Demo Blog

Steam holiday gives you games for playing games

by Michael Arsenault on Friday, December 30, 2011 , under

Massive holiday promotions kick off on Valve's store.
Steam has started its big Holiday Sale promotion, and you might as well tell everyone you know to stop calling you for the next few months.

There are more discounts than you could ever need in a lifetime, in addition rewards for completing tasks in games.
Steam will update with six challenges every day from now until January 1. Completing these challenges gets you either a gift - ranging from coupons to full games - or a piece of coal.

Coal can then be traded in for more gifts or saved up for entry into a giveaway on January 2 which will see one lucky winner get every game on Steam. All of them.

Hundreds more will win their top wish list entries and other freebies.
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Dead Island banned in Germany

by Michael Arsenault on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 , under

Dead Island has been well and truly banned in Germany.  Developers Techland join everyone else in expressing their lack of surprise at the decision. "This isn't unexpected," they told Eurogamer. "Germany has its unique regulations regarding video games and violence and the industry can only comply"

Turning the blood green won't help them with this one. Dead Island has been put on the "List B" by Germany's Federal Department of Media Harmful to Young Persons. It's a list reserved for media that contains extreme torture or Nazi content. It's probably best not to think about what gets onto "List A."

"Both Deep Silvers and Techland were aware of such a possibility from the very beginning," say the publisher. The reasons for the ban haven't been revealed publicly, but it's likely something to do with Dead Island's vast amounts of gore and dismemberment.

A place on List B makes it illegal for stores to sell the game in Germany and shipments heading into the country risk being seized at customs.
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Apple iTV probably launching next year

by Michael Arsenault on Thursday, October 27, 2011 , under

Steve Jobs believed he'd "cracked the code" on how to build a TV as well as Apple makes phones.

Apple is likely to launch its own range of televisions next year or in early 2013, according to Gene Munster, managing director and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray.

Munster, who's billed by Business Insider as the most widely trusted Apple analyst in the industry, says Steve Jobs revealed in Walter Isaacson's newly released biography that he finally "cracked the code" on how to build a TV as well as Apple makes phones.

"Our thesis is based on meetings with contacts close to Asian component suppliers, industry contacts, Apple's patent portfolio for television technology, and recent product launched (iCloud, Siri)," Munster said.

"Based on Jan-11 meetings in Asia (not with component suppliers), we believe Apple is investing in manufacturing facilities and securing supply for LCD displays. These displays could range from 3.5" mobile displays to 50" television displays.
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Playstation 3 hacked again?

by Michael Arsenault on Friday, October 21, 2011 , under

Reports suggest the PS3 has been opened up to piracy again via a new hack which takes the form of a successor to the original PSJailbreak.

Dubbed JB2, Digital Foundry says the device is a USB dongle that plugs directly into the PS3 and circumvents its security measures, giving users access to a number of features only available on developer consoles and allowing for the installation of illegal or copied code.

Newer games released after the PS3 firmware 3.60 update that locked out previous piracy methods reportedly can't be played from the hard drive using JB2. Instead, they have to come in the form of burned Blu-ray discs, which the machine reads as authorised.

With most of the evidence surrounding JB2 based on internet videos and unverified claims from sources, all talk of the device and its abilities remains speculative.

However, the report goes on to say that JB2 is believed to have undergone a small launch in Indonesia - witha  number of pirate games including PES 2012, God of War Collection Volume II and FIFA 12 made available - in preparation for a global rollout.
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Are ultrabooks the future of PC gaming?

by Michael Arsenault on Sunday, September 04, 2011 , under

How powerful does a laptop need to be? It's a pertinent question. Last week Razer unveiled a laptop it proclaimed the "saviour of PC gaming". But the big laptop news is that we're about to be deluged by 'ultrabooks' - thin and light Macbook Air clones which weigh just over a kilo, but pack powerful Core i5/i7 processors.

Earlier in the year, Intel demonstrated its commitment to ultrabooks by setting aside a $300m fund to support laptop manufacturers trying to build affordable lightweight laptops. The Macbook Air is very nice, but it isn't cheap. The chip maker is keen on the idea because it's hoping that potential tablet buyers will be tempted to get a real laptop that's very nearly as portable.

There's absolutely no reason to buy an Intel-based tablet right now, as they're power hungry, heavy and run Windows. The iPad and Android tablets are all doing much better with processors derived from ARM's architecture. As tablets eat into one of Intel's core markets - netbook shipments fell by over 50% in Europe last quarter - it's clear they have to do something.

Over at IFA in Berlin this week, quite a few manufacturers have been showing off ultrabooks. Toshiba's Portege Z830 (pictured above) looks fantastic , as does ASUS UX31, and Acer's Aspire S3 packs a (duel core) Core i7 chip into machine that's thinner, lighter and cheaper than an Air. Samsung's Series 9 and Sony's Vaio Z have both been out for a few weeks now, although they're a bit pricier.

As far as gaming goes, most of these ultrabooks feature the higher specced option from Intel's Sandy Bridge hybrid GPUs, the HD Graphics 3000. It's not great, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not entirely useless either. I've been playing aorund with an ultrabook - although I can't say which one - for a couple of days. It's obviously very limited for gaming, but Dues Ex: Human Revolution is just about playable at its lowest detail settings. Even there, it looks better than most Xbox games.

I wouldn't recommend buying an ultrabook for games just yet, but next year's models with better GPUs should be really interesting. With the Steam Cloud syncing save games between your desktop PC and an ultraportable laptop so you can fill in a few puzzles or levels while you're on the train, the convenience more than makes up for the temporary loss in resolution and details.

As much as I like the look of Razer's LED laptop touchpads, I'd be willing to bet that there'll be more ultrabooks figuring in the future of PC gaming than there will be Blades.
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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive trailer reveals cross-platform play, Valve to host official servers

by Michael Arsenault on Friday, August 26, 2011 , under

The first trailer for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has landed on Gametrailers. In between messages mentioning the new weapons, maps and game modes, one pop up confirms that CS:GO will have cross platform play, giving us an opportunity to playfully shoot Playstation 3 and Mac players in the face.

Kotaku have spent some time with CS:GO, and can confirm a few new facts.  Global Offensive will have a "casual mode" which will give players funds to buy whatever they like between rounds. This mode will also support cross team chat and let you spectate enemy team members. "Competitive mode' will provide a more traditional Counter-Strike set up.

Valve are also planning to host their own servers for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Players will still be able to set up and host their own dedicated servers outside of Valve's systems, but official servers will come with their own skill-based matchmaking system, and aim to provide a consistent experience for competitive play.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is being shown at a number of trade shows over the next few weeks, including PAX, and will go into beta in October.  Valve haven't said much about new maps and modes, but told Kotaku that one of them would cast some players as bank robbers. CS:GO is out next year.
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DOTA vs Dota 2: Valve and Blizzard go to war

by Michael Arsenault on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 , under

Never mind the fuss over Scrolls/The Elder Scrolls - if you want trademark confusion, look to DOTA.

To recap. There's the original DOTA, aka Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft III map. There's Valve's Dota 2, which doesn't actually stand for anything, acting as a direct commercial sequel.  Next year, we can expect Blizzard's official take, with a Starcraft map combining heroes from all of its units.  And then there's League of Legends, the same game at heart, whose creators want everyone to use the term MOBA - Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Sound fair? Perhaps, except that even if you ignore that about 99% of online action games could qualify as that, the likes of Funcom's Bloodline Champions apparently don't, at least not in the eyes of the players... because they're not DOTA.

That pain in your head is a migraine no amount of Neurofen will shift.

What's interesting about this fight is that it's set to be primarily one for the hearts and minds of players rather than a duel of lawyers. There's still time for them to get involved, but so far all sides are holding back. Speaking with Eurogamer at Gamescom, Blizzard provided comments like "I don't think it's critical [to have the name DOTA] to delivering that experience to the fans, personally", with Valve's Gabe Newell responding "I haven't had any customers or gamers react negatively to it. They seem to be pretty comfortable with it." Maybe both sides are hoping to score that all-important last hit bonus?

Hopefully this continues when the games actually launch, with the companies all furiously building the same basic game accepting that at the very least, they can afford to be gentleman if the community ultimately opts for the version with Diablo in it instead of free Team Fortress hats, or vice-versa. If not, Valve currently has by far the strongest hand, having registered the Dota trademark and hired one of the original map's maintainers, while Blizzard merely made the game other people used to create it.

Both games are expected next year.  Valve's Dota 2 arriving first as a standalone product, Blizzard's DOTA around the same time as Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm. To get your DOTA/MOBA on now, look to League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth, or the new kid on the block, Rise of Immortals.
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