Gaming Features

So, you've decided to play Skyrim again. Or perhaps this is the first time. Either way, you've installed the game, played a few minutes, and realized something: wow, this is pretty ugly.

Skyrim isn't exactly a game that has visually aged well. It's more than three years old, was already a bit dated when it came out (Bethesda's four-year development cycle shows), and with gorgeous games like The Witcher 3 having been released this year, Skyrim doesn't really have much to offer on the visual front.

It is, however, a gun that runs on Creation Engine, and it has a development kit with an active community. We have the technology. We can rebuild it.

Cloud Imperium Games' Star Citizen has several planned differentiators when it comes to space sims. One of the most noteworthy is the promise of ships manned by multiple crew members, expected to be released as a separate “multi-crew module” in the near-ish future. Pilots, co-pilots, gunners, engineers, and other roles will all need to be filled to create a co-operative, team-intensive gameplay experience; it's an ambitious goal, but one that CIG's Chris Roberts feels confident can be achieved.

Our recent trip to CIG's Santa Monica offices already yielded a progress update on the game's “Star Marine” FPS module, addressing concerns of delays, and now we're back with multi-crew. CIG CEO Chris Roberts joined us to discuss multi-crew combat, game engine technology, technical challenges faced with zoning and instancing, and more.

Star Citizen’s been oscillating in the news cycle lately. The game – now around $80m in funding – has reached a point of industry-wide recognition, ensuring contentious encounters with groups unsupportive of the game’s progress.

We first went deep on Star Citizen’s first-person shooter module, now called “Star Marine,” at PAX East in April of 2014. This was Chris Roberts’ first time explaining (with great detail) the overall vision for FPS and its interaction with other gameplay elements. Following this, an unveil event at PAX Australia showcased some of the FPS module’s progress. In January of 2015, CIG CEO Chris Roberts revealed new information on the persistent universe during PAX South, leading the PAX East 2015 hopes of FPS availability to backers in the March to April timeframe.

We already covered Fallout 4’s initial trailer, along with analysis of what was seen in the reveal. Just Sunday night, Bethesda showed more of the much-anticipated post-apocalypse title at their E3 press conference. This is by far the most comprehensive view of Fallout 4 we have seen to-date, so now comes the time to look over everything.

For die-hard Fallout fans, the hype train has exploded from the station. With rockets. And possibly a few deathclaws running after it. This is thanks to Bethesda’s release of its first-ever glimpse of Fallout 4. Recently, a countdown on Bethesda’s Fallout site (and Fallout4.com) appeared, lacking any real details. It was simply a countdown with the iconic “Please Stand By” loading screen from Fallout.

Digital distribution platform Desura, recently acquired by Badjuju, has reportedly failed to pay its partnered developers over the past several months. Through forum posts and reader emails, we've learned that indie game developers who have entrusted the service with the sale of their games have gone unpaid, despite exceeding payment threshold requirements. We've received multiple emails from indie developers pertaining to Desura's lack of payment and decided to conduct further investigation.

Not one recent triple-A PC title has launched without its share of crashing, flickering, mouse acceleration / smoothing, or other issues. In our time benchmarking the Witcher 3's PC performance, we encountered a couple of resolvable issues pertaining to the game's stability.

On April 25, Valve revealed to the public a collaborative effort with Bethesda and a handful of selected modders, aiming to bring monetized mods for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to the Steam Workshop. The concept was received with brutally negative feedback from the community and, less than a week after the release of the system, Valve and Bethesda decided to shut it all down.

When the issue was still hot and the outcome unclear, I made two albums regarding the quality of these mods. You can check them out on imgur here and here. We have rehosted just a few of the dozens of images.

It’s easy to see where Valve is coming from with the original concept: The company solely exists with thanks to mods. The GoldSrc engine was not the first to provide modding capabilities, but it stands as a significant milestone in the existence of this intensive and appreciated gaming niche. It was on GoldSrc that we saw the first cases of free community mods transcending their amateur roots and evolving into full-fledged, professional games. The list is long, but some of the best-known PC games are rooted in this background: Counter-Strike was a Half-Life mod, Team Fortress Classic was a Quake mod remade in the GoldSrc Engine (itself a Quake engine mod) then in Source, Dota was a Warcraft 3 map, Killing Floor was an Unreal Tournament mutator, and the list goes on. With the recent explosion of free-to-play titles with monetized User Generated Content, like Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, and – to some extent – CS:GO, it’s no wonder Valve decided to give Skyrim a shot of the same business model.

“There's a lot of focus on VR right now – a lot of people are pouring money and passion into it,” Epic Games' Chance Ivey told us in an interview, “it's getting rooted into the mainstream.”

Our last major virtual reality piece focused on the history of the technology, highlighting the profound advancement of this decade's sub-$1000 consumer-ready devices. VR has long faced location-based and monetary challenges, with original equipment costs ranking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not more, in some military applications – and consuming entire rooms for setup. As Valve rolls-out its impressive full-room VR experience and as Oculus nears the launch of the Rift, developers face a slew of unseen (to the gamer) challenges of integration.

If nothing else, we’ve learned one very critical item when working with Chris Roberts: Film everything. With most of our interview subjects, we go through a brief “pre-interview” process that provides a synopsis of the forthcoming questions and builds comfort between the presenter, the subject, and the camera. Every time we’ve done that with Roberts, we’ve accidentally dived into the actual content of the interview – I’m then forced to interrupt the CIG CEO and turn our cameras on.

This time, we did it differently.

“Just – just set the camera up right when we start talking and hit ‘record,’” I told Keegan Gallick, our camera operator and video editor. “Chris immediately starts talking about usable content items.”

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