too.

To get started with FFSplit, open up the app and head over to the capture tab.

  • Set FFSource as the video source – this will open up a composer window which is where we can composite layers.
  • Select the windows default devices for audio input and output – this will allow you narrate your content.
  • In the FFSource window, you can create create scenes in the section that says “canvas” – each canvas is a different scene you can switch to during broadcast. I found this wasn’t actually possible while playing SimCity, as the game captures the mouse and doesn’t let you move outside the game area, even to a different monitor.
  • In the Layers section, you can add and re-order overlays, such as a web cam. Click Add New and select video capture device, and then your webcam.
  • Add a layer for your game. In my case, it was easiest to define a screen region at the resolution the game was set to, starting in the top left hand corner of my main screen. It’s a little fiddly, but if you set it to capture the whole desktop now, and the game runs at a lower resolution, it will appear as a small box in the corner. You don’t want that.
  • You can select the output – streaming, and saved to hard drive – at the bottom of the capture tab. Both can be done simultaneously.
  • For streaming, you’ll need to get the stream key from your twitch.tv/broadcast page.
  • Or just save to hard drive.

I was unable to capture console output from my Roxio device, but you may have better luck with a different hardware. Here’s a sample output of SimCity:

XSplit (~$5/month Personal Licence)

If you’re serious about your live streaming and would prefer a more professional solution, nothing beats XSplit, though it does come at a price.

As well as a reliable set of basic features you’d expect (it works with the Roxio GameCap device too), it also features advanced broadcasting functions – with a professional license, you can even record Skype video calls. Each scene can be individually configured to a different selection of video sources and cameras, or even a static advertisement, introduction logo or similar.

Here’s a test capture to demonstrate just a little of what it’s capable of. Even though there was a lag on the Roxio HDMI capture device, it handled the job admirably.

Here’s a capture of XSplit just using the video input from a Roxio GameCapture HD Pro. Don’t laugh at my n00b skills.

Roxio GameCapture HD Pro (Hardware; $120)

Roxio GameCapture HD Pro is a hardware device which sits between your HDMI source and your display – you can use it to record PC gaming too as long as you have a spare computer to act as the recorder – but it’s mainly designed for consoles. Can’t afford one? Never fear – we’ll be giving five – yes, five – of these fantastic Roxio game capture devices away soon, so keep an eye on the homepage for your chance to win.

The software supplied with the device is fine for basic recording and has a competent video editor for splicing and effects, but there’s no way to add a webcam overlay. Curiously, you can add audio commentary to a livestream, but not when recording to hard drive. Here’s a basic test capture for your “amusement”.

For streaming console games, unfortunately you do need to splash out on some hardware like the Roxio – but anyone can get started streaming PC games with just a Twitch account and FFSplit. Personally, I prefer XSplit, but the monthly subscription stings a little.

Do you think you’ll have a go and live stream games? Can you possibly contain your excitement for all the gaming goodies we’ll literally be throwing at you this month? Remember, registered users can enter all of our giveaways on the MakeUseOf Rewards page, and be sure to share each time you enter for up to three additional entries!

The post How To Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions appeared first on MakeUseOf.

April 02 2013

18:01

The Worst Reboots In Gaming’s Storied History [MUO Gaming]

Last week we discussed how glorious it can be when a game developer takes its time and reboots a franchise properly. Games like DMC and Tomb Raider were given a proper reboot, and the new versions are arguably better than the originals. When it goes down like this, it’s great. Gamers get to enjoy a beloved franchise brought to modern standards, and developers and publishers get to make some profit from an idea that already existed.

Of course, reboots are not always good. In fact, it seems like most reboots are actually much worse than the original. All too often, reboots feel like cheap cash grabs by the creators. Instead of genuinely trying to inject new life into a franchise, it often seems like the companies are just trying to milk every last dollar they can from it. The reboot gets a huge marketing push, and builds the hopes of gamers, only to pull the rug out from under then on release day when the game is an utter pile of trash.

These are the games we are going to look at today; the worst of the worst in terms of video game franchises being brought back to life.

Shadowrun

Here’s a great idea: take a pen and paper RPG and turn it into a classic video game RPG. Here’s a terrible idea: take that very same pen and paper RPG and turn it into a generic first person shooter. It makes no sense, but it’s the reality poor Shadowrun was faced with. I will readily admit that I’ve never played the pen and paper variant of Shadowrun, but the classic role-playing game for Genesis and SNES was fantastic.

When I heard Shadowrun was coming back for modern consoles, I was thrilled. When I heard it was coming back as a FPS, I was appalled. As expected, the game came out to little fanfare, and while it was not the worst shooter ever made, it certainly did not live up to the gameplay of the original. It’s existence just doesn’t make sense, and thankfully gamers have moved on, with the servers for the game being shut down shortly after release.

Bomberman: Act Zero

Remember the cute characters from every other Bomberman game? Well throw those out and replace them with some sort of Master Chief wannabe, and you have Bomberman: Act Zero. Clearly, Hudson was trying to capitalize on the space marine popularity while making Bomberman an edgier character with this game, and boy oh boy did it fail miserably.

Everything about this game is bad. The story, the powerups, the camera, and the gameplay are just so drab it’s not even worth a second look. A quick scan around the Internet will show this game in all kinds of “worst” lists, and I would be insane not to include it here. Seriously, if you’ve never played Bomberman: Act Zero, count yourself among the lucky and never look back.

Duke Nukem Forever

What can I say about Duke Nukem Forever that has not already been said? The game had the longest and most laughable development cycle ever, and most gamers just assumed it would never actually see the light of day. Unfortunately, it did, and as expected, it is terrible.

Unlike Bomberman, there is some entertainment to be had with the Duke. Playing this game is akin to watching a bad horror movie. Sure, the writing is terrible, but it makes that turn where it’s so bad it actually becomes funny. You’d think working on a game for what felt like forever would be the recipe for something awesome, but you’d be sorely mistaken in the case of Duke Nukem Forever.

Space Raiders (a.k.a. Space Invaders: Invasion Day In Europe)

Space Invaders is, without question, one of the most important franchises in the history of video games. The arcade release defined gaming for a generation, and it’s a game that has received some awesome remakes, especially on iOS devices. So who in the right mind through that what Space Invaders needed was some generic and downright terrible 3D looking remake?

There is nothing positive I can say about Space Raiders. The game is boring, the visuals are dull, the music is garbage and it doesn’t look or feel anything like Space Invaders. Instead, it’s some kind of weird shooter that takes place in generic looking alleys in the ghetto. It’s just bad, and if you value your time at all, you will never even consider putting this game in your GameCube. Unless you’re a masochist, in which case, prepare for the time of your life.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, video game reboots can go both ways. Sometimes, a developer is able to take the best parts of a game and improve them. In other cases, like the ones above, the developers seem to have lost touch with reality. These games would be bad even if they were not reboots of classic franchises but attaching the name of a great game to them and souring a legacy makes them feel even worse.

What do you think are the worst video game reboots? Hit the comments section below and let us know!

The post The Worst Reboots In Gaming’s Storied History [MUO Gaming] appeared first on MakeUseOf.

March 26 2013

18:01

The Best Video Game Reboots In Recent Video History [MUO Gaming]

video game rebootsOften, video game franchises will attempt a reboot. Essentially, this means they take an established franchise and move it in a new direction. Whether it be a major shakeup to the main character, a dramatic shift in setting, or a complete rethinking of the way the game actually plays, video game reboots can often inject new life into a beloved franchise. After all, a game franchise can only hang around in the same form for so long before gamers are going to move on to something else (Call of Duty is a glaring exception here, as that more or less stays the same and continues to sell insane amounts of copies).

Today we are going to take a look at some of the best examples of a popular video game franchise getting a reboot. These franchises were on an obvious decline, and rather than simply letting them sail off into the sunset, the creators hunkered down, and completely revitalized them with some new and interesting takes on what was clearly becoming a tired formula. Stay tuned next week, when we will discuss some video game reboots that did not exactly go off as planned.

Tomb Raider

Let’s get the latest and greatest reboot out-of-the-way first in the form of Tomb Raider. The new Tomb Raider changes up much about the game, including the beloved Lara Croft herself. Instead of the overpowered badass, Lara in the new Tomb Raider is reluctant, and downright uncomfortable with her situation. She adjusts, and her character starts to come around to be the Lara we all know and love, but the change creates a much more dynamic game in which the character actually evolves, which is something the older entries in the franchise lacked.

video game reboots

The gameplay is also changed in the new Tomb Raider. Less of the game is focused on exploring enclosed tombs, and much more of it is about exploring the vast and beautiful island. It’s a change many hardcore fans of the old Tomb Raider games may not like, but it was necessary to inject some life into the series many gamers had all but forgotten.

DMC: Devil May Cry

Devil May Cry is one of the coolest action games ever made (behind God of War, which is, in my opinion, the best third-person character action game ever). Dante is easily one of the coolest characters to grace a video game, and I will readily admit, I was reluctant to accept the major changes to him in DMC. Boy was I wrong. Not only does DMC find a way to make Dante cooler than he already was, but it actually improves the gameplay a great deal.

best video game reboots

DMC is not the biggest reboot, as it maintains the core gameplay we all expect from a Devil May Cry game. However, it fundamentally changes enough to bring new life to the series, and that is what a good reboot is all about. For all the people who gave up on Devil May Cry after the first one, now is the perfect time to come back and give the series another run.

Fallout 3

When Bethesda announced it was working on a new Fallout game, gamers were both excited and angry. Those of us with no previous attachment to the Fallout games of yore immediately thought, “Elder Scrolls with guns; that’s awesome!” Fans of the old series were less pleased with the news, but I think we can all agree, Fallout 3 did right by the franchise for old fans and new ones alike.

best video game reboots

Like most Bethesda games, Fallout 3 was not without some technical hiccups, but it just doesn’t matter because everything else about the game is just awesome. The company managed to take a series that a whole generation of gamers had never heard of, and put it back in the limelight for all to enjoy.

Metroid Prime

Metroid games in the old days were side scrolling games, and they were awesome. When Nintendo announced it was bringing a Metroid game to market in the form of a first person shooter, gamers were cautiously optimistic. Would our beloved Samus fit into a first person shooter? Yes, she most certainly did.

video game reboots

Metroid Prime takes much of the core gameplay of the series and flips it to a different perspective. It maintains part of what gamers love about the franchise, but it changes enough to welcome in a whole new generation of gamers. Seriously, if you have not played any of the three Metroid Prime games, you are missing out.

Conclusion

So there you have it, some of the best reboots in the history of video games. Who says a franchise has to die off just because gamers are tired of the formula. A little creativity and some big changes can take a tired series and give it a whole new life.

Of course, there is a darker side to all this. Some video game reboots don’t go smoothly, and we will get to that next week when we talk about the worst reboots in video games.

The post The Best Video Game Reboots In Recent Video History [MUO Gaming] appeared first on MakeUseOf.

16:31

How Role Playing Games Can Teach You To Improve Your Finances

play games financial literacyGames are often viewed as entertainment, yet the lessons learned in them can be useful in real-life situations. Learning to balance present needs against future plans in a strategy game can also help players decide the right course of action in the real world, and the twitch skills learned by gamers can help them quickly react to objects they see.

Role-playing games, a genre where players embark on quests to defeat great evil in often fantastic worlds, may seem to have the least real-world benefit. Not so – these games usually require proper management of limited money and resources. Habits that work well in these games can be a boon to your wallet.

Don’t Hoard – Sell!

play games financial literacy

Gamers with virtual riches rarely obtain their status because of their ability to hold on to things. Items tend to become obsolete quickly in RPGs and, once an item is no longer useful, it should be discarded.

This is because selling old items generates income, but that’s only part of why discarding only stuff is a good idea. Inventory is the other half of the argument. Old items, if allowed to pile up, can make separating valuable items from junk more difficult. Eventually the player may even run out of space, at which point the player has to either stop picking up new, useful items or junk old stuff, missing out on value that might have be obtained from selling it.

Learning when to let go in-game may be a bother, but it’s one of the rules that separates people who end their games rich from those constantly struggling to find cash. You can practice the same tactics in real life by selling old, unused items on Craigslist or donating them to a charity.

A Little Bit Every Day Adds Up

Finding value in work can be hard. Working a couple of extra hours of overtime at a $15/hour job is only $30 extra. Finishing a project that can be sold for $100 isn’t even enough to buy a new game console. Mustering the willpower to finish work, or strive for more, can be difficult when the short-term benefits aren’t obvious.

Online RPGs can help you see why these efforts are worthwhile. Most have quests known as “dailies” that can be completed every day for some small monetary reward. It’s not much – usually far less that needed to buy a new weapon – but after a few weeks, it adds up. Doing a pair of daily dungeons every weekday for two weeks in World Of Warcraft, for example, generates enough income to buy a great piece of high-end armor.

Games also mimic real-life by introducing other benefits besides currency. Doing a daily might make your character more skilled at a craft, increase your reputation with a certain group or improve your standing in your guild. None of these bonuses appear noteworthy at first but, over time, they add up to a character who has cash, useful skills and a reputation with others.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

This old cliche is generally considered true, but it’s hard to understand in the real world where “working smarter” might be embarking on a new career path that takes a decade to come to fruition.

Games offer a briefer lesson. In most role-playing games it is possible to advance by finding a place where you can kill a lot of enemies or harvest a lot of resources and then sell whatever you loot, but that’s rarely the best solution. Making the most with the least effort requires a bit more thought and research.

For example, as a new high-level player in an MMO you might run straight towards harvesting all the high-level crafting resources that you can find. Higher level stuff sells for more, right? Well, maybe not. Sometimes low-level items sell for more because leveling characters rarely farm items, so there’s only a handful of people selling them. Or an item might only be available in a low-level dungeon most people don’t want to re-play.

And if you really want to make money – outrageous amounts of money – you’ll need to find and predict trends in a game’s market. This requires a lot of thought but, when done right, it can make your a virtual millionaire (literally!).

Cornering virtual markets in a role-playing game can take weeks, but that’s nothing compared to the time you’d spend doing the same in the real world. And you don’t have to jeopardize your life savings!

Compound Characters

play games financial literacy

Role-playing games hold character advancement as a core gameplay concept. As characters become more powerful and more skilled their stats, weapons and resources all go up. In some cases a character may be twice as powerful as another just a few levels below.

This rule is applicable to many real-world challenges including finances. As anyone who has over-drafted a bank account knows, having no money can be expensive. Charges can pile up and lead to a never-ending spiral of fees. On the other hand, having a lot often leads to even greater riches. A person or company with a lot of money can risk a new business others simply couldn’t afford.

The core lesson is it pays to worry about how you gain money rather than how you spend it. Some people in the real world will spend hours clipping coupons that add up to savings. That seems like a great deal – until you consider opportunity costs of lost work, relaxation time, storage space and etc. These individuals even buy items they won’t even use.

Imagine the same behavior in an RPG. If a player decided to skip the items that are best for their character because they were too expensive, and instead picked the cheapest, they’ll spend less. But they’ll also be less effective and may have trouble advancing. Spending money on the right tools is what every strategy guide recommends because it allows for far quicker advancement and more, better rewards.

This is not to say you should buy everything, or anything, you can imagine. Try that and you’ll go broke both in an RPG and real life. But you should spend money on items that help you advance and perform at your peak.

Conclusion

All of these tips boil down to optimization. In RPGs this is known as “min/maxing” – gaining the most benefit from as little effort as possible. Online forums and websites into great detail comparing stats, costs and abilities to find how characters can perform at their peak.

Those who don’t game often view the efforts of these individuals as a waste of time. When taken to their extreme, they can be. But RPGs also provide a low-cost sandbox where players can try financial strategies that have real value in the real world. And, because they require relatively little effort and money to enjoy, the cost of failure in an RPG is almost zero. You can always roll a new character and try again.

Image Credit: John Louis 

The post How Role Playing Games Can Teach You To Improve Your Finances appeared first on MakeUseOf.

September 05 2012

19:00

Armed! Futuristic Real Time Strategy for Windows Phone 7

real time strategyGaming for Windows Phone is an interesting experience. While there are a whole host of great independent titles that don’t have Xbox Live integration, those that do are the ones that tend to be the most popular – for obvious reasons. After all, the ability to top up your Gamerscore while sitting on a train or plane is pretty compelling!

One game that remains fascinating despite the lack of Xbox Live integration, however, is Armed!, a sci-fi themed RTS with three modes of play and an armada of futuristic weaponry.

Armed! is one of the most popular games for Windows Phone, but the question is: why? How can a game that doesn’t offer the sought after Xbox Live features be so popular?

Armed! Real Time Strategy Fun

RTS games are typically turn-based, and Armed is no different. You start with a small budget and some low-grade weapons, and the aim of the game is to build, expand and conquer the enemy who is typically pitted with you at the other side of the map.

real time strategy

With a massive 50 upgrades and attacks that can be used as tactical advantages and 12 unit types to command, the real fun with Armed! is that it offers online game play against other opponents situated around the world as well as a correspondence/delayed multiplayer experience and the standard single-player-vs-AI experience.

Could it be that the success of this RTS is down to the slow pace of Xbox Live multiplayer development on Windows Phone?

Getting into Battle Quickly

Whether you’re an experienced RTS gamer or Armed! is new to you, don’t worry, there are options for everyone. When the game is first launched, you’ll see the Quick Start option, while Single Player games and Multiplayer games can be set up by sliding left. The System menu provides full control over the volume, speed and whether notifications are displayed (you’ll need these for correspondence multiplayer games).

real time strategy windows mobile

In the Quick Start section two options, New Match and Tutorial, can be chosen, offering the opportunity to either go leaping into combat straight away or following the tutorial to get a hang of things.

Once in the game, the pinch gesture allows you to zoom in and out while a single finger can be used to navigate the in-game world. Static hardware (power stations, turrets, factories) can be selected with a single tap, while mobile hardware is only available after building a factory.

The aim of capturing the enemy base can be achieved, but the restrictions of the maps – for instance, a river running through the middle, separating each faction by just a couple of bridges – means that you need to think strategically. Understanding the landscape and the need for survival – as well as that you and the enemy are evenly matched – is the key, much like playing a game of chess.

Is Armed! Really that Good?

While developers hurried to add titles to the Windows Phone Marketplace (making it the fastest platform to reach 10,000 apps early in 2011), Windows Phone 7 isn’t really seen as a gaming device, despite the presence of the best Xbox Live integration you’ll find outside of an Xbox 360 device.

real time strategy windows mobile

Fortunately more and more games are hitting the platform, but typically for what is considered a narrow genre, few of these are real time strategy games. The only thing that comes close is the Xbox Live-enabled Fusion: Sentient, which is a very good alternative that links up with the parent title Fusion: Genesis enabling you to swap Sentients between the games.

Despite the lack of Xbox Live integration, Armed! is easily one of the best games available on Windows Phone.

Are You Fully Armed!?

real time strategy

Developed by Sickhead Games and available for $2.99 or £2.29 in the UK, Armed! should feature on every list of the top Windows Phone games. A version is being prepared for the Windows 8 platform, which will be the first step to multi-platform multiplay.

You can find out more at www.armedgame.com, while the title is listed in the Windows Phone Marketplace, available through your phone and through the web.


August 31 2012

22:30

Civilization Revolution For Windows Phone: Conquer The World

I have a confession to make.

Since the age of 15 I have been a Civilization junkie, running the popular turn based “explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate” game on a succession of platforms (Amiga, Mac OS, Windows) just to get my fix of megalomania. Not only that, I also developed an admiration of the man behind the game, Sid Meier, something that lead to groupy-esque buying of all of his other games.

Thanks to the release of successive versions that take advantage of improvements in computing technology, Civilization has been a part of my life for years, so to finally get the chance to play it wherever I happened to be was something I was hardly going to pass up. As a result, I’ve had the mobile version of the game, Civilization Revolution, on my Windows Phone since April 4th, 2012 – the day of release.

Clearly, I’m still excited by this, several months later. Am I really the best person to be giving a balanced review of this particular title?

Well, yes I am. Because if this particular version of the history-spanning quest for world domination wasn’t any good, I’d tell you and keep this review down to three words.

Civilization Revolution for Windows Phone is one of the best versions of the game to be released – and I’m going to tell you why.

What In History is Civilization Revolution?

As an explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate (4X) strategy game, the aim of Civilization Revolution is to ensure that your chosen nation rises above all others to become the most powerful force on the planet.

Like the original Windows game, this mobile version offers a variety of tools with which to achieve this, from settlers and soldiers, the ability to build cities and populate them with people and buildings and to develop technologies. Crucially, there is a good choice of civilizations to play as including the French, Indians, Russians and more. As the game progresses, the aim is to expand your civilization, utilize resources and generally ensure that your people are the most prosperous and successful of all, reaching one of the four victory conditions: domination, cultural, technological or economic.

So basically, this game – as found on Windows Phone 7 – is a console-esque adaptation of the original, with a slightly streamlined approach to some of the game concepts and the UI. It’s fun, fascinating and frankly you can learn a lot from it, not least how to manage a nation to dominate the world.

It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the Xbox Live games for Windows Phone. This basically means that progress in the game will be reflected in your Gamerscore and achievements on your games console!

Building Your First City

The basics of Civilization Revolution are the same as the parent game – you need to build cities, consume resources and conquer the opposition in order to succeed. Building your first city is key to the game, as this will form your capital.

New cities are created by Settler units, and after you instruct the unit to build the city – in a suitable location near resources, a river and/or the sea – your next task is to defend the city. This is done with military units, typically a Warrior in the early stages.

Once your city is defended by a fortified military unit, it’s time to focus on a suitable building. Depending on the technology your chosen civilization starts with, this will either be a Temple, City Walls, Barracks or a Granary. Building depends on the number of resources within the city limits, which is why you should be using Explorer units to find out more about your surroundings and new Settler units to build more cities as soon as your first city is established. Successful and constant expansion means economic success and the chance to learn new technologies – everything in Civilization Revolution is important; everything is inter-linked.

Combat in Civilization Revolution involves a cutaway to an illustrated engagement between your units and the enemy. Success depends on landscape, unit strength and any bonuses they have received so far in previous rounds of combat.

Comparing Civilization Revolution

Sadly, there is very little on Windows Phone that is anything like Civilization Revolution. Probably the closest thing you will find is the non-Xbox Live Galactic Dominion, available from the Windows Phone Marketplace for 99c (79p in the UK).

If this doesn’t quite fit your opinion of what Civilization Revolution represents, don’t worry – there is another game by the great Sid Meier. Sid Meier’s Pirates! is an updated version of the classic 16 bit game, where you take the role of a pirate captain. You’ll find this available for $2.99 (£2.29 in the UK) on the Windows Phone Marketplace either in your browser or on your phone.

Victory Can Be Yours!

Civilization Revolution is a crucial addition to the Civilization family. It is remarkably easy to play (much more so than the PC version) yet tough to win, making it ideal fare for a mobile game and an Xbox Live title.

There are plenty of other fun games available on Windows Phone with and without Xbox Live integration, and this is one title you should definitely have in your library!


16:30

The 5 Best Places To Watch Competitive Gaming Online

Competitive gaming seems to be hitting its stride. The release of games like Starcraft II, League of Legends and the new Counter Strike, all of which were designed with a focus on competitive play, has re-invigorated the community. There are a number of strong tournaments focusing on these and other games.

Finding out where to watch professionals compete can still be a problem, however. For all their effort, a lot of the sites dedicated to pro gaming are tragically confusing, poorly updated or simply abandoned. Discovering decent sources can take a little time with Google if you’re not familiar, so I’ve done the legwork for you.

Major League Gaming


American based league MLG was founded in 2002, which makes it one of the older gaming leagues in existence today. The organization focuses on Starcraft 2 and League of Legends for the PC but also provides limited coverage of fighters like Mortal Kombat.

The MLG site includes a video section with a good selection of videos from recent tournaments. It’s not the latest match-ups, but there’s plenty of selection. If you want to watch the games live you can purchase a session pass or sign up for a membership that provides access to multiple game streams. Strangely, you can only buy certain bundles at your local Gamestop or Toys-R-Us.

GOMTV.net

This site focuses on Starcraft 2 competitive play from the Korean prospective. It’s goal was to bring Korean play to the world via the Global Starcraft 2 League, or GSL, which is now among the most popular and respected leagues in that game’s community. Korea had long been the hub of Starcraft competitive play, but the tournaments held there were rarely brought to viewers outside the country.

GOMTV.net is one of the easier competitive gaming sites to navigate. It provides excellent coverage and does a great job of explaining its schedule and highlighting the players. A good deal of content is available for free both on the GOMTV.net site and on the YouTube channel. Those wanting the full, as-it-happens experience can buy a season pass starting at $14.99.

Twitch.TV

Twitch.TV is an excellent live-stream site that covers a variety of games. You’ll find not just Starcraft II and League of Legends but also new games like Guild Wars 2 and DOTA2.

Competitive gaming is not the exclusive focus of this site, so you’ll find a number of streams on the site which are simply play-through, commentary or entertainment. However, there are plenty of channels that cover competitive games. There are also many channels operated by pro gamers themselves, giving fanatics a chance to follow their latest moves or learn some insider secrets.

Of all the sites on this list, this is my personal favorite. It has a great game selection, plenty of active streams and coverage of games that aren’t even released, which is impressive. You can watch standard definition content for free. High-definition is free on some streams, while others ask you to pay a small fee.

Husky Starcraft

While subscribing to GOMTV or a Twitch.TV channel can help you keep up-to-date on the latest in pro gaming, being first isn’t everything. Not every match is exciting. In fact, some can be downright boring.

This is why I usually end up turning to Husky, a well-known Starcraft 2 commentator, when I want to watch a match during my lunch break or just to kill some time. His YouTube channel highlights some of the best recent matchups. You’ll watch game after game of nail-biting upsets, close calls and old-fashioned slugfests between veteran players.

And, since this is a YouTube channel, you can watch whenever you want for free. You can also watch in 1080p, which some sites don’t offer even if you pay.

Protato Monster

This site fills the role of quick, easily accessible gameplay videos for the League of Legends community. A new Top 5 Plays video is published on a weekly basis and is spiced up with various Lucky Play and Players Choice videos, among others.

Most of the videos are only five minutes long, which doesn’t sound like much. League of Legends replays can drag on a bit in my opinion, however, so it’s not at all a bad idea to focus on the highlights. Protato Monster does a good job of commenting with a frantic but clear voice.

All of the videos are posted through YouTube, which means they can be accessed for free. Most of the videos can be viewed at 1080p.

Conclusion

There are many other places to watch competitive gaming, but some did not make the cut because I find them to be entirely baffling. ESL TV is a good example of such a site. Uh, why won’t this video work? Why is that one working? Such confusion is all too common on this site and others.

Do you know of a great place to watch competitive gaming that isn’t listed here? Let me know in the comments. I’d be particularly interested in hearing about sites that cover first-person shooters.


00:30

4 Digital Distribution Gaming Clients You Might Like More Than Steam [MUO Gaming]

With the recent release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, you could argue that Valve’s Steam is as popular as ever. The refreshed FPS adds new depth to to Valve as a brand and certainly empowers Steam as the world’s leading desktop gaming client.

Although we’ve been taught to worship anything Steam’s Gabe Newell pushes out at us, it’s very important to remember that you have other options to explore. I won’t argue that anything beats Steam’s annual sale during the summer, but make sure you keep your eyes open. Although Steam’s community is unrivaled, there are a lot of other desktop and laptop clients that will allow you to buy, download, and manage your digital copies of games.

Today, let’s look at four other popular Steam alternatives, some of which you’ve probably heard of.

Desura

Desura is a client for the Windows and Linux platforms, though a Mac version is set for an eventual release.

Whereas Steam caries the huge, blockbuster titles, Desura aims towards creating a bridge between player, developer, and mods. The games you’ll find on Desura aren’t incredibly popular, but it’s great to see developers like Frozenbyte and S2 Games reaching an audience.

Desura’s stance on DRM is much different to others in the same field. Desura encourages developers not to use DRM, but publishers and developers are able to sell titles that use DRM technologies. Desura does a great job of notifying users if a game or publisher ships with DRM.

Desura is very community-driven and of all of the Steam alternatives, I’d liken their community to one that is as friendly and “together” as Steam’s.

Desura carries games like First Strike, Crysis, Battlefield 3, Mount & Blade, Quake 4, and more. Desura also carries free games.

Origin

Although EA has received lots of recent static due to a number of issues (namely their relationship with DRM and using customer data), you can’t argue that Origin is a powerhouse gaming store and distribution client.

While Desura seems marketed towards another demographic, Origin is a direct competitor to Steam. Even considered to be a beta product, features like profile management, friends and chat, and direct game joining put it on a pedestal to be taken seriously. With more than 10 million users already, it’d be tough not to see it in that light.

Origin caries a ton of major titles: Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, Darksiders II, the SimCity series, Crysis 3, Dead Space 3, and more.

GameStop App

Developed by Stardock and originally called Impulse, GameStop App is now under the GameStop brand and the acquisition has really supercharged the online store.

Activision, Popcap, THQ, Ubisoft, and Epic Games are some of the publishers and developers you can find featured in the GameStop App store.

A cool and unique feature of GameStop App is their backup management. Users can revert to an older version of a software or game if the latest version doesn’t meet their standards or work for them. A lot of digital distribution clients don’t take this measure, and it should be appreciated.

The GameStop App client features Discovery, a beta feature that mashes together the latest gaming news, videos, and more from the GameStop network, Kongregate, Game Informer, and other sites. It’s a cool little way to keep up with the world of PC gaming.

Capsule

Capsule is Green Man Gaming’s desktop client for Windows. Though the store is not directly integrated in the client and exists on the GMG website itself, Capsule acts as a great way to manage and queue your game downloads.

The coolest thing about GMG is their trade-in feature:

Unlike any other digital retailer, our customers can trade-in their digitally downloaded games for credit in their account and this credit can then be used for new purchases. We have some very clever patent-protected technology that allows only us to do this.

You can find games like World of Goo, Deponia, Tower Wars, Dark Souls, and more on GMG, all downloadable through the Capsule client.

Which of these four poses the biggest threat to Steam? Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!


August 30 2012

17:00

8 Reasons Why I’m Buying GTA V On Release Day [MUO Gaming]

gta vGrand Theft Auto V is definitely on its way. This is a fact we know for sure, but everything else about the game is draped in a cloth of mystery. We don’t know when it’s being released, the main protagonist, the setting, the storyline, or anything else of substance. Many people have had educated guesses, but we’re still mostly in the dark.

However, I already know I’ll be buying GTA V on its release day. I know this based on past Grand Theft Auto games, past Rockstar games, and the small snippets of information and selected screenshots that are making their way slowly but surely out of the developer’s hidden lair. What follows are 8 reasons GTA V will be a day one purchase for me, and possibly for you too.

Open-World Oeuvre

gta v

To date, my two favorite games of this generation have been Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire. It’s no coincidence that these are both Rockstar titles and games which employ an open-world, sandbox style of gameplay. This is a genre that lets the player explore at their own pace, and only continue the main storyline when they decide they want to. And Rockstar is the master at creating open-world environments.

The size and scope of the worlds Rockstar creates is untouchable. But more than that, they build living, breathing environs featuring people going about their daily lives. It’s only when you jump in and affect that world that things start to go wrong. GTA V is sure to have an expansive open world that can be admired from afar. Being given the opportunity to dive into it at leisure is an added bonus.

Stunning Storyline

Rockstar could get away with providing virtually nothing in the way of a storyline for the GTA games. People would buy these titles regardless, just to mess around in the sandbox. But Rockstar doesn’t take advantage of gamers’ good natures, instead building a complex narrative with strong characters throughout, and twists and turns along the way.

GTA V won’t be any different. We’ll likely follow one main character as he or she delves into the seedy underbelly of whatever made-up city he or she finds themselves in. Over the course of countless missions we’ll grow to understand the character, and possibly even like them, even though they’re sick, sadistic killers who will happily run over someone’s grandma if it means progressing.

Glorious Graphics

gta v news

The Grand Theft Auto games have never been the best looking games in the world. Open-world games have so much packed into them that it’s difficult to maintain the same quality across every part of a particular title. But GTA V is looking pretty damn awesome, both in the screenshots that have been released (spread throughout this article) and in the trailer embedded at the bottom.

It helps that GTA V is being released right at the end of this generation of home consoles. Developers such as Rockstar know how to tease the best from the PS3 and Xbox 360, so the visuals will be right up there besides the Uncharted’s and Halo’s of this world.

Cameo Cramming

The voice acting in GTA games is generally excellent, with real actors brought in to voice the main characters. And then there are the cameos, some so small they can be considered blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quick. I suspect GTA V will be no exception. Video games have grown into mainstream monsters so large that even A-list actors want to get involved. I’m sure the money they have thrown at them helps, but it’s still nice to try and pick out the famous voices.

Multiplayer Mayhem

gta v news

This is one of the best reasons to buy this game – or any game for that matter – on day one. In this day and age the multiplayer portion of a game is often more popular than the offline (or campaign) portion, so getting in early is essential if you hope to make a name for yourself. GTA IV had a multitude of multiplayer modes, and I suspect GTA V will up the ante considerably.

As well as the basic deathmatch and capture the flag-type scenarios, many people are hoping Rockstar has seen fit to include a campaign co-op mode which will literally see you teaming up with an online buddy to play through the story. This would be a dream come true for those of us who love playing through missions but also like teaming up with a buddy online.

Soulful Soundtrack

The soundtracks to Grand Theft Auto games are always spectacularly good. If Quentin Tarantino is the master at matching music with movies, Rockstar is the master at matching music with games. If past games are anything to go on, GTA V will have a choice of radio stations, all featuring both current hits and songs from yesteryear, available to be chosen at your leisure.

LOLsome Laughter

gta v

The Grand Theft Auto games are some of the few that provide genuine laughs. Sure, killing some arrogant douchebag in an underhanded way in Call of Duty may put a smile on my face for a few seconds, but for proper, unbridled LOLs, GTA delivers in droves.

From the spoof settings and shop names, to fake adverts and plays on company logos, from funny one-liners, to stupid characters getting their comeuppance in the most gruesome manner, I suspect I’ll spend much of the GTA V campaign laughing at the on-screen action. Which is worth the price of admission on its own.

No End In Sight

Probably the best thing about all of the Grand Theft Auto games is their sheer size and scale. This means that even after you finish the campaign you can still carry on playing the game for days, weeks, months, or even years. The single-player mode oozes replayability, and then there are the various multiplayer modes.

Even if you never venture online you’ll have hours of fun just driving around getting up to, well, whatever you want to. As is the nature of open-world titles. Add in the trophies and achievements, a ton of collectibles placed randomly around the huge playing area, challenges issued by friends, and the likelihood of DLC, and you’ll be getting a lot of gaming out of GTA V.

Conclusions

I don’t care when Grand Theft Auto V arrives, just as long as when it does so it lives up to the hype that has already started to build. I’ll be buying a copy as soon as it’s released, which is rare for me these days. Rockstar has done a fantastic job teasing the game, with the trailer above being released a full nine months ago. Still, I’m not bitter, I just want to get my hands on GTA V as soon as it drops. And I suspect many of you reading this will feel the same way.

Image Credits: Official Rockstar GTA V Website


16:30

The 10 Best PC Platformers Under 10 Bucks

best pc platformersThe PC probably is not the average gamer’s first choice when it comes to platforming, but this is only because other genres overshadow the robust selection of platformers that are available for computers. In fact, some recent platform games started on PC or are best when played on the PC.

All you need to do is grab a controller (I recommend the Xbox 360 controller) and then stock up on games. There are many out there, and some of the best ever released are available at affordable prices. Let’s take a gander at the ten best under ten bucks.

Braid ($9.95)

Released in 2008, Braid was at the fore of the recent platformer resurgence. The game was also at the center of many games-as-art debates due to its awesome graphical style and clever storytelling.

Underneath its beautiful exterior is a fundamentally good platformer. Braid is not fast-paced game, but it controls well. The game also includes a liberal dose of puzzles, many of which rely on the use of a time-warping mechanics.

Other games have played with time, most notably the recent Prince Of Persia games, but Braid makes a good case for being the best among them because it introduces multiple unique ways to alter time. It’s a clever, difficult but also accessible title and a good choice anyone bored with more traditional action-oriented platformers.

Braid may be purchased from Gamers Gate or Impulse for under $10, which the version available from its official page is cross-platform and DRM-free but costs $20.

Capsized ($9.99)

Capsized follows the adventures of a dude who has crash-landed on a hostile alien world. He must make his escape with a wide variety of weapons, some of which have interesting special abilities. His alien opponents are also well armed, making the escape more difficult.

This is an excellent game for people who prefer shooty-platformers. It has a good weapon selection, excellent graphics, large somewhat open-ended levels and uses a health bar instead of insta-death. The aliens put up a good fight and require a combination of strategic thinking and quick reflexes to defeat.

Cave Story+ ($9.99)

Cave Story was released as a freeware game back in 2004. It has, since then, been released multiple times on different platforms including the PC. The new version, which makes some upgrades to the graphics and the music, is called Cave Story+.

This game really has it all. Excellent art style, awesome combat, cool level design, a decent story – you’ll find all of that here. It’s incredible that this was a one-man project which, to this day, can be downloaded for free.

I recommend going with Cave Story+, however. The HD graphics are well worth a few bucks. The original game looks bad when stretched across a modern 1080p monitor.

Cave Story+ is $9.99 from Steam.

Limbo ($9.99)

Originally released for the Xbox 360, Limbo made waves with its dark style and clever combination of platforming and puzzles. This game’s deliberate, sometimes plodding pace stands in contrast to the fast, manic action found in many other games in this genre.

Limbo doesn’t tell you much about its story, but the graphical style fosters a sense of foreboding and what you little you do see is incentive enough to play. Be warned – this is one of the least kid-friendly titles. There’s not much gore but deaths are brutal and pray on the player’s imagination.

Mirror’s Edge ($10)

Mirror’s Edge, developed by DICE of Battlefield fame, remains one of the most innovative platformers ever released. It takes place entirely through the first-person perspective and focuses on careful timing and the use of momentum. There’s also some first-person melee combat and a bit of shooter action.

This game is one of the easiest and most difficult on this list. Most puzzles aren’t difficult to solve, but executing the solution can be a pain. Some gamers report the first-person perspective is confusing or even causes motion sickness. These issues kept Mirror’s Edge from perfection, but it’s a unique take on the genre that every fan should play at least once.

N (free)

Released in 2005 as a free Flash game, N quickly became both popular and influential. It was one of the few good PC platformers released early in that decade and it was also one of the few Flash platformers with controls that weren’t terrible. The fast-paced gameplay seems to have inspired a number of other titles, including Super Meat Boy.

N is a simple game that’s all about collecting little dots while navigating obstacles and dodging a number of hostile forces such as turrets and robots. The early levels are easy but the difficulty curve is steep. It’s 100% free to this day and will run on virtually any PC, Mac or Linux system.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee ($5.99)

The Oddworld games are a franchise from the late 1990s that started on the PlayStation. Unlike many other platformers of that era, Oddworld relied on a 2D field of play and focused on puzzles. It also had no user interface, a trait common in early platformers that was starting to become less common during the late 90s.

Oddworld remains a unique game to this day. That’s partially because of its gritty, goopy yet friendly art style. But it’s also due to the gameplay, which is cram packed with puzzles that can only be solved by creative use of various special abilities. There are several games in the franchise, but I suggest starting with the first – Abe’s Oddysee.

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time ($9.99)

There have been several new games in the Prince of Persia series over the last decade. Sands Of Time is easily the best. The game relies on a combination of classic 3D platform challenges with a time reversal mechanic that is used to solve puzzles and access areas that would otherwise be impossible to reach.

Some combat can be in found in this game, as well, but it’s rarely the focus. Sands Of Time is mostly about making tricky jumps, avoiding obstacles and carefully balancing on precarious ledges. It’s a very technical game that’s sure to tickle the fancy of hardcore fans.

Trine ($9.99)

A lot of gamers were surprised by Trine when it was released in 2009. The fantasy setting tricked people into thinking it was some sort of side-scrolling RPG. It instead turned out to be an excellent puzzle-platformer.

The game focuses on its physics engine, which is often an integral part solving puzzles, and its characters. Players can play a knight, and thief and a wizard, each with unique abilities. Trine also includes the best co-op mode of any game on this list.

The sequel to the game is now available. It’s too expensive to make this list but worth your time if you enjoy Trine.

Bionic Command Rearmed ($9.99)

The original Bionic Command was a solid late-80s platform that many gamers played, enjoyed and then promptly forgot. To refresh our members, a remake was introduced in 2008. It surprised everyone by blowing away the original game and most other platformers on the market at the time.

BCR is a direct remake, which means that it uses most of the same levels as the original. They’ve been modernized and improved, however, to spice up gameplay and challenge modern gamers while keeping old-school game annoyances to a minimum. The game’s gimmick is the Bionic Arm, which can be used to swing around levels or grab opponents and power-ups. It works great because the game’s control are excellent.

Besides a nice campaign there’s also co-op and multi-player, plus a slew of challenge levels.

Conclusion

There are a lot of platformers for the PC, and even this list of 10 is sure to list some that people love. Off the top of my head I can think of titles like VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy (which, at $15, is a bit more than our budget). Other great platformers include Rayman: Origins, Trine 2 and many, many others.

What’s your favorite platformer for the PC? Is it one listed here, or a different title? Let us know in the comments.


August 29 2012

03:30

User-Generated Content Done Right With These 6 Games [MUO Gaming]

user generated contentOne of my favorite things to see in a video game is user-generated content. That is, as long as it makes sense within the context of the game, of course. Allowing users to create and manipulate the game world opens up an endless world of possibilities. Admittedly, some of the created content will not be as good as what the developers put in the game, but sometimes users blow me away with their attention to detail and quality of design and mechanics.

Some games have done a less than stellar job of implementing user-generated content, and it ends up feeling like a throw-in afterthought. However, when a game gets it right and truly knocks it out of the park, it can be something special to behold. It can take a game that you might play for a few hours and extend it to something you can enjoy for years to come. The games on this list are examples of user-generated content done right, and I hope many more games follow along with them.

LittleBigPlanet

user generated content

LittleBigPlanet is a simple platformer. You play as a little Sack Boy and jump around and do generic platforming things. If that was all the game consisted of, the game would have come out and been forgotten within months. People stood up and took notice because of the incredible creation tools implemented into the game. The tools were deep in their functionality, and simple in their execution. LittleBigPlanet is truly a testament to what a dedicated community of users can do when given the right tools.

ModNation Racers

user generated

ModNation Racers is quite similar to LittleBigPlanet, but with cart racing. Users can create their own carts, tracks and everything else with an incredibly intuitive interface that allows players to make complicated items with no technical skill required. Users simply need a little creativity, and the amazing tools do the rest.

Starcraft and Starcraft 2

user generated

Starcraft’s creation tools are more complicated than LittleBigPlanet or ModNation Racers, but the level of depth they offer is off the charts. Players have the ability to create almost anything their heart desires. Starcraft is obviously an RTS, but with the tools available, users were able to generate RPGs, tower defense games and more. Just remember you will not be booting up the Starcraft editor and creating anything good right away, you will have to learn the tools and put forth a little effort.

Minecraft

user generated

Minecraft is literally built around users generating content. What started as a small indie project exploded into a cultural phenomenon. It’s like the video game version of Legos. I will readily admit that Minecraft is not for me, and other than briefly checking it out, I have no interest in playing it. That being said, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge its greatness for user-generated content.

Spore

user generated games

Spore graced this list because of its amazing creature creator. Users could build any kind of creature their heart desired. The game’s creation tools were so well implemented that they actually released a stand-alone product before the launch of the game, just to let users play around with the amazing tools. They maintain a level of depth that gives users a ton of options, while keeping a level of simplicity that a child can understand. If you love creating stuff, you should take a look at Spore.

Garry’s Mod

user generated content

Garry’s Mod makes full use of the Source engine’s capabilities and gives users the tools to create, well, anything. If you can think it, you can probably build it in Garry’s Mod. It is not necessarily easy to use, but it’s not built to be. It’s designed for people who want to take creating to another level, and it does it amazingly well.

Conclusion

For all you creative types, these are the games for you. If you love having a blank canvas and seeing your ideas come to life, these video games will bring a smile to your face. These developers figured out how to implement user-generated content the right way, and I love them for it.

What games do you think got user-generated content right? Let us know in the comments.


August 28 2012

16:30

The 5 Best Inexpensive Co-op Games For The PC [MUO Gaming]

co-op games for pc

Games are more fun when you’re playing with a friend. That’s a fact that console games are known to use to their advantage. PC games, for some reason, are assumed to be largely solo experiences. Perhaps it’s because most people don’t play computer games from their couch. The thing is, it’s not true that PC games are largely meant to be played alone.

There is a plethora of co-op games available for the PC. They cover a wide variety of genres. You can play RPGs, shooters, strategy and more. Let’s have a look at some of the best recently released co-op games which can be purchased for $10 or less.

Dawn Of War 2

This Warhammer 40k strategy game includes a full co-op campaign that splits the normal loadout of four squads into two groups of two. There’s a lot of micro-management, so playing with a friend makes it easier to execute certain tactics.

You can also play the Last Stand mode, which pits you and up to two friends against an endless hoard of bad-guys. There’s several different characters to choose from, each with its own weapons and abilities.

Dawn Of War 2 has had two expansions. If you’re primary interested in co-op I suggest you just pick up Dawn Of War 2: Gold. This includes the Chaos Rising expansion that offers another co-op campaign and some additional Last Stand heroes.

Jamestown

If you’re into shoot-em ups, this quick but incredibly fun title is a great choice. It focuses on old-school vertical-scrolling action gameplay and pits up to four players against a huge numbers of enemies and fanatics bosses.

Jamestown is not a particularly long game when played at minimum difficulty, but its can become outlandishly hard when you ramp up the challenge. It’s also one of the few new games in this genre and, among them, the best.

Neverwinter Nights / Neverwinter Nights 2

Summing up the experience of Neverwinter Nights is difficult. That’s because there’s more to this game than the campaign it ships with, which is fine, but not outstanding. The real meat of this game comes from its player-base. This is a game that was meant to be modded, and the players have responded by creating thousands of “modules” which encompass different worlds and stories.

The fact that so much of this game comes from player-made content means you should not be opposed to shifting through mods in order to find the best ones. This can sometimes take time, and you may run across some not-so-great content, but that’s all part of the appeal for the game’s core audience.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory / Conviction

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is one of my personal favorites in the stealth genre. Chaos Theory added a co-op formula to the already successful formula, providing twice the thrills. You may think that stealth co-op wouldn’t work, but it surprisingly allows for more flexibility and new tactics. You can, for example, distract a guard while your buddy move behind to take him down.

Double Agent did not have a robust co-op mode, but a stand-alone co-op campaign was reintroduced to Conviction. Surprisingly, this relatively new title can be had for under $10 on the PC. The Conviction game is more action oriented and more violent than Chaos Theory but the basic tension and strategy still applies.

Trine

Trine is one of those games that proves indie titles aren’t always synonymous with low production values. This is a beautiful 3D puzzle-platformer which centers on the plight of three different characters, each with their own special abilities. These abilities have to be used creatively in order to navigate past daunting obstacles and solve puzzles, which often rely on physics and manipulating the game world.

The co-op features of Trine are bundled into a campaign. Unlike many co-op titles, Trine supports up to three players rather than two or four. And, unlike many other co-op PC games, all of these players can enjoy the game on the PC. You will need a controller for each player, however, so make sure you have some extra gamepads.

Conclusion

There are literally hundreds of co-op games available for the PC. The ones above are my personal favorites, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested, I highly recommend you check out Co-Optimus, a website dedicated entirely to co-op gameplay. They have a list of all the PC games ever released with co-op gameplay.


02:30

Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII Re-release: Worth It? [MUO Gaming]

final fantasy viiIt was just a little over two months ago that I tipped MUO readers on about Bootleg, an awesome way to mass mod your Final Fantasy VII PC installation and refresh the graphics, audio, and other elements of gameplay. Coincidentally enough, just days later Square Enix announced that they would be re-releasing the game on PC with a few new features. This puts me in a predicament! Do I continue playing my “remastered” version, or do I tough it out and wait for this official re-release to drop and play it with the rest of the world? I chose the latter, and the game was just released a little more than a week ago.

Final Fantasy VII is the most beloved game of the series, and arguably the best JRPG of all-time (if we all forget about some guy named Crono). This re-release (not remake) comes with a few interesting perks: cloud saves (clever), achievements, and a “character booster” that will essentially allow you to cheat and max your party’s statistics (which I hate, myself). The game is in the Square Enix store for $10 for the first month of its release, and is then set to jump to $12. Is it really worth it to pay $10 to play the same exact game once again? Let’s check it out.

The Website

Visually, the website that presents the game is really nice. I like the look and feel.

final fantasy vii

You can scroll down and check out the highlighted features of the re-release, check out some wallpapers, look at character profiles, and more. How does the website for the game factor at all into this equation though? We care about the game, not the site. Well, get ready.

By default, at least for me (a US citizen), I am taken to the UK version of the website. Clicking the Download Now button, to buy the game, takes me to a European version of the Square Enix store. Try to buy, and you won’t be allowed:
final fantasy release

So, rather than Square Enix stepping into 2012, they’ve decided to leave out any bit of geolocation on the FF7 website or their store. The first thing I recommend you do when checking out the website is look under the My Profile link on the right menu and select the appropriate country. The game is available in the UK, US, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.

final fantasy release

You wouldn’t believe how many people are convinced that they cannot buy the game because Square Enix complicated this step. It’s like they don’t want your money. Speaking of not wanting your money, there’s yet another blunder. I, and tons of other people, experienced the following when checking out at the Square Enix store:

We’re sorry. The payment method selected is not available for your location. Please select another payment method.

I tried three different credit cards that were all eligible. None worked. At this point, it’s definitely an issue on their end. After doing some searching, I found the solution: If you’re getting this error, it’s because you’re logged in while trying to checkout. Yes, you cannot be logged in while you checkout. You have to literally log out, add the product to your cart, go through the checkout process (which requires you make another account), and then you can checkout fine. Very stupid and questionable.

final fantasy release

By the time you’re all reading this, it may have been fixed. The good news is that your purchase won’t be credited only to this new account you just made. You’ll get a serial code and unlock code, and you can log back in to your real account, redeem your game, and activate it using that account. Just shutup and take our money, Square Enix. They have a long history of gaffs like this. Have you ever tried creating a PlayOnline account? It is the most tedious and strange registration process I’ve ever experienced.

The Game

If you’re one of those people who are using this opportunity as your first time to play the game, then as a huge fan of this title, I’m pleased to hear that.

Here’s the official re-launch trailer:

As someone who has put three digits worth of hours into this game over the last 15 years, I’m a little spooked by how that trailer has included a few spoilers. If those parts of the game haven’t already been spoiled for you though, you might not completely catch on. It’s cool.

Another thing that spooks me is that Square Enix is so bravely re-releasing a game that was made in 1997. Through about an hour of gameplay so far, I’ve noticed nothing different aside from a remixed soundtrack (which I do not prefer to the original) and some smoother character models. My opinion is biased, so I can’t say how well this game has aged. I wish it good luck when it reaches the God-of-War, Call-of-Duty crowd of today’s gamers.

There’s not much to say about this game that someone else has not already said. Here’s a great time to enjoy the original Japanese trailer:

Final Fantasy VII is truly one of the best games of all-time.

The Features

Cloud saves are pretty cool. The name is cool, too. It was originally rumored that the game would be released on Steam, which supports the cloud, but that never happened. It’s good to see that Square Enix managed to pull it together though. Enjoy playing from any location and recovering your saved games.

final fantasy re-release

I love the idea of online profiles, too. Your online profile will show your total playtime and list your achievements.

final fantasy re-release

You can check out my profile link for an example. It’s neat to be able to share with your friends as proof that you’ve experienced the game once again.

Speaking of the achievements, they are incredibly dull. Half of the 36 achievements are to simply use Limit Breaks. The rest include things like defeating the Weapons, getting Yuffie, starting a battle in the Battle Square, mastering all Materia, etc. Square Enix managed to do this completely wrong. They’re supposed to be fun and different, not things you can accomplish in a single playthrough of the game. It doesn’t offer any replay value, and that’s what achievements are supposed to do.

Lastly, the character booster. Square Enix, what is this?

final fantasy vii

In a single click, you can max out the HP and MP of all characters on one of your saved games, as well as get a quick 49,999,999 gil. Is this necessary? This removes all enjoyment and (the small bit of) challenge from the game. It doesn’t even put an asterisk by your achievements, either. I don’t get it.

The Verdict

I will buy anything with the FF7 name on it. If you’ve never played the game, I recommend you give it a shot. You’re not a fan of the RPG genre unless you’ve played through this game. If you’re someone who played this as a kid, beat it, and haven’t had daydreams of it since then, let it go. It’s $10 that you don’t need to spend.

You guys let me know what you think of the game in the comments. Back to playing now!


01:30

5 Of The Greatest Minecraft Mods Found Online

minecraft modsThe greatest thing about Minecraft is the fact that it is all about creation! I’ve always described it is as virtual Legos, and as we all know, that’s a pretty accurate description. Another interesting thing about Minecraft is the ability to play it in your own way. However, sometimes, the already established rules of the game are just not enough.

Fortunately, a few Minecraft enthusiasts have taken it upon themselves to add onto the almighty Notch’s creation. They have created a few interesting mods, so I decided to take a look at a few of those Minecraft mods. Hopefully, you’ll find something you like!

Weather & Tornadoes

minecraft mods

Minecraft is pretty realistic, right? Eh, well… if you can get past the arrow-firing skeletons, I guess. Or the blood-thirsty zombies. Then there’s the accelerated day/night timeline. Okay, perhaps I was wrong about Minecraft being realistic. However, the game does seem to have just as many laws and physics as the real world! But as we all know, there are just a few things missing.

One of these things is extreme weather, and with the Weathers & Tornadoes Minecraft mod, you get just that. The mod spawns water spouts, tornadoes, and even hurricanes. What makes this even more interesting is that these terrifying funnels actually tear up the terrain as they move about. Beyond this, there are a few different particles (such as leaves) that can fly about, and wind plays an important role in this mod.

MineColony

mods for minecraft

One of my favorite games as a kid was Anno 1602, and fortunately, MineColony is based on just that. The mod is designed to be a colony-building simulator, and it features different humans that you – the player – control. Furthermore, there are different classes of that these humans can take on. However, the player takes on more of an administrative role throughout the game.

In the true spirit of Anno 1602, the game focuses on a lot of economical and even political (kind of) situations. The player controls everything that goes on, and it brings a different point of view to Minecraft that hasn’t been toyed with before.

Trampolines

mods for minecraft

The trampolines mod is designed for those of you that really like to jump high. Yep, that’s about it… I really can’t think of anything else I can say about it. If you like jumping a lot, then this mod is for you. What the mod does is create an exclusive simple trampoline block that allows the player to be elevated to new heights when it lands on it.

The creators recommend that it be used for special purposes in, on, and around structures. For instance, you could make a type of elevator with it. Furthermore, you could do “parkour” around all the different buildings you create. But really, we all know why this mod was created: just because.

Portal Gun

mods for minecraft

I really, really like Portal, and to be honest, I’ve only ever played the demo! (I’m saving for a gaming PC – don’t judge me.) However, another thing I really, really like is when people create gaming mash-ups. In fact, we already had a Mario/Portal mash-up not too long ago However, someone got the bright idea to merge Portal with Minecraft, and to be honest, they ended up with some amazing results.

The Portal gun functions just as you expect it would, and it’s actually surprisingly useful in certain situations. Do you need to fall from a great height? Just use the Portal Gun to ease the fall. Do you need to reach a really high ledge? Yep, the Portal gun should do it. To me, I think it’s interesting that you can use this gun in a “natural” environment that is not designed for puzzles. It’s a nice experiment – Aperture-worthy, even.

Zombie Apocalypse

minecraft mods

With the advent of DayZ, it seems as though everyone is on a supercharged zombie kick lately (but everyone was a zombie kick before that, anyway). Fortunately, Minecraft is right in there with the zombie craze, and someone created a mod that spotlights one of our least favorite mobs.

The mod simply spawns an overwhelming copious amount of zombies in the game that have a greater sense of smell and a much more intense hatred of the player. Additionally, they are the only mob to spawn, and although the latest version has not been updated (just yet), the mod seems to be growing. As of now, the creator is considering making different types of zombie Minecraft mods. Personally, I would find that very interesting.

Conclusion

That’s all of the mods that we have for you today, folks. However, I’m aware these aren’t the only or the niftiest mods available online. What I’d to know from you is a little bit more mod info for my own Minecraft travels.

What are your favorite Minecraft mods? Do you like the ones shown here?


August 23 2012

20:00

Run Classic DOS Games On Your Wii With DOSbox

Run DOS software on your Wii, just because you can. DOSbox for Wii puts the complete DOS experience – command prompt and all – on your Wii.

We’ve shown you how to run old DOS games in Windows 7 with DOSbox. DOSbox isn’t just for Windows, though: it works on Linux, OS X and almost any platform you can imagine…including, believe it or not, the Wii. You’ll need to know your way around DOS to get your favorite games working, but if a DOS prompt doesn’t scare you it won’t be a problem.

You’re going to need to jailbreak your Wii using Letterbomb before you can install DOSbox Wii. Follow those instructions and come back here; I’ll wait.

Ready? Good. Find DOSbox Wii in the Wii Homebrew Browser and install, and let’s get started.

Using DOSbox Wii

First things first: you’re going to need a USB keyboard in order to use DOSbox Wii. That’s because DOSbox Wii, like every version of DOSbox, by default presents you with a DOS prompt:

There’s no way around it: to use DOSbox Wii you’re going to need to learn the basics of the DOS prompt. DOSbox offers a great tutorial on their wiki; read it to get your bearings. It shouldn’t be a problem if you’re a longtime DOS user, however.

Those instructions teach you how to mount a drive. DOSbox Wii automatically mounts the “/DOSbox” folder on your Homebrew drive (the SD card or USB drive you run homebrew from) as “C”. For the sake of simplicity I recommend you put software you want to use there.

When you launch a program, the WiiMote will act as your mouse; you can also use a USB mouse, if you prefer. The Gamecube and classic controller are both supported as well. Check the DOSbox Wii page on WiiBrew.org for more information

Playing Games

I tested this out with two games: SimCity2000 and Lemmings, because they’re DOS games I happen to have legal copies of. Both installed fine, though it took a while – I suggest doing the installation using Dropbox on your computer and copying the existing files to your Homebrew drive.

Sim City 2000 works very well on the Wii. I’m not sure the WiiMote makes the best replacement for the mouse in the world – precision is challenging from my couch – but everything worked great.

Man, playing this game again brings back memories. I hope that freaking metal alien with the giant eyeball doesn’t destroy my city; that thing sucks.

Lemmings worked well too, the occasional glitch with the mouse notwithstanding.

It was fun playing this game from my couch, which is basically the entire point of using this software. Wonder how well your favorite games will work? Check the DOSbox Wii Compatibility list.

You’ll need a keyboard to play any games that revolve around the keyboard, obviously. The analogue stick on the WiiNuncuck will work as a joystick but you may need to configure this in-game. Read the DOSbox Wii page on WiiBrew.org for more information.

Using Without The Keyboard

Using the DOS prompt with a keyboard on your Wii can feel a little…off. It’s hard to get around this – the prompt is how you load DOS programs – but not completely impossible, especially if there’s really only one game you want to launch.

Longtime DOS users are no doubt familiar with AUTOEXEC.BAT; a section of DOSbox’s configuration file (dosbox.conf) emulates it. Basically: any commands written here will automatically launch when DOSbox is opened. As such, to launch your favorite game automatically when DOSbox is opened, all you need to do is edit this file on your computer and add the commands to launch your game. Assuming your game works without a keyboard this is a great way to launch it directly and start playing immediately.

You’ll find dosbox.conf in the “DOSbox” folder on your Homebrew drive.

Random Tips and Ideas

  • There is a menu you can bring up by pressing your home button, but it’s basically a quick way to quit. No GUI launcher for software or settings.
  • It’s probably best to install your software in DOSbox on your computer, then copy the folder full of working software to your Homebrew drive – especially if you have a lot of software you wan to get working.
  • It’s possible to run Windows 3.1 in DOSbox and I’ve managed to do so on my computer. It wouldn’t start on the Wii for me, however. Let me know if you get it working in the comments below; plenty of people on YouTube have.
  • Ryan showed you how to turn an old computer into a Star Trek clock with LCARS24. You can do the same thing with your Wii, if you want. Enjoy.
  • Many classic point-and-click adventure DOS games are easier to set up using ScummVM for Wii because of it’s GUI interface. Check it out if you’re primarily interested in those.

Let me know which games you manage to get working on your Wii in the comments below! Feel free to ask questions, too, though be warned: I might not be able to answer everything.


16:31

6 Places To Buy DRM-Free Games [MUO Gaming]

drm free gamesSince I’ve decided not to buy games from Steam, I need to find other sources. Many of them are actually worse than Steam itself. Ubisoft’s store is baffling and full of annoying DRM. Electronic Art’s Origin service is more functional and less distracting, but worse than Steam overall. And Gamestop has done an excellent job of ruining the Impulse service since it bought it from Stardock.

What’s a gamer to do? There are many games that are simply not available from a DRM free source. If you’re willing to pick and choose, however, there are some alternatives.

GOG

drm free games

Formerly known as Good Old Games, this site re-branded itself as GOG and now sells a variety of DRM-free game titles both new and old. It offers a large catalog that includes some of the best titles ever released for PC, and while many are old, some newer games have come to the site. You can buy Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 2 and Alan Wake from the site – as well as notable indie games like Legend of Grimrock and Symphony.

Like most digital retailers, the pricing on GOG is reasonable. The majority of titles are available for $9.99 or less and only a few games are sold for more than $19.99. Games can be downloaded directly or via GOG’s download app.

Humble Bundle

drm-free game sites

The Humble Bundle is a recurring, limited-time sale of indie games. It gained popularity because it uses a name-your-price scheme. Users input how much they want to pay, which means it’s possible to obtain a chunk of good games for five bucks. People love a good deal.

But the Humble Indie Bundle is also notable because it offers the games free of DRM. It also provides games across multiple platforms, when possible, so you don’t have to buy multiple versions of the game to run it on different operating systems.

So far there have been five different bundles for PC, two bundles for Android and a number of other smaller bundles that focused on specific indie developers. I suggest signing up for their email alerts, which will tell you when a new bundle is launched.

Indie Royale

drm-free game sites

The Humble Bundle’s success has spawned an imitator, the Indie Royale. It works the same way. You to name your price (though there is a minimum) and you gain bonus content if you pay a greater amount.

As with the Humble Bundle, the games are generally DRM free and cross platform. There have been games sold in the bundle which require Steam to use, but this is not generally the case. Games that require Steam are listed as such in the bundle.

Desura

drm-free game sites

Desura is a recently released digital distribution service which lets gamers buy titles via their website or client. If you want to use the client, you can, and you gain some community features by doing so. But it’s not forced on you.

Desura is DRM agnostic, which means that the service itself does not have any particular restrictions or requirements. Developers could include DRM if they want, but most are embracing it as a DRM-free alternative to Steam.

You can also participate in alpha-funding, which is the service’s equivalent to Kickstarter. You pay for a game in development and receive an alpha version as well as future updates. This is awesome for gamers who like to play ambitious indie games before they’re old news.

Kickstarter

drm free games

If you don’t mind waiting awhile for the full release, or playing an alpha version immediately, Kickstarter is not a bad place to find DRM free games. There’s a wide variety of indie projects listed on the service and virtually all of them promise their games free of DRM.

You’ve probably already heard of the most successful Kickstarters, such as Double Fine’s adventure game and Wasteland 2. But there are a lot of other cool projects still in need of funding such as The Other Brothers and Shadow Remnants.

Buy Direct

Digital distribution platforms are the preferred method for many developers because they are simple and provide widespread exposure. The dev doesn’t have to worry about managing transactions or an online store.

However, some indie developers choose to provide a direct download option. Examples include 2×2 Games, Spiderweb Software and Introversion.

Spend a few seconds with Google before you buy an indie game. It may be available direct from the source. This sometimes costs more than if you’d bought the game elsewhere, but all of your funds will be going directly to the people who made the game.

Conclusion

Finding DRM-free games is not easy today, but these options provide a wide variety of titles both new and old – more than enough to satisfy the average gamer.

And, since the titles are DRM free, they will be with you for as long as you back them up. That’s an important distinction. Games protected from DRM may eventually become unusable if the DRM system is taken out of service, a problem that could erase entire games.

Do you know of a source of DRM free games that is not included here? Tell us about it in the comments.


12:30

4 Elements: Incredibly Fun Puzzle Game For Kids [Giveaway]

If you’ve ever wanted the perfect game to entertain a child for hours on end, it’s time you took a look at 4 Elements. The casual game by Playrix is both incredibly easy to play and strangely addictive for kids and adults alike. There’s a grand storyline, which pulls together the different puzzles of the game into a cohesive whole, but at the core of 4 Elements is an incredibly addictive casual game. This is what you spend the most time playing and what will keep you coming back for more.

We’re giving away free copies of 4 Elements to lucky readers this week valued at $500 (it normally retails at $19.95 for the premium PC/Mac version). So, find out more about the game by reading this article and head to the bottom of the post for details on how to enter the giveaway.

The Story Of 4 Elements

The story behind 4 Elements itself is very kid-friendly: There’s a kingdom in trouble because the magic four elements have been corrupted by an evil force. You need to restore the kingdom to glory by unlocking four ancient books of magic and collecting 16 cards. But that’s just the story that keeps it all together – there’s so much more to it.

Playing 4 Elements

The four ancient books divide up the four stages of difficulty in the game. There are four cards to be found within each stage and these have a matching game to be played for each of them. There are also times where you need to play a mini-game searching for objects in a room in order to progress.

The most memorable part of 4 Elements is in the main game, where a very simple idea gets progressively more difficult and frustrating. The aim is for you create a path for lava to get through to a shrine. You do this by connecting up matching elements in lines and dislodging the dirt in the way. It progresses to layers of dirt, stone and ice blocking the path and helps you by adding tools like arrows, spades and bombs to help clear the way. It’s so simple – just keep matching elements in lines. And yet, you’ll eventually hit a snag and realise that you can’t just stop there. You have to just finish this bit…

Check out this video of 4 Elements in action to really get a feel for it.

Kids Will Love 4 Elements – And So Will You!

The graphics in 4 Elements are quite detailed at times and really work to pull the main story of the game back into the foreground. Kids will love the fantasy characters and beautiful introduction.

As the game is simple to start, it’s easy to get kids playing by themselves. A friendly fairy will introduce the player to each new tool and difficulty as they become relevant, so players gradually come to know more about the game and get better at it. It’s a game which can be played by kids who don’t have a lot of co-ordination yet and who aren’t yet very good at games – and it will help them to get better! It takes quite a bit of playing before the time-limit becomes a problem for even the slowest player.

The 4 Elements game is available in multiple formats for a variety of operating systems and also online.

We’re giving away 25 copies of 4 Elements for both Windows and Mac platforms. Join the giveaway to be in the running to win one!

How do I win a copy?

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available from our Facebook page, Twitter stream and Google+ page.
 

Fill out my online form.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post!

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Alternative entry method: Use your points!

Exchange your MakeUseOf points for an entry into the competition. First, create a MakeUseOf account, earn points and exchange your points for an entry! Learn more about our Game system and Rewards program.

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By participating in this giveaway, you agree to the giveaway rules.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, August 31st. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

Interested in sponsoring a giveaway? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.


August 21 2012

18:01

4 ‘Non-Gaming’ Companies That Are Shaping The Future Of The Video Game Industry [MUO Gaming]

video game industryWhen you think about the video game industry, you often think about Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Activision and EA as the big names. After all, they are the developers of the consoles and many of the best selling games. Obviously, their influence over the video game industry is vast. Currently, we are waiting with baited breath for the announcement of the next console generation. This puts the attention firmly on Microsoft and Sony (and Nintendo, but we already know what they are releasing).

However, there are other companies shaping the video game industry. You might not think of these companies right away. They are not typically thought of as gaming companies, but nonetheless, their influence is there. These particular companies will only have their influence grow as time goes on and people look for alternative games to play. We all love the latest smash hit, but the gaming industry is changing and evolving, and these unexpected companies are at the forefront of that evolution.

Kickstarter

Just a few short years ago, if you wanted to make any kind of serious video game, you had to pitch the idea to publishers and investors and hope they liked the idea enough to throw some money your way. Publishers only have so much money to give out each year for up and coming projects. This left many games with great potential out in the cold.

With Kickstarter, game makers can pitch their ideas to the general public and attempt to seek funding that way.

video game industry

Kickstarter opens up doors for games that may have never seen the light of day. Is it a perfect system? No, of course not, but anything that helps bring more games to market is okay in my book. Big ideas require a budget to become a finished project, and Kickstarter gives people with these ideas a way to turn them into a reality when they never could have before.

Apple

This one might seem a little more obvious than Kickstarter, but nevertheless, I cannot ignore Apple in this discussion. They have given birth to an entire new way of consuming video games. Before iOS, the thought of spending $0.99 for a relatively high quality game was inconceivable.

Now, there are thousands of iOS games worth playing that cost hardly any money. This is reshaping the value proposition in the video game market.

future of the video game industry

Besides changing the way games are priced, Apple is also bringing in a completely new group of people who would never call themselves “gamers” before. Whether they call themselves one or not, if you spend hours and hours perfecting your scores in Angry Birds, you are a gamer. Apple is opening doors for new people to play games and new developers to make games affordably.

Facebook

Facebook is in a similar place to Apple, but they do not bridge the gap in the same way. Most hardcore gamers and people on the casual side play games on iOS. On Facebook, people who generally do not play gamers at all play most of the games. Games like Farmville see many people who have never touched a video game in their life.

While they may not be buying an Xbox or PS3 anytime soon, they are still playing games, and that is a good thing for the industry as a whole.

future of the video game industry

It seems like developers are still trying to get a feel for how to make social games work. Crossovers between mobile and Facebook seem to be successful, with the “With Friends” series leading the charge. Regardless, Facebook is ushering in a new age of gaming, and love them or hate them, social games are not going anywhere, and Facebook is certainly the main reason for this.

Google

Google makes this list for two different reasons. The first, and what could end up being the most important, is Google Fiber. If Google Fiber spreads and offers everyone ridiculously fast Internet at an affordable price, it could change the face of gaming as we know it. A service like OnLive, where gamers stream games from the cloud, could become infinitely more viable if everyone had the speeds Google Fiber is offering.

No longer would we need new consoles every few years. Instead, an upgrade to the server would serve as the “new console”.

video game industry

Of course, I have to mention Android as well. At the risk of sounding like an Apple fanboy, Google is kind of following Apple’s example, but their Android OS is still important for gaming. Apple may have got the App Store started, but with Android’s larger installation base, Google’s decisions going forward can and will shape the landscape for gaming in the future.

Conclusion

Sure, “the big three” will remain the center of attention for most gamers, but these other companies are going to play a huge role in where gaming ends up. You may not think of them as gaming companies, but make no mistake; these companies are just as important to gaming as the traditional gaming companies. They are making games that were never possible before a reality and bringing in new gamers at an exponential rate.

What “non-gaming” companies do you think are shaping the future of gaming? Let us know in the comments!


August 17 2012

20:00

Three Great Resources For Board Game Geeks

board gamesYou may not have noticed it, but the world of board games is evolving. We’re no longer in a world where a basic board game collection consists of Monopoly, Clue and The Game Of Life (and maybe Risk if you’re lucky). No, these days collections often have more of the euro-style games in them – and more games in general. In fact, there’s such a huge amount of variety in games nowadays, that if you’re not keeping up with the times you’ll probably have no idea which games to buy.

However, if you want to know what the best games are and get a feel for which games you want to own, there are plenty of great resources you can check out. You can browse forums, listen to podcasts and watch YouTube shows where you see the game played and discussed in detail. Basically, you can find out all you need to know about current board games. Then all you need to do is find the money to buy all the games you want.

Board Game Geek

If you have somehow managed to overlook Board Game Geek in your wanderings, then it’s time to fix that. Board Game Geek is a niche social network basically consisting of a huge forum and a neat way to make lists of your favourite board games. When viewing games, you can see eBay and Amazon pricing. If you add items to your wishlist, you’ll see Amazon prices when you view the wishlist later. Board Game Geek also works as a marketplace between users, so if you’re looking for a particular game, BGG will do its best to ensure you can buy it.

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The forums have all sorts of useful discussions where people will try to make lists of the best games for families, two-player games, discuss versions of games and try to list as many useful gaming resources as possible.

The Dice Tower

There are many great board game podcasts to get stuck into, but if you’re just going to try one, then it should be The Dice Tower. The Dice Tower has been making podcasts for several years now and has quite a following and wealth of resources on their website. Take for instance, their list of Games Every Gamer Should Own.

board game resources

There’s even an online radio version of The Dice Tower, so you don’t need to download it and can just listen to episodes online.

If you want to check out more board game podcasts, take a look at The Dice Tower Network and the Board Game Podcasts directory. I can also highly recommend the Gameopolis podcast as your second choice!

Tabletop

How cool do you think a show with Wil Wheaton showing off his favourite board games is? Answer: Awesome. Really awesome. Tabletop is that show and you should definitely subscribe to the YouTube channel and get watching.

board games

Basically, the story behind Tabletop is that Felicia Day wanted Wil Wheaton to review board games for her Geek and Sundry premium YouTube channel. Once the brainstorming started, the show became one in which they actually play through the games, talk you through rules and strategies and generally show you why it’s great. Warning: You’ll want to buy all of them.

More Reading

Since you love board games, you might also be interested in:

While we’re on the subject of board games, what’s one board game you’d recommend to anyone?


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