As 2016 comes to an end, Steam is hosting their annual Winter Sale from now until January 2nd at 10AM PST. Steam’s annual Autumn Sale ran this year from November 23rd to 29th, so if you missed out on that, this is probably the last chance to get some savings for the year. Then again, Steam does sales routinely -- careful use of the wishlist means you’ll get notifications as items go up for sale throughout the year.
For today, we have a list of some of our best PC games of 2016 as well as some titles from 2015 that are discounted significantly. As these Steam sales come to a close, we will just be arriving in Las Vegas for the year’s Consumer Electronics Show, so do follow closely for that! News will ramp-up significantly post-Xmas.
Here is the shortlist:
It's an interesting world where global video game industry revenue out-grosses that of the incumbent movie and music entertainment industries. In an unprecedented cross-over, Valve today announced its partnership with Lionsgate (NYSE: LGFO) to bring “more than 100 movies” to Steam. Among the selection is the Hunger Games series, Ender's Game, and the Saw series. From our first look, we're only seeing 70 total films – but there are supposedly at least 31 more on the way.
The past week in game news saw some contradictions in initial RollerCoaster Tycoon World plans, Steam controller 3D print customization, Battleborn's beta, and Hyper Light Drifter's launch. Big news in various segments of the gaming market, all covered in our weekly recap that's embedded below.
RollerCoaster Tycoon World is up first (RCTW) – an easy topic, given our extensive coverage history of the game's tumultuous development pipeline. Developers nvizzio and publisher Atari have given in to the Early Access model, making available RCTW for $50 pre-purchases. More on this and other weekly news topics in this video:
Steam today launched the pre-order for their collaboration project with HTC -- the HTC Vive for SteamVR. Those who pre-order get the whole kit-and-caboodle -- the headset, sensors, and controllers -- and a few extra throw-in games. We’ve covered Valve’s VR multiple times, going so far as to explain the “how it works” in-depth here, and we’ve talked about our opinion of the whole thing.
In a short-fused statement on reddit yesterday, Valve CEO Gabe Newell called James “2GD” Harding “an ass,” then went on to say “as long as we're firing people, we are also firing the production company.”
This was all in response to Valve's newest DOTA2 event, the $3 million Shanghai Major tournament. As with all Valve events in recorded history, the Shanghai Major experienced several production delays and slow-downs that forced on-camera personality and veteran TV host '2GD' to buy time, entertaining the audience during between-match pauses. 2GD has been popular among the DOTA2 community since his time hosting the second TI event, but is also known for stints with MTV, SkyNews, and his own game studio. Shockingly for fans viewing the live event, 2GD was seemingly spontaneously fired mid-cast. The commentator released little information to fans pursuant to an agreement with Valve to “put it on ice” and resolve matters privately.
Ivan Sutherland's “Sword of Domacles” head-mounted display lurched above its user as a spider above its prey; the contraption, as most technology of its era, was room-sized. The Sword of Domacles wasn't meant to be a user-accessible VR solution. It produced primitive wireframes of a room's interior and was strictly observational, demonstrated in awkward photos with the wearer's hands neatly clasped behind his back. This was Ground Zero for VR.
Sutherland later joined David Evans to build the University of Utah's Computer Science and Computer Graphics divisions, responsible for students who'd later create the world's first computer-animated 3D graphics. Through Sutherland and Evans – and their students – the foundation for Adobe, Pixar, and Silicon Graphics (SGI) was set, later producing companies like the modern nVidia. All this history of VR is recapped more thoroughly in our “History of Virtual Reality” article.
Oculus VR and Valve are makers of the modern-day HMD incarnates. Billions of dollars are backing these new ventures and, for the first time in history, viable VR solutions don't cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. They're also not military-owned, another common theme of previous virtual reality attempts.
Our team has spent a considerable amount of time in virtual reality demos. The technology is an impressive fusion of display advancements, frametime pacing optimization, input latency management, and IR scanning. Just the display tech alone is nearly unrivaled, the Rift packing 2160x1200 pixels into a space smaller than a phone screen. Screen Door Effect issues have been largely resolved or circumvented on each of the major two VR solutions, and timewarp has been navigated with clever GPU processing techniques by both AMD and nVidia. Everything's lining-up to be a serious push into virtual reality and, this time, there's enough money behind the concept that it's not another “3D glasses” fad. Probably, anyway.
But I don't think VR is ready for day-one adoption by the general gaming audience. Impressive – yes; here to stay – yes. But not ready for gamers. The Vive and Rift both experience similar versions of the same problems: Hardware requirements and prices that rival more affordable displays, logistical and use case limitations, and the industry's myopic understanding of game design.
HTC's Vive and Oculus VR's Rift are the two big players that we're focusing on today.
Intel has plenty of floor presence at CES – building-sized booths, et al. – but the most interesting thing they brought to CES may have been in a separate demo suite. The suite was loaded with the latest laptops from each of the industry's most prolific manufacturers, one of which – a GT72 from MSI (we’ve reviewed them a few times) – hung mounted to a mobile VR rig. We’ll get to that in a moment.
We were first introduced to the new Razer Blade Stealth, an impressively light and thin laptop with a 1440p display and a USB type C port. The type C port can be used as a charging port for the laptop or as a Thunderbolt 3 connection. Intel used the USB C port as a Thunderbolt link to connect to the Razer Core, an external graphics card enclosure (we’ve looked at these before, too). The device inside the Razer Core was an AMD graphics card and the connection was announced by the software each time we removed or replaced the cable. Just for kicks, we also flipped the USB C connector because that's still fun to do that.
The latest HTC Vive demo plants players within the photorealistic outcroppings of Mount Everest, an atmosphere which serves more as an “experience” than an outright “game.” Mechanics are effectively boiled-down to look at stuff and move the sticks, with the full bore of virtual reality graphics processing stealing the spotlight. Developers Solfar Studios stitched together tens of thousands of frames from the real mountain, accurately height-mapped the mountain, and firmly represent Everest’s actual crevices, ravines, and spine-like ridgelines to the Vive wearer.
This is the final iteration of the HTC Vive. We previously published a deep-dive on the headset’s technological inner-workings, but substantial changes have been made in just the few months following. Core concepts and objectives remain largely unchanged, yet execution and design have received additional development focus thanks to delays from initial Xmas ’15 launch targets. The Vive isn’t the first HMD to push back launch into 2016, either; Oculus VR’s Rift will post its public pre-order page on Wednesday, 1/6, finally nearing its own launch target of 2Q16.
The VR juggernauts are going head-to-head, then, with launch dates fully aligning and graphics vendors supporting all viable technologies. Our initial user impressions are above, GN’s Patrick Stone joining for a different perspective. Carry on for the split-author impressions editorial.
Patrick Stone covers all Oculus Rift sections (demarcated with parenthetical notation); Steve Burke covers the HTC Vive.
For a week following the holidays, game news has been non-stop in its roll-out since Christmas day. Valve experienced store downtime on Xmas for a period of about an hour, resultant of an emergency shutoff to protect users from a caching issue that exposed personal information. Valve stated that users have nothing to worry about with regard to credit card information and account data.
That wasn't Santa's only gift to the games industry, though; employees at Red5, developers of Firefall, were reportedly told that payroll would not be issued due to lack of studio finances.
News more specific to games – not just the industry – emerged for The Witcher 3, Escape from Tarkov, and Far Cry Primal. Additional information was revealed about the new Assassin's Creed: The Game: The Movie adaptation. You'll find all that in our news recap video below. Script below that.
The Steam store was shut down on Christmas day following a series of DDOS attacks. Valve released a statement and apology following the event, clarifying that 34,000 people have been affected and that the released information “did not include full credit card numbers, user passwords, or enough data to allow logging in as or completing a transaction as another user.” Further, those who did not input any personal information to Steam on Christmas will not have been affected by the caching error.
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