Thursday, September 9, 2010

Xbox 360: What to expect?


In the past it has been Sony who has bragged about the multimedia capabilities of its Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 consoles. In the case of the PS2, most of those promises never actually came to pass. In the meantime Microsoft has been rather low key on how the Xbox and Xbox 360 can handle other features besides games. Via Xbox Live the Xbox 360 has been the platform for downloading high definition trailers for movies and TV shows and they even allowed people to download an entire 40 + minute retrospective episode of the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica (although that episode was a regular 480p resolution segment).

With the Xbox 360?s first anniversary coming up on Nov. 22, and perhaps more importantly the launch of the PS3 and Nintendo Wii coming in the next 10 days, many people wondered what Microsoft would do to counter the launches. Today, we can reveal that beginning on Nov. 22, Microsoft intends to go much further in making the Xbox 360 more than just a gaming machine. On that they will begin offering high definition movies and TV show episodes for download with around 1,000 hours of programming available for download to the console before the end of the year. Last week FiringSquad spoke on the phone with Scott Henson, the director of platform strategy for Xbox Live, to find out more about their plans and other Xbox 360 news.

While our chat with Henson covered several topics, we will cut to the chase and report on what Henson told us about their high definition video download plans. Microsoft has contracted with a number of movie studios and TV networks to have some of their programming available for download. Pricing for the service had not been nailed down prior to our conversation with Henson last week but we were told that Xbox 360 owners will own the TV episodes they will download while the feature films will have a rental structure (the amount of rental time was not revealed in our conversation). Basically anyone with an Xbox Live membership (Gold or Silver) will be able to download high definition movies and TV shows onto an Xbox 360 hard drive. Since each purchase is tied into a person?s Gamertag, they can also sign on to their profile when they go to a friend?s Xbox 360 and download it to that hard drive and watch it there.

Now for the catches. As one might expect, these high definition movies and TV show can only be played on an Xbox 360 console. Henson told FiringSquad that they cannot be transferred to a PC, HD-DVD disk, flash drive or any other medium. Also there?s the rather small 20 GB hard drive that the console has (and only about 13 GB can actually be freed up) which will only allow for a handful of movies and TV episodes to be stored. As many have asked already, we inquired to Henson if there were any plans to introduce a larger hard drive for the console (rumors of 60 GB and 100 GB hard drives have been floating on the Internet in the last few weeks). While Henson said that there were no announcements they could make at this time, he did say that if they heard from Xbox 360 owners that they wanted a bigger hard drive to store more movies and TV shows they would consider it.

View the original article here

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Harker Interview


Bram Stoker's novel Dracula remains one of the most influential and adapted pieces of literature of all time and now game developer The Collective takes one of the novel's supporting character and put him in the spotlight with Harker, an upcoming vampire themed action game that is early in development. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with the game's senior producer Nigel Cook to find out more about their plans for Harker.

FiringSquad: First, The Collective has been very busy this year with two games (The Da Vinci Code and Getting Up Contents Under Pressure) out earlier this year and it was recently announced that it would merge with Shiny Entertainment's team. How do you feel about the current state of The Collective's team?

Nigel Cook: The Collective is now stronger than it's ever been. We've had steady growth over the years, and this is especially important recently given the increasing size of teams to reach the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms. We have fully made the leap to these consoles, and are prepared to make great games!

While The Collective and Shiny will do a lot more collaboration in the near future, and will be co-located, we will remain as separate development teams, each with our own personalities and our own strengths. Our two groups have a lot of respect for each other, and feel we can both benefit from this collaboration.

FiringSquad: How did the idea for Harker come about?

Nigel Cook: As a successful independent studio we reached a point in the growth of the company where we wanted to try something new. Rather than working on another movie license, which of course has its own challenges, we chose to develop a series of internal game ideas for next generation consoles. Out of the top few, Harker stood out from the crowd, not only as a title that has its own segment; being a Survival Horror game with a heavy Melee combat, but also is a game that has Action Game content that is something the Collective Studios has gotten really good at.

FiringSquad: Of course, comparisons will be made between Harker and an early Collective game Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Was there a worry that the team was doing something that was the same as the earlier title?

Nigel Cook: Buffy was developed many years ago and has a combat system that was an excellent mix of ranged and melee combat in a very action orientated game from which we have learned a lot and enjoyed developing in the process. What we learned from developing Buffy does not mean we will replicate any content directly into Harker. Rather, we are taking our knowledge and learnings from Buffy to create an all-new combat system for Harker that heavily focuses on the up-close brutal punishment and execution of Vampires.

FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the storyline for Harker and its main character?

Nigel Cook: Harker is a character from the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. In the novel, Jonathan Harker is written as an attorney who, though ill equipped, is forced to battle evil. In Bram Stoker?s novel, Jonathan Harker is portrayed as an ordinary man who in spite of himself, manages to survive. In Harker the game, we?ve taken our inspiration for our main character from the novel, but we are casting him in an entirely new light.

For the game, the motivation for Harker attacking and killing Vampires is still in an attempt to save his wife Mina; however, we?ve decided that the forces he faces have made him into a hardened, ruthless hunter, a flawed character.

Harker?s sole reason for living is to kill every single last Vampire. His poor wife Mina is hovering somewhere between life and death. The actions of the Vampires have literally thrown Harker into a rage, an all consuming passion for vengeance.

The story revolves around Harker?s search for each and every Vampire involved. During the course of the game, there will be a number of surprising twists to the plot that will keep the player guessing just what the motives of the enemy are and, indeed, who can be trusted.

View the original article here

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

GeForce 8800 GTX/GTS Overclocking


Shortly after publishing our GeForce 8800 GTX/GTS Performance Preview article, we received quite a few requests for more info on our GeForce 8800 GTS overclocking experience. Quite a few of you were curious to see more performance numbers in games like Oblivion, while others wanted to see GeForce 8800 GTX overclocking results.

But the number one question we received by far was how we were able to achieve such high scores with the GeForce 8800 GTS. No one expected the overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS to be able to match, and in some cases outperform the GeForce 8800 GTX. After all, the 8800 GTS has a narrower 320-bit memory interface versus the 384-bit memory interface present on the GeForce 8800 GTX, and 32 of its stream processing units as well as one ROP have been disabled from the factory by NVIDIA. Not to mention the lower clock speeds for the graphics core and stream processors.

All this should mean that even a highly overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS shouldn?t be able to catch up to, much less outperform a stock GeForce 8800 GTX right?

Based on our testing last week, it looked like this wasn?t always the case. But we?ve since gone back and re-run our overclocked benchmarks and couldn?t replicate the astounding numbers we were seeing previously, even though we were using a different GTS card that was overclocking to even higher clock speeds!

Quite frankly, we?re still surprised by this, as we repeat our performance runs three times and take the average score for all of our official results. Under our latest round of overclocked testing, even the highest of those three runs didn?t equal the average we recorded previously in some games! Again, we?re still at a loss to explain the disparity, but we wanted to pass this info along as we know that many of you are currently debating between the two GPUs and want as much info as possible on this topic.

Fortunately, the news isn?t all bad for the GeForce 8800 GTS, even under our latest round of testing there are cases where it comes close to matching the GTX in performance, but often this occurs in cases where the graphics card is CPU-bound, such as in the case with Pacific Fighters and LOMAC, or in Quake 4 at 1280x1024. Remember that at lower resolutions with a card as powerful as the GeForce 8800, you?re often CPU-bound, particularly with titles that aren?t shader-intensive. We also still believe that with further driver updates, NVIDIA?s driver team will likely be able to wring more performance out of GeForce 8800.

As we?ve mentioned before, in order to overclock the GeForce 8800 cards, you?ll have to download NVIDIA?s nTune utility. The Coolbits registry hack doesn?t work and only prompts you to download nTune. In particular, you?ll need nTune 5.05 or better to overclock the GeForce 8800.

This isn?t a big deal if you already own an nForce motherboard, as nTune provides built-in overclocking options and BIOS settings for your motherboard all from within Windows, but for those of you who have already upgraded to P965 or 975X Core 2 motherboards this may be a bit of a disappointment as nTune is a 30MB+ app. In fact, it seems that as a result, some GeForce 8800 owners have turned to ATI Tool instead to overclock their graphics card.

NVIDIA plans to enhance nTune to make it more appealing for GeForce 8800 overclocking in the near future though. One feature that?s been mentioned is the ability to independently set the clocks for the graphics core and stream processors. Right now in nTune when you overclock the graphics core, you also overclock the stream processors by a fixed percentage.

We?d also like to see NVIDIA integrate GPU temperature monitoring on the same page as GPU clock speeds, as it has been done with Coolbits in the past. Currently the two are located in two totally different parts of nTune.

View the original article here

Monday, September 6, 2010

Superman Returns Interview


The history of video game is littered with the corpses of awful titles based on DC Comic's best known super hero Superman. Electronic Arts via their Tiburon studio hope to change that with Superman Returs, their upcoming open world PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360 game that's based on the recent movie but plans to add a lot more for gamers. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with the game's supervisory producer Jeff Peters to find out more about their plans for Superman Returns.

FiringSquad: First, the Superman Returns game was originally going to be released around the time of the movie's release in theaters. What happened that caused the game's delay?

Jeff Peters: Through a series of internal reviews and external playtests, we gradually came to the conclusion that a few more months of development could push our game from 'good' to 'very good' or 'great'. Playtesters really liked what they saw, but they wanted more - more stuff to do, more variety in the buildings, etc. The delay allowed us to spend the summer addressing the feedback received, resulting in a more polished and cohesive gaming experience. Our focus with this product was to always to create the best game possible, and this was a collective decision to allow us to do that.

FiringSquad: This will be EA Tiburon's first non-sports game in quite a while. Was it intimitating for the studio to work on an action game rather than a football title?

Jeff Peters: Think of it as expanding a successful portfolio. It was more a creative challenge than anything else with our goal to take the successful lessons learned while building Madden over the years and branch out into more action-oriented fare. The team was mostly assembled from the ground up by bringing together seasoned action-game developers from within and outside of EA. Most of our designers, for example, had previous action game experience, so these learnings allowed us to overcome the hurdles you face when developing in a particular genre for the first time.

FiringSquad: Superman video games in the past have had a reputation for not reaching their high expectations. Was the team conscious of the history of the previous Superman games to avoid the mistakes of the past?

Jeff Peters: Everyone was very conscious of the history of the previous Superman titles, almost to the point of excluding anything that had a remote association with a previous title! Anyone who brought up the word 'ring' or 'kryptonite gun' risked a possible cube ransack. Inevitably, we did have to include some elements from Superman's gaming past (melee combat, rescuing citizens, etc), but for the most part we stayed away from the clich?s that sunk the earlier titles. The main problem with Superman as a video game character is that he's three-games-in-one-guy: flight sim, fighting game, and projectile-based action game. All of these play mechanics are part of Superman at any time (based on who the chararacter is) and creates some design difficulties with making sure none of these areas is more powerful than another, and, on the most simplistic level, you inadvertantly run out of buttons to make all this work together well. He's probably one of the hardest characters to translate successfully to a video game, but I think we found a good mix.

FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the storyline of the game and how it differs from the movie version?

Jeff Peters: The core storyline mirrors that seen in the film. However, there are several sequences added to the story, which fill in gaps in the film's timeline (for example, what was Superman up to during his time away from Earth?). There are also additional story threads which parallel the movie plot, specifically the introduction of various Supervillains attacking Metropolis. In the end, we finished with about a 50/50 split of movie content and original content, which felt about right.

View the original article here

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Razer Tarantula Review


Ideazon?s Merc gaming keyboard remains my current favorite while playing games. Combining the big keys and designs of a gaming pad with a fairly standard work keyboard layout has worked out very well. I can type reviews and previews on the keyboard during the day and shoot virtual terrorists in the head at night with the oversized movement keys and well placed buttons on the left side.

So when gaming mouse company Razer first announced their plans for their entry into gaming keyboard with the Tarantula I was more than intrigued. I?m a big fan of their gaming mice products and even though their recent headphone recently was a little bit disappointing I was looking forward to seeing what they would do for gaming keyboards. After all, a mouse is basically a PC input product so creating a companion keyboard would be a natural fit. When I actually got a chance to use Razer?s Tarantula, however, it was something of a surprise. It was more than what I was expecting from the company?and also a little less. That?s confusing, I?m sure but stay with me; it will all make sense.

The first think I quickly noticed about the Tarantula was its size. It?s a big one. It?s not quite as long as the Merc keyboard (20 inches to the Merc?s 21 inches) but it still takes up more desktop space because the Razer is wider than the Merc. It?s also very, very black with a shiny hard plastic finish that makes you be very careful while handling the product. You just don?t want to scratch it at all.

Unlike the Merc, the Razer Tarantula doesn?t really have a dedicated section devoted to just gaming buttons. Indeed the keyboard layout is pretty conventional for the most part but there are some interesting differences. The main one is the 10 keys (5 on the left and 5 on the right of the main keyboard layout) that are specifically made for the Tarantula?s macro set up (more on how that works later). Those buttons along with the Razer logo on the bottom center of the Tarantula, have an electric blue light glow coming from them that gives the keyboard an eerie presence to it in the dark, much like Razer?s Diamondback mouse. There doesn?t seem to be a way to disable the glow, however.

Installing the Tarantula may give you a bit of a fright at first since Razer is requiring you plug in two included USB cable connections in order for the keyboard to work (it?s possible that the reason for this is that glowing light effect takes up a lot of energy but we don?t know that for certain). Thankfully the Tarantula makes up for it by providing for two on-board USB ports that are placed on the top right hand side of the keyboard which is perfect for plugging in your mouse and whatever other USB device you might want (alas these ports are only USB 1.1 and not 2.0 ports). The USB cables also come with headset and microphone cables as well. If you plug both of them into the appropriate openings on your soundcard you can then plug in your headphone-microphone combo into the keyboard itself through the use of two such ports located next to the keyboard?s two USB ports.

View the original article here

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Quad-Core Performance Preview


Up until a few years ago, clock speed was the number one barometer used by many to judge a CPU?s performance. It was a pretty simple formula: higher CPU clock speeds means better performance. With their Netburst Pentium 4 architecture, Intel in particular was shooting for breakthrough clock speeds. Intel had hoped to eventually hit 10GHz with Netburst. As you all certainly know by now though, Intel?s plans for Netburst were never fully realized; ultimately the Pentium 4 never hit 4GHz.

While clock speed is certainly still important today, both AMD and Intel have realized that clock speed isn?t everything. After all, both companies have hit brick walls in frequency scaling with their CPU architectures in the past. This dilemma presents an interesting challenge to both companies ? how do you dramatically improve CPU performance without relying on hitting higher clock speeds? The answer both have come up with is simple: integrate more processing cores into the CPU?s die. With two CPUs built into the same CPU die, the CPU can perform twice the amount of work as a conventional single-core CPU.

That?s the theory at least. Of course by now we all know that you?ve got to have software that?s capable of taking advantage of that second processing core, or else it ends up spending most of its time idling.

In 2005, dual-core processing was all the rage. Both AMD and Intel introduced CPUs with two processing cores built-in to the CPU. Initially there was a dearth of software capable of taking advantage of dual-core, but over the course of the past 12 months slowly but surely dual-core software has been steadily trickling in, particularly when it comes to audio/video encoding and 3D rendering.

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Quad-Core Performance Preview [ Kentsfield: Two cores inside @ 1280 x 960 ] > View Full-Size in another window.
Kentsfield: Two cores inside

Now in 2006 we see the debut of the first quad-core CPUs. Intel?s first out of the gate with today?s launch of the Core 2 Extreme QX6700, previously known by its codename ?Kentsfield?. Intel had originally planned to release the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 in the first quarter of next year, but decided to move the release up by a few months to make it in time for the holidays.

By the end of the first half of next year, AMD plans to release their first quad-core CPU codenamed ?Barcelona? (it has also been referred to previously as K8L), but until then they plan on relying their upcoming 4x4 platform. AMD?s 4x4 technology is expected to be released later this month, but it isn?t a quad-core CPU. Instead 4x4 is composed of two dual-core processors.

Ultimately with a 4x4 system you?ve still got four processing cores, but its spread across two processors and thus you?ll need a two-socket motherboard. (AMD can?t affordably integrate four processing cores into one CPU die until their smaller 65-nm manufacturing process is ready.) With Intel?s Core 2 Extreme QX6700, you?ve got four processing cores inside a single socket, in fact the QX6700 is compatible with most of today?s existing Core 2 motherboards?

View the original article here

Rogue Warrior Preview


Bethesda Softworks is best known for its series of RPGs in the Elder Scrolls series that it developed in-house, but the company is also a publisher of a number of other third party titles, including this year?s Pirates of the Caribbean movie game and the upcoming Star Trek: Legacy. Next year Bethesda re-enters the first person shooter genre with an all new title called Rogue Warrior. At a press event earlier this month FiringSquad got to see a brief glimpse of the PC-Xbox 360-PS3 game in action which is being developed by Zombie Studios (Shadow Ops: Red Mercury).

If the name of the game is a little familiar, it should be. Rogue Warrior is the name of the best selling non-fiction book written in 1992 by Richard ?Dick? Marcinko where he recounts his former military life of 30 years as founder of the counter-terrorist SEAL Team Six where he and his team were sent into missions around the world, from Africa to the Middle East to Central America and more. Later he was a leader of Navy SEAL team Red Cell, which was designed to test out the security of military bases by staging simulated raids on them. Marcinko is a very controversial military figure and in fact was sentenced to federal prison in 1990 for 21 months on charges of defrauding the US government over the price of military weapons contracts for hand grenades (Marcinko maintains in his book he was set up as part of a witch hunt by a number of senior military officers who he claims were embarrassed by the raids on their bases as part of his time leading Red Cell). After writing Rogue Warrior Marcinko co-wrote a number of fictional novels under the Rogue Warrior series, and served as an advisor for moves like The Rock, GI Jane, and TV shows like 24. He is currently the chairman of Red Cell International, a private security firm

Bethesda Softworks wanted to get back into making action games (its last entry in first person shooters were a series of games based on the Terminator movies 10 years ago) and got together with Marcinko to secure the video and PC game rights for the Rogue Warrior series. They then enlisted Marcinko and other former and current Navy SEALs to work as active consultants. Zombie got the heads-up to develop the game itself. Marcinko attended the Rogue Warrior game press event and he comes across as a person who doesn?t quite fit your normal assumption of a Navy SEAL. He?s clearly strong but not the silent type with a full beard, long hair and wearing beach shorts in a room of game journalists wearing jeans. However it?s clear that he knows his stuff and while he admitted to FiringSquad he doesn?t play video or PC games himself he will be a major source of info for the Rogue Warrior dev team

The game itself takes place a few years in the future and has a storyline that?s about as topical as you can get these days; the rise of a very hostile North Korea. In the brief but live game demo (we were not allowed to actually play the game) we got to see an opening in-game cinematic where a fictional version of Marcinko and three other Navy SEALs are being transported via a mini-sub to a mission inside North Korea, specifically a shipbreaker yard where old hulks of ships are being torn apart for scrap. It doesn?t take long for the mission to turn sour for the SEAL team, as their plans for a swift extraction go haywire due to a firefight. The demo ended with another in-game cinematic showing the full scale invasion of South Korea by North Korea. The bulk of the game will showcase the fictional Marcinko and his team trying to find a way to get out of the war-torn country to get back home. Naturally, the North Korean military has other ideas.

View the original article here

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hidden Game Inside YouTube Videos

The classic arcade game Snake lives on through YouTube with a clever new version hidden in certain videos.

To find it, you need to go to a video in the gaming category, click inside the area of the video, and then hold down the left arrow key.

Shortly after, a trail of white dots will start scrolling across the video, with a single blinking white dot that you need to steer your snake across.

Its kinda difficult to do on a busy background, but chances are somebody will post a plain black video to make it easier.


posted by: jmet, 12:12, June 19, 2010
posted by: jmet, 05:13, October 11, 2009
posted by: jmet, 05:09, April 21, 2010
posted by: jmet, 14:34, March 17, 2010
posted by: jmet, 11:49, July 14, 2010

You can use the form below to send a link to this page to your friend.

View the original article here

Thursday, September 2, 2010

PS3 Move Bundles Get Cheaper Already

Sony is reportedly preparing to introduce a lower-price PS3 bundle containing a 320GB PS3, Move controller, Eye camera, DualShock controller, and a game for just $399.

Now if you don't need the 320GB edition, Microsoft will be selling the same bundle except with a 120GB version for just $349.� If you would just like the Move controller, it is only $49 while buying it with the Eye and a game cost $99.

posted by: jmet, 12:29, June 16, 2010
posted by: jmet, 05:19, June 15, 2010
posted by: jmet, 13:49, March 12, 2010
posted by: jmet, 09:57, August 4, 2009
posted by: jmet, 10:02, August 29, 2009

You can use the form below to send a link to this page to your friend.

View the original article here

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

DVD Ripping & Jailbreaking Now Legal

�Every three years, the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act gets reviewed and�laws are added and subtracted.� This years review process seems to be going in the right direction as congress has added five new exemptions to the DMCA this year that might allow the breaking of DRM legal�if used for fair use rights.

Jailbreaking cell phones is really where all this started but has since lead to legalizing the�breaking of DRM on video games, e-books, and DVDs as well as bypass external security measures on some computers.� If you paid for the device, you should be able to use it how you see fit.

Please don't forget though, this doesn't make piracy legal.

posted by: DVDGuy, 15:01, December 13, 2009
posted by: jmet, 13:45, February 25, 2010
posted by: jmet, 23:20, August 13, 2009
posted by: jmet, 14:20, July 29, 2009
posted by: jmet, 04:58, April 1, 2010

You can use the form below to send a link to this page to your friend.

View the original article here

Disney Gets Involved with Social Networking

Walt Disney is supposedly making a deal to acquire Playdom Inc. for more than $500 million to get more involved in game play on social networks.

Disney is very serious about using Playdom to develop a bigger presence in games on social networking sites such as the hit game "Farmville".

The two companies have been in negotiations for over two months, but Playdom has scheduled a board meeting next week to decide whether to accept the buyout offer.

posted by: jmet, 12:40, November 18, 2009
posted by: jmet, 11:30, March 9, 2010
posted by: jmet, 06:44, August 11, 2009
posted by: jmet, 11:55, June 16, 2010
posted by: jmet, 07:12, February 16, 2010

You can use the form below to send a link to this page to your friend.

View the original article here