Call of Duty Devs Called “Lazy” by Competitor

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games, Upcoming Games

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The competition between DICE and fellow first-person shooter developers — presumably Call of Duty devs Infinity Ward and Treyarch in particular — is heating up. Karl-Magnus Troedsson, the general manager of DICE, which is working on Battlefield 3, has claimed that the way other FPS developers are operating is “lazy” and issued a warning.

“Our competitors are getting lazy,” he told Official PlayStation Magazine UK. “They’re using the same engine, the same recipe for building a game. At some point you need to take that leap. I haven’t seen them take that leap since a long time ago.”

No names were named, but the Call of Duty games have been running on the same base game engine for years now — Modern Warfare and its sequel, World at War, and Black Ops all use the IW Engine first seen in Call of Duty 2. As for the next CoD game, thought to be Modern Warfare 3, there’s been no indication that Infinity Ward will make a departure from the norm.

Following up on what he said before, Troedsson referred to the ‘leap’ DICE is taking by using the brand new Frostbite 2.0 engine for Battlefield 3 when he said, “We are doing that now. They had better watch out. We are coming for them.”

He later claimed, “Our competitors keep building very, very high tempo games. We want to tell a story with more drama curves. It’s not about pumping round after round for six hours.”

This isn’t the first time that DICE has directed shots at the developers of Call of Duty — it reassured PC fans back in 2009 that Battlefield would not go the way of CoD, and it has also bashed Activision’s handling of DLC.

If it continues to follow the same pattern Activision has been going with for years, the next Call of Duty will be out this November. A release date has yet to be set for Battlefield 3, but it’s expected to be out at some point this fall, setting up a showdown between the two FPS heavyweights.

Kinect Bundles Dominate PlayStation Move in February

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Microsoft, Xbox

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Sony wasn’t willing to share hardware numbers with the release of the lightweight NPD figures yesterday. According to Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, it turns out the PS3 sold 403,000 units in February, trailing behind the Wii’s 454,000 and the Xbox 360’s 535,000. What’s a more striking contrast than that is Pachter’s estimate that 360/Kinect bundles outsold PS3/PlayStation Move bundles by a ratio of 5-to-1 last month.

“Under one-fifth of PS3 sales included bundles with Sony’s Move controller, suggesting another modest month (we have chosen not to subscribe to peripheral data),” Pachter stated. “Over 2/3 of Xbox 360 sales included bundles with Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral, as Xbox 360 Kinect console bundles again outsold PS3 Move console bundles by over 5:1. We note that the top selling Kinect software titles easily outsold their Move counterparts.”

Kinect was recently named by Guinness World Records as the “fastest-selling consumer electronics device.” Microsoft claims it has sold 10 million Kinect devices since November, although that figure refers to units sold to retail, not necessarily the number of Kinects located in people’s homes.

The popularity of Kinect will help to keep demand for the 360 strong, Pachter claims, while sales figures for the PS3 and Wii will decline as we move into the future. “Without further price cuts, we expect hardware sales to be down in 2011, and we think that the console manufacturers will position cuts around the E3 Expo in early June,” he said.

Black Ops is the Best-Selling Game of All Time

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games, Xbox

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With its chart-topping performance in February, Call of Duty: Black Ops has become the best-selling game in U.S. history.

Specific sales figures for last month weren’t revealed, but according to the NPD, 13.7 million copies of Black Ops have been sold since its release on November 9, 2010.

“Call of Duty: Black Ops was the best-selling game in February, retaining the top selling spot since launch in November,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. “It has now become the best-selling game in history, topping Wii Play.”

Those behind the Call of Duty series might be “lazy” if you agree with the general manager of Battlefield developer DICE, but Activision has big plans for the franchise going forward. The question now becomes, will Modern Warfare 3 be able to top Black Ops’ sales performance?

What Happened Between Portal and Portal 2?

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: PS3, Upcoming Games, Xbox

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There’s still a lot of confusion over the details of Portal 2’s plot and how Aperture Science ended up in the condition it’s now in. Valve will be revealing some information soon that explains what happened between the first Portal and its sequel, which is set “further down the line” in the Half-Life universe.

“We’re actually going to release something that we’re not talking about yet that will give a little bit of the story of the interim time,” Valve writer Erik Wolpaw told Kotaku. “We’re doing that before release.” It’s currently unclear how much time has passed since the first game, which took place between the first two Half-Life games.

In Portal 2 players will again play as Chell, who was put in stasis following the events of the first game. (Valve changed the original’s ending post-release so she would be dragged away by something with a robotic voice.) A new character is being revealed at PAX East: The founder of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson. He’s voiced by J.K. Simmons, joining The Office and Extras co-creator and co-writer Stephen Merchant, who will voice the character of Wheatley.

Portal’s connection with the Half-Life games isn’t just the ramblings of message board posters — Valve admits it’s true — but don’t expect it to be especially pronounced. Wolpaw made a comparison with how The X-Files had mythology episodes throughout the series that dealt with an interconnected storyline in addition to standalone episodes that were completely unrelated to the rest.

“We tried to keep as light a touch about it as we did in Portal 1,” Wolpaw said. “Fans of Half-Life will notice some things, but if you haven’t played Half-Life they’ll just kind of pass right by you. You’re not going to see Gordon tromping through the facility.”

Portal 2 hits PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on April 18.

Prey 2 Details on the Way

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Popular Games

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Details on the sequel to Prey should be out in the open soon, as the game is featured on the cover of an upcoming issue of French gaming mag Joystick.

Until the issue gets into people’s hands, we won’t know much more, but it’s not the first time we’ve heard about Prey 2. After the original sold more than a million units in its first two months, a sequel was guaranteed. When Radar Group was formed back in early 2008, Prey 2 was among three projects that it announced were in development. Since then, ZeniMax Media — owner of id Software and Bethesda Softworks — acquired the rights to Prey.

Once we learn some information, maybe it’ll include the revelation as to whether or not Prey 2’s walls will be as suggestive as its predecessor’s.

Weekend Deals: Total War and Bad Company 2

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Nintendo, Popular Games, Xbox

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With Total War: Shogun 2 coming out next week, Steam has the Total War Collection Pack for half price. For $64.99, you get Shogun 2 (a $50 game) upon its release in addition to four other Total War games: Empire, Medieval II, Napoleon, and Rome, the latter of which you can get on its own for just $2.50. Impulse has Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for just $9.99 and Direct2Drive is offering 20% off any game with a promo code.

Read on for the list of this week’s deals:
Amazon

•Buy one DS game, get one 50% off
•Xbox 360 Gearfest
•Xbox Live Gold 12-month subscription — $39.99 (from $59.99)
•DualShock 3 controller — $43.99 (from $54.99)

Direct2Drive

•Save 20% on all games — use promo code “hangover”

GamersGate

•Amnesia: The Dark Descent — $7.98 (from $19.95)
•Batman: Arkham Asylum – GotY Edition — $10.18 (from $29.95)
•Bulletstorm — $53.95 (from $59.95)
•Chains — $1.24 (from $4.95)
•Company of Heroes — $3.74 (from $14.95)
•Crash Time 2 — $3.74 (from $14.95)
•Crysis — $7.49 (from $29.95)
•Flatout — $1.49 (from $5.95)
•Flatout 2 — $2.49 (from $9.95)
•Flatout bundle — $9.96 (from $39.85)
•Flatout duo pack — $6.25 (from $24.99)
•Flatout Ultimate Carnage — $4.99 (from $19.95)
•Ghost Master — $1.50 (from $5.99)
•Jagged Alliance — $1.25 (from $4.99)
•Jagged Alliance 2 Gold — $4.99 (from $19.95)
•Mirror’s Edge — $4.99 (from $19.95)
•Mount & Blade — $5.99 (from $19.95)
•Obulis — $1.99 (from $7.95)
•Pacific Pack — $44.99 (from $99.94)
•Resident Evil 5 — $14.98 (from $29.95)
•Saints Row 2 — $6.78 (from $19.95)
•Thief: Deadly Shadows — $6.00 (from $14.99)
•Thief: The Dark Project — $5.00 (from $9.99)

GameStop

•World of Warcraft: Cataclysm — $29.99 (from $39.99)
•World of Warcraft Battlechest — $29.99 (from $39.99)
•Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 — $49.99 (from $59.99)

Goold Old Games

•40% off ‘Gems of Gaming’

Impulse

•Battlefield: Bad Company 2 — $9.99 (from $19.99)
•TimeShift — $9.99 (from $19.99)
•The Chosen: Well of Souls — $9.99 (from $19.99)
•Crazy Racers & Crazy Arena bundle — $14.99 (from $24.99)
•Academagia: The Making of Mages — $19.96 (from $24.95)
•Lost Planet 2 — $19.99 (from $39.99)

Steam

•Total War Collection Pack — $64.99 (from $129.95)
•Rome: Total War – Gold — $2.50 (from $9.99)
•Crazy Machines Everything Pack — $23.99 (from $39.99)
•Crasher — $5.10 (from $14.99)
•Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light — $7.49 (from $14.99)
•Wings of Prey — $14.99 (from $29.99)
•Majesty 2 — $4.00 (from $19.99)
•Majesty 2: Kingmaker — $2.00 (from $9.99)
•Majesty Complete — $34.99 (from $59.95)

Active Time Babble XXXIII

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Popular Games

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I know we’ve been talking about Dragon Age 2 for three episodes now; please bear with us though, I swear this is the last time. Jason Wilson joins Scooter and I for a breakdown of the final game, which we all agree is an improvement over the first game. How much of an improvement though is down to the individual, and we all have differing opinions on everything from the gameplay to whether or not Merrill is actually an annoying character.

Also in this episode is a chat with Deus Ex: Human Revolution devs Jean-Francois Dugas and David Anfossi, who were kind enough to sit down with Scooter and I during GDC. Lots of interesting info in this one, including an overview of the main character’s evolution from “Inspector Gadget” (their words) to the man we see in screenshots like the one above. I really think Deus Ex has a chance to great when it comes out later this year; and the same goes for Guild War 2, which is covered at the beginning of show.

Normally I would say what to expect next time on Active Time Babble; but I’ve managed to find gainful employment at another publication, and this will mark my final turn as host. Thanks to Jeremy Parish and the rest of 1UP.com for giving me this amazing opportunity in the first place, and to all of you for listening. With luck, this won’t be the last you hear of ATB.

Here’s the breakdown:

Episode Breakdown

•0:00 | Theme & Introduction
•00:35 | MMORPGs of GDC
•21:25 | Musical Interlude: Main Theme (Dragon Age)
•21:55 | Dragon Age II Final Verdict
•01:00:45 | Musical Interlude: Liberty (Deus Ex)
•01:01:15 Interview: Deus Ex’s Jean-Francois Dugas and David Anfossi
•01:35:33 | Musical Interlude: Ash to Ash (Super Robot Taisen)
•01:36:15 | Outtro & Farewell

In Earthquake’s Wake, Japanese Games Delayed

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Upcoming Games, others

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The tsunami and preceding earthquake that struck Japan late last week — said to be the fifth worst in the last 110 years — have resulted in an absolute tragedy. It certainly pales in comparison to the other effects it’s had on people’s lives, but the disaster has also impacted the videogame industry in a number of ways.

Disaster Report 4 (pictured above) has been canceled by Irem for very understandable reasons. Like its predecessors, it takes place in a city that has just been struck by a severe earthquake which players are tasked with escaping. No explanation was given, though it’s very obvious why a game like this would be deemed inappropriate for release. It had been planned for release sometime this spring after a delay pushed it past March 10, which would have been incredibly atrocious timing.

Yakuza of the End, which was set for release this week, has been delayed indefinitely for “various circumstances.” Unlike previous Yakuza games, this one featured an outbreak of zombies in a ruined version of the series’ fictitious Japanese city of Kamurocho.

Other delays include Motorstorm Apocalypse (in Japan), Marvel vs. Capcom 3 downloadable content, and shipments of certain Xbox 360 products to Japan (including Dragon Age II and Xbox Live Gold subscription cards).

Meanwhile, both Square-Enix and Konami have taken steps to conserve electricity. The Tokyo Electric Power Company has asked that customers do what they can to avoid unnnecessary power usage. “Because TEPCO’s facilities have been seriously damaged, power shortage may occur,” a statement read in part. “TEPCO appreciates customers’ cooperation in reducing electricity usage by avoiding using unnecessary lighting and electrical equipment. We are taking all measures to restore power, however, we expect extremely challenging situation in power supply for a while. We kindly ask our customers to cooperate with us in reducing usage of power.”

Konami has temporarily taken the servers for Metal Gear Online offline as of March 12, with no date yet announced for when they’ll be coming back. Likewise, the servers for both Final Fantasy XI and XIV have been turned off for at least a week from yesterday, March 13.

A number of videogame developers and publishers have pledged donations to relief efforts. Game Informer’s Meagan Marie is even auctioning off her DS personally signed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Koji Kondo to raise donation money. You, too, can help by donating to any of the many organizations that will be providing aid to the region. Alternatively, you could purchase something from Shawnimals, which is donating 100% of net proceeds to the Red Cross this week.

Infamous 2 Beta: Design a Mission For Use at Launch

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Popular Games

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Infamous 2 sets itself apart from other open-world action games by allowing players to create and share their own in-game missions with other players. A selection of lucky gamers will get to start working on their creations before the game is even out as Sucker Punch today launched sign-ups for the Infamous 2 user-generated content beta.

Between today, March 14, and March 21 at 2pm Pacific, you can sign up for the beta at infamousthegame.com. Due to some legal mumbo jumbo, you’ll need to re-register even if you’ve signed up there before — be sure to check the box for the UGC beta sweepstakes.

The beta will begin officially on April 12. Multiple waves of invites will be sent out over time, so don’t be discouraged if someone else has received one when you haven’t.

Unlike many betas, your progress could carry over to the final product. Just as it will with levels made post-launch, Sucker Punch will be selecting certain user-created missions from the beta and inserting them into the game world for other players to discover, just as they would a developer-made mission. (They’re denoted as user-made by a special color, as seen above.) Some of the best missions from the beta will be included in players’ game worlds “on or near” launch day, June 7, which should be a prime opportunity for your level to get noticed.

Kinect Adapted for Medical Research

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Microsoft, others

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We’ve gone through many of the best modified uses of Kinect in the past. Cool as many of them may be, holding a stick so it shows up on-screen as a lightsaber isn’t the most practical use of this technology. A professor at the University of Minnesota has found a new potential use for Kinect that Microsoft may not have ever imagined, and it’s one “that could change medicine.”

After laughing at the prospect of purchasing a Kinect for research, in so doing, Professor Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos has saved researchers more than $100,000, The Minnesota Daily reports. Several Kinect devices are being used as a video monitoring system to keep an eye on children playing with toys as part of a collaboration to diagnose mental disorders such as OCD and ADD. Data from the cameras is tweaked and then given to doctors.

“As a doctor, you don’t have tangible data,” Papanikolopoulos explained. “We try to provide the tools in order to back up claims of a mental disorder.”

He suggests the possibility that this data could eventually be used to help make diagnoses. They would be able to do this, keep in mind, with Kinect. “Is a $100,000 system being outsmarted by a $150 toy?” he asked. “Indeed this is the case.” He also referred to its usage as a “tremendous step forwards.”

The process is still being worked out. Once it’s complete, the Institute of Child Development will take over and try putting it into practice.

“Something we can do three years down the line, we can do it today because of technology that was destined for the gaming industry,” he said. “I don’t think Microsoft has realized that [Kinect] is something that could change medicine.”

So, sorry, weird-Japanese-first-person-virtual-gaming-hack, but you’re no longer the most impressive modified Kinect use in town.