PAX Prime Registration Opens Along with Dev-Only Event

Fallout New Vegas display at PAX Prime 2010

Online registration for PAX Prime 2011 has opened today.

Single-day tickets are available for $35 or three-day passes can be had for the discounted price of $60 each. This year’s PAX Prime is set to take place August 26 through August 28 in Seattle, Washington.

The prior two days, August 24 and 25, will be home to a new event in Seattle meant specifically for developers. PAX Dev is a small event for roughly 750 members of the development community to meet up, hold panels, discuss the business, and whatever else it is that developers do. The public and press won’t be allowed in, and tickets will be much pricier than Prime — $249 if you register early, or $329 if you show up the day-of looking to get in.

Anyone going to PAX Prime with an idea for a panel is free to submit it to the event organizers by June 14. Details on the show schedule and things of that nature will be forthcoming.

For an idea of what to expect, check out our photo galleries from PAX Prime 2010 here.

By Chris Pereira

Today in Gaming – 3/18/11: River City Ransom 2 and MotorStorm Delayed

MotorStorm Apocalypse

All NGP games are expected to be available in both digital and physical formats following the system’s release, but an important detail is whether or not those two options will be out on the same day. Sony said it’s aiming for games to be released on PlayStation Network at the same time as they come out in stores. As someone who bought a PSP Go and was frustrated when certain games didn’t end up on the PlayStation Store, I’m relieved to hear this is the goal for the NGP. Even if this doesn’t pan out, annoying as that might be to some, the NGP will at least be able to play physical copies of games if need be.

And another reminder that we have a list of ways for gamers to help Japan’s earthquake victims. Also keep an eye on Play For Japan and expect more details about that on Monday.

Today’s highlights:

  • Why you’re unlikely to see FarmVille and CityVille on Xbox Live.

  • Mass Effect 2′s final mission will be out on March 29.
  • River City Ransom 2 is in development.
  • The core gaming audience needs to expand.
  • Weekend Deals

And here’s what else happened today:

MotorStorm Apocalypse Delayed

Following similar moves in both Japan and Europe, Motorstorm Apocalpyse has been delayed in North America. It had been planned for a release on April 12, and although no specific reason was cited, it seems safe to assume that it’s connected to the recent disaster in Japan.

Working with Garage Devs Doesn’t Interest Nintendo

Microsoft offers the Indie Games section for amateurs to create Xbox 360 games and the iOS App Store offers an avenue for anyone to release their own game. Nintendo, on the other hand, is not interested in working with so-called garage developers. “I would separate out the true independent developer vs. the hobbyist,” said Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime. “We are absolutely reaching out to the independent developer.” He added, “Where we’ve drawn the line is we are not looking to do business today with the garage developer. In our view, that’s not a business we want to pursue.”


High-End PC Performance Hindered by DirectX

Even though computer hardware far outpaces what’s seen in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, PC games — while certainly better looking — don’t quite reflect that disparity. AMD’s Richard Huddy wants to get rid of APIs like DirectX, claiming they are to blame for holding back the graphical fidelity of PC games. “It’s funny,” he said. “We often have at least ten times as much horsepower as an Xbox 360 or a PS3 in a high-end graphics card, yet it’s very clear that the games don’t look ten times as good. To a significant extent, that’s because, one way or another, for good reasons and bad — mostly good, DirectX is getting in the way.”

Source (via)

By Chris Pereira

Aiding Japan: 1UP Auctioning Rare Videogame Items

Play For Japan

Update 3/29/11: Earforce PX5 bundles, Stacking dolls auctions added.

We’ve highlighted a number of ways for gamers to support Japan since the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the country just over a week ago. 1UP and many others in the industry are now supporting Play For Japan, a videogame industry initiative to raise money for the ongoing relief efforts.

Auctions are being conducted through eBay for a variety of rare videogame items, with all proceeds going to charity. We’ve posted three of our own items today:

  • Stacking Russian Nesting Dolls – One of the first 100 made, signed by Double Fine founder Tim Schafer, Stacking lead Lee Petty, and concept artist Levi Ryken. Auction link

  • 2 Turtle Beach Earforce PX5 Wireless Headset Bundles – Includes a Turtle Beach shirt and hat. Auction 1 link / Auction 2 link

We’ll be posting much more as the week goes on, and we’ll be keeping this story updated with all of our auctions. The official Play For Japan website is also keeping track of many of the auctions taking place, so you’ll also want to keep an eye on that for a more complete look at the auctions you can bid on to help the country that has contributed so much to the videogame industry.

Closed Auctions:

  • Katamari Damacy for PlayStation 2 – Signed and doodled on by lead developer Keita Takahashi. Auction link – $305

  • Soul Calibur IV for PlayStation 3 – Signed by series director Katsutoshi Sasaki. Auction link – $122.50
  • Sam & Max statue and poster – Poster signed by Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell; out-of-production statue signed by Telltale creators Dave Grossman, Mike Stemmle, and Andy Hartzell, among others. Auction link – $610
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Hardened Edition for Xbox 360 – Signed for our own Tina Sanchez by the entire Infinity Ward studio prior to the departures of studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella. Auction link – $710
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 for PlayStation 2 – Signed by director Hideo Kojima. Auction link – $340

Grand Total Raised (Thus Far): $2,087.50!

By Chris Pereira

Today in Gaming – 3/3/11: Bungie’s MMO, Romero Not Done with the Hardcore

Mortal Kombat

Today’s erroneous report that John Romero is done developing so-called “hardcore games” has led to quite a backlash from those who would probably put themselves in the category of “hardcore gamers.” Besides the fact that it simply isn’t true (see below), the reaction has been downright ridiculous. Some are acting as if such a decision would be a betrayal on Romero’s part; I’ve even seen him referred to as a “disgrace.” Were he indeed moving in a different direction, he would have every right to do so — he’s not obligated to do anything he doesn’t want to. To suggest otherwise is just silly.

Today’s highlights:

  • Bungie is officially working on an MMO.

  • Epic Games president says he’d “love to ship the Gears trilogy on PlayStation.”
  • Nintendo experimented with a 3D Wii.
  • Double Fine’s new game looks like a new MechAssault.
  • Steam Guard looks to protect your Steam account from intruders.
  • The influence of Steve Jobs and Gary Gygax on Doom.
  • Heavy Rain maker wants to see more mature games.
  • Eric Chahi talks about Out of This World and shows the new iPad version.
  • We’ve got more videos of DS games on 3DS, and a new StreetPass video after visiting GDC.
  • A new episode of at1UP is out.
  • The breakfast of GDC.

Here’s what else happened today:

John Romero is Not Done with Hardcore Games

Despite an erroneous report by Eurogamer, famed id Software co-founder John Romero is not done creating hardcore games. Romero was a designer on Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein 3D, so he’s clearly made his mark on the hardcore side of the industry. If there was any doubt about his original remarks that led to the confusion, he cleared it up with a simple tweet: “I am not done making hardcore games.” (And while we’re clearing things up, Cliff Bleszinski didn’t call game developers assholes, either.)


Try Mortal Kombat on PS3 First

PlayStation Plus subscribers will get their hands on a demo of Mortal Kombat before anyone else. It’ll be available on the PlayStation Store next Tuesday, March 8, a full week prior to its release on PSN for the rest of the public. There will be two levels (The Pit and The Living Forest), multiplayer for two players, 3D support, and four characters: Johnny Cage, Mileena, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero.


PSP Go Price Slashed to $149.99

Following the example of its UMD-supporting brother, Sony will cut the price of the PSP Go in the United States by $50 down to $149.99. That makes it $20 more expensive than the PSP-3000 after its recent price drop. The new price is yet to be reflected on any retailers’ websites; instead, the price comes directly from Sony’s official website.


OnLive to Get Achievements and More

OnLive product development lead Joe Bentley announced at a GDC panel that OnLive will be getting a myriad of new features. In addition to Achievements, which are still all the rage, OnLive will at some point be getting voice chat and game invites, as well as an easy way to upload ‘Brag Clips’ to YouTube.


By Chris Pereira

Ayopa Games Releases its First Two iOS Games

Not long after launching last month, Ayopa Games has already released its first two iOS games today, Chicken Rescue and W.E.L.D.E.R. Like with many games being launched on the App Store, they’re each available at half-price for a limited time.

Chicken Rescue is a fairly simple arcade game where you guide a chicken around a level, collecting flowers and baby chickens that have to be delivered to the end of the level. Having gotten to play it for myself over the last week, I found myself enjoying it the more I played. Initially it seems incredibly simple, even to a fault. Things begin to pick up as you see how you can level up your chicken with the points you get from collecting flowers.

Collecting flowers in rapid succession allows you to earn more coins than slowly picking them up individually. These coins can be cashed in to return to the last checkpoint if you die. Alternatively you can use them to level up things that cause coins to show up more often, provide you with more time to string a flower combo together, etc.

The one fault I could find with the game (aside from the slow pacing of the tutorial early on) was the controls. By default you’ll be playing with tilt controls, which I didn’t find to be the most accurate way to play. I found myself fighting the controls and dying as a result of them far more often than I’d like. You can instead opt to use a virtual joystick, but as is often the case with these, it’s easy for your finger to slide off and cause you to die. Even so, for the current price of $0.99, there is enough fun to be had to make it worth checking out.

The same could also be said for W.E.L.D.E.R. It’s similar to Bookworm except instead of tracing words, you build them yourself. Words are automatically submitted, requiring you to think far ahead when trying to build a big word — you could be setting it up only to lose out by accidentally creating a smaller word.

Like Chicken Rescue, it initially seems too basic for its own good. After playing for a bit, an additional layer of complexity is added in that makes it worth playing past the 15-minute mark. Some tiles can’t be moved, strings of letters can be highlighted and reversed, and a single string of letters can create more than one word (e.g. “idoll” counts as both “idol” and “doll”). As an added bonus for those looking to improve their lexicon, you can easily look up the definition of any words you play, which came in handy for me when the word “dunt” played itself.

It’s not the most innovative word game I’ve ever played, and there’s no shortage of word games on the App Store, but particularly at the current $1.99 price, it’s worth a look.

By Chris Pereira

Grand Theft Auto III to Cost $5 on iOS and Android Next Week

Grand Theft Auto III iOS

In just over a week’s time, one of the most influential games of the last generation of consoles will be playable in its entirety on your phone.

As previously announced, the 10-year anniversary of Grand Theft Auto III’s release (it came out on PS2 on October 22, 2001) is being celebrated with the release of it on iOS and Android devices. Only more recent hardware will be capable of running it, at least at launch — additional support for other devices could come later. For the time being, you’ll need one of the following to play it:

  • Apple iOS Devices: iPad 1 & 2, iPhone 4 & 4S, iPod touch 4th Generation

  • Android Phones: HTC Rezound, LG Optimus 2x, Motorola Atrix 4G, Motorola Droid X2, Motorola Photon 4G, Samsung Galaxy R, T-Mobile G2x
  • Android Tablets: Acer Iconia, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, Dell Streak 7, LG Optimus Pad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, Sony Tablet S, Toshiba Thrive

Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition will go on sale on both the App Store and Android Marketplace on December 15. It’ll be avilable for $4.99, half the price of what you can expect to pay for it on Steam on any given day.

Grand Theft Auto III Android

Visually the game appears to look just as it did in 2001. The obvious catch is playing the game on an all-touchscreen interface doesn’t sound like the most ideal way to play, particularly when there were complaints about the shooting aspects of the game when it was played on a controller. We’ve gone hands-on with it and Rockstar seems to be doing what it can to deal with the issues (one solution: only displaying buttons when they are needed), but your miles may vary when it comes to dealing with the controls yourself.

As of yet GTAIII is the only old GTA game confirmed for iOS and Android. While there would be a “technical challenge” in porting Vice City and San Andreas, ports of the two have been deemed “very possible” by Rockstar. I wouldn’t mind seeing GTA2 as well — Chinatown Wars showed an overhead GTA game can (mostly) work with touchscreen controls, and the Zaibatsu aren’t about to help themselves.

Grand Theft Auto III Android

Screen 1 from iOS version; 2 and 3 from Android version

By Chris Pereira

Sonic CD Port Headed to XBLA, PSN, iOS, PC, and More

The existence of a new Sonic CD port was teased earlier this week when it was listed as one of the games set to be at the Microsoft PAX booth this weekend. Sega has now formally announced the game, and it’s coming to quite a few platforms.

While Microsoft may have it exclusively for its PAX booth, it’ll still be on PS3. The full list of systems it’s coming to includes Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, PC (as a download), Android, and Windows Phone

It’s unclear if all of those versions will be released at the same time; it’ll be coming to at least one platform before the end of 2011, complete with music from the original Japanese soundtrack.

Sonic CD, as the creative name implies, was originally released on the Sega CD in 1993. It’s regarded by many as the best Sonic game of all time and has already been ported to more modern platforms as a part of the Sonic Gems Collection for PS2 and GameCube. Footage from the latter is seen above.

No pricing was announced, but something in the $5-10 range seems to make sense. Sonic 4: Episode 1 costs $15 but is an original game, so it seems unlikely that a port would cost as much. The first three Sonic games (all originally for Genesis) are available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 400 points ($5) each.

By Chris Pereira

How Windows 8 Could Change Casual Games

What do you think of when you read or hear the phrase “casual games?” Long considered a dirty word amongst a vocal minority of “hardcore gamers,” casual games are undergoing a transformation thanks to new distribution models that make gaming on PC easier than plug & play consoles. A newly leaked list of games available on the upcoming “Consumer Preview” version of Windows 8 provides a glimpse into the future of casual games, and it’s a lot more “hardcore” than you’d expect.

Windows 8

Similar to the Mac and Google Chrome app stores, Windows 8 will offer its own software portal for easy to install applications. Called the Window’s Store, it will carry the following 10 games during the preview period:

  • Hydro Thunder (presumably a port of Hydro Thunder: Hurricane)
  • Toy Soldiers
  • Reckless Racing
  • Angry Birds
  • Ilomilo
  • Rocket Riot
  • Full House Poker
  • Tentacles
  • Crash Course
  • Ms. Splosion Man
  • Wordament

Yes, I saw Angry Birds, but I also noticed Toy Soldiers and Ms. Splosion Man, two titles that you’d be hard pressed to call casual with a straight face. The Window’s Store’s (and all other app store’s) ability to provide players with easy access to games — thanks to low prices, easy installation, and providing a centralized location for nearly all software — means that those that stick to Angry Birds and Tiny Wings might also give Ilomilo a shot if they ran across it.

I’m not suggesting that my mother is going to abandon Peggle for Modern Warfare 3, but if she came across Ms. Splosion Man in an app store, she might try it out if the copy or screenshots sold her on it. By providing a central location for all software on a device, Apple and Microsoft ensure that casual gamers will encounter “hardcore games” alongside lighter fare. While XBLA and PSN technically provide the same service, is your mother or father going to seek out Rocket Riot on XBLA? But that same game might appeal to them if they saw it listed amongst the top apps for their device of choice, be it phone, tablet, or laptop.

Within three years, the “app” will become the main distribution model for video games. You and I, along with millions of others, will still enjoy our AAA disc-based console titles, but millions more will be playing games bought from an app store. Simply placing quality “hardcore” titles alongside the casual fare will help expand the audience for these games. The approach won’t work for everything, I don’t think Alan Wake would make much of a splash amongst the Cut the Rope set, but titles that feature engaging repeatable gameplay with minimal narrative elements, like Ms. Splosion Man, might do quite well.

This could create some major problems — Microsoft for example, doesn’t want to see their Window’s Store become a wasteland of $.99 software — but it will put deeper and more complex games in front of a willing audience, something that the industry desperately needs if it’s to avoid the fate of comic books, a medium that serves only an existing and shrinking fan base despite countless clumsy attempts to attract new readers.

By Ryan Winterhalter

Today in Gaming – 3/31/11: GameStop Buys Impulse, Magicka Vietnam Dated

Magicka Vietnam

Some fans of Impulse may be wary of the GameStop acquisition, but I’m personally intrigued to see what happens. As I suggested in today’s news story, GameStop could offer up a unique option for PC games: Buy a game in-stores and you get a code to both download it from Impulse and to play it on their new streaming service that Spawn Labs will be helping to develop. Maybe you have to pay a premium ($10?), but having a physical copy of a high-end game that you could also play on a laptop sounds pretty compelling. And competition for Steam can only be a good thing — unless, of course, one side ends up landing exclusive goodies that make the decision of where to buy a game unnecessarily difficult.

Today’s highlights:

  • EA Sports defends Michael Vick as a possible Madden 12 cover athlete.

  • Dragon Quest X’s development is quite far along.
  • The Agency is canceled.
  • Mega Man Universe is canceled, too.
  • The Troubled Past and Challenging Future of Nintendo 3DS

And here’s what else happened today:

Magicka Vietnam Coming Early Next Month

The first expansion for Magicka, were it announced tomorrow, would be considered by almost everyone to be an April Fools joke. Vietnam doesn’t seem like an obvious place for the game to expand to, but it does look pretty cool. It’ll be out in less than two weeks, on April 12, for $4.99. An announcement sums up the expansion: “Have you ever wondered what it would have been like if wizards were allowed to roam the jungles of war-torn Vietnam, attempting to bring peace and stability to the region by casting spells on all opponents?”

1000 Heroz is the Game That Lasts 1,000 Days

Trials maker RedLynx teased a game last month that would last 1,000 days. It formally announced 1000 Heroz today, a platform/racing hybrid that will offer up one of 1,000 new heroes every 24 hours. There will also be 1,000 levels and 1,000 relics, so it sounds like there won’t be any shortage of stuff to do. “We’ve designed 1000 Heroz to last for a thousand days, so whether you play every day or play only occasionally, there’s always something new for you,” said creative director Antti Ilvessuo. “It’s a new idea, where you can get your daily dose of Heroz right from the start.” Ilvessuo explained what the game is all about: “1000 Heroz has some of the physics-based timing of Trials with the jumping of a Mario-type game. Your character really runs with their feet. It’s a blast to play every day.” It’ll be out in April for iPhone ($0.99) and iPad ($1.99).

Too Human Spat Over Unreal Engine Headed to Court

Years ago, following issues with its use of the Unreal Engine for Too Human, Silicon Knights filed a lawsuit against Epic Games. Silicon Knights claimed it “experience[d] considerable losses” as a result of Epic not fulfilling its duties to “provide a working game engine.” After a long wait, a decision has been made to let the case go in front of a jury to determine if Epic is guilty of fraud and breach of contract, among other things. Silicon Knights called the decision a “victory in their litigation against Epic,” though Epic itself says this merely means there will be a chance to “consider both sides’ evidence” and that the Gears of War developer will ultimately be “fully vindicated.”


By Chris Pereira

Free-to-Play Game Controversy Sparks FTC Investigation

Smurfs' Village

The Federal Trade Commission intends to launch an investigation into in-app purchases, such as those in free-to-play games on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The move comes in the wake of numerous stories about children amassing enormous bills through such purchases.

The argument is that software designed for children shouldn’t be selling virtual items that can cost almost $100 each, as is the case with Capcom iOS game Smurfs’ Village. In response to a story from earlier this month about an 8-year-old buying $1,400 worth of virtual goods from Smurfs’ Village, U.S. Representative Edward Markey wrote a letter to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz voicing concerns about the trend. He requested that an investigation be launched into in-app purchases.

The Washington Post reports that Leibowitz has responded with a letter to Markey declaring the FTC’s intentions. In it, he said, “We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases. Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications.”

Markey is happy with the FTC’s decision, saying in a statement, “What may appear in these games to be virtual coins and prizes to children result in very real costs to parents. I am pleased that the FTC has responded, and as the use of mobile apps continues to increase, I will continue to actively monitor developments in this important area.”

The obvious counter-argument to all of this is that parents simply shouldn’t allow their children’s gaming device (be it an iPhone or whatever else) to be attached to a credit card. Apple requires that a password be entered prior to purchasing content from the App Store, and settings exist to restrict downloads. The original Washington Post story on the $1,400 bill remarked, “But parents say changing those settings isn’t easy or obvious.”

Shortly after news broke of the Smurfs’ Village controversy, Apple reportedly made it clear to publisher Capcom that the game had been causing problems. (The Post’s story noted that one-time reimbursements were given in two separate cases of children racking up excessive bills.) Capcom later denied that Apple had “expressed any displeasure … in regards to our handling of in-app purchases within Smurfs’ Village.”

Whether or not that’s the case, the FTC now has its sights set on the sort of transactions that Capcom’s game — and many others — rely on to produce revenue.

Source: Game Politics

By Chris Pereira