Counter-Strike: Source Beta

Valve’s Quintin Doroquez has just released the following crucial information to all those clamouring for the forthcoming revised version of Counter-Strike:

Phase 1 of the Counter-Strike: Source beta has opened at cyber cafes that subscribe to the Valve Cyber Café Program. A full listing of those venues can be found here:
Later this month, the beta will be extended to owners of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and ATI\Half-Life 2 video card bundle owners.

Wait, wai-… wait a minute! Nearly got sucked into a bloody time warp there – that particular press bit’s actually way back from 2004. Believe it or not, after so many years of failed updates and broken netcode, Valve have honestly, really, truly scraped together a new batch of features to the game in conjunction with Hidden Path Studios. Broadly, here’s what the “limited beta” image above is about:

  • 144 achievements added
  • New lifetime player stats and summary screens
  • New match player stats and summary screens
  • New end of round display with MVP and interesting fact about a player
  • Updated scoreboard with new icons, visual style, MVP stars, and avatar pictures
  • New cinematic death camera
  • New domination and revenge system
  • Added avatar icons to voice chat, scoreboard, and end of round display
  • Incorporated many source engine updates

Before these changes are rolled over to the general population, you can sign up for the beta here. Steam is coughing and sputtering as is common with all major releases, so you might have to wait for your turn a bit.

Update: Whoops, the limited beta filled up already. That was quick.

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Flight of the Humblebee

You already know the deal. The sale is coming to its end and you now have exactly one day left to purchase (…more copies of…) the “Humble Indie Bundle”:

Somehow missed the bundle altogether?

Notably, for the duration of the campaign, Frictional Games are also offering the remaining two Penumbra games, Black Plague and Requiem, at a 75% discount. Furthermore, you can also preorder their forthcoming project, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, at 50% off (a great idea – the team will produce additional content if 2000 preorders are made before the 31st; the meter currently sits at an even 1900):

While you’re at it – and even if you’re not buying the bundle – please also remember to subscribe to Wolfire and Frictional Games’ development blogs; they contain what can only be described as a cornucopia of information, both intriguing and useful, for indie game fans and developers alike.

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Jim, Yes Means No

Almost exactly two years ago in 2008, on April the 22nd, the recovering Interplay had just sent out a press release announcing a new Earthworm Jim game to be developed in conjunction with an animated series and a feature film, with original author Douglas TenNapel working as a creative consultant on the game.

Conversely, earlier in the same month, Interplay had just “reinitiated its in-house game development studio, and [was] hiring game developers,” and vouched to “leverage its portfolio of gaming properties by creating sequels to some of its most successful games, including Earthworm Jim, Dark Alliance, Descent, and MDK.”

While we were all painfully aware of the financial and legal turmoil the company had just faced over the past few years, these exorbitant plans sounded good enough – at the very least up until the paragraph in the press release that also cited, in the same breath, the “Safe harbor statement under the private securities litigation reform act of 1995,” which so happens to state that “[t]he risks and uncertainties inherent in such statements may cause actual future events or results to differ materially and adversely from those described in the forward-looking statements.”

Hence: Two years, no game, no series, no film.


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The Goggles, They Do Everything

I’m sure it’s happened to you: you’re playing a game and you come across a weapon, or ability, or game mechanic that you just love, and you wish you could use it all the time. Only you can’t, because the developer has placed restrictions on it in the name of balance. It’s understandable that you can only use the Super Gravity Gun at the end of Half-Life 2, it being the most powerful weapon in the game. Valve know that restricting its usage makes it more fun to unleash on the Combine.

Where does the designer’s responsibility for making a game fun end, and the player’s begin? Should the player be given full reigns over the available tools or should the designer limit them? Greg Miller at IGN raises this question using a recent example, the detective vision mode in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. The mode enhances Batman’s vision, allowing him to use his detective skills and analyse his surroundings. At the touch of a button, a blue visor covers the screen and renders the environment in flat shapes in order to help highlight important details like vent covers and enemies. The mode can be activated at any time and for however long as the player wishes; moreover, it lets the player see through walls and points out key information like whether enemies are armed, if a wall is destructible, and so on. Sounds like a win button, doesn’t it?


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Note: This is Day 5 of “The Whispered World Week” at The Slowdown, and wraps up our coverage on the game and its creator for the time being. Big thanks for reading, and let us know what you thought in the comments section!

The Whispered World is finally out today in most of Europe. North American fans will have to wait a little longer still, as Viva Media pushes the game out the door next Monday. We hope this week’s coverage of the game has been informative and that you will all be able to enjoy the game to its fullest when you finally get your hands on it today, on Monday, or later down the road.

As we wrap up with our coverage on the game here at The Slowdown for the time being, I thought it would be pertinent to leave you all with a thought for tomorrow. Below, a piece of concept art for Marco Hüllen’s next personal hobby adventure project, Limbus:

In the promotional image above, the snake-wrapped figure on the right instantaneously recalls the influence of variations of the Hellenistic monumental sculpture, “Laocoön and His Sons.” While Marco confirmed this, he remains tight-lipped on its role and symbolism in the game’s context.

“Limbus,” then, refers to boundaries, borders and edges – all present in the image above, whether in the steepness of the cliff, the bridge, or the sea below. Additionally, since the third statue lies wounded in the back of the foreground, and each these characters are clearly in various types of torment, this all points our attention towards the Roman Catholic concept of the Limbo, which also ties in with the Roman-style architecture of the image.

Above, a series of character sketches from the game (including Aurora and Nicodemus, two of the three lead characters, and Nox). A translation of Hüllen’s official storyline for the game is as follows:

Limbus is set in a fictional future in which the world has been in chaos for many years, as people have suddenly begun to remember their past lives. As people are no longer afraid of death, they go about living their lives light-heartedly. Crimes are abound, wars raging and nothing can prevent the madness of mankind.

But then the Triplets are born. They alone can not remember their past lives, and their task will be to end the madness of the world.

The player assumes the role of the triplets Aurora, Nicodemus and Orlando, who must return to the villa of their childhood, to uncover the mystery of their lives and the entire mankind. The three are pursued by a secret sect, who eventually will have something to do with their secret.

During the story the three will have to visit crazy places like the city of the children and the city of the elderly, and meet many crazy characters, like the child Linus, who has opened a museum of his past lives, as well as creatures such as Nox, who lives in their villa.

In our interview, as inspiration for this forthcoming project, Hüllen cites Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie and the music of Yann Tiersen. At the moment,while the author admits to currently working on a demo, he is not yet very far in development, and as such not actively looking for publishers yet.

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