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06/24/2007 - 06/30/2007

The Insurgency is Coming!

June 29, 2007

I has a flavor. Five years ago Andrew "Argyll" Spearin started his training in the Canadian Army and concluded that most first-person shooter games just don't get it, and don't do enough to simulate the life-on-the-line teamwork that you need to survive in a real combat situation. He assembled a team of like-minded friends online and together they sought to create one of the most visceral modern warfare modifications ever to be released. The result? Insurgency, a total conversion of
Half-Life 2.

Ever since the success of Counter-Strike, lots of modification teams have brought team-based gaming with realistic arms to various game engines, but Insurgency stands out in a number of ways. Graphically, the game has the fidelity of Battlefield 2 but with the tight control and high performance of Half-Life 2. And the art is top-notch: There's a reason that game developers hire people straight out of the mod community, and when you play Insurgency you'll see why. You'll be amazed that you're getting this game for free.

Oh ... oh ... my nose is itchy. Can someone scratch my nose? ...please?

FilePlanet is happy to present the World Premiere of this ambitious new modification this weekend! [See Update, below] Stay tuned to FilePlanet for the big release and watch the Insurgency trailer while you wait. You'll need Half-Life 2 installed in order to play so now's the time to reinstall if you need to.

See you outside the green zone!


UPDATE: Last-minute fixes and polishing moved the release beyond the weekend. Stick around - FilePlanet will be the first to post when the mod goes live.
Posted by at 9:28 AM PDT
Edited on: July 02, 2007 10:24 AM PDT

Red vs. Blue Airs Final Episode

June 28, 2007

I has a flavor. Five years and 100 episodes later, the series that brought Machinima to the (sorta) mainstream has aired its final episode. Red vs. Blue, the series that filmed Halo characters arguing over flags and semi-sentient tanks, has finally wrapped up -- watch the final episode online. Wired Magazine has an article about it and Rooster Teeth Productions, the creators:

The 15-minute final episode will be "the biggest one we've ever done," says Burns, "but The Sopranos stole our ending, so we had to change it completely."
I had the opportunity to interview the Rooster Teeth guys about Red vs. Blue and their other projects back in 2004, about halfway through RvB and just as they were kicking off a second series about The Sims. What's great about Rooster Teeth is that through the years the group has maintained the same vibe, despite all the close ties they now have with major publishers. At the end of the day it's still a bunch of ... dudes. Who like games. And who edit together funny clips. Congrats on bringing the series to its conclusion!

We're happy to host Machinima on FilePlanet -- Submit your file and you can share it with the world.

Posted by at 12:21 PM PDT

Gamers Respond to Manhunt 2 Debacle

June 27, 2007

I has a flavor. Earlier this week I summarized the furor over Manhunt 2, Rockstar's splatterfest that's been basically banned for sale in the U.K. and tentatively given an adult-only rating here in the 'States. Check out GameSpy's Preview for a look at the content. The game hasn't been released yet, so it likely will go through some serious editing in order to fit within the 'M' rating for release. I asked what you guys thought about it, and while opinions about the game were all over the map, most gamers agreed they should have the right to at least make up their own minds about it:

"If I can't buy the film Saw and the game Manhunt 2 at the same counter, at the same time, having the same age then something is wrong." -Maxx

"As a 37 (almost 38) year old gamer, who grew up playing since Pong and Space Invaders were around, I have to agree that it should be my choice as to what games I pick and choose to play... I would be happy to give Manhunt 2 a go-round, but it appears that gamers as a whole are being told what they can play based solely on what parents of the younger gamers want them to play, and none of what the older gamers want." -Mark. T.

Shh! I'm being SNEAKY.

Some of you aimed your criticism at Rockstar:

"I think Rockstar needs to stop making these games. Not because I find the content offensive, I don't, but because the industry (Or perhaps, the public) simply isn't ready to handle it. Relatively speaking, gaming is still young, and with all the heat constantly coming down from governments and other groups, the last thing we need is Rockstar pushing the envelope and getting us into deeper sh*t. As much as they should be able to make a game like Manhunt 2, it just isn't healthy for the industry right now." -The Quality Jeverage

I have to disagree with Jeverage, despite his quality. The truth is, somebody is going to be making games that will get public attention by pushing the envelope. I'd prefer to have Rockstar on the front lines, because the company has shown again and again a commitment to backing up the shock value with actual gameplay. Grand Theft Auto is fun. Bully is at times genius. I give Rockstar credit for trying to create real games.

Of course, some of you disagree with me. Lordomatic here thinks Rockstar is just trying to make noise:

"Rockstar is going for shock value... I think Rockstar has made an excessively realistic murder simulator. Don't get me wrong, I am all for AO video game content but, lets be honest, Rockstar will most likely alter something in the game to give it a M-rating and ride the controversy to some excellent sales. Market ploy or just trying too hard to be the bad boy on the block and keeping up their rep?" -Lordomatic

Finally, Mistirious aims some criticism at the ratings boards for muddying the issue:

"Personally I believe the use of the ERSB / BBFC and other rating organizations is to give people an indication of what they might be buying. So that they don't get unexpected stuff when they boot the game. Also it is for parents being able to prevent their kids from playing extreme games. Then what would be the use of not rating a game?! This is just removing the sole purpose of the rating organizations." -Mistirious

Thanks to everyone who wrote in!

Posted by at 11:55 AM PDT

Can a Game Change the World?

June 26, 2007

I has a flavor. I'd like to take a complete 180-degree turn from yesterday's rant about Manhunt 2 and talk about games that are in it to do more than entertain. As I've blogged about before, there's a whole serious games movement that sees real potential for games as a learning tool.

But can a game change the world? Do yourself a favor and download PeaceMaker:

Download PeaceMaker!
[Buy the Full Version from Direct2Drive]

PeaceMaker: Can you live up to it?
How will YOU respond to this?

Created by a mixed American, Israeli, and Palestinian team, PeaceMaker recently won the "GaCha" award at the 2007 Games for Change conference. Here's the way it works: you're an elected leader of either Israel or Palestine. The game begins in the present day, and your goal is to is to meet the needs of your own people while also wining over the trust of the opposition -- if your popularity with both sides reaches 100%, you can effectively arrange a lasting peace.

But gaining trust from the opposition -- hell, even figuring out how to get the support of your own population -- is a challenge. You interact with the game by selecting an action to take each week: you can focus on security enforcement, political gestures, or construction projects. As the Israeli Prime Minister, do you increase police patrols in the wake of a bus bombing? Do you offer aid to Palestine to help build up their education or infrastructure? Do you tighten up the checkpoints, or loosen restrictions? Everything you do has consequences that ripple through the region. And there are multiple groups and extremists on both sides of the tension who react to your every action... you're just as often fighting an uphill battle with your own people as you are trying to placate the opposition.

It's an ambitious, fascinating game. Is it fun? Well, it won't exactly have you squealing with glee. But it certainly has an element of strategy and planning that can be satisfying, and stepping into the shoes of a world leader to make hard decisions is one of the most compelling game experiences you can ask for. In many ways -- in both theme and design -- it reminds me of Chris Crawford's classic game Balance of Power. Underneath the game map is a fascinating simulation.

But let's get back to my original question: Can games change the world? Yes they can. But not directly. It's not as though playing PeaceMaker will make everyone drop their weapons and start hugging. But it does illuminate the news, and it gives you a much deeper understanding of what's going on in the region. Raising awareness is a good start to finding a solution. If games like this were used in schools, it would help make problems in other parts of the world more real. And, maybe most important of all, it would get people talking.

Hell, I just got a few hundred thousand hardcore gamers to think about Middle East peace. That's something, right?

Download PeaceMaker and try it out for yourself! The demo will allow you to play eight in-game weeks. Consider buying the full version if you want to support more games like this. Peace out!

Posted by at 11:58 AM PDT
Edited on: June 26, 2007 12:04 PM PDT

The Sordid Saga of Manhunt 2

June 25, 2007

I has a flavor. We're used to getting lots of swag from games publishers here at the IGN/GameSpy headquarters, but I'll never forget what we got in the mail when Rockstar was promoting the original Manhunt game: A branded garrote wire. You know, like you would use to strangle someone. That set the tone for a franchise that strove to be way, WAY over-the-top. (I didn't think you could even buy specially-made garrote wire. Much less get someone to slap a logo on it. WTF?)

But Manhunt 2, developed by Rockstar for Take-Two Interactive, will probably go down in history for triggering off a flurry of press and helping the industry decide just how far is too far. The story is ongoing, but this weekend saw a lot of ink splattered. Here's the latest:

Last week the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) declared that the game was unsuitable for sale in the U.K. That's the first time the BBFC had banned a videogame since 1997's Carmageddon (that ban was eventually overturned on appeal). On the other side of the Atlantic, the ESRB gave the game a preliminary rating of AO, "Adults Only." That effectively kills the game, since Neither Sony nor Nintendo will approve AO games for publication.

Knock knock! Who's there? Psychokiller. Psychokiller who? Grank, nnnarrrkk, mmpppggghhh, graaahhhhh

The two rulings forced Take-Two to put Manhunt 2 on hold. If you're staying on top of gaming news these days, you probably know that Take-Two is in a financial pinch -- the delay of the game caused a ripple in their financial forecast and sent investors scrambling. Although, as a lot of papers are reporting, the controversy around the title will probably boost demand when it comes out.

Despite delaying the game, Take-Two still defends the game as "a fine piece of art," and says that the game "fits squarely within the horror genre and was intended to do so." It's true, the game is immensely graphic. I mean, immensely graphic. But as this New York Times editorial points out, your mainstream R-rated horror movies are way worse.

Another twist to the story? One financial analyst points out that the ESRB may be unfairly singling Take-Two and Rockstar out for past 'sins,' such as the Hot Coffee debacle.

How Violent is Too Violent?

Here's my take on it: for Manhunt 2 to get an Adults-Only rating shows that the system is working. This is a game where you can not only stab, choke, bash, brain, eviscerate, and drown people but you can also use can use pliers to -- uh -- pull ... things. It's not rendered photorealistically but it's still immensely graphic. This is a game that is absolutely intended for adults who know what they're getting into when they pick up the box. It's the definition of the AO rating. That's what it's for!

I'd rather see games rated than banned outright; the BBFC refuses to rate the product, which makes it illegal to sell. Manhunt 2 may not be my type of game, but I would appreciate the option of deciding that for myself.

I do take some issue with Nintendo and Sony declaring that they won't approve any AO games for sale on their systems. It's their right to, but what it does is it forces the industry to try to cram more and more content into the M rating and makes the AO rating an effective ban. That's probably not a good long-term plan for the industry.

Now, are movies and games being held to different standards? Yes. And in my opinion that's not a bad thing -- I think games are a more powerful medium. Besides, it's not just the violence that people should look at, it's the context. In most horror movies, the horrific acts are done by the villain. In games, the worst of the horror is usually in the hands of the player. I think that's a big difference.

But you don't have to listen to my opinion; you've probably got thoughts of your own. Lemme hear 'em!

Watch Manhunt 2 Trailers on FilePlanet:       -Fargo
Posted by at 1:11 PM PDT
Edited on: June 25, 2007 1:19 PM PDT

Update: The Quake Wars Beta Signups are Over

June 24, 2007

I has a flavor. The Enemy Territory: Quake Wars beta signups have ended. The dust is settling here at FilePlanet, but on the servers, the battles are raging non-stop. FilePlanet subscribers and registered users who got into the beta can give feedback to the developers through the private beta forums. So if you got in, let the crew know what you think!

If you didn't make it into the beta, keep in mind that FilePlanet Subscribers always get the first crack at these things. Stick around, because we've got more huge games in the queue for the rest of the Summer.


Posted by at 4:18 PM PDT

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