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Microsoft Points to be phased out?

MS Points are to be replaced by a real currency system

Inside Mobile App first reported the news, highlighting the changes will not only affect Xbox Live, but also Windows Phone, Zune marketplace and other Microsoft services.

Customers will now complete transactions based upon the region of the purchasing account, with real money being used to purchase new content and services. The planned changes will bring Microsoft’s various marketplaces closer with its competitors and their current systems, such as Apple’s App Store and Sony’s PlayStation Network, both of which use real currency.

Amid the speculation, a Microsoft spokesperson has refused to add flames to the fire, responding with the standard company line: “we do not comment on rumours or speculation.”

It would be interesting to see how the changes to the system would accomodate customers, already possessing a quantity of MS points, and whether a conversion service to the new currency would be offered.

Arguably, it’s a change that would be welcomed by many users, specifically those using Xbox Live.

With points only purchasable in pre-determined quantities, it would provide users with the freedom to only pay for the specific content they want.

This could all be part of Microsoft’s plan to phase in the future for its products, with rumours speculation both Sony and Microsoft will unveil their next generation consoles at E3 2012 in June.

Greg Lockley

OnLive: What you need to know

Is the latest on-demand gaming service set to revolutionise the way we play?  

Almost a year after its release in the USA, OnLive has finally landed in the UK. Hooray!

Whist Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo grapple over console supremacy with the festive season nearly upon us, OnLive has made a huge splash, and an even bigger impression on gamers.

The small yet mighty console stole the show at last week’s Eurogamer Expo, boasting a release to rival any other.

But that’s enough hype for now, let’s take a look at what OnLive actually is.

OnLive is cloud gaming. An on-demand gaming service that allows users to play the latest games on either their TV, PC, Mac or iPad and Android devices. It delivers games instantly and entirely through an internet connection, which are hosted by state-of-the-art servers – meaning the games are too.

The service also grants users the ability to tune in to other gamers as they play, allowing them to spectate the action for themselves. It comes complete with voice chat so gamers can connect as they play and provides the ability to save, upload and share replays.

Sounds pretty good right? It gets better.

Its promotion was backed by an equally impressive and impossible to turn down offering – allowing the interested masses to test out the service first.

Boasting over 100 games ready to play at launch, its superiority over other platform launch’s is clear. Complete with an offer to purchase your first game for a mere £1, even more gamers began wetting their lips.

I mean, who can honestly say they wouldn’t pay £1 for Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Right? Exactly.

And for those few individuals doubting the system, labelling it all as just on-release gimmicks, designed to pull people in, only to be disappointed and ripped off when the system is in full swing? Well, enter the play-pack. OnLive’s optional monthly service, which costs just £6.99 per month. A service which grants you access to the play-pack bundle of over 100 games, ranging from previous blockbusters such as Batman: Arkham Asylum and Borderlands to award winning classics such as Bioshock and the original Deus Ex.

Of course, lets not get carried away. OnLive isn’t about to dominate the gaming industry, rendering traditional consoles and PC gaming obsolete. But that’s not to say it isn’t going to try.

Like many small creatures, creeping their way into the big pond for the first time, OnLive knows its audience. It knows its prominent features and it knows its limitations.

Let’s set the record straight.

It isn’t a next-gen console set to blow away the competition with its full HD graphics, although it manages a modest 720p.

It wont be the centre of your home entertainment system, playing the latest Blu-ray titles and streaming your latest TV shows.

It will, however, offer simplistic, convenient, portable gaming to those who want or need it.

OnLive aims to serve an audience that is arguably unfulfilled in today’s gaming market. It is a low-cost-on-demand games service designed for the casual gamer. Its level of convenience is matched only by its simplicity, something un-rivaled by other on-demand services.

It banishes the various evils of gaming we’ve all come to endure such as lengthy installs and downloads, DLC, patches and system updates, all you have to do is play the game.

This probably sounds all well and good, and it is, but what may be the system’s biggest downfall is its audience overestimating it.

OnLive won’t replace your console or high-end gaming PC, the two simply cannot be compared. OnLive is a different breed, one that currently, should be considered as a compliment to traditional gaming, rather than a replacement.

The message we are being constantly fed, is that cloud gaming is the future. That it is more cost-effective than console gaming, eliminating the need for high-performance hardware.

OnLive is an achievement that has to be appreciated. The ability to stream a fully interactive 720p feed to gamers is astounding. Much like Steam did previously, OnLive opens up an entirely new avenue of options for developers to publish their games and generate revenue.

However, and without trying to burst its bubble, OnLive does come with its problems.

As impressed as I was whilst playing on the service for the first time, gingerly rendering The Joker’s hired goons unconscious as Batman in Arkham Asylum, I can’t help but maintain the sense that the service has come before its time.

Another good idea that has been released prematurely, and whilst the groundwork (impressive as it is) has been laid, the technology and infrastructure surrounding it needs to catch up for it to reach its potential.

As a cloud service, OnLive is heavily dependant on a high-quality internet connection, with the service itself stating that it recommends a minimum of 5MB for optimal performance.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my internet connection is far from the best, and below the recommendations made by OnLive. However, upon testing the service on a number of different connections, I was continuously greeted by the familiar pixelated performance. Temperamental is a key word I’d use here. Most of the time, my game experience was flawless. Other times, I would be saving the day as a very blurry caped crusader, often mistaking walls for people.

Let me tell you, as genuinely unnerving as some of Arkham Asylum’s elements are – notably the Jokers face – they are only amplified by blurriness. Other times, the service simply couldn’t connect, or would crash mid-game, leaving me to sit there whilst my controller vibrated its way out of the room, letting me know each time a rather large man reworked my face with a lead pipe.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the multiplayer gameplay in games such as Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 would be like (shudder.) As I write this, I can hear the collective groans of horrified gamers everywhere, simply considering the possibility.

To sum it all up, OnLive achieves what it aims to do. It is a low-tech alternative to console and PC gaming for those who consider themselves casual gamers, or those who wish to play games on the move. It is also a saving grace for gamers who lack the necessary hardware to power the latest games.

Whilst certain games work well on the system – particularly single-player modes and campaigns – as the service stands right now, I simply can’t see multiplayer gaming as a viable option, which will ultimately hurt its value. Again, it is important not to overestimate OnLive for more than what it is, at least for now. As a solution to playing the latest titles and their single player modes, with slightly reduced performance and presentation, it is near perfect. However, for those of us who are more concerned with multiplayer modes and crisp, top-quality gameplay, don’t expect to be too satisfied with what the service has to offer, stick with your consoles and PC’s.

OnLive – and other services like it – will one day be a huge part of the gaming market, with cloud gaming possibly retiring the concept of console gaming. But for now, it’s much better suited to meeting the needs of its smaller audience.

Greg Lockley.

 

David Hasselhoff plays Burnout Crash in a cheerleader outfit?

Has anyone seen the Neuralyzer? J? K? Anyone?

Unnecessary MiB references aside, I feel like I should be offering some kind of health hazard or warning.

Many could be forgiven for getting excited about seeing the words Hasselhoff, Burnout Crash and cheerleader in one sentence, myself included.

However, those inclined to do so can expect to be greeted by a disturbing, ‘burns-itself-into-the-back of-your-brain’ type image.

In an advertising campaign of which I’m still yet to grasp its appeal, Criterion have released a new video for Burnout Crash.

The ad itself, begins normal enough.

Enter The Hoff.

A power rangers-esque transformation and a number of uncomfortable dead eyed stares later and you’re left feeling violated and slightly queazy.

Criterion seem to have hit the mark with their latest promo, it’s certainly stuck in my mind.

Whether I’ll be able to play the game without resorting to rocking back-and-forth in the corner of the room remains to be seen.

It’s at this point I’m reconsidering this post as, my aim is to encourage readers to follow this blog, not scar them for life and have them never return.

Anyway, here it is. Please, clean up after yourselves.

(Insert Hasselhoff style wink here)

Greg Lockley

Blizzard to announce new MMO?

Titan could be revealed at this year’s BlizzCon

Reports are indicating that Titan, the new MMO from Blizzard, will be officially announced this October.

In an interview with VentureBeat, M2 Research senior analyst Billy Pidgeon predicted that the highly anticipated title could be unveiled at BlizzCon next month.

“If they are holding any juicy details, it’s going to be announced at BlizzCon,” Pidgeon said. “The big news is probably going to be a Diablo III date and a possible new announcement about one or more new properties.”

Titan was originally revealed last year following the leak of a release schedule which slated a 2014 release for the title.

Few details are known other than comments made in an official Blizzard announcement following the leak.

When asked about Titan by gaming blog Destructoid, World of Warcraft executive producer Frank Pearce said “Titan is… the media is not meant to know anything about that,”

“It’s our next gen MMO and we’ve only started talking about it…” Pearce responded.

Rumours surrounding the possible unveiling have been fueled by EA’s announcement which confirmed the release date for their upcoming MMO juggernaut, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

BlizzCon takes place on October 21st and 22nd in Anaheim, California. Aside from Titan, Blizzard is expected to announce an official release date for Diablo III along with a release window for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

[Source: VentureBeat]

Greg Lockley.

Battlefield 3 and Jay-Z – “99 Problems” TV ad

96, 97, 98… 99. Yup, 99 Problems.

EA hinted a while back that a new cinematic trailer for Battlfefield 3 would be released soon.

Well, the wait is finally over.

EA have teamed up with Jay Z to produce their latest TV spot for Battlefield 3 which features the track “99 Problems” – and it’s pretty impressive to say the least.

Those of you stuck on the fence as to your allegiance to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3,  this might just be the edge you were looking for.

As often as the track has been used in advertising campaigns in the past, we’ll let this one slide considering it’s a backdrop for gunfire and explosions.

You’ll likely be seeing this advert over and over again once the holiday season hits, but here you can see it before the advertisment bombardment begins.

Enjoy!

 

Greg Lockley

Star Wars: The Old Republic release date announced

Bioware have confirmed their latest MMO will hit the EU two days after its launch in the US.


Whilst Europe will receive the game on December 22, our neighbours across the pond will get it a full two days earlier on December 20.

Fans were growing increasingly worried that the release date for the game may be pushed back into the beginning of 2012; missing its original target of Q4 2011.

Last month, Bioware announced that the release date of the game depended entirely on the reception it received from players beta testing the game.

With a release date now officially announced, it would seem that the developers are happy with the responses received from testers and are happy to schedule a release for the game.

EA and Bioware are preparing the games release to be the biggest online game launch ever.

Whilst it’s a bold ambition, clearly they are looking to capitalise on a Christmas launch and benefit from the festive spirit.

“This is an incredible moment for everyone at BioWare and our partners at LucasArts who have dedicated their lives to build this extraordinary game,” said BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka.

“We appreciate the patience from the millions of fans who have been waiting for the game’s release.”

[Source: Star Wars: The Old Republic website]

Greg Lockley

Dead Island takes No. 1 spot in UK chart

Zombie kill-fest enters the chart at the top; beats out Space Marine and Resistance 3

Despite lackluster reviews, Deep Silver’s Dead Island has taken the top spot in the official weekly UK game charts.

Dead Island is one of three new entires in the top five of the chart with THQ’s Warhammer 40k: Space Marine debuting in the UKIE sales list at No. 2.

Ubisoft’s latest title – Driver: San Francisco – drops one place to No. 3 whilst Sony’s Resistance 3 makes it in at No. 4 in the multiplatform chart.

Last week’s No. 1 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution – drops down the list to No. 5.

Whilst proving to be a success amongst consumers, Dead Island struggled to make a good impression on critics, receiving a largely mixed reception.

Though the game was originally revealed at E3 2006, its release was pushed back to 2011 due to development issues.

One critic of the game in particular is controversial magazine, Edge.

According to their review, Dead Island bares all the hallmarks of a game conceived in 2005, pinching ideas from Left4Dead, Borderlands and Oblivion. The review continues to argue that “only Banoi Island itself remains Techland’s own”.

Edge’s relentless criticism of the game progresses, saying it is “complete with all the texture, audio and animation glitches we’ve come to expect” from Technland’s Chrome Engine.

The game has already faced a number of issues following its release.

Publisher Deep Silver first posted the incorrect version of the game on Steam, leading to the release of the game’s first patch which corrected over 40 different bugs.

As a result, numerous gamers were left fuming after their game’s save file became incompatible with the updated version of the game, leaving them with no choice but to start over.

Developers of the game came under fire again when a Steam user uncovered an alternative name for one of the playable character’s (Purna) skills entitled – “Feminist Whore”.

Whilst the skill itself did not feature within the game, developers left it within the game’s code which was subsequently found.

Deep Silver addressed the issue, stating “It has come to our attention that one of Dead Island’s leftover debug files contains a highly inappropriate internal script name of one of the character skills. This has been inexcusably overlooked and released with the game.”

“The line in question was something a programmer considered a private joke.”

The company have since addressed the issue by removing the offending code and issuing an apology, saying “We deeply regret that fact and we apologize to all our customers or anyone who might have been offended by that inappropriate expression. The person responsible for this unfortunate situation will face professional consequences for violating the professional standards and beliefs Techland stands for.”

Whilst the game still faces a mediocre reception from critics and resolves its numerous in-game issues, its popularity continues to grow with gamers.

Here’s the full UK top ten for the week ending September 10:

1. Dead Island (Deep Silver)
2. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (THQ)
3. Driver: San Francisco (Ubisoft)
4. Resistance 3 (Sony)
5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Square Enix)
6. Zumba Fitness
7. Rugby World Cup 2011 (505 Games)
8. Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (Disney)
9. Star Fox 64 (Nintendo)
10. Gran Turismo 5 (Sony)

Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, (C)2011 UKIE Ltd

[Source: Tracey John]

Greg Lockley