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Xbox Live Debate Polling -- What It Means For The Future

A common reaction to Microsoft’s E3 briefing this year was “Where are the games?” Core gaming was conspicuously absent from the keynote, supplanted by a focus on the Xbox 360 as an entertainment hub.

This came as no surprise to any observer of the video game industry as the race to provide an indispensable media center for the living room has governed the later phases of the current console cycle. And this year, for the first time ever, the United States Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates featured interactive television polling, hosted on Xbox Live.

It was a clear demonstration of how Microsoft is trying to expand the definition and usage of the Xbox 360 but what, if anything, can we gleam from those polls? Could such an unrepresentative, self-selecting sample of respondents really have told us anything other than what the Xbox Live audience thought? We spoke with David Rothschild, an economist with Microsoft Research, about how the debate polling was planned and executed and what lessons were learned.

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Dishonored

One of this Fall’s most talked-about new releases is Dishonored, and the word that crops up in almost every preview of the game is “steampunk.” The assumption is made that the audience at large knows what steampunk is, but it’s not a genre everyone may know by name.

With Bioshock Infinite, which could also be considered steampunk on the horizon we’re probably going to be talking about this genre very often in the near future, so what is steampunk and where did it come from?

Steampunk as a genre of fiction is generally predicated on alternate histories in which advanced technology exists in much earlier eras than the technology existed in the real world. Much of the fiction that’s considered steampunk is set in the 19th century when steam power was one of the primary sources of power for machines, hence the” steam” part of the name.

The origin of “punk” is less clear but usually understood as a reference to cyberpunk, another genre in which technology plays a central or defining role in the creation of fictional worlds, but where cyberpunk takes place in the future steampunk takes place in the past.

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Understanding Indie Development Through Greenlight

The dominance of Valve Software’s digital distribution platform Steam rarely gets challenged. Back in 2009 it was estimated that Steam enjoyed around 70 percent of the digital distribution market in terms of dollars generated per month, and the service certainly hasn’t grown any smaller since. Valve makes big money in PC-centric markets like Germany and Russia, and these successes underscore how influential and important Steam is in the PC sector of the video game industry.

For independent developers who lack the budget to run effective marketing campaigns, whether or not people can discover their game is a huge concern. This makes Steam extremely attractive to indies.

There are plenty of other ways for indie developers to distribute their games like selling off their own websites or working with other digital distribution services, but nothing beats having space on a platform like Steam which is hugely successful and popular.

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Top 5 Apps You Need For The iPhone 5

DennisScimeca

Posted September 25, 2012 - By Dennis Scimeca

You stood in line and/or spent a ton of money to get your brand new iPhone 5. It’s slimmer and lighter and faster, but with today’s fast-moving tech culture all of that is going to remain impressive for a couple of minutes. The person you’re showing your new phone to is probably going to ask “But what can you do with it that you couldn’t do with your old phone?” or “How this is really any better?”

Here’s a list of 5 apps you can use to answer that question. Some of them are improved apps for iPhone 5, and one hasn’t been adjusted yet but may not need anything more than the new 4-inch screen. We also chose a wide variety of different kinds of apps to make sure you have plenty of ammunition to make a wide variety of people jealous of your new toy.

Top 5 Apps You Need For The iPhone 5

CNN

CNN markedly enhanced their app for the iPhone 5 release, changing the layout to take advantage of the larger screen. If you need an app to show off your expensive new gadget, and your audience doesn’t go in for the bells and whistles, you can’t beat the practicality of an easier-to navigate, shiny new presentation of the daily news.

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Tags: Features, iPhone

Weekly Wrap-Up: G4U Teaches You How To Get A Job In The Gaming Industry Edition

Even with as unconventional as the video game industry might be compared to other careers, the process of applications and cover letters and interviews is still likely in your future if you want a video game job, and the first part of that process is knowing where to look.

For this year’s list of video game companies that are currently hiring, we mostly chose companies that are hiring primarily in the United States. Chances are if you’re willing to move halfway around the globe for a job in the video game industry you probably have a pretty good idea where the jobs are without needing our list. You also want to get to know the North American hubs for game development, the cities and regions that have the highest concentrations of video game developers. It never hurts to know where you might have to move to if you manage to land your dream job, just so you’re ready to take advantage of the opportunity should it arise.

Even if the specific gig you’re looking for isn’t listed on the careers or hiring pages of these companies, if you see a lot of hires taking place that’s the best sign that a company is healthy and growing. The type of gig you’re looking for may not be there now, but these are the places worth checking back with until you see them hiring for the job of your dreams. We’ve identified the primary States and/or cities in Canada in which these companies are hiring for positions.

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That iPhone in your pocket is good for something besides playing video games and taking pictures and texting with your friends, you know. You could actually do something productive with that iPad. You could download a bunch of free apps that will help you be more productive and organized and thrifty, meaning you’ll have more time to play video games and have more of them to play. It pays to be efficient!

Five Free iOS Apps To Get Organized For School

Orchestra To-do will run on your iPhone, iPod touch, or your iPad provided you’re running iOS 4.0 or later. You can add items to the list manually or use voice recognition and speak your to-do items out loud. You can upload your to-do list onto the Orchesta website and keep your smartphone and the site in sync so that you can make changes in either location. You can set reminder alerts for when it’s time to do something. If it’s a task you have to commit repeatedly on a regular schedule, you can set up recurring task alerts.

Orchestra isn’t just a tool for individuals. It can also be used to help groups organize their efforts. Real-time chat supports multiple simultaneous users. You can set up different groups, like one for your family and one for your classmates and one for your World of Warcraft guild to assign tasks accordingly, share lists, and collaborate more effectively.

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Dragon's Dogma

Whether it’s high school or college that demands your attention, unless you’re planning on flunking, you’re going to have less time to play video games come September. It might be a good idea to finish up games from earlier this year so that you can spend your precious gaming time on the Fall releases that are about to flood your PC, consoles, and the rest of the your free time.

Today, we’re focusing on four RPGs and a dungeon crawler. These might seem like obvious choices due to the length of the gameplay, but it isn’t only about time to completion. RPGs encourage getting into a rhythm as we learn the combat mechanics. The longer you put the game down in between play sessions, the more likely you are to lose the story thread and not remember what’s going on.

Here are five games we think you ought to get cracking on and finish before going back to classes, homework and projects.

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Sony GamesCom 2009 PRESSEKONFERENZ -- Zombie Blog!

Japan and the United States tend to be thought of as the two poles of the video game industry, with Japan seen as the originator and the United States as the current, dominating force. But with Europe’s annual Gamescom event starting, we thought it might be a good idea to reflect on how Europe fits into the worldwide video game industry.

Great Britain – Our Neighbors Across The Pond

The United Kingdom is the largest video game market in Europe. The British video game industry has been outselling their film industry for years just like the American video game industry has long since outpaced Hollywood. Unlike in the United States, however, video games in the UK have been held up alongside film and television as an important medium worthy of artistic recognition. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) hands out video game awards every year, and the BAFTAs are a now a major event in the videogame industry.

The UK is generally regarded as the hub of European game development. Pop over to London and you can find Eidos Interactive, publishers of the Tomb Raider and Hitman franchises; Rocksteady Studios, creators of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City; and Splash Damage, creators of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Brink. Media Molecule, creator of the LittleBigPlanet series and Lionhead Studios, best known for the Fable series are both based in Guildford in Surrey. Rare, the developer of the Viva Pinata, Banjo-Kazooie and Kinect Sports games is located in Twycross, Leicestershire.

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The History of Revolutionary War Games -- Moving Beyond Assassin's Creed 3

The American Revolution will make for an interesting backdrop to the Assassin’s Creed series, and the franchise’s fiction maps onto the Revolution nicely. The Assassins believe in individual freedom and rights. The Templars believe in providing order and control. Of course, Connor will be giving the hidden blade to Templars to either side of the war so that’s as far as that train of thought goes.

While Assassin’s Creed III doesn’t touch on all aspects of the American Revolution, there have been video games that used the Revolution as more than just a setting but as the heart of the game.

The Japanese developer Koei might be best known to modern-day video game audiences as the studio behind Dynasty Warriors, but since the mid-1980’s Koei has been producing and became famous for its “historical simulations” series. Liberty or Death is a turn-based Revolutionary War game released in 1993 for MS-DOS and in 1994 for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

The History of Revolutionary War Games -- Moving Beyond Assassin's Creed 3

The player can fight for the American Continental Army or the British Army. The Colonies are broken down into 53 districts that either side may seize and control. The Americans win if they hold out until 1820 or seize all 53 districts, but the British can only win by seizing complete control of the Colonies.

While military conquest is the means to seize districts, the player also has to manage the war effort through either the Continental Congress or the British House of Commons. Officers have to be paid in gold, and the Americans need to build their navy from scratch. The British begin the game with a navy and can hire mercenary regiments like German Hessians from the outset.

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Batman: Arkham City

When the curtain rises on last time today The Dark Knight Rises, one of the greatest series to ever put superhero to celluloid will be complete. But at the same time, we are seeing a rebirth of the Dark Knight in the digital world that will forever be known as the new high bar of Batman games. Both Christopher Nolan and the team at Rocksteady Games tackle in such and honest and unique way, we cannot help but think that there may be some similarities in their approach.

The Dark Knight movies have a very different take on Batman compared to the comics. The Joker isn’t a criminal who fell into a sewage drain, which dyed his skin white, and his hair green and then lost his mind. He’s a raving psychotic who gave himself a scarred smile and badly applies clown makeup. Christopher Nolan was able to make such changes to the story while still remaining true to who Batman is by honing in on the essence of what defines Batman.

This is precisely what Rocksteady Games did when they produced Arkham Asylum, and why it‘s generally considered the best Batman video game ever. Establishing things like Batman’s collection of gadgets and Bruce Wayne’s wealth are easy. Delving into his psychology and character are more challenging, and that’s what Nolan’s Dark Knight movies and Rocksteady’s Batman games have gotten exactly right.

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A fourth Super Smash Bros. game was just announced, but it wasn’t until this month that lead developer Masahiro Sakurai told us the game was officially in the first stages of development. It’s time to start daydreaming about which characters we’d like to see added to the series.

Super Smash Bros. loves to draw from first-party characters before anything else, and we can still think of a few proper Nintendo stars we’d like to see in the lineup, but the well is beginning to run a little dry. We actually considered adding Starman from the old NES Pro Wrestling game to the list for a while.

Namco Bandai is co-developing the game. Other third-party studios have worked on Smash Bros. games before, but Namco Bandai has its own stable of recognizable characters, and we hope that by bringing them into the project Nintendo is signaling even more openness to third-party characters in Smash Bros. than ever before.

We’d therefore like to offer two lists of characters we would love to see in the next Smash Bros. game, beginning with the first-party characters.

X-Play: 'Punch-Out!!' Review

Little Mac from Punch-Out!!!

Little Mac made an appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as an Assist Trophy, but has never been a playable character himself. Adding a championship boxer to the lineup in a fighting game is a no-brainer. A souped-up uppercut would make for a great Final Smash.

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Rush N' Attack

Our Fourth of July celebrations are almost universally upbeat. Military fly-bys and thankfulness for our armed forces and our freedom precede fireworks displays accompanied by orchestras playing patriotic music by John Philip Sousa. We can see much of this spirit in the way video games have depicted America and our culture historically, but as video games have matured and begun to delve into serious subject matter; they’ve also begun featuring criticism of our ideals and our culture ranging from oblique commentary to blunt sarcasm.

One of the most common depictions of an American in the earliest video games was as a soldier. Konami’s arcade game Rush’n Attack was originally released as Green Beret in Japan and Europe. Other arcade games like Commando and Operation Wolf took advantage of the Cold War pro-military popular culture in the United States. The only American character in Street Fighter II was a soldier named Guile, and his stage was set next to a runway on an Air Force base. Americans love to identify with the tough guy and bad-ass. 

In the 1990’s, Steven Spielberg created the Medal of Honor series on the Sony PlayStation as a celebration of the highest military decoration the United States can award a soldier. Medal of Honor recipients put themselves at risk “above and beyond the call of duty” under fire and represent the best of what an American soldier aspires to be. The franchise has stayed true to this ethos as a celebration of the individual bravery of our men and women in uniform. Electronic Arts and Danger Close studios always hammer home that the current incarnation of the franchise is based in large part on consultation with American Tier 1 operatives, who are drawn from the various elite fighting forces like the Navy SEALS and US Army Rangers.

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Warface

If you’re a hardcore gamer it’s time to start paying attention to the free-to-play space.

Imagine you’re playing a triple-A first person shooter with online co-op and competitive modes. The game runs on CryEngine 3, one of the most powerful graphics engines on the market. The shooting mechanics are rock-solid. Every week, you get free content like new co-op missions. Now imagine that you’re not paying a dime for it.

You’re playing Warface, the new free-to-play shooter developed by Crytek, the studio that brought us groundbreaking shooters like Far Cry and Crysis, and it's AAA, all the way.

Some of the most popular first person shooter games ask us for around $100 to get the full experience if we consider the cost of the base product plus all the map packs. Battlefield 3, plus all five eventual expansions, will run you $135 on consoles if you don’t upgrade to Battlefield Premium and get everything for $100 in total. The annual Call of Duty game costs $60, map packs are $15 each, and there are usually at least four of them.

If you’re a single-player campaign fan, this is not an ‘apples to oranges’ equation, but if competitive multiplayer is where your interests lie you have some math to do. Warface, Hawken, Planetside 2 and DUST 514 are all PvP-centric, triple-A, free-to-play shooters.

These four titles are collectively a potential game-changer. They look great. They play great. And unless they fail to provide a full game experience without requiring purchases, the traditional boxed retail model might be in more trouble than ever before.

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Gears of War 3

When Jim Brown, the Lead Level Designer at Epic Games, went to the Gears of War 3 beta forums to figure out what was wrong with the multiplayer map Trenches, it was in his words “one of the scariest things a developer can ever do.”

As a former professional gamer himself, Brown was intimately familiar with the levels of devotion and criticism that hardcore gamers embody, and so his trepidation at going into the beta forums to investigate the weaknesses of Trenches was entirely understandable. But what mattered to Brown was getting the map correct, and his act of humility paid off.

As part of the Level Design In A Day workshop at the Game Developers Conference this year, Brown gave a presentation called “The Legacy of Fail” which told the story of how the Gears of War 3 Trenches map was developed. His presentation was a breakdown of the iterative design process that fans don’t usually get to see. We asked Brown and Epic Games if they would allow us to share the presentation and the tale with our audience. The following images have been taken from Brown’s GDC 2012 presentation with his and the studio’s permission.

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New BioShock Infinite Details

David Gaider, lead writer of the Dragon Age series, feels narrative gives the player a reason to care about what they're fighting for. Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment, developers of Fallout: New Vegas, doesn't know whether story even matters to the gameplay experience, and ponders if narrative's role is to create backdrops, letting the systems and the player's interactions with them create the story. And Ken Levine of Irrational Games, who is releasing BioShock Infinite this fall, believes that story gives context for player experience, but the value of narrative in video games is rather marginal. Levine thinks his job is primarily to present an environment for the player.

Gaider's answers might sound more like what we'd expect to hear from all three men, who are known for their skills in telling tales, but their answers underscore the complicated relationship between stories in video games and video game mechanics.

Levine is more concerned with environment than the words he's going to write. “I would say the best tool we have to sell our story is the world. The visual space...if you think about dialogue, especially in a first person shooter...the environment gives you so much information,” he said. “You can take in so much more visual information than you can take in audio information.”

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