Is Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings HD still the king of RTS?

Back in 1997 Microsoft Studios published the Ensemble developed Age of Empires, a game that quickly garnered a sequel in 1999 with the release of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. There have been numerous sequels and spin-offs since the millennium with games such as Age of Mythology appearing on PC and ports appearing on both home consoles and handhelds. Yet nothing has approached the success of the original Age of Empires II.

ageHDheaderCritical and commercial success

The critical success of Age of Empires II has been quite astonishing. IGN ranked it in its top 10 PC games of all time, while its aggregate metacritic score was 92%. The sales have more than matched this critical success: in 1999 it was the 4th best selling game of the year – an astonishing feat when you consider it was released on September 30.

While sequels in the Age of Empires series have brought delight to fans around the world, Age of Empires II is still the one that is remembered most fondly, so it’s understandable that the announcement of an HD remake was met with considerable anticipation. Could the re-release live up to the original?

As good as it ever was

The good news is the gameplay hasn’t been tinkered with – it’s still the same great game. As well as high definition graphics the game also supports widescreen. Apart from these graphical upgrades the multiplayer experience has been improved thanks to Steam integration. The expansion pack, Age of Empires II; The Conquerors is also included, which adds more civilizations, units and technologies, as well as more gameplay modes.

age01

Development issues

While Ensemble developed the original game, the studio has since become defunct. Thankfully, one of the lead developers from Ensemble, Matt Pritchard, headed the HD remake as a part of Hidden Path Entertainment. Despite the experience of the development team there have been teething issues. As people who pre-ordered the game managed to bag themselves a pre-release version, members of online forums began complaining of problems such as the game not loading properly and it crashing at random points. Thankfully a patch has already been released that has managed to address these problems.

History repeats itself

Considering the game is over a decade old many people may not have had the highest expectations when it came to commercial success – after all, nostalgia doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. However, after holding steady at number 3 on the pre-order charts, the game has managed to top the Steam best seller list, ensuring that a game that is still critically loved has also managed to do well financially.

While this HD remake will bring joy to hardcore fans that believe Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is the pinnacle of RTS gaming (especially when they find out that all the original cheat codes still work), convincing younger gamers of its appeal might be more tricky. There’s no doubt that it does look as if its aged when placed next to modern games, but luckily its budget price point should mean that plenty of newcomers to the franchise are willing to give the game the chance it deserves.

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The Steam Starts Rising – Valve Set to Release the Steam Box this Year!

steam_powered1If you play computer games, you’ve more than likely know of Steam, and the impact it’s had on the gaming world over the last few years. Steam, developed by Valve, is a digital distribution platform. It is used for distributing games and other related media online. The games vary from small independent developers to larger software houses. With Valve’s share of the gaming market constantly rising, it was only a matter of time before they would release their own games console. At CES 2013, Valve showcased prototypes of what will be known as the “Steam Box”. Following is everything you need to know about Valve’s steam box.
What is Steam Box?

 
The Steam Box is primarily designed to play PC games, specifically it’s designed to play games downloaded from Steam. The early prototypes of the Steam Box seem much smaller than a PC, but it is a PC – even though it might not be running windows. What Prototypes are Under Development? Several prototypes are currently under development. This includes the Xi3 Piston and Nvidia’s Project Shield. The Xi3 piston has received investment from Valve to continue developing the Piston, which is based on it’s existing X7A series. The Piston is reportedly set to be optimized for Steam’s big picture mode.Nvidia’s Project Shield is set to take the handheld gaming world by storm. Featuring a new Tegra 4 chip, the device contains, what looks like, a large Xbox 360 controller, along with a 5-inch 720p display screen. The device will run on Android and is Nvidia’s first project outside of the graphics card world.

What Operating System will be Supported by Steam Box?

The Steam Box is rumored to run with a Linux-based architecture, and will have the ability to run all the games currently available on Valve’s Steam platform. Although according to CEO Gabe Newell, the Steam Box won’t be limited to a single operating system. This means that although the unit will be shipped with Linux installed, the user could easily install another operating system, such as Windows.

Steambox

What Hardware Configuration will be Featured?

Rumours are still circulating about the features of the Steam Box, but at this time it seems that the console is modelled around the existing X7A line of miniature computers. Reports have surfaced that the console will contain up to 1TB of internal storage, with other options available to purchase faster CPUs and RAM. The prototype at CES 2013 contained four eSATAp ports, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet as well as one full-sized Display Port and two Mini Display Ports. What Input Device Will it Feature?Newell has reported that the input device for the Steam Box, will be unique, potentially utilising biometrics and gaze tracking. Newell also stated that he has no intention of making Wii-like or Kinect-like controllers.

When Will it be Available?

It’s likely that the Steam Box will be released this year, although no precise date has currently been released. The console is set to be tested around July, so it’s likely that any release date would be nearer the end of the year – perhaps just in time for Christmas.

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Can You See The Big Picture?

If you’re familiar with Steam then you’ll know it’s a gaming platform that allows users to share and play games from small developers to giants as well as a community area and the option to play multi-player with users around the globe. It’s all about giving you access to the games you love and the people you want to play against. Well now it’s even easier to access with the introduction of Steam’s Big Picture.

Big Picture has been available in beta for some time, but Valve has only just released the full version, and thus far it’s looking good!

If you’re a fan of Steam then this can only be good news, a new way to play your favourite games, from the comfort of your living room. What’s more it’s a method of PC/TV gaming that feels intuitive and natural, unlike trying to view most PC platforms on a big screen. It includes all the functionality you have on your PC or MAC, just designed to look, feel and work in a more TV screen friendly way.

All you have to do is link your computer up to your TV or other large screen and select the ‘Big Picture’ button in the top right corner. Doing so will not only expand your window, but also offer a whole range of new functionality for better playing, browsing and more comfortable viewing on a large screen. Great news if you like to chill on the sofa while gaming!

Even better the new Daisywheel text input is optimised for use with a game pad – making it easier than ever before to type without a keyboard. Valve is describing Big Picture’s browser as the world’s first, first person browser. It is inspired by first person shooter games and rather than moving the cursor, the screen pans and the cursor remains stationary. The ideal browser a) for use with a game pad and b) for people who are used to using Steam on a regular basis who are likely to be prolific gamers.

So now it’s possible for you to get the same feel when using Steam on even the biggest of screens, without having to use the clunky mouse and keyboard set up on your knee.

That being said if you love the Big Picture usability but prefer to use your PC or laptop then you can, and equally it’ll work with your keyboard and mouse just as well as it will with a game pad. Big Picture is all about giving gamers options, Steam users will now find it so easy to access their favourite games in an easy to use manner. Whether they’re behind their computer or using the TV. It essentially makes your TV feel like a console, whilst still offering your favourite games that you may have originally played on your PC. An amazing feat, and something that hasn’t really been done before.
It’s exciting stuff, and we’re looking forward to find out what Valve will do with Steam next. Can you see the Big Picture?

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Instantly install and run all of today’s games with Steam

A few years ago, gaming wasn’t a big deal. Most computer users were focused on productivity and well, we thought that gaming PC’s were expensive toys for over indulged children.  I mean, wasn’t that what gaming consoles were for? It’s totally different today.  Gaming is now driving much of the PC innovation seen today, and game development is a multibillion dollar industry. That’s one of the reasons why I really like Steam. It’s one of the best ways to get today’s most popular games on a PC near you.

Steam gives you the ability to purchase, download, and play over 1,100 games from any computer. You can easily check out new releases, indie hits, casual favorites and everything in between.  If you’re bored and need a playing partner, it’s easy to find someone to play with, meet up with friends, connect with groups of similar interests, or host and join chats, matches, and tournaments.

Communication is key during gaming campaigns, and Steam allows you to chat with your friends while you’re gaming.  You can see when your friends come online or are playing games.  You can  and easily join the same games together. During play, you can chat with your buddies, or use your microphone to communicate in any game.

One of the biggest problems with gaming is keeping up with patches and updates. With Steam, that’s all taken care of for you.  With automatic game updates, hunting for patches and downloading from unorganized web sites is a thing of the past. On Steam, your games stay up-to-date by themselves.

If you’re a Mac and want to play your favorite games, don’t worry.  Steam brings PC’s biggest gaming platform and games to the Mac.  You can download your games to your Mac and play against your PC friends in multiplayer games.  If you’ve got an Android or iOS device, you can also play games on the go. Steam Mobile gives you access on your tablet or smartphone.

read full review | download Steam

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Valve announces second Portal 2 DLC featuring in-game map editor

Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, and Counter-Strike), just announced that the second game add-on for Portal 2 is in development and targeted for release early next year.

The major update will feature an easy-to-use in-game map editor that will let users design, build and share their own single-player and co-op test chambers with the community, who will be able to view, play and vote on them with a simple click.

Portal 2 was released April 19, and currently holds a Metacritic score of 95%, making it one of the top-rated multiplatform game of 2011. Its first content update, “Peer Review”, came out two weeks ago. Peer Review is a free DLC which comes with an all-new co-op adventure starring Atlas, P-Body and GLaDOS and takes takes place after the events of Portal 2. You and your co-op science partner are once again awoken and assembled for a dangerous new mission.

Let’s take a look a trailer showcasing the Cooperative aspect of the game…

A hilariously mind-bending adventure that challenges you to use wits over weaponry in a funhouse of diabolical science, Portal 2 features expansive single and cooperative multiplayer game modes.

For more information on Portal 2 and its downloadable content, please take a look here. Source http://www.thinkwithportals.com

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Steam Guard – new gaming security by Valve

Valve have just announced Steam Guard, a new Steam and Steamworks feature, designed to provide increased account security for gamers. Click more for the details.

The new feature will allow users to link account management options to a specific machine; an extra measure to prevent unauthorised access. Steam Guard will also notify you if any PCs attempt to log in to your account. The feature will be available for third parties to use.

Steam Guard will take advantage of upcoming Intel® Identity Protection Technology (Intel® IPT), an encrypted, hardware-based feature available with the new 2nd Generation Intel® CoreT and Intel® CoreT vProT processors.

Valve’s president, Gabe Newell has said “”Account phishing and hijacking are our #1 support issues. With Intel’s IPT and Steam Guard, we’ve taken a big step towards giving customers the account security they need as they purchase more and more digital goods.”

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