Next Xbox to use online DRM to block used games?

Report: Next Xbox will use persistent ’Net connection to block used games | Ars Technica:

A new report from insider sources suggests that Microsoft’s next video game console will require a persistent Internet connection to lock out second-hand games from being played on the system.

Edge is citing “sources with first-hand experience of Microsoft’s next generation console” saying that games for the system will be available via download or as Blu-ray discs with a capacity of up to 50GB. The disc-based games will reportedly all ship with an activation code tying the game to a single user account, making the disc essentially worthless on the second-hand market.

No more trading games in at GameStop or lending to your friends if this is true. That’s pretty stupid, but given the way DRM has been moving in recent years on the PC, not completely out of left-field. I’m fine either way, thanks to Valve’s Steam Summer/Holiday sales and a Dell XPS desktop that should last me a solid 4 years or so if I update the graphics card in a year or two and don’t mind running less than max-quality graphics.

(Via @ajyasgar)

Minecraft made $90 million in profit last year

minecraft mojang

The Big Money Behind Hit Game Minecraft – Digits – WSJ:

Mojang has sold more than 20 million copies of Minecraft, which runs across modern smartphones, Xbox Live and standard PCs. Sales happen digitally rather than through brick-and-mortar stores like GameStop.

This has proved very good business for Mojang, located on a side street in Stockholm. Last year the company made about $90 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization on revenue of $235 million, according to people familiar with the matter and since confirmed by the company.

That is an amazing sum – $3 million in profit per employee. Working at Mojang must be pretty sweet.

Why is there more gun violence in the United States than in other countries where video games are popular?

GOP senators again target video games – The Maddow Blog:

“For that matter, the United States is not the only country with young people who play a lot of video games, but it is the only country with high rates of gun violence.

Gaming is a huge cultural phenomenon in countries like South Korea, England, Japan, and Canada — and they’re all playing many of the same games Americans enjoy — and yet, none of these countries comes close to the U.S. when it comes to deadly shootings.

And why not? Sociologists can speak to the differences in more detail, but I suspect it has something to do with access to firearms. It may seem tautological, but let’s state it for the record anyway: societies with fewer guns have less gun violence, whether they’re playing ‘Halo’ or not.”

Too bad there are nearly 270,000,000 guns in the United States.

Valve and Xi3 unveil ‘Piston’ game console

From Polygon:

Xi3 brought an early version of Piston to CES, but was tight lipped on details about the hardware currently in development with Valve. Xi3 chief marketing officer David Politis told Polygon that Piston will offer up to 1 TB of interal storage and offer modular component updates, including the option to upgrade the PC’s CPU and RAM.

Xi3 wouldn’t discuss price for Piston, but commented that the Steam Box is based on its “performance level” X7A offering, which is priced at $999. Xi3 declined to comment on what would differentiate Piston hardware-wise from a standard X7A.

Xi3 also offers the entry level X5A, which is priced at $499 with a Linux operating system.

Unfortunately it appears that the announcement brought down the Xi3 homepage for now. A quick Google search found this PR release from a few months back detailing the specs of the X7A, which the Piston will be based on:

A quad-core 64-bit, x86-based 32nm processor running at up to 3.2GHz (with 4MB of Level2 Cache),
* An integrated graphics processor (GPU) containing up to 384 programmable graphics cores (or shaders),
* 4GB-8GB of DDR3 RAM,
* 64GB-1TB of internal solid-state SSD storage (with up to 12Gbps throughput speeds),
Three display ports providing maximum resolution of 4096×2160 (including 1 DisplayPort v1.2 and * 2 Mini-DisplayPorts v1.2),
* Four eSATAp 3.0 ports,
* Four USB 3.0 ports,
* Four USB 2.0 ports,
* 1Gb Ethernet port, and
* Three audio ports (1 input and 2 outputs: 1 copper and 1 optical).

By the time this comes out, better-looking Mac Minis equipped with Haswell quad-cores will be out and selling for $800 and have greater compatibility with games on Steam. I don’t see how this thing does well.

How often did soldiers loot other soldiers for weapons?

If you’ve ever played a first-person shooter and wondered whether or not it’s realistic that you go around picking up weapons and ammo from fallen enemies, this AskHistorians reddit thread has many examples of it happening in conflicts throughout the 20th century:

Looting dead enemy soldiers for weapons wasn’t just allowed, it was one of the few things you could loot from an enemy soldier according to the rules of engagement. After all, you wouldn’t want to leave it behind for the enemy to pick up and put them back in their supply chain. If soldiers encountered enemy weapons, they either took them or destroyed them. This is why your grandpa has a Luger and a Nazi bayonet.

I’ve heard stories of soldiers in Vietnam getting rid of their M16’s in favor of enemy AK-47’s because the AK was a much more durable gun. Now, as for the wisdom of doing this, it would probably depend on the situation. In a desperate battle like Stalingrad, anything you can get your hands on is fair game. However, different guns make different sounds and shooting an enemy AK in the jungle might draw friendly fire towards your position.

Probably the worst article comparing video game graphics I’ve ever read

Erik Kain for Forbes, in an article titled, “‘Batman: Arkham City’ Looks Worse On Wii U Than PS3“:

P.S. I realize that Batman is wearing a different suit of armor in both screenshots, making this comparison more difficult. Armor aside, even Batman’s face looks worse in the Wii U screen. However, I do agree that we should withhold judgment until more screens are available.

Hey, asshole. Comparing screenshots taken from different angles, with different lighting, and different costumes? Yeah, that’s what most people would call pointless. 

Meanwhile, an excellent post on the Wii U’s graphics capabilities over at Eurogamer.

“Fallout: Nuka Break” Season 2 on Kickstarter

From the Kickstarter page:

My name is Zack Finfrock and I’m an actor/filmmaker/videogamer. Last year, I released the first season of a webseries, which was co-written by Brian Clevinger, entitled “Fallout: Nuka Break” that was completely funded by fans. If you haven’t heard of it or seen it yet, please take the time to watch it here.

This is the future of TV. The shows that people want to see will be made because the viewers will be the ones funding them. I’m glad to see that YouTube is finally realizing it’s potential by enabling shows like this.

I pledged.

‘Star Trek’ Gameplay Impressions

Jason Evangelho, for Video Game Writers:

Overall, the New Vulcan mission represented a good balance of suspense, exploration, co-op interactions, and downright intense action. Digital Extremes has certainly taken some cues from the Uncharted series in terms of scripted events and cinematic camera work, but it’s too early to tell if the gunplay has the kind of responsiveness we’d expect. The two quicktime events (a mechanic that needs to die an instant death) were brief and didn’t detract from the experience.

Graphically it still needs some polish (again, this is Alpha gameplay footage), but there is no denying that fans of the Star Trek universe and couch co-op in general should have a field day with this one when it releases in early 2013. Publisher Namco Bandai will certainly be teasing out more information as the release date gets closer, but from the two preview events we’ve attended thus far, Star Trek shows immense potential.

Considering Digital Extremes’s track record, the fact that this won’t simply follow the plot of the second movie, and that the gameplay is taking cues from the action-adventure series to beat for the last several years, I’d say that this game has a good chance of being a rather enjoyable experience.

Best games of E3: The Last of Us

This is the post-apocalyptic game we’ve been waiting for.

If it wasn’t clear already, Naughty Dog can take any genre of video game and set a new standard for other companies to live up to. Platforming? Yup. Action-adventure? Done that. With The Last of Us, they’re taking the survival action-adventure formula and turning it on its head. 

The footage shown has everything we have wanted from the genre. There’s the sidekick who reacts realistically to player actions and actually helps out in a fight when needed and stays out of the way when she isn’t. There’s scavenging for materials and an item system that forces the player to make quick decisions. And then, there’s the combat.

If you haven’t seen the trailer I linked to, it’s brutal. Joel (the protagonist) smashes enemies faces into nearby surfaces, wrestles weapons out of their hands, and sets them on fire with Molotov cocktails. Hell, I cringed at the end when he shot the downed enemy in the face at point-blank range. This isn’t like your average first-person shooter, where players mow down waves of enemies with little emotional impact. These deaths are all dramatic, and carry weight to them, as they should. 

What Naughty Dog is expressing is the survival-of-the-fittest nature of the end of the world. There wouldn’t be enough guns and ammunition laying around for every conflict to go down as a major firefight. Instead, conflicts would be one-on-one as survivors compete for resources. And according to IGN, they didn’t just stop there when it comes to showing off the reality of the situation: players will have to scavenge supplies from those who couldn’t find it in them to make it through such a tragic scenario. That’s deep for an action game. 

I do have a few thoughts on the gameplay. First, according to that IGN article I linked to above, there will in fact be multiple ways to approach any given encounter. This is excellent news, as gamers who prefer stealth and distraction will feel just as at home with the game as those who like to run-and-gun. Second, I have to wonder whether the physical encounters with enemies are quick-time events or fought using contextually-aware buttons. I’m hoping it’s the latter, as the trailer doesn’t make it clear. Given the freedom suggested by the IGN article, it seems that players will be controlling the fighting, which makes the trailer all the more impressive.

Best games of E3: Watch Dogs

I can’t remember the last time I was this surprised by a game.

My first thought: This game must be coming on next-gen consoles. Maybe I’ve been playing too much Diablo 3 on my MacBook Air, but the graphics for this game look amazing to me. It’s all the little details in the city. The grates on the sidewalk have all the bumps you would expect, the individual tree branches blow in the wind, the lighting in the club is dynamic, and the rain towards the end of the trailer is beautiful. We’ve seen all of these details elsewhere, but not in an urban free-roaming game.

But as the last few years have shown us, graphics aren’t everything. Which is why I’m glad the story and gameplay are so intriguing. The interaction between the protagonist and his friend was like something out of a good television show, in that it was not only entertaining in its own right but also gave us insight into the characters shown. As far as gameplay goes, the way Ubisoft is approaching the hacking element looks great. The idea of “hack anything” is really promising, and will hopefully give players a variety of options for missions and not simply require us to figure the one specific thing we need to do to for progression.

Now, there was one worrying aspect of the trailer. The game world looks very dynamic and realistic, with people reacting to things as you’d expect – the man brushing is coat when splashed with water and the other mourning over his just-shot wife come to mind. But if these are simply responses that happen all the time in-game, they could get old fast. In the best case scenario, gamers simply decide to ignore these details and focus on the task at hand. However, if Ubisoft only programmed a limited number of responses, in might be rather irritating to hear the exact same crying every time that there’s a firefight (the citizen responses in Spider-Man 2 come to mind). 

Overall though, Watch Dogs looks like a great new IP that combines elements of two of gaming’s best series, Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed.