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Anticompetition Charges Looming For Qualcomm

January 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Qualcomm coerced several phone manufacturers into accepting unfavorable technology licensing terms while giving Apple a break in exchange for exclusivity, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has charged.

The company used its dominance in baseband processors, which manage cellular communication in mobile devices, to force vendors to pay elevated royalties for Qualcomm technologies, the FTC charged in a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court.

At the same time, Qualcomm gave Apple favorable terms so it could supply the baseband chips for all iPhones from 2011 to 2016, according to the FTC. Among other things, in 2007 it got Apple to agree not to use WiMax, the original 4G system used on Sprint’s network, in any iPhones, the complaint said. WiMax was promoted by Intel, Qualcomm’s archrival.

Qualcomm’s actions hurt competition and effectively imposed a tax on some products that was passed on to consumers, the FTC said. It’s seeking a court order to undo and prevent the company’s allegedly anticompetitive practices.

 In a statement, Qualcomm said the complaint was based on a flawed legal theory and inadequate evidence.

“Qualcomm has never withheld or threatened to withhold chip supply in order to obtain agreement to unfair or unreasonable licensing terms,” the statement said. The company said the FTC rushed out the complaint before the new presidential administration takes office on Friday. Only three of the five seats on the commission are filled, and member Maureen Ohlhausen dissented from the complaint.

Qualcomm has a vast portfolio of mobile technology patents, and licensing them is a big part of its business in addition to selling chips. Its licensing practices have come under fire before. Last month, South Korea’s antitrust agency fined the company $853 million for allegedly violating that country’s competition laws.

By threatening to cut off phone makers’ supplies of baseband chips, Qualcomm got them to accept royalties and other license terms they wouldn’t otherwise have accepted, the FTC alleged. This weakened other baseband chip makers and raised costs for consumers, it said.

In addition, the company has refused to license its patented technology to other chip makers even when those technologies were essential to industry standards, the FTC said. Standards groups commonly require patent holders to license anything that’s part of a standard on FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms.

In her dissent, Commissioner Ohlhausen said the complaint never alleges that Qualcomm charged more than reasonable royalties because the commission lacked the evidence to say that.

Will The Snapdragon 835 Beat Its Predecessor?

January 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm shared with us a few interesting facts about the Snapdragon 835. You can expect that many high-end smartphones will end up with this chip inside, as industry players are very interested. 

Keith Kressin, senior VP of product management at Qualcomm,  mentioned that the Snapdragon 820 and 821 scores combined more than 200 design wins. It is obvious that Snapdragon 820 will get replaced by the Snapdragon 835 due to its 25 percent less power, new CPU with eight cores, divided into two clusters, as well as the new GPU that is 25 percent better.

Let’s not forget that the 25 percent better battery will result in slimmer phones, larger batteries and we care about later much more as the bigger battery means better longevity. With Quick Charge 3.0 you can get five hours of talking time with just five minutes of charging.

The Snapdragon 835 SoC with its brand new DSP, 1Gbit modem, new CPU and GPU, definitely looks great and the fact that Qualcomm did this in 10nm and packed all three billion transistors in this tiny SoC, is quite amazing.

The fact that Qualcomm got to 10nm a few quarters ahead of Intel means that there is a big shift of power in the industry. To cut Intel some slack, the company is making a chip that aims for very high TDPs while Qualcomm SoC is looking for very small TDPs and focuses on  battery life.

The Snapdragon 835 will power a lot of AR and VR HMD (Head Mounted Display) solutions and you can expect to see some notebooks based on this SoC toward the second part of the year.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 A Beast In The Making?

January 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

A new AnTuTu benchmark for Snapdragon 835 has been leaked online ahead of Qualcomm’s announcement at CES 2017.

If the figures are correct the new 10nm FinFET chip, which is being produced by Samsung will have 27 percent better performance, and 40 percent less power consumption than its predecessor.

ATuTu Benchmark gives the Snapdragon 835 scores 181,434 which is a significant jump over the existing Snapdragon 821 chip.

The unnamed device on which this benchmark score is achieved sports a 5.9-inch 2K display, with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage running Android 7.0 Nougat. The Snapdragon 835 is shown (below) as an octa-core processor with an Adreno 540 GPU.

But what the Tame Apple Press is not telling you is that the 835’s score has left Apple’s much quoted peak score of 172,644 for its A10 chipset for dead. This is the chip which is in the iPhone 7 Plus.

Qualcomm is expected to get many design wins for this chip and many of them will end up in phones which are much cheaper than Apple’s iPhone 7. This could mean that for most of next year, Apple will be trying to flog a phone which is slower and sucks up more battery than its lower priced rivals.

This week Apple announced that it was reducing orders for its iPhone 7 by ten percent because it had too much inventory. Given that Apple is believed to have ordered 30 per cent less iPhone’s in the first place means that it looks like the iPhone 7 will sell 40 per cent less than the iPhone 6 range.

Meanwhile Qualcomm will be sticking the new chip in the new Galaxy S8 series of phones, as well as other flagships, Microsoft recently announced that full Windows 10 would run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, and the firm even demoed Photoshop on a device using a Snapdragon 820.

Courtesy-Fud

Do OLED TV’s Suffer From Burn In

January 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Bad news for everyone who wanted to get an OLED TV soon; some industry experts have told Fudzilla that current generation OLED TVs suffer from a built in defect and that the companies are seeing a lot of TVs being returned after a year of use.

It looks like Quantum dot or Sony Backlight Master Drive LED technology might be your best bet at least for a little while because OLED TVs are still expensive, and the fact that they might get burn in after a while makes them less attractive. There is always good old LED TV, a technology that is predominantly available and manages panels larger than 55 inch at reasonable prices.  

This burn in problem could cause some major recalls at some point in the near future but our industry source, who wants to remain unnamed, did mention that there might be a solution in 2018 for the problem. Unfortunately, the solution will happen with the next generation of OLED panels.

So, getting great color levels and black that doesn’t not looked washed up have their downsides too. The same problem didn’t affect the small panels such as the ones in phones and tablets –  it occurs when on large panels only. Samsung and Sony are sticking with alternative technologies for the time being while LG has been pushing for OLEDs for a while.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Waning, Cutting iPhone Production

January 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc will put into place a reduction in production of iPhones by about 10 percent in the January-March quarter of 2017, the Nikkei financial daily is reporting, citing calculations based on data from the smartphone’s list of  suppliers.

The company had slashed output by 30 percent in January-March this year due to accumulated inventory, the paper said.

Apple’s shares were down 0.84 percent in midday trading, in line with the Nasdaq stock index.

 An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

Will Apple Cut iPhone Production This Quarter?

January 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple is expected to cut back its production of iPhone devices by about 10 percent in the first financial quarter of 2017 due to slower than expected sales, according to a Nikkei daily report filed on Thursday.

The information is based on the latest number data from the company’s suppliers, which says the decreased production output is a result of slower sales in the Q4 FY2016 financial quarter ending September 24th. Yet despite a slowdown in sales, the fruit-themed toymaker still managed to top the charts in terms of overall device activations at 44 percent, while Samsung was placed second at 21 percent. The rest of the top global smartphone vendors placed below five percent, with Huawei in third at three percent.

In 2016, the company reduced iPhone production output between January and March by 30 percent due to accumulated inventory levels of the iPhone 6S at the end of the previous holiday season.

This year, the problem appears to be convincing customers that new features on the iPhone 7 and flagship iPhone 7 Plus are enough to justify a purchase at off-contract price or paying off their existing device’s installment plan. Over the past few years, carriers have pushed customers to switch from fixed upgrade cycles over to installment plans or, bringing the length of device ownership to an average of 29 months, up from the typical range of 24 to 26 months during the previous two years.

While Apple is expected to announce a significant iPhone overhaul this year with its 10th anniversary design, the company still must navigate the new service plan trends set by wireless carriers in order to get a significant number of loyal customers to maintain its profit margins.

Courtesy-Fud

It Appears That The Video Games Market Had A Bang-Up Year

December 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Games generated $91 billion worldwide in 2016, according to a report from beancounters at SuperData Research who have been adding up some numbers on Christmas Party napkins.

Most of the cash was made in the mobile game segment some $41 billion (up 18 percent), followed by $26 billion for retail games and $19 billion for free-to-play online games.

Beancountrs at SuperData said that the new categories such as virtual reality, esports, and gaming video content were small in size, but they are growing fast and holding promise for next year. Hardware firms like Sony and HTC to take the lead in 2017. Still,

VR grew to $2.7 billion in 2016. Gaming video reached $4.4 billion, up 34 percent.

Mobile gaming was driven by Pokémon Go and Clash Royale. The mobile games market has started to mature and now more closely resembles traditional games publishing, requiring ever higher production values and marketing spend. Monster Strike was the top mobile game, with $1.3 billion in revenue.

The esports market generated $892 million (up 19 percent) in revenue. A string of investments in pursuit of connecting to a new generation of media consumers has built the segment’s momentum, as major publishers like Activision, Riot Games, and EA are exploring new revenue streams for selling media rights, according to the report.

Consumers increasingly download games directly to their consoles, spending $6.6 billion on digital downloads in 2016 which has helped improve margins.

PC gaming continues to do well, earning $34 billion (up 6.7 percent) and driven largely by free-to-play online titles and downloadable games. League of Legends together with newcomers like Overwatch are driving the growth in PC games.

PC gamers also saw a big improvement with the release of a new generation of graphics cards.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Apple Still In The Self-Driving Car Arena?

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claiming that was still interested in making self-driving cars.

Jobs’ Mob got a black eye in its self-driving car plans when it found that car makers were not the push over it expected. Jobs’ Mob arrived on the scene expecting car makers to fall over themselves to make Apple their partner. It made a list of demands about the way it was going to turn out and the car makers just laughed.

As a result, Apple appeared to give up on Project Titan, which was supposed to make the car, and reallocated all its staff to other projects or fired them.

Now this letter to the NHTS has Apple claiming to be “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

The letter is Apple’s official comment on the federal government’s automated vehicle guidelines, released last September, which has already drawn feedback from many companies working on autonomous cars like Google and Ford.

The federal government is continuing to collect feedback from tech companies and car manufacturers on its recently released automated vehicle policy. It would appear that Apple still wants into the program. Although how this will be possible without a product, or staff capable of making such a product is strange.

The letter is signed by Steven Kenner who is the man in charge of what is left of Project Titan.

“Apple agrees that companies should share de-identified scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near-misses. By sharing data, the industry will build a more comprehensive dataset than any one company could create alone.”

A cynic would suggest that Apple is hoping that other companies will share data which it can use to create its own product.

Apple also wants the government allow for “regulatory flexibility” to encourage innovation. This means that the government should keep the guidelines voluntary and avoid passing any concrete rules or mandates so Apple can do what it likes.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 Going Eight Cores?

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has already revealed that Snapdragon 835 is officially the world’s first 10nm SoC, and Fudzilla exclusively posted this in April 2016. At that time, Qualcomm didn’t want to officially talk about the insides of the Snapdragon 835, but a leaked roadmap claims that the new SoC has 4+4 cores based on updated Kryo 200 architecture. 

The same leak doesn’t talk about any clock speeds, but one can assume that there are four faster and more powerful and four slower cores, something that you saw with the Snapdragon 810 and the  Snapdragon 600 series. A Chinese source includes the fact that this is a 10nm FinFET processor and has a Snapdragon X16 Gigabit class modem. These two things have been officially confirmed by Qualcomm.

The roadmap details Adreno 540, obviously, with faster GPU support for 4x LPDDR 4x @ 1866 MHz memory. The new Snapdragon 835 (also called MSM 8998 internally) supports UFS 2.1 storage and it is supposed to arrive in Q1 2017. The source is quite confident that you can expect to see this SoC inside some versions of Samsung Galaxy S8 phones.

Snapdragon 660 is clearly a successor to the recently launched Snapdragon 653. The Snapdragon 653 comes with four Cortex A72 with speeds up to 1.95GHz and four Cortex A53 for power saving. The new Snapdragon 653 supports a few important features that will drive phone sales in the mainstream part of the market in 2017. The Snapdragon 653 has a Snapdragon X9 Cat 7 modem with 300 Mbps downlink speeds and 150 Mbps uplink speeds, dual cameras, and supports 8GB of RAM.

This is what you will see in mainstream phones in early 2017. Let’s not forget the Qualcomm upload plus. It comes with 2x20MHz carrier aggregation and 64-QAM modulation on both upload and download side. We think 8GB will be very big for mainstream and performance phones, but of course is pure marketing and very little to do with need or necessity.  

According to the leaked roadmap, the information about the chip potentially called Snapdragon 660 are all over the place. First they called it the MSM 8976 Plus and Qualcomm  shared on its website that the Snapdragon 653 also shares a 8976 Pro internal branding. The Snapdragon 660 and 8976 Plus might be two different chips. In any case they would come to replace the Snapdragon 653 / 652 SoCs. 

The roadmap also claims that the MSM 8976 Plus chip comes with Kryo 4×4 configuration while the Snapdragon 660 comes with Cortex A73 quad core with four Cortex A53s. It would make a lot of sense to see the 14nm Cortex A73 quad core with four Cortex A53 cores. The GPU is updated to Adreno 512, while the Snapdragon 653 comes with Adreno 510. The 14nm makes sense as it will offer a lot of power savings compared to the Snapdragon 652 and 653, both based on a 28nm manufacturing process. 

We would not expect to see Snapdragon 660 and mysterious MSM 8976 Plus before the middle of next year at the earliest, but the roadmap also claims that the new chip comes with Snapdragon X10 300/ 150 Mbit capable LTE Category 13 (uplink) LTE Category 7 (downlink) modem.

Last and not least, the new MSM 8976 Plus might support UFS 2.1 storage and 2x LPDDR4 4X at 1866 MHz.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Word-Of-Mouth The Best Way To Advertise Games?

November 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Last week, over three and a half years after its initial release, Digital Extremes’ free-to-play shooter Warframe broke its concurrent player record with expansion The War Within, hitting Steam’s top three on the weekend of release, recording a maximum of 68,530 players online at once and logging an incredible 1.2 million hours of playtime in a single day. Across PC and the more recent Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game, over 1 million of the 26 million players who have registered since the game’s 2013 launch had played by November’s halfway point, beating all previous monthly unique records with a fortnight to go.

Those are impressive numbers, especially for a game at a point in its lifecycle where it could certainly be forgiven for slowing down – and it’s no anomalous bump. Instead, a quick glance at SteamSpy’s graphs for the game show a steadily increasing number of players for the game, as well as a very healthy schedule of updates, patches and big content drops. Rather than leeching users to other games as it ages, Warframe is going from strength to strength.

Meridith Braun, VP Publishing at Digital Extremes, says that it’s been a tight compromise of strategies – resulting in a success which far exceeds the expectations of a game which was initially seen as something of a make or break exercise. Key to that, she says, has been a careful acquisition process, but not one which has come at the cost of long term curation and engagement of existing players.

“It’s definitely a balancing act between catering development to new players and veterans of the game,” Braun explains, “but after 3.5 years, the core of the game has grown so much that for new players there are literally hundreds of hours of missions, quests, customising and exploring game systems before they catch up to where veteran players are.

“Whilst many of our updates focus on adding new content and improving game systems that our veterans are most interested in, earlier this year we took a fresh look at the new player experience and released an update that refined some of the tutorials, updated the UI, tied quests together to help the lore flow better, and revamped the market for easier functionality. It was not our most played update, like The Second Dream or The War Within, but it served a long-tail purpose of making Warframe more inviting and easier to understand for new players. It helps them navigate to the really intricate depths of the game with the intent to retain them long-term.”

“We spend very little compared to other free-to-play games that focus a large amount of their budgets on acquisition”

Polishing the tip of the spear is a tried and tested acquisition technique, but it’s not usually a way of sidestepping the vast costs which many companies associate with gathering new players. Warframe’s marketing, though, was forged in a crucible of necessity, at a time when budgets were almost non-existent. As a result, the studio has learned to maximise the gain from channels which deliver users without draining revenue, although the financial success of the game has also enabled them to operate in areas previously well beyond their price range.

“We spend very little compared to other free-to-play games that focus a large amount of their budgets on acquisition,” says Braun. “Warframe was a passion project – the studio’s ‘Hail Mary’ pass, if you will. There was barely budget to buy an account server for the game, let alone to spend on marketing at the time. We turned to viral everything to get the word out: live streaming, social media, Reddit, forums, PR, knocking on partner’s doors for promotional opportunities. Once we launched in open beta and more players got a taste of the game, it was clear we had something unique on our hands. Since then our acquisition strategy has focused primarily on our update schedule and community involvement.

“We discovered early on that frequent significant updates – updates that added dramatic gameplay changes, enhancements and content, and transparency with our community, brought in droves of new players. Now that we have more wiggle room in our coffers, we work the usual acquisition channels – online CPA-focused advertising, social media, streaming, etc. – but nothing beats age old word-of-mouth between players telling their friends to join in on a game that only gets better and better over time.”

What’s perhaps even more unusual about the current high that Warframe finds itself riding upon is that it comes at a time when the AAA shooter market is crowded with a wide spread of very high quality competitors – many of which are under-performing at retail. The game’s peak numbers come at a point when there are brand new Battlefield and Call of Duty games at market, as well as extremely well reviewed releases like the Titanfall and Dishonored sequels.

“Warframe was a passion project – the studio’s ‘Hail Mary’ pass, if you will. There was barely budget to buy an account server for the game, let alone to spend on marketing at the time”

Braun very much sees free-to-play as playing a significant part in the difficulties which Warframe’s boxed rivals are experiencing.

“I think we’re seeing the F2P model disrupting the standard retail model for larger budget games,” she says. “The continued rise of AAA-quality, free-to-play games coming to market – and their ability to fill the long gaps between large IP releases – is taking a bite out of the big game market. Just this year it was great to see F2P titles like Paragon and Paladins launch to great fanfare and numbers, I’m sure they both had some effect on the big budget FPS games alongside Warframe.

“It’s hard to compete with free. Sure, we want people to eventually pay for the entertainment they’re receiving – but when you have the ability to try out a game for free for as long as you want, a game with equally great production value, and then decide if it’s a game that deserves your money, that’s pretty stiff competition. The larger games also aren’t built to be as agile and reactive to the market after they ship. Free games at their core are made to continually update and improve, offering incredible value and entertainment over a longer period of time.”

Blizzard probably has a few things to say about the notion that free-to-play games offer the best long-term player engagement and responsive improvement, and Braun freely admits that games like Overwatch share that strategy of player curation. Warframe, she says, also offers something else, though. Because it wasn’t a Blizzard game, born almost fully-fledged and slickly functional, early adopters have had the joy of watching it smooth out its rougher edges.

“When Warframe first launched it was a shell of the size of game it has become, and our players have stayed with our growth throughout its life-span. They enjoy taking the ride with us, being a part of the evolution, experiencing game development from the front seat. If you’re not thinking about long-term engagement and game service at the heart of your game design as a good part of the future of gaming, you may have yet to come to grips with the dwindling projections of one-and-done games.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will The iPhone 8 Go OLED?

November 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Hopes that Apple might sex up its iPhone 8 with OLED technology could be dashed by the fact that its suppliers can’t make enough of the technology.

After producing an iPhone 7 which was more or less the same as the last one, Apple had been expected to do something special with the iPhone 8. OLED screens were being touted as a way that the tax-dodging cargo cult might pull that off.

However according to the IB Times  suppliers may not be able to meet the demand.

This could force Apple to release limited next-gen iPhone units in 2017 with the rest using the older LCD technology. In other words it will be regurgitating the same technology it has used for years meaning that the iPhone 8 will look and feel like the iPhone 7, which looked suspiciously like the iPhone 6, which was not much of an advance from the iPhone 5.

Samsung Display, LG Display, Sharp and Japan Display cannot mass produce enough units as demanded by the smartphone industry. OLED screens are difficult and time-consuming to produce and it is likely that this constraint will spill over to 2018.

Samsung is reported to be the chief supplier for iPhone’s OLED panels in 2017 but it is facing low yield rates along with its high demand. Apple ordered an initial round of 100 million units for 2017 but Samsung is likely to produce only a portion of that.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple may resort to releasing a fair amount of units featuring screens that use older LCD technology.

Courtesy-Fud

China Asks Apple To Investigate Mysterious iPhone 6 Shutdowns

November 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

 

iphone-6-150x150A consumer protection group in China has made a request to Apple to investigate an issue with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S units that are automatically shutting off.

Recently, iPhone customers in the country have complained about the problem to the China Consumers Association, the group said in a statement on Tuesday. The shutdowns occur when the phone’s battery charge drops to between 60 and 50 percent.

The problem will persist despite upgrading to the latest version of iOS. It will also occur in both cold environments and at room temperature.  After the automatic shutdown, the phones will also fail to turn on without connecting to a power supply.

A “considerable number” of consumers have contacted the China Consumers Association, and many have the same problem, the group said. It made the statement as the local press in the country have written stories about the shutdowns.

Apple hasn’t publicly commented on the matter.

Prior to Tuesday’s statement from the consumer association, affected iPhone users in the country also took to local social media services to express their complaints.

“When the battery is at 60 percent it shuts down,” wrote one user on Sina Weibo. “On restart, the phone will display no battery. Then when I turn it on again, it will be normal, only to automatically shut down again.”

Local Chinese media have posted the letter the China Consumers Association sent to Apple. It asks that the company reply within 10 days.

The association is asking Apple what the problem is, whether the phone’s battery is responsible, and what steps the company will take to address the issue.

WhatsApp Adds Full Encryption To Video Calls

November 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

whatsapp-logo-150x150One of the most popular means of communication, Facebook’s  WhatsApp, had included fully encrypted video calling to its messaging app as of Monday, a move that comes as privacy advocates worry about the potential for stepped-up government surveillance under a Trump administration.

WhatsApp, which boasts more than a billion users worldwide, adopted end-to-end encryption early this year, making it technically impossible for the company or government authorities to read messages or listen to calls.

The new video calling service will thus provide another means for people to communicate without fear of eavesdropping though WhatsApp does retain other data such as an individual’s list of contacts.

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said in an interview that video calls will be rolled out to 180 countries within hours after the feature is introduced at an event in India.

“We obviously try to be in tune with what our users want,” Koum said at the company’s unmarked Mountain View, California headquarters building. “We’re obsessed with making sure that voice and video work well even on low-end phones.”

Koum told Reuters that improvements in phone cameras, battery life and bandwidth had made the service viable for a significant proportion of WhatsApp users, even those using inexpensive smartphones.

Apple Inc  offers its FaceTime video calls to iPhone users, and Microsoft Corp’s  Skype offers video calls on multiple platforms. But WhatsApp has built a massive installed base of mobile customers and has been steadily adding more features to what began as a simple chat applications.

Do 8-bit Video Games Compete In The Industry Today?

November 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

8-bit-gamesNostalgia has become a powerful tool in entertainment these past few years.

Whether it is the return of X-Files and Twin Peaks, or Shenmue and Pokémon, bringing back classic IP has become a safe way to secure headlines and generate copious amounts of hype.

Yet it’s not just brands that are tapping into our love for the familiar. Take this summer’s smash Netflix show Stranger Things, which plays homage to both ’80s Spielberg and classic horror. Or indeed the millions of dollars that the likes of Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained have raised on Kickstarter – the former riffing on 1990s platformers like Banjo-Kazooie (and made by many of the same team members), with the latter acting as the spiritual successor to Castlevania (from former producer Koji Igarashi).

Ron Gilbert is another person looking to recreate those ’90s feelings. The adventure game maker behind the likes of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island is creating a new one called Thimbleweed Park, a point-and-click adventure with retro 8-bit visuals that raised $626,250 via Kickstarter.

“I think a lot of the nostalgia that is around right now comes from a desire to go back to a simpler time,” suggest Gilbert, speaking to Gamesindustry.biz shortly after appearing at Melbourne International Games Week in Australia.

“Back then games were a little bit simpler and seeping with charm. A lot of people that love the 8-bit games today might not have even been alive back then, but they still identify with that era because it was so interesting and charming.

“It is really one of the reasons we did Thimbleweed Park. We were looking at and asking why was Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion so appealing? What is it about modern adventure games, although they’re interesting and have great stories, that means they lack the charm those games from that era had? Can we recreate that old feeling today?”

Point-and-click adventure games are enjoying a small renaissance, thanks in part to the rise of indie developers – as indeed are platformers, Metroidvania games and a whole host of other genres long thought dead.

“I don’t know exactly why adventure games faded away,” Gilbert continues.

“I do feel that somewhere around the mid-90s, point-and-click adventures sort of ran off the rails. A lot of really – for want of a better word – stupid puzzles were being made. I think what happened was that people looked at this, and went: ‘Wait a minute, you’re asking me to do completely ridiculous and random things to get through these games.’ Some players just checked out at that point.

“You also had games like Doom that came along and were first person and were more action orientated, and those games attracted a very different audience into games. So I don’t know if adventure games necessarily fell, but they certainly didn’t grow with the rest of the industry. But now we are seeing this place where we are attracting a much broader audience, and a little bit of that is due to mobile games being so ubiquitous. There are just so many more people playing games these days, and with adventure games being very story and character focused, they are able to attract that broader audience.”

He continues: “You have games that have always been niche markets. Now, because of digital distribution and the way the democratization of development tools is working, niche markets can be viable markets.”

Gilbert is enjoying the current state of indie development and the ability to make decent games with relatively small teams. It speaks to his days making titles in the ’80s and ’90s. Maniac Mansion was made with three people, Monkey Island had five full time members of staff, which increased to seven for its sequel.

Thimbleweed Park is also being made by just a handful of creators, with input from the game’s plentiful Kickstarter supporters. But this desire to go back to those early days is not just about how the visuals looked or how small the teams were, Gilbert also wants to head back to a period when developers didn’t take themselves quite so seriously.

“When we were making games back then, it was all kind of new,” Gilbert remembers. “We didn’t have anything to go from, so it was a more innocent time. Games today, although I love modern adventure games like Firewatch or Kentucky Route Zero, they are very deep and thoughtful. They require a lot from me as a player, or the viewer, because there are very interesting, deep messages that I am gleaming from this stuff. And that’s largely just the advancement of the art form. The games of the ’80s and early ’90s, they were just more innocent, and simple and therefore more charming.

“Adventure games have certainly improved. Visually, games like Firewatch are much more advanced. But I think they’ve advanced in some ways and they’ve actually de-evolved in others. I think they’re more advanced because they are trying to tell more meaningful stories, stories that are truly about something interesting or important.

“But in other ways, they haven’t moved forward. Games like Kentucky Route Zero… although I enjoyed that game quite a bit, I sort of jokingly call it the ‘press A to continue game’, because I didn’t feel like I was making a lot of choices. I was just kind of pressing the A button to get to the next piece of dialogue, and it was greatly written dialogue and it was a captivating world, which made it ok. In Firewatch, you are spending a lot of time walking around and exploring this world, and it is a very fascinating world and a very beautiful place, so I was utterly enthralled with it, but there’s not actually a lot to do. The old school adventure games really required you to work. It was a case of: ‘here is a load of puzzles and here is a bunch of story, and you have to solve all these puzzles, which should lead to uncovering the next part of the mystery’. The classic adventure games were more sophisticated in that sense.”

Like Yooka-Laylee with Banjo-Kazooie and Bloodstained with Castlevania, Thimbleweed Park is a game that could easily have had the words ‘Maniac Mansion’ or ‘Monkey Island’ plastered on the artwork. Gilbert does hope his new IP can be successful enough to become a series, but he also, quite publicly, wants to revisit those classic franchises that made his name. Both Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island were created at LucasArts, so the rights to them currently reside in the vaults somewhere at Disney’s HQ.

Disney has largely moved on from video games, and Gilbert has asked the media giant on Twitter to let him buy back the rights to his old franchises. To no avail, so far.

We ended our conversation by asking Gilbert if he had considered returning to Kickstarter to raise the funds he might need to acquire those 1990s brands.

“Buying the rights back for those games… it’s not a matter of money, it is a matter of Disney being willing to sell them,” Gilbert concludes. “If Disney came to me and said: ‘Hey, we’ll sell you Monkey Island’. I will go get the money. No amount of crowd-funding is going to make this happen, it’s just a case of Disney agreeing to sell them.

“I’ve not managed to talk to anyone at Disney who is high enough up the ladder to make that decision. I fear that the people who would make that decision have no idea what Monkey Island is.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Apple Made Owning A MacBook Pro A Little Bit More Affordable

November 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

apple-usb-c-adapter-150x150Apple has made life slightly less expensive for buyers of new MacBook Pros. The company has lower the prices for many of its USB-C adapters, which are necessary for users who want to connect their devices to the new laptop.

The new MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, which have a different connector than that of USB-A devices and cables like the iPhone sync cable. That means you need to buy an adapter. Depending on your devices, you may need to buy several adapters.

The prices reduction were first reported by The Loop. “We recognize that many users, especially pros, rely on legacy connectors to get work done today and they face a transition,” Apple said in a statement to The Loop. “We want to help them move to the latest technology and peripherals, as well as accelerate the growth of this new ecosystem. Through the end of the year, we are reducing prices on all USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 peripherals we sell, as well as the prices on Apple’s USB-C adapters and cables.”

Some of the USB-C adapters in the Apple Store include:

  • USB-C to USB Adapter ($9; was $19)
  • USB-C to Lightning Cable (2m) ($29; was $35)
  • USB-C to Lightning Cable (1m) ($19; was $25)
  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter ($29; was $49)

Prices have also been cut on some non-Apple adapters that are available in the Apple Store:

  • Belkin 2.0 USB-C to USB-B Printer Cable ($14; was $20)
  • Belkin USB-C to Micro-B Cable (USB 3.1) ($22; was $30)
  • Belkin USB-C to VGA Adapter ($29; was $40)
  • Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter ($26; was $35)
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro SD UHS-II Card USB-C Reader ($29; was $50)

Refer to our MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 adapter guide to figure out what adapters you need.

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