All posts by James Pinnell

By on April 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm

In the last few years that I have been writing for this fine outlet, I have heaped scorn on the current state of MMORPGs and their lack of innovation, their careful restriction of player control, and their almost dogmatic devolution to a decade old play model. In almost every case, there is a fierce battle from both sides of the aisle — those that share my opinion and lament the broken promises for change, the watering down of sandbox elements, and the stringent dedication to tropes like the Holy Trinity and the Raid. On the other hand, players who feel that the Theme Park style of play is really what defines an MMO claim that the problem isn’t with the system, but that it’s ultimately a lack of quality control on behalf of the developer, resulting in the slew of bugs that tend to infest launch titles, and half-baked features that don’t pan out or fit into the design matrix that the game is based on.

ArcheAge, to me, always felt like the logical bridge between the two paradigms – a “SandPark”, as the developers at XL Games refer to it. Taking both the structure of a Theme Park and the flexibility of a Sandbox, ArcheAge has made a lot of grandiose promises around things like farming, non-instanced player housing, naval combat and even treasure hunting. I graciously accepted one of the rare Alpha keys on offer from NA publisher Trion and set out to see if it was too good to be true.

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By on April 10, 2014 at 11:00 am

The year is 1604. Washed up on a beach after the (presumed) crash of your ship, you expected to find a thriving colony on the edge of the new world. Instead, what you find is an island full of ghosts, demons and a mysterious cloaked woman on a quest to locate her twin sister. Betrayer is easily one of the more ambitious indie titles I have seen in a while, with an opening so ominous, confusing and daunting it put me instantly on the back foot. Soon you’ll find your first “base” of sorts, Fort Henry — but from there, the mystery only deepens as the game forces you to evaluate your surroundings and discover clues to what has occurred. Why are there human remains solidified in place? Why does this bell create instant darkness? Why are these souls begging me to find their loved ones?

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By on April 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Rust is many things to many people, and to those who haven’t fallen into its grasp but instead look through a Twitch or YouTube window, it looks simply like DayZ mixed with Minecraft. To an extent, it is — the crafting and survival elements of the game are neatly in tune with its spiritual predecessors, but at the same time, is nothing like them at all.

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By on March 27, 2014 at 3:32 pm

It was just another part of the daily news. The Abbott coalition government, as part of their plan to “slash red tape” and “remove unnecessary regulation”, announced that they would amend the Classification Act of 1995. The heavy, clunky, 1980′s style human element of the classification system for digitally distributed games would be gone, alongside a host of other small changes.

“These reforms are the first step in the process of ensuring our classification system continues to be effective and relevant in the 21st century,” touted the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, who was effectively following on with pledges by previous Labor administrations to make the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations in enforceable legislation. On the surface, it didn’t really seem like much of a big deal — the meat of the R18+ sandwich had already come and gone. But in reality, the rest of the meal had finally begun to arrive at the table.

To explain why this change is significant, we need to understand how the current status quo works.

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By on March 18, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Nostalgia is not usually a quality that many MMORPGs tend to strive for when they set out to create a new universe. WildStar is unique in that it is one of the first Western MMOs in quite a long time that was designed by a small team on a limited budget, but with lofty ambitions to succeed where many others have failed. As a result, it has ended up much closer to the fold of traditional MMOs, such as World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online, in offering what is unabashedly a conservative play system geared significantly towards hardcore players.

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The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

By on March 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm

It’s been an interesting road for The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot, Ubisoft’s first true F2P experiment — a sort of Dungeon Keeper-meets-Diablo with a side of Netstorm: Islands at War — from its first, hilarious, announcement trailer back in 2012 to the rocky balancing of “Pay” and “Play” during the closed beta. It’s a tale of two games: on the one side, we have a hack and slash grinder that offers what’s on the box — oodles of loot, tons of gold, creative mobs, traps and other nasties. On the other, the game forces you to defend your existence in the game’s floating plan, building up your own castle with the very same mobs and tricks that you’ve struggled through already, albeit with the advantage of creative placement and a touch of your own skill and prowess.

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By on March 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Maniken50 doesn’t mince words in his short, fairly disturbing review of the phenomenally popular survival builder Rust.

“I love this game”, he muses. “I built a house around a guys house and made him my prisoner, I fed him cans of tuna and cooked chicken when it was available, and some times I would drop in spare logs of wood (when they were available).”

This is followed by what can only be described as a Hannibal Lector love note, where he describes torturing and restraining the poor fellow, in a recreation of a scene from Silence of The Lambs. Strangely enough, or not as it were, this review was helpful to 93% of the 18,000 people who rated it, with comments congratulating (and damning) the player on his efforts and pledging a purchase based on his story.

This isn’t as much as an exception as the rule in the new world order of online sandboxes — both Rust and DayZ, two titles that are almost certainly the most unrelenting, unforgiving and anarchic games of the decade. Griefing has now grown to become de rigueur when building a new community in a space with little to no rules, restrictions or, most importantly, consequences.

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The Elder Scrolls Online

By on February 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm

The Elder Scrolls have been a welcome constant throughout the long and wide history of the RPG genre, especially here on the PC, the platform of its birth. Its progressive gameplay mechanics, deep and interesting lore and extraordinarily expansive lands have entertained and enthralled many gamers, both new and old, for over two decades. As such, cries for the ability to share these hard fought experiences, to explore vast tombs with a friend or enter various guilds with others are just another constant to accompany each new title — although Skyrim was probably the first one that truly would have welcomed a partner.

Then, out of nowhere in 2012 Bethesda and its parent Zenimax announced that an MMO had been in the works for the best part of a decade, and wasn’t all that far away from completion.

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By and on February 5, 2014 at 8:29 am

Given the phenomenal success that Blizzard’s surprise-we’re-making-a-collectible-card-game Hearthstone has enjoyed, we jumped at the chance to sit down with Eric Dodds (Lead Designer) and Ben Thompson (Lead Artist) on the game. Read on for a discussion of how balancing Hearthstone is different from StarCraft, how their success has affected the team, and what this new title means for Blizzard.

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

By on January 21, 2014 at 10:04 am

This game is not for the faint hearted. This game is not for people who give up easily. This game is not for people who find using tactics and analysing the subtle movements of their opponents in a brawler entertaining. This game is not for people who like getting their hand held. So, now that I’ve scared off a sizeable chunk of the possible readers for this particular review, let me be honest straight off the bat — Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a great tactical brawler. It’s bloody, brutal and features all of the fantastic dialogue, music and fan service that stalwarts of Konami’s iconic series are used to.

The only caveat is, really, is that you understand the fantastic pedigree of its developer — Platinum Games — creators of awarded technical brawler Bayonetta. God of War this is not, my friends, as button mashing and wall jumping have been replaced by pin point accuracy and careful move analysis. You have been warned.

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By on January 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm

On the long, long road to Guild Wars 2, even the hardened critic inside me couldn’t get enough of ArenaNet’s breadcrumb trail of hype laced videos, previews, interviews and reveals. The beautiful art, the varied number of classes and races, the lush, gorgeous locales that encouraged exploration and teamwork. Everything about the game seemed to entice once die-hard players back into the fold – your level dropped appropriate to the area and your party, PVP was engaging, difficult and rewarding, and leveling was actually fluid and, well, fun. To top it off, it was free to play – forever.

It should have been the perfect game. But it wasn’t.

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Greed Money

By on January 9, 2014 at 11:12 am

There is a small but growing element of complacency when it comes to developing a title in this new internet age. Quick and easy distribution, significantly more reliable networks, always-on internet and improved client management means the build you release for consumption can be as complete as you’d like it to be. Because, hey — it doesn’t matter if your game is missing core assets, crashes consistently and only runs on video card drivers from six months ago, because your customers can simply change a few .ini files and run a community created patch.

Even on consoles, the original pre-XBL bastion of stability, where games updates come at a hefty premium for their publishers, it was not unlikely for gamers to be greeted with Day One patches as hefty at 3GB, compressed. None of this is acceptable, at all, on any level. In 1991, If your cartridge based title didn’t work, companies lost money when customers returned their carts. In 2013, you’d be lucky to get a refund out of Steam.

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Shut Up And Take My Money

By on December 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

Nothing gets the blood boiling (aside from DRM, of course) throughout gaming communities more than the retail pricing of titles. From indies to AAA, Humble Bundles to Steam sales, very few places outside of Australia,  UK and NZ find themselves in such a quagmire when it comes to defining what a game is worth paying for. So I’m here to ask the question — what is a fair amount to pay?

While I’m of the opinion that the $8 I paid for Tomb Raider is perfectly valid (although I would have paid double, knowing now its quality), many commentators claim that the deep discounting of PC games lowers the public perception of their value. It’s an argument that has merit, as the development of a title is hardly an easy process — teams of hundreds, both long and short term, spend years coding engines and developing art assets. Indie developers can and often do, code for up to 18 hours a day, struggling to fill every 24 hour block as efficiently as possible. In our race to bottomed-out prices, we quickly forget that there are people behind these games attempting to make some semblance of a living.

But before we even breach that topic, we need to cover what value is, and how gamers interpret it. Case in point: Does a game need to be long to justify a $60 price tag? Does it require heavy graphical prowess or ingenious secondary systems, like tablet apps, league tables or stat tracking websites? Or can quality alone justify a high price?

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By on December 12, 2013 at 7:47 am

The latest title to take a leaf from the Terraria-side of the family almanac is DarkOut, a thoroughly ambitious indie darling that has been shuffled through an extraordinarily long 2.5 year development period. But there’s been a lot to show for it — the game has a gorgeous art style, randomly generated environments with tons of biomes, bunkers with AI survivors, vehicles and a host of other goodies shoved into every algorithm that spawns a brand new world. This world is also notoriously creepy too; if you’ve ever seen Pitch Black, well, so have the developers — this planet is dark, dank and teeming with creatures primed to make your skin crawl.

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Unconventional Games

By on December 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm

One of the things I generally complain about to fellow journalists and friends is that lack of “surprise” that increasingly comes from entering a new game.

Developers and publishers constantly promise new mechanics, experiences and technology, but generally fail. As games become more expensive to produce, bigger studios start to feel the pinch from their overlords — niche systems, ideas and creativity don’t sell franchises, and those franchises that make incremental changes rather than wholesale overhauls allow for players who want to be comfortable. After 20-odd years of gaming, I don’t want to be comfortable anymore — which is why I’ve been enjoying the flood of new indie experiences that actually attempt to work against the status quo.

But it’s not just new experiences — it’s also refined ones. These five games were the titles I played this year that delivered those surprising moments — whether improving on classic systems, creating new ones or just making great use of creative prompts, such as humour, sadness or even politics. We’re coming up on the end of the year, and GON’s official GOTY awards are not far away – but this feature is designed to reward those titles that may not be showered in kudos, or simply forgotten on top of all the BioShocks and Last of Us‘s that whitewashed Metacritic this year.

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Next Gen Right Now

By on November 27, 2013 at 12:03 pm

About a month ago, my intrepid editor provided me with a task — create two PC systems that either matched or surpassed both new consoles in terms of power, storage, speed and flexibility, while still managing to stay within the price points of both. This was never going to be easy — both the Xbox One and the PS4 are loss leaders for their respective benefactors, relying on a combination of software sales and subscriptions to make up their bottom lines.

So with that in mind, I’ve taken a few liberties with pricing. The RRP of the Xbox One is $599, and includes all the respective cables and controller(s). I’ve also added 2 years of XBox LIVE Gold for $160, since it’s needed to play online and have access to apps like Internet Explorer, Netflix, YouTube and SBS on Demand. The PS4 escapes a little better, with an RRP of $549, I’ve also added 2 years of PS Plus for $140 but omitted the cost for the optional camera since it’s not required for play. That leaves me with $759 and $689 respectively. They also need to offer 1080P @ 60FPS at a decent visual level for at least 3 years. 

Yikes. Let’s do this.

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By on November 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm

SimCity has come a long way, in terms of both content expansion and damage control, since its disastrous launch back in March. Even putting aside the complete mess around servers, multiplayer and DRM for a moment, there were still huge concerns about the sheer number of game breaking bugs, alongside the claustrophobia of a tiny square patch of land where I’m expected to build Sydney inside Canberra.

I could count on my fingers the number of features that worked correctly as opposed to the ones that didn’t — traffic, RCI, resource sharing, chat, land claims, global market — all originally touted as next-generation city-sim features which instead became the stuff of embarrassing memes and gifs, plastered across the heavily traffic’d front pages of Reddit. Maxis and EA fell on their swords, dropping freebies of DLC and EA back-catalogued sweeteners to keep gamers on side. It was a two pronged attack — making sure people didn’t punish EA in the long run, on top of keeping player populations active — because without a community, there really is no SimCity.

Cities of Tomorrow aims to turn over a new leaf, not only by introducing a plethora of new systems and new resources, but also attempting to salve a lot of the frustration that comes with the territory.

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XCOM: Enemy Within

By on November 13, 2013 at 1:17 pm

XCOM: Enemy Within expects that you already know everything that there is to know about XCOM. It also expects that you quite enjoy XCOM, and Yes, Indeed Sir, you would like some more. A lot more.

But let’s be clear — regardless of how Enemy Within has been marketed, it is almost certainly a DLC in sequels clothing. There is no overhaul here, no real move to address the few niggles that frustrated in the original title. What there is, however, is a slight deviation into an alternate course.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

By on November 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Call of Duty never used to be a household name.

Its current pedigree — being quoted without context in the New York Times, or slapped on the side of buses and cans of Mother — is an extraordinary tale of success and marketing, and the cause of enormous debate and controversy in regards to its place in the games industry. From its humble beginnings as the underdog competitor of EA’s larger and then more successful Medal of Honor series, what began as a novel and unique way to tell a war story has evolved into nothing less than a cultural phenomenon. Sales figures for the titles are revered by mainstream news organisations, countless YouTube authors make a living posting videos of their play-styles and tactics, while the games themselves break pre-order records the day after they are announced.

How did we get to this point? How did Call of Duty take down the juggernauts of the genre to dominate the industry?

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PC Gaming Calendar 2014


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Recent Features

Heroes of the Storm: Blizzard’s Dustin Browder on rage problems, hybrid roles, and balance

"We’re trying to make it so if there’s something obvious that you want to do, it’s the right thing to do. There’s no sort of hidden rules or hidden strategies that make that wrong."


ArcheAge’s alpha impressions: The freeform Korean MMO that might just live up to its promises

This high-flying Korean MMO has finally made it to a Western release. James jumps in to see if the promise 'sandpark' model delivers.

Reaper of Souls

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls reviewed: Change is a good thing

Blizzard shows that it isn't afraid to change everything


Titanfall: Crush your enemies under your robotic foot with these gameplay tips

Wallrunning speed boosts, room clearing strategies, and more inside.

Diablo 3 Competition

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Giveaway – The Winners!

You cannot kill Death -- unless you have sick new gear.

Streaming Radio
Radio Streams are restricted to iiNet group customers.

GreenManGaming MREC

The Regulars
The Secret World

Legal Opinion: Bait and switch… with a mankini

Not everybody is laughing following Funcom's April Fools joke on its players.

Bad at Aiming

Sitrep: Waiting in line at the FPS dole queue

Toby is so incompetent that he needs an entire new genre of games invented just to cater for him.

Amazon Fire

Friday Tech Roundup (04 April 2014): Radeon R9 295X2 specs leak

Also, the man behind the "Microsoft" phone scam has been captured and fined.

Barrett M98B

Legal Opinion: Where does your money go?

Why do games cost so much to manufacture? Because everybody wants a slice of that licensing pie.

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