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Cloud Gaming Powering The Future Of Gaming -- From The Web To The PS4 And Beyond

Cloud gaming looks a lot less like “pie in the sky” this month, as Sony bought on-demand gaming service Gaikai for an impressive $380 million. What’s even more impressive than that figure, however, is the technology behind Gaikai and the game-changing possibilities cloud gaming could bring to future consoles like PS4 and Xbox 720.

Currently, Gaikai’s cloud gaming service can stream full, console-quality games through browsers: FireFox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer -- they’re all compatible. This accessibility is convenient, but it isn’t what has us most excited about the venture. No, the revolutionary part comes into play when you realize that cloud gaming could eliminate both the weight and the wait. Goodbye bulky hard drives needed to fill up GBs worth of game data. Goodbye the time spent idling in front of a progress bar while the entire game downloads.

Gaikai (pronounced “guy-kai”) is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “Open Ocean.” Like the name suggests, there’s plenty of untested waters to explore when eliminating a user’s need for high-end hardware without sacrificing quality gameplay and graphics. Let’s take a look at both the bright and sunny and the stormy future of cloud gaming.

Pros: Gaming On Cloud 9

Cloud Gaming Powering The Future Of Gaming -- From The Web To The PS4 And Beyond

As Easy As YouTube
Gaikai says that it makes “playing a game as easy as watching a video on YouTube.” True enough, I was able to instantly play Bulletstorm -- on my MacBook Pro Late 2008 model. This hardware isn’t prime for gaming, especially not the action-intense gaming brought to you by the teams at Epic Games and People Can Fly. On top of that, Bulletstorm isn’t even on Steam for Mac. Yet with an Xbox 360 controller plugged into my outdated, non-gaming OS, I was able to start shooting my way through this really fun FPS game within thirty-seconds.

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Smarter

Do video games make you smarter?

Studies have indicated both yes and no, however, we like to side with all of those positive, “potion-jar-half-full” researchers out there. They have concluded that games can change your brain efficiency for the better, which of course means every game-loving employee at G4TV is an overachiever when it comes to Xbox 360 Achievements.

Our ultra-efficient minds are also good at putting together streamlined, well-organized lists, like this one for the most mind-intensive video games on the market. With the new school year fast approaching, here are the top video games that we think will make you smarter and help your brain score a few extra points this semester.

Brain Age

12. Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes A Day
Nintendo calls its Brain Age games “entertainment,” but the concept behind this mind-exercising DS series still has us hoping that we can reverse our decline in neurons through video games. After all, we’ve put a lot of time into solving its fast-paced quizzes over the years in an effort to retain long-forgotten math and reading comprehension skills. We wouldn’t be naive enough to keep working at it if it didn’t work - our brain ages are a ripe 20, the best possible score according to the game’s Dr. Kawashima. There’s no way we could be wrong.

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Back To School Tech Checklist -- What You Need To Survive College Life

College-bound students, you have enough stress on your hands right now, packing up your belongings and saying goodbye to family, hometown friends, and pets. One thing that you don’t have to say goodbye to, however, is your favorite cutting-edge technology, which is becoming increasingly important on modern campuses regardless of your major. To alleviate some of that decision-making anxiety, we put together a checklist of the best tech a student could ask for this semester.

Here are ten gadgets and gizmos that’ll set you on the right foot academically and make your college peers’ dorms seem inferior.

How James Bond Takes Notes

Back To School Tech Checklist -- What You Need To Survive College Life

LiveScribe Echo
The LiveScribe Echo smartpen is the note-taking tool that I wish I had as a journalism student. Having to listen to speakers and quickly jot down exact quotes while maintaining consciousness of the next thing they were saying was a chore. Likewise, carrying around a clunky digital recorder was a hassle. Hours after the event (the first problem), I was searching an old-school Windows Media Player timeline back in my dorm not knowing where that perfect quote was in an hour-long discussion (the second problem). The LiveScribe Echo eliminates the complications of both methods. The smartpen records audio as you take normal ink-based notes on a normal-looking (though special) paper notebook. The genius is in the pen’s hidden IR camera and the notebook’s micro-dotted paper. You can go back, tap anywhere on the notebook and play back what was said at the moment you wrote it down. This works flawlessly in all sorts of situations on campus and can actually ease the amount of notes you take, as the audio can pick up the details for reviewing later on.
Price: $130

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Video Game Clones: Zynga Gets Ville-ified In EA Lawsuit, Though Cloning Isn't New

Jim Carrey said it best when commenting to David Letterman about the Dumb and Dumberer spin-off he wasn’t a part of: “You know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of PLAGIARISM,” shouting the punchline in a very Jim Carrey fashion.

Electronic Arts has the same sentiments about Zynga’s The Ville, claiming the newly launched Facebook game infringes on the copyright of The Sims Social. Only EA isn’t taking its accusations to the court of comedy, it’s suing Zynga and, according to the company’s statement, doing it for the little guy in “protecting the rights of other creative studios who don’t have the resources to protect themselves.”

But Ville-ifying Zynga for allegedly cloning The Sims Social may not be that easy in court. First, as Zynga points out, EA just released SimCity Social on Facebook, which the defendant says takes cues from Zynga’s signature games, FarmVille and CityVille. There’s a lot of Will Wright’s SimCity in there, but there’s a lot of similar friend-pestering gameplay too. Second, some of the most successful video games are based on other games - where does the line between evolved games stop and cloned games start? The outcome of this lawsuit could lead to a very slippery slope in the video game industry.

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If there were a Michael Phelps of video game tournaments, it would be Johnathan Wendel, better known to us all as Fatal1ty.

Like the top-of-his-game Olympic athlete, Fatal1ty has racked up considerable championships, supplements his winnings with a variety of endorsement deals, and remains one of the more recognizable names in his sport. He took time out of his training schedule to talk to us about the ways in which eSports has changed since 1999 and how to break into the competitive gaming arena.

eSports Spotlight: Fatal1ty -- How To Break Into Pro Gaming And The Future Of The Sport

It’s been over a decade since leagues like CPL, World Cyber Games and MLG started. How has competitive gaming changed since you first started winning?

In 1999, gaming was at its very early stages where nearly no one was competing full time. Years passed and around 2005, gaming was hitting its peak for payouts, which allowed players to could commit 100% of their energy to gaming.

Today, gamers are winning tournaments and grabbing some money here and there, but it seems more gamers are making money from team sponsorships and their own live streaming. I really like it that gamers can become stars in their own right and not have to rely on a specific team to make it as a professional gamer.

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Optoma 750 GameTime Projector -- Inexpensive 3D Gaming At 108-Inches

Playing as a life-sized Nathan Drake as he scours the globe for ancient artifacts or standing tall as Marcus Fenix as he charges into battle against Locust are just two of the ways a projector can put your gaming experience into a better perspective. The Optoma 750, marketed squarely at gamers as the GameTime projector, is just one projector that accomplishes this 108-inch quality image feat, and it does it while adding 3D to the specs.

But what’s better than having a 3D DLP 720p projector in your living room? The $800 price tag. Yes, entry-level HD projectors - even 3D ones like the Optoma 750 - are now that affordable. It almost seems backwards to have a projector shoot out a giant image that’s nearly twice the size and more than half the price of 55-inch LEDs. It can project anywhere 32.2 inches to a whopping 322.4 inches - I found 108 inches to be a happy medium and a size that fit my wall. The caveats are that no consumer-level projector is as bright as an LED and you will need to turn the lights off in your designated gaming room. Beyond those two cons, all of the smaller issues I found were outweighed by the three big benefits of owning this 3D projector.

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SimCity Social On Facebook Builds On EA's Previous Sims Online Attempts

The SimCity Social beta launched just recently, kicking off a Facebook-wide meeting of virtual mayors for the top-down city planning franchise. This, however, isn’t the first game in the Sims universe in which you could interact with other Art Vandelay wannabees. From last year’s The Sims Social on Facebook to 2002’s The Sims Online for the PC, EA has been tinkering with Will Wright’s creations to mixed results for years. SimCity Social brings a more “core” franchise to the casual gaming platform and, more importantly, demonstrates that the company has learned from a few of the mistakes of its past online Sims games.

Doesn’t Bulldoze Core SimCity Gameplay
The first thing that SimCity Social gets right is that it keeps intact the gameplay mechanics of 1989’s SimCity and its colorful sequel SimCity 2000. You’re still building a small town that, over the course of many hours and several hundred mouse clicks, can turn into a bustling little city.

You’ll begin by building roads, houses and farms and eventually work your way up to erecting museums, stadiums and iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Your power as mayor is only limited by your imagination and game-essential resources like materials, money, and energy. EA, like Zynga, encourages you to purchase these resources with real-life money when you're low or just want to speed up the wait times. Thankfully, with enough time and a little bit of help from friends, you'll never feel compelled to take the easy way out if you can handle classic SimCity gameplay.

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5 Reasons The Xbox 720 Won't Be Named Xbox 8

Don’t round up Xbox 720 to an even-numbered Xbox 8 just yet.

Sure, Microsoft won two Xbox 8-related domains today, Xbox8.us and Xbox8.org, as part of an IP dispute with a registrant hoarding domains in China. However, the company is probably just flexing its trademark muscle and has no intention of unifying its video game products under the Windows 8 banner. To back up our theory that Xbox 8 won’t be the new name, we made a list of five reasons why the default rumored Xbox 720 name will remain the favorite.

1. Microsoft Will Update To Windows 9 And Possibly Windows 10 In That Time
This supposed Xbox 8 console will seem old when Microsoft updates its operating system to Windows 9 and, yes, Windows 10 during the console’s lifespan. Imagine if Xbox 360 had been named Xbox Vista. That much-maligned OS launched a year after Xbox 360 came out and since then, we’ve moved on to Windows 7 and are already enjoying Windows 8 Release Preview. The final version of Windows 8 is expected to be released this fall. Xbox 720, on the other hand, is rumored to have a fall 2013 release date at the earliest. Name a new system after an OS that’s already a year old and is likely to be replaced twice over? We don’t think so.

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Google Glass Games Wish List

SwiderMan

Posted July 5, 2012 - By Matt Swider

Google Glass Games Wish List

Google Glass video games don’t exist just yet, but these futuristic glasses and similar head-mounted displays have us thinking about a potential games list. It turns out that there are more than a few of our favorite franchises that would look good in the cutting-edge specs that make our heads look anything but. We already found a bunch of ways that Google Glass could change video games thanks to its personalized viewing experience and sensors like accelerometers, a gyroscope, and compass.

Now let’s meet the first IP we’d want to see in a game-focused iteration of Google’s HMDs.

Battlefield 5

Battlefield for Google Glass was one of the first franchises we thought would work well as an augmented reality FPS game. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with EA’s Call of Duty-rival on the mind when we saw the Google Glass demo. “There is aCanal,” an Israeli pair of YouTube parody producers, went a step further by simulating what Battlefield would look like through the lens of Google Glass in this Battlefield 5 video.

The Google Glass wearer in this Battlefield 5 parody uses an abandoned warehouse lot to “load Battlefield,” arm himself to the teeth with invisible guns, and shoot imaginary enemy soldiers as if they were right there in front of him. After sneaking up on an enemy with a knife, the video is capped off with an airstrike in the distance.

The Battlefield 5 video is clever and well made, even if its gameplay mechanics remain as realistic as the enemy soldiers. But clearly, gamers armed with nothing more than video cameras and Final Cut are thinking, and hopefully developers are getting just as inspired.

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The Best Video Games For the Family on The 4th of July

Playing video games with family on the 4th of July is safe, legal and condoned by your housing authority.

The same can’t be said about the fireworks that are probably banned in your city and the charcoal grill that will get you hassled by your landlord bright and early on Thursday morning. You could trade that M-80 in for lame sparklers or bring the BBQ party indoors, but we think that sharing with your family and friends your video game dependence is the best way to celebrate this day of independence.

Turns out we have a list, nay a signed document, of ten family-friendly video games for freedom-loving families.

Kinect Disneyland Adventures


Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Disneyland is especially magical during the 4th of July thanks to the theme park’s elaborate parades and brilliant fireworks -- Mickey Mouse has a permit to set them off right above Cinderella's Castle. Not as magical? With the holiday crowds and long wait-times. Kinect Disneyland Adventures for Xbox 360 is a great alternative for the entire family; it’s faster than Fast Pass and has a fireworks mini-game to boot. The rest of its 18 mini-games are based off of the attractions, new and old, from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters to Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. Best of all, it’s all located in your living room. No chance of a live-action National Lampoon’s Family Vacation sequel in your future.

Kinect Disneyland Adventures is the latest game in a long line of video games with fireworks that you should check out.

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Google Glass

Google Glass was demoed at this week’s Google I/O conference, proving that while jetpacks, hoverboards, and flying cars are still not on the horizon, wearing a pair of cyborg glasses is just a few shorts months away. Google co-founder Sergey Brin announced the price as $1,500 and a release window of early 2013 for the first developer prototype, Google Glass Explorer Edition. Gaming wasn’t a part of the demo and the first iteration of Google Glass doesn’t seem ready to take on much more than data, chat, photo and video capturing capabilities. Of course, that hasn’t stopped us from spec-ulating about how Project Glass could impact the world of video games as a head-mounted display (HMD).

Call of Duty

“See The Whites Of Their Eyes” In First-Person Shooters


HMD devices like Google Glass and FPS games are a natural fit, so much so that one developer known for being a pioneer is already working on this winning combo. John Carmack demoed the Oculus Rift to us at E3 2012, showing off Doom 3 BFG Edition in conjunction with his own homebrew HMD and an Xbox 360 controller. This virtual reality headset really gives you a more immersive first-person shooter experience and it’s supposed to cost only $500 as a DIY kit, according to Carmack.

Google Glass, although significantly more expensive than Carmack’s Oculus Rift, could be designed to provide a similar 90-degree FPS gaming experience and do it with sleeker frames. On top of that personalized viewing experience, its accelerometers, gyroscope, compass and “other sensors onboard” could lend the Google device to other functions tied to gaming that aid or eliminate the need for a controller.

"Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes," the unattributed famous quote of the American Revolutionary War, would take on new meaning as you literally come eye-to-eye with enemies. Seeing their facial expressions in a Call of Duty or Battlefield game and having it be so close to your own face would be unforgettable. In an instant, Google Glass would enable the FPS genre to take on a more personal, war simulation-like gameplay.

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Surface

With our recent Surface demo experience, we were able to peel back that thin 9.3 mm layer just enough to come up with pros and cons of placing this device in the hands of gamers.

The Microsoft Surface tablet is poised to take on the iPad and add features like a keyboard, kickstand, and a free (not $50) cover; things Apple-hating trolls always complain when new iOS devices are announced. At this week’s press conference, we got a chance to test out the Surface hardware, albeit Microsoft kept our hands-on time to a minimum so our impressions remain “surface deep.” Appropriate, right?

The Good

360 Controller

A Tablet With A Keyboard And An Xbox 360 Controller Input

The reason iOS games “don’t work,” according to the mobile gaming naysayers, is because there are no tactical controls on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Enter the Microsoft Surface tablet. Not only does this Windows 8-powered piece of hardware have actual keys, it boasts a USB port. The Surface RT model has a USB 2.0 port, while the Surface Pro model has a USB 3.0 port. In either version, an Xbox 360 controller can be plugged directly into the machine and button-demanding genres like FPS, action, and fighting games can finally be realized on a tablet.

Wrap your brain around this idea: this gaming-capable machine and its 16:9 monitor are going to be the svelte tech, while the Xbox 360 controller is suddenly going to be the bulky item you hate carrying around. That’s quite a switch. On top of that, it’ll certainly beat tapping, sliding, and swiping your way to victory on completely unresponsive Gorilla Glass.

Both RT and Pro Surface models will include 2x2 MIMO antennas so that Microsoft doesn’t fall into Apple’s “Antenna-gate” controversy. Sadly, the press conference didn’t hint at an integrated Xbox 360 wireless receiver, which means that a wireless Xbox 360 controller would still have to use the annoying dongle. Maybe that’s something Microsoft will squeeze into future models.

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MLG

The MLG Spring Championship took place in Anaheim, CA this past weekend, where $200,000 was awarded to professional gamers and new StarCraft 2: Heart of Swarm multiplayer units were playable for the first time. This upcoming SC2 expansion isn’t ready for competition yet, so the pros were competing in StarCraft 2, League of Legends, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur 5 and The King of Fighters 13. MLG events have included everything from FPS to racing competitions in the past, but in Anaheim, RTS and fighting games were half of the focus.

MLG

KeSPA was the other major attraction at this Major League Gaming event. So, not only did this mark the 60th tournament for MLG, it was the first in which the uber-popular Korean eSports Association flew some of its team members to the U.S. to play StarCraft 2. Previously, these South Korean rockstars of the eSports world were staying true to 1998’s StarCraft: Brood War. The eight players who were part of the KeSPA Invitational on Saturday night demoed a different style and strategy than everyone else, bringing their hardcore skills of Brood War to Wings of Liberty. In the end, KeSPA team member Flash won this live-streamed tournament.

KeSPA’s entrance into this arena in Anaheim proves the global reach of Major League Gaming. “I’m thinking our global broadcast from this event will crush [previous MLG events],” said Major League Gaming CEO Sundance DiGiovanni in the speech to kick off the weekend-long competition. “We’re going into China, France, all over the globe.”

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Unreal Engine 4 Interactive Demo E3 Video »


An Unreal Engine 4 tech demo video has been released by Epic Games, showing off the engine that will may power your Xbox 720, PS4 and next-generation PC games. In the video, the company’s Sr. Technical Artist, Alan Willard, takes you on a jargon-filled walkthrough of what Unreal 4 is capable of. Previously, the engine was only shown behind closed doors at GDC 2012.

Don’t worry if you can’t understand terms like “dynamically-lit particle systems” and “vector displacement fields.” The ten-minute video contains beautiful environments and special effects, including fire, ice, lava, smoke and, yes, next-generation lens flares. These visual effects help translate what Willard is saying into terms everyone can understand.

In addition to previewing the Unreal Engine 4 engine, this video goes into detail about how the new technology will make it easier for developers to create games. One way is by allowing programmers and designers to more easily edit while simulating the game. “I can make these kind of changes while I’m playing the game, while I’m in the editor, while I’m making changes to my environment and my tools and everything - all in real-time, as you can see.”

A revamped UI, a cleaner classification system and new tools like dynamic eye adaptation should help raise the bar for the development community. Moving through these realistic-looking rooms with pitch-perfect lighting is almost enough graphical eyecandy to make you wish Sony and Microsoft had announced the PS4 and Xbox 720 at E3 2012. Almost.


New Super Mario Bros. U

The recently announced New Super Mario Bros. U will allow five players to compete at once. I know what you're thinking: playing four players in New Super Mario Bros. Wii was chaotic enough! Rest assured, the fifth person on the Wii U GamePad can actually help everyone else's gameplay experience by manipulating levels.

We take a look at the new feature in our New Super Mario Bros. Wii U Preview:

"While up to four characters can be on screen at once in New Super Mario Bros. U, a fifth person can join in via the game's nifty Boost Mode. Boost Mode utilizes the new Wii U controller and allows players to place block platforms wherever they touch on the screen. If you only have two people playing, for example if you're a parent who's teaching your kid to play the game, Boost Mode would be perfect because you could put a platform over a gap to save a character from potentially falling through. More malicious players can also use Boost Mode to trap their friends in a rough spot, getting them killed, which is always humorous in a game like this."

Whether you use the Wii U GamePad to be nice or nefarious is up to you. Reading the rest of Leah's New Super Mario Bros. U hands-on preview, however, is not optional.

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