Weather Forecast: Clear Sky?

As you’ve probably realized by now, I’ve grown very attached to following up on the Clear Sky aftermath, gorging myself on new information as it arrives.  The company’s intriguing track record combined with early releases is very enthralling…

We’ve heard by now how Clear Sky’s North American release date slipped due to a botched print job, how the game was released in unfinished state, and how some players had patiently sat in front of Steam, counting down its unlock date counter only to discover the game was not playable even after the counter had run its course.

Against this backdrop, it feels like kicking a downed opponent to report that at the time of writing, the game’s multiplayer component is working neither on Steam nor in its ingame browser. This seems to be related, in turn, to the fact that GSC Game World‘s official company website has been down for the past two weeks. The common factor for both issues is, according to a reliable source, that the GSC systems admin is currently on vacation.

While it’s not too rare to have the development team go on vacation right after release – Nabeel reminded me of the BioShock launch – with Clear Sky, nevertheless, it resembles an oversight with the game’s non-Russian audience: Clear Sky was released early in Russia, but the UK launch date and the US release were delayed to the 15th of September. There is a chance the aforementioned issues could have been very well avoided if the staff had stayed on board up until the game was released worldwide.

Finally, the publisher, Deep Silver, cleverly redirects all Clear Sky support over to GSC’s forums, where we’ve all heard how the development team does not read the English forum. Does this mean what I think it means, that the English-speaking player base has no official tech support for the game? If so, what does that even mean, say, under the EU law?

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Kaned & Lynched

Coming off a succesful string of Hitman games and a notch-better-than-its-reputation Hollywood adaptation, the announcement for an all-new IO Interactive IP seemed to make perfect sense; after all, it’s not difficult to imagine the whole of IO staff trying to think-tank up something (anything!!) different after having stared at virtually nothing but the back of Agent 47’s bald head for six years (from 2000 to 2006) straight…

Enter Kane & Lynch, perhaps the most controversial game release of 2007. The game’s launch was mired in a string of negative, integrity-shattering publicity: The Gerstmanngate, falsified review scores, and ultimately one middle-of-the-road game. Kane & Lynch seemed a little like a fish out of water in a post-Max Payne -world.

Then again, our collective gamer memory is very short indeed, and everything simmers down after a while. That is, until GamesRadar butts in with an attempt at handing down the microphone over to IO, in the form of a confessional interview with Game Director Jens Peter Kurup, who gets to express his feelings over the public reception of the game.

(more…)

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Breaking News: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

Though Clear Sky has not fared all that badly in reviews so far – despite complaints of show-stopper bugs and ubiquitous brokenness – scepticism has begun to rear its ugly head in terms of the probability of GSC Game World’s ability to salvage the game with patching, and not in the least because of claims that the game still contains bugs that were already present in the original Shadow of Chernobyl.

The general atmosphere of the GSC Game World forums currently resembles that of launch-day BioShock forums (Nabeel, having been a moderator there, can surely testify): A vocal, angry minority (“Angry Internet Folk”) of customers feel they’ve been grievously wronged by a second failed launch in the row and that GSC should have learnt the lesson by now.

A moderator on the forums has confirmed that the project manager for Clear Sky, Anton Bolshakov, has been fired and replaced by Ruslan Didenko, the main game designer.

Despite the aforementioned shortcomings, a second patch (1.5.04) has already been released for the Russian version of the game. Adding fuel to the fire of confusion is the way version numbers are incremented for the Russian/UK releases of the game (1.5.x) and ROW (1.0x). For instance, the 1.01 patch takes the game to 1.5.03 UK. It is my understanding that both patches break save game compatibility.

I jumped relatively late on the Shadow of Chernobyl bandwagon, and played the game with the 1.0.0.6. patch. In that shape, the game worked well and only suffered from one or two broken quests and bogged-down performance. I’ve decided to take the same route with Clear Sky as I did with Shadow of Cherobyl, namely: Wait.

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Lorne Lanning: The Problem with Consoles

In a recent interview with GameDaily, Lanning controversially purported that

…anything that makes development more expensive, rather than better, faster, cheaper, I think is a step backwards. … I see [the PC] allowing for more smaller games to be sold that can be delivered to anyone who’s connected at much lower price points.

I’m always pleased to discover a name designer’s aversion for triple-A titles – you might still remember how I wrote out my disappointment in my post on Braid over the fact that even Blow’s so-called indie title had an incredulous $180,000 price tag! With purported falling PC platform game sales, however, it’s not altogether impossible to envision a relatively smooth transition from AAA all the way to a more budget-priced gaming future on the PC.

Lanning also discusses the emergence of “connected” gaming (the article discusses MySpace and other similar social networks); Although he does not explicitly define the word, it seems relatively clear he is referring to the so-called, oft-maligned HC/PC gamer crowd that intently follows industry news, frequents gaming sites and is generally in the know. In fact, he even laments how “…a marketing exec at a game publisher will look at my demographic and say, ‘Oh, they’re not buying games anymore.'”

It’s worth nothing, however, that Lanning’s recent output has not been all that ‘core’: He’s already pursued something less puzzle-oriented with Stranger’s Wrath (XBOX/2005); Oddworld Inhabitants have also long attempted to diversify their brand and branch out into animation and movie-format projects. In the meantime, Lanning remains relatively close-lipped, so only time will tell whether he still shoots for his hardcore demographic, or if he’s simply lamenting the fact that we’re “not buying games anymore”.

Then there’s always Peter Molyneux, who thinks to himself,

“‘Jesus, we’re spending so much f—ing money.’ Millions and millions of dollars. Sometimes I can start saying ‘my god, I can’t believe this is costing this much.’”

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GalCiv 2 Peace Report, Day 1

Tom Francis, of PC Gamer UK magazine, has posted the first part of his latest AAR of Galactic Civilizations 2 over at CV&G.com. It is to be included in the latest magazine issue as a separate booklet, and the online blog will be updated every few days til the complete piece is up there. This piece was written on the heels of the newest expansion for GalCiv 2, Twilight of the Arnor; Francis’ previous effort was on the preceding Dark Avatar expansion.

I’m a huge fan of his work, and immensely enjoyed the last AAR, so I’m really looking forward to reading this one. Essentially it is a meticulous day-by-day recount of a playthrough, in this case it’s an attempt to conquer the galaxy with a cultural victory. What makes this kind of thing interesting is that everything that occurs is related and nothing omitted – all mistakes and all victories. That his pieces are hilarious by nature is only icing on the cake. It makes the game sound interesting to even those who aren’t even interested in playing it.

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