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24 Caret Games' reverse rhythm-shooter Retro/Grade is coming to Steam on March 20th, offering up exclusive support for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii guitar controllers.

The port otherwise boasts all of the features that made the original PS3 release such a standout, including a broad selection of challenge levels and difficulty settings that range from "doable" to "ridiculously challenging." Seriously, don't underestimate the hardest difficulty setting. It will humble you.

It's worth noting that the PS3 version of Retro/Grade is currently on sale for $3.49, or $2.44 if you're a PlayStation Plus member. It's definitely worth the cash -- I really enjoyed the time I spent with the game, and it easily ranked among my favorite PlayStation Network releases of last year.

[via Joystiq]

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Gabe Newell, the co-founder and managing director of Valve, the videogame development and online distribution company, made a rare appearance last night at Casual Connect, an annual videogame conference in Seattle.

Newell, who spent 13 years at Microsoft working on Windows, is not well-known outside of the videogame industry, but the company he has built in Bellevue, Wash., cannot be overlooked.

Valve is not only a game developer, producing megahits like Portal 2, it owns and operates Steam, which is the largest consumer-focused digital games distribution platform in the industry. By some measures, it may be valued at $3 billion.

Last night, at a dinner sponsored by Covert & Co., Google Ventures and Perkins Coie, Newell unveiled some of his most quirky and secretive projects in an interview onstage with Ed Fries, former VP of game publishing at Microsoft.

Newell, who has a desk on wheels so he can quickly roll over to his favorite projects within the company, struggled at times to put into words how he sees the industry shaking out as companies like Microsoft and Apple move toward closed ecosystems. At one point, he even lamented that his presentation skills aren’t up to speed because Valve isn’t a public company.

Here are excerpts from the conversation that took place in a packed and noisy room with an under-powered speaker system:

On the future of videogame distribution

“Everything we are doing is not going to matter in the future. … We think about knitting together a platform for productivity, which sounds kind of weird, but what we are interested in is bringing together a platform where people’s actions create value for other people when they play. That’s the reason we hired an economist.

“We think the future is very different [from] successes we’ve had in the past. When you are playing a game, you are trying to think about creating value for other players, so the line between content player and creator is really fuzzy. We have a kid in Kansas making $150,000 a year making [virtual] hats. But that’s just a starting point.

“That causes us to have conversations with Adobe, and we say the next version of Photoshop should look like a free-to-play game, and they say, ‘We have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, but it sounds really bad.’ And, then we say, ‘No, no, no. We think you are going to increase the value being created to your users, and you will create a market for their goods on a worldwide basis.’ But that takes a longer sell.

“This isn’t about videogames; it’s about thinking about goods and services in a digital world.”

On closed versus open platforms

“In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur. Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform. There’s a strong tempation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say ‘That’s really exciting.’”

“We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms.’”

On Valve’s interest in Linux

“The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.

On the evolution of touch

“We think touch is short-term. The mouse and keyboard were stable for 25 years, but I think touch will be stable for 10 years. Post-touch will be stable for a really long time, longer than 25 years.

“Post touch, depending on how sci-fi you want to get, is a couple of different technologies combined together. The two problems are input and output. I haven’t had to do any presentations on this because I’m not a public company, so I don’t have any pretty slides.

“There’s some crazy speculative stuff. This is super nerdy, and you can tease us years from now, but as it turns out, your tongue is one of the best mechanical systems to your brain, but it’s disconcerting to have the person sitting next you go blah, blah, blah, blah.

“I don’t think tongue input will happen, but I do think we will have bands on our wrists, and you’ll be doing something with your hands, which are really expressive.”

On wearable computers

“I can go into the room and put on the $70,000 system we’ve built, and I look around the room with the software they’ve written, and they can overlay information on objects regardless of what my head or eyes are doing. Your eyes are troublesome buggers.”

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Amazon made back-to-back videogame announcements last week, showing its dedication to moving beyond music, video and e-books in the digital content space.

The first piece of news was Amazon’s new GameCircle, which allows gamers on the Kindle Fire to record and track their achievements and to save their game progress to the cloud — similar to features found in Apple’s Game Center.

The second addition is called Game Connect, an e-commerce distribution system that lets customers discover and download free-to-play PC games. Amazon is also handling some of the back-end features for the developers, such as selling virtual goods and subscriptions.

Take, for instance, Uber Entertainment, a 16-person development shop in Kirkland, Wash., that started distributing its game, Super Monday Night Combat, through Game Connect last week.

John Comes, creative director at Uber Entertainment, said that, until now, the company distributed its games only through Steam, the Valve-owned-and-operated digital game distribution platform on the PC. With Amazon, it now has two points of distribution.

“We’ve been working with them for six months. We were talking to various people about getting the game to more people, but for us, they can bring a lot of users,” he said.

Uber Entertainment’s Super Monday Night Combat game is a free PC download that makes money through the sale of virtual goods, similar to games distributed on Facebook. Uber does not have the infrastructure to charge customers directly, which makes a partnership with Amazon sensible. The retailer has millions of credit cards on file, enabling customers to quickly link their game play to their Amazon account.

Once games are linked to Amazon, users can pay and shop for virtual goods on Amazon’s homepage. For instance, Hippies in the game cost $9.99, a tank costs $4.49 and Captain Spark costs $7.49. Each character in the game has a landing page on Amazon’s site, enabling all the sorts of features you would normally associate with a product for sale on the site — such as the ability to add it to your cart or add it to your wish list.

The wish list capability appealed to Uber. “A kid can say ‘I really want this character for Super Monday,’ and parents can buy it for them,” he said.

This is not Amazon’s first foray into the digital distribution of videogames.

In October 2010, the company launched its digital games store, which offers customers more than 3,000 titles, including free-to-play and massively multiplayer online games. But with Game Connect, it makes shopping for virtual goods much easier. It also makes it much more comparable to the Steam service, though that targets a much more hardcore gaming demographic.

Amazon said terms of the store will be similar to industry standards used by Facebook and Apple’s App Store. It will share 70 percent of virtual good revenue with developers.

However, when it comes to price, Amazon will decide the cost of virtual goods, not the developer (although he or she will have some influence). Amazon will set a sales price for an app, and developers will set a list price. Amazon also uses this model on its Appstore for Android, where it distributes games and apps for developers.

It claims to have the resources to monitor sales across the board and come up with a strategy that will maximize sales much faster than a developer or publisher would normally be able to react.

In addition to helping with the payment process, Amazon says with Game Connect it will provide significant resources to the developer, including marketing, discovery, customer service and downloads. A spokesperson said in a statement, “We work hard to help customers find and discover great new games they never knew about and are focused on offering a great shopping experience along with fast and excellent customer service. We do provide a download service from the cloud for client-based games but provide a link to developer servers for browser-based games.”

The one situation where payment terms could get a little sticky is when a player originally discovers a game on Steam’s service, but then connects to Amazon to pay for the virtual goods. Amazon and Steam have likely figured out a way to compensate each other behind the scenes.

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NG:DEV.TEAM's René Hellwig has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund upgraded Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network ports for his R-Type-inspired Sega Dreamcast shoot-'em-up Redux: Dark Matters.

The campaign's main draw is a Kickstarter-exclusive Limited Edition preorder for the Sega Dreamcast version of Redux. Backers who pledge $65 or more will receive a two-disc set featuring Redux: Dark Matters and its predecessor DUX 1.5, both of which are playable on Dreamcast consoles. Only 1,000 copies of the set will ever be produced, and none will be sold after the Kickstarter campaign concludes.

As of this writing, the project has earned $8,000 toward its goal of $25,000, with 28 days left until the funding deadline. Pledge rewards range from downloadable soundtracks ($25) to custom-made arcade sticks ($1,000).

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Shadow Planet Productions' BAFTA-winning, Metroidvania-styled shooter Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is on its way to PC platforms "very soon," with a bonus gameplay mode in tow.

Developers Michel Gagne and Joe Olson noted that the PC port is awaiting a release date and is otherwise "ready to go" in a recent Nintendojo podcast. The game will be released via Steam, and will include the "Shadow Hunters" cooperative challenge mode DLC for free.

[via Joystiq]

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After a short delay, Nyu Media's localized shoot-'em-up compilation The eXceed Collection is now available for purchase directly through exceed.com.

The eXceed Collection includes Tennen-sozai's bullet-hell doujin shooters eXceed: Gun Bullet Children, eXceed 2nd: Vampire REX, and eXceed 3rd: Jade Penetrate Black Package, all of which should prove quite challenging, if the above playthrough is of any indication. The game's soundtracks were recently released as digital downloads at Bandcamp.

The eXceed Collection is priced at $9.99. The games may also be purchased individually for $4.99 each. Releases for other distribution platforms will be announced soon.

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Sometimes failed Kickstarter projects just need a little more Steam. Clearly Valve saw something in Eden Industries' action-puzzler, Waveform, releasing it on Steam today for Windows users. The mouse-controlled wave-manipulation gameplay is actually quite intriguing and intense. Though the playable area spans most of the stage, I often frantically reacted to adjusting my wave to line up with points while looking at the leftmost part of the screen.

Obviously, as I get better at manipulating the amplitude and wavelength of my wave, I will be able to rack up mega points, avoid combo breaking objects, and use wormholes and particle accelerators like a pro. The acid-tripping level at around 0:48 is an experience in itself, let alone the 99+ other levels packed into this product.

Eden Industries' Ryan Vandendyck told me last month that Waveform should have an in-game level editor, which the team hopes to release as free DLC after launch. In the meantime, the New Game+ mode with re-mastered versions of each level and a Deep Space mode with 11 different randomly-generated endless scenarios should keep players busy.

Waveform is on sale until March 27 for $5.95; the price will be $6.99 thereafter. There's also a free demo on the Steam page for those curious. Mac, iOS, Linux, and Android owners can speak up, too. The developer is listening, but he needs initial sales to finance these ports.

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Strange Loop Games has released Vessel, a terrific-looking PC puzzle-platformer featuring an impressive liquid physics engine.

Vessel is a side-scrolling title in which players create liquid automatons to do their bidding -- mostly for the purposes of cheap labor, as the above video demonstrates. These automatons have evolved within the game's world, however; the more advanced lifeforms in later levels must be creatively manipulated in order to solve complex puzzles.

The game's soundtrack (composed by electronic musician Jon Hopkins) is also notable, as the game uses a custom music engine to give players subtle context-sensitive cues throughout gameplay. I really like this game's atmosphere, and I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Vessel is regularly priced at $14.99, but is available for $13.49 during its launch week. A trial version can be downloaded via Steam. The game is also planned for release for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, though no release date has been announced yet.

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realmofthemadgod-3.jpg

If you're one of those people who simply must have all their games on Steam and have been putting off an afternoon with Realm of the Mad God for that solitary reason, you have no more excuses. Realm of the Mad God is currently available on Steam as a free-to-play title. For those who've missed the memo, Realm of the Mad God is kind of like a co-operative bullet hell of sorts. You have one life. You get to pick a class and after that, you'll have the opportunity to rampage through the pixelated landscape in an attempt to gather as much fame and fortune as possible. Once you die, however, you're going to have to level up another one from scratch.
Official site here.

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Realm of the Mad God, the free-to-play, bullet-hell MMORPG will soon arrive on Steam.

Realm of the Mad God

Originally an entry in the TIGSource Assemblee Competition, Realm of the Mad God has continued to gain popularity for the past two years, and was announced as a Main Competition finalist for the 2012 Independent Games Festival. The game’s move to Steam, early next week, shows just how popular it has become and will introduce achievements to the game as well as a stand-alone client (though players will still be able to play in their browsers, if they so wish). The game will continue to be free to play, and it’s almost certain that the team intends to add new content throughout the foreseeable future as the player base continues to grow.

Congratulations, Wild Shadow Studios!

 

TIGdb: Entry for Realm of the Mad God

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