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Hello NAGuppites, and thanks for coming back for This Week In Gaming. This time around we have a whole lot of juicy stuff from GDC – everything from VR show-offs to Steam’s sneaky tactic to getting developers on board with Source Engine 2. Then Notch finally talks about his sale of Minecraft to Microsoft, and Valve semi-teased a game I kind of hope I never see. After that there’s some exciting news for Hearthstone fans, as well as counterpunch from Magic: The Gathering. Blizzard reveals some more Overwatch details, and Zynga surprises everyone with something that doesn’t look all that terrible. More news, videos and NAG highlights than you can shake a pair of nausea-goggles at, after the jump.

Console/other news

GDC went down this week, and the real competition was being waged between the various engines being offered to developers.

The most important factors? How good is it, and how much does it cost. There’s a decent selection too, with Unity, Unreal Engine 4 and the freshly announced Source Engine 2 vying for attention.

Valve has a cunning plan to undercut everyone else though – their engine is completely free to use, and they won’t take any royalties from the games you make using Source 2. So what’s the catch? You have to sell the game through Steam.

This means that Valve will take their standard 30% cut for Steam distribution, but here’s the real lynchpin – it doesn’t have to be Steam exclusive. Nope, the developer can sell the game any way they want to, as long as they ALSO sell it on Steam.

And really, being “forced” to sell your game on PC gaming’s biggest distribution platform doesn’t really seem like much of an ask – you were probably going to do it anyway after all.

That’s a helluva deal, and may sway developers away from something like Unreal Engine 4, which requires a 5% royalty on your gross revenue for the game.

I’m not sure what Unity wants, probably 80% of profits and your first-born child, or something along those lines.

Just sign right over here.

Just sign right over here.

Mojang co-founder and Minecraft creator Markus Persson shocked fans when he suddenly announced he was selling off the IP to Microsoft; particularly since he’d always had some pretty not-nice things to say about the company.

However, in an interview with Forbes the young developer explained that he’s not at all ashamed of it. He said he’d been thinking about selling for a while, and when he half-jokingly tweeted that he wanted to offload it, Microsoft immediately contacted Mojang to see if he was serious.

Interestingly, the deal was handled entirely by Mojang CEO Carl Manneh, Persson said he wasn’t even involved in the negotiations. I suppose when you get into the billions of dollars though, all that is pretty elementary.

Since the buyout, Persson has been having a great time spending obscene amounts of money, saying he’d always told himself that “if I ever get rich, I’m not going to become one of those boring rich people that doesn’t spend money.” Ey, fair enough.

In terms of future plans, he has no real interest in trying to replicate his Minecraft success – to be honest, he doesn’t need to. Him and Mojang co-founder Jakob Porser have launched a new studio called Rubberbrain, but Persson admits it’s essentially “daycare for adults”.

Tough life, that one.

Notch's house - a steal at $70 mil.

Notch’s house – a steal at $70 mil.

The other big thing to come out of GDC was, of course, VR nonsense. I’ve made my position pretty clear on that, but all the big players are at the expo trying to show why their nausea machine is the bestest.

Valve knows how to do exactly that – by mentioning Half-Life. According to programmer Jeep Barnett, the company has been using Half-Life assets to test things out, “exploring the different kind of designs”.

Of course, Barnett also dropped the biggest tease – the possibility of a VR Half-Life.

“We’re not saying, ‘no,'” he said, “but we don’t know what the right thing is [yet]. Our most precious resource is time, and we don’t have enough time for people to do everything. Would we like to make all of our franchises in VR? Absolutely. But we don’t have enough time or people. So we have to figure out what’s the best fit, what plays to the strengths of VR.”

I swear, if I see a VR Half-Life before Half-Life 3, someone is getting crowbarred in real life.

Sources: PC Gamer, Forbes, IGN

Gaming news

Blizzard has revealed another Adventure for their smash hit of a free-to-play card game, Hearthstone.

Titled Blackrock Mountain Adventure, which WoW players will likely recognise as the home of Ragnaros. Like Naxxramas before it, the Adventure will consist of several wings, each of which will have a boss from World of Warcraft lore for you to defeat.

It’ll come with a new board, five wings, seventeen bosses and thirty-one new cards to shake up the meta. Nice.

The BMA will be out in April for PC, Mac, Android tablets and iPads. Hey Blizzard, where’s that mobile Hearthstone you guys were on about?

Like before, you can buy each wing for 700 gold or $6.99, or the whole shebang for $24.99. A new wing will be unlocked each week, so start saving that gold now.

Doesn't look like the most hospitable of places.

Doesn’t look like the most hospitable of places.

While we’re on the topic of card games, Wizards of the Coast have announced their next video game, titled Magic Duels: Origins.

And, surprise, surprise, they’re going free-to-play with it. No doubt hoping to mirror Hearthstone’s success, Wizards’ next Magic title will include “regular downloadable content”, a quest system with new challenges every week, and a “true Free-to-Play experience”.

It will be interesting to see how Wizards attempts to sidestep the pay-to-win issue – something which is enormously prevalent in the card game itself, both online and in paper.

Still, I’m pretty keen to give this a shot. I love Magic, but their current digital platform, Magic Online, is about the most godawful piece of software you will ever use. Could this eventually replace it? I guess we’ll see, but I really hope so.

It’s a Blizzard bonanza this week, but I couldn’t very well ignore Overwatch news, could I? If you’re a cave-dwelling hermit who hops in to an internet café once a year, Overwatch is Blizzard’s crack at an FPS – and it looks freakin’ great.

At PAX East this week, Blizzard announced two new characters to add to the ever-growing roster, as well as sharing some details, the most important of which is that the game will be getting a beta “this fall”.

For those following along here in the Southern Hemisphere, “fall” is Yank-speak for “Autumn”, which means we’ll be getting our first hands-on with the game in our Spring, September.

One other interesting aspect of the presentation was Blizzard’s character Zarya, a female character whose backstory includes bodybuilding.

She flaunts huge biceps, a cropped pink haircut and an armour-clad chest, sans cleavage. Blizzard pointed out that they’re trying to include more diversity in their female characters, and that they’re “trying”.

I don’t want to rain on their parade here, at all, and good job to them for making an effort. But I couldn’t help but laugh that in trying to make a “diverse” female character, they went with a very masculine looking bodybuilder. It seems a “normal” female representation remains elusive for the moment. Check her out:

Zynga, the mobile game company that is responsible for all those Farmville invites on your Facebook page, as well being the company that suffered a precipitious fall from grace over the last two years, has announced their new title – and it doesn’t even have “ville” in it.

Dawn of Titans is a PvP action strategy game for mobile that actually looks somewhat like a real game. Instead of moving various sweets around a grid or planting strawberries, you’ll be controlling an army of thousands of units in real time.

Perhaps this is the comeback the company needs, and it would appear to be taking on a different approach – instead of challenging the likes of King.com on the super casual scene, they’re looking at some more sophisticated gameplay.

I must say, between this announcement and the mobile MOBA I covered last week, I like the way developers are going with this platform – I find myself growing tired of the likes of Angry Birds and Candy Crush very quickly.

Sources: Eurogamer, Eurogamer, Gamespot, Gamespot

Videos

Let’s kick things off with this extremely short teaser for the long awaited Heists feature in GTA Online. It’s here, guys. Finally.

Moving on to a meatier clip, PAX East saw a good long look at gameplay from Wolfenstein: The Old Blood – the standalone prequel announced earlier this week. It looks awesome.

Then Eurogamer hunts down some yetis in Far Cry 4‘s oddball DLC, Valley of the Yetis.

How about some more Overwatch? There’s never really enough is there – here’s new character McCree’s gameplay.

Best of NAG

Wesley Fick is a swell guy. So well, in fact, that he’s put together a beautiful table of all the Steam Machines shown off at GDC – along with their specs and prices. For comparison, he’s included the Xbox One and PS4 as well. What a gentleman and a scholar.

Then we have resident shitheel Chris Kemp, who wrote some controversial nonsense about five gaming sensations that aren’t going to last. There’s a healthy debate or two in the comments, but what people were most upset about was not what I was expecting.

After you’ve waded through that, trickshot enthusiast and NAG cover model Miklós Szecsei highlights a pretty epic video – a Halo headshot that is both simultaneously the best and worst shot ever made.

Finally, win some free stuff! Santa Dane is giving away more goodies this week, and you can find those details right over here.