Microsoft Planning Windows 10 And Xbox Gaming Press Event Next Month!

Microsoft has promised to adopt a more unified approach to its entire ecosystem and launch first-party exclusives on mobile, PC and Xbox. Despite various announcements including Killer Instinct, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Fable Legends, Microsoft still needs to have a more proactive approach towards PC gaming to forge a new reputation. It’s needed though given the dismal reception of Games for Windows Live and broken promises to take the platform seriously. Many PC gamers are eagerly awaiting an announcement for Halo: The Master Chief Collection and the latest Forza title. However, up to this point, it seems Microsoft isn’t interested and continuing to lock the core line-up on the Xbox One.

Clearly, the situation could change if the Xbox One continues to sell poorly or Microsoft decides to pull out of the console market altogether. The company has just started to send out press invitations to an event based entirely around the Xbox brand and Windows gaming. It will take place on February 25th in San Francisco and told attendees they have:

“..the chance to hear from Head of Xbox Phil Spencer and get hands-on with the best games and platform experiences launching this spring on Xbox and Windows 10.”

Putting speculation aside, I cannot foresee any major Windows 10 announcements occurring and Microsoft will probably just showcase upcoming releases. Furthermore, the last Windows 10 gaming press event felt very disappointing and didn’t really live up to hype with rumors suggesting Halo would eventually come to the PC. Perhaps, there will be some discussion about Directx 12 and the impact of this latest API on various devices with developers taking to the stage. I think Microsoft has to be very careful though because they need to encourage Xbox One system sales while providing enough content to PC gamers to keep them happy.

Indie Dev Will no Longer Offer Free Press Copies

Paul Stephen-Davis, the CEO of Retro Army Limited, has announced the company will no longer provide review codes to press outlets. This decision comes after a wave of scammers and key resellers exploited the developer and pretended to be a legitimate website. Indie developers struggle to deal with the PR side given their limited budget and the line between press and consumer has become quite vague in recent years. Now, each developer has to judge if a Twitch streamer, YouTuber or print press are eligible for press copy and the numbers of requests have risen exponentially.

As a result, I greatly sympathize with his position and feel too many “press” are being allowed access to pre-release games. Currently, many reviews come from individuals with another job who don’t invest their full-time into this career path. I believe, press keys should only be provided to “professional” reviewers who do this as their sole means of a living. The developer argues:

“Personally I think it’s unfair to players that buy the game when others(reviewers) are getting it for free.”

“Our main policy is to protect and take care of our players first.”

This is where I disagree with the comments made, and in quite a strong fashion. While being a member of the full-time professional press is possible, it’s very unlikely in 2015. Most reviewers are unpaid, on a pitiful wage or rely on Patreon funding. It’s absurd to ask reviewers to fund their the cost of reviews considering they are usually giving their time and expertise for free. Most job listings for a gaming website describe a review position as voluntary and argue compensation is provided through game codes and access to press events.

Consumers might be irked that the press receive games for free, but the reality is they are on a much higher wage than 99.9% of the gaming press. Writing is a 7-day a week, demanding job without 9-5 office hours. Unfortunately, the reputation of gaming journalists is atrocious and some of the perceptions are valid. Members of the press can lash out on social media or have potentially biased relationships without disclosing any information prior to publishing.

To reiterate, I understand how frustrating this must be for indies, but they must realize how difficult it is to forge a career in the gaming media. Ironically, low-medium tier press have virtually no money and work on a smaller budget than a tiny studio. In an ideal world, I would like the most talented and insightful journalists to be paid a good, living wage. However, with reducing ad-revenue, community media and Adblock, it seems this could be a dying art-form.

Do you think games critics should receive titles for free?

Super Trench Attack 2 is currently available from Steam for £4.99 and is a survival turn-based squad game set in a fictional world war setting.

World of Warcraft Subscribers Descend To 9 Year Low

Is it me or has World of Warcraft been around forever and a day? It certainly feels that way considering the game was released way back in 2004, since then it has spawned expansions to the excitement of fans, but it seems subscription numbers are not quite what they used to be.

According to the press release from Activision, World of Warcraft has 5.6 million subscribers to of the end of the second business quarter which for Activision is 30th June 2015.

Blizzard president Mike Morhaime stated the Warlords of Draenor expansion brought more returning players to the game than any previously. He also confirmed plans for the company to increases the rate of content to help attract new players while also retaining existing fans.

For a game which is nearly 11 years old, I do think it is an achievement to be able to attract 5.6 million subscribers, considering how current market trends will become obsolete in a matter of months. For me, this is the unfortunate by-product of listing your company to investors, yes it brings in much-needed revenue, but it does not take long for the market to react to any slight negative data which would impact on profits.

If you’re a regular reader to my articles for eTeknix then you know I like a tangent, and here it is, take a look at the WWE, Hulk Hogan was erased for two reasons, the obvious “open your mouth before engaging brain” with the second reason being that WWE share price lost $50 million dollars as the market reacted to the news. Investors call the shots and back successful trends and track record projects, any negative press effects company value. Investors wonder why they have not attracted more players; try 11 years with the same concept being rehashed within expansions. This is why you also have Fifa 2679 and Call of Duty Black Ops 12, the balance sheet conveys a track record of revenue to consumers.

Thank you Polygon for providing us with this information.

Microsoft’s Privacy Website Hacked

Digital privacy is a topic of hot debate at the moment. Covering topics from terrorism to hacking, people are more aware of what’s happening and who’s reading their messages in greater detail. Digital Constitution is Microsoft’s website dedicated to enforcing the concept of digital privacy. It would seem that security was not a topic priority with the website though.

First discovered on the 18th June, the site is seen (as above) with a list of keywords focusing on gambling that hyperlinked to several online casino websites. Even several hours after the initial hack was reported several pages within still linked to gambling related sites.

At the time of the breach being discovered the site was using an outdated version of WordPress, running at 4.0.5 (the current being 4.2.2).

The sites initial purpose was in response to the Edward Snowden revelations regarding the extent of observations being conducted by governments. Containing information about digital privacy cases, legal actions taken around privacy and Microsoft’s stance on people’s right to digital privacy.

From the style, execution and content the hack appears to have been done by somebody rather than done by an organisation for a specific reason. Hopefully, this reminds Microsoft to keep all of their websites up to date, as we all should with all our software.

Thank you ZDNet for the information and image.

ASRock VIP Event @ Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – On the second day of Computex, we were invited to attend a VIP conference to gain more detailed information on the booth showcased on the main floor.

Once we arrived, it was a typical affair, projector and screen with a few rows of chairs and a tantalising layout of product to our right. We were allowed to grab a few pictures before taking a seat, which primarily featured the new 100 series motherboards, ASRocks new Beebox NUC and a random TV/ monitor; which will be used in a demonstration later. Along with all of these, ASRock has a large standing banner suggesting that they have a new brand; ASRock Gaming. This will now categorise some of the motherboards under this new brand; much like previous Fatal1ty motherboards within the ‘Killer’ or ‘Professional’ branding.

The motherboard line-up featured some old classics from the Fatal1ty and Extreme Range with the new chipset and features such as USB 3.1 and USB type-C. Although they are not displayed here, ASRock also offers other 100 series motherboards based on the B150 and H170 chipsets. With the new 100 series, only the Z170’s will feature DDR4 compatibility while the rest will remain with DDR3.

  

      

We look forward to the release of the 100 series motherboards and supported processors and we aim to review them as soon as possible after launch. We will keep you updated with any news and events from the rest of Computex 2015.

Peter Molyneux Accepts Blame for his Portrayal as a “Fraud”

Infamous game developer Peter Molyneux has suffered quite a hammering of late, not least due to the Curiosity/Godus debacle, and he now concedes that he is partly to blame for his portrayal in the press as a “fraud” and a “liar”, admitting that he’s guilty of waxing lyrical about game features that excite him at the time, but that won’t necessarily make it into the game that he is discussing.

“The mistake I made, and I’ve made it again and again and again, and if I ever do this again I’ll probably make it again,” Molyneux said, speaking at the Reboot Develop Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia yesterday, “is to go to talk to the press about my current ideas. As you can see from the iterative development side, the current idea is the most exciting idea ever.”

Molyneux spoke about E3 press junkets, and how he would try to rouse weary journalists by giving them a glimpse into his imagination. “In Fable, I said ‘one of the things I’d love in an RPG is to have this world that evolves. I’d love to have trees that grew’,”, Molyneux said. “Well, they grew in Black and White. So I said I’d love to have an acorn you could plant and would grow into a tree. But of course the game didn’t have that, but that became the headline. And some people get so incensed. “why are you lying to us?” I wasn’t lying – this is what I thought of the game at the moment. They say this is fraud.”

I like Peter Molyneux. I think there’s plenty of room in a game industry dominated by AAA titles, sequels, and tie-ins for original thinkers with great ambitions, and Molyneux has had that box ticked for over thirty years. The guy is still very passionate about his work, despite regular criticism and attacks. However, it seems the irony of complaining about bad press in a public forum that will subsequently be reported in the press seems lost on him. Though he admits to mistakes, and that he will “probably make [them] again”, Molyneux must realise that not only is he’s swimming against the tide in continuing to fight this perception, he is as guilty as anyone of keeping it in the public consciousness. That die is cast, and he’s only reinforcing it by discussing it so frequently.

Conversely, instead of being chastised for failing to meet his own ambitions, Molyneux should be celebrated for having them in the first place, and long may that continue.

Thank you Gamasutra for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Indie Haven.

Valve Starts Teasing People with New Half-Life 3 Rumor

Valve has been ridiculously trolling people with various hints of a new equal to its Half-Life title, either through memes or other forms of hilarious trolls. In its latest attempt, the signs might be more obvious than ever before.

RagnarRox has recently added a Facebook post stating that Valve has scheduled a public press-conference on the 3rd of March, at 3pm. Let us stop and think for a second on that. March, which is the 3rd month of the year, the 3rd day of the month and at 3pm. Is it a coincidence?

We can even go deeper into the “conspiracy” here and take into account the place of the conference, which is San Francisco. The word “San” can also be interpreted as “three” in Japanese, further adding to the craze of the 3’s. Could it be that this is the real deal?

Thank you TweakTown for providing us with this information

Uber Banned in Delhi Following Alleged Rape by Driver

The Delhi transport department has banned the popular ride sharing service following allegations of rape by an Uber driver. The male driver allegedly raped a 25-year-old female passenger on Friday.

Shiv Kumar Yadav was previously arrested for rape in 2011, but charges were dropped following a settlement between him and the alleged victim.

The news comes as a significant blow for Uber in India, a country where the ride sharing app has been growing quickly. India’s economic status combined with the easy business opportunities and subsequent cheap fairs that Uber can deliver, makes the service ideal for the country. The loss of the service in Delhi will bo doubt hamper that growth.

A statement from Uber’s CEO, delivered before the ban, made suggestions that Uber’s plans for background checks were to be more comprehensive than those already delivered by the Indian government in their own “commercial transportation licensing programs”.

“We will work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs. We will also partner closely with the groups who are leading the way on women’s safety here in New Delhi and around the country and invest in technology advances to help make New Delhi a safer city for women.” – Travis Kalanick

Uber has had a pretty rough time recently, with allegations of spying, supposed plans to “dig up dirt” on journalists and opposition from governments and the transportation industry.

Source: Gizmodo

‘God View’ and Other Uber Scandals This Week

This week has been a bad week for Uber, the car sharing service.

First, Uber executive Emil Michael, caused a stir when he suggested paying “professional journalists” $1 million to dig up dirt on other journalists who were saying bad things about the company. Nicole Campbell wrote for the Huffington Post about how she was at a dinner with Emil when she heard his suggestion.

“Emil flippantly said he could hire professional journalists for $1 million to get the expertise to make sure that they could respond when negative articles come out.”

If things couldn’t get any worse, a new story revealed that Uber executives have access to a secret ‘God View’ that allows them to track individual cars and even users of the app. A BuzzFeed reporter said that during a visit to Uber’s offices, she was told that she’d been tracked before her arrival.

“Early this November, one of the reporters of this story, Johana Bhuiyan, arrived to Uber’s New York headquarters in Long Island City for an interview with Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York. Stepping out of her vehicle — an Uber car — she found Mohrer waiting for her. “There you are,” he said, holding his iPhone and gesturing at it. “I was tracking you.”

The news has led to some suggesting a boycott of the service, while others are questioning the overly hubris or big-headed nature of Uber and its executives.

Source: Huffington Post, BuzzFeed

 

 

First-Ever Full-Page Medical Marijuana Ad Published by The New York Times

The New York Times is said to have published a full-page ad regarding medical marijuana for Leafly, the first ever cannabis company that lets users browse, rate and review medical suppliers in your area. This comes just a month after the newspaper stated it would support the marijuana legalization cause.

In addition, the New York Times’ editorial board is said to have endorsed federal legalization of marijuana, pointing out that its moderate use has no proven evidence of being more harmful than tobacco or alcohol. Even so, the newspaper stated that people under the age of 21 should be restricted from consuming it.

New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has signed the Compassionate Care Act a month ago, making medical marijuana legal starting from the 7th of July. The state appears to be the 24th in the hierarchy of states to legalize medical marijuana in the US, including Washington and Colorado.

Leafly’s ad, which features the slogan “Just Say Know”, is said to have taken 18 months to finish. This means that the company had started working on it before New York actually legalized medical marijuana, stating that patients and the general public “need a reliable, mainstream information portal about cannabis that is free of classic stoner stereotypes”.

“We want to help New York patients learn about cannabis and make responsible and informed consumer choices about the product best suited for their medical conditions,” Leafly wrote in a blog post

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of Mashable

AMD 14.11 Beta Driver Gets Released To The Press, First Impressions Revealed

Reports are that AMD has finally released the Catalyst 14.1 beta to the press. The driver is said to bring along the first release of Mantle, AMD’s ambitious 3D graphics API to rival Direct3D and OpenGL. The Catalyst 14.1 beta is said to enable the 3D renderer option in Battlefield 4, which lets you choose between DirectX 11.1 and Mantle.

TechPowerUp apparently gave it a try and they reported that the first ‘impressions’ about AMD’s mantle were nothing close to amazing. The difference between Mantle and non-Mantle systems is currently not noticeable on a Radeon R9 290 graphics card, having all settings set to 1920 x 1080 resolution, Ultra details and 4x MSAA on Battlefield 4. It is reported that the game runs smooth and well over 60 on both Mantle and non-Mantle settings. However, TechPowerUp point out that owners of a Radeon R9 270X will see a significant increase having the same settings applied, whereas on non-Mantle specs, the game’s FPS would drop below 60 FPS. Also, the driver is reported not to be optimized for any of the Graphics CoreNext (GCN) based GPUs other than Radeon R9 290 series, R9 260X, and A-Series “Kaveri” APUs.

TechPowerUp’s specs were as following: 8 GB of DCh DDR3-1333 memory, an AMD 990FX motherboard (ASUS M5A99FX-PRO R2.0, 2201 BIOS, UEFI mode); Windows 8.1 64-bit, and of course, a Radeon R9 290 (BIOS: 015.042.000.000.003747). The game settings are said to be 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution, disabled V-Sync, “Ultra” preset, HBAO, and 4x MSAA. We used the “PerfOverlay.FrameFileLogEnable 1” console command to spit out CSV files with frame-times in ms.

A 167-second playthrough on the single-player campaign chapter “Fishing in Baku,” was performed with the above specs, first being a non-Mantle test. An average frame-time of 16.26 ms, which works out to 61.5 fps. For Mantle, the same 167-second mark was performed, and the average frame-time was 14.45 ms, which works out to 69.2 fps. Overall, a 12.5 percent performance uplift was recorded. It is not much, but given the driver is still a Beta and still not optimized for anything other than the R9 290 series and R29X (if the optimization is final for those as well), we can see the 319% increase stated by AMD in the future.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information

Western Digital Announce New Product Line – My Cloud

Cloud storage for a number of people is a precarious storage solution as the worries about other people potentially having access to their data is something that lingers over the public cloud storage market. Many people are familiar with current online cloud storage options such as Dropbox (of which I’m a user myself), iCloud which all iOS devices have access to, and Google Drive amongst others.

The problem with all these options however is the fact that you can’t yourself pinpoint exactly where your data is stored and all of these providers will tend to scan your content for viruses etc, meaning that its not going to be up there without it being viewed in some way or another.

Being able to have you data stored at home and then shared out to the internet in your own personal cloud is a solution that for many users has not been possible for a long while. True if you had the knowledge, you could share a drive on to the internet, presuming you had a router that supported that feature such as Netgear’s R6300 and you know what your IP  address was at all times, but this is not the most secure nor the easiest of options either.

This is now where Western Digital have stepped up to the mark to create a drive that simply plugs into the existing home network and with the use of a mobile app or desktop management program, is able to share file, securely through 128-bit AES encryption, to anywhere in the world. Bring forward the ‘My Cloud’.

Built around a dual core ARM A9 CPU and paired with 256MB or DDR3 memory, the small system that is no bigger than their current products such as the MyBook Elite, comes in a range of capacities ranging from 2TB up to 4TB. On top of this the My Cloud also features a USB3.0 port for expansion by connecting another storage drive that will show up as a separate shared folder on the system, or which can be used to create a backup of the entire system in the form of ‘Safepoints’.

The My Cloud can be accessed either on the local network via a desktop management app or can be remotely connected to from anywhere in the world via the mobile app or web based user interface. Sharing files to friends and family is also very simple, files are given a unique URL, and this can be sent to a third party so that they can get access to that file only. Access to sync the drive with other cloud solutions such as Dropbox is also made simple with seamless integration through the mobile app. The mobile app will also be fully backwards compatible with the current line of My Book Live devices and users will notice that the WD-to-Go app will be updated to the new My Cloud app through their relevant app store

The My Cloud, priced at £129 for the 2TB model and £159 for the 3TB model (4TB model due later in the year in November is awaiting UK pricing) will be available from today through a number of online e-tailors such as Dixons online. This makes the price for storage far cheaper than online cloud options which charge a yearly fee in some cases only provide a fraction of the storage capacity for a higher cost.

Source – WD Press event