Gaming Features

I’m always incredibly skeptical when presented with any form of MMO, especially of the F2P variety; so many dwell within a realm of repetition and disguised bypass-this-grind-with-a-microtransaction mechanics that it’s tough to get excited about them anymore. This is a classic instance of abuse by the industry – abuse so pervasive that it turns players off before they’ve even laid hands on the game. Some games shine through the pile of opportunists – like ArcheAge, which has deeply interesting economy and warfare mechanics – but they’re big productions and tough to pull-off.

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World of Speed is a bit different in that it’s a closed-world MMO racing game driven primarily by player skill. At least, that’s what they tell me. I got a hands-on with the game at GDC 2014 and had a chance to speak with Sean Fitzpatrick of Slightly Mad Studios, a company you might recognize for its work on the high-fidelity “Project Cars” game. Slightly Mad’s track-record with Project Cars – to include widespread use by nVidia as a graphics demonstration – carries over to World of Speed as the teams share experience internally.

Korean studio XL Games offered Korean and Japanese gamers a chance to enjoy the freedom of creating a player-specific experience while enjoying core MMORPG gameplay when they released ArcheAge last year. Bay Area-based studio Trion Worlds (End of Nations, Rift, Defiance) has been working with XL Games ever since to bring the sandbox MMORPG to Western audiences. 

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We caught up with Producer Victoria Voss at last week’s Game Developers Conference to learn more about and the game’s extensive crafting skills, XP system, and unique treatment of crime and punishment.

ArcheAge is a fantasy MMORPG that creates massive PVP battles and features 15 crafting skills; in this preview, we’ll look at the game’s merits in the MMO marketplace.

Active game-buyers of the 2006-2007 era would likely recognize Dreamfall’s box art immediately, whether or not they played it; Zoë’s pink tank-top and contrasting dark hair made for perhaps one of the only game boxes of the period to present a female character in, y’know, clothes. The game received critical acclaim for its narrative-driven approach to play, and although it did have some scrutinized combat and stealth mechanics, it was always about the story. Players were left hanging at the end of the game, eagerly awaiting the continuation of the story in what would become Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey.

But then all went silent.

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The 90s and early 00s bore witness to an effective boom-and-bust of city-builders, RTS, and other types of top-down strategy-derivatives. Industry trends are in constant flux – as Call of Duty’s success has prompted an insufferable proliferation of mediocrity, games like Caesar, Zeus, and Sim City prefixed the rise of dozens of city builder titles; in this same era, we saw the rapid iteration of the highly-successful Command & Conquer series, Age of Empires games, Civilization, and plenty of others. The industry has stopped caring about top-down management games as much as it used to, but there’s still a rather empty market for fans of the sub-genres.

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I’m obviously nostalgic for these types of games. There’s no hiding that.

Clockwork Empires immediately had my attention, and with thanks given to developers Nicholas Vining and David Baumgart, it was able to keep that initial interest throughout our hour-long GDC hands-on. Many puns and jokes that’d make a PR manager cringe later (“no!” was groaned from behind me throughout our video process), and I’m convinced that Clockwork Empires stands a solid chance in shaping up to be a solid experience.

 

After the typically groggy-Monday start, San Francisco’s Game Developers Conference enjoyed its most bustling day on Tuesday, March 18th. We met with Paradox, Obsidian, and Sony Online Entertainment for the day, with SOE stealing the show on the topic of their impending EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next: Landmark titles.

eq1-concept-artThe original EverQuest from 99 had impressive concept art. It is also home to my favorite game soundtrack of all time.

I previously posted a quick EQNL specifications and requirements article, but aside from that, our coverage of Landmark has been pretty thin. This post should very quickly get you up to speed on the basics and provide some interesting developer commentary for existing fans. In taking with Dave Georgeson, Director of Development for the EQ Franchise at SOE, we covered several fan-requested topics within EverQuest Next: Landmark (EQNL) and the far-future EverQuest Next (EQN) launch.

A couple key discussion points addressed in the video interview below include client-server I/O optimization, modding support, water and accompanying static vs. dynamic physics, griefing countermeasures, the future of EQNL, NPCs, and a bit more.

You should also check back on Thursday for another EQNL article from us.

There's been a lot of discussion about Titanfall's performance lately. Our most recent Titanfall GPU performance benchmark showed that the game still exhibits serious issues on certain devices; nVidia cards showed severe stuttering, SLI has micro-stuttering and works better disabled, and the game is simply needlessly large. All these taken into account, the performance issues feel almost unjustified for the visuals -- the game looks fine, sure, but it's not melt-your-GPU level of graphics and certainly isn't spectacular to look at. It's another Source Engine game with adequate graphics. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing, so please don't get me wrong -- just that the performance isn't perfectly-tuned, at least, not yet. More drivers and patches will smooth that out.

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I don't want to come off as too harsh, though. The mechanics are enjoyable for certain types of players and the game overall seems 'good,' it's just experiencing some (now-standard) launch issues with PC optimization. All is survivable, though.

 

With only eight days until giant fighting robots take over our lives, more information has leaked about Titanfall. Reddit user FallenFusion has expanded on the information that NeoGAF user RazorUK was able to dig out of the beta, sharing some exciting details and new screenshots yesterday. For those of you who've missed RazorUK's leaks, we're going to include those below in addition to the new information and images provided by Fusion; this Titanfall leaks round-up will compile all the relevant information about maps, turrets, generations, ziplines, and pilot hunter.

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Before we begin, you might also be interested in these other Titanfall articles we've published lately:

Chaos brimmed from Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall servers this weekend as players invited to the beta (which is now open) ventured into the game to try it out. Despite serious initial video issues and other bugs and odd benchmark performance, Titanfall's gameplay can at times be relatively smooth and strategic.

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I have a good deal of criticism to dish out in another article, but for now, we'll stick to the tactical discussion. This Titanfall strategy guide will cover Last Titan Standing tips, tricks, and gameplay mechanics to help elevate level of play.

Titanfall's momentous beta launch didn't come without its share of issues -- which certainly doesn't do any favors for EA's reputation. Although the game is still presently in beta and many issues are excusable, the title will launch in a short number of weeks and should be going gold soon.

titanfall-tearing2Texture tearing with the HD4000.

While we benchmarked Titanfall's PC performance to find the best video cards for the game last night, we ran into a number of screen tearing, stuttering, visual artifacting, V-Sync, mouse lag, black screen, and crash-to-desktop errors that we've attempted to resolve. Some were fixable, others... not so much.

It is very likely that many of these issues will be resolved permanently as driver manufacturers release updates for their devices and as Respawn releases Titanfall updates. In the meantime, though, here's what we do know.

NOTE: This has been updated with the launch version of the game!

During our hands-on press preview with Titanfall's PC deployment last night, we put the game through its paces on numerous GPU configurations atop our standardized test bench. Initial test attempts resulted in some frustration and hurdles, but with enough research and troubleshooting, we managed to develop a stable, reliable test bed for Titanfall's PC debut.

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If you're yet unfamiliar with Titanfall, check out our (now-outdated) Titanfall Analysis.

In this Titanfall benchmark & analysis, we look at the best video cards for Titanfall, framerates (FPS), performance of APUs, SLI configs, & CrossFire, and more; the graphics devices we tested on Titanfall include AMD's 7850 1GB (+ CrossFire), the A10-5800K Trinity APU (7660D), NVIDIA's GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB (+ SLI), GTX 760 2GB, and GTX 580 1.5GB (for reference), and Intel's HD4000 integrated graphics processor (IGP) on the 3rd-Gen Ivy Bridge CPUs. This IGP is also found in modern Haswell CPUs.

 Note: Titanfall is presently in early beta, so it is highly likely that these numbers will improve as the game nears launch and optimization patches are released. It is also likely that nVidia and AMD will release updated drivers with profiles for Titanfall shortly, at which point we will re-test the game appropriately.

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