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Discussion: Will Valve Ever Make Games Again?

Discussion: Will Valve Ever Make Games Again?

Valve is arguably one of the most influential studios in the gaming industry. Many of their properties such as Portal, Left4Dead, and Team Fortress 2 were considered instant classics. Their most famous series, Half Life, set the stage for every FPS that came after it by introducing features so intrinsic to the genre that we can scarcely remember a time without them. And yet, in the modern age things feel a little different – it’s been years since Valve has released an original title and jokes like “Valve can’t count to three” pervade the Internet. Even Half Life, their flagship franchise, has gone an entire decade without a release to tie up the massive cliffhanger gamers were left with.

Valve obviously isn’t hurting, though. Despite some competitors cropping up in recent years the Steam platform is still the main way most PC gamers buy their games. They’re even making an effort to pick away at the console market by introducing Big Picture Mode, SteamOS, and hardware like the Steam Controller. In addition to Steam, Valve is also still making money off of some of its older titles like Team Fortress 2. With all of this cash flowing in, many people have speculated that they’re simply not interested in producing any new titles.

Despite the accusations, Valve insists that they are, in fact, still making games. Even though many have written it off as vaporware, Valve has never officially stated that they’ve stopped development on Half Life 3. They’ve also gone on record stating that they’re developing new titles for their heavily-pushed virtual reality platform, although to date the only VR content they’ve released have been short demo-like “experiences”. Two years ago they released a DOTA 2 beta built on the Source 2 engine – the follow up to the famed Source engine that had driven their most famous games. Although this way a ray of hope, Source 2 has never been released to outside developers and to date has only been used on the aforementioned beta and an update to Counterstrike:GO.

Perhaps the most damning evidence is that recently Chet Faliszek, one of Valve’s most prolific writers, left the company. He was one of the writers responsible for Half Life, Portal, and several other of Valve’s most beloved games. All the other “original” writers have long since left, meaning that Feliszek’s departure was especially hard felt. A big part of why those games got big in the first place where their unique and engaging story lines, and now it’s an open question whether Valve will ever be able to deliver that again.

I’m sorry to say it, but I think Valve’s hey day as a game studio has passed. I have faith that they’ll continue to be a powerhouse through their Steam platform, but as for original game content I just don’t see it – we might get one or two lackluster titles but that’s it. But who knows? If there’s one thing Valve has always been good at its surprises – if there’s one developer who could pull off an unexpected comeback it would be them.

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!
The Overwatch Summer Games are Back!

The Overwatch Summer Games are Back!

After a popular debut during 2016’s Summer Olympics, the 2017 Overwatch Summer Games have returned for another fun summer. Represent your favorite hero’s country with exciting new skins, themes, arenas, and leaderboards. Visit new parts of the world that all of your favorite characters can take pride in! From August 8th to August 28th, you will be able to feel the spirit of competition by participating in limited-time events, with 10 action-packed days full of new skins and exciting loot crate opportunities. From Lucioball to over 50 new items, the Overwatch Summer Games are here in full force! Jump in this season for the opportunity to get some original event loot!

Overwatch Summer Games Skins

There are a lot of new features, additions, and play styles available in this year’s Summer Games. 2016 sported new skins, some of which have returned this year for a second chance to acquire them. If you missed out on McCree’s “American” skin or Genji’s “Nihon” skin from last year, now’s your chance to fight for victory and claim your customization prizes. The same goes for emotes and victory poses as well.

Of course, this year is not without its wide variety of new skins as well. Some exciting new customization textures have been added to the most popular characters of Overwatch, making players even more excited to get their hands on those loot crates. Check out Grillmaster: 76, Mercy’s Winged Victory, or even the grumpy Lifeguard McCree to pair perfectly with the heroes whose summer skins you earned last year.

And if you don’t feel like testing your RNG luck by buying loot boxes, you can purchase the previous year’s Legendary skins with credits too. They are even sold at a discount!

And speaking of loot boxes…

Overwatch Summer Games Loot Boxes

There are over 10 new cosmetic items available for 10 days only this year. By taking part in the Overwatch Summer Games, you have the unique chance of acquiring loot boxes like never before. All of the popular victory poses, emotes, and voice lines from last year have a chance to show up in a loot box as well, but you’ll really want to get your hands on one so that you can see some of the best items fresh from Blizzard’s Overwatch team. We know it’s a lot of work to grind for these boxes, so if you rather get someone else to do this for you, you can consider getting an overwatch boost from these guys.

Emotes, Highlight Intros, and Victory Poses

All of the popular emotes and cosmetic choices from 2016’s Overwatch Summer Games have returned, and you have a chance to score them through loot boxes. There are a lot of new emotes, highlight intros, and victory poses as well that players are dying to get their hands on. Pharah’s Slam Dunk and Hanzo’s Target Practice highlight intros are bound to be popular picks, while Ana’s Beach Ball emote is an exciting new choice that players can’t wait to experience live.

The New Arena

This year’s Overwatch Summer Games has an exciting arena opportunity for players to get invested in. It’s easy to spend hours in this fun tournament mode! You may remember Lucioball from last year’s exciting Olympic-inspired games – well, it has returned for another exciting season of intense play! But now, there are several new changes and featured added to make Lucioball even more fun.

You may be familiar with the futuristic location of Rio de Janiero that Lucioball was placed in last year. You still have a chance to play on that beautiful 3v3 field, but now you have a chance to land in a new arena as well – the Sydney Harbour Arena!

Plus, there are now two Lucioball game modes: Lucioball, and Copa Lucioball, which introduces an all-new rating tier, competitive placement matches, and its very own leaderboard. You are free to play either of these two gaming styles as much as you want, but for 10 days only!

Play the Overwatch Summer Games Today!

There are only 2 weeks to experience everything the exciting Summer Games have to offer. For a limited time, you can gain experience with new leaderboards, a competitive arena, an exciting ranking system, and of course, over 150 new cosmetic options that will come as part of the loot box system. The more you play, the better chance you have to get your hands on some limited-time loot. It’s hard to pass up this deal! By participating in the Overwatch Summer Games, you will be able to acquire a piece of something that may not ever return to Overwatch again. Make your mark in Overwatch history by jumping into the Overwatch Summer Games today! Hurry, because you only have until August 28th!

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!
Gaming Gets the Red Carpet Treatment at the IDF and GDC Awards

Gaming Gets the Red Carpet Treatment at the IDF and GDC Awards

It’s awards season here in America. While most of the country is focused on the Oscars, the Grammys, and other mainstream awards ceremonies, the world of gaming has its own accolades to give out. This comes primarily in the form of the Independent Games Festival for Indie titles, and the Games Developers Choice awards for more mainstream works. Both organizations debuted their annual ceremonies a little while ago, so now is the perfect time to take a look at who won, who got snubbed, and which categories saw surprises this year.

You can read up more about this from here.

First, a little background on each event. Both organizations are run by the Games Developers Conference, an annual meet up of games developers that tries to emphasize learning and networking with fellow game makers. The Independent Games Festival was started in the late 90’s to try and promote smaller indie games and help them grow, much in the same way that the Sundance film festival has helped indie movies. IGF winners typically benefit from a cash prize, which helps to fund these smaller companies as they bring out innovative new content.

The Game Developers Choice Awards are the IGF’s more mainstream counterpart. This awards ceremony targets the bigger AAA studios in the industry – if we were talking about movies, then the GDCA would be the Oscars. That’s not to say that smaller studios can’t still make a breakthrough in the GDC awards – in fact, there are a few arguably-indie studios represented in the winners this year.

All that being said, let’s take a look at the results! We’ll start with the IGF before moving on to discuss the GDC awards.

The top award at the IGF is the “Seumas McNally Grand Prize”, a $30,000 honor named for the famed founder of Longbow Digital Arts. This year, the winner of the McNally Prize was the game Quadrilateral Cowboy, by Blendo Games. This innovate first-person puzzle game featured the novel gameplay mechanic of having to type in actual computer code in order to hack various objects – making it a sensible choice for this prize. Quadrilateral Cowboy also took home the “Excellence in Design” award.

Other notable categories from the IGF include the “Excellence in Narrative” award, won by erotic visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind (Made by Love Conquers All Games) and “Excellence in Visual Art” won by action RPG Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine).

Over at the GDC Awards we saw a wider pool of categories and naturally a lot more titles that most gamers would be familiar with. The top award (Game of the Year) was won by Blizzard’s competitive team-based shooter Overwatch, a runaway hit that’s been lighting up gaming blogs and other news media since its release. Overwatch also managed to snag the “Best Design” award while it was at it.

I’m very pleased to say that one of my personal favorite games of this year, Firewatch (by Campo Santo) captured both “Best Narrative” and “Best Debut” this year. Meanwhile, Playdead Studio’s newest title Inside grabbed the well deserved “Best Visual Art” and “Best Audio” awards.

Perhaps one of the most shocking awards given at either ceremony was the GDC “Innovation” award, handed to none other than No Man’s Sky (Hello Games). This open world space exploration/survival game is infamous in the community for building up large amounts of funds via a crowdfunding campaign promising lofty and ambitious features, and then releasing a product that didn’t remotely live up to those vows. The whole game was a glitchy mess on release, and several key (and highly advertised) features were quite noticeably missing. In fact, more than one lawsuit has cropped up targeting Hello Games for falsely advertising the features of the game. Given all of this it’s a bit of a wonder how No Man’s Sky even got a nomination, much less an actual award.

Despite that one curious hiccup, overall I’d say it was a pretty good turnout for this year’s awards season. It’s great to see good developers get recognized for their hard work, and most of the category winners absolutely deserved their trophies. In the case of the IGF it’s also awesome to see newer studios granted with monetary support so that they can continue innovating and bring us fantastic new experiences. 2016 was an abnormally good year for gaming, but hopefully the trend will continue and when next year’s awards roll around we’ll see fantastic new content up for nomination.

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!
New Playable Character Teased For Overwatch

New Playable Character Teased For Overwatch

Since taking top honors at the 2016 Game Awards, Overwatch, the team based, multiplayer, First-Person Shooter (Whew, Quite a mouthful!) has steadily increased its loyal following of gamers by doling out a near constant stream of updates and new characters to take control of and create havoc in the game world. It’s popularity has birthed a whole crew of new service providers including Overwatch boosting, which has taken over the Overwatch competitive playerbase. The latest update from Blizzard has teased the possible identity of Overwatch’s upcoming new playable character, number 24 if anyone is keeping count out there.

In a blog post from Blizzard’s official website, we are introduced to 11 year old Efi Oladele. Hailing from Numbani, Efi is the prestigious recipient of the “Adawe Foundation’s Genius Grant.” From the in-universe interview, we learn that she has a deep interest in all things mechanical and chats about her achievements in robotics and Artificial Intelligence. She has a clear plan on what she wants to do with the Grant, but purposefully doesn’t reveal it in the interview, only stating that her parents are taking her on a trip to celebrate, which will also see her flying for the first time.

From the brief interview, she comes across as humble and slightly overwhelmed with the attention she’s receiving from winning the Grant, but determined to advance her knowledge of robotics and AI. Sporting a snazzy gold crown, some headphones with earrings attached and what looks to be a necklace with an electrical cord connected to it, Efi certainly looks the part of a child robotics expert.

Although gamers were still disappointed with the news of Doomfist’s character reveal being delayed, the blog was met with enthusiasm from the Overwatch community. Also, it has led to debate whether Efi will actually be the 24th playable character, or if she’s simply being used to flesh out the backstory of the real upcoming playable character. Many gamers have suggested this on the basis that it seems quite unlikely that Blizzard would have you controlling an eleven year old child in battle. If we examine Blizzard’s track record of character reveals, each one was preceded by a similar blog post, which lends credence to Efi being a playable character.

Other users have suggested that an older version of Efi will be used instead, but that rumour was shot down in a twitter post from lead writer Michael Chu, stating that the interview takes place in the present day and there will be no time skips or flash forwards. This definitively rules out the possibility of seeing an older Efi laying waste in the game world.

Another interesting theory that has been doing the rounds concerns Efi’s genius ability with AI, some believe she will use the grant money to build a robot, as she states she wants to build something to keep the world safe just like the OR15’s. In this case, the robot that Efi builds will be the playable character instead.

While speculation is rampant and theories are flying around the internet faster than a speeding bullet, one thing is certain, Blizzard always has a knack for surprising their fans, and when the 24th playable character is finally revealed, it will no doubt be a cause for celebration.

Read more news on our other Overwatch articles here, and also here’s an Overwatch tier list if you wanted to learn the different tiers of heroes according to strength in Overwatch.

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!
Pokémon GO! The Wonders of Nature

Pokémon GO! The Wonders of Nature

Consider this. It’s a warm and beautiful day outside. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. You want to get outside and do something but you aren’t sure what quite yet. You decide to hop on your bike and head to the park. You love the park, with all of its birds and trees and nature walks. It’s hard to find great places like this one in the city in which you live, so whenever you can, you go to the park. When you get there, you begin to tune into sounds and sights that you normally night not see if you weren’t paying attention. Once you’ve dialed in, you notice so many wonderful and natural things and begin to classify them in your brain. “Too bad there isn’t a video game for something like this,” you think to yourself. “If there was, I would play it all day!”.

Just when you thought that you would need to buy a virtual reality headset and pay tons of money in order to experience the outdoors like this, along comes Pokémon Go and it completely reshapes your world. Released in July 2016 and downloaded more than five million times in less than two months, this smartphone game is creating quite a buzz. I still remember playing Pokemon on my Gameboy when I was just a child. It’s incredible how this has now expanded on that phenomenon, the best-selling card game, and how this app treats its players to adventures in the outdoors.

Take your mobile device with you and root out and capture different species of Pokémon creatures and gain points and ranking as you do. There are about one hundred fifty-one different species in Pokémon Go. Some are easy to find and are very common and might take you no time at all to discover, while others are extremely difficult to find, leading you on a day’s journey just to find that one special little pocket monster.

It is said that one hundred forty-two of them are discoverable in the United States, three more in international regions, and six characters that, up to this point, have not yet been found. Imagine then, deciding to find those missing six characters. Imagine where you might go and what you might see. The possibilities are endless and the opportunity for travel is astounding.

Who would have thought that a little game like Pokémon Go could offer the player the tools to travel the world, classifying and categorizing various species of animals, just like scientists do, all over the planet? Now think about the way the different environments that are in play. Certain Pokémon characters only appear near lakes or rivers. Some only reside in the mountains or in forests. This inadvertently teaches players of biomes and natural habitats, which is amazing and educational at the same time. They also vary in terms of population, just like certain species that actually exist in the world, and sometimes one type of Pokémon character will evolve into another, mimicking evolution of the species on our planet! With all of this variety, imagine the places you’ll go to catch your wild Pokémon!

Whatever you do, don’t miss out on your chance to play this game. As much as we enjoy sitting at home playing Battlefield 1, this is a good chance to step outside and get some exercise in! Download Pokémon Go, pack a bag with some food and water and maybe a sweater, call a friend and get out there! Here’s some motivation before you step out into the wild for your own adventure –

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!
Our Thoughts on Resident Evil 7

Our Thoughts on Resident Evil 7

Resident evil 7: Biohazard is the latest installment of the franchise, published by Capcom. fans of the Resident evil Franchise were disappointed with Resident Evil 6 which was released four years ago. The series has lost it much taunted touch with its fanbase. However, with the latest release, Capcom hopes to prove you wrong and that the new numbered game in the series is more than just a return to form.

This is by far the most popular and commercially successful game of the franchise. It is the first installment of the franchise in which it is played from first person perspective. The game portrays an intimate horror with a tightly focused scope and all the traps you will expect from a survival game. No meaningless stuff like the horror of guiding a seemingly terrified character out of a waking nightmare into a safety.

The story of the RE7 revolves around protagonist Ethan Winters as he searches for his wife Mia, which leads him to a garden inhabited by the Baker family. Ethan makes use of weapons and tools in the fight against the murderous cannibals of evil creatures who are referred to as the moulded and the Baker family . The game is a departure of the action oriented and zombie outbreaks of the former series toward a larger emphasis on horror and exploration.

This time, our protagonist is Ethan Winters. Just a regular joe looking for his wife. This is quite a different approach as compared to previous Resident Evil titles. Another big change, and not just a change in the story or approach is how the game is now played in First Person Perspective. This makes such a huge difference to the gameplay and I honestly think that this is the one change that made the game into such a success. Having to navigate your way around the claustrophobic Baker house, traps, and not knowing what you could encounter around the next corner just makes RE7 such an amazing and immersive experience.

To take things even further, on the Playstation 4,  you can even play the game on a VR headset. Although this is quite a game changer considering the genre of the game being horror, many people find it less ideal. Citing issues with how the game isn’t compatible with VR, or motion sickness. Moving in the game while standing still in real life can be quite a disorienting experience. Certain visuals aspects in the game seem much darker and muddier in VR, which might affect gameplay negatively.

Capcom has acknowledged that these problems exist and that you might expect a fix to be coming sometime soon.  If you can get past all the minor inconveniences that come with playing with the VR set, you might actually enjoy the game in VR. If not for your entire playthrough, but just for novelty’s sake.

If you’re a horror game buff, give RE7 a shot. If you’re not, still give it a shot! It’s honestly not that scary, and pretty fun even for non-horror fans.

Well, if you’re too scared, here’s a short gameplay video so you can get an idea of what the game is like before you commit to a purchase. Don’t worry, this video doesn’t have any spoilers in it.

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!
A Positive Spin on Video Games

A Positive Spin on Video Games

Since they first came out more than thirty years ago, video games have entertained, confused, frustrated and delighted millions of people of different ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Think of it like you would the evolution of Rock and Roll music or various fashion trends throughout time; terrible at first. And then, over time the positive effects come shining through and cannot be disputed.

Here’s a serious blog about video gaming for once. As “lifelong gamers” of course we are big advocates of this particular hobby and activity, but as much as we would think it’s a healthy activity, many have argued against this in the past, saying video games promote violence, etc. Our friends from CS:GO Academy had this to say about it – “We feel that we are able to focus better in real life, and also perform certain tasks better than the average person who doesn’t play video games. This is our take on gaming, and our humble opinion on it”. These guys play games (they provide boosting services for CSGO) for a living and Counter Strike: Global Offensive is known as one of the most high-requirement hand-eye coordination games in the world.

Playing video games can’t be that bad! I mean, come on, even BBC says so. Of course, there are numerous studies that “prove” higher levels of aggression, various negative health effects like obesity and physical issues that result from gross overuse in those people who play video games. It would make sense that such a debated topic would garnish more attention if the news is bad rather than good. That way, people can continue to condemn video games and “gamers”, and dismiss the entire industry as a silly and base money making a scheme that aims to capitalize on the disenfranchised and the young.

Historically, video games and simulators were used in various training programs like NASA and the military. When trainees couldn’t actually and logistically be somewhere to train, they could utilize new technologies that allow them virtually to participate. Things such as flight simulators and various war games all allowed for experience and exposure and offered the potential of learning and mastering various skills and techniques.

There is a direct link between the use of video games and improved hand-eye coordination and time between action and response. Studies show that participants who have had no more than twenty-five to fifty hours of exposure and experience playing video games, when tested after their gameplay, had quicker reaction times to stimuli, achieved better scores in visual discrimination and cognition tests and, strangely enough, had longer and more focused attention spans that those participants who did not play video games.

In the field of academia and education, there have been numerous studies which have concluded that incorporating video games into the classroom can be beneficial to children in a variety of ways. In today’s world, it is vital to provide children with all of the tools they will need to get out in there and make a positive impact on society.

We all learn differently and have different abilities and natural propensities. Some of us are good at math. Some of us are great readers or story writers. Some kids love science. Some kids really just love to build and create. Instead of reducing and limiting education to the traditional methods of book learning, we have the ability to utilize our advanced forms of technology in order to make the learning come alive and be really palpable to children who might otherwise not find any of it stimulating and might now take the opportunity to open their minds to learning. Video games can be just the thing that some children might find engaging, interesting and worthwhile. Educational video games are sneaky in all of the right ways. They can help increase attention spans and heighten spatial sensitivity and awareness.

Now, let’s put this in some kind of context that we all can understand. No one is saying that video games make you smarter or give you special abilities or superpowers. But they can help people overcome many obstacles and lead them on a path to success, one joystick at a time.

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!
Red Dead Redemption Online: Features We’d Like To See

Red Dead Redemption Online: Features We’d Like To See

Red Dead Redemption 2, the highly anticipated next chapter in the Red Dead series has finally been announced. Aside from a trailer and a few glorious screenshots we don’t know much about the game. However, with the incredible success of GTA 5’s online portion it seems a safe bet that Rockstar will feature a similar mode for their Western epic. With that in mind, here are a couple of things that we’d love to see included in an online version of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Heists

The heists in GTA 5 online were some of the most fun and exciting things you could do with your friends and they seem a perfect fit for Red Dead Redemption. Picture this: A group of your friends saddle up and ride into the nearest town. Upon arrival you hold up the local bank and gun down the local sheriff and his posse before high tailing it back to your hideout. Other online players could even play as the long arm of the law and attempt to bring you to justice before you were able to escape.

Become a Land Baron

The wild west was a sprawling expanse and an ideal location for enterprising pioneers to carve out an existence. We’d love to be able to purchase large tracts of land and set up our own ranches online. Perhaps we could populate the plains with our herds of cattle. Of course, no ranch would be complete without a great name and a custom icon to brand on all our cattle, and maybe on outlaws who were foolish enough to trespass.

Hunting Expeditions

The original Red Dead Redemption had a robust hunting system with plenty of creatures to gun down but we think an online version could take it just a bit further. Rockstar should allow players to go on hunting trips for rare and dangerous creatures. If and when you find one of these beasts, assuming you aren’t mauled and eaten by it, you could shoot it and bring it back to your home to be mounted in your trophy room. This way all my friends could come and see how many elk I had brought down or grizzlies I had killed. Call it bragging rights if you will, but this is definitely a feature I want to see if Red Dead Redemption ever goes forth with the online mode.
It’s all speculation at this point as to what Rockstar has in mind for their upcoming game, but we’re confident it’ll be phenomenal. Rockstar’s record of success is virtually unmatched and this next iteration is not likely to disappoint. Red Dead Redemption is slated to be released on October

Red Dead Redemption is slated to be released on October 20th 2017, you can pre-order and read more about it’s release date here: http://www.rockstargames.com/reddeadredemption2/ 

Graduated from MIT with 2nd class honours. I play games during my free time to de-stress. I also do some writing here and there. Hope you enjoy my articles!