OCC TECH NEWS
March 21, 2014
Due to recent financial trouble in the last quarter of last year, and the extreme cost that it is incurring in order to upgrade its network to the Spark platform, Sprint has announced that it has decided to lay off employees and shutter stores. In total, Sprint will close down 150 service and repair centers, 55 stores, and will lay off 330 technical consultants. The company stated that it strategically chose to close specific underperforming stores in order to drive sales and repairs to retail locations that have been performing better overall. Additionally, the cut to technical consultants is expected to cause as little disturbance to Sprint customers as possible, according to the major wireless carrier that is owned by Japanese carrier SoftBank.
March 20, 2014
A remake of Jane Jensen's classic 1993 point-and-click adventure game, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, was announced in October of last year, and today, developer Phoenix Online Studios has released the game's first trailer. The remake features the same story as the original and largely the same point-and-click gameplay, with just a few minor tweaks and "a small amount of director's cut content." The major changes include high-res 3D graphics (upgraded to 2048x1536 from the original's 640x480 pixel art), re-orchestrated and re-mastered music, and new voice recording.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition will release in mid-2014 for Windows, Mac, and iPad.
Source: Official Site
Last month, Naughty Dog's The Last of Us dominated the D.I.C.E. Awards, taking home ten awards, including Game of the Year. So, how did the game fair at last night's 14th annual Game Developers Choice Awards? Yep, another Game of the Year victory, to go along with two other awards. BioShock Infinite, which won two D.I.C.E. awards, also managed to grab two GDC awards. Here is the full list of winners:
- Game of the Year: The Last of Us from Naughty Dog
- Ambassador Award: Anita Sarkeesian
- Best Narrative: The Last of Us from Naughty Dog
- Best Visual Art: BioShock Infinite from Irrational Games
- Best Technology: Grand Theft Auto V from Rockstar Games
- Best Game Design: The Last of Us from Naughty Dog
- Best Handheld/Mobile Game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds from Nintendo EAD
- Best Audio: BioShock Infinite from Irrational Games
- Pioneer Award: Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill of Riot Games
- Best Debut: The Fullbright Company for Gone Home
- Innovation Award: Papers, Please by Lucas Pope
- Audience Choice Award: Kerbal Space Program by Squad
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Ken Kutaragi
- Best Downloadable Game: Papers, Please by Lucas Pope
The 16th Annual IGF Awards were also held last night.
Source: GDC 2014
The 16th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards was held last night at GDC 2014, and the big winner was Lucas Pope's Papers, Please, taking home the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Best Independent Game. Not only was that accompanied by a $30,000 cash prize, but the game also won for Excellence in Narrative and Excellence in Design. Five other indie games won awards last night, with the full list of winners below:
- Seumas McNally Grand Prize: Papers, Please by Lucas Pope
- Excellence in Visual Art: Gorogoa by Jason Roberts
- Nuovo Award: Luxuria Superbia from Tale of Tales
- Excellence in Audio: DEVICE 6 from Simogo
- Excellence in Narrative: Papers, Please by Lucas Pope
- Best Student Game: Risk of Rain from Hoppo Games
- Audience Award: The Stanley Parable by Galactic Cafe
- Excellence in Design: Papers, Please by Lucas Pope
The 14th Annual GDC Awards were also held last night, where Papers, Please also managed to grab a couple awards.
Source: GDC 2014
NVIDIA has been showing off GameWorks 2014 at the Game Developers Conference this year and announced initial compatibility with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Daylight. The company has now added a number of other games to that list including Titanfall, Warface, and the Unreal Engine 4. Titanfall will receive TXAA and HBAO+ for improved anti-aliasing and more life like shadows. Warface uses GameWorks tools PhysX and VisualFX to provide "engine exhaust, smoke from explosions, dust from falling debris and spinning helicopter rotors can interact with the rest of the environment, both static and dynamic." Epic Games is building support for NVIDIA GameWorks into the Unreal Engine 4, "making it easier for UE4 licensees to take advantage of our technology."
Source: NVIDIA and NVIDIA
Light emitting diodes can be a wonderful source of light, thanks to their efficiency and stable design, but as good as they are, they could be better. Researchers at North Carolina State University have recently found a way to improve both the brightness and stability of gallium nitride (GaN) LEDs using phosphorus.
Starting with the GaN LEDs, the researchers applied phosphoric acid to etch the surface. Phosphonic groups, which are organic molecules containing phosphorus, were also added, and these self-assembled into a monolayer on top of the semiconductor. The etching by the acid increased the brightness of LED without requiring additional energy, while the phosphonic groups further improved efficiency and the stability of the LED.
While the improved efficiency has obvious benefits, the increased stability could have some very interesting effects as well. The increased stability means the GaN will react less with its environment, and that could potentially allow it to be used in medical implants or in solutions, without degrading.
Source: North Carolina State University
Earlier today at a GDC 2014 session, Microsoft lifted the veil on the next iteration of DirectX, DirectX 12. While the presentation was sadly not streamed live, PC Perspective live-blogged the event, which is where all the images below come from.
DirectX 12 (DX12), or more specifically, Direct3D 12 (D3D12), "provides a lower level of hardware abstraction than ever before, allowing games to significantly improve multithreaded scaling and CPU utilization." As a result, not only will high-end gaming PCs benefit from DX12, but low-end machines too. In fact, all Microsoft devices will have DX12 support moving forward, including Xbox One and Windows-powered mobile devices.
The good news for PC gamers is that new hardware won't necessarily be required – both NVIDIA and AMD confirmed DX12 support for existing cards, with NVIDIA specifically listing Fermi, Kepler, Maxwell, and beyond. Of course one of the most burning questions was not answered – which version(s) of Windows will support DX12? Microsoft put up a slide that broke down the support as: "100% of new desktop GPUs", "80% of new gamer PCs", and "50% of all PC gamers when we ship". That latter percentage is a bit alarming and could indicate that Windows 7 will not be supported. That being said, at least it seems unlikely that Windows 9 will be a requirement.
If you want to read a lot of the technical mumbo jumbo, be sure to check the MSDN Blog post linked below, but one thing I will mention is that Microsoft is reporting "a 50% improvement in CPU utilization, and better distribution of work among threads," in a D3D12-ported version of 3DMark compared to the current D3D11 version. As many PC gamers and computer enthusiasts know, CPUs are currently severely underutilized, so DX12 could be a major boost to overall PC performance, not just GPU performance.
Another interesting facet of DX12 is the claim that it brings "console-level efficiency on PC" thanks to its lower-level access. To illustrate that, developer Turn 10 ported its "Xbox One Direct3D 11.X core rendering engine to use Direct3D 12 on PC," to show off a silky-smooth, 60FPS-stable PC tech demo of its newest racing game, Forza Motorsport 5. Does this mean that the long-time Xbox-exclusive franchise could make its way to PC as a DX12-exclusive? Let the rumors begin!
DX12 definitely seems like a huge change from the current DirectX 11.2, but it'll still be awhile before we see games utilizing it. DX12 has a targeted release of Holiday 2015 with a preview release planned for later this year.
Source: MSDN Blog and PC Perspective
Don't let the Wolfenstein name fool you, Wolfenstein: The New Order isn't all running and gunning. The New Order is exactly two months away from release, but publisher Bethesda Softworks has released a new trailer today featuring an early scene from the game. Entitled "On a Train to Berlin", the video takes place, unsurprisingly, on a train...to Berlin. What starts off with protagonist BJ Blazkowicz simply getting some coffee, turns into an intense standoff with Frau Engel, "one of Wolfenstein's most cunning villains." It's a rather interesting scene you wouldn't typically expect from the franchise, but I guess that's why developer MachineGames calls this game a "story-driven, first-person, action-adventure" rather than a shooter.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on May 20, 2014.
A number of quantum mechanical phenomena have the potential to reshape technology, once we are able to take advantage of them. Doing just that can be quite difficult though, as quantum systems can be very sensitive to outside interference, and this tends to restrict the scale the systems can be built at. Researchers at the University of Toronto though have found a way to bring one of these phenomena to the large scale by combining superconductivity and LEDs.
Light emitting diodes have the ability to convert the energy of excited electrons into photons, but these photons have no special quantum mechanical properties. By connecting LEDs to a superconductor however, the photons can be emitted as entangled pairs. Entanglement is phenomenon in which two particles are so strongly correlated that measuring one particle in a pair will tell you the properties of the other, no matter how distant it is. The part that superconductivity plays is providing Cooper pairs, which are pairs of coupled electrons that are necessary for superconductivity. If these electrons enter the LED, the emitted photons will be entangled just as the electrons were.
One catch for this discovery is that the LEDs have to use quantum wells for catching electrons and releasing photons. Even with that though, this could lead to improvements in light emission and the entangled photon emission could aid in developing many quantum technologies.
Source: University of Toronto
We have a couple of items for you to check out today to help get you through the day. There's a review on the Ducky Shine 3 mechanical keyboard, which is often hailed as one of the best mechanical keyboards around. The new Shine 3 line features plenty of Cherry MX switches and LED options to get you just about your perfect keyboard. Our other item for the day is a look at the Acer Iconia W4 tablet, which has an 8-inch screen and runs Windows 8.1. It also runs an Intel Bay Trail Atom processor, so to see how well it performs be sure to hit up the review.
Acer Iconia W4 @ TechSpot
Ducky Shine 3 Mechanical Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
Although third party chargers certainly exist for Nexus phones and tablets, the quality of such chargers is difficult to determine and price generally differs greatly. While ASUS offers an official replacement charger for the Nexus 7, it costs roughly $30 depending on the retailer. Google is looking to provide a more inexpensive option that provides quality and reliability at the same time, with the Google Play Store now offering an official Nexus charger for $15. The charging accessory can charge any Nexus device, featuring a square design that incorporates a detachable mini USB cable while offering fast 9W AC charging.
Over the last five years, Pandora One has been able to keep its cost steady, charging subscribers of the service $3.99 per month. As content costs have gone upwards however, with Pandora claiming that the royalty rates it pays performers via SoundExchange have increased 53 percent in the last five years, Pandora has announced that its subscription model is undergoing some changes. The main focal point of these changes is that Pandora One will go up in price, costing listeners $4.99 per month, or $1 more per month. The change is not set to take effect until May of this year, and customers can even lock in the current price on a new loyalty program if they subscribe before the change is implemented.
It is worth noting that the annual subscription option for Pandora One is ending, forcing subscribers of the service to pay monthly. The advertisement laden version of Pandora will still be available for free for listeners who chose to not subscribe to Pandora One.
Sony has announced that its latest gaming console, the PlayStation 4, will be receiving an update that is set to be released within the upcoming weeks. The update will add a feature rich video editor to the PlayStation 4, allowing users to personalize video clips that they capture. These videos, as well as screenshots, will be able to be exported and saved to a USB drive by utilizing the share button on the controller. An HDCP off option will be available to gamers too, allowing longer gameplay sessions to be captured through an HDMI connection.
Also revealed is that a separate future update will allow users of the Twitch service on PlayStation 4 to archive their videos. Broadcasts that follow this separate update, that is set to be released sometime within the near future, will allow the videos to be 720p as well.
Google has released an update to its keyboard application for Android devices, pushing it from version 2.0 to version 3.0.19373. The latest update incorporates a couple of new features, including a new settings icon that displays itself from a long press on the microphone button, as well as a new button that makes it easier to get back to the keyboard from the emoji tab. Google has also introduced a new personalization mode that improves corrections and suggestions by using data from other Google applications and services. Personalized suggestions are enabled by default with version 3.0.19373 of Google Keyboard but can be disabled by users if desired.
Source: Droid Life
March 19, 2014
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may be delayed until February 2015, but developer CD Projekt RED will be expanding its portfolio to mobile gaming. The mobile game will be released later this year and has been in development for the past year by a standalone team, rather than the Witcher 3 or Cyberpunk 2077 teams. Whether it's based on The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077, or an entirely new IP has not been stated, but an official announcement is supposedly coming "very soon."
Co-founder Adam Kicinski stated that "smartphones and tablets are truly powerful platforms these days," finally allowing CD Projekt to develop mobile games at the quality level the studio always aims to achieve with any of its games. While the game's payment model was not discussed, CD Projekt is famous for its DRM-free philosophy (it even owns GOG.com), so it's unlikely the studio will screw over fans with some insane microtransactions.
Without a doubt, there are many beautiful sights in Nature, and among these is the spangled cotinga, whose beauty has been vexing humans for some time. This particular bird has a lovely blue color, and unlike paintings and clothes, the color never fades. We know why this is but finally researchers at Harvard University have found a means to replicate it that could lead to many more, permanent colors.
The pigments we use in our dyes and paints work by absorbing all but one color of light, but that absorbing of energy eventually causes the pigment to fade. The cotinga color never fades because it is a structural color, caused by a nanostructure that only reflects one color to our eyes. While we understand how structural color works, reproducing it is very difficult as it can require a material's molecules to have a special pattern. The Harvard researchers built upon research performed at Yale University by creating colloidal suspensions of microcapsules. Within each microcapsule are smaller particles with a disordered pattern, but as the microcapsules dry, the distance between those particles shrink. That distance is what determines what structural color is reflected, and the researchers observed it shift through the spectrum, as the microcapsules shrunk.
The hope is that this technology could be used to create permanent colors for us to enjoy, perhaps as full color displays on flexible plastics. Also, as structural color is dependent on the structure of a material and not the material itself, it could potentially be used to replace some toxic inks.
Source: Harvard University
Unity 5 was unveiled yesterday, but that's not the only game engine being shown off at GDC 2014 this week. Ubisoft released a behind-the-scenes look at the Snowdrop Engine, which is powering Tom Clancy's The Division:
Epic Games released a Features Trailer for Unreal Engine 4:
Crytek released a Showcase Trailer for CRYENGINE (aka. CryEngine 4), featuring CRYENGINE-powered games currently in development:
Source: GDC 2014
Security firm Netcraft has reported that an EA Games server has been compromised and is currently being used in a phishing attempt targeting Apple IDs. Hackers have exploited an old version of WebCalendar released in 2008 that runs on an EA server accessed by two pages on the EA domain. Users that navigate to this site are prompted for their Apple ID and password and for more sensitive information including credit card numbers and full names after that. Users are then redirected to the actual Apple ID site to help make it appear that nothing malicious has taken place.
G.SKILL has announced the OC World Cup 2014 overclocking contest with the finals to be held live at Computex 2014. Online qualifiers will be held from March 24 to April 27 for highest memory frequency, SuperPI 32M, and 3DMark Fire Strike. Results will be recorded using HWBOT, with the top six qualifiers receiving an invite to the live finals. The grand prize winner will take home $10,000, second place will get 16GB of TridentX DDR3 2666MHz CL10 and 32GB of TridentX DDR3 2800MHz memory, and third place will receive 32GB of TridentX DDR3 2800MHz memory. Frank Hung from Product Marketing at G.SKILL said, "OC World Cup 2014 will be a great opportunity for extreme overclockers to showcase their skills to the world and a chance to take home the largest single cash prize in OC history, so overclockers better step up their game for a shot to win USD $10,000!"
Source: Press Release
The Game Developers Conference is underway this week in San Francisco, with plenty of items expected to be shown off or announced. One of those announcements comes from Sony, which has officially unveiled its virtual reality (VR) headset called Project Morpheus. The headset is designed to work with the PlayStation 4 and make you feel like you're actually in the game (maybe not the best idea for Daylight). Project Morpheus features a head mounted display for 1080p video and a 90 degree field of view. The built-in accelerometer and gyroscope work in tandem with the PlayStation Camera to accurately track player head movement and orientation; as you move your head, the display tracks it in real-time to match what you're looking towards.
Project Morpheus also makes use of Sony's new 3D audio technology to deliver stereoscopic sound in all directions, and even change the direction based on where you're facing in the game. The headset also works with the DualShock 4 and PlayStation Move for plug-and-play VR.
Right now Project Morpheus is a prototype, yet serves as the first development kit for any PS4 developer that wants to incorporate it. There's no telling when we'll see the finished version of Project Morpheus, but hopefully it makes an appearance before long, as it is incredibly fascinating.
Source: PlayStation Blog
Deep Silver's favorite number must be 19. Exactly one month ago, on February 19, the publisher officially announced hack-and-slash, action-RPG Sacred 3. A slick Announcement Trailer was published, but a cinematic one with no actual gameplay. That changes today, on March 19, with Deep Silver releasing the first Official Gameplay Trailer for Sacred 3. The video shows off each of the five playable classes, along with some co-op play. The game is certainly bright, vibrant, and action-packed.
Sacred 3 will launch August 26 for Windows PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Source: Press Release
Officially announced way back in 2012, Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty is a from-the-ground-up, 2.5D remake of 1997's Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. Today, developer Just Add Water released a GDC 2014 Gameplay Trailer, which shows off the first gameplay footage since E3 2013's stage demo of the alpha version. As I alluded to earlier, despite it being a remake, not a single asset was recycled for use – every part of New 'n' Tasty was created from scratch, which has resulted in some truly stunning graphics. The audio has also seen quite the upgrade.
As the video and newly released screenshots show, Just Add Water has really taken advantage of the 2.5D look, with dynamic lighting and some outrageous special effects. In addition, the camera tilts ever so slightly when Abe speeds up, providing a little more glimpse as to what's ahead. It's a rather unique feature that I don't recall seeing utilized in other side-scrollers, and should result in some better spatial awareness.
Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty is releasing "soon" for PC (Windows, Mac, and Linux!), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Wii U. Pricing and an actual release date have not been provided.
Source: Official Site
We're in the middle of another week, and have a few items for you to check out today. There's a look at the Tt eSPORTS Level 10 M gaming headset in the Iron White color, and it comes with cables to connect it to either PCs or mobile devices for ultimate flexibility. We also have a review on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact smartphone, which is a smaller phone than many of the other ones out on the market. To finish things up today is a look at the top ten highest paid pro gamers of all time, so you can see just what your options are like if you decide to become a full-time professional gamer.
Tt eSPORTS Level 10 M Gaming Headset (Iron White) @ Madshrimps
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact @ TechSpot
The 10 Highest Paid Pro Gamers of All Time @ ThinkComputers
While the Comcast Xfinity TV Go application has been available for Android and iOS devices as of November of last year, it initially only offered viewers on-demand content. Live shows are available now, and Comcast has announced that the application is improving on its channel lineup availability, by adding 18 more channels. Users of the Xfinity TV Go application will notice additional channels available for viewing, such as A&E, History, Starz, Syfy, TBS, TNT, and USA. Other channels are available as well due to the announcement, which puts the total count over 50 for the Comcast Xfinity TV Go application.
Source: The Verge
Sony has brought more applications to its ever popular handheld gaming unit, the PlayStation Vita. Now available for immediate download from the PlayStation Store are applications such as Crunchyroll, NHL GameCenter LIVE, and Qello Concerts. Sony also announced that media applications, including Hulu Plus and Redbox Instant, will be available for download on March 25, 2014. Fitness application Gaiam TV will be available later this spring, with a more specific release timeframe unavailable. All of these applications should cater to the wide audience of users that own and operate the PlayStation Vita for gaming and multimedia needs.
Source: PlayStation Blog
Back in January, Maxis (finally) announced that SimCity would be getting an offline mode, ditching the much-criticized Always-On requirement. A later blog post explained how it was not "as simple as flipping a switch," due to so many components and features built with server access in mind; and in fact, the team had been working on the offline mode since August 2013. Yesterday, a little over a year since launch, SimCity's offline mode is finally live.
As you can see in the video and screenshot below, the main menu for the game has been updated to accommodate two options, "Single-Player" and "Multiplayer". As previously stated, players can switch back and forth between the two, so you're never stuck in one mode or the other. Once you choose Single-Player, you can then launch the game without an Internet connection and never need to go online again if you don't want to – great for anyone who wants to play some SimCity during travels, or who is serving our country and stationed overseas.
In the new Single-Player mode, players are able to turn off AutoSave and even save multiple versions of your regions with the new "Save As" option. However, in order to "keep the competitive aspects of the Online game intact," you cannot transfer saved regions between modes. The good news is that no matter what mode you play, you have access to all DLC you own and any free content Maxis has given away.
Aside from being able to play without an Internet connection, the other major benefit of offline play is the official support of modding, as even the most extreme modding won't harm "the integrity of the Online game." The only things you miss out on by playing Single-Player are "Multiplayer, SimCity World, Leaderboards, Achievements, dynamic pricing of resources in the Global Market and Cloud Saves." A small price to pay for freedom of choice.
Source: SimCity Blog
While television, film, and video games tend to associate infrared cameras with tracking people, those complicated devices have many more uses, thanks to how much the world changes when viewed in infrared. A large part of why those detectors are so complicated is that they must house a cooling system for the sensor to operate properly. Researchers at the University of Michigan however, have successfully built a detector based on graphene that can sensor the full infrared spectrum, at room temperature.
Graphene is an atom-thick sheet of carbon with extraordinary properties, and is known to be able to sense the whole of infrared light. Its use in sensor has been limited though, because being an atom thickness, it only absorbs 2.3% of the light that hits it, and does not generate a strong enough electrical current to be detected. The Michigan researchers managed to overcome that issue by using some quantum mechanics. The researchers put an insulating layer between two sheets of graphene, with a current running through the bottom one. When an infrared photon strikes the top one, an electron would be freed and then tunnel through the insulator, to the bottom layer. This left a positively charged hole, which creates an electric field that alters the electric current in a detectable way.
Unlike the cooled detectors you can find today, this sensor is smaller than a pinky nail and can actually be scaled down. Potentially arrays of them could be used to create full-spectrum infrared cameras, and we could even see them integrated into contact lenses.
Source: University of Michigan
Google has expanded the total amount of countries that its Nexus devices are able in, providing more customers than ever the opportunity to purchase the products directly from the company. Potential customers in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden will be able to purchase the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 directly from Google. The Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 can be purchased from the Google Play Store immediately, though pricing and shipping will vary by location.
Source: Android Police
Titanfall has been receiving a lot of news lately, from the Xbox One bundle being announced to the season pass and digital deluxe edition being unveiled. For the Xbox 360 however, the news has not been stellar overall. For the second time during this month, EA has announced that the release date for Titanfall on the Xbox 360 is being pushed back again, with the game set to be released on April 8, 2014. This release date only applies to gamers in North America, as Europeans will have to wait until April 11, 2014 in order to buy the final version of the game.
The release delay is due to EA wanting to give Bluepoint Games some additional time to fine-tune Titanfall.
Source: EA and Engadget
March 18, 2014
Earlier in the month, Ubisoft released a co-op trailer for its 2D side-scrolling RPG Child of Light. Today, the company released a behind-the-scenes video entitled "The Making of Child of Light | Part 1", which describes the game and what went into its development. Along with providing some insight into the game, the video also shows off some gameplay, from platforming puzzles, to an underwater environment, to the turn-based battle system. It's well worth the watch for anyone interested in Child of Light, which writer Jeffrey Yohalem describes as a "playable poem."
Child of Light is releasing on April 30 for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Wii U, priced at $14.99.
Source: Ubisoft Blog