JestersGrind writes with news that Blizzard has announced the next expansion to World of Warcraft, titled Warlords of Draenor. This expansion raises the level cap to 100 and introduces a new world/continent full of zones: Draenor. They're also introducing 'Garrisons,' player-built bases on Draenor that individual users will be able to customize and upgrade. Your garrison will have followers which you can send on missions, and you'll be able to invite other players over to visit and trade. The expansion will also revamp a number of aging character models. Blizzard is also making it so new and returning players can immediately boost one character to the current level cap (90), so they can immediately jump into the new content.
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Dave Knott writes "Just over one week ahead of the launch of the Playstation 4, Wired has posted an article with a full teardown of Sony's new device. In an accompanying video Sony engineering director Yasuhiro Ootori dismantles the PS4 piece by piece, describing each component and showing just what is contained inside the sleek black box."
Benjamin Heckendorn, better known as Ben Heck, has become famous for modding consoles and game controllers. Over 10 million viewers worldwide have watched The Ben Heck Show to see him create something new out of old gaming systems every week. Been has agreed to leave the Ataris alone for a while and answer your questions about console modding and gaming in general. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
An anonymous reader writes "An article at Slate makes the case that the time has come to stop crowning World Chess Champions. This week, challenger Magnus Carlsen is trying to take the title from reigning champion Viswanathan Anand. Despite currently holding the title, Anand is very much the underdog, which only serves to illustrate why the current system is broken. The article suggests measuring greatness the same way tennis does. Quoting: 'Here's what Carlsen should do: Beat Anand for the title, and then work with FIDE to institutionalize four big tournaments as chess's Grand Slams, simultaneously eliminating the title of world champion. Corporate funding for even major chess tournaments can come and go with frustrating regularity, meaning FIDE itself has to get involved. Perhaps the grand slam tournaments could be located in three cities permanently—Moscow, Amsterdam, and a Spanish locale such as Linares would be natural picks—with a fourth that would rotate from year to year. This would give chess the same clear and predictable yardstick for greatness that golf and tennis have instead of the extremely crude world champion benchmark.'"
Zothecula writes "Nintendo recently announced that it was ceasing all production of its original Wii video game console. It seemed as if it had run its course, and Nintendo was shifting 100 percent of its focus to the floundering Wii U. Turns out, the Japanese company had other plans, announcing that its previously Canada-exclusive $99 Wii Mini is making its way to the U.S. 'The $99 price has been neglected in this product generation, but in the past, it has been a very successful price for game consoles. More than half of the volume of machines in the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 generations sold at the $99 or under price."
slew writes "Although the robot technically cheats because it watches your hand and can recognize what shape you are intending to make and beat it before you even know what is happening. Apparently it takes about 60ms for you to shape your hand, but the robot can recognize the shape before it is completed, and only takes 20ms to counter your shape so the results appear to the human opponent to be virtually simultaneous. I wonder how difficult it would be to add lizard and spock to the mix.... ;^)."
our conversation with author David Craddock about his investigation into the early days of game studio Blizzard for his new book, Stay Awhile and Listen. He's joined by Dave Brevik and Max Schaefer, two of the co-founders of Blizzard North. They talk about keeping games accessible, the importance of getting the amount of background story right in Diablo, and whether the creators of these early games have any regrets about them. They also talk about designing The Butcher. (This is video part 2 of 2. The transcript of Part 1 is now available, too, if you care to go back and read it.)
An anonymous reader writes "River City Ransom: Underground is the latest high profile game campaign on Kickstarter but as an interview with the title's creators this week highlights, it's not exactly a new game. Rather, it's an official sequel to a Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom classic, belt-scroller River City Ransom. Remarkably, getting the license and the help of original River City creator Yoshihisa Kishimoto proved easy for the team, indie developers who were submitting game designs to Atari in crayon, aged six. 'I asked for the license and I asked Kishimoto-san if he had an interest in helping us make a better Kunio-kun game,' producer Daniel Crenna says. 'It's not particularly dramatic to say that, but I asked.' As the author points out, it's interesting to imagine what other games could be resurrected with a little bit of polite curiosity.""
If you happen to be one of the other five people who own an Atari Jaguar, you've probably played the excellent Tempest 2000. As chance would have it, a few months ago Llamasoft announced they were approached by Sony to write TxK, based "...on the essence of the original T2K. ... . We're not going to overload you with ultra psychedelia, but we will make it fluid and colourful and awesome-looking ... We're going to give you a perfect treat for your eyes, ears and thumbs with a modern extrapolation of one of the best shooters ever made on hardware that's just perfectly suited for it, and in a way that retains the purity of the original design." A couple of weeks ago, a working version of TxK was demoed at Play Expo. Read below to see the video. It really seems to retain the aesthetic of Tempest 2000 enhanced by modern hardware and a full color range, with a touch of Space Giraffe tactics (you can kill enemies at the rim somehow at least).
Stay Awhile and Listen. He's joined by Dave Brevik and Max Schaefer, two of the co-founders of Blizzard North. They talk about some of the ways in which making video games was different back in the early '90s -- and the ways it's similar to making games today. They also discuss the importance of having lively debates, and how one of those arguments led to Diablo being a real-time action game, instead of being turn-based. (This is the first half of an extended interview -- part 2 will be available on Monday.
Many of today's adult video gamers grew up with a gaming industry that was still trying to figure itself out. In the early-to-mid 1990s, most of the gaming genres we're familiar with today were still indistinct, half-formed concepts waiting for that one game necessary to define them. Thus, many players sat up and took notice when a relatively unknown company named Blizzard managed to exemplify not one, but two separate types of game in quick succession. Warcraft: Orcs and Humans put real-time strategy on the map, and Diablo set the standard for action RPGs. The two games immediately elevated Blizzard to the top of the industry, and many gamers wondered how one studio could put out two games like these so quickly. As it turns out, it wasn't one studio; it was a blending of two very different but extremely creative groups who had a passion for making video games. In Stay Awhile and Listen, author David Craddock lays out the history of the two groups, from how they first got into the gaming business to their eventual success launching now-legendary games. Read on for our review of the book.
Sockatume writes "Sony has released a detailed FAQ for the PS4 system, which launches in coming weeks. Of particular note: although Bluetooth headsets will not be compatible, generic 3.5mm and USB audio devices will work; the console will require activation via the internet or a special disk before it will play Blu-ray or DVDs; media servers, MP3s, and audio CDs are not supported. The console's "suspend/resume" and remote assistance features are listed as unavailable for the North American launch, implying that they will be patched in before the console launches in Europe later in November."
An anonymous reader writes "On the whole, Battlefield 4 had a reasonable launch. The have clearly learned from their past experiences with Battlefield 3 and, more notably, SimCity. Still, some customers are unable to access the game (until, presumably, October 30th at 7PM EDT, 39 hours after launch) because they are incorrectly flagged by region-locking. Do regional release dates help diminish all the work EA has been putting into Origin with their refund policy and live technical support? Should they just take our money and deliver the service before we change our minds?"
MojoKid writes "NVIDIA announced a major update to its SHIELD Android gaming device today, with the over-the-air update delivering the latest build of Android (v4.3 Jelly Bean) to the handheld console. NVIDIA also launched GameStream in order to bring more PC titles to streaming devices. Wait, need more? How about SHIELD Gamepad Mapper, which turns touch-based Android games into ones that can be enjoyed with SHIELD's console-quality controls. Alongside that Android update comes Console Mode, which turns SHIELD into a portable living room game console. Users will be able to pair up a Bluetooth controller, kick back on the couch, indulge in Android games, browse the Web, and watch your favorite movies all at 1080p."
szyzyg writes "Star Citizen has broken all the crowdfunding records, raising almost 25 million dollars in the last year to fund Chris Roberts' promise of the ultimate spaceship game. However, an investigation sheds light on a murky secondary market where items are being resold by investors for profit, all for a game that won't be fully released for two years. The standard crowdfunding tactic of rewarding early backers has created a tiered system with ample room for profiteering, profits which many not be shared with the developers. Few things would please me more than Star Citizen succeeding, but backers should read this article before being tempted to trade up their internet spaceships through a third party."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Jon Brodkin talked to indie developers (including the creator of Super Mario Bros. Crossover), former Nintendo employees, and a number of others about where exactly Nintendo went wrong over the past few years. Their conclusions? Nintendo made a number of mistakes, including a lack of an indie-developer ecosystem, a refusal to license out core properties such as Super Mario to other gaming platforms (or even iOS and Android), and platforms that don't appeal to hardcore gamers. While the developers suggest Nintendo is taking steps to broaden its horizons, such as by reaching out to smaller studios, it's questionable whether such efforts will succeed in a world where the PS4 and Xbox One are about to enter the market, and iOS and Android are swallowing up mobile gamers' time and dollars. What do you think?"
RogueyWon writes "Four months after the launch of the Ouya micro-console, Gamasutra has pulled together a round up of the experiences of indie developers who have brought their games to the platform. There's both positive and negative news; developers seem to like the ease of porting to the platform, but have concerns regarding the approach that its marketplace takes. Perhaps most crucially, sales of games on the platform are far from stellar."
nk497 writes "Linus Torvalds has welcomed the arrival of Valve's Linux-based platform, SteamOS, and said it could boost Linux on desktops. The Linux creator praised Valve's 'vision' and suggested its momentum would force other manufacturers to take Linux seriously — especially if game developers start to ditch Windows. Should SteamOS gain traction among gamers and developers, that could force more hardware manufacturers to extend driver support beyond Windows. That's a sore point for Torvalds, who slammed Nvidia last year for failing to support open-source driver development for its graphics chips. Now that SteamOS is on the way, Nvidia has opened up to the Linux community, something Torvalds predicts is a sign of things to come. 'I'm not just saying it'll help us get traction with the graphics guys,' he said. 'It'll also force different distributors to realize if this is how Steam is going, they need to do the same thing because they can't afford to be different in this respect. They want people to play games on their platform too.'"
An anonymous reader writes "In the space of a few short months, Surgeon Simulator 2013 has attained cult status. A sort of spiritual successor to the maddening QWOP, the PC game requires you to operate the individual fingers of a hapless surgeon in an increasingly absurd set of gore-filled scenarios. What's so remarkable is the turnaround time: the initial prototype came out of a 48-hour game jam, and was released as a commercial game just a month and a half later. A new profile of the studio's founder looks at how Bossa Studios, the London-based development team behind SS 2013, iterates so quickly, as well as what's next from the team, including an iPad version of Surgeon Simulator, and a cross platform MOBA that's half League of Legends, half Mario Kart battle mode."
cold fjord writes "An article at DailyTech begins, 'While many people scoffed at or failed to recognized the significance of Microsoft Corp.'s talk of a "unified" development path for Windows, Xbox, and Windows Phone, the real world ramifications of that approach are now becoming clear — and they're significant. A pre-order page from Dell for the Xbox One "accidentally" (and, it appears, officially) revealed that Windows 8.1 apps will run on the Xbox.'" A Microsoft spokesperson told AllThingsD, 'The suggestion that all Windows 8 apps run on Xbox One is not accurate," but they didn't deny that there would be some cross-compatibility. PCWorld's article has words of caution: "It would certainly be interesting if the full-blown Windows Store landed on Xbox One. But don't hold your breath for it to be there at the console's launch, no matter what Dell's words vaguely imply."
Nick Kolakowski writes "Markus 'Notch' Persson is the famous indie-game developer behind Minecraft, which is also the name of the new book about his life and work by Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson. (The effect is slightly odd, like naming the Steve Jobs biography iPhone.) Minecraft traces Persson’s development from an isolated young man building simple PC games in his bedroom, to a frustrated game developer who feels the software conglomerates are stifling his creativity, to a multimillionaire who's had some trouble coming to grips with his gamer-land fame. The Persson described in the book is an introvert's introvert, far more interested in coding than partying, although he does display flashes of entrepreneurial aggression that would make Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos proud: at one point, he confesses that he wants to build a gaming behemoth on the scale of Valve." Read below for the rest of Nick's review.
An anonymous reader writes "After nine years of development, The Dark Mod is now a standalone game. Thief fans can now enjoy over 60 fan made missions which capture the essence of the Thief 1 / 2 games. Originally created as a reaction to Thief 3; with the upcoming release of Thief 4, many are comparing what was done here (a faithful extension of the old gameplay) to what Eidos has shown thus far. Can a little Doom 3 mod compete against a blockbuster AAA title? Should we even compare them?" All code in the The Dark Mod is GPLv3+, and the art assets are all CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported which means it, unfortunately, cannot be distributed by even Debian. Still, an impressive feat!
An anonymous reader writes "The NY Times has a story about the imminent release of Battlefield 4 on 29 October, as it's one of the most highly-anticipated video games of the year. The most interesting part of the article is where it highlights what a mammoth undertaking such 'AAA' games have become. There are hundreds upon hundreds of people working full time on it, and hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in its development. These number have been rising and rising over the years; how big do they get before it becomes completely unfeasible to top your last game? The article also points out that the PC platform is beginning to wane in popularity. Nobody's quite sure yet whether it'll level out or go into serious decline, but you can bet development studios are watching closely. With bigger and bigger stakes, how long before they decide it's not worth the risk? Even consoles aren't safe: 'Electronic Arts is nevertheless trying to extend franchises like Battlefield to devices, because it must. But at the same time, it has to grapple with the threats undermining traditional gaming. Though the classic consoles are getting reboots this fall, there is no guarantee that new models will permanently revive the format's fortunes.' And of course, the question must be asked: do we even want the 'AAA' games to stick around?"
jones_supa writes "If you want to find the computer geniuses of tomorrow, you could do worse than to check out which kids are playing Minecraft. In a Google+ post, the Google Quantum A.I. Lab Team says that they've released a mod called qCraft to enable kids (and adults) to play around with blocks that exhibit behaviors like quantum entanglement, superposition and observer dependency. qCraft obviously isn't a perfect scientific simulation, but it's a fun way for players to experience a few parts of quantum mechanics outside of thought experiments or dense textbook examples. The team doesn't know the full potential of what you can make with the mod, but they are excited to see what Minecraft's players can discover."
barlevg writes "A college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute spent nine months meticulously remaking Super Mario Bros. based on the latest web standards. His project is open source and the code freely available through Github. The site recently gained widespread media attention, which unfortunately brought it to the attention of Nintendo, which has requested that the site be taken down. In a column on the Washington Post website, tech blogger Timothy Lee makes the case for how this is a prime example of copyrights hindering innovation and why copyright lengths should be shortened. Among his arguments: copyrights hinder innovation by game designers seeking to build upon such games, and shortening copyright would breathe new life into games who have long since passed into obsolescence."
vivIsel writes "Cyan, the company behind Myst, is taking another shot at an game in that vein — this time in a new game universe, with the Unreal 4 engine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they haven't gotten a lot of traction with traditional game publishers, so they are turning to Kickstarter with a $1.1M total ask. The Kickstarter video also has some neat shots of the Cyan headquarters — which looks a bit like one of the buildings on Myst island itself."
New submitter gamersunited writes with news of Blizzard Entertainment's defeat of another company that created bot software to automate World of Warcraft characters. Ceiling Fan Software faces a judgment of $7 million, and must disable any active licenses for the software. They're also forbidden from transferring or open-sourcing the bot software, and from facilitating its continued use in any way. The court order (PDF) follows more than two years of legal wrangling. Blizzard won a similar judgment a few years ago against another bot company called MDY Industries, which created the popular Glider bot.
MojoKid writes "EA took the wraps off Battlefield 4 this past week, offering players a chance to try an early beta. AMD has also been talking up Battlefield 4 in combination with their new Radeon R series line with a vengeance, highlighting the features of its new Mantle API and close partnership with DICE, Battlefield 4's developer. Sometimes, enough modest changes evolve into an entirely new product, and when you factor in the tessellation improvements, terrain deformation, Mantle API support, enhanced audio cues, and better particle effects, that's what BF4 is shaping up to be. And it appears likely the game is going to be a premiere title across all of the current and future consoles plus PCs. Battlefield 4 is going to be closely watched for a number of reasons; Mantle performance, comparisons between the Xbox 360 / PS3 and Xbox One / PS4 versions, and, of course, on its own merits."
itwbennett writes "Until now Sony has done a pretty good job of keeping future Playstation 4 owners happy. But last week they finally hit a rock when Game Informer posted an article about headset compatibility. At launch, USB headsets that work with the PS3 won't work with the PS4. Sony says that eventually there will be a system update that addresses the problem but for now, even your Sony-branded USB headset won't work. If you use a Bluetooth headset (as most PS3 owners do) the news is even worse. Bluetooth headsets will not be supported and no update is planned to address this. ITworld's Peter Smith is shedding a tear for his $250 Turtle Beach PX5 headset."
dryriver writes with an except from Polygon's interview with DICE creative directory Lars Gustavsson, who says it would only take one "killer" game for Linux to break into mainstream gaming (something some would argue it already has): "We strongly want to get into Linux for a reason," Gustavsson said. "It took Halo for the first Xbox to kick off and go crazy — usually, it takes one killer app or game and then people are more than willing [to adopt it] — it is not hard to get your hands on Linux, for example, it only takes one game that motivates you to go there." "I think, even then, customers are getting more and more convenient, so you really need to convince them how can they marry it into their daily lives and make an integral part of their lives," he explained, sharing that the studio has used Linux servers because it was a "superior operating system to do so." Valve's recently announced Steam OS and Steam Machines are healthy for the console market, Gustavsson said when asked for his opinion on Valve's recent announcements."
First time accepted submitter Gavrielkay writes "We seem to have attracted the attention of some less than savory types in online gaming and now find our home network relentlessly DoSed. We bought a new router that doesn't fall over quite so easily, but it still overwhelms our poor little DSL connection and prevents us web browsing and watching Netflix occasionally. What's worse is that it seems to find us even if we change the MAC address and IP address of the router. Often the router logs IPs from Russia or Korea in these attacks (no packet logging, just a blanket 'DoS attack from...' in the log. But more often lately I've noticed the IPs trace back to Microsoft or Amazon domains. Are they spoofing those IPs? Did they sign us up for something weird there? And how do they find us with a new MAC address and IP within minutes? We're looking for a way to hide from these idiots that doesn't involve going to the Feds, although that is what our ISP suggested. Piles of money for a commercial grade router is out of the question. We are running antivirus and anti-malware programs and haven't seen any evidence of hacked computers so far."
An anonymous reader writes "Neal Stephenson's ambitious sword fighting Kickstarter Clang has run into financial troubles, and part of the reason is down to new controller that was required — the extra investment reportedly scared away investors. Sometimes though, games can help usher in a whole new type of controller, and create new ways to play. From Pong's easy dials, which helped bring the video game into the home, to Ape Escape's twin thumbsticks and Doodle's Jump savvy use of the accelerometer on the iPhone, some games have hit the critical mass necessary to establish a new input as a way to play. So what's next?"
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Ville Tapio runs a private psychiatry center in Helsinki, and psychiatrists had told him they were reluctant in particular to hand out drugs for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD drugs are psychostimulants, they are frequently abused, and kids can be prescribed them young and kept on a regimen for years. Tapio had an idea to do it better. His alternative? Getting people with mental health concerns to play video games. They're special video games, of course — ones that can change how your brain works, with a technique loosely termed gameified neuroplasticity therapy."
beckman101 writes "Two years ago the Gameduino brought retro-style gaming to the Arduino. This week its successor launched on Kickstarter, still fully open-source but with a video that shows it running some contemporary-looking demos. Plus, it has a touch screen and a pretty decent 3-axis accelerometer. Farewell to the retro?"
mattydread23 writes "Most gamification efforts fail. But when DirecTV wanted to encourage its IT staff to be more open about sharing failures, it created a massive internal game called F12. Less than a year later, it's got 97% participation and nearly everybody in the IT group actually likes competing. So what did DirecTV do right? The most important thing was to devote a full-time staffer to the game, and to keep updating it constantly."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants developers to consider building "virtual consequences" for mayhem into their video games. 'Gamers should be rewarded for respecting the law of armed conflict and there should be virtual penalties for serious violations of the law of armed conflict, in other words war crimes,' read the ICRC's new statement on the matter. 'Game scenarios should not reward players for actions that in real life would be considered war crimes.' Like many a concerned parent or Congressional committee before it, the ICRC believes that violent video games trivialize armed conflict to the point where players could see various brands of mayhem as acceptable behavior. At the same time, the ICRC's statement makes it clear that the organization doesn't want to be actively involved in a debate over video-game violence, although it is talking to developers about ways to accurately build the laws of armed conflict into games. But let's be clear: the ICRC doesn't want to spoil players' enjoyment of the aforementioned digital splatter. 'We would like to see the law of armed conflict integrated into the games so that players have a realistic experience and deal first hand with the dilemmas facing real combatants on real battlefields,' the statement continued. 'The strong sales of new releases that have done this prove that integrating the law of armed conflict does not undermine the commercial success of the games.'"
The original Warcraft and Diablo games hold a special status in the hearts of many gamers. Each game brought its genre into focus, and their success elevated the status of Blizzard Entertainment and Blizzard North to the point that further games are still hotly anticipated more than 15 years later. In an effort to discover and document that part of gaming history, author David L. Craddock conducted extensive interviews with early Blizzard developers. His intent was to investigate how both of the Blizzard studios succeeded at breaking into a saturated and competitive industry, and how their design process influenced both their acclaimed releases and the projects they discarded along the way. He's writing a series of books about the history of Blizzard, titled Stay Awhile and Listen. The first is due out on October 31st, and David has agreed to answer your questions about his investigation into those early games. David will be joined by Blizzard North co-founders David Brevik and Max Schaefer. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
MojoKid writes "Among the various SNAFUs and PR misfires related to the Xbox One release earlier this year, one item that had people upset was that Kinect would be used for advertising--or worse, that the Xbox One Kinect was actually designed with advertising in mind. The source was a UI designer who was expounding the capabilities of the Kinect and how it could be used to deliver interactive ads and used for native advertising. However, Microsoft Director of Product Planning Albert Penello threw cold water on much of it. 'First--nobody is working on that,' he said. 'We have a lot more interesting and pressing things to dedicate time towards.' He also stated that if Microsoft were to engage in something along those lines, users would definitely have control over it, meaning that Kinect would not be spying on you; you would have to engage with Kinect for anything to happen."
An anonymous reader writes "Valve has revealed their first Steam Machines prototype details. The first 300 Steam Machine prototypes to ship will use various high-end Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs while running their custom SteamOS Linux distribution. The Intel Haswell CPU + NVIDIA GPU combination should work well on Linux with the binary drivers. Using a range of CPUs/GPUs in the prototypes will allow them to better gauge the performance and effectiveness. Valve also said they will be releasing the CAD design files to their custom living room console enclosure for those who'd like to reproduce them." Valve is careful to point out that these specs aren't intended as a standard: "[T]o be clear, this design is not meant to serve the needs of all of the tens of millions of Steam users. It may, however, be the kind of machine that a significant percentage of Steam users would actually want to purchase — those who want plenty of performance in a high-end living room package. Many others would opt for machines that have been more carefully designed to cost less, or to be tiny, or super quiet, and there will be Steam Machines that fit those descriptions."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNET reports that Grand Theft Auto Online, the biggest entertainment release of the year with more than $1 billion in annual sales, is having some trouble getting the gamers online. The title, which launched on game consoles Tuesday morning, is experiencing server issues that have locked out some gamers and made it difficult for those who have gotten in to play the game. Fifteen million people purchased the game when it was released last week — and any number of them could play online when that 'perk' becomes available on October 1. 'At a conservative estimate I would expect about two million players to log on to GTA Online within the first 24 hours,' says Keza MacDonald, UK games editor for IGN.com, the video game and entertainment site. 'Rockstar has never done an online game of this scale before, so they are totally unproven in terms of their network infrastructure.' Rockstar, the game's creator, said that it was doing all it could to buy and access servers to accommodate what was expected to be massive demand for its online title. Meanwhile Twitter is abuzz with complaints from gamers who say they can't get into the service."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Valve has announced SteamOS, Steam Machines, and a Steam controller — the components necessary for it to create a viable living-room gaming experience. Valve's strategy with these releases seems pretty clear: create a platform based on openness (SteamOS is a Linux-based operating system), in contrast to the closed systems pushed by console rivals such as Sony and Microsoft. If Valve chooses to release Half-Life 3 in conjunction with its Steam Machines' rollout, it could help create further buzz for the system, given the years' worth of pent-up demand for the next chapter in the popular FPS saga. But can Valve's moves allow it to actually compete against Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony on equal terms? What do you think?"
jones_supa writes "A trademark application for Half-Life 3, possibly the next entry in Valve's excruciatingly dormant Half-Life franchise, has been filed in Europe, according to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, the European Union's trademark and designs registry. The OHIM's database lists the Half-Life 3 trademark as owned by Valve Corporation, and filed on its behalf by Casalonga & Associés, a patent and trademark firm. The trademark covers 'computer game software,' 'downloadable computer game software via a global computer network and wireless devices' and other goods and services. The application was filed on Sept. 29. There is no equivalent trademark on record at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office."
Now that we have the full picture of Valve's efforts to bring PC gaming to the living room (SteamOS, dedicated hardware, and a fresh controller design), people are starting to analyze what those efforts will mean for gaming, and what Valve must do to be successful. Eurogamer's Oli Welsh points out that even if Steam Machines aren't able to take the market away from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, they put us a step closer to the final console generation. "Valve has hopefully sidestepped the most depressing aspect of console gaming: the enforced obsolescence that makes you consign your entire games collection to a dusty cupboard every five years." GamesRadar notes that Valve's approach is fundamentally different from that of the current console manufacturers because it's about putting more power into the hands of the users. "The takeaway from SteamOS, then, is that openness breeds innovation. Valve's putting the very source code of its operating system in the hands of everyone who wants it just to see what happens. Comparatively, Microsoft is pushing its Windows Store, turning Windows into an increasingly closed platform (i.e. one that charges costly development licensing fees and restricts access to certain content providers)." Everyone's curious to see how the controller will perform, so Gamasutra and Kotaku reached out to a number of game developers who have experimented with prototypes already. "[Dan Tabar of indie studio Data Realms] said the configuration map for the controller allows you to do 'pretty much anything.' For example, developers can slice up a pad into quarters, each one representing a different input, or even into eight radial sections, again, each section representing whatever you want, mapping to key combinations, or to the mouse." Tommy Refenes, co-creator of Super Meat Boy, wrote an in-depth description of his experience with the device. He summed up his reaction by saying, "Great Start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine."
Today Valve unveiled their third and final announcement about living room gaming: a Steam controller. The company made the determination that existing gamepads simply weren't good enough for bringing PC games to the living room, so they made their own. Instead of having directional pads or thumb sticks, the Steam controller has two circular trackpads. The trackpads are also clickable, and Valve claims they provide much higher fidelity than any previous controller trackpad. Valve also eschewed the traditional 'rumble' feedback mechanism: "The Steam Controller is built around a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback, employing dual linear resonant actuators. These small, strong, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement." The center of the controller holds a clickable touchscreen. "When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven't thought of yet." The design also breaks up the common diamond-shaped button layout, instead putting the A B X Y buttons at the corners of the touchscreen. The controller is designed to be hackable, and Valve will "make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering." The controller is being beta tested concurrently with the Steam Machines they announced on Wednesday, so you can expect them to be on sale in 2014.
An anonymous reader sends this story from Kotaku's Jason Schreier about the downfall of LucasArts: "Over the last five months, I've talked to a dozen people connected to LucasArts, including ex-employees at the company's highest levels, in an attempt to figure out just how the studio collapsed. Some spoke off the record; others spoke under condition of anonymity. They told me about the failed deals, the drastic shifts in direction, the cancelled projects with codenames like Smuggler and Outpost. They told me the stories behind the fantastic-looking Star Wars 1313 and the multi-tiered plans for a new Battlefront starting with the multiplayer game known as Star Wars: First Assault. All of these people helped paint a single picture: Even before Disney purchased LucasFilm, the parent company of LucasArts, in November of 2012, the studio faced serious issues. LucasArts was a company paralyzed by dysfunction, apathy, and indecision from executives at the highest levels."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Just as the Internet fundamentally altered the way games are distributed from publishers to players, crowdfunding has upended the traditional models of raising money for gaming development, and some of the most storied people in the industry are taking notice. Chris Roberts, who created the well-known Wing Commander series in 1990, managed to raise millions of dollars on Kickstarter last fall for his upcoming Star Citizen, eventually collecting so much money from individual backers that he could return the budget he'd taken from "formal" investment firms. "Even nice investors, they want a return at some point. They have a slightly diff agenda than I do," Roberts told Slashdot. "My agenda is to build the coolest game possible." He's not the only famed developer getting into the crowdfunding game: Wasteland director Brian Fargo spent years wanting to make a sequel to his popular role-playing game, eventually accomplishing that goal via Kickstarter. And for every famous game creator who uses the power of crowds to produce a new masterwork, dozens of talented amateurs are also financing their first games via Kickstarter and similar services. But that doesn't mean there are occasional high-profile implosions, like CLANG."
Valve's second major living-room-gaming announcement landed today: they have produced a prototype model of their first "Steam Machine." They've made 300 units, and they'll be sending the machines to users in a very limited beta test. Valve hastens to add that this device isn't the only Steam-focused hardware: "Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS." They haven't released specs, but they guaranteed the prototypes will ship this year. They explicitly permit using it in any way — swapping parts, changing the OS, installing any software, etc. "The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors."
glowend writes "On 24 September 1993, computer users were introduced to Myst. Grantland takes a look at the game's legacy, two decades on. Quoting: 'Twenty years ago, people talked about Myst the same way they talked about The Sopranos during its first season: as one of those rare works that irrevocably changed its medium. It certainly felt like nothing in gaming would or could be the same after it. Yes, Myst went on to sell more than 6 million copies and was declared a game-changer (so to speak), widely credited with launching the era of CD-ROM gaming. It launched an equally critically adored and commercially successful sequel, and eventually four more installments. Fans and critics alike held their breath in anticipation of the tidal wave of exploratory, open-ended gaming that was supposed to follow, waiting to be drowned in a sea of new worlds. And then, nothing.' Why didn't Myst have a larger impact?"