Battlelog developer bought by EA, will “focus all of its energy” on the Battlefield series

Expect to see lots more of Battlelog in the coming years. EA have bought ESN the company who built Battlefield 3′s browser based stat tracking/social network/game launcher site. Gamasutra highlight a statement from the company suggesting that they’ll be hunkering down with DICE for a while to “focus all of its energy on DICE, Battlelog and the Battlefield series.”

The move dovetails nicely with EA’s determination to add an online component to every game they ship, whether that be a multiplayer mode, or a series of apps and social services that exist in parallel with each game. Need for Speed’s autolog system is another example. EA’s Frank Gibeau recently pointed out that “today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365.”

Battlelog’s stat tracking tech works well, but it’s still a clunky, shoddy way to get into a game, especially if you’re trying to do it with a squad of friends. Backing out of the game with every server switch is also a pain. Hopefully the version that ships with Battlefield 4 next year will deliver a much smoother experience.

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Flare: a free open source RPG with tons of potential

Fans of action RPGs have been spoiled silly over the last couple of weeks, but if you have any free time between Torchlight II and Borderlands 2 sessions – I mean, you are wasting around eight hours on sleep – you might want to keep an eye on Flare. The 0.16 alpha version of the ambitious open source RPG has just been added to Desura, with number 0.17 expected on the morrow.

Either one will grant you hours of isometric exploration and monster-stabbing, for the low, low price of absolutely nothing. The game is expected to move into beta in 2013, but there’s already a lot of bang for your no bucks, even if Flare is a little rough around the edges.

The game’s built on its own open source engine, so there’s a hell of a lot of potential here when it comes to the art of modding – in fact, there’s already one total conversion in the works. You can get Flare through Desura or the official website, and see a video of the game in action below.

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Need for Speed: Most Wanted PC comes with many DX11 frills, supports more players online

The PC version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted will be prettier, faster and support more players online than the console editions according to Criterion’s Leanne Loombe in an interview with “The move to DX11 from DX9 has given us around a 300% improvement in rendering performance,” she says. “This has enabled us to provide an improved image based lighting model over the console version, as well as allowing us to run with higher detail shadows and reflections.

“The increased power of DirectX 11 hardware has also allowed us to implement features such as real-time ambient occlusion, and light scattering algorithms which are absent in the console version.”

Most Wanted PC will support 12 players in a multiplayer game, as opposed to just eight on the consoles. The DirectX 11 support allows for more shiny additions like “SAO, light scattering, high dynamic range motion blur, high resolution textures, advanced specular lighting models, headlight shadow casting, enhanced VFX quality, and enhanced shadow quality levels.”

If you’re keen to run Most Wanted on max settings, you’ll need a current quad core CPU with an AMD Radeon 6000series or GeForce 500 series card in the GPU slot.

Most Wanted is set in the open city of Fairhaven, which will operate a bit like Paradise City in Burnout: Paradise City. You’ll be able to drive any car you can find in the world and engage in time trials and other challenges on almost every street. An upgraded Autolog system will publicly grade your performance against your friends’, initiating lifelong rivalries that can only be resolved in a bitter fight to the death, or with a quick drag race down Fairhaven’s longest road.

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Total War: Shogun 2 to get Steam Workshop support, deeper mod tools planned

Accounts of this week’s Creative Assembly mod summit have been hitting Total War community forums, with word of Steam Workshop support for Total War: Shogun 2 and plans for an upgraded set of CA-developed mod tools that will let modders tweak campaign and model files.

The creator of The Great War mod, “Mitch,” posted a detailed account of the meeting, in which some of the most prolific Total War modders in the world got to meet top CA talent like Shogun 2 lead designer Jamie Ferguson. According to Mitch, the presentation revealed that “there will be Steam Workshop intergration” for Shogun 2. “People will be able to create and upload their own historical battles and have others download them.”

There’s also mention of new model conversion software and a “campaign reprocessor” that will let tweakers “edit the most desired areas of modding, the campaign and the models.”

You can read the full account of the day at the TWCenter forums. The Creative Assembly kickstarted their program to support modders earlier this year with the release of the free Shogun 2 map editor.

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Far Cry 3 takes “huge inspiration” from The Elder Scrolls

Shooters traditionally espouse linearity in their design, favoring tightly controlled sequences of lulls and action as players progress to the next room/ruined room/room-like battle. Open world shooters such as Far Cry 3 dispense direction for player freedom, but skirting boredom or uber-tough enemies still presents a challenge. At the Eurogamer Expo, Far Cry 3 lead designer Jamie Keen said his team took “huge inspiration” from open world successes such as the Elder Scrolls series for keeping interest levels high.

“We’ve had to take a little bit of a different approach to most shooters,” Keen said. “In order to keep a player engaged over a period of time, there are certain other genres we have to look into to keep that engagement. So we’ve been looking at things like MMOs and other open world titles. The Elder Scrolls series is a huge inspiration for us along with games like Red Dead [Redemption] and other Rockstar games.”

Keen also revealed over 250 “encounter types” exist in Far Cry 3 as players explore. Encounters won’t constantly recycle either, as Keen said the game tracks your experiences and attempts to throw some new island madness your way whenever possible.

“We don’t want you to feel like, ‘Oh, it’s this encounter again. I’ve seen this one’,” Keen added. “You know, ‘Arrow to the knee,’ for example. While it’s actually quite cool, we don’t necessarily want that. You end up with this real feeling of diversity of things going on. And you will see the same encounter again, but hopefully there’s enough of them that you won’t remember it, probably.”

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LittleBigPlanet 2

Video games often glorify a player’s reflexes but LittleBigPlanet 2 stands apart by energizing an individual’s creativity, too. Media Molecule’s hit PS3 exclusive bundles a whimsical first-rate platformer with the world-building toolset to make games just like it. The sequel includes the ability to make more different types of games and to share them socially with other player/creators.

A Good Match for: Artsy craftsy types/Lego fanatics. If you like building stuff that can take on a life of its own, no console game presents as lively a tableau as LittleBigPlanet 2. With miniature avatar-bots with assignable attitudes to a huge palette of visual treatments and textures, crafting a level in LBP2 feels like making a living, playable microcosm of your own.

Not for Those Who Want: Sharp precision platforming. Like its burlap protagonist Sackboy, LittleBigPlanet 2′s physics are warm and fuzzy. Its floaty jumps will prove maddening to anyone craving the ice-cold precision of, say, a Super Mario game.

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Assassin’s Creed III

Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution in the late 18th century, Assassin’s Creed III introduces a new hero, Ratohnhaké:ton, of Native American and English heritage. Adopting the name Connor, he becomes the new voice for justice in the ancient war between the Assassins and Templars. Players become an Assassin in the war for liberty against ruthless tyranny in the most stylized and fluid combat experiences in the franchise to date. Assassin’s Creed III spans the Revolutionary War, taking gamers from the vibrant, untamed frontier to bustling colonial towns and the intense, chaotic battlefields where George Washington’s Continental Army clashed with the imposing British Army.

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Tomb Raider

This week at Gamescom we had the chance to sit down with Tomb Raider global brand director Karl Stewart for a chat about Crystal Dynamics’ new series entry.
Among other things, Stewart told us about ideas that were considered for the reboot but later discarded, including a secondary female character, a little girl and fellow survivor that Lara had to protect, and a horse used for exploration.

The game was originally scheduled for an autumn 2012 launch, but publisher Square Enix pushed the Tomb Raider release date back to March 5, 2013 in order to “fully deliver the very highest quality game”.

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Dragon Commander, Original Sin stolen from Gamescom booth, $5000 bounty posted

Larian Games reported today that two of their titles were stolen right out from under their nose at their Gamescom 2012 demo booth. The PCs were carrying early copies of Divinity: Dragon Commander, and Divinity: Original Sin.

The developer has offered a $5000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the thief. Fortunately, the PCs were backups so there are no worries that the primary code was stolen or that development was disrupted. The main worry right now seems to be a black eye for the company, as well as the fear that the early build could show up on torrent sites.

But it’s not all terrible! At least this got their games in the headlines of the top gaming sites today! When truthfully, games like Dragon Commander and Original Sin probably would have been overlooked in the avalanche of amazing videos, announcements, and info coming out about the top games of the year.

This is not the first time this type of incident has happened at a video game trade show. Back at PAX East 2010 a young man tried to gank a copy of Breach from the demo floor, however he was apprehended before he could leave the building. He eventually was tried and received probation.

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Fable: The Journey Preview

Fable: The Journey offers a whole new way to experience the deep storyline and picturesque world of Albion that fans have come to know and love. Set 50 years after the events of Fable III, this new version asks you to come to the aid of the mysterious Theresa, who thrusts you into an action-packed adventure full of dangerous enemies, hair-raising chases and humorous characters. Built from the ground up for Kinect, Fable: The Journey gives you the power to wield magic as a deadly weapon, defend yourself in combat and solve puzzles on your journey to becoming a hero.

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