An anonymous reader writes "Today BioWare announced a new game in its popular Dragon Age RPG series titled Inquisition. The game will follow the story of an Inquisitor trying to rally the world against the magic-laden forces spewing from rifts opening to another place. The game's creative director, Mike Laidlaw, says players will be able to watch the world descend into chaos, and then deal with the burdens of power as they rally forces in opposition. BioWare is also taking the opportunity to fix all of the things they broke in Dragon Age 2: 'Top-down tactical view is back. Playable races are back. The game seems to have more of an emphasis on challenge thanks to non-regenerative health.' The game will launch on October 7th for the PC, PS3/4, and Xbox 360/One."
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SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "While we are still waiting for the official Windows 8.1 touch-enabled apps to get launched on the Windows Store, Microsoft went and decided that it's time to finally bring the Office online apps to the Chrome Web Store, instead. Thus, Microsoft is making the Web versions of its Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote apps available to users through the Chrome Web Store and also improving all of them with new features, along with several bug fixes and performance improvements." More on the Microsoft front: an anonymous reader wrote in with a link to Ars Technica's review of the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release: "It is a major platform update even if it is just a .1 release. Updates include the debut of Cortana, using the same kernel as Windows 8.1 and the Xbox One, a notebook reminder app, inner circle friend management, IE 11, Nokia's camera app by default, lock screen and background customizations, a much improved email client with calendar support, more general Windows 8.1 API inclusion for better portability, and a notification center. Ars rated it more of a Windows Phone 9 release than .1 update."
MojoKid writes: "One of the hot topics in the wake of Titanfall's launch has been whether or not DirectX 12 would make a difference to the game's sometimes jerky framerate and lower-than-expected 792p resolution. According to Titanfall developer Jon Shirling, the new Microsoft API isn't needed to improve the game's performance, and updates coming down the pipe should improve Xbox One play in the near future. This confirms what many expected since DX12 was announced — the API may offer performance improvements in certain scenarios, but DX12 isn't a panacea for the Xbox One's lackluster performance compared to the PS4. It's an API that appears to mostly address scenarios where the CPU isn't able to keep the GPU fed due to draw call bottlenecks."
An anonymous reader writes "There's an interesting interview up today with Jeffrey Lin, lead designer of social systems for Riot, the game studio behind League of Legends. Lin has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. His recognition that most trolls are only trolls because they're having an off day has changed the way that Riot punishes players. 'In other words, you need a carrot and not a stick. Where a punishment would come across as harsh and out-of context, pointing out to players that they're letting their usually-high standards of conduct slide usually results in a change of attitude. Incentivising the good behaviour with an Honour stat which could be affected by conduct in any match also serves to reinforce that good behaviour.' As a result, Lin's seen a noticeable spike in the number of people saying 'GG' (good game) at the end of a match. It leaves you wondering: what if Activision approached Call of Duty griefers on Xbox Live the same way?"
New submitter Smiffa2001 writes: "The BBC reports that five-year-old Kristoffer Von Hassel from San Diego has uncovered a (frankly embarrassing) security flaw within the Xbox One login screen. Apparently by entering an incorrect password in the first prompt and then filling the second field with spaces, a user can log in without knowing a password to an account. Young Kristoffer's dad submitted the flaw to Microsoft — who have patched the flaw — and have generously provided four free games, $50, a year-long subscription to Xbox Live and an entry on their list of Security Researcher Acknowledgments."
New submitter DroidJason1 writes: "Microsoft has added new 'player reputation scores' to each Xbox Live member's Gamercard. The scores are represented by icons consisting of the colors green, yellow, and red. The more hours you play fairly online without being reported as abusive by other players, the better your reputation will be. Good players are given a green color, while those that 'need work' are yellow and those that need to be avoided are red. Microsoft says, 'If players do not heed warnings and continue to have a negative impact on other players and the Xbox Live community, they will begin to experience penalties. For example, people with an “Avoid Me” rating will have reduced matchmaking pairings and may be unable to use certain privileges such as Twitch broadcasting.' They add that the system will adjust for false reports."
An anonymous reader writes "A new history of splitscreen multiplayer looks at how the phenomenon went from arcade necessity to console selling point, and eventually evolved into today's online multiplayer networks like Xbox Live. The article digs up some surprising anecdotes along the way — like the fact that the seminal Goldeneye N64 deathmatch mode was very much an afterthought, given to a trainee who needed something to do. It's also interesting to think about where it's going in the future, with 4k displays on the horizon and handheld screens making inroads to living room gaming. 'I think you’ll see innovations this year that let people use their TV and mobile device in very interesting ways,' says Wipeout creator Nick Burcombe. 'It doesn't even need to be complex to recapture that social aspect – it just needs to involve more than one person in the same room. ‘Second Screen’ gaming could be multiplayer-based for sure, but it can also be used for new gameplay mechanics in single player too.'"
crookedvulture writes "Microsoft formally introduced its DirectX 12 API at the Game Developers Conference yesterday. This next-gen programming interface will extend across multiple platforms, from PCs to consoles to mobile devices. Like AMD's Mantle API, it promises reduced CPU overhead and lower-level access to graphics hardware. But DirectX 12 won't be limited to one vendor's hardware. Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm have all pledged to support the API, which will apparently work on a lot of existing systems. Intel's Haswell CPUs are compatible with DirectX 12, as are multiple generations of existing AMD and Nvidia GPUs. A DirectX 12 update is also coming to the Xbox One. The first games to support the API won't arrive until the holiday season of 2015, though. A preview release is scheduled for this year." Reader edxwelch adds that OpenGL 4.4 already has functionality similar to the improvements brought by DirectX 12 and Mantle: "The announcement of DirectX 12 was a big focus of attention at GDC yesterday. The new API will bring Mantle-like low level access to the hardware, reducing the CPU overhead. The OpenGL talk 'Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL,' on the other hand, received considerably less media attention. The OpenGL camp maintains that the features to reduce CPU overhead are already present in the current version. They suggest using the extensions such as, multidraw indirect combined with bindless graphics and sparse textures, OpenGL can get the similar 'close to the metal' performance as Mantle and DirectX 12."
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, Respawn Entertainment launched Titanfall, a futuristic first-person shooter with mechs that has been held up as the poster child for the Xbox One. The Digital Foundry blog took the opportunity to compare how the game plays on the Xbox One to its performance on a well-appointed PC. Naturally, the PC version outperforms, but the compromises are bigger than you'd expect for a newly-released console. For example, it runs at an odd resolution (1408x792), the frame rate 'clearly isn't anywhere near locked' to 60fps, and there's some unavoidable screen tear. Reviews for the game are generally positive — RPS says most of the individual systems in Titanfall are fun, but the forced multiplayer interaction is offputting. Giant Bomb puts it more succinctly: 'Titanfall is a very specific game built for a specific type of person.' Side note: the game has a 48GB install footprint on PCs, owing largely to 35GB of uncompressed audio."
An anonymous reader writes "Ben Kuchera at Polygon ponders the surveillance capabilities of our gaming consoles in light of recent NSA and GCHQ revelations. 'Xbox One Kinect can see in the dark. It can keep a moving human being in focus without motors. It knows how to isolate voices from background noise. The privacy implications of having a device that originally couldn't be removed pointed at your living room at all times was always kind of scary, and that fear has been at least partially justified.' Kuchera, like many of us, habitually disconnects cameras and microphones not currently in use. But he also feels a sense of inevitability about the whole thing: 'If the government wants this information they're going to get it, no matter what we do with our gaming consoles. It's important to pay attention to what our government is doing, but this issue is much bigger than our gaming consoles, and we open ourselves up to much greater forms of intrusion on a daily basis.'"
The latest title in the stealth game series Thief launched in North America yesterday for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows. Reviews of the game are mixed. Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker says that the story is poor, but "it matters very little, since it's only there as an excuse to link epic, intricate and hugely enjoyable levels together." He also laments the loss of a dedicated "Jump" button, noting that veterans of the series will miss it. "There are far too often obstacles that a toddler could easily scale, but Garrett won't even try, and his refusing to jump certain gaps in order to force a challenge is maddening." Polygon's review says navigating the game's open environments was fun, but "In the latter half of the game, when a glimpse of that openness was dangled in front of me once again, Thief snatched it away with murderous AI and controls that didn't feel up to the challenge." They add, "a new obsession with scripted story sequences and stealth action often leaves Thief feeling like the worst of both worlds." Giant Bomb's review is brutal, saying Thief is "a game that spends an inordinate amount of time making the player do uninteresting things while shoving the more fun stuff so far in the corner you'd be forgiven for missing most of it."
RogueyWon writes "South Park has long been vocal in its opposition to media censorship from any source, launching scathing attacks on everything from 'think of the children' moral crusades to the censorship of religious imagery. In a curious twist, therefore, Ubisoft, the publisher of the upcoming video game South Park: The Stick of Truth, has decided to censor certain scenes from the game's Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions from release in Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Africa. American versions, as well as the European PC release, so far appear to have escaped the censor's pen."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Gary Marshall writes that.Microsoft's marvelous motion-sensing device is doing really good work for Sony, helping the PS4 outsell the Xbox One in the US and rocketing it to the top of the world's console sales charts. With the Xbox One $100 more expensive than the PlayStation 4, the Kinect is the explanation for the huge difference in price between the rival platforms says Marshall. "That kind of money makes a huge difference, and I wonder: if Microsoft had kept the Kinect as an optional add-on, which we all know it should be, would the Xbox One be much more attractive?" Ben Kuchera describes the peripheral as one of the most hated pieces of equipment in current use. "The system is still new, but every Xbox One owner now has a peripheral that has little reason to exist, aids their gaming in very few real ways and costs them a significant amount of money." The common defense of the Kinect is that developers wouldn't support it unless it was forced on consumers but according to Kuchera pushing a product on the public with the hope that it will be useful once we have it is a cruel inversion of how product adoption should be handled. "The forced pack-in proves something we already knew at the beginning of this generation: Almost no one would want to buy the Kinect separately if they were given the choice," writes Kuchera. "It's time to make the Kinect a peripheral, not a pack-in.""
Nate the greatest writes "Microsoft has already sunk $600 million into Nook Media, the ebook division spun off from Barnes & Noble in 2012, but I guess that's not enough for the Redmond tech giant: news broke today that they have a third ebook effort in the works. A new job listing discovered by the Chinese tech blog LiveSino has revealed that Microsoft is hiring an ebook developer to work on 'a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics.' The position was posted by the Xbox Music, Video, and Reading unit, which had already released two apps for Windows 8 (video, music) and is clearly going for a trifecta. This new app shows all the signs of being completely unrelated to the Office Reader app, which leaked last year. That app reportedly focused more on PDFs, textbooks, and office docs, while the 'Xbox Reading' app mentions magazines and digital comics."
Nerval's Lobster writes "A more prominent role in video-game development could prove the latest territory on Amazon's 'attempt to conquer' list. Yes, there's already Amazon Game Studios, which produces smaller games such as Air Patriots (a tower-defense title), but that evidently wasn't enough — Amazon has acquired Double Helix, most notably the developer behind Killer Instinct and other big-action games for PCs and consoles. Amazon confirmed the deal to multiple media outlets, suggesting that it would use Double Helix's developers and intellectual property 'as part of our ongoing commitment to build innovative games for customers.' Why would Amazon want to bulk out its game-creation abilities? Rumors have floated for the past couple weeks (hat tip to Gamespot) that the company is hard at work on an Android-based gaming console that will retail for below $300. Over the past year, it's also hired gaming luminaries such as Halo author Eric Nylund, which it probably wouldn't have done without something big — or at least interesting — in the works. Amazon would doubtlessly position such a device (if it actually becomes a reality) as the low-cost alternative to Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4. But even the cheapest console won't sell without some killer games to attract customers — and that's where Double Helix might come in. ... With Nintendo flagging, there's potentially an opening for a third console ecosystem to take hold."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft's next CEO will be Satya Nadella, if current reports prove accurate. According to Re/code, which drew its information from "numerous sources close to Microsoft," Nadella could officially assume the role in early February. Meanwhile, anonymous sources speaking to Bloomberg suggested that co-founder Bill Gates could be forced to give up his longtime chairman role. Nadella (again, if confirmed) seems a logical choice for Microsoft. He's been with the company for more than twenty years, eventually becoming executive vice president of its Cloud and Enterprise division. The enterprise remains a key—perhaps the key — customer segment for Microsoft, especially as its mobile and consumer efforts (excluding the Xbox) have floundered in recent years; in order to retain those business clients, Nadella and his team embarked on the creation of 'Cloud OS,' the platform that powers Microsoft's large-scale cloud services such as SkyDrive, Azure, and Office 365. Under his guidance, Microsoft's revenue from cloud services has grown by several billion over the past few years, so he's shown that he can expand a business. In addition, his technical background could afford him a measure of respect from Microsoft's legions of engineers and developers. But if he's ultimately tapped for the CEO seat, Nadella faces one of the toughest jobs in the technology industry: not only does he need to craft a plan that will allow Microsoft to grow and prosper in an integrated, holistic manner—he'll need to do it while guiding the company through the massive internal reorganization initiated by his predecessor, Steve Ballmer."
Nerval's Lobster writes: "It's no secret that Nintendo faces significant challenges: revenues are down, rival platforms such as Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 are attracting a lot of buzz, and iOS and Android have made significant inroads into mobile gaming. Rather than double down on its core business, however, Nintendo reportedly sees its salvation in new, nongaming segments such as... monitoring your health? 'We have now redefined entertainment to mean making it fun for people to improve the quality of their lives,' Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata told a company strategy meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal. But he refused to part with more detail about Nintendo's plans, except to claim that whatever's in the works isn't a wearable device along the lines of Nike's FuelBand or the FitBit, and it isn't an iteration of the Wii Balance Board, an accessory that measures the user's weight and center of balance while playing games."
MojoKid writes "News from gaming insider Pete Doss is that Microsoft is mulling significant changes to the restrictions it places on developers regarding the Xbox One's GPU. Reportedly, some 10% of total GPU horsepower is reserved for the Kinect — 8% for video and 2% for voice processing. Microsoft is apparently planning changes that would free up that 8% video entirely, leaving just 2% of the system's GPU dedicated to voice input. If Microsoft makes this change, it could have a significant uplift on system frame rates — and it's not clear that developers would necessarily need to patch the architecture to take advantage of the difference."
jones_supa sends this AFP report: "Microsoft soared to record revenues in the last quarter, confounding Wall Street forecasts on the back of strong demand for Xbox consoles, Surface tablets and Internet cloud services. The U.S.-based technology titan reported net income of $6.56 billion on revenue that hit a record high of $24.52 billion in the quarter that ended December 31. ... Sales of Surface tablets more than doubled from the previous quarter to hit $893 million, and Microsoft sold 7.4 million Xbox videogame consoles, with 3.9 million of those being new-generation Xbox One. Bing's share of the Internet search market grew to 18.2 percent while its share of the online search ad market grew about a third, according to Microsoft. Meanwhile, money made from selling Windows software to computer makers slid by three percent due to continue soft demand by consumers for personal computers, according to Microsoft."
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft, partnered with Machinima, has put forth a promotion for YouTube personalities: make a video about the Xbox One and get money for it. Problematically, they also require the reviewer not to disclose that they're getting paid (or mention anything negative), which breaks FTC disclosure rules (PDF). Microsoft has a well-known history of astroturfing, but is this the first proof of them doing it illegally?"