Each week PC Gamer s writers stumble out of the snow, gather by the fire, and recount tales of the horrors they ve seen. (Plus some nice stuff.)
Samuel Roberts: Metal Gear rocks on PC This week I saw Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes running at 4K on Andy Kelly s PC, while he was reviewing the excellent port for us. Look, the framerate might ve been a bit rubbish running on his GTX 970, but just for the detail on Snake and the weather effects it was worth it. Konami s price point for the game at $20/ 17 was very well-judged, I think, and to sell Ground Zeroes for even less as part of the opening of the Steam sale is even better. I picked up Ground Zeroes and Revengeance for under $20 this week. If this is Konami s way of doubling down on its commitment to PC, I commend them. A fantastic port, and the promise of The Phantom Pain next year—all we need now is a simultaneous release with the console versions, as well as ports of the older games, and Metal Gear s home will be on PC from now on.
Chris Livingston: Farming Stimulator While I suspect Facebook won't buy it for $2 billion, it's still nice to see another niche gaming gizmo appear: plans for a Farming Simulator controller are in the works. It'll feature a steering wheel-turning knob and a side panel with a loader control stick and programmable buttons. Some virtual farmers out there are going to be very excited.
As a fan of oddball sim games, I hope to see more speciality controllers in the future. I definitely could have used a specialized controller when I pretended to be a San Francisco bus driver, maybe something with a ticket dispenser built into the dash and a defogger switch. When I was a tow truck driver it would have been nice to have had a controller with a few levers on it, or at least a dedicated switch for calling my insurance agent. And, when I made the poor decision to to run a circus, I definitely could have used a custom controller with a single button that read "Do Not Run A Circus" on it. Coulda pressed it immediately and played something else.
Wes Fenlon: Durante rules on Final Fantasy XIII Whenever I can get Durante to lend his expert analysis to PC Gamer, I consider it a good week. I loved his critique of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, because it highlighted the performance issues of the ports and actually explained what causes those issues. His analysis of Dark Souls 2 earlier this year explained why that game was a great PC port, and it warmed my heart to see From Software learn so much, and so quickly, after the first terrible Dark Souls port. The FFXIII games perform more poorly than Dark Souls 2, and offer far fewer options.
I hope that by pointing out these issues, publishers like Square Enix will see that PC players care about options and performance and expect a certain level of quality that's worth investing a bit more time and effort to achieve. Valkyria Chronicles outperformed Sega's expectations in just a few days on Steam, and you can bet it wouldn't have sold as well if it hadn't been a fantastic PC port.
Andy Chalk: Larian Goes to Canada Larian Studios dropped some unexpected news on Thursday: It's opening a new office in Quebec City. That's a big step for a small studio from Belgium, but one it's able, and in a way forced, to take thanks to the success of Divinity: Original Sin. The hit RPG was an ambitious undertaking but studio boss Swen Vincke has his sights set even higher, saying in a blog post that his goal is to create increasingly "dense, highly interactive worlds" that offer a level of freedom approaching that of pencil-and-paper RPGs.
I've been a Larian fan for years, and so I can't help but feel some amount of sympathetic trepidation at the prospect of such a big, bold move. But I also admire Vincke's determination to seize the opportunity that's presented itself, and to be perfectly honest I love the whole "little guy wins big" angle of its success. Larian is my kind of studio, making my kind of game, so it's exciting on a personal level to see that resonate with such a large audience.
Tom Marks: They see Notch rollin , they hatin I don t care what any of you think, all y all are haters anyway. When I heard that Notch, creator of Minecraft and newly made billionaire after selling to Microsoft, had bought a $70 million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills out from under Jay-Z and Beyonce I was absolutely ecstatic. That s incredible. That s the most amazing and hilarious piece of news I ve possibly ever heard. Who cares if it s over-priced, over-sized, and overseas? The dude has $1.7 billion dollars and, until this moment, has been nothing but humble.
Ok, technically it s $1.63 billion now, but even when he was only a plain ol multimillionaire he wasn t flaunting it. Just look at his rig from four months ago. Notch bottled lightning with the success of Minecraft, and then made all the right decisions to keep that success rolling. He made his own fortune and has actively tried to stay out of the limelight since.
He s only a celebrity because the internet liked him and the character they made him out to be. I, for one, wish him very well and hope he s happy in his giant mansion with his giant candy wall. Do I hope uses some of that money for good? Sure, but it s his money and nobody is allowed to judge him for what he spends it on. Also, now that he s in LA, I am eagerly awaiting Notch photo bombing the paparazzi and the surely inevitable reality show.
Tim Clark: Is this seat taken? Hopefully you ve been enjoying the hardware guides we ve been posting since the site relaunched. There are plenty more planned for the new year, including some substantial rig-building stuff. In the meantime, though, I ve been testing chairs for a couple of weeks. We ve written about standing desks and why sitting can be pretty bad for you recently, but I ll be damned if my butt is going to go unsupported by conventional furniture. So I ve been looking for the best chairs at a variety of prices, with an emphasis on comfort and support over extended sessions. (Though do try to have an hourly stretch. Yes, yes, I know, I m not the boss of you…) So far one seat feels close to revelatory. Which is to say my back no longer hurts like Satan is trying to insert a USB stick into my spine the wrong way up. The full results will be published in mid-January, but I think it s safe to say the chair isn t over yet.
Chris Livingston: Witcher switcher In regards to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red made an announcement this week about a new playable character, Ciri, which is great news: she looks and sounds like a badass. Still, every time I think about the series, I get focused on the one thing that makes me less interested in playing it: you can't design your own personal version of Geralt. We've heard that you can style his hair and beard a bit in Wild Hunt, but that's not nearly enough for my tastes. Not nearly!
Am I just spoiled by the character customization in other RPGs, like your Dragon Ages and your Elder Scrolls and your Mass Effectseses? Maybe. But being able to put your own personal stamp on your character's looks is an important aspect in role-playing, in my mind nearly as important as tailoring their skills and abilities. I wish The Witcher would finally get on board. On board!
Samuel Roberts: A port in a storm I love Durante s ongoing port analysis work for PCG. This week he took a look at the release for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and the updates made for FFXIII that enabled some pretty basic graphics options, and it s as I suspected—even with the improvements in visuals, the framerates continue to disappoint. Here s why that sucks from my perspective: when I reviewed FFXIII and gave it a fair and low score, I penalised it due to the quality of the port. I want Square Enix to keep releasing Final Fantasy games on PC—but I want them to be better than the console versions, not worse. The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy can t be played on PS4 and Xbox One so these console versions will only collect dust, but on PC they will be around forever. So why not release ports that can stand the test of time? I get the sense the improvements made to the visual options are a gesture of wanting to get things right, but there s still some way to go.
Andy Chalk: Assassin s Creed: Unity patch delayed It's easy for me to be dismissive of the Assassin's Creed: Unity debacle because I don't actually play it, but the delay of the fourth patch to the troubled game earlier this week was infuriating. Not because of the extra wait—bravo to Ubisoft for not shoving something out the door solely to meet an arbitrary deadline—but because of the statement that led into it: "Rigorous quality control is of paramount importance to us, and your feedback over these past weeks has indicated that it is important to you as well."
It is perhaps the most contemptibly ridiculous thing the publisher could have said at that particular moment in time. If 2014 has taught us anything, it's that quality control is most assuredly not of "paramount importance" to Ubisoft; Unity is obviously the poster child of a launch gone wrong but Watch Dogs, Far Cry 4, and The Crew—that is to say, just about every major game it released this year—suffered from a varying amounts of damaging bugs. We all fall into slumps now and then, and maybe Ubisoft's annus horribilis was just a (long) streak of (incredibly) bad luck. But telling the world how committed you are to quality control when you're struggling to fix the patch to fix the game that's still a mess after three prior patches doesn't make you look conscientious. It makes you look silly.
Wes Fenlon: Sportsfriends, minus Bach Sportsfriends was supposed to arrive on the PC aaaages ago, but it's just squeaking onto the 2014 calendar with a release today. Now we know at least one partial reason for the delay: despite their best efforts, the developers haven't been able to get Johann Sebastian Joust's PlayStation Move controllers to work on the PC. And, according to the devs, they'll never be able to. On the bright side, Joust works on Linux and OS X, which is as good an argument for SteamOS as I've heard yet. But it's a shame that one of the highlights of a really unique local multiplayer package won't be available to the majority of PC players. Ah, well. There's always Hokra.
Tom Marks: Boldy too scared to go I want to play Elite: Dangerous. I really do. I want to get completely sucked into that universe, make my way through the stars, and learn to master the controls of my ship. But I am too scared to do it. Elite just seems so big and imposing that I feel like I d never be able to get a foothold. Its scope is both exciting and intimidating. I d love to take part in that experience, and I don t think I d be bad at it, but there s something about knowing the first 20 hours of a game are going to be learning the basics that scares me away.
I m probably painting the experience with too broad a brush, and I m honestly a little bit ashamed for not steeling myself and diving headfirst into Elite. I ve been watching livestreams of other people playing and it looks simple, but then I ask myself how long it took that person to make it seem easy? Why are they doing that thing they chose to do over any of the other countless options they have? Where would I even begin? I don t doubt Elite will envelop me eventually, but it might take easing into it with my friends to not startle me away.
Tim Clark: Haters The whole now you see it, now you don t… Oh, huh, it s back saga that went on with Hatred on Greenlight this week felt like an unedifying episode for Steam. I also suspect it only stores up a problem for Valve further down the line. Someone initially decided the game s content crossed the lines of taste and decency, and therefore had no place on the service, but later that same day the civilian slaughter sim received a reprieve, seemingly after an intervention from Gabe Newell himself.
My read on this is that Valve doesn t want to position itself as moral arbiters of what s acceptable in terms of violence. Presumably so long as the material doesn t breach any laws, the firm is willing to host it. But isn t it odd, then, to be coy about sexual content? I imagine the developers of the (not especially sexy) intercourse- em-up Seduce Me, which was pulled from Greenlight in 2012, would have something to say.
As for Hatred, I m not sure refusing to host it would have qualified as censorship, as the angrier commenters immediately claimed. Running a publishing platform doesn t oblige you to provide a home for every game in existence, much in the same way as deciding to throw a party doesn t mean you re obliged to invite the neighbourhood nutcase. (Related: I haven t been invited to *any* parties this holiday. QQ.)
I think the real issue, for Valve, is that the idea of taking a zero touch approach to this stuff isn t tenable. It s easy to come up with increasingly extreme game concepts until you arrive at one which no company would rightly want to be associated with distributing. What we saw this week was Valve struggling to decide where that line is going to fall. (Aside: Just me, or does the animation in Hatred actually look quite slick? Pity whoever s doing that couldn t have found something, y know, not vile to work on.)