Technologizer posts about Gaming

Playstation Vita Review: A Killer Gaming Handheld From a Bygone Era

By  |  Posted at 8:35 pm on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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Next to the phones and tablets on my desk, Sony’s Playstation Vita looks like it doesn’t belong. It’s twice as thick as the latest smartphones, and twice as heavy. Its exterior is a hodgepodge of materials, gray and black, matte and glossy. Protrusions and intrusions abound, from buttons and triggers to jacks and slots. If there was a memo decreeing that all portable electronics be reduced to slabs, Sony’s ignoring it.

The Vita’s design turns out to be a good metaphor for the gaming handheld itself. It’s a device that makes some small concessions to the rise of phones and tablets as portable entertainment–things like the touch screen and motion controls, the bare-bones web browser and the obligatory Twitter, Flickr and Netflix apps–but then it ignores them in favor of playing kick-ass, modern video games. Not Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, or Sudoku, but Uncharted, Rayman, and Marvel vs. Capcom. Almost everything else seems like an afterthought.

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The Offbeat World of Atari

By  |  Posted at 12:18 am on Monday, February 13, 2012

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For a forty-year-old company that remains synonymous with video games, Atari has experimented with an awful lot of other businesses. In its early years, it made pinball machines, jukeboxes, video phones, digital photo booths, music-visualization boxes for your hi-fi, and more. Benj Edwards, who knows more about this stuff than anyone, has compiled a look at Atari Oddities–including the aforementioned and others, and some strange games, too. (If you remember Puppy Pong, I’m impressed.)

 

Visit Atari Oddities slideshow.

 



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Everything You Need to Know About Sony’s PlayStation Vita Launch

By  |  Posted at 8:09 am on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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PS Vita

We’re just a few weeks out from Sony’s U.S. PlayStation Vita launch, so now’s a great time to review what it is, how it works, what it’ll cost, what’s under the hood and what you’ll probably need to buy a la carte. Ready, set…

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It’s Come to This: Used Game Buyers Denied Questline in Kingdoms of Amalur

By  |  Posted at 1:38 pm on Monday, January 30, 2012

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Back when Electronic Arts started charging used game buyers $10 extra to play its sports games online, I figured that was just the beginning. Sure enough, over time the “Online Pass” concept has spread to multiplayer gaming in general, and to several other publishers.

Now, EA is taking the idea one step further with the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, an upcoming RPG that’s getting a lot of hype. People who buy the game new will get a voucher to download seven additional single-player quests for free. Folks who buy a used copy will have to pay extra for those quests.

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DONKEY.BAS is Back!

By  |  Posted at 9:27 am on Saturday, January 28, 2012

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I didn’t own an IBM PC or clone in the early days, so I missed out on the wonder of DONKEY.BAS, which came bundled with early versions of MS-DOS and was the first PC game. In fact, I don’t think I knew about it until I read Benj Edwards’ slideshow on operating-system games, which pointed out that it was cowritten by Bill Gates himself.

But now I can relive the magic for the first time, thanks to a new version of DONKEY.BAS for iOS. It’s 99 cents, is compatible with Game Center, and includes both iPhone and iPad versions. It seems to be a faithful rendition of the original, complete with blocky graphics and bloopy sound effects, and the same objective: Drive down road, avoid hitting donkeys. And it’s um, just as fun as it must have been back in 1981.

The new version is by Johnny Ixe; I’d love to think that’s a pseudonym for William H. Gates III. Probably not, though, so let’s hope that Microsoft doesn’t issue a takedown notice….



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Nintendo Will Finally Embrace Online Play With Nintendo Network

By  |  Posted at 8:53 am on Friday, January 27, 2012

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Nine years after Microsoft launched Xbox Live, and five years after Sony launched the Playstation Network, Nintendo announced that it’s building its own online service, called the Nintendo Network.

As Mashable reports, the Nintendo Network will offer the requisite connected console fare, including user accounts, online multiplayer, downloadable add-ons and eventually full game downloads.

Although Nintendo’s Wii and 3DS can already connect to the Internet for downloadable games, online play and a couple of streaming video apps, the company’s online services are limited compared to what Microsoft and Sony offer. Nintendo doesn’t currently sell add-ons for existing games, offer system-wide voice support or even allow players to choose an online nickname that other players can easily look up.

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Netflix: Without Qwikster, No Game Rentals

By  |  Posted at 8:51 am on Thursday, January 26, 2012

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When Netflix backtracked on its plans to spin off DVD rentals into a separate company called Qwikster, the company didn’t say whether it would still add video game rentals to its mail-order service, as announced along with the spin-off.

Now, it’s official: Netflix will not rent video games, or at least it has “no plans” to do so, CEO Reed Hastings said in an earnings call. He did not elaborate.

Netflix had planned to rent video games as an optional upgrade for movie renters. The news excited me because both GameFly and Blockbuster have trouble sending out the newest games in a timely manner. I was hoping that Netflix, with its huge DVD operation, would be able to do a better job with new releases, or at least pressure its competitors to do so.

But without a spin-off, it’s no surprise that Netflix doesn’t want to make the investment. That money is better spent on acquiring more streaming content–the inevitable future of media consumption–instead of trying to rent more discs.



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Microsoft May Ditch Xbox Live Points, For Real This Time

By  |  Posted at 9:08 am on Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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Inside Mobile Apps is reporting as rumor what Xbox 360 users have wanted for years: the death of Microsoft Points.

Kathleen De Vere’s “source with knowledge of the company’s decision” says Microsoft will phase out its points system by the end of the year, and that the change will affect the Xbox 360, Windows Phones and the Zune Marketplace. Mobile developers are reportedly being warned to plan their downloadable content and in-app purchases around the change in policy. Microsoft, not surprisingly, would not comment.

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I’m not in the market for a desktop PC. In fact, I don’t expect to buy another desktop PC, ever. But if I were, this new Alienware box would be tempting.

Posted by Harry at 4:31 pm

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Razer’s Project Fiona: A Tablet From Portable Gaming’s Alternate Future

By  |  Posted at 3:19 pm on Friday, January 13, 2012

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Unless your head’s in the sand, you know where portable video games are headed: Cheaper to develop, less expensive to sell, easier to pick up and less time consuming to play. Smartphones and tablets are slowly pushing the established games industry in that direction.

Razer is proudly not participating in that version of the future with Project Fiona, a concept Windows-based tablet that plays high-end PC games. The tablet has controller handles on either side of the 10.1-inch display, each with their own thumbsticks, buttons and triggers. Inside, there’s enough processing power to run games like Warhammer 40000: Space Marine and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on high settings.

When Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan was telling me all this a couple weeks before the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, I didn’t entirely believe the company could pull it off. But then I played with Project Fiona myself at Razer’s booth. I don’t know how the company did it–and I dare not fathom at what cost–but the concept actually works.

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Playstation Vita 3G Data Plans: Same Old, Same Old

By  |  Posted at 3:23 pm on Monday, January 9, 2012

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Sony announced the Playstation Vita with AT&T 3G more than seven months ago, but never bothered to explain how the data plans would work. Now, it’s official: the Vita will come with the same data plans you already get with smartphones.

That means 3G for the Playstation Vita will cost $15 per month for 250 MB, or $25 per month for 2 GB, in addition to the $300 price of the 3G Vita itself. (A Wi-Fi only model will cost $250.) Both data plans will include unlimited access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspots, of which there are 29,000 around the United States. The Vita launches on February 22 in the United States.

I’m disappointed that AT&T and Sony stuck with conventional data plans for the PS Vita. This would have been a great opportunity for AT&T to launch a shared pool of data among multiple devices–something wireless carriers have talked about doing for some time. I can’t imagine a lot of people will want to pay a recurring data charge just for a gaming device, especially when you get the same result by using a smartphone’s Wi-Fi hotspot feature, which would also allow for faster 4G data and connectivity with other devices.

Sony and AT&T are hoping to lure people into paying for data plans by offering exclusive in-game content when players check in at certain geographic locations. We may be able to judge the 3G Vita’s success based on whether game makers continue to produce these kinds of exclusives long after launch.



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Smartphones and Tablets Get Their Gaming Buttons

By  |  Posted at 11:20 pm on Sunday, January 8, 2012

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As Sony and Nintendo cling to physical buttons as a major advantage of dedicated portable gaming systems, smartphone and tablet accessory makers have come up with an answer. At a CES press event, two companies were showing off attachable game controllers for smartphones and tablets, providing the tactile feedback that’s sorely needed for precision shooting and platforming.

I checked out one of these controllers, Gametel, from a Sweden-based company called Fructel. The controller clamps on to an Android phone or iPhone–or pairs remotely to an iPad–and communicates via Bluetooth. It includes a directional pad, four face buttons and two shoulder buttons on top. Gametel’s built-in battery runs for about nine hours before needing a charge from either mini USB or Apple’s 30-pin connector, depending on model.

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Wii U App Store Rumored, But Will It Really Be an App Store?

By  |  Posted at 8:32 am on Friday, December 30, 2011

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When Nintendo’s Wii U launches next year, it’ll have a “full-blown app store,” The Daily’s Matt Hickey reports, citing an unnamed source.

Or will it? As Hickey notes, Nintendo already offers app repositories through the Wii Shop and DSi Shop. The difference with the Wii U is that it’ll offer a wider variety of apps, beyond games and basic utilities.

But breadth of apps is not the best metric for a real app store, unless your definition is simply “a place to buy apps.” The way I see it, a true app store goes further by opening its doors to any developer. Whether there’s an approval process (a la iOS) or not (a la Android) doesn’t matter. What’s important is that anyone who knows how to code can contribute, so that the app selection grows in unexpected ways. You won’t find any great app stores that don’t allow this kind of outside development.

From Hickey’s report, I can’t tell whether Nintendo will open its app store to all developers, and I have my doubts. Game consoles are notoriously closed off to all but a select group of publishers. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is the only system that comes close to allowing outside development, through Xbox Live Indie Games, and even those apps are relegated to the darkest corners of the Xbox Marketplace.

So while I don’t doubt that the Wii U will have a wider selection of apps than Nintendo’s other systems–Hickey mentions MLB.TV and social networks as possibilities–I’m skeptical that Nintendo will let any developer run wild with the Wii U’s crazy multi-screen technology. But I hope to be proven wrong.



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Place Your Bets: Will Nintendo 3DS Dual Thumbsticks Take Off?

By  |  Posted at 12:59 pm on Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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One thumbstick is rarely enough when you’re playing modern video games, so Nintendo’s 3DS is giving gamers a second stick via a $20 peripheral.

The Circle Pad Pro, which launched in Japan this month, is coming to the United States on February 7. The attachment snaps in around the base of the Nintendo 3DS, and includes an extra shoulder button as well. It requires a AAA battery to operate.

Here’s the issue: Existing games won’t work with the Circle Pad Pro, and developers will have to design future games to support dual sticks. So far, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D and Resident Evil: Revelations are on the roster of supported games.

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Computer Space and the Dawn of the Arcade Video Game

How a little-known 1971 machine launched an industry.

By  |  Posted at 10:14 pm on Sunday, December 11, 2011

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Forty years ago, Nutting Associates released the world’s first mass-produced and commercially sold video game, Computer Space. It was the brainchild of Nolan Bushnell, a charismatic engineer with a creative vision matched only by his skill at self-promotion. With the help of his business partner Ted Dabney and the staff of Nutting Associates, Bushnell pushed the game from nothing into reality only two short years after conceiving the idea.

Computer Space pitted a player-controlled rocket ship against two machine-controlled flying saucers in a space simulation set before a two-dimensional star field. The player controlled the rocket with four buttons: one for fire, which shoots a missile from the front of the rocket ship; two directional rotation buttons (to rotate the ship orientation clockwise or counterclockwise); and one for thrust, which propelled the ship in whichever direction it happened to be pointing. Think of Asteroids without the asteroids, and you should get the picture.

During play, two saucers would appear on the screen and shoot at the player while flying in a zig-zag formation. The player’s goal was to dodge the saucer fire and shoot the saucers.

Considering a game of this complexity playing out on a TV set, you might think that it was created as a sophisticated piece of software running on a computer. You’d think it, but you’d be wrong–and Bushnell wouldn’t blame you for the mistake. How he and Dabney managed to pull it off is a story of audacity, tenacity, and sheer force-of-will worthy of tech legend. This is how it happened.

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