Dota 2 for Dummies: A no-bullshit method to start playing without pissing everyone off

Dota 2 doesn't seem to care whether you know how to play it or not. Earlier this week I talked about how great sports coverage laid a foundation for my interest in MOBAs like Dota 2. Then I discussed how the aggressive DLC and annualization of AAA multiplayer has driven my friends toward free to play games, especially Dota 2. But as I've been reminded in comments both here and on Twitter over and over, there's an elephant in the room: the biggest barrier to getting into Dota 2 is Dota 2 itself. It has over a hundred heroes, with more on the way. It has a complex item system. It carries over some of the more sophisticated level mechanics of real-time strategy games. Much of the audience is toxic, full of homophobia, racism, abusive language, and sometimes deliberate team sabotage. T...

PlayStation 4 event in under two minutes

Tonight, Sony announced the PlayStation 4, the company's next-generation video game console. Sitting in the third row of the midtown Manhattan venue, I was bombarded by pulsing music, concussive explosions and a handful of pleasantly designed power points. You could watch the lengthy press conference, if that's your thing. Or, you could watch our recap. We've diced the event into a short segment and peppered that it with delectable opinion. Now, all you need is the length of a coffee break to learn all the important talking points about the future of video games.

What Nintendo has learned from Kickstarter

Nintendo would make the best Kickstarters.Consider Nintendo Direct, the two-year-old video series in which the company's top brass makes big announcements directly to fans via short videos. We've seen dozens of these over the past two years, but for the most part they've been used to discuss known products or announce smaller, less consequential software and hardware. Some have been downright confusing, like the Nintendo Direct used in the lead-up to discuss the Wii U's user interface. Yesterday, though, the Nintendo Direct took on a very clear and bold tone: We've listened to your requests, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said. And here's what we are going to do about it. Compare this to last year's E3 press conference and its many companion Nintendo Direct videos, where the company...
What can we learn from Ubisoft's vacation simulator?

Boiled eggs and optional violence: A series of Far Cry 3 letters

When freelancers Leigh Alexander and Quintin Smith strike up a correspondence, they aim to analyze a game in the context of their own lives. Which means talk of the game's main characters, issues of industry violence, and Vietnamese food. Below, they take on Far Cry 3. Far Cry changes you To: Quintin SmithFrom: Leigh AlexanderSubject: Far Cry 3Dear Quintin: We need to talk. I don't know what's become of you. This thing you've been doing, it's gotten out of control. I don't even know you anymore. I was with you in the beginning: You were a callow youth who quailed at the sight of blood, rich tropical vistas blurring to the rhythm of your panicked breath. Your security blanket — the militaristic elder brother who was going to make everything OK — died with a sanguine...

Polygon 2012 Game of the Year: The Walking Dead

Everything old is new again. The idea of appointment television isn't a new one ... on television. Shows like Lost, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and yes, The Walking Dead have come to define the concept. Viewers set aside time for the latest installments of episodic media. When release schedules are measured in weeks, with some programmatic consistency, it's easy to see why the idea of appointment television is so alluring. But for video games, whose release schedules are usually measured in years and where the term "episodic gaming" means anything from the Sam & Max series to Valve's slow roll out of the Half-Life 2 episodes, we've never experienced "appointment gaming." That is, until Telltale's The Walking Dead debuted last April and the long, two-month wait for Episode 2 began. Zombie...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #2: Dishonored

You've been betrayed and your love is dead. A little girl is depending on you to come to her rescue and a kingdom is counting on you to become its protector. In Dishonored, you are Corvo, the former bodyguard of the former Empress, in a world filled with plague, magic, intrigue and whale oil-powered machines. It would be inaccurate to say that there has never been a game like Dishonored. There have been a few, and the veteran creators at Arkane Studios have been behind most of them. But Dishonored is easily their masterpiece.In an industry plagued by endless sequels, military shooters and uninspired copies of other games, Dishonored, for all of its bleak, post-apocalyptic steampunk flair, comes as a breath of fresh air. Inspired by classic stealth games like Ultima Underworld, S...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #3: Journey

Journey is that rare game that achieves more by doing less. Journey's story is tightly knit and yet wide and deep enough to be something soulful and lasting, an unforgettable experience. Journey's accomplishments are no small task. A team of eighteen led by creative director Jenova Chen worked for three years, simplifying and paring down its initial larger, more detailed vision into something more distilled, smaller and sharper. Journey is an easily digestible three hours, but those hours are packed with meaning. We have come to think of "content" as meaning "more," a game loaded down with explorable areas and secret stashes of loot. But what Journey lacks in "stuff" it makes up for in its takeaway, in the notion that every player will walk away having been told a different story and...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #4: Far Cry 3

I come to bury Far Cry 3; not to praise it. The story of a California dude bro playing white knight to an island of thinly-drawn natives is tasteless, despicable, a low-water mark in the already shallow pool of first-person shooter stories. Male-on-male rape, female-on-male rape, forced drug usage, incest and the aforementioned racial subtext are performed throughout the story with the grace of a silverback gorilla in a tutu. Sure, the story's wholly memorable, unlike the bulk of its competitors. And yeah, it's cogent and easy — even enjoyable — to follow. And certainly Vaas, the psychopathic villain, is one of the most inspired game characters since Andrew Ryan. But let's not forget that the final act is far too linear and dull, nothing like the most beloved games of...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #5: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown should be less of a surprise. Yes, it's a turn based strategy game. And yes, it's a reboot of a beloved PC series, which would be enough of an epithet without the added emotional baggage of "now for consoles." This is a pretty decent trifecta of warning signs that manage to hit almost every audience XCOM hoped to resonate with — the old-school PC gamers and X-COM enthusiasts and a new generation of console gamers. But XCOM: Enemy Unknown was also developed by the team who brought consoles and handhelds Civilization: Revolution, which took one of the PC platform's most beloved turn-based strategy series and streamlined it just enough to make it work, while adding a host of forward-thinking tweaks and changes that made it as relentlessly playable as Civilization...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #6: FTL: Faster Than Light

So, you can call it a management game, a space game, an indie roguelike. Whatever the case, these days it isn't too often you'll find a game that revels in its own difficulty. For all the self-flagellation that comes with playing a roguelike, FTL: Faster Than Light adopts the best aspects of a bygone era of gaming. Often you'll hear gamers lament about the death of tough games, and the over-abundance of the maternal hand-holder, the tutorial-laden nurturer that babies the player through every step of its multi-hour-long title. I don't normally mope over this trend — hell, I'm happy to see games evolve into something that is accessible enough to drive itself into the hearts of the mainstream. But I do love the past, and my heart will always skip a beat for reminders of gaming's history....

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #7: Persona 4 Golden

It's rare for an RPG to handle one of its many interconnected systems as elegantly as Persona 4 Golden has handled literally all of its own. It hasn't accomplished that feat by limiting the number of those systems: Between managing your character's attributes, Personas, equipment, day-to-day activities, items, party members and interpersonal relationships, Persona 4 Golden spins a lot of plates simultaneously.In a genre typically characterized by making the player care about story or mechanics — but rarely both at the same time — Persona 4 Golden makes the two abstracts inseparable. The more you learn about your neighbors and classmates, the stronger you become in the game's multitude of dungeons. The more the mystery unfolds in those dungeons, the more you care about what happens to...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #8: Mass Effect 3

When the dust has settled from all of the controversy, all the high expectations and well-vocalized disappointment, what we're left with in Mass Effect 3 is still an astounding accomplishment. For whatever hopes they didn't deliver on, BioWare still provided a powerful, haunting closure to a universe we spent half a decade becoming acquainted with.In a medium where narrative threads commonly go unresolved, BioWare should be commended for concluding most of the major sub-plots that were introduced in earlier games in the series. The creator-versus-creation conflict between the quarians and the geth comes to a head. The future of the beleaguered krogan race is decided. The schemes of the mysterious Illusive Man come to their inevitable conclusion. And all of it is affected in myriad small...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #9: Dragon's Dogma

I’m a vocal proponent of games that have love for the player. I like to champion games that realize the most valuable commodity we have is time and, as such, work to never waste a second of the player’s time. Dragon’s Dogma has something far different, perhaps even more aspirational than love for its player. Dragon’s Dogma has faith. Dragon’s Dogma has faith that you’ll wander for miles trying to unearth its secrets. It honestly believes that you’ll journey to a remote tip of an island to fight a wounded griffin and then make a return trek when the story leads you there. It’s bizarrely certain you’ll be willing to play beyond a false ending to find the best hours of the game and the weirdest ending of the year (Frog Fractions notwithstanding). I doubt that faith was well-founded for...

Polygon 2012 Games of the Year #10: Mark of the Ninja

Stealth games are terribly frustrating experiences. They're creeping, nerve-wracking adventures in trial and error, made unplayable and unenjoyable the moment you're discovered, then slaughtered in a hail of bullet fire. Or so I often thought before playing Klei Entertainment's Mark of the Ninja, a surprising stealth game that's ingeniously designed to address the shortcomings of the genre.Okay, maybe I'm being a bit hard on the stealth games of the world. I've enjoyed a Tenchu and a Metal Gear in my time — and I loved Rockstar's Manhunt — but generally find the challenge of hiding in the shadows a chore. I'd rather fight a foe than flee it. That said, Mark of the Ninja forced me to rethink my affections for the stealth genre, thanks to its intelligent 2D approach. Mark of the Ninja...

Editorial: Tennis Without Buttons: Why I'm worried about the Wii U

Five days from the launch of the Wii U and it finally occurred to me that I should pre-order something to play on it. You could attribute this to my advancing years, it's not a stretch to assume the slow degeneration of my brain tissue allowed me to be caught unawares. But I think it may speak to to bigger problem. There's less than a week until Nov. 18, and I still don't know what I'll be doing with the thing. And I don't think I'm alone. The explosive, dizzying success of the Wii is attributable to a single moment. In this moment, a non or lapsed gamer watches someone playing tennis without buttons. The Wii owner hands their friend or family member the remote and something unusual happens: They find they know how to play. Suddenly, the barriers to gaming, built layer by layer with...
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