OCC TECH NEWS
February 18, 2014
Starting today, HTC is offering customers who purchase its top of line smartphones brand new, to include the HTC One, HTC One max, and HTC One mini, benefits through a new loyalty program known as HTC Advantage. The program offers many benefits, including free screen replacement if a claim is filed within six months of device purchase, device updates for major Android versions, 25GB or 50GB of free Google Drive storage for two years from the date of device purchase, cloud backup provided by HTC Backup, and support offered through live chat or telephone. The announcement of the new program comes shortly after HTC revealed that it would indeed provide customers with major Android updates for two years.
HTC Advantage is only available to customers who purchase supported aforementioned devices from this day forward, as smartphones purchased prior to the announcement do not qualify for the program.
Graphene is a somewhat popular material in research labs because of its many wonderful properties, including high strength and conductivity. The atom-thick sheet of carbon also has some weird properties, such as being hydrophobic, except when used to create narrow capillaries. Two years ago researchers at the University of Manchester have tested how graphene dioxide is at filtering water vapor and now they have tested it for filtering liquid water.
In the previous experiment the researchers found that laminates of graphene dioxide were impermeable to all gases and vapors besides water vapor, which passed through as though nothing were there. Even helium, the smallest molecule could not escape. Graphene dioxide was used because it allowed for atom-wide capillaries to be formed by stacking layers on top of each other, forming the laminate. When immersed in water, the laminates did swell up as it absorbed water, but water was still able to flow through very quickly.
Some ions were also able to pass through the membrane, but only those smaller than nine angstroms, or 0.9 nanometers. However the researchers do believe that with more work they will be able to reduce that value, allowing for an ultrafast filtration system that could remove even some of the smallest ions found in seawater.
Source: University of Manchester
With the debut of new video cards (GTX 750, GTX 750 Ti, and GTX TITAN Black), that obviously means new drivers must arrive to support them. New NVIDIA GeForce drivers, 334.89 WHQL, have indeed been released today, adding support for the aformentioned three cards, but even owners of existing NVIDIA cards will want to update.
Several 3D Vision profiles have been added or updated (check the link below), while SLI profiles have been added for Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry, Assassin's Creed Liberation HD, Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut, Gas Guzzlers, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, and The Crew. Meanwhile, overall performance has been optimized for F1 2013, Sleeping Dogs, Hitman Absolution, Company of Heroes 2, Assassin's Creed 3, BioShock Infinite, Sniper Elite V2, and Total War: Rome 2.
The GeForce 334.89 WHQL driver can be downloaded from the GeForce website or within GeForce Experience.
It's been a long time coming for NVIDIA's new Maxwell architecture, but instead of having it debut with the 800 series as originally rumored, NVIDIA has used it for its new 700 series cards, the GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti. You can read our review here, but suffice it to say that these two cards will likely be the most recommended cards for budget builds. Pricing for the GTX 750 is expected to start at $119, while the 1GB GTX 750 Ti and 2GB GTX 750 Ti will start at $139 and $149, respectively.
According to NVIDIA, the GTX 750 Ti "approximates the performance of the GeForce GTX 480," a card that launched at $499. Oh, and it does so while consuming a quarter of the power, at just 60 watts. The GTX 750 Ti also provides double the performance of the GTX 550 Ti at 1080p while using half the power, which happens to be the second most used NVIDIA GPU according to the January 2014 Steam Hardware Survey. Both GTX 750 cards come in at only 5.7" and do not require an internal power connector, making them great for small form-factor builds like HTPCs. Unlike the GTX 480 and GTX 550 Ti, both of which were Fermi-based cards, since the GTX 750 cards utilize Maxwell, you can also take advantage of NVIDIA's ShadowPlay, GameStream, and G-SYNC technologies. All that for roughly $150 or less? There's no longer any excuse to use onboard solutions!
While the GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti are a nice debut for the Maxwell architecture, the Kepler architecture isn't dead just yet. Along with the Maxwell announcement, NVIDIA announced a new version of the GTX TITAN, the GTX TITAN Black. It ups the ante over the vanilla GTX Titan with increased clock speeds all around and delivers a whopping 5.1 teraFLOPS of computing performance, compared to 4.5 for the original. Of course, it's much more expensive than the aforementioned GTX 750 cards, coming in at $999 just like the original version. But it's important to note that, while the gaming performance is certainly great, the GTX Titan cards are coveted for its supercomputing capabilities, providing a nice combination of GeForce and Tesla into one card.
All three cards (GTX 750, GTX 750 Ti, and GTX TITAN Black) are available today for purchase.
Source: Press Release (GTX 750) and NVIDIA Blog (TITAN Black)
February 17, 2014
Harmonix Music Systems, the studio behind Rock Band and Dance Central, is teaming up with Hidden Path Entertainment (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Defense Grid: The Awakening) to bring PC gamers a "free-to-play, music-driven, first-person, multiplayer shooter" called Chroma. Developed using the Unreal engine, music drives everything from the combat to the terrain.
Chroma is a team-based shooter, where you're fighting over control of The Signal, and features multiple classes, "each with their own unique musical gameplay mechanics and perks." Your weapon load-out affects what kind of sound and music you unleash with your attacks. In addition, major musical moments during the match dramatically alter the terrain in sync with the music. These moments, referred to as "Change Ups," can change anything from adding cover to creating sniper towers.
Harmonix is currently accepting applications for a limited Closed Alpha test, but Chroma will eventually launch on Steam at some point this year as a free-to-play title. The screenshots below show virbant, colorful environments and attacks, and while the announcement trailer does not feature actual in-game footage, it certainly provides an interesting taste of what we can expect. It's a unique premise that could be pretty awesome if Harmonix and Hidden Path can pull it off.
Source: Press Release
Flash memory manufacturer ATP has added the Velocity SI-Lite SSD to its line up, which is specifically designed and engineered for industrial use with several data integrity technologies. It utilizes Single Level Cell (SLC) NAND Flash components to allow "more than 20 times program/erase life cycles over other MLC Flash based industrial SSDs on the market and with more than 1500TB of total bytes written."
ATP's PowerProtector, a backup power circuit, protects the SSD in the event of a power failure by providing "sufficient amount of reserve power for any abnormalities such as unstable voltages and power outages." There is also a firmware based "AutoRefresh" feature that launches an automatic Error Correcting Code (ECC) check before failure occurs during read operations. AutoRefresh moves data to healthy blocks on the SSD before failures can even occur, too.
The Velocity SI-Lite SSD will be available in capacities of 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. ATP's Velocity SI-Lite will have sequential read and write speeds of up to 181 MB/s and 133MB/s, 4K Random Read IOPS up to 2,700, a MTBF of over two million hours, and a wide operating tempurature range of -40 ºC to 85 ºC. It is unknown when the Velocity Si-Lite SSD will be available or how much it will cost.
Sources: Press Release and Product Page
Developer Grinding Gear Games sure knows how to tease Path of Exile fans. After announcing the mini-expansion Sacrifice of the Vaal a few days ago, Grinding Gear has now released its first teaser screenshot, which poses many more questions than it answers.
Keen observers will notice four differences from the current version of the game. The most obvious is the red "Corrupted" that appears at the bottom of the item description, but what that means is anyone's guess. The second is the addition of a white socket. White sockets currently exist in the game, but as far as I know, they are only present in one highly unique item – the Tabula Rasa robe, which was a Race Season Two prize for reaching 360 RP. This screenshot seems to indicate that white sockets will now be able to appear on other items, though the rarity is obviously unknown, as is whether only corrupted items will have them.
The last two differences are a lot more subtle. If you look closely, you'll notice a blood drop on the middle mouse button skill. Again, good luck figuring out what that means. Then lastly, the menu icons between the health orb and potion bar has changed. The top left icon, which is currently a cog wheel for the settings menu, has been replaced with what looks like a flag icon. Could this flag icon be PvP related?
Like I said, this Sacrifice of the Vaal teaser screenshot poses more questions than answers. Looks like we'll have to tune in Thursday, when information on the features will supposedly be unveiled. Sacrifice of the Vaal goes live March 5, 2014.
Source: Official Site
We have just a little bit of February left already, yet there's still some reviews for you to check out. There's the MSI R9 290 Gaming, with its custom cooler and factory overclock to help keep you gaming longer. We also have a review on the NZXT HALE82 V2 500W power supply, which has a single +12v rail and 80PLUS Bronze certification. To house your new gear, we have the BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX case, which may be small, yet can still pack a powerful system. To round things out, we have a podcast looking back at everything from the past week.
MSI R9 290 Gaming @ LanOC Reviews
BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX @ Bjorn3D
NZXT HALE82 V2 550W @ ThinkComputers
Podcast #287 @ PC Perspective
The once-console-exclusive hack-and-slash game KILLER IS DEAD is making its way to PC in an exclusive Nightmare Edition. The Nightmare Edition includes a new difficulty mode called Nightmare Mode, where enemies can only be defeated with three attacks: Adrenaline Burst, Dodge Burst, and Headshots. It also includes the Smooth Operator Pack of extra goodies, which had been a pre-order bonus with the console editions, as well as a Theater Mode that allows you to "rewatch cutscenes and get extended background information on characters."
KILLER IS DEAD - Nightmare Edition is set to release on May 9, 2014 for $19.99, in both retail and digital formats. While Steam was not mentioned specifically, knowing publisher Deep Silver's history, a Steam release should be a given.
Source: Press Release
Editing software have specific tool functions that are accessible through an overwhelming list of menu options. To expedite the process, a combination of press keys on the keyboard can be used, known as shortcuts. However, it's a task that requires memorizing the shortcut commands and awkwardly applying them onto the keyboard. The SHORTCUT-S project by Sorin Neica aims to produce a keyboard that combines such shortcuts into single keys. It'll have 299 pre-determined keys for the most commonly used functions, tools, and filters, along with 20 customizable keys. With the SHORTCUT-S, shortcuts can now be accessed with a single button, allowing time savings of up to 30%. The additional keys add to the keyboard's dimensions of 403 mm (L) x 306 mm (W) x 8 mm (H).
While designed specifically for Adobe Photoshop, the SHORTCUT-S keyboard will also be compatible with a plethora of commonly used graphics and video editing software, "like Corel Draw, Adobe Premier, Adobe Illustrator, Final Cut, Lightroom, and so on." Using the same keyboard, users simply swap the interchangeable graphic surface to the overlay that better suits the software that's going to be used.
Currently, the SHORTCUT-S is powered by USB, but there are hopes to develop a wireless version as well as one with an aluminum finish. A fully programmable keyboard may even be possible. However, this Kickstarter project is not possible without the funding of at least $185,280 by March 31st. There's still 42 days left, but at this time of this writing, it's only roughly 11% of the way there.
Interested supporters can pledge $89 (with the early bird special) or $99 (without) to get the SHORTCUT-S keyboard. Optional surface overlays are $18, while shipping is an additional $28, with an expected delivery date of Summer 2014.
A week after unveiling the first gameplay trailer for Sniper Elite 3, developer Rebellion released a Developer Diary focusing on the "Anatomy of the X-Ray Kill Cam." Rebellion ups the ante in Sniper Elite 3 by adding in two additional layers bullets travel through, the circulatory and muscle systems. The studio also reworked the existing three layers (skin, bones, and organs) to make the kill shots more dynamic. The video shows a lot of the gruesome kill cam shots, but also provides some behind-the-scenes look at how the audio is created, such as smashing vegetables and fruits.
Superconductivity is an interesting phenomenon of some materials that allows them to conduct electricity without resistance, but only under certain conditions. With no resistance to impair transmission, researchers have been working to understand what causes superconductivity to emerge in these materials. Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory have recently studied how the electron orbitals in iron-based superconductors change, as a result of dopants.
Iron-based superconductors are one kind of high temperature superconductors, which become superconducting at temperatures significantly above absolute zero, but still much lower than room temperature. They are special compounds that contain multiple elements, and the Brookhaven researchers examined how the outer-most electrons in one material are affected by the addition of a dopant, which makes the material a superconductor. The base material was barium iron arsenic, and when analyzed the electron orbitals or the iron were shown to be sandwiched between arsenic atoms. Once some cobalt atoms were doped in, the orbitals changed, creating a stronger quadrupole around the iron atoms and strongly polarizing the arsenic atoms.
This altered electronic structure helps electron couple into pairs, which is essential for superconductivity to occur. As this research was done under static conditions, and at room temperature, the researchers are going to repeat their work with super-cold samples of other materials, and perhaps help discover what creates superconductivity.
Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory
February 16, 2014
SlickLogin, an Israeli security startup that focuses on account login authentication, has been acquired by Google. In the recent deal, the three person team will join Google in order to provide the company with the technology that it has already been working to implement, though an actual product has not yet been released by SlickLogin. The technology that has been developed uses high frequency sounds that are nearly silent and provide authentication for users who have a smartphone nearby. In an example, a user going to login to an account would have the computer play a high pitch frequency, which would be picked up by a nearby smartphone. After the smartphone analyzes the sound, the smartphone sends a response back to the server to verify that the user is actually who they say they are. This technology by SlickLogin is meant to replace password based login systems, or provided a two-step authentication system.
Although the acquisition has been confirmed by SlickLogin, no information was announced regarding the financial terms of the deal.
Fitness trackers and monitors like Fitbit are becoming increasingly popular these days, but they're another piece of equipment you have worry about – and remember to grab. Most people who exercise regularly listen to music while doing so, so wouldn't it be better if one device could provide both? Enter The Dash.
The Dash is a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that combines a slew of features you'd normally need a variety of devices for. It's an all-in-one device that manufacturer Bragi breaks down into three categories: Listen, Track, and Communicate.
Under the Listen component, The Dash offers crisp and clear sound without any cables thanks to the Bluetooth connection between the two ear pieces. You can also use Bluetooth to play music from a Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone, but it also includes 4GB of space built-in, so you can store songs directly in The Dash as well. The Dash comes with three sizes of silicone sleeves that should provide a secure and comfortable fit for anyone. Each Dash ear piece weighs less than 13.8 grams, and with no cables pulling them and an ergonomic, three-point fit, using the correct silicone sleeve should provide a secure fit for "94% of all people."
The Track component is what really sets these headphones apart. The Dash can track your performance (pace, steps, cadence, and distance), measure your body vitals (heart rate, oxygen saturation, and energy spent), keep track of your goals, and provide you with realtime acoustic feedback. The Dash is compatible with third-party applications, or you can use Bragi's own app. You are able to use The Dash without a smartphone, but some of the tracking utilizes the GPS of the phone and thus will not get tracked.
If you do have your smartphone with you, that's where the Communicate component comes in. The Dash can work as a Bluetooth headset, complete with passive noise isolation and audio transparency. The Dash uses an "ear bone microphone" that allows it to pick up the "mechanical vibration generated by your voice from the ear bone."
All the controls, outside of using a smartphone app, are done by touching either the left or right ear piece, but instead of me explaining it, Bragi supplied this handy image:
The Dash is currently undergoing a Kickstarter campaign, and with 42 days still remaining, it has already blown past its $260,000 goal – at the time of this writing, it's approaching $1.7 million with over 8,000 backers. Probably not surprising, The Dash does not come cheap. There was an Early Bird special for the first 1,000 backers to grab a pair at $179, but that's sold out, so now the minimum is $199. Still, if this is something you're interested in, the suggested retail price is expected to be $299, so Kickstarter backers do enjoy a substantial discount. There are also various developer packages to choose from if you'd like to get your hands on a pair of prototypes and/or start developing more applications for it.
Purchasing any of The Dash packages gets you a left and right ear piece, three sizes (S/M/L) of silicone sleeves, a micro USB cable, a slick carrying case, the Bragi app, a manual, and two Bragi stickers to show off your loyalty. Thanks to the $666,667 stretch goal that has already easily been achieved, the carrying case features a built-in battery pack that can fully charge The Dash in less than an hour and provides up to five full charges.
Speaking of battery life, The Dash is expected to "at least provide 3 hours of battery life when all sensors are in use and up to 4 hours when only playing music." Using the Advanced Control Center (which was the second stretch goal), there are power saving features you can enable that can increase the battery life under certain uses. There is a battery life expectancy of at least three years with 1.6 charges per day, so it should last quite awhile. That being said, the battery is not replaceable due to the waterproofing of the ear pieces. Yes, if you like to run in the rain or even swim, you can still utilize The Dash – though with the latter, some functionality (like Bluetooth to a phone) gets disabled.
The Dash is certainly a unique device and features a lot of cool and interesting technology. Check out the images below and/or the Kickstarter page to learn more about the technical details.
Source: Kickstarter and Press Release
February 15, 2014
In a recent update to the popular graphics monitoring and diagnostic software from TechPowerUp, GPU-Z 0.7.7 is now available for download. The latest update fixes bugs that were previously present within the utility, adds support for more architectures and graphics cards, and incorporates an adjustable Sensor refresh rate. TechPowerUp has noted that NVIDIA Maxwell support has been improved, along with GM107 TMU and shader count being fixed. Support has been introduced for the NVIDIA Tesla K20Xm, NVIDIA GTX 860M, and AMD Radeon HD 8210. CHiL8214 voltage monitoring for Pitcairn/Curacao cards has been added too, rounding out the changes introduced within the latest update to GPU-Z.
While Amazon UK leaked the game a few days ago, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark was officially announced today during Hasbro's preview event for the New York Toy Fair. According to Examiner, an Activision representative said Rise of the Dark Spark will run alongside the upcoming film, Age of Extinction, and will be "marrying two different universes, the Transformers Cybertron universe and the Michael Bay Transformers universe," featuring characters from both. One such character that was mentioned is Age of Extinction's Grimlock.
The game will feature both a single player campaign and multiplayer. In single player, players will be able to play as both the Autobots and Decepticons. Extinction mode is the multiplayer portion of the game and features "horde-based combat with over 40 playable characters." Character progression persists across both game modes, meaning the ranks and unlocks you gain in one mode can be used in the other.
Rise of the Dark Spark is being developed by Loadout developer Edge of Reality, instead of High Moon Studios, the developer for the previous two Transformers games. It's set for release some time this year for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. There will also be a 3DS version developed by Way Forward, but that will be a strategy RPG instead.
Below is the announcement trailer that was shown at the preview event, courtesy of IGN:
Source: Examiner and IGN
If you have a Kickstarter account, you most likely received an email earlier today informing you of a security breach. According to the email, law enforcement officials contacted Kickstarter Wednesday night, alerting the company that hackers "had sought and gained unauthorized access to some of [its] customers' data." Kickstarter says that no credit card data of any kind was accessed by the hackers, but several pieces of customer information were compromised, including "usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords."
While actual passwords were not revealed, since it's always possible to crack encryption, Kickstarter is advising all members to change their Kickstarter account password, along with any other accounts that may use that same password. As of the time of this writing, there are 5,633,641 total backers on Kickstarter, but it's quite possible that the actual user number is higher since you can create an account without backing a project. Nevertheless, it's unclear just how many customers were affected. The email I received says, "There is no evidence of unauthorized activity of any kind on your account," which could mean my data wasn't accessed, or maybe it just means there was no fake pledging detected. Either way, I changed my password, and I advise you to do the same.
Source: KickStarter Security Notice Email
South Park: The Stick of Truth is set to release on March 4 for Windows PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, but yesterday, Ubisoft provided South Park fans with a nice Valentine's Day present – a gameplay video showing the intro of the game. As is the case with most games these days, this first portion of the game is pretty much a tutorial. You're introduced to the character you control with a very vague background, you meet Butters who brings you to Cartman, you pick a character class (Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew), and then Cartman walks you through various aspects of the combat system. The video gives a rather good indication of how the game plays, but do keep in mind that it is extremely NSFW – in other words, it's South Park.
If you want more South Park: The Stick of Truth, Ubisoft released a "Making of" video earlier in the week.
Earlier this week, SanDisk announced the Extreme PRO SDHC/SDXC UHS-II Memory Card. It has SSD-like performance and is the fastest SD memory card in the world, with read speeds up to 280MB/s and write speeds up to 250MB/s. UHS-II enabled DSLRs and video cameras would benefit from the memory card's UHS Speed Class 3 Rating and sustained video capture of 30MB/s to capture Full HD, 3D, and even 4K video. These memory cards will be available in 16GB ($120), 32GB ($150), and 64GB ($300) sizes. The 64GB card would allow the storage of 20 minutes of 4K footage, so would be the obvious choice if you have a 4K-capable camera. Purchase also includes a RescuePRO Deluxe media recovery software.
The SanDisk Extreme PRO SDHC/SDXC UHS-II Card Reader/Writer ($49.99) was also announced alongside the memory card. This media card reader uses an USB 3.0 interface with a 500 GB/s bandwith to enable the 280 MB/s transfer speeds of SanDisk's Extreme PRO SDHC/SDXC UHS-II Memory Card.
Both items will be available this April, but can be pre-purchased.
Source: Engadget and Press Release
February 14, 2014
If you were one of the lucky ones to receive a beta invite to Titanfall, your excitement may have diminished when you actually tried to play. Many gamers, myself included, were greeted by a "no servers found" message as it tried to connect. According to Respawn Entertainment's Jon Shiring, this was caused by a bug preventing Microsoft's lauded cloud from allocating more servers. The issue affects both PC and Xbox One.
Microsoft has supposedly fixed the issue and the servers should start coming back online slowly, but Shiring advises people to stay out until he gives the green light. For those that are frustrated, just remember:
Capcom held a Strider Q&A yesterday and was posed the question of whether Amazon's purchase of developer Double Helix Games affected Strider's development in any way. Producer Andrew Szymanski said it does not affect it at all because everything Capcom wanted in the game is included – there is no DLC because all the bonus stuff is unlockable in-game through obtaining collectibles. As such, he said "DH's work is done, though I do wish them the best with whatever they do moving forward."
Strider will arrive on February 18 for PlayStation 4 and Playstation 3, and February 19 for Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, for the mere price of $14.99. Knowing ahead of time that this is a "complete game" with no DLC planned should please some gamers who feel DLC is a little too prevalent these days – especially considering Capcom's controversial history with DLC.
If you're interested in learning more about Strider, Capcom released a Retrospective video and Behind-the-Scenes video earlier in the week.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is now on sale within AT&T retail outlets. The Galaxy Gear is a smartwatch that is able to be synchronized with smartphones in order to provide notifications, texts, voice calls, and other information. The newly announced sale provides a $100 discount for the Samsung Galaxy Gear, as long as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Active, or Galaxy Mega is purchased at an AT& retail outlet. AT&T is even allowing customers who have already purchased an eligible device before the sale was announced to receive the $100 discount for the Samsung Galaxy Gear.
At this point in time, no specific end date for the sale has been released.
With the beta form of League of Angels being available for roughly the last two months, R2 Games has reported that nearly 200,000 players took part in testing the game in preparation for its final release. That final release takes place today, as R2 Games has officially released League of Angels, a popular hybrid turn-based fantasy MMORPG. The title now incorporates more angels to choose from, a more fluid overall gaming experience, a marriage system, and ranking tables. R2 Games has noted that the game also plays faster, allowing players to advance more quickly than when the beta was first launched.
League of Angels is a free-to-play title, and interested gamers can sign up for an account through the game's website.
Source: Press Release
A new coalition has been formed that is geared towards improving Wi-Fi, for both businesses and consumers. Known as WifiForward, the group seeks to alleviate the issues that face Wi-Fi in terms of the spectrums it currently uses. Wi-Fi generally suffers from a bottleneck due to spectrum frequencies that are overused. The group plans to gain support from the United State government in order to establish unlicensed rules that encourage development, strengthen current unlicensed spectrums, and make new spectrum available for unlicensed use at a variety of frequencies.
Members of WifiForward include ALA, Arris, Best Buy, Broadcom, CCIA, CEA, Charter, Comcast, CompTIA, EngineAdvocacy, Fastback Networks, Google, IAVM, Microsoft, Motorola, NCTA, SHLB, and Time Warner Cable.
Last week, Adhesive Games announced that it was transitioning its mech-combat game HAWKEN to Steam. HAWKEN has finally launched on Steam, but curiously not as a "regular" release, but rather as Early Access. That normally wouldn't be a problem except that Adhesive is blocking all new players from accessing the game unless they buy a $29.99 USD Nemesis Bundle, which contains nine mechs and a bunch of other goodies. However, anybody with an existing account has been emailed a Steam key to redeem and access the game for free.
This is a rather questionable move considering the game is supposed to be free-to-play and still will be once it exits Early Access. No word on just how long Early Access will last, but the official reasoning for the decision to require a purchase was that Adhesive "felt this was necessary to help control [the] server load and offer the very best experience possible to all players." I guess that sounds better than simply saying, "we want money." Not surprisingly, Steam users are up in arms. Hopefully Adhesive didn't just shoot itself in the foot, hurting the long term prospect of the game.
Source: Steam and Official Site
In an open forum type discussion between the HTC United States product team and Reddit members, information surrounding Android updates for HTC devices has been revealed. The product team at HTC identified that while the company has not had a good track record previously in terms of Android updates, it will now start supporting all major Android updates for two years going forward. While this is great news for HTC smartphone owners, there are a few catches that apply to customers as well as their handsets. First, the support for all major Android updates will only be provided for new HTC flagship devices. Secondly, the two year support will only be available for customers located within North America.
It hasn't been a good month for anyone who uses bitcoins. Russia declared it illegal, two bitcoin exchanges (Mt. Gox and Bitstamp) were hit by denial-of-service attacks, and now the biggie – over 4400 bitcoins were stolen from Silk Road 2, amounting to roughly $2.7 million USD. Silk Road 2 operators initially blamed the same "transaction malleability" bug that had plagued the other two aforementioned sites, pointing to possible attackers in Australia and France.
However, as more evidence comes to light, it now seems like Silk Road 2 staff may have actually used this bug as a ruse to scam its users out of millions. Considering Silk Road 2 is a marketplace for drugs and contraband, it'll be interesting to see what happens now since I doubt people will turn to law enforcement for help.
Bitcoin at your own risk.
Steam Tags were implemented just two days ago, but it certainly didn't take very long for things to awry. You'd think Valve would have learned its lesson from the Steam Greenlight launch. If you're a frequent visitor of OCC, you may recall that I wrote an editorial back when Steam Greenlight was launched, entitled "Steam Greenlight - From Novel Idea to Train Wreck in Sixty Seconds." I also mentioned that I had considered the title, "Valve Clearly Underestimates the Stupidity and Immaturity of the Human Race." Sadly, both those titles would be apt for Steam Tags.
Suffice it to say, users started abusing the tagging system, some with overdone memes ("Half-Life 3 Confirmed"), some mildly humorous, and some just downright offensive. Well, Valve did call it a beta for a reason, right? Last night, Valve updated the system to hopefully improve it and reduce the trolling. The major change was the addition of a new reporting option. By clicking on the flag option next to a tag (you must click the plus sign to the right of the popular tags first), you can now report the tag as "offensive/abusive tag," "not appropriate for this product," "not a helpful tag," or "spoiler." In addition, tags now require more users before they'll show on the popular tags section.
These are certainly reasonable changes that leaves one wondering why Valve didn't implement them in the first place. While individual persons may occasionally display intelligence, as a whole, society is dumb and cannot be trusted. That's just Humans 101.
While we already know Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios is working on the upcoming Mad Max game, that's not the only game the studio is working on. Speaking to Polygon, Avalanche founder Christofer Sundberg said the studio is also "working on a stylized, tactical game for mobile devices." Before you start to wonder if it'll be based in Just Cause or Mad Max universe, it won't – it's a new IP.
According to Sundberg, the game idea has actually been floating around since 2006. It was pitched to publishers, but they wanted "nice, high-end graphics and photorealistic environments" at the time instead of the stylized look Avalanche was going for, which Sundberg describes as "similar to what Borderlands is today." He goes on to describe the game as "sort of a management fighting game," but not a fighting game in the sense of a brawler, but rather RTS combat like Command & Conquer.
While that's all he has to say about the game for now, he did say that the current plan is to release it some time this year. Since most of the studio's projects take quite awhile to develop, Sundberg felt testing the mobile waters was the right move because the development cycle is shorter. If everything goes well, then Avalanche will "definitely do more mobile games" in the future.