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Some thoughts on Kerbal Space Program: First Contract

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Kerbal Space Program

Everybody loves space. All those planets and black holes whizzing around, orbitting things and getting into scrapes. All the tinfoil spaceships we've sent out to look for interstellar treasure. Those screaming cats and dogs we were sending up in rockets for a while. They must have been especially excited about the wonders of the universe. Yes, it's round the clock, cosmic fun wherever space is concerned, and videogames are certainly no exception.

The indelible Kerbal Space Program is one such space videogame. It recently received its huge First Contract update, which is not only a tremendous pun but a comprehensive overhaul of the game's fledgling career mode and an update that's been years in the making. What was once a sandbox free-for-all ship builder is now a sort of aerospace tycoon game in which you take on government and private contracts in order to raise cash and progress along a branching tech tree. I've been playing it. Here's what I think so far.

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Overkill bolster Payday 2 Steam community with in-game stretch rewards

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Patriotic Payday 2.

If I told you there was going to be a Crimefest in October, would you come? Or would you plan to be away that weekend?

Overkill are hoping you’ll stick around for the Purge. They’re celebrating three years of Payday in three months’ time, and want to top up their Steam following some before then.

Think of it as a Kickstarted community: join up, and you’ll help unlock weapons, heists, playable characters, and free weekends come October.

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Completely real: Get a first look at an Unreal Tournament map concept

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Unreal Tournament concept map

The Unreal Tournament Development Team have put together a concept map for the upcoming Unreal engine 4 shooter. It’s the first map they’ve shown, but it’s very much a proof of concept rather than a proper level. 

Art director Chris Perna does a fly through of the map, noting that he went for a sci-fi industrial look, but this isn’t representative of the entire game. “We could go grimier with this, but when we talk about visual clarity and things like that, I think this kind of thing hits that mark.”

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Gear Up hits beta: put guns on goo or make invisible spider tanks

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Gear Up beta

I have been building robots and tanks! Oh, yes. Tanks with shark guns. Mechanical spiders with alien brains. Invisible cardboard boxes balanced precariously on balls of goo. I am not, as you might assume, attempting to take over the world like a cartoon supervillain, though. I’ve been playing a spot of Gear Up. 

It’s a very silly vehicle-based multiplayer shooter that lets you make very silly vehicles that shoot. It’s also on Steam Early Access and, conveniently, totally free.  

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Free zombies: Inject some unlife into your weekend with Dead Island: Epidemic on Steam

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Dead Island: Epidemic free

If you’re anticipating a dead weekend, you might as well embrace it. From now and until July 28th, Dead Island, Dead Island: Riptide and all the bits and pieces of zombie-slaying DLC are 75 percent off on Steam

Dead Island: Epidemic, Stunlock Studios’ MOBA spin-off - which is in Early Access right now - is also free for the entirety of the sale. Our Matt’s played around with it, so you should check out his Dead Island: Epidemic Early Access review

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What to expect from The Elder Scrolls Online's daedra-controlled Imperial City

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The Elder Scrolls Online Imperial City

The Elder Scrolls Online is still a young whippersnapper - and you can see what our Nick thought about it in his Elder Scrolls Online review - but ZeniMax Online are already thinking about the future. At QuakeCon, the team held a panel teasing the audience with what’s to come for the fantasy MMO. 

One of the big things is the centre of the titanic PvP war that’s consumed the Imperial province of Cyrodiil. At the heart of the region sits the Imperial City - that place you probably spent a lot of time in while playing Oblivion - and the for the time being, it’s impenetrable. But that will change. 

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Ben Ward

The Often-Ending Story is a trope-addled choose your own adventure

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The Often-Ending Story

Take a look at this fun bit of interactive fiction from the mind and fingers of Ben Ward, whose overpowering Ben-ness you may recognise from comedy point and click adventures Ben There, Dan That and Time Gentlemen, Please!.

It's called The Often-Ending Story and frames you as the amnesia-addled hero of a short and surreal Twine adventure that is, in Ben's own words, "a broad and directionless low fantasy parody with some gaming tropes thrown in".

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Cliff Harris on Gratuitous Space Battles 2: it's a "whole new world"

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Gratuitous Space Battles 2

Gratuitous Space Battles 2, sequel to 2009’s excellent game of building ships and watching them blow each other up in simulated space battles, has been in development over at Positech Games since last year. The original was a great deal of fun, mixing modular ship design with tower defence-like mechanics. Cliff Harris has been posting regular updates on his blog and in the GSB forums, but today marks the official announcement of the game. 

It’s on its way, probably this year. It will be playable at Eurogamer 2014, but that’s not until September. I’m impatient, so I got in touch with Cliff to get the skinny on his latest game. 

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Spotlight
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Our Spotlight units plug content our journalists have made, that our advertisers want to promote. Sometimes the promotion is paid for, but the content they go to is always independent with no client oversight or approval.

Aerna creators claim it's the largest and most detailed Minecraft server

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Minecraft Aerna

A lot of rather large worlds have been created in Minecraft. There are builders creating Middle-Earth, software that’s rendered World of Warcraft’s Azeroth in blocky detail and even the entirety of Denmark. We rather like big Minecraft projects here, which is why those three are all in our list of the 15 best Minecraft servers

Aerna is another humongous server, and its creators claim that it’s the largest and most detailed Minecraft server out there. It’s a work in progress, but is already massive, 102,400 blocks across and 84GB in size. 

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Linux

Come in from the cold: Linux compatible games are all the rage at GOG.com

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Linux games on GOG

Are you a Linux user who feels shunned, unable to play classic games without switching to Windows? The evenings spent crying yourself to sleep while chums play Sid Meirs’ Pirates! are now behind you, as GOG has just made 50 games in its catalogue - some old, some new - available. 

Half of them are compatible with Linux for the first time, to boot. Well, isn’t that lovely.

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The Last Express: Jordan Mechner remembers a different sort of war game on the centenary of its departure

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The Last Express: first and last of its kind.

A hundred years ago today, a fictional American doctor named Robert Cath boarded the Orient Express to Constantinople. Over the course of his journey, tensions between various European parties on the continent and on the train would boil over into violence.

As the centenary of the First World War nears, Jordan Mechner remembers a rare game in which the goal was to avoid conflict. An adventure game that took him and a team of 100 over four years to make. The Last Express.

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Obsidian hope Pillars of Eternity sales will fund its sequel without Kickstarter

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Are these the Pillars of Eternity in question? Look pretty finite to us.

Kickstarter funded Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera from InXile, and Pillars of Eternity and its expansion pack from Obsidian - essentially plotting out the second Infinity Engine Age in advance.

For Obsidian, the hope is that initial kick will be enough to see them through Eternity’s sequel, too.

“That’s the dream of any independent developer,” said project director Josh Sawyer. “That they get the cash reserves that they don't need to ask anybody for money.”

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Respawn to introduce in-game 'black market' currency to Titanfall in Game Update 5

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Titanfall is looking like an evergreen shooter so far.

Respawn are currently turning the Titanfall community on to the idea of ‘black market’ currency, which is a funny thing to call an developer-designed point system. Talk to Blizzard: they’ll tell you all about real black markets.

In any case, players will soon be able to earn in-game cash by completing challenges or selling on unloved burn cards. But don’t call it a microtransaction system: there’ll be no means of acquiring ‘black market’ money with real-life debit cards.

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The Sims 2 is now free on Origin, swimming pools and 18 expansions included

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The Sims 2: when toddlers were a back-of-the-box feature.

A decade ago, you might have complained that The Sims 2 had turned the PC games charts into a permanent expandaland. But a comprehensive version of the game might be exactly what you're looking for today, on the eve of a Sims without swimming pools or toddlers.

Boot up Origin this afternoon and you can be adding Maxis’ finest hour of the 21st century, stuffed with Stuff Packs, to your library for free.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic preps for largest story expansion since Rise of the Hutt Cartel

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Things are set to get hairy again in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

In retrospect, overarching MMO plotlines can sound like supervillain whack-a-mole. The Galactic Republic and Sith Empire might be at war, but together they’ve bopped the Hutt Cartel’s invasion of Makeb on the head, and given the Dread Masters of Oricon a good malleting.

For now, though, Star Wars: The Old Republic’s next major storyline is swathed in mystery, preceded by two new flashpoints that make up its prelude. It might be time to take another look at Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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Chat restrictions increase win rates for a "large number" of League of Legends players

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A familiar sight for the most toxic players in League of Legends.

Riot Games have loud ways of dealing with the very worst players in one of the best free PC games around, League of Legends - like the tribunal, and the head-on-a-spike reports that follow their rulings.

But one of the quieter tools in their arsenal is the temporary chat ban. Not only does it dissuade players from bad behaviour, say Riot, but it actually tends to improve their performance in the lanes.

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Steam Controller

Well-thumbed: the Steam Controller has grown an analog stick

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The new Steam Controller: something old, something new.

The Steam Controller, as it was first pitched to us, was a totally alien way to play a game. Two flat radar dishes, resembling the subwoofers in the back of a an 18-year-old’s car, represented the promise of mouse-controlled games on the couch. A touch screen at its centre stood in quiet tribute to the Dreamcast. Possibly.

Nowadays it looks much more familiar. Four Xbox port-friendly letters sit below the Steam Controller's pause button, and a thumbstick - a new addition - in place of the last prototype’s d-pad.

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Spotlight
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Our Spotlight units plug content our journalists have made, that our advertisers want to promote. Sometimes the promotion is paid for, but the content they go to is always independent with no client oversight or approval.

Meet IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad —the high flying return of the PC's best combat flight-sim

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An olive-colored Soviet plane braves the night and the snow.

IL-2 Sturmovik ruled the World War Two flight-sim roost like few games ever have. Not only did it expose sim audiences to the often-overlooked Eastern Front air war, but it proved to be a gift that kept on giving: its lengthy series of expansions covered everything from early jet-fighter combat to the Pacific air war.

But from such a height came a similarly precipitous fall with the with the disastrous (and awkwardly-named) IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover, an ill-fated take on the Battle of Britain that led to the departure of series creator Oleg Maddox and a terrible, buggy release that left many fans feeling burned.

Now, with IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad and a new development team, 1C are trying to get the king of WW2 aviation back in the air.

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