Category Archives: Gaming

A Look at Frozen Synapse

There are several reasons why I prefer indie games to mainstream video games. Mainstream games (with a few exceptions) prefer the rock-solid foundation of ideas that their fans have always liked and these ideas change slowly over the years. Evolution, if you can call it, happens with mainstream gaming.
Indie games on the other hand, are playgrounds where ideas evolve in a matter of minutes and are put to test in a relatively shorter time. Where mainstream games stagnate, indie games surprise, amuse and entertain you above and beyond what you paid for.

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Frozen Synapse is one such game that took me by utter surprise. Developed by Mode 7 Games, an Oxford based indie game studio, this simultaneous-turn-based competitive match-oriented tacticalgame (that’s the official description!) is insanely addictive even in its beta that is playable if you pre-order the game. I shot a few emails to Paul Taylor, Joint MD of Mode 7 Games along with Ian Hardingham regarding the game that I’ve been playing off-and-on for a few months now and I have mostly tried to convey whatever he said in this post.

The genesis of [Frozen Synapse] came from Ian playing a load of Laser Squad Nemesis and thinking about the things that could be improved or brought up-to-date

While Laser Squad Nemesis was a lot of fun to play, the time needed to set up units, clunky UI and other aspects of the game took much of the joy away when you actually wanted to sit down for a few minutes and play. Frozen Synapse, however, is built like the tactical gamer’s Solitaire; fire up the game and you’re almost good to go with a new game set up with random placements of your units. As Taylor says:-

We don’t enjoy spending ages setting up units; all of the fun of those games seemed to come from the situations you’d eventually get into during the middle phase of the game, so we streamlined everything in Frozen Synapse to create that straight away.

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The game forces you to use whatever advantages you have to the maximum, and can provide for long hours of play if you are in the mood (and, of course, if there are others willing to play with you as well). Yes, although this game sports a single player mode, it shines in its multiplayer modes. It uses the old Play-By-Email method of engaging players (since it is turn-based) so you can play this game at your own pace. Again, I reiterate, for a game in its beta, Frozen Synapse almost looks like a finished product. When I asked Taylor what should the general strategy behind a pre-order beta, he replied,

If you’re going to do [a pre-order beta], you have to do it right: you have to be geared up to be commercial and attend to your community, while still working on development.   And you have to have a game that is ready to go: the beta has to be fun and it has to look good.

The attend to your communitypart has been done right by Mode 7 Games. Their forums are lively and full of jibes and jokes with the jargon of the game, as well as a couple of calls for a tourney as much as you’d expect from a fully finished game. Also, the developers wanted to enhance the UI and the general setting of the entire game in conjunction with the community for a more streamlined experience.

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The game’s retro-futuristic look, great community support and ridiculously funny single player tutorial in combination with instant death, destructible environment and gameplay suited to your time make this an instant hit for me.

If the pictures and words have failed to have an impact on you to buy this great game ($26 for two copies, DRM-free OR $35 for the premium edition featuring 2 copies of the game, one copy of their earlier game Determinance, a music pack and the chance to have your face on their THANK YOU!!11!list!) I certainly hope that this video will change your mind about it. Support indie games, everyone!

Microsoft Launches Gears of War PC Game for $19.99

Microsoft has launched a digital version of Gears of War for PC at $19.99. Gears of War for PC can be purchased and played using LIVE Games on Demand.

Gears of Ward PC

Gears of War has been a popular Franchise on Xbox 360 and has amazing tactical action and multiplayer excitement. Gears of War has already sold more than 3.5 million units for the Xbox 360 platform and is a very popular multiplayer game. The game includes new multiplayer maps, multiplayer game type and a Game editor which will allow games to create new user generated content.

Gears of War can be purchased for PC using the LIVE Games on Demand client for a price of $19.99. For more information and purchasing details visit this page.

E-xpress India to Release PSP Games for Rs. 699

Manna from heaven for PSP gamers! (The legit ones, at least).

Console games, unlike PC games in India, are still priced fairly out of reach of the non-pirate gamer. While many of the current-gen PC games are published in India for ridiculously low prices when compared to their price in the countries of their origin, console games tend to be similarly priced to their cousins abroad. All that is set to change with E-xpress India deciding to publish eighteen PSP games for Rs. 699 under the title PSP Essentials.

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The titles are mostly animation movie spin-offs or aimed at kids in general, although there are a few exceptions (Tom Clancy’s EndWar, Tomb Raider Legends and the like). It is a small step, but we are all hoping that more publishers in India aim for the rights to publish better and bigger games in India for gentler prices!

Dragon Age 2 Announced

Epic RPG makers Bioware today announced the epic sequel to the epic RPG game of yesteryear in an epic announcement page today, er… epicly (!)

I guess they got bored of developing Mass Effect 3

Dragon Age II will be taking place across a decade, with each and every one of your choices having consequences far into the future. Though the initial setting is pretty similar to what we have played already, I am pretty sure Bioware has some new tricks up its sleeve that would definitely make this one a huge, if not gigantic, hit.

Morrigan? Please?

The usual marketing snippets follow:-

Embark upon an all-new adventure that takes place across an entire decade and shapes itself around every decision you make.
Determine your rise to power from a destitute refugee to the revered champion of the land.
Think like a general and fight like a Spartan with dynamic new combat mechanics that put you right in the heart of battle whether you are a mage, rogue, or warrior.
Go deeper into the world of Dragon Age with an entirely new cinematic experience that grabs hold of you from the beginning and never lets go.
Discover a whole realm rendered in stunning detail with updated graphics and a new visual style.

New visual stylesounds pretty sweet but I don’t think a Borderlands-ish effect is what I want from my RPG. Nevertheless we’ll see how that goes.

A trailer is inbound on the 17th of August. Stay tuned for it!

Moonbase Alpha Goes Online on Steam

NASA has teamed up with the US Army game development studio (the makers of America’s Army) to deliver an almost-realistic lunar base simulation. Moonbase Alpha is a pretty neat looking game that has you (and up to five more players) restoring NASA’s lunar base – Moonbase Alphaafter it was damaged in a critical meteorite impact. Using cutting-edge lunar technology and varied tools and robots, you and your friends must save the colony before the oxygen runs out in the base.

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The lesser the time you take, the better your score is and in the near future I would expect a lot of competition to pipe up on this game. The game is well integrated with Steam with stats and leaderboards supported. Also, Valve’s Anti-Cheat (VAC) system is also integrated into this game.

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The best part about this game is that it’s free. Yes, it’s rated E for Everyone and is great for family gaming and is also entirely free!

Download it from Steam today!

Set your Frets on Fire!

This is not a game review. (Also, the title of this post is a wreck.) It’s more close to a game-recommendation than a review. If you like rock music, and you like playing the air-guitar, then you seriously need to download this awesome game this instant! Read on, if you still doubt me.

Frets on Fire is a free and open source guitar hero clone. Instead of the guitar controller, you use your keyboard as the guitar. The developers have executed this masterfully, as this early demo itself shows you:-

The game is cross-platform, with Windows, Mac and Linux versions accessible from the main page. Since the game is open source, it is highly moddable, with a developer-written modding guide and the ability to install a host of community-provided songs available from the wiki.

Still have doubts? See this modded version playing a sweet little song!

Make sure you play this on a desktop it’s not half as much fun on a laptop!

Download Frets on Fire!

Wow! WoW Will be Free?

The universe of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) is slowly, but inevitably, moving towards the free-to-play with microtransactions paradigm. With big players such as Atari and Codemasters publishing Dungeon and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online with the free-to-play model, Blizzard has soon realized that the next big installment to their World of Warcraft (WoW) universe has to be free-to-play. Or, their next big MMO game. (World of Starcraft perhaps?)

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WoW’s lead designer Tom Chilton commented on these newer models of MMOs suggesting that the monthly fee might deter newer players and might even cannibalize some of their subscribers:-

I feel like they’re doing that to compete with other games that are on a similar subscriber level to what they were at. I imagine that when one of them went free to play it cannibalized some of the other subscribers. I can definitely imagine that being the case with World of Warcraft. If another game comes along and blows us away it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee. Or even further down the line, when we have another MMO out.

As we can clearly make out, this is an idea that has been bouncing around their heads for sometime now, but they have yet to push it through. Hopefully, we might get to see a new MMO from Blizzivision (Blizzard + Activision) that does things right, is epic and is free to play!

Portal 2 is going to be Awesome

Yes, Portal 2 is going to be awesome way more awesome than the original Portal. Hopefully.
Here is 10 minutes and 53 seconds of exactly why Portal 2 is going to be awesome.

That is a compiled video of all demo videos released during E3

Of course, as long as Wheatley’s voice is not retained. (We are used to forced cuteness without emotion, aren’t we?) There is of course, much that will be added in due course. ALSO we are missing our dear companion cube! What is that wretched box of glass that has taken your place, my dear friend-that-has-a-heart-on-all-six-sides? What other opinions do you have about Portal 2?

Darksiders: Wrath of War PC Game Coming in September

The single player action adventure game Darksiders which was originally known as Wrath of War will be released for the PC platform by THQ in September.

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THQ has confirmed that Darksiders will be available for PC on September 24th. The game will be available in a special "Hell Book" which will include a comic book and art cards along with a soundtrack CD.

Darksiders has been available for the PS3 and Xbox 360 platform since earlier this year and has become a big hit amongst action adventure players. The pricing of the PC edition of the game is not yet available.

(Source)

NFS World Beta Opens Today

EA Sports is releasing a new beta of Need for Speed World today to participants worldwide. The new NFS World beta introduces 11 new cars, including the Audi R8 and Nissan 370Z, bringing the total cars in the garage to 25.

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In addition to the new cars, EA has also added new performance customization packs for every car and increased the number of progressions levels to 50. NSF World beta also introduces Private Matches and a Meeting place for car shows.

You can download the latest NFS World Beta by visiting this link. Please note that you will require to have an EA account in order to be able to download the Beta Client.

Microsoft Employee Says Kinect Buggy and Not A Wii Killer

Ok, go slow and take this with a big pinch of salt, this may not be true at all, but no one has used the extensively, so this cannot be untrue too right now.

Microsoft Kinect Xbox 360

One of our posts made it to the N4G home page recently, and while browsing through the comments on the post (comment #4 by mricecreamman), I saw something interesting which says that there might be some problems with the sensors right now.

Kinect Problem Comment

Here is the comment text from the image above (emphasis added):

i work for microsoft here in out west and gotta say it’s pretty fun, but it’s not a wii killer. if too many people is around the sensor it becomes non responsive and sometimes it has latency. this is just a replica of when sony came out with the eyetoy..which it didn’t do so well.

Now there are a few things here, the person in question says that the Kinect is pretty fun but not a Wii killer. I have to agree with that fact, because Wii is in a different league altogether. Wii is for fun gaming, exercising, dancing, playing Mario and more and not for playing Call of Duty, for which you will of course use the Xbox 360. Wii in itself has a cult status amongst its users for motion gaming.

Another important point this person brought up was the fact that if too many people crowd around the device sensor it become non responsive and has latency, so this means that the device is definitely not ready for house parties yet and is a bit buggy. Once again, this might be a non-issue when Kinect actually comes out on November 4. Another aspect of this claim is that neither has Microsoft demoed Kinect with a crowd and neither will be there games which will require lot of people to be near the sensor at once.

This issue might not be a big issue at all, however, it could be a problem when you have a crowd around or maybe use the Kinect to play Wii like games :).

Last but not the least, the person compared the device to EyeToy, a digital camera device which Sony came out with for the PS2 which used computer vision and gesture recognition to process images taken by the camera. Now, no Microsoft employee would like to compare their own device with, but like I said it could just be an anonymous person out there. With 100K plus employees you will always get one who does not like the product or place they work for.

Based on the comment by the person, it is fairly OK to say that even if this is true, I never had a doubt in my mind that Kinect would kill the Wii, it would take a real long time for them to do it. However, more importantly the sensor issue (if it exists) still has almost 4+ months to be fixed, so by November 4 you might not even see those issues. However, what if Microsoft can’t fix it or not live up to the expectations they have build up?

Play With Kinect For Xbox 360 At Microsoft Stores

Microsoft had unveiled (What is Kinect?) at the event earlier this month. Though Kinect is scheduled to be released on November 4, Microsoft has announced that Kinect will be available to test and play around with at 4 Microsoft stores in the US.

Play Kinect at Microsoft Stores

If you walk into a Microsoft Store in San Diego, Arizona, California or Colorado, you will be able to play games using accessory for Xbox 360. The above picture is from Microsoft’s San Diego store opening where a user played using hand movements.

Kinect for Xbox 360 is also available for sale at the official Microsoft Store. The accessory for Xbox 360 will sell at $149.

(Source)

Counter Strike: Source Gets a Facelift

Yes, a proaction gamer will always have his (and in the remote chance that there is one) or her Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Team Fortress 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 but the giant that is Counter Strike never really had a Counter Strike 2 did it? It received a facelift once with Counter Strike: Source bringing in most of the Havoc physics of the Source engine from Half Life 2. Yet, even with its teeming populace of obsessed gamers, it never felt like playing a next-gen action game.

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Now, with 144 achievements, lifetime player stats, a cinematic death camera (which I have yet to see) and a domination-revenge system and much, much more, playing Counter Strike: Source with the updated Source Engine 2009 feels every bit like playing a next-gen FPS. Playing it through, however, is just the same. Nevertheless there was some difficulty getting games as the Indian servers I used to play in were not responding or their machines had not been updated to the new CS:S.

Yes, there are inane achievements, yes the scoreboard looks weird and yes there will not be a custom name for your player within the game (your player name will be the same as your Steam community name). With Steam pushing in a 66% discount for buyers as well as introducing Steam Play (i.e. the game can be played on the same servers from a Mac) the game looks set to be bigger than ever.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to hunt for some newbs who have been baited by the 66% discount.

Get Both Deus Ex Titles for $2.49 Each on Steam!

June 22nd marks the 10th anniversary of the smashingly awesome FPS-RPG-stealth hybrid Deus Ex. Built on the basis of real-world conspiracy theories, you take on the role of government agent J.C. Denton as he sent on riskier and riskier missions. Soon he unravels a far reaching conspiracy that threatens the existence and world and trust me when I say that this game has very little clichés on the way.

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Every mission in Deus Ex has more than one way of going about and for a game released in 2000, this is a big achievement. You could either go gung ho towards your objective, killing anyone and everyone standing in your way, or you could depend on some stealth and sneak through to your objective, or use a backdoor or an alternate route to reach the goal. Add to it nanotech augmentations that make J.C. more than human, and you have the seamless blend of Role-Playing powers and First Person immersion.

But enough of the game true fans will forever remain true fans of this cult classic. Steam is offering both the original Deus Ex and the slightly flawed sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War for a 75% discount! This means that both games are up for a total of $4.98. Go buy this classic this instant and prepare yourself for Human Revolution!

Download Medal of Honor PC Beta Client

EA has announced that they will be hosting the Beta client of Medal of Honor PC version on FileFront. The closed beta of Medal of Honor starts from June 21, however, you can get in on the PC beta through FileFront if you are a Gun Club Member.

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However, the file requires you to have a beta key to play, which can be acquired by becoming a Battlefield: Bad Company 2 VIP or joining the Gun Club. The beta key will also be available if you pre-order the game. (Pre-order Medal of Honor)

EA will be releasing the beta client for PS3 and PC users on June 21st. The Xbox 360 beta has been slightly delayed for now.

More info and the Medal of Honor Beta Client download for PC can be found here.

(Source)