News is a big thing for gaming and so far we have only dabbled into the blogging news field, up until now that is. Welcome to the Editor's Notes, updated with news that relates to the modding and indie scene. Not only will we fill you in on the news but also offer our opinions, giving the community a chance to discuss topics relevant to there interests.

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Fall from Heaven II has finally released it's final version, that is to say it's feature complete, after 3 years of development. Those of you who consider yourselves regulars of ModDB may still be scratching your heads in confusion over this mod. This is the part where I say it's for Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword and you go, "Ohhh ok," and then turn around in search of something with some pew-pew in it. Seriously though, Fall from Heaven is the most popular mod for Civ 4. It's even made it to the top of the popular mods list here on ModDB without making a release post. That in itself is a feat that speaks to the quality of the mod.

I've installed the mod and invested a couple hours into it so far and only scratched the surface. The amount of custom content and added features is staggering (Check out their profile for details). Unfortunately, being somewhat of a Civ 4 noob and having a no time to set aside for epic campaigns until after MOTY ends, I can't fully explore everything this mod has to offer. So far though, it's a definite recommended download for Civ 4 and strategy game fans alike. I know those may be few and far between here on ModDB, but it's nice to step away from the shooters every once in a while for a change of pace.

Furthermore, and this is something that can appeal to all developers out there, how many of you can say you've been interviewed by the project lead of the very game you set out to make a mod on? Soren Johnson, the project lead and lead designer for Civ 4 among other games (Civ 2, Spore) posted a 3-part dialogue with the developers of Fall which discusses the history behind the mod, postmortem reflections and even some critiques from Soren himself. It's worthwhile reading for all developers out there, regardless of your stance on the Civ games or Fall from Heaven II.

Download Fall from Heaven II via ModDB

All 21 races included in Fall from Heaven II

A press release issued over Steam revealed that Epic's Unreal Tournament 3 would be receiving a 'massive update' that would see a whole host of improvements and new features added. Most surprising is the decision to incorporate Steamworks functionality and adding over 50 achievements. Can this mean possible Steamworks integration for UT3 mods, one can only hope. If you've already purchased UT3, you can use your retail serial to activate it and have it added to your Steam catalogue. Here's the press release in full: wrote:

In preparation for the massive update coming for Unreal Tournament 3, those who own a retail copy may now register it with Steam, free of charge.

The latest installment in the legendary online action series from Epic will be updated automatically via Steam and introduce support for Steamworks Achievements (with over 50 Achievements), plus a host of new features and enhancements in AI, Server Browsing, Demo Recording, Mod Support, and more.

To register your retail copy on Steam, simply click the main menu option 'Games' and select 'Activate a product on Steam' from within the Steam client.

Holtman, Valve's director of business development and legal affairs (and also seems to be the gatekeeper behind mod approval for Steamworks) discusses how Steam has broadened the company's horizons. Even though recent NPD reports have shown that PC retail sales are slumping while consoles climb ever higher, Holtman argued that online sales were not cannibalization. Valve also tracks retail sales of its products through Steam and therefore has figures to support this. During a Day of Defeat free trial weekend, Holtman stated that there were "28% more units bought at retail than sold through Steam."

Valve's take on lessening piracy was also a pragmatic one. "We take all of our games day-and-date to Russia," Holtman reported. "Russians are reading magazines and watching television -- they say 'Man, I want to play that game so bad,' but the publishers respond 'you can play that game in six months...maybe.' "

Read the original article on GameDaily


As many modders and game designers are compelled to do, playing a game can often lead to an involuntary act of analysis of the mechanics and design decisions. David Rosen, the game designer most notable for Lugaru: The Rabbit's Foot and its sequel Overgrowth has embarked on a design video tour of other independent games. In each of his videos, he brings to light many of the subtle design features that may go unnoticed by most. For his latest design tour video, David chose to dissect Aquaria:

Other games critiqued on the design tour include Gish, Knytt Stories and World of Goo. Head to the Wolfire blog to watch them all.

A bit late to the party but better than never right? The Left 4 Dead blog has posted part 2 of a series of posts dissecting the game's art direction. This part concerns the stylistic choices in regards to lighting within levels that Valve put into effect to streamline the visual information given to the player. Amongst those discussed is the light-infused fog:

Randy wrote: But while TF2 had a bright and colorful art direction, Left 4 Dead takes place in a variety of dimly lit nighttime environments. Because of this, playtesters weren't able to see zombie silhouettes in the midground and background. Because of this, they were repeatedly getting mobbed.

While sudden zombie attacks were inarguably scary, they were also frustrating—players weren't being given the information they needed to react. They wanted that "Here they come!" moment, and we weren't giving it to them. The solution? Light-colored fog:

While not as realistic-looking as actual fog in some settings, it meant playtesters could see attackers in the distance. Once they were able to anticipate attacks, playtesters started to have a much better time.

More importantly, these posts reveal some of the thought process when trying to straddle the divide between realism and fun as a developer. Read more of Left 4 Dead's behind-the-scenes analysis of its art direction by checking out both Part 1 and Part 2.

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