EA's Dawngate Found Itself Out of Its League?

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2014 - 01:23 AM |
Tagged: moba, free to play, ea, dawngate

Just a couple short weeks after VentureBeat reported, and I discussed, that multiple free-to-play games were on track to make over a billion dollars this year, EA has announced that their competing MOBA, Dawngate, is canceled. The servers will be up for about three more months if you would like to get some last-minute play time in before it goes away. Any money that you spent will not go away, though; EA has committed to full refunds for any transactions that occurred during the beta.

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As for employees of the developer, Waystone Games, the open letter thanks them for their dedication, but it does not specifically mention lay-offs or closures. The end of Dawngate could be the beginning of something new, or it could be similar to the recent cancellation of Medal of Honor, where Danger Close was shut down and its employees scattered (many to DICE LA).

Development of Dawngate has ceased, but the game will remain playable until February 2nd, 2015, give or take a few days (depending on how literal they were about "90 days").

Take Your Best BF4 Battlefest Battleshots and Win!

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2014 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: giveaway, gaming, ea, dice, battlefield 4, amd

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For the next month, until August 12th, Battlefield.com, AMD and Sapphire will be giving away video cards, DICE giftcards and BF4 Premium memberships to the best screenshots submitted to their blog.

This week:

Daily Prize Package: An AMD Sapphire graphics card, a $50 DICE online store gift code, and a BF4 Premium membership code on your platform of choice.

  • Saturday, July 12 – EXPLOSIONS
  • Sunday, July 13 – HELICOPTERS
  • Monday, July 14 – VISTAS
  • Tuesday, July 15 – INFANTRY
  • Wednesday, July 16 – TEAM PLAY
  • Thursday, July 17 – NAVAL
  • Friday, July 18 – PARACHUTES

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Why not team up with the Fragging Frogs to play BF4 and work together to make the best screenshot submissions you can?

Battlefield Will Not Be Annualized Says Patrick Söderlund

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | June 17, 2014 - 07:54 PM |
Tagged: battlefield, medal of honor, ea

Last year, we got Battlefield 4. The year before? Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The year before? Battlefield 3. The year before? Medal of Honor (Reboot). We will not be getting a new Medal of Honor this year, because Danger Close was shut down in June 2013. Danger Close developed the two recent Medal of Honor titles and, as EA Los Angeles, many of the previous Medal of Honor titles and many RTS games (Command and Conquer, Red Alert, Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth).

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Many of their employees are now working at DICE LA.

So, when a new Medal of Honor title should be released, we get Battlefield: Hardline. A person with decent pattern recognition might believe that Battlefield, or its spinoffs, would fill the gap left by Medal of Honor. Not so, according to Patrick Söderlund, Executive VP of EA Studios. As was the case at E3, where both studios (DICE and Visceral) repetitively claimed that Battlefield: Hardline was the product (literally) of a fluke encounter and pent-up excitement for cops and robbers.

Of course, they do not close the door for annualized Battlefield releases, either. They just say that it is not their plan to have that be "the way it's going to be forever and ever". Honestly, for all the hatred that annualized releases get, the problem is not the frequency. If EA can bring out a Battlefield title every year, and one that is continually a good game, then power to them. The problem is that, with an annual release cycle, it is hard to get success-after-success, especially when fatigue is an opposing, and (more importantly) ever-increasing force.

It is the hard, but lucrative road.

Source: PC Gamer

EA Shuts Down Several Multiplayer Games on June 30th

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2014 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: ea, offline, shutting down

Because of how popular it once was, the GameSpy shutdown will affect numerous titles, many of which have been up and running for over a decade. Several games have fallen back on GamesRanger or Steam to perpetuate support, while others are going to sleep for a very long time. EA claims that, despite trying to come up with a solution, several of their titles will go offline on June 30th.

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At least this spy would never stab me in... the back... nevermind.

In the following list, I will omit entries which are not for the PC, Mac, or Linux.

  • (PC/Mac) Battlefield 1942, and expansions.
  • (PC) Battlefield 2, and expansions.
  • (PC/Mac) Battlefield 2142, and expansions.
  • (PC) Battlefield Vietnam
  • (PC/Mac) Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, and expansions.
  • (PC/Mac) Command and Conquer: Generals, and expansions.
  • (PC/Mac) Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3
  • (PC) Crysis
  • (PC) Crysis 2
  • (PC) Crysis Wars
  • (PC) EA Sports 06
  • (PC) F1 2002
  • (PC) Global Operations
  • (PC) James Bond: Nightfire
  • (PC) Master of Orion III
  • (PC/Mac) Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, and expansions.
  • (PC) NASCAR Sim Racing
  • (PC) NASCAR Thunder 2003
  • (PC) NASCAR Thunder 2004
  • (PC) Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2
  • (PC/Mac/Linux) Neverwinter Nights, and expansions.
  • (PC/Mac) Neverwinter Nights 2
  • (PC) Star Wars: Battlefront
  • (PC) Star Wars: Battlefront 2

It is possible that titles which support directly joining an IP address might, in fact, continue to work. That said, it might not work for every title. At least it is something to try if you and a group of friends wish to get an organized match going.

The part that confuses me, however, is that GameSpy is going offline at the end of the month. Why then does EA, after being unable to find a workable solution, have an extra month of service? You would think that a solution to provide an extra month would work ad-infinitum, unless they have paid for GameSpy's servers to stay open a little longer for their titles. Then again, who am I to complain about an extra month?

Source: EA

DICE loves teasing us with Star Wars

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2014 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Star Wars, Star Wars Battlefront, dice, ea

We have been not so patiently waiting for this announcement from DICE and EA ever since last years E3 but we finally have a rough idea when we can expect Star Wars Battlefield ... in about another year.  While that is not the answer we were hoping for it does give hope to fans that we will indeed venture once more into a galaxy far far away!  EA even suggested there could be as many as six new titles announced at the next E3 though we do not know how many will take place in the Star Wars universe; who knows they might even set one in the Legends Universe.  Click on the links at Polygon for the full story.

STAR WARS: "LEGENDS" - Full Trailer from marc dominic rienzo on Vimeo.

"Publisher Electronic Arts plans to show more from Star Wars: Battlefront, the DICE-developed game set in the Star Wars universe, at this year's E3, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said during an investor call today."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: Polygon

SimCity Modding is Slightly Hypocritical

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 11, 2014 - 12:13 AM |
Tagged: SimCity, ea

Maxis and Electronic Arts recognize the hefty portion of SimCity's popularity as a franchise is due to its mod community. The current version could use all of the help it can get after its unfortunate first year. They have finally let the community take over... to some extent. EA is imposing certain rules upon the content creators. Most of them are reasonable. One of them can have unforeseen consequences for the LGBQT community. The first rule should apply to their expansion packs.

Starting at the end, the last three rules (#3 through #5) are mostly reasonable. They protect EA against potential malware and breaches of their EULA and Terms of Service. The fifth rule does begin to dip its toe into potential censorship but it does not really concern me.

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No-one can be "Best Friends" in North America.

The second rule, while mostly condemning illegal activity, does include the requirement that content remains within ESRB 10+ and PEGI 7. The problem with any content certification is that it limits the dialog between artists and society. In this case, references to same-sex topics (ex: Harvest Moon) in games may force a minimum T or M rating. A mod which introduces some story element where two Sims of the same gender go on a date or live together (again, like Harvest Moon) might result in interest groups rattling the ESRB's cage until EA draws a firm line on that specific topic.

EA is very good with the LGBQT community but this could get unnecessarily messy.

The first rule is a different story. It says that mods which affect the simulation for multiplayer games or features are not allowed (despite being the only official mode). They do not want a modification to give players an unfair advantage over the rest of the game's community.

You know, like maybe an airship which boosts "your struggling industry or commercial [districts]" and also brings in tourists and commuters without causing traffic on your connecting highway?

Maxis is still, apparently, exploring options for offline SimCity experiences. Even if they allow a server preference to not affect the global economy, mods would be able to be quarantined to those areas. Great, problem solved. Instead, it is somewhat left up to interpretation what is allowed. To make matters worse, the current examples of mods that we have are purely cosmetic.

SimCity is nowhere near as bad as Halo 2 Vista for its mod functionality (those mod tools were so hobbled that its own tutorial was impossible). It could actually be good. These are just areas for EA to consider and, hopefully, reconsider.

Source: Maxis

Three For Three: Battlefield 4 Fail Launch. DRM'd!

Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2013 - 06:48 PM |
Tagged: ea, DRM, battlefield 4

((Update: October 30 @ 7:04pm: The issue was not resolved by EA before the EU release date. However, as expected, the game unlocked at 7:01pm. While I wish I could have reported that the issue was resolved ahead of time, it wasn't, and now (since EA did not demonstrate any concrete effort in resolving the issue) I cannot tell whether we will experience the same issue next time. It is possible this issue could plague several releases to come. Keep this in mind.))

I just do not have any luck with pre-ordering titles on Origin. Battlefield 3 had a rough launch, especially on my computer, with it being almost a year until they sorted through the mouse lag hiccups (seemingly related to having Google Chrome running) and random crashes. My second title was SimCity, which requires no further explanation, and my latest is Battlefield 4. Now, it seems as though the actual game launched decently for the majority of customers. They try really hard; they really, really do.

The problem? Origin will not unlock it until October 30th at 7PM EDT for myself and many others.

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Supposedly this also affected the Beta and other Origin titles.

Unfortunately, I was at Mozilla Summit. I cannot comment on that. No experience.

Somewhere in Origin there is a mistake with region-locking and certain ISPs. My primary ISP (Teksavvy cCable... not a typo) does not qualify, for some reason, as a North American release region. October 30th at 7PM EDT corresponds to October 31st at midnight CET so the game likely believes my connection belongs to the European Union. AT&T U-Verse and Vidéotron were also reported as having this problem.

I used my (in repair) Bell Canada DSL connection and was able to access the Battlefield 4 campaign (the connection is too unstable for multiplayer until it gets fixed). I, then, tried to access it again with Teksavvy? Nope. Relocked.

I contacted EA Support (I never identified myself as a journalist) who were honest and blunt about the issue. I respect that! Congratulations, EA, for having technical support open at 2 AM and treated me with respect. The company also started a thread in EA Answers asking for more information about affected customers. Still, currently, the issue has not been resolved.

But even that is irrelevant to the actual point because this is obviously an honest mistake. Still:

The DRM is making me not want to pre-order (or purchase at all) another title on Origin!

And... the kick while down... it has not helped anyone!

Region-locking does not make sense, especially not anymore, within a worldwide digital distribution network. I can connect by a VPN to anywhere in the world to pretend that I belong there. I legally purchased the title. There is no financial reason to make me wait to access it; in fact, especially with their recent refund policy, it might encourage me to cancel my order or outright ignore the product's existence in the first place.

EA has been expending tonnes of time and resources making Origin more desirable where it counts. They seem to actually care about their distribution platform's success. The have seemingly around-the-clock live tech support and a great refund policty. Yet, time and time again, these little mistakes where it doesn't even count add up to the terrible user experience. Yes, I could refund my title; I do not get the game I want and EA loses a sale. Great job, DRM!

EA, what has this accomplished except support costs, bad press, and anger legitimate customers?

EA and Origin Humble Donates a Bundle of Games

Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2013 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: humble bundle, ea, origin

Humble Bundle have already sold a quarter million of this collection, but Electronic Arts (EA) will not see a dime of it. The Humble Origin Bundle allows donors, of at least $1, access to Dead Space, Burnout Paradise (Ultimate Box), Crysis 2 (Maximum Edition), Mirror's Edge, Dead Space 3, and Medal of Honor. A donation exceeding the average, currently $4.55, also grants access to Battlefield 3 and The Sims 3 (Starter Pack).

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I say donation, as opposed to sale, because EA has declined to receive any proceeds. Any contribution you make can only be divided between Humble Bundle Inc and five charities: Human Rights Campaign, Watsi, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, American Cancer Society, and the American Red Cross.

Lastly, while all of these game will be available on Origin, certain titles will also receive Steam keys. As far as I can tell, this means any title available on Steam will receive a key for that platform.

I only have two comments: good on EA and play Mirror's Edge.

Tagged: steam, origin, ea

What do they want Origin to be?

GamesIndustry International conducted an interview with EA's Executive Vice President, Andrew Wilson, during this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2013). Wilson was on the team which originally designed Origin before marketing decided to write off all DOS-era nostalgia they once held with PC gamers through recycling an old web address.

The service, itself, has also changed since the original project.

'"Over the years ... there've been some permutations of that vision that have manifested as part of Origin," Wilson said. "I think what we've done is taken a step back and said 'Wow, we've actually done some really cool things with Origin.' It is by no means perfect, but we've done some pretty cool things. As you say, the plumbing is there. What can we do now to really think about Origin in the next generation?"

Fans of Sim City, who faithfully pre-ordered, will likely argue that Origin does not have enough sewage treatment at the end of their plumbing and the out-flow defecated all over their experience. A good service can be built atop the foundations of Origin; but, I have little confidence in their ability to realize that potential.

Wilson, on the other hand, believes they now "get it".

One assertion deals with customers who purchase more than one game. He argues that multiple update and online services are required and that is a barrier for users who desire a second, third, or hundredth purchase thereafter. The belief is that Origin can create a single experience for users and remove that barrier to inhibit a user's purchase. In practice, Origin ends up being a bigger hurdle than a single-game's service. It washes a bad faith over their entire library and fails to justify itself: games, such as Sim City, update on their own and old titles still have their online services taken offline.

What it comes down to is lack of focus. Wilson believes development of Origin was too focused on the transaction, and that lead to bad faith, presumably because customers would smell the disingenuous salesman. Good Old Games (GOG), on the other hand, successfully focused on the transaction. The difference? GOG gets out of your way immediately after the transaction, leaving you with just the game plus its bonus pack-ins you ordered, not DRM and a redundant social network.

Steam is heavily focused as a service and that is where EA desires Origin to be. The problem? Valve has set a high bar for EA to contend with. Steam has built customer faith consistently, albeit not perfectly, over its life with its user-centric vision. Not only would EA need to be substantially better than Steam, it is fighting with a severe handicap from their history of shutting down gaming servers and threatening to delicense merchandise if their customers upset them.

A successful Origin will need to carefully consider what it wants to be and strive to win at that goal. While possible, they are still content to handicap themselves and, then, not own the results of their decisions.

Rumor: AMD Gets Exclusive Optimization for all Frostbite 3 Games

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 18, 2013 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, geforce, frostbite 3, ea, dice, amd

UPDATE #3

The original source article at IGN.com has been updated with some new information.  Now they are saying the agreement between AMD and EA is "non-exclusive and gamers using other components will be supported." 

The quote from an EA rep says as follows:

DICE has a partnership with AMD specifically for Battlefield 4 on PC to showcase and optimize the game for AMD hardware," an EA spokesperson said. "This does not exclude DICE from working with other partners to ensure players have a great experience across a wide set of PCs for all their titles.

END UPDATE #3

This could be a huge deal for NVIDIA and AMD in the coming months - according to a story at IGN.com, AMD has entered into an agreement with EA that will allow them exclusive rights to optimization for all games based around the Frostbite 3 engine.  That includes Battlefield 4, Mirror's Edge 2, Need for Speed Rivals and many more games due out this year and in 2014.  Here is the quote that is getting my attention:

Starting with the release of Battlefield 4, all current and future titles using the Frostbite 3 engine — Need for Speed Rivals, Mirror's Edge 2, etc. — will ship optimized exclusively for AMD GPUs and CPUs. While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.

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Battlefield 4 will be exclusive optimized for AMD hardware.

This is huge news for AMD as the Frostbite 3 engine will be used for all EA published games going forward with the exception of sports titles.  The three mentioned above are huge but this also includes Star Wars Battlefront, Dragon Age and even the next Mass Effect so I can't really emphasize enough how big of a win this could be for AMD's marketing and developer relations teams. 

I am particularly interested in this line as well:

While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.

The world of PC optimizations and partnerships has been around for a long time so this isn't a huge surprise for anyone that follows PC gaming.  What is bothersome to me is that both EA and AMD are saying are rumored to have agreed that NVIDIA won't get access to the game as it is being developed - something that is CRUCIAL for day-of driver releases and performance tweaks for GeForce card owners.  In most cases, both AMD and NVIDIA developer relations teams get early access to game builds for PC titles in order to validate compatibility and to improve performance of these games for the public release.  Without these builds, NVIDIA would be at a big disadvantage.  This is exactly what happend with the recent Tomb Raider release.

UPDATE

AMD called me to reiterate their stance that competition does not automatically mean cutting out the other guy.  In the Tomb Raider story linked above, Neil Robison, AMD's Senior Director of Consumer and Graphics Alliances, states quite plainly: "The thing that angers me the most is when I see a request to debilitate a game. I understand winning, I get that, and I understand aggressive companies, I get that. Why would you ever want to introduce a feature on purpose that would make a game not good for half the gaming audience?"

So what do we take away from that statement, made in a story published in March, and today's rumor?  We have to take AMD at its word until we see solid evidence otherwise, or enough cases of this occurring to feel like I am being duped but AMD wants us all to know that they are playing the game the "right way."  That stance just happens to be counter to this rumor. 

END UPDATE

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NVIDIA had performance and compatibility issues with Tomb Raider upon release.

The irony in all of this is that AMD has been accusing NVIDIA of doing this exact thing for years - though without any public statements from developers, publishers or NVIDIA.  When Batman: Arkham Asylum was launched AMD basically said that NVIDIA had locked them out of supporting antialiasing.  In 2008, Assassin's Creed dropped DX 10.1 support supposedly because NVIDIA asked them too, who didn't have support for it at the time in GeForce cards.  Or even that NVIDIA was disabling cores for PhysX CPU support to help prop up GeForce sales.  At the time, AMD PR spun this as the worst possible thing for a company to do in the name of gamers, that is was bad for the industry, etc.  But times change as opportunity changes.

The cold truth is that this is why AMD decided to take the chance that NVIDIA was allegedly unwilling to and take the console design wins that are often noted as being "bad business."  If settling for razor thin margins on the consoles is a risk, the reward that AMD is hoping to get is exactly this: benefits in other markets thanks to better relationships with game developers.

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Will the advantage be with AMD thanks to PS4 and Xbox One hardware?

At E3 I spoke in-depth with both NVIDIA and AMD executives about this debate and as you might expect both have very different opinions about what is going to transpire in the next 12-24 months.  AMD views this advantage (being in the consoles) as the big bet that is going to pay off for the more profitable PC space.  NVIDIA thinks that AMD still doesn't have what it takes to truly support developers in the long run and they don't have the engineers to innovate on the technology side.  In my view, having Radeon-based processors in the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (as well as the Wii U I guess) gives AMD a head start but won't win them the race for the hearts and minds of PC gamers. There is still a lot of work to be done for that.

Before this story broke I was planning on outlining another editorial on this subject and it looks like it just got promoted to a top priority.  There appear to be a lot of proverbial shoes left to drop in this battle, but it definitely needs more research and discussion. 

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Remember the issues with Batman: Arkham Asylum?  I do.

I asked both NVIDIA and AMD for feedback on this story but only AMD has replied thus far.  Robert Hallock, PR manager for gaming and graphics, Graphics Business Unit at AMD sent me this:

It makes sense that game developers would focus on AMD hardware with AMD hardware being the backbone of the next console generation. At this time, though, our relationship with EA is exclusively focused on Battlefield 4 and its hardware optimizations for AMD CPUs, GPUs and APUs.

Not much there, but he is also not denying of the original report coming from IGN.  It might just be too early for a more official statement.  I will update this story with information from NVIDIA if I hear anything else.

What do YOU think about this announcement though?  Is this good news for AMD and bad news for NVIDIA?  Is it good or bad for the gamer and in particular, the PC gamer?  Your input will help guide or upcoming continued talks with NVIDIA and AMD on the subject. 

UPDATE #2

Just so we all have some clarification on this and on the potential for validity of the rumor, this is where I sourced the story from this afternoon:

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END UPDATE #2

Source: IGN