#126: Half-Life returns with Alyx, but could Valve be working on more?

TODAY: Activision Blizzard defends its apparently apolitical stance on politics — Everything old is new again, including the Quake engine — Ever wanted to be a boom baron railroad magnate?

Top Story

Valve’s prequel Half-Life: Alyx ‘just the start’ for new Half-Life games

Half-Life is back, and while it’s not exactly Half-Life 3, Valve is adamant that Half-Life: Alyx isn’t just some gimmick to drive sales of Valve Index, but a fully-fledged part of the series.

Half-Life: Alyx is set between the first and second game, and is supposed to be about as long as Half-Life 2. Alyx has the “largest game team we’ve had yet,” according to Valve designer Greg Coomer, and around a third of it has experience from previous Half-Life games.

”The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.”

The game will feature everything you expect from Half-Life, such as exploration, puzzle-solving, combat and first-class storytelling – but not a silent protagonist!

Alyx is fully voiced by a new actor, but there’s no word on whether other returning characters like G-Man, Alyx’s dad Eli or the Vortigaunts will retain their original voice cast. Ellen McCain, best known as the voice of GLaDOS, will voice the Combine forces. Oh, yeah, and expect headcrabs!

Alyx will be equipped with Gravity Gloves that allow her to manipulate objects in the world without requiring one-to-one fidelity and the game can be played in roomscale, either sitting or standing. You can move by using analogue sticks, or that classic VR locomotion fudge: Teleportation.

Half-Life: Alyx launches for PC in March 2020, and will work with any SteamVR-compatible headset.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

Which popular engine did Valve use to develop the original Half-Life?

  • Quake
  • Unreal
  • Source
  • Build

The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!

News Bits

Capcom rumoured to be working on ‘Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Remake’

A rumour-monger with a good track record of accurate predictions reports that Capcom is planning another Resident Evil remake. Next up is Resident Evil 3, featuring the stompy, stalky and unfriendly Nemesis. YouTuber Spawn Wave thinks it will be announced at The Game Awards in December.

Less than 1 percent of Destiny 2 players on Google Stadia

Despite being a launch title for Stadia and included for free with the premium subscription, there aren’t a lot of players using Google’s new streaming service: Around 0.7 percent of Destiny 2’s players use Stadia. Less than 10,000 (https://www.pcgamesn.com/destiny-2/stadia-players) Stadia owners logged into the game on November 20th, which suggests the Stadia – or at least the premium subscription – hasn’t exactly sold like hotcakes.

Daily Fact

Doomguy is related to B.J. Blazkowicz

Sure, Wolfenstein and Doom are both first-person shooters developed by id Software, but that’s not the only connection between them. In the mobile game Wolfenstein RPG, the final boss – a member of Hitler’s paranormal division aptly named The Harbinger of Doom – curses BJ Blzkowicz’s descendants.
Doomguy, B.J. Blazkowicz and Duke Nukem all together

One of the three main characters in Doom II RPG (also for mobile) is called Stan Blazkowicz, which definitely sounds like a distant descendant of the square-jawed war hero. Now, of course, this might just be some throw-away reference but we prefer to think that the two games take place in the same universe and that the whole Mars kerfuffle is the result of an ancient Nazi curse.

Daily News

Activision Blizzard ‘has a responsibility to entertain, not to platform politics’

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has commented on the recent wave of political sentiments expressed in Blizzard esports competitions, stating that their games are not political platforms and that Blizzard Activision’s primary responsibility is entertainment – oh, and increasing shareholder value, of course.

“Our mission as a company is ‘bringing the world together through epic entertainment,’” Kotick told CNBC in an interview. Activision Blizzard has come under fire for their somewhat ham-fisted response to a pro-Hong Kong message delivered by Hearthstone pro Blitzchung. He was immediately banned from future competitions, and his winnings forfeited. Activision Blizzard also fired the two casters who had conducted the interview. Unsurprisingly, fans were not impressed.

Activision fear politics will only divide consumers, and revenue

“[W]e’re not the operator of the world’s town halls. We’re the operator of the communities that allow you to have fun through the lens of a video game,” Kotick continued. Some might argue that games like Call of Duty are obviously political, since they portray American war efforts in the Middle-East and elsewhere, and tends to paint Russians as comically evil villains. Then again, neither Russia nor the Middle-East are quite as lucrative markets as China!

“My responsibility is to make sure that our communities feel safe, secure, comfortable and satisfied and entertained. That doesn’t convey to me the right to have a platform for a lot of political views, I don’t think. I think my responsibility is to satisfy our audiences and our stakeholders, our employees, our shareholders.” Activision Blizzard eventually admitted that they had exhibited poor judgement in the Blitzchung controversy, and magnanimously let him keep his winnings before offering a bland apology that was promptly buried under the Diablo IV announcement. Wanna bet on whether those casters got their jobs back?

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin on Early Access

3D Realms and KillPixel have exhumed the legendary Quake engine from the sands of time, and used it to develop Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. Now available on Steam Early Access, Wrath has a timeless value proposition: Shoot monsters. Shoot ’em right in their ugly monster faces.

The Early Access version isn’t the full package, but offers the hub world, 2 levels, 5 weapons, 8 enemies and 4 artifacts to collect. More content will be released up to the game’s official release, which will include online multiplayer.

The original Quake released in June 1996, and offered full 3D rendering

You assume the role of Outlander as he shoots and kills his way through a dying world: “Equipped with weapons of exceptional might and an inventory of powerful artifacts, you must traverse ancient crypts, sunken ruins, corrupted temples and howling forests to bring death to your enemies.”

Wrath is inspired by 90s classics like Doom, Quake, Blood and Hexen and should leave Early Access by summer next year, depending on what kind of feedback the developers receive. They want to involve the community in the rest of the development, to make sure the game lives up to its legendary forebears.

Under the Radar - Railroad Corporation

“C’mon baby, do the locomotion”

(Corbie Games – PC)

After five months in Early Access, Railroad Corporation was finally released this week. The game lets you build your very own 19th century railroad empire stretching across the United States, bringing wealth and prosperity wherever you lay tracks .

The campaign features two chapters and a sandbox mode, and tasks you with connecting settlements together so they can trade their resources and provide reliable transportation for their citizens. You’ll be managing an ever-growing railway system that quickly spreads all across the continent. Corbie Games does a fine job of easing you into the complexities of railway management, offering a detailed tutorial to help you understand the intricacies of track construction, locomotive procurement and delivery routes.

If you’re looking for a challenge, you can enable time limits for your mission objectives, but if you’re more interested in building a virtual train set, the game will leave you alone to do that instead. The mission objectives gently push you to expand your railroad by building train connections between towns and facilitating their growth by delivering resources.

Of course, there’s no way to avoid balancing the books but it’s easy to overspend early on and the economics of railroad turns out to be quite complicated as your company expands into various industries to support its infrastructure.

When you start a campaign you can pick one of three different jobs that provide benefits like bigger mission rewards, extra locomotives or cheaper railroad construction. You also need to decide how to maintain your railroad and locomotives – should you upgrade your ageing infrastructure, or simply let it decay while you build new and better railroad elsewhere?

No ticket

Railroad Corporation is a pleasant experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy: Managing a railroad empire demands more than just laying down some tracks and watching the money roll in. There is a surprising number of factors to keep track of, lest your business literally go off the rails.

If you’re as fond of financial management as train sets, Railroad Corporation will be right up your alley. If you’re more interested in building your own fantasy railroad, you might find the game’s focus on planning, business and management a bit off-putting, but if you’re a train connoisseur with a nose for business, your locomotive dreams have just come true.

Railroad Corporation offers enthusiast features like support for ultrawide and high-refresh-rate monitors. Ultrawide support certainly fits the spirit of the game, since it helps you keep an eye on more things at once – especially as you start juggling more and more responsibilities.

You’ll need pretty hefty hardware to keep the game chugging along, though: Even with a Ryzen 3900X and an RTX2080 the frame rate didn’t stay above 60FPS at 3440×1440 on the highest settings. Not that it’s strictly necessary – Railroad Corporation isn’t a twitchy action game, so the occasional dip into low frame rates doesn’t ruin the experience.

Railroad Corporation is available now.

News Bits

Bowser pushes aside Donkey Kong on his 25th anniversary

Donkey Kong should be celebrating his 25th anniversary, but Nintendo seems to have forgotten since they have replaced their Donkey Kong statue with a wall-busting Bowser figure instead. Maybe things would be different if they’d hired Todd Donkey Kong instead of Doug Bowser as President of Nintendo of America? As Cranky Kong would no doubt say, there’s no way this would have happened during the Reign of Reggie, nosirree!

Remedy’s Sam Lake hiding out in his “brand new top secret writing lair”

Sami Antero Järvi alias Sam Lake, who lent his charmingly constipated face to Max Payne in the first game, is busy writing something new over at Remedy Entertainment. No news on what he’s up to, but judging by the mean glare he shared on his Twitter account, it can’t be anything good. Remedy recently launched Control on PC and consoles, and are also keeping busy with CrossFire HD and CrossFire X.

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Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

Which popular engine did Valve use to develop the original Half-Life?

Answer: Quake!

Valve has finally announced a new Half-Life more than a decade after the last game in the series, so we obviously had to do a quiz about the legendary series. All of Valve’s games since Half-Life 2 have been developed in their very own Source engine, which descended from the highly modified Quake engine used for the original Half-Life.

While the Quake 2 engine was already available, Valve had made significant modifications to the ageing Quake tech to keep it state-of-the-art. The Quake pedigree also helped give the game credibility: Publisher Sierra even signed the game because they were looking for a Quake-based FPS, while all the other publishers had turned it down because it seemed too ambitious for the fresh studio.

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