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    April 26, 2016
    Rock Band 4 Will Get Online Multiplayer

    rock-band-online-play

    One of the things I enjoyed most was playing video games with my father.  We’d sit in my room and play Super Mario Brothers or fire up the old Atari.  Later on, we’d get together for Super Nintendo games.  A couple of generations after that, we’d fire up the Wii and do some bowling, but our favorite games were those music-playing rhythm games.  Specifically, Rock Band.  I’d play the drums and he’d play the guitar, and when friends would come over, they’d join in.  It was a lot of fun.

    My father has passed away.  Most of my friends have moved out of town.  However, there might be a way to get together with friends all around the world.  Rock Band 4 will have an online multiplayer mode.  It’ll be essentially like Quickplay mode, but with some balances designed to make the game a little more fair for different players of different abilities without keeping everyone separated.

    Says Harmonix, developers of Rock Band, “As one of our most requested features, synchronous online multiplayer has been a major focus of discussion within the Rock Band 4 development team for a while.  Harmonix is dedicated to bringing high quality features to Rock Band 4, and we intend to continue support of the game as a platform through the entire 2016 year (and beyond!).  We’ve listened to our audience, and we’re happy to announce that online multiplayer is confirmed as a major feature in the Rock Band 4 development roadmap.”

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    April 19, 2016
    Counter-Strike Ported To Android

    Counter-Strike_Classic

    There are a lot of people, like myself, who would love to play classic games on my smartphone.  Sure, I have Fallout  and Fallout 2 loaded onto my laptop, but I don’t have my laptop with me all the time.  I want to play Fallout in the car, from the safety of the passenger seat.  It’s not Fallout, but it’s a start.  Someone ported Counter-Strike 1.6 onto the Android OS.

    The coding is the work of Alibek Omarov, who ported the game onto Android by himself.  And it’s the real version of the game, not a stripped-down version.  Sure, the game is ancient, but getting anything meant for a real computer to run on a phone is pretty incredible.  It’s impressive, and given the game’s enduring fan base, it could be lucrative.

    It’s all unofficial at this point, but… maybe he’ll give the Counter-Strike developers some encouragement.  Counter-Strike still has a lot of active players, and if they could get that 22,500 or so to buy an Android version–as well as old fans returning to the game with a new smartphone version–that’d be a vibrant gaming community.

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    March 24, 2016
    Atari Vault Hits Steam

    atari-vault

    One of my first video game memories was sitting with my parents on an old color tube television and hooking the weird prongs of the Atari 2600 into the back of the TV.  My parents had a dozen or more games for the Atari, everything from Missile Command to Asteroids, and while I never beat Pac-man, I definitely caught video game fever.  Not long after that my best friend got a Nintendo, and my journey into video gaming was just beginning.  Sometimes it’s nice to relive the past, maybe fire up some old retro games.  Steam is going to make that a lot easier.  The 100-game Atari Vault is now on Steam for purchase.

    The math works out in the purchaser’s favor.  The 100 games only cost $16.99 currently; the price will eventually go up to $19.99, but that’s still a great deal for a hundred games.  Even if not every Atari game you want is on the Vault, enough of them are present to make it worth a purchase.  After all, I once bought Galaga/Galaxian on Game Boy for $30, so $16 for both arcade and Atari 2600 classics isn’t that bad of a deal.

    Of course, you need a Windows computer to run the collection, but odds are you already have a Windows computer if you’re a serious gamer, or even just a casual gamer like myself.

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    February 16, 2016
    Mattel’s 3D Printer

    thingmaker

    Kids love creativity, and kids love technology.  I may not be a kid anymore, but I love anything that can combine my love of computers and a way to make my own thing, and I have always kind of been that way.  I’ve never been handy with a knife and a block of wood, but I loved programming things into Mario Paint, so this new generation of creative toys is right down my alley.  Mattel has released a $300 ThingMaker, a toy-grade 3D printer that allows kids to make their own stuff.

    The ThingMaker makes the toy pieces out of PLA filament, and once the pieces are crafted–a process that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on size and complexity–the child then puts them together using ball and socket joints.  The printer is completely safe; kids are locked out while the heat is getting put to use, and the print head retracts completely into the system when the part is ready.

    The app allows kids an easy way to design their new toys, and Mattel says that eventually the ThingMaker will be able to be used to do things like make your own Hot Wheels or Barbie products!  Designing your own Hot Wheels car sounds awesome, even at 34 years old.

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    January 21, 2016
    Xbox 360 Emulation Via Xbox One: Some Better, Some Worse

    One of the things I’ve come to realize is that I don’t like a lot of clutter in my entertainment center.  There’s a big difference between some stray wires and having dozens of video game systems sitting in my living room.  That’s why, if I end up getting an Xbox One, I’m going to try to retire my original Xbox 360 and give the emulation a try.  Turns out that might be a mixed bag.  Some Xbox 360 games run better on the XBone, but some run worse and others don’t run at all.

    Of course, the emulator powering the backwards compatibility is changing every time Microsoft issues an update, and new games are being added all the time while older games are being improved, but Digital Foundry has a great line-up of games that they’ve been tinkering with to see how they’ll work on the new system.  The results are really interesting, especially when you see what games play better versus worse, and what games have improved cut scenes but degraded play.  A lot of it probably has to do with how video is processed, but the more they work on the emulators, the better they will become.

    Fingers crossed for perfect emulation in the future.


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    December 5, 2015
    Mattel’s Hackable Barbie

    I just bought a new thermostat for my house.  I’m getting a new furnace installed this week, and with a new furnace comes a need for a new thermostat.  I noticed a common thread among the top of the line thermostats–they were all online or needed WiFi to function.  If that wasn’t bad enough, pretty much all of your child’s new favorite toys are going to be connecting to the Wifi, too.  For example, Barbie now needs wireless Internet, and not just to go car-shopping for a new pink Corvette.   Mattel’s Hello Barbie is vulnerable to hackers.

    Hello Barbie is an online-connected Barbie developed by ToyTalk and Mattel, which basically allows kids to talk to Barbie and to use the doll as something like a digital assistant.  The doll uses WiFi to connect to servers that listen to child speech and formulate responses.  Hackers can apparently access the doll and listen in on those conversations, thanks to a digital ID connected to the doll, and the Hello Barbie app can be used to force phones to connect to any server with Barbie in the name, which sounds pretty dangerous.

    “We have been working with Bluebox and appreciate their Responsible Disclosure of several issues with respect to Hello Barbie,” wrote ToyTalk cofounder and CTO Martin Reddy in an email to Fortune.  He added that the company is working on several vulnerabilities related to the toy.

    If your child has one of the VTech tablets, then there’s already been a hacking incident involving them, with tens of millions of people having their data accessed by hackers.  As technology grows and WiFi becomes more universal, I have no doubt that this kind of toy hacking is going to become routine.  I’m not sure what information you can get out of a child’s toy, but clearly there’s something.

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    November 21, 2015
    Microsoft’s Black Friday Deals Start At 10 Cents!

    If you need anything, Black Friday is usually the best time to get it.  There are better deals, but there are seldom that many great deals happening at once, which explains the shopping frenzy that overtakes the United States every Friday after Thanksgiving.  However, online retailers aren’t waiting until Friday, choosing instead to roll deals out slowly on the week leading up to Black Friday’s main event.  Microsoft is having some great deals on music, movies, video games, and everything else for Black Friday!

    Movies, songs, and apps can be available for as low as 10 cents!  Whole albums can be bought for $1!  Xbox One bundles will be dropping down to $299!  There are tablets and computers with hundreds of dollars slashes off the price!  Xbox Live memberships for $1 a month! And, best of all, you don’t have to wait for it to show up on Black Friday; all of Microsoft’s deals are available online right now!

    For more information, check out Microsoft’s blog post about the very deal.

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    November 12, 2015
    Final Fantasy’s Cloud Joins Smash Brothers

    Final Fantasy is one of the most highly-regarded series of video games that’s ever been released.  The series started out on Nintendo, then moved to PlayStation, and now they’re everywhere.  MMORPGs, video games, and all kinds of other things are now featuring Final Fantasy characters, and now one of the series’ most beloved characters is joining the most beloved fighting game around.  Final Fantasy 7’s Cloud Strife is joining Super Smash Brothers Wii U.

    The weird thing is that Cloud has never really been on a Nintendo platform, aside from an appearance on Kingdom Hearts for Game Boy Advanced and a couple of 3DS music games.  However, Cloud comes with a whole lot of fun extras, like Chocobo outfits for Mii Fighter, a Midgard-themed stage, some very cool fighting moves, and an alternate Advent Children costume.  He’ll also become an Amiibo figure at some point.

    It’s a sign of new cooperation between Square and Nintendo.  It’s also probably a really good move for both parties, sparking interest in both Smash Brothers and Final Fantasy.  After all, lots of sites, including this one, are writing about it.

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    November 11, 2015
    Wordless Wednesday: Fallout Diner

    Via NeoGAF

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    September 18, 2015
    GameStop Refuses To Sell Digital-Game Console Bundles

    GameStop is taking a stand, and considering their industry, it is a corporate stand that makes a whole lot of sense.  These days, a lot of console bundles come with digital copies of games, rather than actual games on discs.  You buy a new system, go home, set it up, and boom, wait a few hours while you download 40GBs of video game files.  Well, GameStop says no more!  GameStop is refusing to sell console bundles with digital games.  Instead, GameStop is pressuring publishers to allow them to sell physical copies in lieu of the downloads.

    “We expect that if a game is provided as a promotional item in a hardware bundle, GameStop will see more of these physical offers than digital pack-ins on upcoming third-party releases,” said GameStop COO Tony Bartell.

    Of course, there’s a good reason GameStop is refusing to tow the digital line.  GameStop’s biggest business is used games, and you can’t sell a used digital copy of a game, so it’s only natural that GameStop would want to get actual games into the hands of actual customers.  The amazing thing is that it also benefits the consumer, because you don’t (or shouldn’t) need to spent time downloading a game you just bought when a guy can give you that same information burned on a disc that could last for years.

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