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Will EA Copy Activision’s Gaming Strategy With Battlefield?

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

According to the announcement made by EA earlier this week, it appears that there won’t be any new Battlefield game for a “couple of years”.

The announcement, which says that there are no plans for a new Battlefield game for another “couple of years”, was made during EA’s Investor Program by EA’s chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen and came as a rather big surprise, especially considering that the latest Battlefield 1 was a big success.

It appears that EA will be rather focusing on Battlefront, the Star Wars themed game, and the next one will be both “much bigger” and “much more exciting”, which was something that was a big drawback of the first Battlefront.

Of course, EA still plans to release those four expansion packs but we do not know any future plans for the franchise.

Hopefully, this also means that EA will have something special in store for future Battlefield titles as they certainly both surprised everyone and made a great hit by using the World War I.

Courtesy-Fud

Helio Finally Launches X27 And The X23 SoCs

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek has announced two more Helio X20 series products – a Helio X27 and an X23 and as you can figure out from the names; Helio X27 is faster than the X25 while X23 is a bit slower. 

Helio X25 was the fastest deca-core 20nm SoC from MediaTek with three cluster designs and this SoC ended up in quite a few prominent China higher end phones including a few Meizu devices. But it looks like customers wanted a bit faster camera, SoC and GPU performance for its late 2016 early 2017 phones, the ones that will launch before the Helio X30 comes to market.

Jeffrey Ju, Executive Vice President and Co-Chief Operating Officer at MediaTek said: “The MediaTek Helio platform fulfills the diverse needs of device makers. Based on the success of MediaTek Helio X20 and X25, we are introducing the upgraded MediaTek Helio X23 and X27. The new SoCs support premium dual camera photography and provide best in-class performance and power consumption,”

The Helio X25 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.5 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 2.00 GHz and last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.55GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 850 MHz.

The Helio X20 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.1 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.85 GHz and last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.4GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 780 MHz.

The newcomer, Helio X27, has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.6 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 2.00 GHz and the last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.6 GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 875 MHz. The rest of the specification is identical to the Helio X25.

The Helio X23 has two Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.85 GHz and the last four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.4GHz. The Mali GT880 graphics is clocked at 780 MHz. As you can see, this is just a slightly faster version of Helio X20 and it sits just below Helio X25 with its specs.

Thanks to MediaTek-engineered advancements in the CPU/GPU heterogeneous computing scheduling algorithm, both products deliver more than a 20 percent overall processing improvement and significant increases in web browsing and application launching speeds. This definitely sounds promising but you should bear in mind that MediaTek had enough time to optimize these designs of the new and updated SoCs.  

Phones based on the Helio X27 and X23 will be available soon.

Courtesy-Fud

Is More ZEN Information Coming This Month?

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

While waiting for Zen is remarkably like waiting for Godot, we have just been told that AMD will be holding a sneak peek of its high-performance Zen CPU on 13 December.

The preview will be streamed at 1 p.m. PST on December 13. You can sign up at AMD’s website to have a shifty. The host of the event will be the video gamer hack, Geoff Keighley and it will be called “Watch New Horizon.”

According to the email the event will be an “ exclusive advance preview of our new ‘Zen’ CPU ahead of its 2017 Q1 launch”.

“See eSports & Evil Geniuses legend PPD put ‘Zen’ through its paces. There’ll be appearances from special guests and giveaways. This is the first time the public will be able to try it themselves and see its capabilities. If you’re serious about gaming, this is an event you do not want to miss.”

What we are expecting is that AMD will show off the quad-core version of Zen. AMD will have four Zen-based CPUs in the “Summit Ridge” family launching early next year.

The top end will probably include two eight-core chips with Simultaneous Multi-Threading, and an SR5 with six cores, and a quad-core SR3.

What we are curious about is if the pricing rumors are correct. The highest-end 8-core will be $500, while a second, slower eight-core chip could be as low as $350. This will really scare the bejesus out of Intel as it is promising better performance for half the price.

Other rumors say that the six-core SR5 will hit the shops for $250 and the quad-core SR3 will be $150. Intel gear will set you back $320 for its quad-core Core i7-6700K chip, and the cheapest six-core costs $380.

Courtesy-Fud

Is TSMC Going 12nm Too?

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

According to industry sources, TSMC is planning to introduce a 12 nanometer half-node process to enhance competition with 28nm and lower process nodes that have been adopted over the past few years.

The chip manufacturer’s 12nm process node will join its existing 16nm process portfolio as a smaller option in order to give it a competitive advantage against Samsung and GlobalFoundries. It is expected to offer improved leakage characteristics at a lower cost than its 16nm lineup. TSMC currently offers three variants of its 16nm FinFET process designed both for high-performance devices, as well as for ultra-low power situations requiring less than 0.6 volts.

Back in September, GlobalFoundries was the first to announce a 12nm process using Fully Depleted Silicon-On-Insulator (FD-SOI) planar technology. The foundry claims that 12FDX can deliver “15 percent more performance over current FinFET technologies” with “50 percent lower power consumption,” at a cost lower than existing 16nm FinFET devices.

TSMC currently supplies 16nm chips to a number of American, Chinese and Taiwanese companies including Apple, Nvidia, Xilinx, Spreadtrum and MediaTek, while GlobalFoundries provides chips using 14nm FinFET technology for AMD’s Polaris graphics cards and upcoming Zen processors. Meanwhile, Samsung provides 14nm LPP technology to Qualcomm for its Snapdragon 820 series and for use in its own mobile device lineup.

Although TSMC’s 12nm process was originally planned to be introduced as a fourth-generation 16nm optimization, it will now be introduced as an independent process technology instead. Three of the company’s partners have already received tape-outs on 10nm designs and the process is expected to start generating revenues by early 2017. Apple and MediaTek are likely to be the first with 10nm TSMC-based products, while the 12nm node should become a useful enhancement to fill the competition gap before more partners are capable of building 10nm chips.

Courtesy-Fud

Can Virtual Reality Find A Voice?

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

As we near the end of a pivotal year for virtual reality, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done. With the arrival of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, consumers finally have access to the technology that has commanded much of the industry’s attention and excitement for the past four years but only now can we gauge how popular it may become.

That’s according to Aki Järvinen, founder of research and consulting initiative Game Futures, currently working at Sheffield Hallam University. Järvinen will be speaking about trends in virtual reality development at this week’s Develop:VR conference in London. We caught up with him ahead of the event to find out his thoughts on the industry’s next step after this year’s long-awaited hardware launches.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example. How does the isolating, solitary nature of current VR tech affect the frequency of use and thus retention with games? Early data shows that game time spent on VR titles is nowhere close to PC titles in the same genres.

“Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired, has talked about how the Internet has proceeded to its current form as streams and flows, from its ‘newspapery’ web origins. I expect something similar to happen with VR games; currently, it’s about imitating existing genres with the added value of VR-enhanced sense of presence, but developers and designers should experiment with other paradigms.

“2016 has been the first proper year for developers to test the waters on if the market is profitable yet and learn about releasing games for the actual retail platforms. Strategic product decisions are being made as we speak, based on these early experiences.”

Many developers have said that virtual reality tears up the game design rulebook, requiring completely new theories and practices when it comes to game creation. By now, studios have poured years into experimenting with VR games and it would be fair to argue that the early pages of that rulebook have been written – but Järvinen believes the conventions and best practices established so far are largely temporary.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice. We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

With more changes expected from the headsets themselves, plus the accessories and controllers supporting them, Järvinen argues that the time span has been “too short for [findings] to stick” and that gameplay design solutions in use now will be almost irrelevant in just a few years.

“If one looks at games like Batman: Arkham VR, for example, the designers have clearly tried to turn the current constraints of the platform – lack of movement in particular – to their advantage, and design gameplay around the constraints,” he says. “They’ve done this with very deliberately crafted, static setpieces that leverage VR’s other strengths, such as experiencing the scope and scale of things in a more startling, life-like way. Yet, once those movement constraints go away, it’s hard to see anyone designing in that paradigm anymore. So it’s an agile rulebook in constant change.”

The future of virtual reality will, therefore, be defined by its hardware rather than its software, and the Game Futures founder predicts significant evolution from the devices people are picking up in stores this Christmas.

“VR has enough momentum now that it will go along the typical development path of similar technologies,” says Järvinen. “Headsets will become smaller, untethered, of higher resolution, trackers invisible, and so on. When these developments are able to coincide with lower production costs to the degree that retail price points become truly affordable, then we are on the cusp of a real breakthrough. Parallel to this, software has to evolve.”

It’s easy to argue that virtual reality software is already quite unevolved. With a handful of more ambitious or high-production projects being the exceptions, the vast majority of launch software for Oculus, Vive and PSVR is limited. Most current virtual reality titles offer a more immersive first-person perspective for long-established gameplay genres, with little more than the novelty of viewing the action through the headset to differentiate it from what has come before. Perhaps the most blatant examples are the waves of shooting gallery-style VR games, where players are restricted to either an on-rails experience, a gun turret or standing on the spot, blasting away at waves of enemies that appear in often scripted patterns.

Järvinen says the prominence of these games so far is “a concern” but believes that as the market evolves, both in terms of hardware and software, “the lesser formulas will wither out”.

He adds: “So far developers have benefited from the rush of early adopters who basically purchase or download everything. This might lead to vanity metrics, such as bloated download figures, or bloated revenue estimates, as there has been lots of free promotions, bundles, and so on. But the VR market cannot be sustained with spikes from early adopters and therefore the more inherently ‘VR’ titles and game design aspects will eventually prevail.

“VR in its current form still has too many disabling contexts in play, such as retail price, PC requirements, and the fact that many people experience nausea. While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

The cultural challenges that virtual reality faces are by far the most significant. 2016 has seen VR find the audience it was originally intended for and would inevitably appeal to the most (that is, avid consumers of video games and emerging technology) but hopes remain high that the tech will grow to have mainstream appeal. Certainly, that seems to be the intention of Facebook, which acquired Oculus back in 2014 and earlier this year showed off new social communication functions such as virtual chat rooms at September’s Connect event.

“While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

Järvinen believes the social network has spent enough effort and money on virtual reality that “they’ve gone past the point of abandoning creating its mass-market appeal” but suggests future forms of the hardware will have more impact on the technology’s attractiveness than the companies backing it.

“True mainstream appeal would require technological developments, such as miniaturisation, but also use cases where users see obvious benefits. Facebook seems to bet on the social dimension being the latter. Creating accessible tools for VR content creation could be the home run.”

As such, we can expect to see more companies from beyond the games industry investing in the technology and those developing for it. While it might not reach the headline-grabbing heights of Facebook’s $2bn Oculus acquisition, there is little danger of funding for virtual reality projects drying up any time soon.

“The wow factor with VR is strong enough that, when executed innovatively by a capable team, investors will get on board,” Järvinen says. “Therefore I believe investments will stay steady but perhaps we won’t see news about the more exuberant sums before the market finds its own Supercell.”

Järvinen concludes by stressing that the non-games, even non-entertainment, applications for virtual reality will go a long way to not only broadening the technology’s appeal, but writing more pages of that agile rulebook.

“We should not forget applications of VR beyond games and entertainment,” he says. “I believe journalism can use similar aspirations for a heightened feeling of empathy, achieved by leveraging that sense of presence VR can produce. We are already seeing signs of this with 360 video pieces distributed via VR platforms.

“Lots of interesting stuff is also going on in medical applications and research, such as burn victim therapy via VR. Real estate market could benefit in a big way from virtual viewings. So VR will not have one end goal, but many.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is AMD’s ZEN Launching With Extremely Competitive Pricing?

November 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

zenOver the past few days, more information has been revealed regarding AMD’s pricing and performance configurations for its Zen desktop processors, codenamed Summit Ridge.

Four SKUs ranging between $150 and $500

A new pricing document originating from China indicates that AMD initially plans to release four Zen desktop SKUs in four, six and eight-core variants. Just like Intel’s high-end desktop lineups, none of these chips will feature integrated graphics.

At the top of the list is the Zen SR7 “Special” featuring eight cores, sixteen threads and priced at $500, followed by a standard Zen SR7 in the same core configuration for $350. In the mid-range segment is the Zen SR5, featuring six cores, twelve threads and priced at $250. In the entry-level segment is the Zen SR3, featuring four cores and eight threads and priced at $150.

Last week in a Maxsun email posted on Baidu, there were indications that high-end Zen chips would be priced up to ¥2,000 ($290), yet the latest leak now says they will go as high as ¥3,999 ($500) for the SR7 Special Edition, while the mid-range SR5 will be priced closer to the initial estimate.

As for specifications, the email also mentioned that Zen chips should have base frequencies between 3.15 to 3.30GHz with 3.5GHz Boost clocks.

Zen SR7 engineering sample runs at 3.2GHz

Now, a new engineering sample of an eight-core Zen SR7 has been spotted by reliable AMD blogger DresdenBoy, who shared that the part number (1D3201A2M88F3_35/32_N) indicates a 3.2GHz chip with 3.5GHz Boost. Back in August, two eight-core Zen engineering samples appeared in a benchmark database with part numbers ending with “32/28_N,” indicating that they were running at 2.8GHz with 3.2GHz Boost.

Performs like Core i7 6950X at half the price

Even taking these price points into consideration, an eight-core Zen SR7 at $500 may still perform similarly to Intel’s eight-core Core i7 5960X at $1,000, given Zen’s more competitively-focused IPC design. The company’s switch back to Simultaneous Multi-Threading (hyperthreading) allows each core to run two threads just like Intel chips, so even the ten-core Core i7 6950X with a 3GHz base and 3.5GHz Turbo is a benchmark to consider.

The folks at Guru3D say Zen chips should have four integer units, two address generation units and four FP units, while decoding four instructions per clock. Compared to Bulldozer, bandwidth for L1 and L2 cache should be almost twice as fast, with each Zen core featuring the same amount of L3 cache per core as Intel.

Zen Summit Ridge series processors are currently expected to launch on January 17th following a CES announcement during the first week.

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

Symantec Agree To $2.3 Billion Acquisition Deal For LifeLock

November 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

symantec-150x150Symantec Corp announced plans to acquire U.S. identity theft protection services company LifeLock Inc  for $2.3 billion, in a deal that it hopes will prop up sales at its Norton cybersecurity unit.

Symantec’s security software often comes bundled with personal computers. As a result, the company has suffered as consumers use mobile devices more than traditional computers. While Norton remains profitable, its sales have been falling.

“(Norton) had been declining with the declines in PC market share. This acquisition brings $660 million in revenue to the consumer business and returns it to longer sustainable growth,” Symantec Chief Executive Greg Clark said in an interview.

Reuters was first to report earlier on Sunday that Symantec was in the lead to acquire LifeLock.

Symantec’s purchase of LifeLock is in line with its efforts to diversify its offerings. In August, it bought Blue Coat Inc, which helps firms maintain security over the internet, in a $4.65 billion deal. Clark previously held the top job at Blue Coat, and made the switch after the deal closed.

Based in Tempe, Arizona, LifeLock offers services such as monitoring new account openings and credit-related applications in order to alert consumers about unauthorized use of their identity. It also works with government agencies, merchants and creditors to remediate the impact of identity theft.

Fran Rosch, executive vice president of Norton Business Unit, said that Symantec had dabbled in identity security but had nowhere near Lifelock’s 4.4 million members.

“We had to extend our value proposition. It was a no brainer for us to get back to growth,” Rosch said.

Symantec expects to finance the transaction with cash on balance sheet and $750 million of new debt.

The Mountain View, California-based company has been moving away from what is sees as more commoditized services, selling its data storage business Veritas in January to private equity firm Carlyle Group LP for $7.4 billion. Technology-focused firm Silver Lake Partners has also made a $1 billion investment in the company in two parts this year.

Symantec said the LifeLock deal is not expected to have a material impact on its financial results next year, and reaffirmed its fiscal year 2017 and 2018 guidance. The deal also represents a victory for activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp, which had pushed LifeLock to explore its options.

Is AMD Readying The Zen Server Line?

November 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD has released the latest version of its ROCm software tools which make it easier to write and compile parallel programs for its new Zen GPUs and CPUs.

The software is designed to help put Zen under the bonnet of high-performing servers to turn GPUs and CPU combos into servers. If it all pays off AMD could be back in the server market after losing it totally to Intel.

ROCm provides a base for the company to build GPUs for large-scale servers. It is a low-level programming framework like Nvidia’s CUDA. But it’s open source and can work with a wide range of CPU architectures like ARM, Power, and x86.

According to PC World the ROCm platform is targeted at the large-scale server installations and for multiple GPUs in a cluster of racks.

It’ll work with AMD’s latest Radeon Pro GPUs and current consumer GPUs based on the Polaris architecture. It can be used to run neural networking clusters or for scientific computing.

AMD has not revealed any of its supercomputing GPU plans but said ROCm will play a big role as the company goes after the HPC space.

ROCm is based around the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) spec which is supposed to link the computing power of CPU, GPU, and other processors in a system. AMD thinks HSA specifications could replace OpenCL, which is widely used today for parallel programming.

But what is more interesting about it is that AMD is chasing open-source standards, contrary to Intel which still wants people to use its proprietary standards. This open saucy approach might be the novelty which helps AMD succeeds. The Open Source does well in the HPC area where stuff is a little more collaborative.  It might be that AMD has hit on a system that works and can get its foot in the door. 

Courtesy-Fud

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

Should 7nm Processors Be The Norm?

November 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

GlobalFoundry’s CTO has said that the industry needs 7nm and its recent IBM purchase is helping him build up a new cunning plan for the technology.

Talking to Digitimes, Gary Patton has the job of building up the foundry house’s 7nm manufacturing technology. He said that the acquisition of IBM’s microelectronics unit was a big help because it had been doing a lot of work in differentiated 45/30/22/14 nm process nodes and improving its algorithm technologies for use in servers. That integration between the two sides will give GlobalFoundries a clearer blueprint for technology development.

Patton said that the 5G industry, as well as mobile computing, IoT and automotive electronics will be the growth drivers for the next decade, particularly 5G products and datacentres which need support of high-performance computing.

He added that GloFo’s FinFET process was divided into two generations, including 14 nm and 7 nm.

“We cooperated with Samsung Electronics in the 14nm process previously, but we have decided to choose a different approach for the 7nm technology and, additionally, the IBM deal has significantly enhanced our resources and development capabilities allowing us to develop the 7nm process in-house,” he said.

GloFlo had decided to jump from 14nm to 7nm directly, while skipping the 10nm process because it believed that 10nm will help not much to improve power consumption and costs for clients.

“The 10nm node is more like a semi-generation process, similar to the previous the 20nm technology, which could not meet clients’ requirements,”he said.

The foundry was getting comments from clients indicating that they need the 7nm products urgently so pouring technology resources into developing the 7nm process made more sense.

GloFo’s internal roadmap has the 7nm process is expected to enter volume production in the first half of 2018 with initial clients including IBM and AMD.

“The 7nm process has a number of advantages, including multi-core, high-speed I/O capabilities, reducing power consumption by 60 per cent, upgrading performance by 30 per cent , cutting costs by 30 per cent doubling the yield rate per wafer, while providing 2.5D/3D packaging services,” he said.

Courtesy-Fud

Is The Call of Duty Franchise Losing Its Touch In The UK?

November 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was the No.1 boxed game in the UK this week, but Week One sales were down 48.4 percent compared with the same period for last year’s Black Ops III.

It’s the fiercest drop the franchise has suffered since it became one of the world’s most popular entertainment properties following the success of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 2007.

There was no PS3 or Xbox 360 version this year, however even just comparing the PS4 and Xbox One figures shows a sales drop of 43.6 percent.

Activision has changed its strategy a little with the series, and has put an increased emphasis on generating more revenue from its fans via DLC, special editions and microtransactions, as opposed to growing user numbers. Nevertheless, such a steep fall will come as a big disappointment to the firm and to UK retailers.

This was still the second biggest UK game launch of the year after FIFA 17. However, Call of Duty now finds itself playing catch-up with its biggest rival, Battlefield 1, which has already passed over half a million sales in the UK – the game has been on sale for two weeks longer.

It is important to note that all of these statistics do not factors in sales made via Steam, PSN, Xbox Live or EA Origin.

Call of Duty’s performance follows the disappointing launch of Titanfall 2. That EA game suffered a relatively mild 41 per cent week-on-week drop in its second week, but it is still selling well below what would have been expected for the IP.

It once again calls into question the logic of launching three huge first person shooter games within such close proximity.

There was one other new entry in the physical retail charts this week, Football Manager 2016 at No.6. The PC game almost certainly would have performed far better than this once you consider digital sales.

It wasn’t all bad news for Activision, Skylanders Imaginators has returned to the Top Ten following recent TV advertising, with sales rising 131 percent week-on-week.

All figures are courtesy of UK physical games tracker GfK and UKIE.

Courtesy-GI.biz

WIll MediaTek Take A Big Fall In Q4?

November 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-mediatek2Earlier this week, MediaTek reported a net profit growth of 19 percent during the third quarter of 2016, but now expects revenue momentum to slow down in the fourth quarter as it ramps up production capacity of 28nm chips.

According to company vice chairman Mr. Hsieh Ching-jiang, investors can expect a revenue decline anywhere between seven and 15 percent, or between NT $66.6 billion ($2.11 billion) and NT $72.9 billion ($2.31 billion), while gross margins are expected to remain between 33.5 percent and 36.5 percent.

The reason for the decline is because foundries are still catching up with tight 28nm production demands, and supply constraints are likely to remain until the end of the year. MediaTek also notes that customer demand for certain products is slowing down, including smartphone and tablet chip shipments, and 4G modems.

The company’s overall smartphone and tablet chip shipments will decrease from 145 to 155 million units in Q3 to around 135 to 145 million in Q4, or around seven percent. Revenues came in at NT $78.4 billion ($2.49 billion) last quarter, or 37.6 percent higher compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the company is scheduled to announce its next-generation Helio chips at the end of this year, with volume production beginning in 2017. It will announce the high-end X30 SoC based on 10nm design and featuring a Cat 10 modem at the end of this year, followed by some entry-level and mid-range chips featuring Cat 7 modems sometime next year.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Electronic Arts Bullish On Next Quarter?

November 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

The second fiscal quarter is historically the quietest stretch for Electronic Arts, but the three months ended September 30 gave the publisher reason for optimism heading into the crucial holiday season. The company today released its second quarter results, beating its net income guidance and showing strong growth in its EA Sports Ultimate Team efforts.

“Q2 was an excellent quarter for Electronic Arts, led by breakthrough new EA Sports titles engaging players across console and mobile,” CEO Andrew Wilson said. “We are in an outstanding position for the quarter ahead, with two of the highest-rated games of this console generation in Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, global competitive gaming tournaments underway, and our first virtual reality experiences coming soon. Across all platforms, this holiday season will be a fantastic time to play.”

While Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 launched after the second quarter, EA used the report to tout the games’ early achievements. For Battlefield 1, the company said the total player base during the first week of release nearly doubled that of 2013’s Battlefield 4. As for Titanfall 2, which just launched last Friday, the company said dozens of press outlets had given review scores the equivalent of a 90 out of 100 or above.

As for the releases actually covered by EA’s second quarter results, they would include EA Sports mainstays Madden 17 and FIFA 17. The company said “20% more players were engaged” in FIFA 17 during its first week than in the first week of FIFA 16, but made no mention of specific performance for Madden. However, the EA Sports Ultimate Team game modes appear to be healthy, as EA said Ultimate Team’s net sales between the FIFA, Madden, and NHL series are up 15% year-over-year on a trailing 12-month basis.

For the second quarter, EA reported net revenues of $898 million, up 10% from last year, but short of the $915 million it had given as guidance. However, the company’s net loss for the quarter of $38 million was a significant improvement on the previous second quarter’s net loss of $140 million, and better than the projected $51 million net loss.

EA gave the early performance of FIFA 17 and the holiday slate of releases as reason enough to adjust its full-year expectations, with the company now expecting net revenue for the year ending March 31, 2017 to be $4.775 billion, up from $4.75 billion. Net income for the year is also projected to reach $848 million, compared to the previous guidance of $809 million.

Update: On the earnings call, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen addressed the early feedback on Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, noting that it’s too early to update any sales projections but that there’s “incredible excitement” around both and the company is “very optimistic” not just for this holiday season but for the longer term. Citing the fact that “quite a few players” were still playing Battlefield 4 years after it released, Jorgensen said he expects similar long-term interest in both titles. More generally, looking at EA’s business, Jorgensen is also encouraged by the opportunity that this generation’s consoles and the mid-cycle upgrades affords a big publisher like EA since the console installed base is already up 33% in the West compared to the previous generation, he said.

Interestingly, when asked about one of EA’s big upcoming titles, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Jorgensen effectively said that EA is not afraid to push the title back yet again (it was originally scheduled for 2016 but is now loosely slated for Q4, which ends next March). While that shouldn’t be read as a sign of trouble – Jorgensen said Mass Effect is “tracking extremely well” – it appears EA wants to be 100% sure that the game does not need any additional time before it commits more fully to a release date.

Courtesy-GI.biz

ARM Shows Off Mali-G51 GPU

November 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Japanese fabless chip outfit ARM has been showing off its Mali-G51, a second-generation GPU built on the Bifrost architecture.

The chip is supposed to put ARM into the virtual reality and augmented reality game. It is ARM’s smallest Vulkan-enabled Mali GPU and claims to make sure that VR and AR is not just something for high-end devices.

Bifrost first appeared in this year’s Mali-G61, but the g51 is supposed to make the tech more widespread. .

ARM is also looking to power Microsoft HoloLens-style AR experiences, because games are increasingly based on live scenes and feeds. In terms of performance and efficiency, the G51 offers a 60 percent boost in performance density compared with the Mali-T830 and a 60 per cent increase in energy efficiency.

The Mali-V61 brings VP9 and improved HEVC to the next generation of devices, and takes aim at real-time 4K streaming using applications such as Facebook Live and Periscope. ARM claims that the Mali-V61 offers 50 percent bit-rate saving over previous generation codecs, and noted that it also scales from 1080p60 on a single core and up to 4K120 on multiple cores, providing the highest definition streaming on any mobile device.

ARM explained that the Mali-G51 and Mali-V71 have have a few design wins and will start to appear in 2018.

Courtesy-Fud

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