After showing some gameplay from Halo: ODST, Bungie’s Joe Staten dropped a bit of a bombshell.  Developed by “another team” at Bungie, Halo: Reach is due for release next year.  Details are still sparse; all we know is that it’s set during the fall of the planet Reach; where the Spartan supersoldiers were bred and trained.

The trailer shows the Covenant attack, and the orbital bombardment of the planet.  The following radio transmission at the end of the trailer will make Master Chief fans happy:

“You’ve got Spartans on the ground, sir.  We’re not going anywhere.”

Access to the Halo: Reach beta will be included with purchase of Halo: ODST.

The upcoming MMORPG based on Tad Williams’ epic scifi Otherland is well under way. It’s being developed by the Singapore-based RealU studio using the Unreal Engine 3.

There are a couple of screenshots after the break. Check out WorthPlaying for more info and full-size screenies. MMORPG.com have a video of Tad talking about the game and for a list of related articles, have a look through Tad Williams’ news page.

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Being the massive fantasy geek that I am, I’m right into George R R Martin’s massively epic A Song of Ice and Fire.  Now Shacknews has revealed that the game rights have been taken up by Cyanide Studios – the folks behind Blood Bowl.

aSoIaF has a huge and complex story, and making a game that can do it justice will be no small ask.  Here’s hoping Cyanide Studios are up to the task.

BattleForge has been called a massively multiplayer online real time strategy trading card game.  But that’s only partly true.  It’s not a true MMO – not that many games that call themselves MMOs are either…

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What it really is, is a real time strategy that uses on tradable cards for units and support powers.  To be clear, there are no physical cards.  Your deck is entirely digital, and is tied to your online account.  The virtual cards can be bought and sold in the in-game auction house, and cards can be bought using the in-game currency, more of which can be acquired in exchange for real life money.

That may sound like a slippery slope.  How many micropayments does one make before the sum total is very macro indeed?  Well, quite a few.  And since there’s no monthly subscription, ala World of Warcraft, one could splurge quite heavily on shiny new cards and still play much more cheaply than a Warcrack-head.

But there’s a game here, and that really is the most important part.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s a real time strategy.  A fantasy real time strategy, so brace yourself for gaggles of Warcraft fans calling it a rip-off.  Once you’re into the game and playing, it’s not far removed from standard RTS fare.  The only real departure from the norm is the almost total lack of base building.

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This is the sort of game I’ve seldom had much time for. The computerised version of the commercialised version of a quite adequate drinking game? Didn’t seem like my cup of tea at all. But while UNO Rush is very similar to UNO in terms of game mechanics, it’s rather different in terms of gameplay.

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The rules of UNO are quite simple: Each player plays a card that matches either the number or the colour of the card that the last player discarded. Multiple cards can be disposed of at once if they can be played consecutively. There are also "command cards" that have effects like changing the direction of play, skipping the next player’s turn, etc. The first player to discard their entire hand is the winner.

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Rt Hon John Key, NZ’s tourism minister as well as Prime Minister, spoke today about the possibility of expanding New Zealand’s already impressive tourism portfolio into the realm of online “e-tourism”.  Mr Key praised the efforts of New Zealand game developers in capturing the attention of the world, “like a ewe catches the eye of a randy ram.”

Possible future ventures might include live webcasts of sheep shearing, guided e-tours of notorious NZ sheep-related websites, and various online competitions and challenges.

Mr Key says that in-depth statistical analysis of the sales of Red Band gumboots versus sheep population in Australasia prove that NZ has “a lot more to offer than just pretty mountains and mud pools.”

Former tourism minister, Damien O’Connor, appeared disturbed by Mr Key’s comments, saying only that “You can’t exploit our nation’s most valuable resource by whoring it out on the internet.  Our sheep have earned better!”

Mr Key declined to comment on the exploding sheep censorship scandal that has been dogging his government these past weeks, saying only that “I should hope that every New Zealander already knows how treat a sheep properly.”

A console RTS? Not a popular combination, it must be said. I’ve been very harsh in my assessment of such games in the past, so to have one dropped in my lap came as a bit of a surprise.

There’s no mouse, you see. The mouse is the single most important element of real time strategy. Console fans can argue forever about controllers, and how well they work in shooters, but for RTS there is no contest.

I feeeel the need...

Or there was no contest. Ubisoft have thrown a curveball at one-eyed platform bigots like myself with Tom Clancy’s EndWar; a console RTS using voice commands – one that apparently actually works.

Scary thought, I know. The idea is that rather than fighting the controller, you simply tell your units where to go and what to do. After wondering briefly who they thought they were kidding, I finally slotted the disk into the 360 and fired it up.

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I have a reflexive flinch. A tic that manifests whenever I hear the words “Need for Speed”. Call it a traumatic past experience. Call it a reaction to the rape of a treasured childhood memory. Call it Need for Speed Underground.

Back in what I’ll gratuitously refer to as “my day”, there was a game called The Need For Speed. I played this on my 486 gaming pc, taking any one of 8 cars around one of three tracks or along one of three road courses. I was the man at that game. And it was a fantastic game. But somewhere along the line, the concept was watered down. What had started out trying pretty hard to be a modern and accurate Test Drive became an arcadey thrasher.

I feeeel the need...

But there were some high points. Hot Pursuit explored the getaway-style running from the cops gameplay that made the original’s head-to-head mode so enjoyable (though it was flawed in that first attempt) and did a good job of it.

Then, eventually, along came Need For Speed Underground. A game that actually rewarded the player for buying pointless “upgrades” to make their car uglier and less good. To say that I loathed it would be a gross understatement. To say that it’s the worst driving game ever made is wholly inadequate. The point I’m trying to make is this: I’ve learned to fear Need For Speed titles. I’ve been burned. Dare I put my hand back into that flame?
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Xbox.com’s Rock Band video competition concluded on the 30th of November.  So on the 29th, the Buttonmasher podcast crew (Brian Wugga and myself) got together, borrowed some instruments, fired up a video camera and made a video.

Filming concluded at around 2am on Sunday (the 30th), and I was up until almost 6am ripping, copying, editing and converting.  It was uploaded when I got up, and Wugga put in the entry.

The song we chose was Skullcrusher Mountain, by Jonathon Coulton; a heart-wrenching tale of unrequited love from the point of view of a soft-hearted supervillian.  We chose it because Wugga said it would be awesome.  Fortunately, it was.

Here’s our entry, in all its Youtubey goodness.

Once the dust had cleared, the Buttonmasher entry was declared the winner.

Says Teljam: 

We have a winner!!

Congratulations to Wugga, Brianemone, and Gar with your video interpretation of Skullcrasher Mountain by Jonathon Coulton – You guys have talent – I dunno what sort of talent, but talent nonetheless.

And thanks to all of the other entrants to this comp – You all did a great job, and provided some good times to the Xbox Community – Awesome!!!

After the break are the other entries.

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resistance

With the Command and Conquer franchise’s recent resurgence it was probably inevitable that a new Red Alert would see the light of day.  The sub-franchise has always been extremely popular; perhaps moreso for its amusingly over the top story than for its gameplay, which closely mimics C&C.  Which is not to say that Red Alert is a sort of amusing retarded cousin to C&C – far from it, in fact – Red Alert 2 remains a popular LAN game even now, eight years after its release.

Command and Conquer 3 – which donates the engine for Red Alert 3 – hasn’t exactly met with universal praise, despite its solid gameplay, so can the latest Red Alert stand tall alongside its predecessors?

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