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BioShock Full History

BioShock is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games (at the time, named 2K Boston), and published by 2K Games. The game was released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360platforms in August 2007; a PlayStation 3 port by Irrational, 2K Marin2K Australia and Digital Extremes was released in October 2008, and a Mac OS X port by Feral Interactive in October 2009. A mobile version was developed by IG Fun. The game’s concept was developed by Irrational’s creative lead, Ken Levine, and was based on the ideas of Objectivism as highlighted by Ayn Rand, while incorporating influences from other authors such as George Orwell. The game is considered a spiritual successor to the System Shock series, which many of Irrational’s team including Levine had worked on previously.

BioShock is set in 1960, in which the player guides Jack after his airplane crashes in the ocean near the bathysphere terminus that leads to the underwater city of Rapture. Built by the business magnateAndrew Ryan, the city was intended to be an isolated utopia, but the discovery of ADAM, a plasmidwhich grants superhuman powers, initiated the city’s turbulent decline. Jack tries to find a way to escape, fighting through hordes of ADAM-obsessed enemies such as the deadly Big Daddies, while engaging with the few sane humans that remain and eventually learning of Rapture’s past. The player, as Jack, is able to defeat foes in a number of ways by using weapons, utilizing plasmids that give unique powers and by turning Rapture’s own defenses against them. BioShock includes elements ofsurvival horror and role-playing games, giving the player different approaches in engaging enemies such as by stealth, as well as moral choices of saving or killing characters.

BioShock was praised by critics for its “morality-based” storyline, immersive environment and its unique setting. Since its release, a direct sequel, BioShock 2 by 2K Marin, was released, while a third game entitled BioShock Infinite by Irrational Games is presently under development, though it is only thematically connected to the previous titles.

GAMEPLAY

BioShock is a first-person shooter with role-playing gamecustomization and stealth elements, and is similar toSystem Shock 2. The player takes the role of Jack, who aims to fight his way through Rapture, using weapons andplasmids (genetic alterations), in order to complete objectives. At times, the player may opt to use stealth tactics to avoid detection by security cameras and automated turrets.While exploring Rapture, the player collects money, which can be used at various vending machines to gain ammunition, health, and additional equipment.The player also comes across spare parts that can be used at “U-Invent” machines to create new weapons or usable items. Cameras, turrets, safes, door locks, and vending machines can all be hacked to the player’s advantage, providing benefits such as attacking the player’s foes, revealing their contents to the player, allowing entry to locked areas, or allowing the player to purchase items at a discount. Hacking requires the player to complete a mini-game similar to Pipe Mania in a limited amount of time. The player is given a “research camera” early in the game, allowing Jack to take photographs of enemies to help analyze them, with better quality photographs providing more beneficial analysis. After performing enough analysis of an enemy, the player is granted increased damage, gene tonics, and other bonuses when facing that type of enemy in future battles. Glass-walled “Vita-Chambers” can also be found throughout the game, which the player does not use directly. Instead, should Jack die, his body is reconstituted at the nearest one, retaining all of his possessions, but only a portion of his full health.In a patch for the game, the player has the option to disable the use of these Vita-Chambers, such that if Jack dies, the player will need to restart from a saved game.

The player can collect and assign a number of plasmids and gene tonics which grant Jack the ability to unleash special attacks or confer passive benefits such as improved health or hacking skills. “Active” plasmids—those that are triggered by the player such as most offensive plasmids— require an amount of the EVE serum to be used in a manner similar to magic points; EVE can be replenished via syringes. These plasmids also alter the player’s appearance to reflect “sacrificing one’s humanity”. “Tonics” are passive plasmids and require no EVE to gain their benefit; the player can only equip a limited number of plasmids and tonics at any time. Tonics offer a variety of passive benefits. These include an increase in Jack’s strength, more efficient use of EVE, resistance to damage or facilitation of hacking machines. The game also encourages the use of creative combination of plasmids, weapons, and the use of the environment.

Plasmids can be collected at certain specific points around the city throughout the storyline, but most often are purchased by the player at “Gatherer’s Gardens” using the ADAM mutagen they have collected from Little Sisters. In order to collect the ADAM, the player must first defeat the “Big Daddy“—genetically enhanced humans grafted to an armored diving suit—that accompanies and guards each Little Sister. After this, the player has a moral choice: either to kill the Little Sister to harvest a great deal of ADAM, or to save the Little Sister and gain a smaller amount, though for every three sisters spared a gift of a large amount of ADAM is given to the player. While both choices have their advantages, this element of conflicting morals has an impact on the storyline, and, among other things, on the difficulty of the game itself.

Synopsis

Setting

BioShock is set during 1960, in the fictional underwater city of Rapture; the player learns of its history through in-game audio recordings scattered throughout the game. The city was planned and constructed in the 1940s by Objectivist business magnate Andrew Ryan who wanted to create autopia for society’s elite to flourish outside of government control. Scientific progress greatly expanded, including the discovery of the plasmid ADAM created by sea slugs on the ocean floor; ADAM allowed its users to alter their DNA to grant them super-human powers like telekinesis and pyrokinesis.

Despite the apparent utopia, class distinctions grew, and former gangster and businessman Frank Fontaine sought to expand on that to overthrow Ryan. Fontaine created black market routes with the surface world, and together with Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum, created a cheap plasmid industry by mass-producing ADAM through the implanting of the slugs in the stomachs of orphaned girls, nicknamed “Little Sisters”. Fontaine used his plasmid-enhanced army to attack Ryan but appeared to die in the battle, allowing Ryan to seize his assets including the Little Sisters. In the months that followed, a second figure named Atlas rose to speak for the lower class, creating further strife. Atlas led attacks on the factories making Little Sisters, and Ryan countered by creating “Big Daddies”, plasmid-enhanced humans surgically grafted into giant lumbering diving suits who were psychologically compelled to protect the Little Sisters at all costs. Ryan also created his own army of plasmid-enhanced soldiers, named “Splicers”, which he controlled using pheromones distributed through Rapture’s air system.

Tension came to a head on New Year’s Eve of 1959, when Atlas ordered an all-out attack on Ryan. The battle left many dead, and the few sane survivors barricaded themselves away. What once was a beautiful utopia had fallen into a crumbling dystopia.

Story

At the start of the game, player-character Jack is a passenger on a plane that goes down in the Atlantic Ocean in 1960. As the only survivor, Jack makes his way to a nearby lighthouse that houses abathysphere terminal that takes him to Rapture.

Jack is contacted by Atlas via radio, and is guided to safety from the Splicers. Atlas requests Jack’s help in stopping Ryan, directing him to a bathysphere where he claims Ryan has trapped his family. When Jack encounters a wandering Little Sister and its Big Daddy, Atlas urges Jack to kill the Big Daddy and kill the Little Sister to harvest her ADAM for himself; Dr. Tenenbaum overhears this and intercepts Jack before he harms the Little Sister, urging him to spare the child, providing him with a plasmid that would force the sea slug out of her body. Jack eventually works his way to the bathysphere, but Ryan destroys it before Jack can reach it.

Enraged, Atlas directs Jack towards Ryan’s mansion, battling through Ryan’s Splicers and facing against more deranged citizens. Ultimately, Jack enters Ryan’s personal office, where Ryan is patiently waiting for Jack by casually playing golf. Ryan explains that Jack is his illegitimate child, taken from his mother by Fontaine who placed him out of Ryan’s reach on the surface, and genetically modified to age rapidly. Jack was revealed to unknowingly be a sleeper agent, conditioned to accept the code phrase, “Would you kindly”, which would force him to blindly act out any instruction that followed the phrase. Fontaine had planned to use Jack as a trump card in his war with Ryan, bringing him back to Rapture when the time was right; Jack’s genetics would allow him to access systems, such as the bathysphere, that Ryan had locked out long ago. Ryan accepts his death by his own free will, and uses Jack’s conditioning to force him to kill him with the golf club. After doing so, Jack becomes aware that the “Would you kindly” trigger has preceded many of Atlas’ commands, and that Jack was himself responsible for crashing his plane near the bathysphere terminal after reading a letter containing the trigger. Atlas contacts Jack, revealing himself to be Fontaine; without Ryan, Fontaine takes over control of Ryan’s systems, and leaves Jack to die via security drones released into Ryan’s office.

Jack is saved by Dr. Tenenbaum and the Little Sisters who had previously been rescued. Dr. Tenenbaum helps Jack to remove Fontaine’s conditioned responses, including one that would have stopped his heart. With the help of the Little Sisters, Jack is able to make his way to Fontaine’s lair to face him. Fontaine, being cornered by Jack, injects himself with a large amount of ADAM, becoming an inhuman monster. Jack is able to better Fontaine after fighting him and draining his excess ADAM four times, at which time the Little Sisters subdue Fontaine’s body to extract the ADAM, eventually killing him.

Two endings are possible depending on how the player interacted with the Little Sisters, all narrated by Dr. Tenenbaum. If the player has rescued all the Little Sisters, the ending shows five Little Sisters returning to the surface with Jack and living full lives under his care, including their graduating from college, getting married, and having children; it ends on a heart-warming note, with an elderly Jack surrounded on his deathbed by all five of the adult Little Sisters.

In the case where more than one Little Sister was harvested, the ending shows Jack turning on the Little Sisters to harvest their ADAM. Tenenbaum sadly narrates what occurred, condemning Jack and his actions. The ending then shows a submarine coming across the wreckage of the plane, which is suddenly surrounded by bathyspheres containing Splicers who attack the crew and take control of it. The submarine is revealed to be carrying nuclear missiles, with Tenenbaum claiming that Jack has now ‘stolen the terrible secrets of the world’. The tone of Tenenbaum’s voice is more hostile if the player had harvested every Little Sister.

Development

System requirements
Minimum Recommended
Microsoft Windows
Operating system Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista
CPU Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2
Memory 1 GB 2 GB
Hard drive space 8 GB of free space
Graphics hardware NVIDIA GeForce 6600 128 MB or ATi Radeon X1300 128 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT 512 MB
Sound hardware 100% DirectX 9.0c compliant card Sound Blaster X-Fi (optimized for EAX ADVANCED HD 4.0/5.0 compatible cards)
Network Internet connection required for activation

Original story

Originally, BioShock had a storyline which was significantly different from that of the released version: the main character was a “cult deprogrammer“—a person charged with rescuing someone from a cult, and mentally and psychologically readjusting that person to a normal life. Ken Levine cites an example of what a cult deprogrammer does: “[There are] people who hired people to [for example] deprogram their daughter who had been in a lesbian relationship. They kidnap her and reprogram her, and it was a really dark person, and that was the [kind of] character that you were.” This story would have been more political in nature, with the character hired by a Senator. By the time development on BioShock was officially revealed in 2004, the story and setting had changed significantly. The game now took place in an abandoned WWII-era Nazi laboratory that had been recently unearthed by 21st century scientists. Over the decades, the genetic experiments within the labs had gradually formed themselves into an ecosystem centered around three “castes” of creatures, known as “drones”, “soldiers”, and “predators”. This “AI ecology” would eventually form the basis for the “Little Sister”, “Big Daddy”, and “Splicer” dynamic seen in the completed game.

While the gameplay with this story was similar to what resulted in the released version of the game, the story underwent changes, consistent with what Levine says was then-Irrational Games’ guiding principle of putting game design first. Levine also noted that “it was never my intention to do two endings for the game. It sort of came very late and it was something that was requested by somebody up the food chain from me.”

In response to an interview question from the gaming website IGN about what influenced the game’s story and setting, Levine said, “I have my uselessliberal arts degree, so I’ve read stuff from Ayn Rand and George Orwell, and all the sort of utopian and dystopian writings of the 20th century, which I’ve found really fascinating. Levine has also mentioned an interest in “stem cell research and the moral issues that go around [it].” In regard to artistic influences, Levine cited the books Nineteen Eighty-Four and Logan’s Run, representing societies that have “really interesting ideas screwed up by the fact that we’re people.”

According to the developers, BioShock is a spiritual successor to the System Shock games, and was produced by former developers of that series. Levine claims his team had been thinking about making another game in the same vein since they produced System Shock 2. In his narration of a video initially screened for the press at E3 2006, Levine pointed out many similarities between the games. There are several comparable gameplay elements: plasmids in BioShock supplied by “EVE hypos” serve the same function as “Psionic Abilities” supplied by “PSI hypos” in System Shock 2; the player needs to deal with security cameras, machine gun turrets, and hostile robotic drones, and has the ability to hack them in both games; ammunition conservation is stressed as “a key gameplay feature”; and audio tape recordings fulfil the same storytelling role that e-mail logs did in theSystem Shock games. The “ghosts” (phantom images that replay tragic incidents in the places they occurred) from System Shock 2 also exist inBioShock, as do modifiable weapons with multiple ammunition types and researching enemies for increased damage. Additionally, Atlas guides the player along by radio, in much the same way Janice Polito does in System Shock 2, with each having a similar twist mid-game. Both games also give the player more than one method of completing tasks.

Game engine

BioShock uses a heavily modified Unreal Engine 2.5 with some of the advanced technologies from Unreal Engine 3.In previous titles (including SWAT 4 and SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate) Irrational Games used their own engine which had its base in Unreal Engine 2. In an interview at E3 in May 2006, Levine announced that there will be enhanced water effects inside the game: “We’ve hired a water programmer and water artist, just for this game, and they’re kicking ass and you’ve never seen water like this.” This graphical enhancement has been lauded by critics, with GameSpot saying, “Whether it’s standing water on the floor or sea water rushing in after an explosion, it will blow you away every time you see it.”The Windows version of BioShock can utilize Direct3D 10 (DirectX 10) features and content, if the system meets the hardware and software requirements, but it will also run on DirectX 9 without the added effects. There are a few differences in image quality between the two APIs, such as additional water reflections and soft particle effects, but they are subtle from the player’s perspective. BioShock also uses Havok Physics, an engine that allows for an enhancement of in-game physics, and the integration of ragdoll physics, and allows for more lifelike movement by elements of the environment.

Chris Kline, lead programmer of BioShock, deemed BioShock as “heavily multithreaded” as it has the following elements running separately:

  • Simulation Update (1 thread)
  • UI update (1 thread)
  • Rendering (1 thread)
  • Physics (3 threads on Xenon, at least one on PC)
  • Audio state update (1 thread)
  • Audio processing (1 thread)
  • Texture streaming (1 thread)
  • File streaming (1 thread)

Demo

A demo was released on Xbox Live Marketplace on August 12, 2007, and the PC demo was officially released on August 20, 2007, and announced during Larry Hryb‘s interview with Ken Levine on his podcast. The demo contains parts of the first level of the game and includes a cinematic opening sequence that established the setting and initial plot lines, and the tutorial phase of the game. The demo also contained some differences from the release version such as an extra plasmid and weapons, alongside an earlier security system presence. These were introduced to give players access to several features of the full game. In nine days, the BioShock demo outperformed every other demo release on Xbox Live and became the fastest demo to reach one million downloads. The Steam demo was released on August 20, 2007, a day before its full release to the platform.

[edit]Updates

On September 6, 2007, the Xbox 360 version of BioShock received an update: “Improves general game stability, especially when loading autosaves. It also tweaks the way enemies use health stations and fixes a slight audio glitch during menu loading. Users were prompted to download the automatic update when they next started the game. The update has, however, been criticized for introducing several problems to the game, including occasional freezes, bad framerates, and even audio-related issues. The problem appeared to be with the game’s caching, and could be corrected by the user.

On December 4, 2007, a patch for the Windows version, and a title update and free downloadable content for the Xbox 360 version were released. In addition to correcting bugs in the software, the patch/new content introduces a horizontal field-of-view option, new Plasmids, an option to disable Vita Chambers, and an additional Achievement in the Xbox 360 version for completing the game without using any Vita Chambers on Hard mode, thus requiring the player to complete the game on the hardest difficulty without dying. Vita Chambers do not need to be disabled to earn the Achievement, and quick saves can still be used.

An update for the PlayStation 3 version was released on November 13, 2008 to fix some graphical problems and occasions where users experienced a hang and were forced to reset the console. This update also incorporated the “Challenge Room” and “New Game Plus” features.

[edit]Other versions

In an August 2007 interview, when asked about the possibility of a PlayStation 3 version of BioShock, Ken Levine had stated only that there was “no PS3 development going on” at the time; however, on May 28, 2008, 2K Games confirmed that a PlayStation 3 version of the game was in development by 2K Marin, and it was released on October 17, 2008. On July 3, 2008 2K Games announced partnership with Digital Extremes and said that the PlayStation 3 version is being developed by 2K Marin, 2K Boston, 2K Australia and Digital Extremes. Jordan Thomas was the director for the PlayStation 3 version. While there are no graphical improvements to the game over the original Xbox 360 version, the PlayStation 3 version offers the widescreen option called “horizontal plus”, introduced via a patch in the 360 version, while cutscene videos are of a much higher resolution than in the DVD version. Additional add-on content will also be released exclusively for the PlayStation 3 version. One addition is “Survivor Mode,” in which the enemies have been made tougher, and Vita-Chambers provide less of a health boost when used, making the player become creative in approaching foes and to rely more on the less-used plasmids in the game. BioShock also supports Trophies and PlayStation Home. A demo version was released on the PlayStation Store on October 2, 2008.

On February 12, 2008, IG Fun announced that they had secured the rights to develop and publish a mobile phone version of BioShock.

Reception

 Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (X360) 95.07%
(PC) 94.58%
(PS3) 93.66%
Metacritic (X360) 96/100
(PC) 96/100
(PS3) 94/100
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A+
Edge 8/10
Electronic Gaming Monthly 10/10
Eurogamer 10/10
Game Informer 10/10 (PC, X360)
9/10 (PS3)
GameSpot 9/10
GameTrailers 9.5/10
IGN 9.7/10
Official Xbox Magazine 10/10]
PC Gamer UK 95%
PC Zone 96%
Awards
Entity Award
AIAS (2008) Art Direction, (2008) Original Music Composition, (2008) Sound Design
BAFTA (2007) Best Game
Game Informer (2007) Game of the Year
IGN (2007) PC Game of the Year
Spike TV (2007) Best Game
X-Play (2007) Game of the Year

BioShock has received universal critical acclaim. Mainstream press reviews have praised the immersive qualities of the game and its political dimension. The Boston Globe described it as “a beautiful, brutal, and disquieting computer game … one of the best in years,and compared the game to Whittaker Chambers‘ 1957 riposte to Atlas ShruggedBig Sister Is Watching YouWired also mentioned the Ayn Rand connection (a partial anagram of Andrew Ryan) in a report on the game which featured a brief interview with Levine.The Chicago Sun-Times review said “I never once thought anyone would be able to create an engaging and entertaining video game around the fiction and philosophy of Ayn Rand, but that is essentially what 2K Games has done … the rare, mature video game that succeeds in making you think while you play”.

The Los Angeles Times review concluded, “Sure, it’s fun to play, looks spectacular and is easy to control. But it also does something no other game has done to date: It really makes you feel.” The New York Times reviewer described it as: “intelligent, gorgeous, occasionally frightening” and added, “Anchored by its provocative, morality-based story line, sumptuous art direction and superb voice acting, BioShock can also hold its head high among the best games ever made.”

At GameRankingsBioShock holds an average review score of 95.07% for the Xbox 360, making it the fifth highest rated Xbox 360 game released to date, behind The Orange BoxGrand Theft Auto IVMass Effect 2, and Skyrim.In the PlayStation 3 ratings it holds 93.57%, making it the ninth highest rated PlayStation 3 game. In the PC ratings it achieved 94.58%, making it the fifth highest rated PC game released to date, behind The Orange BoxPortal 2Half-Life 2 and Mass Effect 2, and the 21st highest ranked game of all time. Also, BioShock has a rating of 96 on Metacritic, making it their Best Xbox 360 Game of 2007. GameSpy praised BioShock’s “inescapable atmosphere,”and Official Xbox Magazine lauded its “inconceivably great plot” and “stunning soundtrack and audio effects.” The gameplay and combat system have been praised for being smooth and open-ended, and elements of the graphics, such as the water, were praised for their quality. It has been noted that the combination of the game’s elements “straddles so many entertainment art forms so expertly that it’s the best demonstration yet how flexible this medium can be. It’s no longer just another shooter wrapped up in a pretty game engine, but a story that exists and unfolds inside the most convincing and elaborate and artistic game world ever conceived.”

Reviewers did highlight a few negative issues in BioShock, however. The recovery system involving “Vita-Chambers,” which revive a defeated player at half life, but do not alter the enemies’ health, makes it possible to wear down enemies through sheer perseverance, and was criticised as one of the biggest flaws in the gameplay. IGN noted that both the controls and graphics of the Xbox 360 version are inferior to those of the PC version, in that switching between weapons or plasmids is easier using the PC’s mouse than the 360’s radial menu, as well as the graphics being slightly better with higher resolutions. The game has been touted as a hybrid first-person shooter role-playing game, but two reviewers found advances from comparable games lacking, both in the protagonist and in the challenges he faces. Some reviewers also found the combat behavior of the splicers lacking in diversity (and their A.I. behavior not very well done), and the moral choice too much “black and white” to be really interesting. Some reviewers and essayists such as Jonathan Blow also found that the “moral choice” the game offered to the player (saving or harvesting the little sisters) was flawed because it had no real impact on the game, which ultimately leads the player to think that the sisters were just mechanics of no real importance.

Artistic recognition

BioShock has received praise for its artistic style and compelling storytelling. In their book, Digital Culture: Understanding New Media, Glen Creeber and Royston Martin perform a case study of BioShock as a critical analysis of video games as an artistic medium. They praised the game for its visuals, sound, and ability to engage the player into the story. They viewed BioShock as a sign of the “coming of age” of video games as an artistic medium.

In February 2011 the Smithsonian Institution announced it would be holding an exhibit dedicated to the art of video games. Several games were chosen initially and the public could vote for which games they felt deserved to be displayed via a poll on the exhibit’s websiteBioShock was considered a front runner to be displayed because of its status as a game that demonstrated how artistic the medium can be.PC technical issues and DRM

The retail disk version of BioShock for Windows utilizes SecuROM copy protectionsoftware, and requires internet activation to complete installation. This was reportedly responsible for the cancellation of a midnight release in Australia on August 23, 2007, due to 2K Games servers being unavailable, as the game would be unplayable until they were back online. Through SecuROM, users were originally limited to two activations of the game. Users found that even if they uninstalled the game prior to reinstallation, they were still required to call SecuROM to re-activate the game. The issue was worsened by the fact that an incorrect telephone number had been included in the printed manual, as well as essentially forcing customers outside the United States to make expensive international calls to the U.S. In response, 2K Games and SecuROM increased the number of activations to five before requiring the user to call again. However, as no information had been provided by 2K on the existence of these measures prior to the game going on sale, or on the retail box of the game itself, many remain dissatisfied. Users also found that it was necessary to activate the game for each user on the same machine, which was criticized by some as an attempt to limit customers’ fair use rights. 2K Games has denied that this was the intent of the limitation.

Two months after the initial release, 2K attempted to alleviate customer complaints by developing a special pre-uninstallation utility to refund activation slots to the user. This tool however does not address situations where the game has been installed on a PC which uses more than one user account as it only works once per PC (unlike activations which are counted per user-account), nor is it able to revoke an activation if the installation has become unusable, for example by hard disk failure, effectively rendering such activations permanently lost. 2K Games has specifically mentioned each of these issues in the revoke tool FAQ, and have stated that until software solutions are found for such situations they will handle any further requests for additional activations past the five-activation limit on a case-by-case basis.

As of June 19, 2008, 2K Games has removed the activation limit, allowing users to install the game an unlimited number of times. However, online activation remains mandatory.Existing BioShock retail discs need Internet access during installation as required files to play the game are not included on that disc and need to be downloaded during the “autopatcher” process. The “autopatcher” does not actually update BioShock to the latest version despite its name and rather just fetches the necessary files from the Internet to complete the version 1.0 installation. The deactivation of the system was promised by Ken Levine in August 2007, after retail sales of the PC version of the game were no longer an issue.

Alerts from virus scanners and malware detectors, which can be triggered by SecuROM software, led to some debate about whether a rootkit was being installed; this was denied by 2K Games. However, an uninstallation of BioShock does not remove the files installed by SecuROM or the registry keys used.

BioShock was also criticized for not supporting pixel shader 2.0b video cards (such as the Radeon X800/X850), which were considered high-end graphics cards in 2004–2005, and accounted for about 24% of surveyed hardware collected through Valve‘s Steam platform at the time of BioShock’s release. User efforts to create a pixel shader 2.0-compatible version of the software have met with some success, but 2K Games has issued no statements regarding possible pixel shader 2.0 support being added by an official patch.

Since BioShock was released, several issues have been found, with most uncovered in the Windows version. A list of known issues is maintained on the official forums. In both the BioShock demo and release version, it was observed that the field of view (FOV) used in widescreen was set such that it appeared that there was less visible in the display compared to the 4:3 format,as well as in effect zooming in the player’s view resulting in some cases of disorientation and nausea (particularly for people playing close to the screen, as with most PC setups), conflicting with original reports from a developer on how widescreen would have been handled. This was a design decision made during development. In patch 1.1, released on December 4, 2007, the “Horizontal FOV Lock” option was added to the Options menu,which when switched off allows widescreen users a wider field of view, without cutting anything off the image vertically.

Related media

Sequels

In response to the game’s high sales and critical acclaim, Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick revealed in a conference call to analysts that the company now considered the game as part of a franchise. He also speculated on any follow-ups mimicking the development cycle of Grand Theft Auto, with a new release expected every two to three years. 2K’s president Christoph Hartmann stated that BioShock could have five sequels, comparing the franchise to the Star Wars movies.

On March 11, 2008, Take-Two Interactive officially announced that BioShock 2 was being developed by 2K Marin. In an August 2008 interview, Ken Levine mentioned that 2K Boston was not involved in the game’s sequel because they wanted to “swing for the fences” and try to come up with something “very, very different”.BioShock 3 has also been announced, with its release likely to coincide with the BioShock film. The first information about BioShock‘s immediate sequel came in a teaser on the PlayStation 3 version of the game revealing that the second game was to be titled BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams, though the subtitle has since been dropped. This teaser used The Pied Pipers‘ version of “Dream” in much the same way that the first BioShock’s soundtrack used Great American Songbook tunes. A 2K developer stated that the game “is part of a prequel and at the same time is a sequel. In the game, the player assumes the role of Subject Delta, a precursor of the Big Daddies who must search the fallen city of Rapture for his former Little Sister, Eleanor. BioShock 2 was released for Windows PC, Mac, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3 worldwide on February 9, 2010.

While BioShock Infinite, being developed by Irrational Games for release in 2013, shares the name and many similar gameplay concepts withBioShock, the title is not a sequel or prequel in story, instead taking place aboard the collapsing air-city of Columbia in the year 1912, and following former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt as he tries to rescue a woman named Elizabeth from the dystopia it has become.

Limited edition

Following the creation of a fan petition for a special edition, Take-Two stated that they would publish a special edition of BioShock only if the petition received 5,000 signatures; this number of signatures was reached after just five hours. Subsequently, a poll was posted on the 2K Games operated Cult of Rapture community website in which visitors could vote on what features they would most like to see in a special edition; the company stated that developers would take this poll into serious consideration. To determine what artwork would be used for the Limited Edition cover, 2K games ran a contest, with the winning entry provided by Crystal Clear Art’s owner and graphic designer Adam Meyer.

On April 23, 2007, the Cult of Rapture website confirmed that the Limited Collector’s Edition would include a 6-inch (150 mm) Big Daddy figurine (many of which were damaged due to a dropped shipping container; a replacement initiative is in place), a “Making Of” DVD, and a soundtrack CD. Before the special edition was released, the proposed soundtrack CD was replaced with The Rapture EP.

Printed media

BioShock: Breaking the Mold, a book containing artwork from the game, was released by 2K Games on August 13, 2007. It is available in both low and high resolution, in PDF format from 2K Games’s official website. Until October 1, 2007, 2K Games was sending a printed version of the book to the owners of the collector’s edition whose Big Daddy figurines had been broken, as compensation for the time it took to replace them. On October 31, 2008, the winners of “Breaking the Mold: Developers Edition Artbook Cover Contest” were announced on cultofrapture.com.

A prequel novel, entitled BioShock: Rapture written by John Shirley, was published July 19, 2011. The prequel book details the construction of Rapture and the events leading to its demise. The book follows multiple BioShock characters.

Soundtrack

2K Games released an orchestral score soundtrack on their official homepage on August 24, 2007. Available in MP3 format, the score—composed byGarry Schyman—contains 12 of the 22 tracks from the game. The Limited Edition version of the game came with The Rapture EP remixes by Mobyand Oscar The Punk.The three remixed tracks on the CD include “Beyond the Sea,” “God Bless the Child” and “Wild Little Sisters”; the original recordings of these songs are in the game.

In BioShock, the player encounters phonographs that play music from the 1940s and 1950s as background music. In total, 30 licensed songs can be heard throughout the game. BioShock’s score was released on a vinyl LP with the BioShock 2 Special Edition.

Film

Industry rumors after the game’s release suggested a film adaptation of the game would be made, utilizing similar green screen filming techniques as in the movie 300 to recreate the environments of Rapture. On May 9, 2008, Take Two announced a deal with Universal Studios to produce a BioShockmovie, to be directed by Gore Verbinski and written by John Logan. The film was expected to be released in 2010, but was put on hold due to budget concerns. On August 24, 2009 it was revealed that Verbinski had dropped out of the project due to the studio’s decision to film overseas to keep the budget under control. Verbinski reportedly feels this would have hindered his work on RangoJuan Carlos Fresnadillo is in talks to direct with Verbinski as producer.

In January 2010 the project was in pre-production stage, with director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Braden Lynch, a voice artist from BioShock 2 both working on the film.By July the film was facing budget issues but producer Gore Verbinski said they were working it out. He also said the film would be a hard R. Ken Levine, during an interview on August 30, 2010, said: “I will say that it is still an active thing and it’s something we are actively talking about and actively working on.” Verbinski later cited that by trying to maintain the “R” rating, they were unable to find any studios that would back the effort, putting the film’s future in jeopardy.

Levine confirmed in March 2013 that the film has been officially cancelled. Levine stated that after Universal’s Watchmen film in 2009 did not do as well as the studio expected, they had concerns with the $200 million budget that Verbinski had for the BioShock film. They asked him to consider doing the film on a smaller $80 million budget, but Verbinski did not want to accept this. Universal then subsequently brought a new director in to work with the smaller budget but with whom Levine and 2K Games did not feel was a good fit to the material. Universal gave Levine the decision to end the project, which he took, believing that the film would not work with the current set of compromises they would have had to make.

Gears of War: Judgment’s Campaign Will Break You

The heavy chord at the end of a Gears of War battle used to be congratulatory. Your chainsaw roared, corpses crumpled, and a thundering hum warned the world what you’d done. In Gears of War Judgment, the sound that used to celebrate success is a comforting signal to unclench your teeth and start breathing again. You probably won’t make it out next time.

Judgment starts 30 days after Emergence Day, just as humanity goes to war with the Locust. The COG doesn’t know its enemy just yet, which leaves them exposed to the grubs’ fearless aggression. Locust spawn by the dozen, popping out of the ground, crawling out of emergence holes, and knocking down doors in the largest, scariest groups you’ve seen in a Gears game. They are lethal individually, seemingly unstoppable in mixed groups of enemies new and old, and utterly terrifying for even the most grizzled Gears vet. At first, this challenge defines Judgment. Before long, that gives way to an impressive level of newfound complexity.

The common thread between difficulty and depth is variety – each enemy encounter is unique, both by design and thanks to the new semi-random spawning system, which generates different opponents each time you retry an encounter. If a group of Bloodmounts takes you down, don’t expect to see them a second time – Maulers and Grenadiers may replace them, perhaps with a half-dozen Wretches in tow.

Judgment doesn’t ever dial back because you’ll always have the tools necessary to scrape by. This is Gears at its quickest and most aggressive. I swapped between guns as opposed to relying on my Lancer, typically because I’d thrown it to the ground after running out of ammo. Early in the story, when Damon Baird’s Kilo Squad makes its way through the Onyx Guard’s home city of Halvo Bay, you’ll hunker down to defend the Museum of Military Glory using sentry turrets. The tower defense-influence works as effectively in a campaign context as it did in Gears of War 3’s Horde 2.0. It’s a stark change of pace from the push-push-push mission structure preceding it.

 

 

Baird, Cole, Paduk and Hendrick – Kilo’s key members – previously swapped Gnasher shotguns and close-quarters combat for the ranged superiority of the new Markza semi-auto sniper-rifle. They chainsawed grubs beneath the burning surface of Halvo Bay’s Old Town district, where they’d later mount turrets to chew through the horde. With Mauler, Boomer, Kantus, Cyclops, and Dark Wretch corpses behind them, Kilo should have earned a leisurely rest while turrets took down Locust inside the museum. Judgment never gives them that chance. I died three times trying to hold off incoming forces. Later, I’d die nearly 10 during a futile stab at the punishing Hardcore difficulty.

Moment to moment, Judgment always has something new and interesting for you to do, but it also presents the opportunity to add an interesting variable to each and every enemy encounter. Activating glowing crimson omens heralds not a hidden COG tag but instead unlocks the “declassified” version of an upcoming fight. Typically, these opt-in objectives limit your weapon usage to, say, Hammerbursts or a Gnasher/Sawed-Off combo. Others give the enemy an advantage. You may come up against Cyclopes with Lancers, grubs who attack from behind, or One-Shots with high-ground positioning. But why on Sera would you willingly make a tough shooter harder for yourself? What good could possibly come from wandering into a claustrophobic cloud of dense, blinding smoke when it’s unnecessary?

Two things.

 

The common thread between difficulty and depth is variety.

First, declassifications present narrative conceits that fits Judgment well. The story begins with Kilo Squad in a military court, and each mission we play representing a testimony of the events leading up to their trial. The testimony Kilo Squad delivers will change as you activate omens, revealing information you may not have known about the characters and world. Sometimes it relates to military rules, characters’ origins, or simply the COG discovering the intelligence of the Locust.

Secondly, declassified objectives tie into Judgment’s scoring system – and before you run off, it’s not as awful as it sounds. Earning stars for performing well adds substance to the combat without trivializing it. Fighting is more tactical and engaging than ever when you’re rewarded for speed, style, and efficiency. You’re always rewarded for headshots, executions, gib-splosions and other decidedly Gears of War kills, but playing with optional variables adds a multiplier to your score tracker. Earning more stars for kill combos feels even better when the pot’s sweetened. In turn, the way you think about Gears of War’s combat changes – not only because the actual flow of battle is different, but because you’re actively trying to do better than usual. Suddenly Gears of War feels smarter, even if it has more video game-y elements in the mix.

All of this plays hand-in-hand with multiplayer. Free-for-All remains an aggressive departure from the norm, particularly on the smaller-scale street map, while OverRun encourages a different kind of cooperative experience than fans are used to. Epic told IGN that completing challenges and goals across all modes contributes to character unlocks; each character can be customized in a way that’s comparable to past Gears’ weapon skins.

Really, the only way Gears of War Judgment is the same as previous games – core mechanics aside – is in the way its cast interacts. There’s some smart, funny writing behind the characters in Kilo Squad, and it comes through in the way they tease, mock, or outright dislike each other. The witty banter between these characters is exactly what you’d expect out of Marcus and Dom, which speaks volumes about how well this cast – whether they’re old friends or new – will carry its story.

The Last of Us: The Sights and Sounds

After actually playing The Last of Us, it’s not the beautiful graphics, the brutal violence, or the approachable crafting system that stands out to me. It’s the sound. The Last of Us isn’t Uncharted, with its happy score wafting over every moment of gameplay. It’s a slow, suspenseful crawl through a world that can kill you at any moment. As such, it’s quiet – eerily quiet. You have time to listen to the rain pitter patter on windows and each breath of the infected you’re creeping up on to shiv in the neck.

But that’s just part of the 20 minutes I played through. If you’re the visual sort, my quick fire impressions are available in a PlayStation Conversation below — as well as in theinterview with developer Naughty Dog Creative Director Neil Druckmann — but if you like these here written words, let’s hit the highlights.

 

Sounds Like Trouble

 

I don’t know if I’ve had a demo where sound was as crucial to the experience as this go with The Last of Us. Like I said at the start, this is a game about survival. You creep into rooms and listen for trouble — it’s how you survive and progress. The little music found here is for mood. Naughty Dog clearly thinks it’s more important to use sound effects — or the lack of them — to set players on edge, to keep them engrossed.

It works. Every time Ellie, Tess (Joel’s smuggling partner) and I entered a new area, I stopped and listened. Part of this is “Listen Mode,” an amplified ability of Joel’s. Holding down a shoulder button puts the world in this black and white state and outlines enemies that are making noise through walls. It’s an at a glance way to get the lay of the land, to see what you’re up against.

It’s key to fighting off the infected – two types of which I’m now very familiar with.

 

Meet the Runners and the Clickers

 

There were two types of infected in my demo. If you’re just joining us, a fungal virus is infecting humans. It grows through their eye sockets, takes over their minds, and makes them into distorted monsters.

Type one is an early stage of infection – the Runner. This monster still has a sense of its humanity. It knows that what it’s doing is wrong, but it can’t stop. Just like the ants in the original teaser video for The Last of Us, the Runners body language almost shows an internal struggle between the virus and the person – one of them pulling back while the other pushes forward. The Runner travels in packs and (not surprisingly) runs.

The second stage of the infection is the one we saw in the debut trailer. These guys are called Clickers. The virus has taken over, and it’s grown into massive structures through the eye sockets. This blinds the Clicker, but that disability gives them hyper-sensitive hearing. As such, the Clickers make a clicking noise with their mouths and see via echolocation. The sound bounces off objects, comes back to the Clicker, and creates an image.

These two types made for an intense play session. For starters, and I’m sure I sound like a broken record, there’s sound. When I’d enter an area with these guys, they’d let me know they were there. The Runners – losing their human selves by the second – wander around moaning these guttural cries. Meanwhile, there’s constant clicking as the Clickers try and figure out what’s going on.

It’s screwed up to be on one side of a table, hiding for your life, and have a Clicker on the other side spinning about trying to find you. Meanwhile, sneaking up on a wiggling, moaning Runner is just as messed up – to the point that shiving them in the neck or choking them out seems humane rather than necessary.

But it was never a choice in my demo. I needed to take these things down to keep the group safe. My favorite part came when Joel went to scout ahead and dropped into a room with three or four Runners and one Clicker. I loved it because I kept dying. I kept making a bit of progress and then getting hung up on the next part. I’d choke out the Runner, but the Clicker would see me. I’d time my shiving of the first Runner to miss the Clicker, but then get seen by this other Runner wandering from room to room.

Sure, I could try and shoot the monsters rushing me, but I only had a few bullets and nailing headshots on the bobbing and weaving animals isn’t easy. The Last of Us rewards planning and patience – and that’s what I love about it.

In fact, later in the game, I came into a room filled with creatures and was given a shotgun. I threw a bottle at the floor, the baddies rushed me, but the shotgun gave me a big ol’ radius for the headshot. I killed the three coming at me, picked up ammo off their corpses, and then killed the next batch that came my way. It was nowhere near as fun as the strategizing and scrounging from before.

I talked to Naughty Dog developers about this, and they said my first experience was more what they were going for – that the shotgun and ample ammo drops I found toward the end were just for this demo, to give the press an idea of later in the game.

I certainly hope that’s the case.

 

Crafting FTW

 

Naughty Dog’s been talking about this crafting system for quite a while now, and I haven’t known what to make of it. How complicated will it be? How plentiful are resources? Turns out: 1) It’s not complicated. 2) They’re all over the place, but they’re not all equal.

So, typically, Tess will get out in front of you and go toward the objective you guys are looking for – a door, some stairs, etc. This is your cue to go anywhere but there. See, staying off the beaten path will lead you to drawers with scissors in them, duct tape at a dead end, and so on. When you pick these items up, you’ll see that item’s icon with a pie chart. That shows you how much the item is worth in that item category. Fill in one of the pies, and you have a whole item. Then, you need to look at the recipes you’ve collected thus far – stuff like a med kit, moltov, or board with scissors in it. If you have the needed pieces, a button tap makes it for you.

It’s a breeze – a lot like Dead Rising 2’s crafting with a bit of ZombiU tossed in. (When you craft, you’re digging through your backpack and vulnerable to attack.)

 

Miscellaneous The Last of Us Facts You Should Know

 

  • You start in a Quarantine Zone in Boston, then move into the unprotected city, which was bombed in an effort to stop the infection. (It didn’t work.)
  • Joel and Tess are trying to take Ellie to a group known as Firefly.
  • Notes found in the game are three-dimension objects that feature handwriting. They’re not text that pops on your screen.
  • Collectables listed in this demo include: Notes, Comics, Firefly Logs, and Training Manuals. Your menu shows you how many are in a level and how many you’ve collected thus far.
  • Crafting materials listed in this demo include: battery, blade, binding, rag, alcohol, explosive, sugar, and melee weapon.

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag: what we know right now

Swashbuckling adventures haven’t exactly featured in a glut of high-quality games over the years. Sid Meiers’ Pirates! did a decent enough job of satisfying buccaneering urges from a strategic point-of-view, but realistically, the über-niche pirate gaming segment peaked in the early-90s with the first two Monkey Island titles. However, high-seas hustling now looks set to enter the 21st century in earnest – and in style – after Ubisoft officially broke cover with the next instalment of its Assassin’s Creed series. Centred around the golden age of piracy in the 1700s, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag was announced on 4 March and is understandably arousing the interest of casual and enthusiast gamers alike, so let’s take a look at the most salient points regarding the forthcoming title.

The protagonist

Fans of Assassin’s Creed reacted lukewarmly to the ambivalent emo brooding of half-Brit/half-Native American Connor Kenway, the Assassin’s Creed 3 lead. With Assassin’s Creed 4 slotting in as a prequel to the 2012 title, the series’ new protagonist will also derive from the Kenway lineage – though it looks like the family tree will be receiving a fairly radical makeover. Taking the reins in Black Flag is Edward Kenway, a privateer-turned-pirate noted as much for his heavy drinking and womanising as he is for his charisma and intelligence. He’s a dab hand at stealthily knifing targets in the back, of course, and while we’re not quite sure how Edward will find himself mixed up in the Templar conspiracy, we do know that his journey will see him cavorting with a number of unsavoury types including Edward “Blackbeard” Teach and Calico Jack.

Gameplay

Ubisoft has obviously listened closely to user feedback. In addition to ostensibly bestowing Assassin’s Creed 4 with a more interesting protagonist, naval gameplay – one of Assassin’s Creed 3’s big successes – is set to play a major role in Black Flag. Gamers can look forward to customising, upgrading, and repairing Kenway’s flagship vessel, the Jackdaw, whilst attempting to navigate treacherous weather across a vast open-world comprised of some Caribbean different 50 settings.  As well as creeping your way around busy cities like Kingston, Jamaica and Havana, Cuba with a view to covert enemy takedowns, you’ll be able to broadside and board rival ships out on the high seas, or opt for a more discreet route by diving into the water and sneaking aboard other vessels to assassinate the captain. The new diving and underwater exploration mode will also be utilised in side quests, and despite protest groups like PETA getting their sabres in a twist, players will be empowered with the ability to harpoon whales in the traditional 18th century manner.

Elsewhere, Ubisoft has promised that the pace of gameplay on Assassin’s Creed 4 will be noticably quicker than that of its predecessor, which took a good few hours of engagement to get you stuck into main storyline. The rather tiresome modern-day Animus inhabited by the even more tiresome Desmond Miles will be on the receiving end of a significant kick in the pants, we understand, with the latter expected to be shuttered entirely. There’s no word yet on exactly how the next Assassin’s Creed will tie together past and present, but it can surely only represent an improvement on the current set-up.

Availability

Assassin’s Creed 4 is scheduled to release on 1 November for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. PS gamers will be privileged to an extra 60 minutes of gameplay via the PlayStation Network, but those on PCs will no doubt be frustrated to discover that – once again – they are second-class citizens in the game release sweepstakes and will have to wait for a taste of the new title.

Assassin’s Creed 4 has also been confirmed as coming to next-generation consoles – that’s the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, in case you didn’t know. Given the popularity of Assassin’s Creed 3-fronted PlayStation 3 bundles, we’d fully expect Assassin’s Creed 4 to arrive as a PS4 launch title in Q4.

Those content with current-gen hardware, however, can pre-order Assassin’s Creed 4 via Amazon right now, where the going-rate at time of publication is £42.

For a further glimpse of Ubisoft’s upcoming pirate epic, check out the official Assassin’s Creed 4 trailer below.

Relive the glory of conquest with remastered ‘Age of Empires II’, available on Steam April 9th

 

Age of Empires II HD

Age of Empires II is a monument to the glory days of sprites, battlefield evangelism, and real-time strategy, and you’ll be able to get another shot at spreading your influence around the world when an HD version of the game arrives next month. Age of Empires II: HD Edition is based on Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, released in 1999, and has been visually remastered with new textures, effects, and support for 1080p displays and multiple monitors. Eurogamer reports that the reworked version will feature the entire single-player campaign through the Conquerors expansion, and support for Steam’s social features: including achievements, leaderboards, and matchmaking. Age of Empires II: HD Edition will be sold for $20 exclusively on Steam starting April 9th.

 

Coming soon on Facebook: More action, battle games

Facebook is spearheading the launch of 10 high-quality games created by third-party developers in 2013 that squarely target so-called hardcore gamers.

SAN FRANCISCO — When nWay began a trial of its dark, sci-fi combat game “ChronoBlade” on Facebook last year, the San Francisco-based startup felt sure it had a hit on its hands.

“First of all, what comes is, ‘Wow, I had no idea you could actually do a game of this quality on Facebook,'” said Dave Jones, Chief Creative Officer of nWay, who has worked on “Grand Theft Auto.”

Then came some resistance: Jones admits some potential investors and partners questioned how an action-focused game with slick graphics can play to a Facebook audience more accustomed to “FarmVille” and other less time-consuming casual games. Others wondered how the game — which launches this spring — would gain significant users and revenue on the social network.

But Facebook is betting nWay and a clutch of other developers this year can extend console-style action games beyond Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s PlayStation onto the world’s largest social network.

Facebook is spearheading the launch of 10 high-quality games created by third-party developers in 2013 that squarely target so-called hardcore gamers, an atypical audience overlooked thus far against the wealth of family-friendly offerings like Zynga’s “FarmVille” that now dominate the social network’s gaming landscape.

The effort, which began late last year but will accelerate in 2013, is part of Facebook’s ongoing objective of making sure its 1 billion-plus users log in and spend more time on the network, which in turn boosts ad revenue. Facebook also takes a cut of its applications’ revenue.

Facebook’s push into action and battle games follows a meeting in January between companies that make games like “first-person shooters” and Vice President Joe Biden to look for ways to curb gun violence in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings.

Based on the console gaming industry experience, hardcore gamers — typically men 18 to 30 years old — spend more time and effort to master fast-paced games such as first-person shooters (Microsoft’s “Halo”) or real-time strategy games (Activision Blizzard’s “StarCraft”).

“You’ll see a whole set of games hitting in the next two quarters in particular and throughout the year that really start to redefine what people think of Facebook games,” Sean Ryan, head of game partnerships at Facebook said in an interview.

Facebook will embrace games from “casual all the way up through first-person shooters, massively multiplayer online games, real-time strategy games — all those types of more core player-versus-player games.”

Just as hardcore gamers interact online and form clans in multiplayer games on console game networks like Xbox LIVE, Facebook can be that social layer needed to foster such gaming communities that help popularize titles, Jones said.

Gaming population
Over a quarter of Facebook’s 1.06 billion monthly active users play games, one of the largest gaming communities in the industry, and the social network hopes that can grow.

Facebook also aims to make more revenue from games. Revenue from the area was flat in the fourth quarter from a year ago, the company said on Wednesday without providing details.

The 8-year-old social network takes a 30 percent revenue share from game developers who offer their product free but then charge for virtual goods — like ammunition and power boosts.

On Wednesday, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman told analysts on a post-earnings conference call that its “games ecosystem continues to show healthy signs of diversification” and suggested that games revenue would grow with increasing user engagement.

To grow its gaming business, Facebook has invested time and resources to work with developers since the summer to bring titles like u4iA’s first-person shooter “Offensive Combat” and Plaruim’s real-time strategy game “Stormfall: Age of War” alive, Ryan said.

“It doesn’t mean we’re walking away from other games, but there’s no question our focus for 2013 much of it will be about becoming a better platform for core gamers and developers who make those games.”

To help users discover them, Facebook added new action and strategy games categories on its App Center that also shows you friends from your list playing those games. It brought back notification messages from game apps — a feature that had been removed because users found the annoying — with certain restrictions that stop developers from spamming a gamer.

Developers also rely on word-of-mouth publicity and ads on Facebook’s advertising platform to draw in prospective gamers.

“Stormfall” has a player base of 4.5 million and hardcore games were proving to be far more lucrative, said Gabi Shalel, chief marketing officer Of Tel Aviv, Israel-based Plarium.

“Hardcore gamers pay more, play more and generate higher average revenue per user than traditional casual games.”

Kixeye, which makes the warfare-strategy game “War Commander,” said its gamers spend 20 times more than players of social games, helping it stay profitable over the past three years.

Going forward, nWay’s Jones says Facebook must have a defining title that comes along that establishes it as a hardcore gaming spot for gamers.

“Like ‘Super Mario’ did for Nintendo or ‘Halo’ on Microsoft, I think it just takes one title to come along, sort of as a benchmark to legitimize the whole thing,” he said.

 

Yakuza 5 and why it needs a western release

We’ve often heard the Yakuza games described as Japan’s answer to GTA. Such comparisons are generally lazy: the two series share little in common beyond narratives that offer a glimpse at a criminal lifestyle and tonal oscillations between the serious and the silly. So it’s a surprise to find producer Toshihiro Nagoshi inviting the comparison, likening Yakuza 5 to GTA: San Andreas. Having spent over 50 hours with the Japanese-language edition, however, we’d probably agree with his choice of comparison: as with Rockstar’s opus, this is perhaps the apotheosis of the series so far, a game of extraordinary volume and generosity.

There are five cities to explore, for starters, and the fictional suburbs of Fukuoka, Sapporo, Osaka and Nagoya are rendered with a similar attention to authenticity as the series’ familiar corner of Tokyo, Kamurocho. In truth, none of these new cities are as intricate or as dense as the old one, and a few are aggressively gated, with huge invisible barriers preventing you from crossing certain roads in Sapporo, for example. While it’s impossible to escape the staples of Club Sega, M Stores and the Don Quixote jingle wherever you go, each area has signature features, from Sapporo’s towering ice sculptures to Osaka’s wooden piers and takoyaki stands.

Nagoshi described development of the game as “like building a new house”, but it’s one constructed on established foundations. Structurally, this game is identical to Yakuza 4, with four separate narrative threads that entwine in a final chapter, not to mention a similar fight-cutscene-fight flow. A new game engine makes transitions between the two less jarring, though, and moves from exploration to street fighting have been streamlined, too. When accosted by a thug, you have but a few seconds to ready yourself for combat, and then you’re thrown into the fray.

Once battle commences, there are a few notable changes. It’s by no means Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden, but there’s a greater fluidity to combos, and you’re granted access to better moves earlier on. Subtle tweaks to the movesets make the four characters distinctive: it’s much easier to tell loan shark Shun Akiyama and lead Kazuma Kiryu apart now, the former barely bothering to use his fists. Saejima Taiga, a powerful but sluggish brute in Yakuza 4, is far more fun to play as well.

Each of the game’s stars has an additional Climax Heat move, too, an extra-powerful attack that drains the familiar Heat meter (built up through regular combat) entirely. Washed-up baseball star Tatsuo Shinada charges into opponents, stunning them if their momentum takes them into a wall or solid object; Kazuma can pick up an enemy by his foot, spinning him around to trip nearby goons; and Akiyama launches a series of airborne kicks that would put Ryu and Ken to shame. The standard Heat moves have ratcheted up in brutality, too. Yakuza’s violence has always had a cartoonish edge, but some of the attacks here are vicious enough to make you wince. Even the likeable Akiyama stamps on heads, while noses are regularly crushed against walls and shop fronts.

The most significant break from tradition comes in the third chapter, in which Kazuma’s adopted daughter, Haruka, trains to become an idol in Osaka. The rhythm-action sequences that pitch you against a more experienced duo are very easy, although in that regard it’s much like Yakuza’s fights: it’s all about winning with style. Street brawls are replaced with dance battles, and the upbeat J-Pop numbers you tap along to will quickly burrow into your brain and take up residence.

Beyond that, Nagoshi seems unwilling to upset the status quo, though it’s easy to see why, surrounded as Yakuza is by legions of long-lived game series in which differences between entries are minor. Besides, strong launch-week sales are essential to offset the costs of an expensive voice cast and the evident effort expended on its two-year development. Yakuza’s formula sells, so there’s little pressure to deviate.

However, it’s a formula that only sells in Japan, which explains why Sega, currently focusing its attention on big franchises and mobile partnerships in the face of financial troubles, has been reluctant to announce a western release. With that in mind, an import purchase is all the more tempting, though we’d advise against it unless you’re fluent in Japanese. This is, after all, a series driven by the stories it tells, often through long conversations between two characters.

Much of Yakuza’s appeal comes from the fact that, behind the crunching violence, its moral compass is pointing firmly in the right direction. With every nose broken, a new lesson is taught. Yes, characters might need to take a beating before learning the error of their ways, but almost everyone becomes a better person as a result of your pugilistic interventions. Persistent mission markers and simple objectives make it an easy game to muddle through, sure, but take away Yakuza’s narrative and you lose its heart, and the slightly clunky nature of its not-quite-open sandbox is exposed.

So 50 hours in and we’re still itching to return to Kamurocho, even though we can’t help but wish we were playing this in English. Over here, Yakuza might be a cult hit at best, but this is surely too good a renovation to ignore. Nagoshi’s housewarming is in full swing in Japan, and it’s high time the rest of the world gatecrashed the party.