Quake Champions & Prey Get Gameplay Trailers

Quake Champions and the new Prey were announced back at Bethesda’s E3 2016 Press Briefing. Both have new trailers out with gameplay footage during the annual Quakecon gathering. That has become Bethesda’s second conference of the year in addition to the traditional giant LAN party.

I was initially pretty psyched for a new multiplayer arena-shooter Quake from id even if the characters looked to be individualized with abilities specific to each.

The new Doom was a huge surprise, even though the multiplayer wasn’t that hot. Maybe they would do a better job with Quake Champions which appears to be solely focused on multiplayer? Well, it turns out to be a little less exciting because a third-party is developing the new Quake. Saber Interactive worked on 2014’s abysmally buggy Halo: The Master Chief Collection, though who is to say if that was an issue with Microsoft’s 343 or one of the four other studios that worked on the bundled collection.

id software had a great collaboration with a third-party when Machine Games made Wolfenstein: The New Order in addition to the standalone expansion, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.

I don’t doubt that Saber could put a good game together if the right situation arose. Maybe they just need to work with the right collaborator in id software? If not, well, we’ve still got ioquake3.

Prey has fewer question marks, it’s clearly not related at all to the 2006 FPS from Human Head. Instead, Arkane is making it. Their Dishonored from 2012 was excellent as a first-person stabbing simulator.

Quake Champions will have some kind of closed-beta, presumably for people that preorder, in 2017. Don’t pre-order games. Prey is out in 2017.

Rick & Morty Read a Court Transcript

I don’t usually post about stuff from comic conventions, but since everyone loves Rick & Morty I’ll make an exception for this one. At the San Diego Comic-Con this year the show’s voice of both Rick & Morty, Justin Roiland, showed a video during their panel of the show’s titular characters reading an actual court transcript from Georgia.

Previously it was only available via a shaky-cam video from the convention by an attendee, but now Adult Swim have posted the footage directly. The language is extremely vulgar and hilarious, so you’ve been warned.

Xbox One S: The Upgrade Nobody Should Buy

Daniel Perez hasn’t given a final verdict yet, but has a review in-progress of the new Xbox One S that is out today:

When the original Xbox One was revealed, there was quite the uproar as to its size and design. Microsoft didn’t change the overall shape of the Xbox One S, but what it did change makes it look less like my grandmother’s VCR. It’s smaller, white, and offers an interesting use of textures to various parts of its body. While the holes located at the front of the console appear to be for aesthetics, the holes surrounding its perimeter are obviously for venting purposes as I can spot smaller vents that aim directly into them.

It also finally did away with the infamous Xbox power brick as its power supply has been squeezed into the new console’s body. Without a power brick to weigh it down, the Xbox One S feels more portable than ever when combined with its reduction in size and weight. It also has done away with a dedicated Kinect port, which we’re sure won’t surprise many considering how Microsoft has been slowly steering away from motion-based gaming.

It also displays 4K UHD Blu-ray discs as well as upscaling games and other videos to 4K if you have the appropriate display. It sounds like a good upgrade, until you realize that the other new Xbox, codenamed Scorpio, will be out next year with a healthier tech upgrade that actually has more powerful guts than this Xbox One S.

Your Virtual Arcade

New Retro Arcade: Neon

The virtual arcade of the 80’s and 90’s, New Retro Arcade: Neon, has been released to Windows via Steam for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive HMDs as well as regular displays. New Retro Arcade is a 3D arcade that lets you hook ROMs into virtual arcade cabinets as well as virtual consoles. It also has other attractions built-in like skeeball (invented in Philadelphia!), basketball machines, air hockey, and more. The game supports multiplayer, but ROMs won’t be shared to other players so you’re limited to the attractions. You can also modify the arcade to swap out cabinet artwork that matches the games you install along with changing the other in-game art and music.

I played New Retro Arcade back when it was a tech demo, and there is a free demo available on Steam if you didn’t get the chance. Virtual spaces have always been interesting to me since back in the day my friends worked on an avatar chat system called OpenVerse.

Patrick Klepek Leaves Kotaku

Patrick Klepek:

It is with a heavy heart that I begin to say my goodbyes, readers. It’s been an honor to be part of Team Kotaku for the last two years.

Today is my last day at Kotaku. Tomorrow, a new journey begins. Though I can’t talk about where I’m headed yet, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know soon. I’m staying in journalism, building on my work over the past decade, but my byline will appear elsewhere. It wasn’t an easy decision, a sign I’d made a good decision to start writing for Kotaku in the first place. You were part of that, too.

I’ve been lucky enough to work at some truly memorable places over the years, but my time at the last two stops, Giant Bomb and Kotaku, have been the most gratifying yet. In various forms, from reporting to podcasts, I’ve done my best work because I’ve been surrounded by people who pushed me to do better.

Can’t wait to see what Patrick does next. It has been entertaining to watch his career go from a new guy at 1UP to an extremely well-regarded writer for Giant Bomb and Kotaku.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update Out With Bash

Bash on Ubuntu on Windows

Windows 10 has been out for a year as a free upgrade from Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Excepting some hacky workarounds the upgrade is no-longer available for free to users. Brett Howse has an article with the major changes that are available today in the Windows 10 anniversary update.

The biggest feature for me is the awkwardly named Bash on Ubuntu on Windows. Microsoft has a long history of picking poor names for their UNIX subsystems including the awkwardly named Services for Unix. Services for Unix was Microsoft’s hedge of interoperability to please third-party businesses, but it was always hindered by Microsoft’s desire to compete with Linux. The options to install and update applications were limited to what you could compile because SFU didn’t include any kind of package management system. The only choices left were either shelling out to a Linux machine, cygwin (which is a huge pain in the ass), dual-booting, or installing Linux in a virtual machine.

Bash on Ubuntu on Windows been available in a preview form to beta testers (Windows Insiders) for a while, it’s a more complete version of command-line utilities and an environment you would commonly get on a Linux desktop or server developed with Ubuntu‘s owner, Canonical. Though you still have to jump through some hoops to install it, it’s very promising that BoUoW includes Ubuntu’s package management system and  native Linux command-line utilities that haven’t been recompiled for Windows.

I hope this extends to GUI applications some day, but the focus for Microsoft this time is on attracting developers.

Inside Review (Windows)

inside

The developers of Limbo, Playdead, have returned with what at first glance appears to be a very similar game in appearance. Just like Limbo, Inside looks like in a dark platforming adventure featuring a young man who is in some terrible strife.

When the game starts, you’re a nameless boy who is just running for his life, escaped from some terrible fate. Slow down or miss a moment and you might be beaten and dragged back or eaten alive by dogs. This child spends most of the first part of the game just running past scenes in the background of what look like people being rounded up by security forces. Games like Half-Life 2 depicted similar scenes with brighter colors, music that was more in your face, and people talking about the situation. I don’t think any of the characters of Inside ever speak a full phrase. It is the visuals and a subdued score that do the talking.

Limbo had a very stark visual style that was kind of like looking at shadows move across your screen. There were many games that proceeded to imitate that art style to different degrees of success. I don’t think they’ll try the same thing with Inside. It is a more stark game of contrasting colors and more depth to its dimension that are still dark and mostly gray.

The exception to that is what the game developers want to draw your attention to. A brightly colored cable that leads you to a secret. A smear of blood there. Flesh tones, there are those and anyone who has played the game should not speak of what or why to anyone who hasn’t.

Inside’s protagonist does so much running and dying, and the animation for all of that is wonderfully well done. Every interaction seems like it is perfectly in tune with the environment and responding to the strain the boy puts on himself to pick up a box as big as he is just to get up a little bit higher. If he falls from a height he’ll respond appropriately. Too high a fall and there’s always a gruesome scene that follows. What makes it truly awful is that the game forces you to watch, you can’t turn away or else the game won’t proceed. As a father, any time a child is harmed in a television show or movie or game it gets to me a little bit more than usual. When the dogs were tearing Inside’s boy apart, the game  subverted every attempt at skipping the scene so by not loading the last checkpoint until I used my  controller. Flailing at buttons didn’t seem to work, it was only measured responses to attempt to get the violence to stop that caused the game to proceed when it was good and ready, and felt like you had absorbed the impact of whatever mistake you made that caused that boy to die. It could have been timed, I’m not sure, I just didn’t want to watch that him die again.

All of the scenery behind the boy is just as vital to telling the story of the game, and occasionally it moves from the background into the foreground to interact with him. You’ll watch other characters who have been subdued (for reasons I won’t get into) marching in line, as you move through that area you’ll have to get in that line with them and mirror their movements or the boy will die. At the beginning of the game there are people searching for other people who have escaped their fate in the background and you’ll have to move carefully to not be detected by them or the boy will die.

The game doesn’t rely on stealth much outside of those few scenes, instead there are platforming puzzles. These puzzles aren’t particularly difficult to figure out if you’ve played any other side-scrolling games and know what to look for. Inside didn’t have many moments that stymied my progress either. What makes them vicious is that failure results in more prolonged death animations.

In a way, Inside feels like the best parts of older Call of Duty campaigns when those were still impressive. It’s very linear, there is pretty much only a straight path that occasionally requires some minor backtracking or running to the left to complete the game. Just like Call of Duty, there are incredible scenes all around your character. Unlike Call of Duty, you’re going to want to stop and look at these because they make you feel something and I think that’s what makes this an incredible game. Those emotions are more than what you might expect upon first glance from screenshots of Inside if you’re familiar with Limbo. The art and sound and animation and programming all come together perfectly.

It isn’t surprising that Inside was developed in Denmark, it looks like a game that couldn’t have come from anywhere else. At times the puzzles can be tiresome because you instantly know what to do to solve them, but you’re forced to run back and forth across the screen at whatever pace the game’s designers set.

The worst part of Inside is the ending, it is anti-climactic and while I am sure it could mean something to somebody, it lacked the emotional connection from the rest of the game for me. That you have to go back for seconds to see the “real ending” isn’t positive. If you play the game, don’t look up either on video, just look up the solution to the multi-layered puzzle to get the second ending so that you can actually make both happen.

That ending and the few other flaws the game has aren’t enough to betray the rest of the experience which must be played.

If you were wondering what Playdead were doing in the 6 years since Limbo came out, Inside is the incredible answer. It took me roughly 5 hours to find everything there is to explore in the game, and if you’re at all interested in it you should not read or watch or listen to anything else about Inside. There are massive spoilers going around and knowing more about what kind of game it is can ruin the experience. I wish I had gone in knowing even less, but podcasts have basically ruined parts of the game without warning.

Inside is out now on Steam for Windows and the Xbox One digital distribution platforms.

4 out of 5 abject walruses.

Get A Head in Life

Headlander was recently put out for public consumption by Adult Swim Games and developed by Double Fine. It’s from the same game director, Lee Petty, as my favorite Double Fine game, Stacking. Which you should play if you haven’t because it is amazing.

Oh sorry, I lost my head thinking about Stacking. Headlander looks like a very fine metroidvania-style of game, and I appreciate the 70’s retrofuture aesthetic, along with the head swapping game mechanic which is kind of hilarious and also very clearly related to Stacking’s matryoshka doll swapping mechanic. Which, have you played? It’s really great.

Headlander is out now on Playstation 4, and Windows via Steam for $20 USD.

Stacking has been out forever on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s $10.

The Wartime Broadcasting System

The Wartime Broadcasting Systems

Paul Reynolds, the British Broadcasting System’s former foreign and diplomatic correspondent found the BBC’s plans for continued broadcast during nuclear war or what the BBC politely described as a “nuclear exchange”:

The War Book reveals a world of meticulous BBC planning. The Wartime Broadcasting System (WTBS) – referred to in the book as “Deferred Facilities” – would have operated from 11 protected bunkers spread across the UK.

Great article. I only wish they had posted a scan of the entire book.