Cyanide Studios have announced that two games based on George R R Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series are to be developed.

One is the expected RPG, which will exploit Martin’s richly realised world and detailed characters.  The other is an RTS, which is the one I was secretly hoping for all along.

Check out GRRM’s blog post on the subject.

Blabbermouth have reported that the content recorded for Brutal Legend by Black Sabbath / Heaven and Hell front man Ronnie James Dio has been removed from the game.

The game also features Ozzy Osbourne, former Black Sabbath vocalist and longtime rival of Dio.  Osbourne is currently suing Black Sabbath / Heaven and Hell guitarist Tony Iommi, and internet scuttlebutt would indicate that many metal fans blame that conflict for the cut.

Whatever the reason though (and it may be nothing malicious), it’s a sad day when content is removed from a game due to unrelated personal grievances.

Dio is being replaced by Tim Curry, who’s certainly the kind of actor who’d suit this sort of game…  But he’s not metal.

One of my biggest complaints about Guitar Hero and Rock Band has been regarding the setlists.  “Where’s the metal?” I always asked.  While there were usually a few token tracks from the likes of Slayer, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, etc, I was left wanting more.

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Now I have it.  Guitar Hero: Metallica is basically a standalone expansion for Guitar Hero: World Tour, featuring 28 Metallica songs, and a further 21 songs from other bands, chosen by Metallica.  The Metallica tracks represent a pretty decent cross section of the band’s catalogue, with plenty of their early speed / thrash metal tracks, as well as a good selection of their later, more mainstream material.  There’s even a song from Saint Anger.  But we shan’t dwell on that.

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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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