Demo Blog

Call of Duty sales slip could cause FPS 'panic' - Bodycount dev

by Michael Arsenault on Thursday, June 30, 2011 , under

Codemasters' Bodycount game director Andy Wilson has warned that the Call of Duty franchise is only as good as its last effort, and a slip-up in quality for the series could see Activision's dominance come crumbling down.

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When we asked Wilson whether he thought gamers were growing tired of Call of Duty he said that yearly updates were risky when it comes to story-driven games. 

"Possibly. That's the danger when you get into yearly updates," he said. 

"I've never really been a fan of it - I don't think you do yourself any favours by getting into a cycle that's not a sports licence. 

"With something like F1 of course you do a yearly update - I'm a massive F1 fan and I would buy an F1 game every year just to get new cars and drivers. That for me is a valid thing. 

"When you're doing it with a story-driven action franchise, you can tire people out really quickly I think, and you just get to the point where it's like, 'What are we going to do next?' because we've seen it all before."

Wilson continued by suggesting that the integrity of the FPS genre as a whole seems to rest on whether or not the COD franchise can maintain its quality:

"I don't know with Call of Duty. I think we'll see by how well the next one does. It's always 'how well the next one does'. If it continues to be all the way up there, then fine. 

"I think the year it slips below, the year it doesn't do quite as well as it did last time, is when you're going to start to see people panicking a little bit about the FPS genre having the bottom fall out of it.
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Minecraft adventure update to add NPC villages

by Michael Arsenault on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 , under

Yesterday Notch revealed that the upcoming adventure update for Minecraft would be split up. Pistons will be hitting soon with the 1.7 update, but the major, game changing additions will be polished up and released as patch 1.8.
Today Notch announces that he’s going to be slightly less secretive about the contents of the adventure update, but just secretive enough to keep us guessing. He is becoming wise in the dark arts of marketing. While the precise contents of the new update remain sort-of under wraps, the aim is clear.

“The update is pretty big,” says Notch “and will change a lot of how Minecraft is played, focusing on making exploration and combat much more rewarding, and bringing in a bigger sense of adventure to the game.”
So what do we really know about the adventure update? Notch promises “new complex terrain features, at least one new mob, some interesting new combat mechanics, a new lighting engine, and some experimental new gameplay ideas.”
“To come is more interesting farming, bigger incentives to explore,” he adds, before casually dropping a bomb shell, adding “and npc villages.”
NPCs in Minecraft? With their own towns? Will we be able to talk to them? Trade with them? Kill ten boars for them? Only time will tell. There’s no release window for updates 1.7 or 1.8 just yet, but “1.8 is still a significant time away,” according to Notch.
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Battlefield 3 two player co-op mode will span ten missions

by Michael Arsenault on Monday, June 27, 2011 , under

A sliver of light has been shed on Battlefield 3′s co-op mode in the latest issue of PSM3. The mode will support two players side by side, will span ten missions and will be a standalone section, separate from the single player game. Apart from that, DICE are keeping a tight lid on things. Hopefully they’ll will show more as we get closer to the October 25 release date.
It’ll be going head to head with Modern Warfare 3′s Spec Ops mode, which offers its own series of co-op missions for four players at a time. The Modern Warfare 3 spec ops mode was recently demonstrated live on US television, while Battlefield 3 got plenty of screen time over the course of E3, with footage of a single player mission set in a tank, and action from the Operation Metro multiplayer map.
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Team Fortress 2 Über Update: Meet the Medic

by Michael Arsenault on Saturday, June 25, 2011 , under

Between the update nearing release and the free to play announcement, it’s TF2 mania on Steam! The servers are currently getting hammered, so watch this while you wait.
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Google gearing up games division

by Michael Arsenault on Friday, June 24, 2011 , under

Google looks to be moving into the games industry with a brand new division called Games at Google.The search giant has put out a job ad for a product manager in the new business. The responsibilities of the role include driving feature requirements for "Google's gaming platform."

Back in October last year it was suggested that Google TV could eventually be set to take on WII and Kinect as the family game platform of choice in living rooms across the UK.

Google said that it "makes sense" for its new platform to offer video game apps to the family consumer in future.

Here's the full product manager job description for Google Games: "Rare opportunity to grow a brand-new business - Games at Google! We are looking for a strategic, technical and game-loving Product Manager to drive Google's gaming strategy." 

"You will design strategies for game distribution and discovery, player identity, game mechanics, and more. In addition to designing a great user experience and building out key partnerships, you will be significantly influencing Google's social platform as you work directly with a critical set of early adopters, game developers." 

"Interesting and impactful decisions involving social gaming, privacy, virality, business, and technical APIs await you and the strong, passionate team of gamers you will work with."

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Apple will own games industry in 10 years - Phil Harrison

by Michael Arsenault on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 , under

Former PlayStation executive VP Phil Harrison has made the sensational prediction that Apple won't just dominate the video games industry in ten years' time - it will own it.Harrison knows a thing or two about industry trends, having been a key member of the Sony teams that launched all three PlayStation models.

"At this trajectory, if you extrapolate the market-share gains that they are making, forward for ten years - if they carry on unrestrained in their growth, then there's a pretty good chance that Apple will be the games industry," Harrison told Edge in a new interview.

When asked to clarify his point, Harrison said: "[I mean in terms of] the proliferation of devices - you've got iPhones, iPads, iPods, which are all part of the same ecosystem; the speed at which Apple sold 15 million iPads is phenomenal. And the number one activity on an iPad, according to some reports, is games, and I think that will only continue.

"The fact that the consumer purchase and discovery mechanism is so well integrated - you see something on the App Store, you click a button, the product delivers to your device. That end-to-end shopping experience, if you want to call it that, has been so elegantly built by Apple and they will continue to refine it. 

"I probably buy more through Amazon, in terms of value, than any other retailer throughout the year. I find that the rest of the world - meaning Apple, Amazon, Steam - are showing the future of how content will be consumed, adding to that NetFlix and LoveFilm and the like, and that console companies run the risk of becoming a little antiquated unless they change their business model."

Harrison joined Sony way back in 1992, and served as VP of 3rd Party Relations and Research and Development for SCEA from 1996 to 2000. In 2005, he took the role of president of Sony's worldwide studios network, overseeing developers including Evolution and Guerilla.

He left the platform holder in 2008 and joined Infogrames/Atari, but left two years later. He now sites on the board of Cloud gaming outfit Gaikai.
Although Apple didn't have a presence at this year's E3 2011, its Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) ran simultaneously in San Francisco.
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Microsoft says WebGL browser games are “harmful”

by Michael Arsenault on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 , under

Bad news for open standards browser-based gaming: Microsoft’s has said that it won’t be supporting WebGL now or in the foreseeable future.
The announcement was made via its Technet blog site, under the rather damning headline “WebGL considered harmful”.
The development of WebGL is being managed by The Khronos Group, which is also responsible for OpenGL, OpenCL and so on. WebGL is a cross platform API designed to give your browser access to your graphics card and enable hardware acceleration of JavaScript games.

According to security experts at Microsoft, the problem with WebGL is not so much any existing security holes, but the fact that it gives online programs so much access to the inner workings of your PC. That means interacting with a lot of third party drivers which will make future issues many and hard to spot.
“While it may be possible to mitigate these risks to some extent,” says the Technet blog, “The large attack surface exposed by WebGL remains a concern.”
It’s not just Microsoft who thinks WebGL is a problem either. Yesterday, security firm Context Information Security sent us a press release saying that WebGL is a “back-door threat” with elements “not fit for purpose”. They specifically highlight an issue whereby a WebGL app can take a screenshot of the client PC and send oit back to the server. They also point out the current – but soon to be patched – vulnerability in Firefox which allows a WebGL app to execute a DoS attack by opening lots of windows on the desktop. This is the second time Context has spoken out against WebGL.
What Microsoft’s statement means for WebGL at this point isn’t clear. Internet Explorer doesn’t support WebGL right now anyway: presumably this announcement means that Windows Phone and Windows 8′s fancy new HTML5-friendly interface won’t either.
While Microsoft’s argument about third party drivers and unpredictable security holes makes sense, it’s hard not to reason that a single vendor controlling the entire chain of control from server to graphics card undoubtedly benefit said vendor too. While the security concerns are obviously relevant, this also looks like the opening salvo in a similar battle to the OpenGL/DirectX one over a decade ago. That’s a battle less likely to have a clear winner if Microsoft ends up facing off against the likely supporters of cross platform web gaming: Google and Apple. You could probably throw Facebook and Amazon into that too.
Jonathan Hirshon, a spokesperson for Khronos Group, told PC Gamer that browser developers are still working towards full compliance with the WebGL standard.
“All browser vendors are still working toward passing the WebGL conformance suite,” Hirshon said, “Only once they have successfully done so can they claim support.”
Which means that it’s early days for WebGL. While you wait for proper browser support, though, it might be worth taking Context’s main piece of advice and disabling it in your browser settings if you run Chrome or Firefox (the only browsers to support it).
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Far Cry 3 E3 2011

by Michael Arsenault on Monday, June 20, 2011 , under

The maniacal performance of the player character’s captor, Vaas in the Far Cry 3 demo was one of the most memorable moments of E3 this year. We caught up with narrative director on Far Cry 3, Jason Vandenberghe on the show floor to discuss the art of honing a great virtual performance, and explore the reasons why so many virtual actors end up in “the uncanny valley of performance.”

Far Cry 3′s virtual actors are captured from real performances, using technology that records body and face movements simultaneously. Vandenberghe told us that keeping the body and facial performances together made it much easier to shoot Far Cry 3′s scenes. “We were able to play it as a movie,” he says.

However, getting Vaas’s performance onto a hard drive involved more than simply pointing a camera at the actor. “I think we have to be sophisticated and use these tools correctly,” says Vandenberghe. “Directing actors is also a technical discipline, and a creative discipline.
“There are techniques in acting and performance that evoke great performances, and there are techniques in acting and performance that evoke good performances. The industry has gotten really good at getting good performances, almost no-one can get great ones.”
Talking about why some virtual performances work and others don’t, Vanderberghe said “there’s an uncanny valley of performance, not just in characters, but performance, and we are just, like, one or two of us have just gotten across that frickin’ gulf, right? Like, scrambling up of it, going “okay!”
“Now we have to figure out how to repeat that, and make sure that we’re consistent in doing it, so it’s a fun moment to be pushing that. Our goal is to be at the very front, to be way ahead of anyone else.”
For more on Far Cry 3, check out our Far Cry 3 preview from the E3 2011 show floor. The Far Cry 3 announcement was one of our pick of the biggest news story of E3 this year.
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Tomb Raider from E3 2011

by Michael Arsenault on Saturday, June 18, 2011 , under

E3 is a reason to get excited every summer. It’s not like GDC where we get to hear the insiders story on game development, or the day to day coverage of the industry. E3 is all about seeing. That’s why E3 is the event where developers and publishers show off the most spectacular trailers and offer extensive demo footage of the next big titles you’re going to be playing. E3 2011 was packed with video footage of some of the most exciting upcoming titles, from those just around the corner like Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, to those still a long way off, such as Tomb Raider.
Of all the games I’ve seen at E3 this year, two are battling for supremacy. Naturally Battlefield 3 is one of them, but Tomb Raider is putting up a fight. Everything about it looks gorgeous; from Lara herself to the grimy environments to the outstanding flame effects. The demo was the sole impressive element of an otherwise poor show from a Kinect-obsessed Microsoft. Despite the demo not showing what I wanted to see (namely the expansive open areas of the island), it did give a good sense of the claustrophobia some of the environments will offer. Uncomfortable tension was broken by outbursts of violence, although the frantic scrambles away from the few enemies emphasise that combat may well be more of an event than a regular occurrence, which would bring a better sense of gritty realism to the normally gun-totting Miss Croft. There were some sequences of QTE, but I’m hoping that these will be nothing to worry about.
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Portal 2 DLC adds Sixense motion levels, Hydra motion controller out now

by Michael Arsenault on Friday, June 17, 2011 , under

A new map pack for Portal 2 has been released, adding new six chambers designed to be played with the Razer Hydra motion controller. The controller features two control sticks that can be used to pick up items, stretch special cubes and rotate portals. The Hydra works with all Portal 2 single player and co-op missions, but the MotionPack levels will feature special items and puzzles that take advantage of the controller’s unique abilities.

The MotionPack comes bundled with with Razer Hydra controller, which can be bought in the US now through Steam, or directly from Razer for $140. According to Razer's site, the Hydra is compatible with 125 other games, including Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Call of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. .
The controller consists of a central orb that sits on your desktop and two handheld control sticks. The orb generates a low level electromagnetic field, and the Hydra uses magnetic sensors to determine the exact position and angle of the two handheld devices. Razer say the unit boasts an “ultra precise sensor for 1mm and 1 degree tracking” and “ultra-low latency” for faster response.
It’s impossible to know how the Hydra really feels until it’s in our hands, but a series of demo videos on the Razer site gives us an idea of the movements needed to perform in-game actions. You can watch the videos below. The motions appear smaller and more subtle than the wild arm waving that we’ve seen on similar devices like the Wii-mote. The Hydra is only available in the US, for now. It’s currently available to pre-order from Razer EU for 140 Euros, and is listed as “shipping in June.”
The MotionPack is the first piece of DLC for Portal 2, but there’s more in the pipeline. We can expect more test chambers, leaderboards and challenge modes later this summer. The release of the Razer Hydra on Steam is another landmark moment. If Steam can sell a motion controller, why not any other piece of hardware?
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Crysis 2 vanishes from Steam, now listed as “only on Origin”

by Michael Arsenault on Thursday, June 16, 2011 , under

Crysis 2 has vanished from the Steam store, apparently pulled by EA so that they can sell the game exclusively through their new digital store, Origin.
Kotaku note that the game’s disappearance on Steam coincides with a note on the EA site declaring that Crysis 2 is available “only through Origin.” In reality it’s still possible to buy the game through a number of other sites, including Direct2Drive, Amazon and Impulse. It’s unclear whether EA will have Crysis 2 removed from those sites, too, or whether they’re intentionally targeting Steam as their main competitor.
EA have already said that Star Wars: The Old Republic will only be available digitally through Origin, but the latest move raises the question of whether future EA games like Mass Effect 3 and Battlefield 3 will only be available through EA’s download service.
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The biggest PC stories of E3 2011

by Michael Arsenault on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 , under

Battlefield 3 gets a release date, beta plans announced

Battlefield 3 was spectacular at E3 this year. It was one of the best looking games at the show. The EA conference tank mission demo stole our war-obsessed hearts and made us all go “ooooh!” at the screen. In terms of actual news, however, the October 25 release date is a big deal. Battlefield 3 will get a couple of weeks head start on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (out November 8). There will also be a Battlefield 3 beta in   September.

Far Cry 3 revealed
Far Cry 3 is coming. The sequel plans to combine the lush jungle environments of Far Cry with the open world of Far Cry 2. Ubisoft promise that the AI has been altered this time so the action happens when the player wants, not when an overzealous patrol comes within a mile. The lawless island will be fully explorable, and the game is built in an upgraded version of the powerful Dunia engine that fuelled Far Cry 2′s enormous world.

Bioshock Infinite trailer and demo amazes

This year’s Bioshock Infinite E3 trailer was impressive, but the behind the scenes demo Graham saw was even better. He saw a world full of big ideas and exciting gun fights, a battle of philosophies on a gorgeous floating city. 

Mirror’s Edge 2 plans hinted at, could use Frostbite 2

While not quite exactly confirming anything, EA games president Frank Gibeau made it quite clear that EA plans to bring back Mirror's Edge. What’s more, it could be powered by Battlefield 3′s Frostbite 2 engine. We don’t expect a sequel anytime soon, with DICE hard at work on Battlefield, but the prospect of a new Mirror’s Edge game further down the line is still exciting.
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ASUS demos glasses-free 3D gaming laptop

by Michael Arsenault on Monday, June 13, 2011 , under

To 3D or not 3D, that is most definitely the question which we’re finding ourselves asked every time we wander in to a shop to buy a new monitor or laptop. If your objection to stereoscopic gaming is having to wear sunglasses indoors, ASUS has a potential answer in the shape of the Republic of Gamers G53SX laptop that’s being shown off at Computex right now. It’s the world’s first glasses-free 3D laptop.
If it helps, you can think of it as a giant Nintendo 3DS for playing WoW on.

Externally, it looks the same as previous G-series laptops from ASUS sitting gimp-like in its suit of rubber, with hard angles and giant vents round the back. Under that there’s an Intel Core i7 CPU, Z68 motherboard and GeForce 560M graphics chip.
‘Regular’ 3D gaming roughly halves framerates over 2D gaming on the same system. Assuming glasses-free tech has the same performance hit, that 560M might struggle to drive the 15unch, 1920×1080 screen stereoscopically. We’ll just have to wait and see, though, until we get chance to test it out.
ASUS has also announced that it’s to start producing desktop gaming systems too, starting with the Republic of Gamers CG8565, below. It shares the same hard edge look that’s soft to touch as the laptop line-up, and comes with a Core i7, GeForce GTX 590 GPU and Z68 motherboard from the ROG range.
Anyone else squint and see K9 in this?
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Notch still a PC developer, Minecraft 1.7 first details released

by Michael Arsenault on Sunday, June 12, 2011 , under

One of the most surprising moments of E3 this year occurred in the space of about eight seconds right in the middle of the Microsoft’s press conference. Minecraft is headed to the Xbox 360, the speaker announced, and then moved onto something else as though it wasn’t a big deal. Around the world Xbox and PC gamers did a collective double take. Some of us even choked on our tea and said “whaaa?” out loud.
In his latest blog post, Notch has provided some more info on development on the 360 and Android phone versions of the Minecraft, and has given us a taste of what to expect from update 1.7, to be known henceforth as “The Adventure Update.”

We admit to a slight overreaction upon hearing news of the Xbox version of Minecraft. In hindsight, tweeting “BEEETRRTTTRAAYYYER!” at Notch wasn’t entirely fair. Have no fear, Minecraft fans, Notch is still well and truly a PC developer.
Notch clarified his position on the Xbox, Android and Xbox versions of Minecraft on his blog, saying “I will be the game designer on both new Minecraft titles, but I won’t be involved in the programming as I’m focused on the PC version of Minecraft.”
Minecraft on Xbox will be “a new version of the game, designed specifically for console play.” Notch adds that “it will feature (but not require) Kinect support, and is being released “this winter”. It will be a 360 exclusive title.”
As for the accusation of betrayal, Notch responded, tweeting “Not me, just people I pay. ;D I personally plan on being a pc game developer for a looong time.”
Now that’s sorted, we can all look forward to the next Minecraft update, which Notch refers to on his blog as the “adventure update.”
“Notch has posted the first information about the upcoming Minecraft 1.7 patch, now known as the “Adventure Update.” Notch is secretive about the precise features 1.7 will add, but says “the idea with this update is to flesh out the game a bit, making it reward exploration and combat more.”
Notch will also start adding mod support with the 1.7 update as well. “We’re starting the modding support on a small scale with 1.7. We’ll be giving the source code out to a very VERY small group of people before the release of 1.7. We’ll use those experiences to work out the final details, then we’ll get the modding api out as soon as possible after 1.7 has been released.”
There’s more.
“Assuming we like them in play testing, pistons are coming in 1.7.”
PISTONS! For more Minecraft madness, have look at our pick of the ten best Minecraft mods, and read all about Tom’s adventures in Minecraft.
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Battlefield 3: E3 Frostbite 2 Features Trailer (E3)

by Michael Arsenault on Saturday, June 11, 2011 , under

It seems there might be some slight competition between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 this coming fall.
The power of DICE's new Frostbite 2 game engine allows for spectacular breakthroughs in five key areas of game development. This trailer highlights these areas and reveals what you can expect to see and hear in Battlefield 3 as a result. This trailer was first aired on EA's 2011 E3 press conference.

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Sony Announces PlayStation Vita, Revolutionary Portable Entertainment Device

by Michael Arsenault on Friday, June 10, 2011 , under

Irrelevant to my blog but I thought it might make an interesting post!
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) announced PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) (PCH-1000 series) as the official platform name for the next generation portable entertainment system at E3 2011. With an RRP of €249 for the Wireless model and €299 for the Wireless/3G version, PS Vita will launch in the global market starting at the end of 2011.

"Vita", which means "Life" in Latin, was chosen as the most appropriate name for the next generation portable entertainment system as it enables a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context as SCE aims to transform every aspect of a user's daily life into an entertainment experience and an opportunity to play.
PS Vita incorporates a beautiful 5-inch multi-touch organic light emitting diode (OLED) as the front display and a unique multi-touch pad on the rear.

Together with the front touchscreen and the rear touch pad, PS Vita offers new gameplay experiences never before seen on any device, allowing users to interact directly with games in three dimension-like motion, through "touch, grab, trace, push and pull" finger motions.

PS Vita features two analog sticks which enable a wider range of game genres to be brought into the portable experience, such as shooters, action titles and fighting games.

Exciting and attractive new games are scheduled to be released from SCE Worldwide Studios, including Uncharted Golden Abyss, Little Deviants, Everybody's Golf (working title), Reality Fighters (working title), Hustle Kings, ModNation Racers (working title), Wipeout 2048 (working title) and Super Stardust Delta, as well as from a broad range of additional game developers and publishers, which will deliver value only possible on PS Vita.

By having both Wireless and 3G network connectivity, together with various applications, PS Vita will enable infinite possibilities for users to "encounter, connect, discover, share and play" with friends wherever they are.

On 27 January 2011, SCE announced the first PS Vita application, "near", which will come pre-installed on the system. It will let users discover what games PS Vita users in the vicinity are or were recently playing, as well as letting them share their game information. "near" also enables location-based gaming features such as gifting, in which a user can access virtual game-related items that other users are sharing, through checking in at geographic locations that others have also visited.

The virtual items can include content unlocked from games, such as character costumes, weapons and treasures. Sharing these items between users adds a unique dimension to the portable gaming experience on PS Vita while enhancing the social connectivity among the PS Vita community.

Additionally, PS Vita will come pre-installed with a newly developed application called "Party". "Party" is an innovative application for a portable entertainment system which enables users to enjoy voice chat or text chat not only during online gaming, but also when users are playing different games or using different applications such as the Internet browser.

With "Party", which offers a new form of social networking, and "near", which enables users to share their game information with other users anywhere, any time, users can dramatically expand the boundaries of interactive communication.

In addition, a tutorial application called "Welcome Park", developed specifically to guide users through the PS Vita system's brand new user interface such as the front touch display and the multi-touch pad on the rear, will come pre-installed. By playing "Welcome Park", users can easily become accustomed to the three dimension-like finger motions used on PS Vita.

SCE will vigorously promote PS Vita towards the launch as the next generation portable entertainment platform and work towards expanding the portable gaming market.

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