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Friday, September 12, 2008

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StarCraft II: Game Balance, Returning Cast, Unit Changes
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

New information about Blizzard Entertainment's StarCraft II has recently become available on a variety of websites. The Vault Network has posted a new preview of the game, Crispy Gamer has published a new interview with Frank Pearce, OMG StarCraft has offered a collection of new Terran gameplay videos, and Blizzard has announced that the Terran Nomad unit has been renamed the Vulkan.

From The Vault:

The single player aspect of the game will be a little different from the original. One of the things they are introducing is getting the player down to the character level so he feels more connected to the units he’s controlling. Instead of having a constant overhead view of the battlefield, between missions players will be able to zoom in on a scene that is almost like a point-and-click type of adventure.
A lot of the original heroes from Starcraft are making a comeback in the sequel. Sarah Kerrigan was an elite trooper for the Terrans but was captured by the Zerg and turned into a hybrid Zerg/Human. Feeling abandoned by the Terrans who had left her on the planet, she is able to overcome being a mindless zombie for the Zerg, has established her own army of Zerg and is now a powerful single force in the universe. Zeratul and Jim Raynor, familiar names for old Starcraft players, will also be in Starcraft II. Of course, more new characters will be introduced as the focus of the game expands out to different planets.
From Crispy Gamer:
Crispy Gamer: How do you balance designing a game that has such a hardcore user base -- especially in Korea -- while keeping the more casual StarCraft player in mind?
Fire reapers
Pearce: One of our development philosophies is to try to create games that are easy to learn but difficult to master: make sure that there's a fast learning curve. When you sit down and play the game for the first time, you feel like it's accessible to you -- that you can grasp the basic concepts, and play and enjoy the game. But we try to also create opportunities to distinguish the average player from an expert player. So there are a lot of units that'll have unique abilities that give the expert players the opportunity to develop strategies around those abilities that the average player might not be able to leverage as well.
From Blizzplanet:
Karune : Speaking of the Nomad, it has actually gotten it's new art update, and a name update as well. It is now known as the Vulkan, and will be resigning down chaos at your expansions with its Auto Turrets.
On that same note, the Archon has also been updated visually with an amazing portrait animation that will surely command respect when ordering this guy around. Furthermore, say good bye to the 'walking' Archons as the 'legs' to the unit model have been removed. This unit now hovers around the battlefield decimating enemy forces like a true ominous being. Keep a look out for these two art updates in future screenshot releases :) This new Archon is also 'leg-less' and has updated art from any build or screenshot seen thus far is what I meant.
For more information check out the links provided below.

Vault Network: StarCraft II Preview
Crispy Gamer: Frank Pearce Interview
OMG StarCraft: Terran Videos
Blizzplanet: From Nomad To Vulkan
Blizzard Entertainment
StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty
Buy StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty

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IMG Reviews Azkend
9:01 AM | Marcus Albers | Comment on this story

Inside Mac Games has posted a review of the match-three game Azkend from casual games publisher GameHouse Games. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Azkend is kind of an odd entry in the puzzle genre. First of all, there is a clear goal for the game. Adventure mode has you journeying through mountain paths, facing new challenges leading to a clear end. Unlike other puzzle games’ adventure mode, which isn’t really anything more than harder challenges, Azkend has you on a journey, where you face harder challenges. All right, so the main difference is stronger context in this game and a clear goal. Context is nice and all, but ultimately superfluous. So how is the actual game? The answer is very entertaining.
Follow the link below to read the full review.

IMG Review: Azkend
Buy Azkend

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Spore: Article Roundup, Prototypes
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

The release of Spore, Will Wright's latest god sim creation, has spawned a host of new interviews, reviews, and other content related to the game. Shacknews, MTV Multiplayer, Joystiq and MSNBC recently offered interviews with Wright and others about the game. IGN joined the fray with an article on Spore's scientific roots. Finally, the official Spore website offered a list of usable prototypes to show how the game itself evolved into its current form.

From Shacknews:

Shack: So I've been playing the game a lot. And while I enjoy the Space stage very much, I wonder if some people will find the early stages too simplistic, while others will find the latter stage too difficult. Was there a concern when it comes to meeting the demands of both casual and traditional gamers?
Morgan Roarty: I think one of the interesting things in the development is that we actually added easy, medium and hard later in the process. We sort of tuned all the games--and we have a wide range of people on the team--we tuned all the games, got a lot of feedback. And then sort of went, we need to go back to the classic easy, medium, and hard.
And I think that's a place where we started to put people--not in buckets, but like--we think easy is more of that casual gamer, let's make sure it's easy. The medium player is that sort of upper-end casual, and then make hard hard.
From MTV Multiplayer:
When I talked to Wright, I had played deep into the Space Stage, which I was enjoying. But I had seen complaints from hardcore game reviewers and message board posters that all of the stages have less complex gameplay than many gamers had hoped. As wonderful as the content creation and sharing options are, the one consistent complaint I’ve seen is that the gameplay seems to have been “dumbed down” for the sake of appealing to a more casual audience. Was it?
“I’d say that’s quite accurate,” Wright told me. “We were very focused, if anything, on making a game for more casual players. “Spore” has more depth than, let’s say, “The Sims” did. But we looked at the Metacritic scores for “Sims 2?, which was around 90, and something like “Half-Life“, which was 97, and we decided — quite a while back — that we would rather have the Metacritic and sales of “Sims 2? than the Metacritic and sales of “Half-Life.”
From Joystiq:
Shaw's of the opinion that the varied review scores come as a result of several factors, not the least of which is its mish-mash of genres. "It's not really like a traditional game," she said. " Spore is just this magical creativity experiment." (She also hopes that it helps pave the way for more "magical creativity experiments.")
"If you try and play it like Grand Theft Auto and you use something like that as your template, Spore 's not going to fit it," Shaw told us, adding, "I hope people will review it for what it is, which is this collection of interesting things to play with."
Shaw admits that she "didn't really start enjoying the game until other people's stuff started showing up in it," and acknowledges reviewers' complaints that "there isn't enough depth."
Do you think the technical accomplishments of this game are being overlooked? And is that by design?
At the end of the day, what you really want to deliver is an emotional entertainment experience to the player. And if the technology helps you accomplish that, great. But if it doesn’t, no amount of technology in the world is going to necessarily provide that. I think the technology is definitely in service of this other goal state. And whether or not the players know about that or appreciate it is really kind of irrelevant as long as we achieve that goal state.
From IGN:
Electronic Arts' eagerly awaited video game, Spore is based on serious scientific research that is out of this world. Literally. The game, which incubated for five years in the studios of the world's leading developer of video games, takes much of its inspiration from the real-world research of the SETI Institute, an organization dedicated to the deep scientific understanding of life in all its forms on Earth and to exploration of the cosmos for evidence of life, especially intelligent life.

In partnership with EA, the SETI Institute is giving gamers a special opportunity to join its membership organization, TeamSETI, at reduced cost. The Institute also plans to augment its web site ( so members will be able to access interactive activities, get special updates on the Institute's research (as it applies to the scenarios found in Spore), and read game-related blogs by scientists Frank Drake, director of the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center for the study of life in the Universe, Jill Tarter, Center director for SETI research, and many of the Institute's other scientists.
To read the rest of the articles and check out the prototypes follow the links provided below.

Shacknews: Morgan Roarty Interview
MTV Multiplayer: Will Wright Responds To Critics
Joystiq: Spore Producer Interview
MSNBC: Will Wright's Game Changer
IGN: Art Imitates Life
EA's Spore Prototypes Page
Electronic Arts
Buy Spore

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Depths Of Peril Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Jay is Games recently posted a new review of Soldak Entertainment's single player RPG, Depths of Peril. In the game players take the role of a faction leader protecting the barbarian city, Jorvik. To succeed they must complete quests while competing with rival factions to determine who will rule the city. Jay gave the game a score of .

From the review:

The kicker is that Jorvik is a "living town," which means that your fellow faction leaders will be running around completing quests, trading goods and vying for power at the same time you are. Random world events will pop up from time to time, ultimately having positive or negative effects on you and the other faction leaders. The balance of power is the core mechanic of the game, which eventually dictates whether you win or lose the game. Your goal (and the goal of the other leaders) is to become the most powerful faction in the game, whether by influence or by force. It's an ongoing battle for supremacy by gathering recruits, money and power, while at the same time playing a quest-driven, loot-gathering, action-RPG.

The strategy aspect of the game is surprisingly detailed, but not so complex as to require a distracting amount of micro-managing. You can recruit NPCs into your faction to bolster your ranks and even take one of them along with you to complete quests. Opening lines of communication and trade with other factions can be paramount to your survival. Without allies — or at least non-aggression pacts — you'll be leaving yourself weak and vulnerable to attack from another faction, which is something that can happen at any time. These attacks are called "raids," and are ultimately how you take out opposing factions and can win the game. Buying guards and enchanted monsters to protect your lifestone (a stone in each faction house that represents its overall health) is important to prevent over-zealous leaders from destroying your faction.
Read the full review at the page linked below.

Jay Is Games: Depths of Peril Review
Soldak Entertainment
Depths of Peril
Buy Depths of Peril

Using Brain Waves To Control Computers
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 4 comments

CNN recently published an article examining attempts to create a device capable of allowing users to control their PCs with thought alone. The article examines The Emotiv EPOC headset, a device developed by Emotiv Systems which translates brain waves into commands. The article includes discussion of the technology's potential for gaming and beyond.

The EPOC detects and processes real time brain activity patterns (small voltage changes in the brain caused by the firing of neurons) using a device that measures electric activity in the brain.

In total, it picks up over 30 different expressions, emotions and actions.

President and co-founder of Emotiv Systems, Tan Le, said the brain-to-computer interface was undoubtedly the future for video games.

"Being able to control a computer with your mind is the ultimate quest of human-machine interaction. When integrated into games, virtual worlds and other simulated environments, this technology will have a profound impact on the user's experience."

Le envisaged the lines between games and reality continuing to blur.

"In the long run, the user's interactions with machines will more closely mimic our interactions with other humans. Our technology will ultimately bring communities of people closer together to richly share their experiences," he said.
Click over to the site below to read the rest of the article.

CNN: The Future Of Gaming Is In The Mind

Mac Games News for Thursday, September 11, 2008

Diablo III: Random Generation, Boss Battles, Customization6:00 AM
John Carmack Discusses Quake Live6:00 AM
Penny Arcade Adventures Episode One Reviewed6:00 AM
Will Apple Succeed In Mobile Gaming?6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, September 11, 2008 on one page

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