TIME Video Games

Minecraft Is Getting a Story Mode

Minecraft
Young racegoers play in a Minecraft tournament during Ascot Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup and Concert at Ascot Racecourse on August 9, 2014 in Ascot, England. Miles Willis—2014 Getty Images

It's a big change for a normally open-ended game

This article was originally published on the Daily Dot.

The developer of Minecraft has partnered with another high-profile company on a major expansion to the popular online game.

Telltale Games on Thursday announced the development of Minecraft: Story Mode. Minecraft developer Mojang presented the news through a mini-game called Info Quest II.

Telltale is tapping into a game that is already rich in non-traditional narrative. Minecraft is about making your own stories—as in literally constructing them from the raw materials given to you by a world seed. The slew of popular Minecraft “Let’s Play” videos are all player-created stories; “Let’s Play” live-streams construct the story right before the viewer’s eyes.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at the Daily Dot

Read next: The Xbox One Just Beat the PlayStation 4 for the First Time in Months

TIME Nintendo

Duck Hunt Will Land On Nintendo’s Wii U on Christmas Day

Duck Hunt
Duck Hunt Nintendo

No plastic gun this time

Nintendo has a retro Christmas gift in store for people who own its Wii U console.

Duck Hunt, the legendary fowl-hunting, gun-slinging game originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, is coming to Nintendo’s newest console on Dec. 25. The game will be downloadable on the Wii U’s virtual console, which brings classic Nintendo titles to the system.

The Wii U version of Duck Hunt replaces Nintendo’s classic light gun accessory with the Wii Remote, which players use to shoot birds or clay pigeons bouncing around their screen.

“Test your sharp-shooting skills as your targets take flight in this legendary NES classic,” reads Nintendo’s press release. “Be quick to knock them out of the skies, or your canine companion won’t hesitate to make you the laughing stock of hunters.”

TIME Video Games

Sony and Microsoft’s Newest Battlefield: China

Xbox One PlayStation 4
Attendees walk between signs for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft XBox on the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California, June 11, 2013. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

A new front has opened in the console wars

The Chinese video game market is in for a major shake-up. Two of Sony’s mega-popular consoles, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, will be sold in China starting next month, the company announced Thursday. Sony’s move comes three months after Microsoft debuted its Xbox One in China.

Why did it take so long for Chinese gamers to get the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? For 14 years, China banned video game consoles over fears violent games would lead to moral decay. That ban was just lifted in January, opening the door for Sony and Microsoft.

China’s ban didn’t totally eliminate consoles there — a grey market of smuggled and home-grown consoles has long existed there. But analysts say the rule caused China’s gaming market to be dominated by PC and mobile games. That means Sony and Microsoft now have to convince Chinese gamers they should buy a console, too.

Sony and Microsoft could be in for a windfall if they can turn China’s gamers into console jockeys. Lewis Ward, research director of gaming at IDC, said his firm found that China’s current console penetration rate is in the “single digits.” But given China’s 1.3 billion-person population, that low rate actually translates into millions of potential customers already — and that’s before the companies’ marketing machines kick into action.

“In PC [gaming], you have Internet games like Starcraft, Warcraft and Defense of the Ancients. So how [do Sony and Microsoft] win back those groups?” said Roger Sheng, a Shanghai-based consumer electronics research director at Gartner.

The answer lies not in hardware, but in software. Game selection will be biggest reason a Chinese gamer decides to buy a PlayStation 4 (RMB2,899, or $468), an Xbox One (RMB3,699, or $598) or any other game console, analysts said. But while China is letting foreign consoles through the front door, whether or not they can bring along Call of Duty or Titanfall is another question. Each game sold in the country has to win the hard-to-earn approval of China’s Ministry of Culture, which prohibits everything from blood to touchy political topics.

“[Xbox One’s and PlayStation 4’s] prices are similar enough — both of them are expensive for a typical consumer in China,” said Lisa Hanson, managing partner at Niko Partners, an Asian games research firm. “The tricky regulatory landscape is always the biggest barrier to success for foreign companies in China.”

The key for Sony and Microsoft, analysts say, is for them to build partnerships with Chinese game makers, who enjoy pre-existing relationships with regulators and whose games have already passed the lengthy approval process. For now, Sony and Microsoft can entice Chinese developers to port their pre-approved games to the Xbox and PlayStation. If consoles take off with Chinese gamers, local developers are likely to start making dedicated games for them.

When it comes to building relationships and selling games in China, Sony has a leg up on Microsoft: As a Japanese company, it’s geographically and culturally closer to China than its American rival Microsoft. That means many Chinese gamers are already more familiar with Sony’s titles, a big advantage for the company. Sony hasn’t said which PlayStation games it’s bringing to China, but Microsoft is so far only selling 10 — a sign it might be having trouble connecting to the Chinese audience. Sony is also leading in terms of developer partners, with 26 to Microsoft’s 13.

Ultimately, the small size of Microsoft’s current catalog combined with the Xbox’s higher price may give Sony the edge in the Chinese console wars, analysts said.

“[Xbox’s catalog size] is bordering on negligence — I assume Sony is going to have a significantly larger catalog than that,” Ward said. “Make no mistake, people buy consoles because of the games.”

TIME Video Games

The Xbox One Just Beat the PlayStation 4 for the First Time in Months

Xbox One
A control of a Microsoft's Xbox One game console is pictured in a shop in Shanghai on September 29, 2014. Johannes Eisele—AFP/Getty Images

A strong lineup and holiday deals helped seal Xbox One's record month

Xbox One consoles sold at a record-breaking pace in November, Microsoft claimed Thursday, citing data from research firm NPD. The Xbox One also unseated the reigning champ of the console market — Sony’s Playstation 4 — for the first time in nearly a year.

Sales of Microsoft’s latest console were buoyed by a strong lineup of new gaming titles and aggressive Black Friday discounts. Microsoft lopped $50 off of the Xbox One’s retail price and bundled free games into package deals.

“We are amazed by the excitement Xbox fans have shown to start off this holiday,” said Mike Nichols, vice president of Xbox marketing, in a statement. “November set a new record for sales of Xbox One, and Xbox One was the best-selling console in the U.S. and U.K.”

Nonetheless, Gamespot reports that sales across the entire console market declined year over year, also citing NPD. An analyst for the group noted that sales slackened not only for the previous generation of consoles, as expected, but also for the newest generation, which accounted for 38% of the overall decline.

TIME Video Games

These Are the Best Facebook Games of 2014

SGN

Find out which Facebook game the company named "Game of the Year"

Facebook is out with its annual roundup of the year’s top Facebook games, with one game taking the ultimate crown.

Cookie Jam, a matching game launched by SGN last May, “swept all others” to become Facebook’s Game of the Year, the company announced Tuesday on its blog. While only one game could claim the biggest title, Facebook also identified some stand-outs from the year, including a new Candy Crush game and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

These are Facebook’s best new games of 2014:

These are the Facebook staff’s favorite games of 2014:

Check out the rest of Facebook’s top games on their blog.

TIME

7 Things You Need to Know About Destiny‘s Expansion The Dark Below

Bungie's first official expansion to Destiny, it's online first-person shooter, is out now for PlayStation and Xbox game consoles

It’s been awhile since I visited Bungie’s Destiny, the last time being when I slipped quietly past level 20 back in September. I’d done all I needed to, seen the rejiggered solar system’s sights and saved humanity, just like you…and whatever subset of the nearly 10 million players Activision claims have registered the game actually polished off The Black Garden. I’m a story guy, not a grinder, so with The Divisive Mind in my rearview mirror, I set the game aside.

Until today: the first expansion, The Dark Below, is now available to download (it’s $20, unless you’ve already purchased the Expansion Pass for $35, which gets you the second yet-to-be-released content extension). Here’s the breakdown of what’s on offer.

You can raise your Light Level to 32

The official level cap remains 20, but Bungie’s concession to grinders involves letting you clap pieces of rare armor on that, if you do the math properly, can boost your stats as if you were in fact leveling beyond 20–all the way up to Light Level 30 before the expansion.

The Dark Below adds two more Light Levels, meaning there’s new rare armor that’ll let you armor-buff your Guardian a trifle more.

You can square off with a god

Or what The Hive call a god, anyway, according to the new story intro’s melodramatic narrator (The Hive, in case like me Destiny‘s jargon’s already dissolved from your brainpan, are the race of burrowers living on the Earth’s moon).

I’m assuming you get to do battle with a specific big bad: technically the tagline reads “tasked with stopping the resurrection of an ancient god, Crota.” One of those “hopefully you fail the stop-the-resurrection test, so you can actually fight something devastatingly cool,” in other words.

Your new ride’s a Legendary stunt bike

Meet the EV-30 Tumbler Sparrow, a Legendary-rated, level 100 durability stunt-hovercraft that’ll let you drive faster, fly across chasms and pull off midair tricks. You get this automatically when you pick up the expansion.

Here’s the rest of the new stuff

Next to the story content, there’s a new cooperative Strike, “The Will of Crota,” where you and your Fireteam can do battle with Crota’s number one as she tries to expand the Hive army.

There’s also a new six-player Raid, “Crota’s End,” staged in the Hellmouth (a preexisting location in the Ocean of Storms on the moon) with new enemies and ways to fight them.

And you get three new competitive multiplayer arenas: the Pantheon (a maze-like Vex temple situated in The Black Garden), Skyshock (an interplanetary defense array designed for both vehicle and infantry combat) and The Cauldron (a Hive site tailored for close quarters fighting).

PlayStation owners get exclusive content

Sony’s Destiny-plus arrangement with Bungie extends to The Dark Below: PlayStation 3 and 4 owners get an extra cooperative strike, “The Undying Mind” (level 20, on Mars), as well as a new exotic shotgun, dubbed The 4th Horseman.

The expansion may be locking out some players

I had something akin to this experience myself, but not because I bought The Dark Below: I inadvertently let my PSN membership lapse, which firewalls some (though not all) of the game’s content.

The actual bug (according to various Reddit users by way of GameSpot, anyway) locks players out of the game entirely upon purchase of the expansion, presenting them with a countdown timer instead, and preventing some players from bypassing it.

I’m checked with Bungie on the issue, and I’ll update this point if they get back to me.

That Paul McCartney Destiny music video isn’t required viewing

It’s surreal–I’m not saying in a good or bad way–watching Return of the Jedi-light-enveloped Paul McCartney superimposed over Destiny‘s planetary theaters, singing and gesticulating amidst small squads of seated Guardians.

See for yourself.

TIME Video Games

The 8 Most Impressive Video Game Reveals You Missed This Weekend

No Man's Sky
Hello Games

Check out the weekend's most amazing game announcements and trailers, collated and annotated

Whatever you thought of this weekend’s debut Game Awards, it lured a sufficient number of respectable game studios, who brought with them more than a few intriguing announcements and never-before-seen trailers. Multiply by all the new material Sony trotted out at its first ever PlayStation Experience (also this weekend), and the ordinarily news-lethargic first weekend of December turned out to be full of surprises.

Here’s a look at the most impressive announcements and trailers from both shows:

Adr1ft

Everyone’s comparing 505 Games’ Adr1ft to Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, because both involve someone in orbit floating through the wreckage of who-knows-what. Best case scenario? We’ll get to play a video game that one-ups Cuaron’s Gravity (which needlessly mangled basic scientific principles) by making rigorous physics per the hostile extremes of orbital space the game’s unremitting antagonist.

Drawn to Death

Drawn to Death is a “hand-drawn arena shooter.” That’s how The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency studio lead David Jaffe describes it, anyway. It’s impossible to tell how (or whether) the game’s going to set its gameplay off from other arena shooters, but it certainly looks unique.

The Forest

Alpha versions of The Forest have been playable since May on Steam, but the open-world survival game’s surprise confirmation for PlayStation 4 could signal a 2015 final release. In the game, you’ve survived a plane crash only to find yourself stranded in the wilderness who-knows-where, and observed by strange, debatably hostile, behaviorally nuanced (in unprecedented ways) humanoid creatures.

Hazelight

Hazelight–is it the name of the game and the studio?–was a monumental tease that offered no indication whatsoever about the sort of game two guys sitting on a boxcar having a smoke and moon-gazing amounts to. But it’s by one of the lead developers of Brothers — A Tale of Two Sons, and that alone makes the clip worth including here.

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky may turn out to be a gorgeously vast patina of a cosmic exploration game, given its claims of procedurally generated galactic play-space times infinity. No one’s yet come close to grappling with fundamental design paradoxes whereby escalating randomness correlates negatively with player interest (imponderable haphazardness = boundless blah). But we’re still in “imagine what if” mode, and this latest trailer offers new wrinkles for consideration: a planet with purplish protuberances and another with undulating topography, a two-legged Star Wars-ian robot/vehicle and walk-in warp points.

Tacoma

If you watch Tacoma’s trailer and think “Hey, Bioshock!” some of the game’s developers actually worked on BioShock 2. But given what they pulled off with Gone Home last year, I presume we’re in for something mind-bending. A lunar transfer station run/built by “Virgin-Tesla”? As in Richard Branson plus Elon Musk? Could we be in for another futurism-skewering interactive narrative?

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

So Uncharted 4 looks nuts, and I say that as someone who doesn’t give a hoot about graphics in games nowadays. Sony wanted to make an impression, and boy did it: there’s over 15 minutes of “yes, you’re really seeing what you think you’re seeing” impressing going on in this actual-gameplay-rendered-using-a-PS4 video. And check out the creepy prehistoric-looking jungle. All that’s missing: a cameo by King Kong.

Zelda Wii U

If Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. saved the Wii U from oblivion, Zelda Wii U (we don’t know it’s official name yet) could be the game that clinches its comeback. It’s a shame Nintendo didn’t offer an alternative fullscreen view, but even watching this video of a video, it’s clear the new Zelda’s going to be vast–and judging from that quip about horses not running into trees, it’s aiming to remedy slipshod genre conventions (like heinous equestrian controls).

TIME Video Games

The 5 Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week

Apple iPhone
An Apple iPhone 6 Plus gold, is shown here at a Verizon store on September 18, 2014 in Orem, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

Try Noda, a super-addictive puzzle game

Had enough Candy Crush and looking for something new to play on your iPhone? We rounded up some favorites worth a download this week. Have fun!

Game of Thrones

Although perhaps not the gore- and sex-filled video game one might expect of a Game of Thrones iPhone app, this game series is fascinating nonetheless. Take the helm of a posh Westeros family in the throes of war and decide the fate of your clan. Interact with characters from the show as you try to sort our family business. No, it isn’t season 5, but it might just be involved enough to tide you over until next spring.

Game of Thrones is available for $4.99 in the App Store.

Bean Dreams

A game with a title this banal shouldn’t be so much fun to play. Bean Dreams combines the simple ambitions of video games of yesteryear like Super Mario with the graphic component of an iOS game. Bounce your sombrero-wearing bean through almost 50 levels—an excellent way to keep you busy on a long plane ride. As you pounce on enemies to destroy them, it’s easy to realize this game would have quickly become a darling of the Game Boy era.

Bean Dreams is available for $2.99 in the App Store.

Noda

Few games can be as as infuriating and as absorbing as Noda. The rules take about a full hour to understand, but it is perhaps one of the finest puzzle games released for iOS. The goal is to swipe numbered dots to form matching numbers. Your attempt to clear a stage in the fewest moves possible will be completely undercut by the game’s challenging rules, one of which is that two dots cannot be combined if their sum is greater than nine. But for all the hours this timesuck has stolen, it’s sleek enough to make you forget how long you’ve spent playing it. Worth a download for every puzzle aficionado.

Noda is available free in the App Store.

Clarence’s Amazing Day Out

Fans of Cartoon Network’s game packages will enjoy Clarence’s adventure through a series of minigames. Follow Clarence, of the new, eponymous CN game, as he goes about his day, running into all sorts of nonsense adventures, like piñata smashing or watermelon bowling. In the end, it feels a lot more like a cartoon than an iPhone game, and in an excellent way it pulls you out of the 9-5 world and into one of uninhibited childhood inanity.

Clarence’s Amazing Day Out is available free in the App Store.

Ancient Legacy

Back in a time when RPG games were more about strategy than fire-bearing swords and armor dyes, games like Ancient Legacy taught us to prioritize strategy and economy over slashing maneuvers. Ancient Legacy really is a game from a simpler time, or one in which sophisticated games didn’t exist. Develop different players, each with their own abilities. Explore weapon classes, win battles by rolling dice, and beat bosses with good old fashioned nerdy number crunching — and praying the dice will roll in your favor.

Ancient Legacy is available for $1.99 in the App Store.

TIME Video Games

Here’s What the Most Jaw-Dropping Game of 2015 Looks Like Up Close

The procedurally generated space exploration game No Man's Sky looks amazing

UK-based Hello Games released another trailer for its highly-anticipated upcoming PC and PS4 title, No Man’s Sky. The game, slated for a 2015 release, is a procedurally generated space exploration game with stunning visuals. In other words, players will be able to explore planets and solar systems that are randomly generated. The results continue to look promising; here’s a closer look.

No Man's Sky Hello Games No Man's Sky Hello Games No Man's Sky Hello Games No Man's Sky Hello Games No Man's Sky Hello Games

TIME Video Games

The Father of Video Gaming Dies at 92

Ralph Baer Dead Video Games
Ralph Baer an engineer for Sanders Associates, Inc., of Nashua, N.H. watches his TV hockey game on Feb. 3, 1977. CM/AP

Over the course of his career, Ralph Baer accumulated over 150 patents and won many awards and honors

Ralph Baer, the man known for creating the first-ever video-game console, which continues to serve as a blueprint for the Xboxes and PlayStations of today, has reportedly passed away.

The news of the 92-year-old inventor’s death was confirmed to gaming website Gamasutra by sources close to him.

Baer, a German immigrant, built a device he called the Brown Box in the late 1960s, which hit the market in 1972 as the Magnavox Odyssey. It consisted of a main electronic unit that connected to a television screen, two player control units that enabled user interaction, and insertable electronic cards that held different games. Sound familiar?

Over the course of his career, Baer accumulated over 150 patents and won several awards and honors — including the 2006 National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush, and an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.

“I can never thank Ralph enough for what he gave to me and everyone else,” reads a quote from Apple Computers co-founder Steve Wozniak prominently displayed on Baer’s website.

Right until his final days, Baer retained a passion for creating new products. “I still get a big charge out of making something work,” the Verge quoted him as saying in a 2012 interview.

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