Author Archive

Where is SimCopter 2015?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

SimCopter was an incredible game idea, implemented about as well as 1996 allowed. It felt like the ambulance missions in GTA, plus a little bit of firefighting in the form of buckets full of water, but in a helicopter, and every mission was in the cities you made in SimCity 2000.

Unfortunately, at the time of release the game had been reduced to a joke due to a bizarre easter-egg, and no sequels were ever made. A few recent games have similar goals, but none are in the style of SimCopter.

The good news is that a mod for the recently-released Cities: Skylines is in development that brings back SimCopter’s helicopter and will have more from SimCopter in the future. The developer calls it CityCopter, and is organizing the mod’s development on this subreddit, and there is a preview video up here.

Elite: Dangerous Finally on Steam

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Crowdfunded space trucking simulator and long-time hold-out, Elite: Dangerousis now available on Steam

Cashed in the remaining money I’d made from selling trading-cards to get it.

At this time Frontier’s (Elite’s developer) Elite: Dangerous doesn’t have any Steam-specific features, and like some games you’re only downloading the initial launcher through Steam. All updates appear to be through the game-specific launcher.

Because it was previously available only direct from the developer, the Elite: Dangerous players (a comedy troupe touring in your locality!) are rightfully upset that they haven’t received Steam keys for the game. People always want to consolidate their gaming libraries into one place, and a decade in it’s still surprising that some game developers don’t get it.

On the second page of the relevant forum thread, a Frontier community manager had this to say in response to a player’s request:

Hi Macro, thanks for the question. We don’t have any plans to do this at the moment, but we’ll be listening to player feedback and looking to see how much demand there is.

Just an FYI – there’s no functional difference between the Steam and our website version of the game. You can add the game to your existing Steam library. See the instructions below:

We have no plans to do so but we will of course listen to player feedback and assess demand.

Click Games > Add a non-Steam game to my library and add EDLaunch.exe, ordinarily located in C:\Program Files (x86)\Frontier\EDLaunch\ on a PC.

Cue 25 more pages of players demanding their Steam keys.

Valve provides developers as many keys as they would like for their games to be sold on the developers’ own store, so the only cost to Frontier would be in developing the infrastructure to hand out the Steam keys.

The Talos Principle Review (PC)

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015


What if people were robots who were created from, and routinely yelled at by, an angry god that just wants to be respected and obeyed when he asks you to maybe solve some puzzles without questioning him so much?

He just wants you to go along with what he says to do no matter how ridiculous his request. Especially that time when he repeatedly asked you to ignore the spiraling tower in the middle of the overworld hub area that he created and you could very well climb it if only he hadn’t forbidden it.

Well if this were the case you and I would be the robotic children of Elohim in The Talos Principle: Solving puzzles by arranging surprising combinations of boxes, lasers, gun turrets, semi-autonomous mines, laser connectors, fans, and jammers in the first-person (or third-person if you’re into viewing robo-booty) world that Elohim created.

If The Talos Principle were from anyone else I might have thought it was going to be a bible game and would have thrown my still-running computer through the nearest window. Instead, it’s from the developers of Serious Sam. A fast-like-Doom first-person shooter series that is anything but serious. You could say that Cro-team aren’t known for making contemplative puzzle games when they’ve been making first-person shooters for over a decade. You would be right.

These puzzles with the boxes, lasers, gun turrets, semi-autonomous mines, laser connectors, fans, and jammers? They’re great. They have that perfect difficulty curve so rarely achieved in puzzle games. There is a gentle progression with the challenges getting slightly more difficult and sometimes (rarely) maddeningly so. Up until you walk away and come back and go “why didn’t I think of putting that over there earlier? Duh.” After you figure out the solution you always feel like a smarty-pants puzzle-solving person because the designers have excelled at making you feel brilliant instead of feeling like the solution isn’t achievable without a hint-guide.

Those few times that you do get frustrated with a puzzle you can just walk your robot avatar to another because the game is designed to let you walk away and pick an easier trial without walking away from the game. Talos‘ arrangement of puzzles into three level hubs, each with a bunch of puzzles that you can go away from and come back to at any time is brilliant and refreshing. Forgivingly, Elohim encourages you to walk away if you’ve spent a lot of time in a puzzle and there’s an achievement for doing so. There’s also an achievement for sticking it out and solving a tough puzzle. In the 30 hours or so I spent in Elohim’s world I experienced each of those scenarios: often breezing through a puzzle in a few minutes, as the difficultly increased there were a few more occasions of frustration and sticking with it, and a few times I just had to walk away to find some peace in an easier puzzle

If the game were just this surprise first-person puzzler from a shooter developer I’d still rate it highly. Talos is so much more than just puzzles.

If it were just those characters of Elohim and protagonist-bot the one-sided dialog from the big E (your protagonist-bot isn’t much of a talker) might have gotten boring and I still would have skipped merrily along through many lands to solve the shit out of placing boxes on fans and then placing jammers on top of them. Fortunately, there are more questions in the The Talos Principle that graduate the story from both the shackles of Elohim’s reverberating narration and the perfectly robust puzzling.

Why is the protagonist a robot?

Who is Elohim really, why does he call you his child, and why does he want you to solve these puzzles?

Why is there a giant multi-tiered tower, what is on those tiers that Elohim insists you not see?

It is so difficult to talk about this game and what it offers without spoiling more . I will say that the …other main characters… are generous with revelations and sometimes more questions. Extremely deep, philosphical questions. I’m not sure if they would challenge any philosophers, but the game’s story is ultimately going to require your interest in them. Which is fine, because the way it asks them is charming.

Puzzles, god, philosophy. I hope you’re convinced to try it and that you won’t read any more. The Talos Principle is something special.

5/5 Robo-butts


Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Dave James reviewing the new $999 graphics card from Nvidia:

Inside that chunky chip are 24 streaming microprocessors (SMM) in six graphics processing clusters (GPC). With the Maxwell design running to 128 CUDA cores in each SMM that makes for a grand total of 3,072 cores in the GTX Titan X. Completing the core configuration are 192 texture units and 96 ROPS.

That’s a whole heap of graphics processing power right there.

Nvidia have also doubled the size of the frame buffer compared to the previous Titan cards, maxing out at 12GB GDDR5 memory, running across six 64-bit memory buses to deliver an aggregated 384-bit total memory bus.

That memory capacity might well look a little bit like big numbers for the sake of it, but we thought it would be a long time before the original Titan’s 6GB frame buffer was anywhere near fully utilised. Yet right now Shadow of Mordor is filling up around 5.7GB with the HD texture pack at Ultra 4K settings; we may only be a couple of years away from 12GB actually getting used. Right now, 12GB is more future-proofing than anything else.

I’ll take ten.

DeNA + Nintendo

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Mike Fahey:

This morning Nintendo announced a partnership with Japanese company DeNA to produce games using Nintendo properties on mobile platforms. As the owner of mobile platform Mobage, DeNA is one of the most powerful names in mobile gaming, but the sort of games it’s known for won’t make traditional console gamers happy.

We’re All Doomed: Part LXVII

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Chris DiBona announces the shutdown of Google Code:

When we started the Google Code project hosting service in 2006, the world of project hosting was limited. We were worried about reliability and stagnation, so we took action by giving the open source community another option to choose from. Since then, we’ve seen a wide variety of better project hosting services such as GitHub and Bitbucket bloom. Many projects moved away from Google Code to those other systems. To meet developers where they are, we ourselves migrated nearly a thousand of our own open source projects from Google Code to GitHub.

As developers migrated away from Google Code, a growing share of the remaining projects were spam or abuse. Lately, the administrative load has consisted almost exclusively of abuse management. After profiling non-abusive activity on Google Code, it has become clear to us that the service simply isn’t needed anymore.

Beginning today, we have disabled new project creation on Google Code. We will be shutting down the service about 10 months from now on January 25th, 2016.

There are a ton of abandoned but still useful projects on Google Code, most of which will be lost after 2016 if nobody clones them and puts them online somewhere else. Fortunately there is at least an Export to GitHub button on every Google Code site now, .

This is your continued reminder that Google, and start-ups funded by VC money, are not a safe place to store your work. Own your shit before GitHub starts inserting malware into downloads or sells out in some original and disruptive way. Get a domain, some shared hosting, maybe a Linux or BSD VPS if you’re rich. With git it is easy enough to move a project if you have cloned the project locally and have established a web presence that people can check for updates. At the very least, don’t make the GitHub page the public-facing home for your project.

Even Google isn’t stupid enough to put their most important projects on another company’s servers:

Google will continue to provide Git and Gerrit hosting for certain projects like Android and Chrome. We will also continue maintaining our mirrors of projects like Eclipse, and others.

You can be sure their internal code for things like search aren’t hosted on GitHub, either.

Donate to the Internet Archive.


Thursday, March 12th, 2015

How did Dinosaurs go extinct when they could rap like this?

Steam Machines Aren’t Here to Challenge Consoles

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Valve recently put up an early list of Steam Machines coming this November from various gaming computer makers. Paul Tassi of Forbes is here predicting doom and gloom in an article comparing the chances for Valve’s success against traditional gaming consoles:

So if Steam Machines aren’t for console players, will existing PC gamers bite? I really don’t see a reason for them to do so. PC gamers like their mouse and keyboard, their ability to sit close to their monitor, and the probably multi-thousand-dollar rig they already have. The avid PC gamers I’ve seen look at Steam Machines as “good for people who want to check out PC gaming,” but almost none of them seem to be considering it for themselves. And why would they? It’s just a pre-built gaming rig that hooks up to their TV and runs Steam Big Picture, something all the do-it-yourself-ers out there could have made themselves for years now if they really wanted to. With the release of the new store, many veterans of the scene are looking over some of the machines and laughing about the price, knowing they could get the exact same level of performance for much, much cheaper if they did it on their own. Other than the ability to express their endless love and devotion for Valve’s Gabe Newell, patron saint of PC gaming, I don’t know what PC gamers get out of Steam Machines.

This is but one of the many arguments Paul Tassi has that they won’t find their market.

It’s a bit early to predict the death of Steam Machines, eight months before they ship. Among Paul Tassi’s other arguments is this one:

Why? Before I flood your screen with a deluge of reasons, first and foremost what the new store page shows is a huge range of prices, ranging from slightly above asking price for the PS4 and One ($460 for iBuyPower’s box) to typically absurd gaming PC levels (as high as $5,000 for top-of-the-line units from Falcon Northwest and Origin). Across the fifteen(!) different machines on the page, only two are around the $500 mark, while the rest probably average between $700-$900, if I’m being generous.

There is definitely a large selection and I can see how it might steer some people away and back to their consoles. It makes sense to have a small selection of products that people can choose from. A good machine, a better machine, a best machine.

That is the one valid criticism in Paul Tassi’s article. The others are ridiculous. PC gamers aren’t going to buy these? If some weren’t already buying pre-built gaming machines these companies wouldn’t be in business to now sell Steam Machines.

There are other, more valid, criticisms that Paul Tassi misses.

These machines run Steam OS, and although you could replace that and install Windows at your own expense there will be a more limited selection of games available for the default Linux-based operating system.

Though he does point out that they’re more expensive than consoles, the reason why is extremely important. Consoles are subsidized and initially sold at a loss to be later offset by software sales with a cut going back to the manufacturer. Valve isn’t selling these directly and can’t do that. Subsidies are the one way that Valve could really improve the initial turnout on Steam Machines but then they would have to produce their own and be competing with these third parties.

The advantage to Valve in the current Steam Machine situation is that they lose almost nothing if Steam Machines fail to find users.

The one thing Valve loses if Steam Machines fail is their edge against Microsoft. Steam Machines (and SteamOS) exist as a wedge against the possibility of a strong Windows App Store in future versions of Windows where customers won’t or can’t choose Valve’s Steam marketplace.

The computer manufactures have something to lose too. With Steam Machines they don’t have to deal with Microsoft and pay for copies of Windows. As far as we know, Valve charges them nothing to include SteamOS.

This is the reason why Steam Machines aren’t really here to challenge consoles. They’re here to take on Windows.


Friday, March 6th, 2015

Evan Narcisse writing about the sequel to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater-esque 2D platforming skate-em-up OlliOlli:

OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood will drive perfectionists crazy, because they’ll want to master everything about the each of the game’s intricately tricky levels before moving on to the next one. That way lies madness. And ridiculous amounts of fun.

Out this week for PS4 and Vita, the follow-up for Roll7’s sharply-realized skating sidescroller improves just about everything that the first OlliOlli did. The visual approach is smoother and slicker, looking more like a playable micro-sized cartoon than a retro-pixel homage. It’s faster, too, with sections that require quicker, more nimble fingers to ollie over and grind through. Another improvement comes in the form of a dedicated quick-restart button for when you bail and want to get right back on your board. You’re going to be using that a lot because OlliOli2 is harder than its predecessor.

OlliOlli 2 is one of the free games this month for Playstation Plus subscribers. New in this Olli are manuals and their implementation is more natural and easier to pull off than in Tony Hawk, so I’ve been loving the addition. Unfortunately, OlliOlli2 is locked up in some kind of exclusivity agreement with Sony for now. Though the original Olli is 75% off the regular price of $13 on Steam for the next 16 hours.

If you’ve missed skating with Tony Hawk, you will love OlliOlli. OlliOlli2 is $15 without Playstation Plus for Playstation 4 and Vita.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Downloadable prequel to the New Order, $20, ships May 5th. Get psyched.