Monthly Archives: February 2013

Zynga in more financial trouble? Closing three more offices

As part of an initiative to drive long-term profitability, Zynga has closed three studios, the social gaming company announced today. The McKinney and downtown Austin, Texas, offices have been shut down, as well as the company’s outfit in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Staff at the McKinney and downtown Austin offices will be relocated to Zynga’s existing Dallas and North Austin offices, the company said.

Zynga’s Baltimore studio was established in 2009 with Civilization designer Brian Reynolds leading the outfit and acting as chief game designer for the company at large. Reynolds left Zynga at the end of January.

In addition, Zynga said it will consolidate its New York City offices to move staff to its NYC mobile studio. It is not clear how many were impacted by the studio closures, though the company said those in Baltimore who requested a transfer were relocated to other Zynga studios, and the overall impact was “minimal.”

“These changes will further enable us to focus our resources on our most strategic opportunities,” Zynga said in a statement. “We’re already working to execute on leveraging franchises to build the largest game network and be profitable on an adjusted EBITDA [Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization] basis. We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that we’re on the right path to deliver on the potential of Zynga.”

It has been tough going at Zynga of late. The company enacted a major round of layoffs in October and has seen numerous top-level staff defections in the past year. The company’s lawsuit with Electronic Arts over The Ville has been settled, though terms were not specified.

Zynga in more financial trouble? Closing three more offices

As part of an initiative to drive long-term profitability, Zynga has closed three studios, the social gaming company announced today. The McKinney and downtown Austin, Texas, offices have been shut down, as well as the company’s outfit in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Staff at the McKinney and downtown Austin offices will be relocated to Zynga’s existing Dallas and North Austin offices, the company said.

Zynga’s Baltimore studio was established in 2009 with Civilization designer Brian Reynolds leading the outfit and acting as chief game designer for the company at large. Reynolds left Zynga at the end of January.

In addition, Zynga said it will consolidate its New York City offices to move staff to its NYC mobile studio. It is not clear how many were impacted by the studio closures, though the company said those in Baltimore who requested a transfer were relocated to other Zynga studios, and the overall impact was “minimal.”

“These changes will further enable us to focus our resources on our most strategic opportunities,” Zynga said in a statement. “We’re already working to execute on leveraging franchises to build the largest game network and be profitable on an adjusted EBITDA [Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization] basis. We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that we’re on the right path to deliver on the potential of Zynga.”

It has been tough going at Zynga of late. The company enacted a major round of layoffs in October and has seen numerous top-level staff defections in the past year. The company’s lawsuit with Electronic Arts over The Ville has been settled, though terms were not specified.

Minecraft 1.5 to be released within the next 2 weeks (code name redstone)

Minecraft lead designer Jens Bergensten has confirmed that the 1.5 update to Minecraft, known as the Redstone update, will be released in early March.

“Minecraft 1.5 will be released in roughly 2 weeks, early March,” said Bergensten on T Read the rest of this entry

Yoshida talks all-things PlayStation 4

NEW YORK CITY–Today during a roundtable session with media, Sony president of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida fielded questions about a range of topics concerning the just-announced PlayStation 4 and the growing PlayStation ecosystem.

During the hour-long talk, Yoshida opened up on a range of topics, including why Sony decided not to show the PS4 hardware during its announcement last night, the rumors of the PS4 blocking used games, why 3D is no longer a focus for the company, and the status of The Last Guardian, among other things.

Check out Yoshida’s comments on a host of topics below.

On possibility of PS4 blocking used games

When you purchase the disc-based games on PS4, it should work on any hardware. So that’s what I’m saying.

On whether or not the PS Vita price cut in Japan will become effective worldwide

No, it’s not. It’s a region-by-region based decision. Always.

On activation codes for second-hand PS4 titles

It’s a publisher decision. We are not talking about it. Sorry.

On Sony’s decision not to show PS4 hardware during announcement

I’m sorry we did not show the hardware. But we have plans from now–in February–through the year for the launch. We like to disclose things based on what we think we really want to communicate first. And next time we will talk about these things.

On 3D support for PS4

No, it’s not a focus, but it does [support 3D]. More games will run at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second, so it’s an easier and better experience when you watch on 3D TV. We like what we can do on PS3 using 3D, but now the consumer electronics side [of Sony Corp.] has shifted focus from 3D TV to something else, so if they are not talking about it, why are we?

On 4K support for PS4

The official answer is the PS4 supports 4K output, but does for personal content like photos and videos; not games. PS4 games do not work on 4K.

 

On support for legacy platforms now that the PS4 has been announced

 

So we have Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls coming out this year; these are pretty big titles. And after that we haven’t announced any new software for PS3.

On the possibility of bringing PS3 titles to PS4

It’s an interesting concept. We’ve been upgrading PS2 games to PS3 with better resolution and better framerate. And people love it. So I think at some point it makes sense and it’s great for developers to be able to develop some things that they missed or couldn’t get working properly on the older hardware because of the performance to be able to make it better for newer hardware. So we are open to look at that.

On Gaikai integration for PS4 launch titles

So we are saying virtually every PS4 game will be playable on PS Vita via Remote Play. I would be heart-broken if it doesn’t day one. On day one, my expectation is that we have to have all games work on PS Vita.

On whether or not Sony would acquire Quantic Dream

We don’t look at developers in the world who are making great games for some other publisher and say ‘we have to acquire them’ ; we never do that. The way we acquire developers, when we do, is the natural evolution of the relationship that develops. When it makes sense, we sign a deal. In terms of Quantic, we worked with them on Heavy Rain and we are working with them on Beyond: Two Souls, and they are showing something very interesting on PS4. So we are definitely developing that stronger relations and we love them as well.

On possibility of PlayStation App store

Personally, I would like to see that. Our PlayStation Mobile is really targeting to do that so smaller developers can really publish from the countries we support. But on the console side, for the PS3 and PS Vita, we still treat publishing like our disc-based model in terms of certification, approval, quality assurance. So we are discussing internally how we can make it a bit more open or a bit easier especially for smaller developers to publish. Because we totally believe in the importance of supporting these smaller developers because they provide really unique and interesting ideas to the platforms.

On what the PlayStation 4 Eye Camera is capable of

The PS4 Eye has two HD cameras, and these two cameras can be used in several different ways. One way is to use it for triangulation, so that space in front of the camera can be measured so that when you do this [motions with his hands] the game knows you are doing this. The other way is to make the augmented reality games like Wonderbook; using one camera for the video streaming, the other camera to…optimize for that task.

“We totally believe in the importance of supporting these smaller developers because they provide really unique and interesting ideas to the platforms.”

On whether or not the PS4 will be region-locked

I know the answer, but I don’t want to be quoted and get a call from my PR guy saying ‘What did you say?’

On whether or not PSN will remain free for PS4

We totally believe that we want to provide more functionality and more services and more content on the network. And so we are looking at how we are going to structure that. And we are not ready to talk about that.

On possibility of backwards compatibility for PS3 discs

No. You can quote me on that.

On whether or not the PS4 will make another appearance before E3

[Looks at PR rep] I hope not (laughs).

On whether or not The Last Guardian is still a PS3 game

I’m not ready to talk about it. Sorry. Because we’ve broken promises [before], we are waiting for the right time to re-introduce The Last Guardian.

On status of Rockstar’s Agent and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Versus

You are asking the wrong person. I have some knowledge, but I’m not in a position to talk about it.

PS4 finally revealed!! what do you think?

 

PlayStation 4 controller

More, More, More—How Do You Like It?

At Wednesday night’s “unveiling” of the PlayStation 4 in New York, Sony did not show us the PlayStation 4, which makes this the most postmodern unveiling I’ve ever attended. However, the various Sony honchos who took the stage at the Manhattan Center auditorium did describe the heart of the machine. It’s “the gamer,” or maybe it’s the “consumer”—same thing, apparently. The word “social” was used as a noun at many points, as it, too, lies at the core of the PlayStation 4. And then there’s the “supercharged PC architecture.” You want gigabytes? Brother, you can have all the gigabytes you need.

And apparently the world’s game developers need them. One after another, self-respecting game creators took the stage to shake their heads and lament the severe “limitations” they have been forced to endure prior to the advent of the PlayStation 4. If it’s unseemly for representatives of a multi-billion-dollar mass media industry to whine about the constraints on their creativity, that didn’t seem to bother any of the men (there were no women) who regurgitated Sony’s pipe-dream talking points last night.

To hear these guys talk, the greatness of the heretofore unseen (and still unseen) PlayStation 4 is matched only by the awfulness of the PlayStation 3. Lead System Architect Mark Cerny explained—in a patronizing story-time tone reminiscent of Bobby Jindal’s 2009 star turn—that we have the internet now, and people like to be on the internet all the time, but “there are limitations to the experiences [the PlayStation 3] can provide in this new world.”

A producer from Sony’s Evolution Studios said that he and his colleagues had been sitting on their idea for a global peer-to-peer team-based persistent-connection trophy speed online network synergy car game for a decade. They even trademarked the name, DriveClub. You can see why they’d want to lock that down. The trouble is, they were never able to make it until now—apparently because the PlayStation 3 didn’t have enough social. The Evolution producer then showed us how DriveClub players can challenge online friends to beat their best race times, a feature already present in practically every racing game made in the past two years.

Killzone: Shadow Fall

Killzone: Shadow Fall

It was an evening of cognitive dissonance. For the first half hour, Sony’s people exhausted their buzzword thesaurus telling us how the PlayStation 4’s technology will make “new experiences” possible. “In the past, creators’ visions have been constrained by the limitations of technology,” said executive David Perry, but not anymore.

This proclamation of a new era was followed by a trailer for Killzone: Shadow Fall that was indistinguishable from countless other trailers we’ve seen for first-person shooters in the past. It hit all the standard plot points. The fresh-faced recruit hops off the troop transport. A building blows up. Much loud shooting ensues. (Here’s a rule of thumb. If the title of your game contains a colon, odds are it’s not a “new experience.”) Later, representatives of the Japanese studios Capcom and Square Enix stopped by to show the audience that they planned to make PlayStation 4 games with dragons in them. Sony’s tired thesis, the notion that more technology necessarily produces innovative artistry, was convincingly refuted by the content of its own event. It was like watching the Flat Earth Society unveil the year’s hottest new globes.

Even when the ideas were somewhat fresh, there was no guarantee that they would have any appeal. During a discussion of a new app “ecosystem” that barfs PlayStation all over your phone/tablet or any other device, a breathless Sony flack imagined one fantasy that would soon come true: On your telephone, you will be able to watch video clips of other people playing a fighting game, decide which opponents you would like to fight, and then challenge those people to fight (later, when you’re using the actual PlayStation 4). You can tell we live in a privileged society when we have to work this hard inventing things to desire.

On the other hand, Sony promises to solve plenty of first-world problems that really do exist. The new system will not take so long to start up—you’ll be able to pause, put the system in a sort of sleep mode like a laptop, and then start back up where you left off. The tedious process of downloading games to the PS3 will also be streamlined on the PS4. Not only will you be able to begin playing games before they’re fully downloaded, but the PS4 will also assess your tastes and pre-download portions of games it thinks you will like. It’s a clever idea that would essentially reduce the download time for a game purchase to zero (although it’s probably impractical for players whose internet providers enforce a monthly data cap). On the other hand, there’s a certain creepiness to it—Sony is essentially saying that it will mine your personal information to determine which stuff you’re most likely to buy, advertise only that stuff on your console, and act like it’s doing you a favor.

inFamous: Second Son

inFamous: Second Son

The PS4’s emphasis on a console tailor-made for YOU is the culmination of a recent trend in which Sony has made the PlayStation (or at least the marketing thereof) all about ego reinforcement. The company’s executives flagellate themselves at the altar of The Gamer. “The living room is no longer the center of the PlayStation ecosystem—the gamer is,” said Andrew House, who runs Sony’s game division. He insisted that the PlayStation will “give gamers the experience they want, and frankly that they deserve.” House had a nice line reading here, with a touch of shame on the last bit. It’s as if he were confessing that the last 20 years of Sony game consoles had been a fraud perpetrated on the poor, innocent players who were dumb enough to purchase such inferior machines.

What gamers deserve, according to Sony, is more of the same, made marginally shinier. The man from the Evolution studio breathlessly told the crowd that some of the DriveClub cars featured virtual carbon-fiber exteriors in which the physical response of every thread in the fiber is calculated separately. More than one producer marveled at the increased number of “polygons” he was now able to cram into his latest predictable genre sequel—“polygons” being industry lingo for “size of penis.”

The evening’s one aberration was Braid creator Jonathan Blow, who talked about The Witness, his upcoming open-world puzzle game. Taking the stage after a litany of let’s-blow-stuff-up trailers, he cracked, “I don’t know how I can follow all those explosions.” His segment of the event alternated between a cogent exploration of the lazy design choices that plague many mainstream games and Blow’s own determination to avoid those mistakes in The Witness. A lot of open-world games try to wow you with bigness and include a lot of filler, Blow said—true that—but in The Witness he tried to make the island world as compact and dense as possible, so that every inch of the surroundings was a potential point of interest.

Savvy self-promotion? Sure. But it was refreshing to hear someone argue that smart games require a conceptual shift rather than an injection of supercharged-PC-architecture steroids.

The Witness

The Witness

If Blow was a high point, his follow-up act—Heavy Rain creator David Cage—provided a counterbalance. “When people ask me what feature I want in future consoles, my answer is always the same: emotion,” Cage said. (Never mind that “emotion” was explicitly advertised as a feature of the PlayStation 2—the PlayStation 2 is old, and therefore it is a shitbox of lies.) He then launched into a cretinous analysis of media history. Cage asked us to consider black-and-white silent films. Their images were indistinct, Cage noted, and the actors had to exaggerate their actions. These films struggled to convey emotion because the technology was just too darn limited. Cage argued that until the PS4, video games have been akin to those old worthless silent movies. But because the new box has a super-fast processor, games will finally be able to convey emotion.

On the big screen behind Cage, he illustrated his points with scenes from Edwin Porter’s 1903 silent film The Great Train Robbery, which is only one of the most important and influential motion pictures ever made. Touring the nation to sellout crowds for years, The Great Train Robberyintroduced the concept of cross-cutting—in which the action on screen cuts back and forth between two scenes taking place at the same time, creating remarkable dramatic tension. So, to recap, Porter expanded the cinematic vocabulary in a way that forever affected the way we perceive moving images, and David Cage saw fit to look down his nose at him.

As Cage was wrapping up his lament over the inherent terribleness of early film, the most iconic shot of The Great Train Robbery appeared behind him: A bandit shooting his gun directly at the audience. That image was more arresting than any of the glitzy, high-polygon explosions that Sony shoveled into our eyeballs last night. And it crystallized the deepest fallacy of the whole affair—the idea that creativity needs to be free of limitations.

Creativity thrives under limitations. People who love games understand this implicitly, since the best players find the most creative ways to succeed within the confines of the rules. The Great Train Robbery is a masterpiece not in spite of its limitations but because of them. So if David Cage doesn’t think he can produce an emotional work of art with a PlayStation 3 and an eight-figure budget, maybe he shouldn’t be in the art-making business.

Expanding the technological capabilities of our game machines is not inherently bad, but treating new tech as a magic bullet is a self-destructive delusion (if a familiar one). The reason that so many games suck is not because the technology is too modest. The reason that so many games suck is because so many games suck. Making art is hard. No microchip changes that.

And yet Sony’s developers insist on the myth of “more.” More polygons and more gigabytes because surely this time, they will lead to the promised land of creative expression. In practice, this dogma hasn’t done much to improve games. Quite the opposite. As production budgets balloon and the cost of entry shuts out independent voices, the worship of “more” is likely to be the ruination of console gaming as we know it. The industry’s arms race with itself simply is not sustainable. Yet here’s Sony, blithely promising to build a bigger gun. They’d better watch out—the recoil’s a bitch.

Activision cuts 30 jobs (breaking news)

realigning our structure to better reflect the market opportunities and our slate,” the company said in a statement.

“Approximately, 30 full-time employees have been impacted globally, which represents approximately one half of one percent of Activision Blizzard’s employee population,” the statement continued. “We are offering those employees who are impacted outplacement counseling services.”

Licensed Activision games due for release in 2013 include The Walking Dead: Survival InstinctDeadpool, and the first of three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesgames. Activision’s James Bond licensing deal isreportedly set to expire.

Of the 30 cuts, some came from Call of Duty: Black Ops II developer Treyarch Studios. Activision said these layoffs are not out of the ordinary and will not affected the release of future downloadable content.

“Now that we have launched Black Ops II, we are taking a minimal reduction in staff to better align our development talent against the needs of DLC development,” the company said. “The release of the DLC will not be impacted by this move.”

Xbox 720′s Kinect specs leak online

A leaked document has reported to know the specs and capabilities of Microsoft’s upcoming Kinect 2.0, the motor sensor device reported to be arriving with each and every Xbox 720 when the currently unannounced machine launches, presumably in 2013.

VGLeaks, which previously leaked a spec sheet for the next Xbox–codenamed Durango–has posted the information, showing a new sensor allowing for infrared detection alongside a big boost in the Kinect 2.0′s ability to sense depth, colour, and a decreased latency period. The site claims this will be 60ms as opposed to 90ms, due to a switch to USB 3.0.

The Kinect 2.0 is reported to feature far superior skeletal tracking and the ability to detect up to six players, thanks to a far wider viewing angle over the original that allows the device to function without the need for a tilt monitor.

Even the quality of the camera is reported to be significantly superior, allowing for 30fps capture at 1080p as opposed to 15fps at a 640×480 resolution.

Like the original, the VGLeaks report says Kinect 2.0 will be a wired unit which sits separately from the main console, but will be able to work in a far greater number of rooms in varying lighting conditions. The machine will also be able to better function alongside your furniture, hopefully making hasty living room reorganisations a thing of the past.

“As part of the process of producing the depth stream,” says the VGLeaks report, “the sensor uses an active [infrared] stream. This stream is 512×424 at 30 frames per second. The active IR stream is stable across variable lighting conditions. For example, shadows, pixel intensities and noise characteristics are the same for a well-lit room the same as for no light in the room. As a result, this stream could be used for feature detection in situations where a color stream would be useless.”

It is also alleged that the new Xbox will keep some of its resources set aside so that Kinect can be run across multiple applications. “Core Kinect functionality that is frequently used by titles and the system itself are part of the allocation system, including color, depth, active IR, ST, identity, and speech. Using these features or not costs a game title the same memory, CPU time, and GPU time,” says VGLeaks.

Windows 8 seen running on a Nexus 4 Android

In the images below we see Windows Phone 8 running fully on a nexus 4.

The developer TechSoft from XDA is set to release his code.
He says he has been able to fully run android on windows and windows on android including apps.

What does this mean for games…. If this works as described it would mean a huge advance for the windows market place. Meaning android games could be easily ported to windows 8.

See the images from the device attached. And stay tuned for a video in the coming days.

image

image

You can see the famous nexus buttons at the bottom of this windows 8 skin.

Star Wars fighting game footage emerges

Footage of a canceled Star Wars fighting game has surfaced. Robomodo president Josh Tsui has released a video (via Polygon) for an untitled brawler set in George Lucas’ sci-fi universe. The game was in development for the original Xbox at the now-defunct Studio Gigante, which Tsui cofounded.

According to Tsui, the footage (below) is in-game and meant to show a proof of concept. It has not been edited, he said, noting it was meant to accompany a presentation.

The video shows off a battle between Anakin Skywalker and Darth Maul, the main antagonist of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Gameplay appears to take place in a 3D space instead of on a 2D plane and also features slow-motion sequences and Force moves.

Leaked images of the new Xbox 720?

 
Leaked images from Microsoft.

 

 

 

 

Just a few days before Sony was set to make it’s big announcement on the PlayStation 4, Microsoft leaks images of what the new Xbox could look like

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