Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 3, 2011 - 01:21 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm, PC, mobile, gaming, console
Mobile gaming has seen a relatively sharp rise in popularity in recent years thanks to the rise of powerful smartphones and personal media players like the iPod Touch and its accompanying App Store. Mobile networks, powerful System On A Chips (SoC) that are capable of 3D graphics, lighting, and physics, and a large catalog of easy to download and play games have created an environment where people actually want to play games on their mobile devices. Many people now indulge themselves in quick Angry Birds sessions while in long lines, on work breaks, or wherever they have time when out and about.
One area where mobile devices have not caught on; however, is at home. Mobile devices face stiff competition from game consoles and the PC. That competition has not stopped numerous manufacturers from trying to implement an all-in-one mobile console that was portable and easy to plug into a larger display when at home. Everything from cheap controllers with logic inside that allows them to play old arcade games to smart phones with HDMI outputs costing hundreds of dollars have passed through the hands of consumers; however, the mobile console has yet to overcome the sheer mind share of consumers who prefer dedicated game consoles and their PCs.
According to Anandtech, Qualcomm, a popular manufacturer of ARM SoC for smart phones has announced its plans to pursue that vision of an integrated, mobile console. They claim that the increased power provided by next generation SoC technology will allow tablets and smartphones to deliver graphics that are better than those of current dedicated game consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360. Due to Sony and Microsoft wanting to extend the lives of consoles well into the future, mobile technology may well surpass it. The company "is committed to delivering both the hardware and the software support needed to bring developers to these mobile platforms," according to Anandtech.
Qualcomm wants to bring portable consoles to the masses powered by their SoCs and backed by their software. The tablets and smartphones would be able to connect to displays using HDMI or wireless technology in addition to supporting controllers (or acting as a controller itself). Further, the games library will be the culmination of software from all platforms and will rival the graphical prowess of the current consoles. Qualcomm hopes that a large library and capable hardware will be enough to entice consumers to the idea of a portable console becoming their all-in-one gaming device.
Portable consoles are similar to tablets and 3D television in that there is a major push for it every few years, a few devices come out, and then it dies off to be reborn again a few years later. Whether Qualcomm is able to pull off the plans for a portable console remains to be seen; however, the device is bound to catch on at some point. At the very least, this is certainly not the last time we will hear about the portable console. You can see more of Qualcomms plans here.
What do you believe is holding back the portable console from catching on with consumers? Is it a good idea in the first place?
If you happened to open up the store page in the Steam client or glance at their website, you may have noticed that Steam has made a moderately big announcement. Valve's digital download service now supports Free-to-Play games, which are games that are free to download and play at the basic level; however aesthetic and other upgrades can be purchased via so-called "microtransactions". F2P games on still will be free to download and will not require a credit card to do so.
Steam seems excited about the new F2P games.
At launch, the service is featuring five new Free-to-Play games including Champions Online: Free For All, Spiral Knights, Global Agenda: Free Agent, Forsaken World, and Alliance of Valiant Arms. According to the F2P Steam FAQ, games in which you wish to purchase content will be done through the use of your Steam Wallet. Further, for any Steam account that does not have at least one purchased (non Free-to-Play) game or a funded Steam Wallet will be considered a "Limited User" and will be restricted in the community features that it is able to access. Specifically, limited users can create community groups, be added as friends, and chat with other users; however, they are not able to send out friend invitations or start chat sessions (a non-limited user must initiate chat).
In adding the new genre to its repertoire, Steam will greatly increase its digital games library and add more options for PC gamers. One game that I have not played in some time that I would love to see make its way onto the new Free-to-Play Steam selection is a FPS game called Crossfire. That game was a good example of Free-To-Play done right as even accounts that did not spend a dime where able to stay competitive. Is there a Free-to-Play game that you would like to see Steam feature, and do you think F2P will add value to the service? Let us know in the comments.
Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2011 - 12:01 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming
You may remember versions of Far Cry and Psi-Ops being released a few years ago that were free-to-play and supported by advertisements. In the case of Psi-Ops, at the start of the game you were presented with a 30 second video ad, after which you were able to jump right into the full game. Far Cry also saw a similar ad-supported version for a time that made the game free.
GamersGate is looking to continue in a similar manner with their upcoming FreeGames service. This new service, which is set to release this fall, will allow gamers to “download, install, and play up to five titles at once” for free. These games will be preceded by a short advertisement before the game launches. Gamers will further have the option to add additional game slots, possibly for a monthly subscription fee according to the FreeGames website.
GamersGate CEO has been quoted by Tom’s Hardware as saying “the new service offers the best of both worlds for both gamers and publishers.” Further, he believes that the ad-supported free-to-play model will be a great way for gamers to test out a new game before they buy the non-ad-supported version as well as a cheap way to catch up on game series. The company expects that the majority of its current catalog will be available on the free-to-play ad-supported service in the fall. The website currently has a countdown timer to the launch as well as a beta sign up via email option.
GamersGate, and its FreeGames service’s popularity will largely depend on the catalog, ad relevance and ad length. If GamersGate can provide a wide selection of new PC and Mac games as legally free-to-play, I suspect that it will see a good amount of adoption and will likely replace the once popular but now rare demo. On the other hand, the long-term success of the service will depend on publisher cooperation and DRM. The service will need a fair bit of stable DRM in order to dissuade casual pirates from stripping out the ads, because if this happens than ad and game publishers will pull back from the service and legal gamers will lose out.
You can find more information by following PC Perspective as well as the FreeGames website itself. Do you feel that the service can succeed? Would you use it?
Xi3, the makers of a series of small form factor module based computers, is launching a Chrome OS based desktop computer which they have dubbed the ChromiumPC. The ChromiumPC will be based on similar "module" technology to that in their current Xi3 computers. They have broken the traditional motherboard down into three parts and fitted them into an aluminum chasis measuring "4.0- x 3.656- x 3.656-inches." The PC will use either a single or dual core 64-bit, x86 based CPU. The device is slated for a July 4th, 2011 release, and will be generally available in the second half of the year.
If this small form factor PC is priced right, it may prove to be a popular option for schools, businesses, and people wanting a second PC. Are you interested in desktop PCs running cloud based operating systems?
Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2011 - 12:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: steam, PC, gaming
Valve announced today that is is launching the biggest sale in the popular gaming system's history: one that never ends!
PC gamers everywhere are known to empty their wallets for Steam's holiday sales; therefore, these "daily deals" may just require a second job for the really dedicated Steam gamers. To see just how much you've already spent on steam games, you might want to check out the Steam Calculator.
Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2011 - 08:52 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming, First Person Shooter
Brink is a new first person shooter developed by Splash Damage, and powered by a revamped id Tech 4 engine with a strong multi player focus. It is set to release on May 10, 2011 for the PC as well as the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.
A web video series dubbed "Get SMART," is running up to the game's release date to both get gamers excited about the game and show them how to navigate the environment of The Ark and give them that extra bit of edge in the first days of battle. The full series can be found on the game's website here, and shows off everything from HUD design to story and plot mechanics. The following video; however, details a new movement system that the developers hope will cause players to rethink the way they play a first person shooter.
In an age where multi player shooters are flooding the market, Brink may appear to be "just another multi player shooter;" however, with Brink, the developers are attempting to differentiate themselves by implementing a new movement system and making combat even more customizable with deploy-able items, character buffs, wall hopping of all things and 4 different character classes.
With what they dub the "SMART" (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system, you are able to point your reticle at an area and by using the sprint key, have your character move there wether that be by vaulting, sliding, or wall hopping. The added dimensions for movement should help encourage new play styles to the traditional team multi player FPS gameplay. For example, characters are no longer stopped dead in their tracks by a waist high wall, or are not able to flank their enemies due to a hole in a bombed out fence being too low to the ground.
After watching the movement system demonstration, do you think SMART will shake up the multi player genre or is it just a gimmick?