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Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth announced

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is receiving a spiritual successor in the form of sci-fi-themed Civilization: Beyond Earth, launching this year on Windows, OS X and Linux.


A spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s intergalactic classic Alpha Centauri has been officially announced, and it brings the promise of treats for PC gamers including support for AMD’s low-level Mantle application programming interface (API) and cross-platform gaming on Windows, OS X and Linux – the latter to include Valve’s SteamOS.

Released in 1999, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri was a spin-off from the Civilization franchise, acting as a follow-on of sorts for anyone who had completed a space victory in the game. The player was given the task of colonising Chiron in the eponymous star system, and later the option of playing as one of two non-human races – previously limited to non-playable characters in the game.

The game was critically acclaimed, but a poor seller; following its release, the Civilization franchise would again return to historical rather than futuristic settings and never again venture beyond our solar system – until now. Firaxis has announced Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, the first space-based title to carry the official Civ branding – and a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri.

Announced at PAX East this weekend, the game promises to revamp the Civilization experience with a new web-like technology tree, a more open-ended progression system no longer tied to real-world history, and many of the developers who worked on the original Alpha Centauri. For PC gamers, the news gets better still with Firaxis announcing that the game will launch later this year on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms – the latter to include support for Valve’s SteamOS Linux distribution. The company has also promised support for AMD’s Mantle API at launch, giving hope that the game’s performance will be acceptable even on lower-end hardware.

If all that has whetted your appetite the company has offered a teaser trailer for the title, reproduced below.

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E.T. excavation opens up to spectators

E.T. excavation opens up to spectators

There has never been an official confirmation that the landfill site is where the better part of 3.5 million unsold E.T cartridges were buried.


The impending excavation of the landfill where Atari was rumoured to have crushed and buried millions of unsold E.T. game cartridges has been opened up to the public.

The event is set to become part of a documentary backed by Xbox Entertainment Studios and produced by Fuel Entertainment. The dig was given the green light last week and now Microsoft has extended the invitation to attend to everyone.

Attendees might even be interviewed for the documentaries alongside E.T the Extra-Terrestrial video game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, the team of archaeologists and other people connected to the project.

Work on unearthing the dumped cartridges will begin on April 26 and 9:30 AM and run through until 7:30 PM at the Alamogordo landfill site in New Mexico. Xbox Entertainment Studios will be publishing the finished film as part of a documentary series.

Plans to unearth the abandoned cartridges were first announced in June 2013 and the project was briefly put on holdlast week as the team was required to obtain special permission before any digging could take place.

The landfill site is purportedly the final resting place of the bulk of approximately 3.5 million unsold cartridges of 1983′s E.T video game from Atari, a title often name-checked as one of the worst video games in the industry’s history and a commercial failure that is credited as almost killing off video games as a business entirely.

Whether or not the burial site does in fact inter these cartridges has never been officially confirmed, and official statements claim that only broken and returned materials were dumped.

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Sony announces The Last of Us Remastered for PS4

Sony announces The Last of Us Remastered for PS4

The Last of Us Remastered for the PS4 includes revamped Full HD visuals, commentary for cinematics, and bundled DLC.


Sony has announced plans to release a remastered edition of hit PlayStation 3 title The Last of Us for the PS4, promising revamped Full HD visuals at 1080p.

Recently the subject of a film deal with Ghost House Pictures and Sam Raimi, The Last of Us follows the exploits of the player-character Joel and Ellen Page-inspired companion Ellie as they work together to survive in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by a mind-controlling fungus. Its gripping storyline has led to numerous awards, with many critics proclaiming it a must-have title for all PS3 gamers.

For those who have made the jump to the non-backwards-compatible PS4, though, Sony has promised a rerelease. Dubbed The Last of Us Remastered, the new version of the game will include higher-resolution character models, improved shadows and lighting, upgraded textures and other visual tweaks – all, developer Naughty Dog has promised, running at a targeted 60 frames per second Full HD.

As well as the improved graphics, the Remastered edition will include commentary for all cinematics from creative director and writer Neil Druckmann alongside voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson who play Joel and Ellie respectively. The PS4 rerelease will also come bundled with the Left Behind single-player expansion, the Abandoned Territories multiplayer map pack, and an as-yet unreleased map pack dubbed REclaimed Territories.

Sony has raised eyebrows with its promised pre-order bonuses, however. Those buying the game from selected retailers can receive extra Supply Points for Factions mode along with boosted abilities – increased healing and crafting speeds, increased reloading speeds and ammunition capacities – for the single-player campaign, leaving those who prefer to buy their games at the time of release at a disadvantage.

A formal launch date has yet to be announced, with Sony aiming for a summer release.

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Unreal Engine to get Linux, SteamOS support

Unreal Engine to get Linux, SteamOS support

Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4.1, now available for just $19 a month and five per cent royalties, is to receive preliminary Linux support.


Epic Games’ Mike Fricker has confirmed that his company’s next Unreal Engine update, version 4.1, will include Linux support – including full compatibility with Valve’s prototype SteamOS distribution and Steam Machine platforms.

Following rival Crytek’s announcement that the next release of CryEngine will include support for Linux, Epic’s popular Unreal Engine becomes yet another big name offering support for developers looking to target the open-source operating system. This sudden explosion of interest, after years of neglect, can be attributed directly to Valve’s SteamOS distribution, a customised version of Debian Linux with integrated support for the Steam digital distribution platform.

Folks have been asking about our early Linux efforts and support for Valve’s SteamOS and Steam Machines,‘ wrote Fricker in a blog post late last night. ‘We have good news for you! The 4.1 source code has initial support for running and packaging games for Linux and SteamOS. We love Linux!

Fricker has not yet detailed how ‘initial’ the support truly is, although there is a warning that it will require the developer to compile the engine from source rather than using pre-compiled binaries, but regardless of the state of Linux compatibility when Unreal Engine 4.1 launches it’s a clear indicator that it will be included in the engine going forward – and will only improve over time.

Additional new features of Unreal Engine 4.1 include additional templates, improved user experience through new assistants and layout functions, an undo history window, the ability to jump directly to connections in graphs, an experimental translation editor, and numerous bug fixes.

Epic is also giving all Unreal Engine subscribers – who pay $19 plus five per cent of their revenue to use the engine – access to the assets used in the Elemental demonstration first released in 2012. If you’ve forgotten what that looks like, there’s a reminder embedded below.

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Predator DLC confirmed for Call of Duty: Ghosts

Predator DLC confirmed for Call of Duty: Ghosts

Guest star Predator was teased last week in an Instagram video but rumours have been confirmed by the DLC’s launch trailer.


Call of Duty: Ghosts is soon to include Predator from the film of the same name as of a new piece of downloadable content launching this week.

The new DLC pack, Devastation, will feature an appearance by the methodical alien hunter in a jungle-based multiplayer map set in a ruined Mayan temple. The Predator’s inclusion was first teased by developer Infinity Ward last week over Instagram.

Predator’s cameo is only a small part of the Devastation pack which will also include four new multiplayer maps and part two of the four-player co-op story mode Extinction. The second part is called Mayday and will include a gargantuan Kraken for players to fight against.

A new small machine gun, the Ripper, will also be introduced to the game which Ghosts season pass holders already got their hands on earlier in March.

Devastation launches on April 3 on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The DLC is currently part of an exclusivity deal with Microsoft and it is unclear when the time limit on this expires, allowing release on other platforms.

Call of Duty: Ghosts launched in November 2013 and was one of the launch titles for both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4. Hype building up to the game’s release often focused around Infinity Ward’s decision to finally put female playable characters into the multiplayer and the inclusion of a dog in the single player campaign. Ghosts was generally well received critically bu with a few comments that the single player was tedious and derivative.

At present, Ghosts has seen its first piece of DLC, Onslaught, which was released in January. After Devastation, a further two DLC packs are planned for the title.

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review


Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review

Price: £29.99
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: X360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360

Whatever you may think of Kojima Production’s decision to split off Ground Zeroes from the rest of Metal Gear Solid V and release it as a full game, there’s no denying that it is a remarkable creation. In terms of its politics, its technology, its systems, and its artistic direction, Ground Zeroes is absolutely fascinating. It departs radically from many of the conventions the series has established over the years, while at the same time it is truer to the motto of “Tactical Espionage” than any of its predecessors.

Ground Zeroes is set in 1975 – a year after the events witnessed in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and casts you as Big Boss on a mission to infiltrate a heavily guarded detention camp in order to rescue two prisoners. Prior to the game’s start, there’s a brief summary of events leading to the Ground Zeroes mission, and a short cut-scene that introduces “Skull Face”, the leader of the mysterious XOF organisation which opposes Big Boss’ FOX unit.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review
It’s a refreshingly terse opening to a Metal Gear Solid game, and makes it immediately apparent that Ground Zeroes strives to be different. Kojima’s writing has grown increasingly indulgent since the release of the first MGS, his games burdened by exhaustive cut-scenes and rambling dialogues. Ground Zeroes, on the other hand, is nearly all about play, only removing you from control during a couple of key moments while you’re on mission.

In fact, Ground Zeroes is a very restrained game in general. Aside from the much-discussed running time, the weirder elements of the Metal Gear Solid universe have been dialled back, with only the appearance of Skull Face acting as a nod to the series’ penchant for science fiction and the supernatural. Similarly, Ground Zeroes’ approach to stealth is very straightforward – stay low, stay shadowed, stay quiet. The most advanced gadgets in Big Boss’ arsenal are an “iDroid” that gives a real-time updated map of the detention centre, and a pair of binoculars that can mark guard positions on a map.

What most definitely isn’t dialled back, is the technology that powers the game. Ground Zeroes looks, sounds, and feels superb. Even on the Xbox 360, visually it’s a cut above most other games. This is because the FOX engine’s approach to graphical fortitude has nothing to do with resolutions or anti-aliasing or post-processing effects or any other technical gimmickry. Rather, it’s about attention to detail. FOX’s physically-based rendering techniques are based on vast amounts of research into how different types of light react with different types of surfaces in different conditions, and replicating the results in a virtual environment.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review
It’s tempting to say the results are spectacular, but that would be to miss the point. FOX isn’t about spectacle, it’s about creating a convincing environment, and Ground Zeroes’ Camp Omega is very convincing indeed.

The reason we bring this up is because Ground Zeroes’ pinpoint production values feed into the design intent for the rest of the game. Ground Zeroes is entirely about attention to detail. Navigating your way through the maze of tents and fences and rocky coastline without being spotted by a patrol or a searchlight requires careful planning and speedy execution.

Deciphering the story behind Camp Omega involves searching every corner of the Black Site to collect audio logs, listening into guard conversations, and interrogating them for information. There’s a particularly brilliant section where you have to find a specific location within the camp by figuring out the route taken there from the ambient sounds on an audio cassette. It’s all geared toward making you feel like a spy, the way you collect snippets of information and piece them together to form a plan.

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Flame-breathing RC dragon flies for only $60,000

If drones are the future, then this is the past that’s coming to a future near you.


(Credit:
Hammacher Schlemmer)

Lately, with the number of us who are obsessed with “Game of Thrones” and Dragon Age: Inquisition, I can comfortably say that dragons are once again “on fire” without having to worry that I’ll be fired for making such a geektastic pun. I think it’s safe to say that even Madonna would approve.

So it makes sense, then, that this would a good moment in history for Hammacher Schlemmer to begin a selling an actual flying, propane-flame-breathing, remote-controlled dragon for a mere $60,000 per beast.

The good news, of course, is that once you put out all that coin on your own dragon, he can help you steal and hoard gold from those less worthy. So, really, think of your dragon as an investment in a reserve currency that has stood the test of time going to back the days of, well, of dragons.

This particular RC dragon model is the design of Richard Hamel, who has been making the rounds with his creation and winning awards at RC shows in recent years.

The consumer (read: elite consumer) model offered through Hammacher Schlemmer claims to be capable of flying at up to 70 mph. It’s propane-fueled breath only works when it’s on the ground, so you can use it to scare the neighbor kids out of your driveway, but not burn down their parents’ house. That’s probably a good thing, as the literature teaches us that actual flying and fire-breathing dragons are generally a bad thing for society.

According to its specs, the flying dragon has a 9-foot wingspan and weighs 40 pounds. That’s big enough to strike a little fear in the hearts of peasants, but small enough to be manageable.

See more with Hamel and his creation in this video, and let us know in the comments if you plan to start saving up your gold doubloons for one.

(Via Gizmodo)

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The 404 1,450: Where we play by ear (podcast)

Not so fast: Environmental concerns halt Atari ‘E.T.’ cartridge dig

An original E.T. game cartridge, signed by the lead designer. Millions were made, and most of them were buried in a New Mexico landfill after the game was deemed one of the worst ever.


(Credit:
Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

New Mexico environmental regulators have put the kibosh on the excavation of millions of Atari “E.T.” game cartridges from a garbage dump there.

According to The Guardian, the New Mexico Environment Department has said that filmmakers planning a documentary about the burial of the cartridges in 1983 owing to catastrophic sales must first acquire a waste excavation plan.

At
South by Southwest earlier this month, filmmakers from Lightbox and Fuel Entertainment said they were almost ready to start digging into the garbage dump in Alamogordo, N.M., to look for the cartridges. Their research had led them there, they said, and they were planning on a long dig, since they didn’t know precisely where in the dump the millions of games might be found.

Atari’s E.T. game is universally considered one of the worst in history, brought to market in just weeks following the monumental success of Steven Spielberg’s 1983 film “E.T.” It was thought to be boring, aesthetically ugly, and shallow. Though it immediately sold 1.5 million copies thanks to its ties to the movie, sales quickly stalled, and the result was a $500 million loss for Atari, a financial disaster that drove the once high-flying company into ruin.

The episode has been referred to as Atari’s “corporate shame.”

Last June, the Guardian reported, city officials in Alamogordo approved the excavation. But New Mexico Environment Department spokesperson Jim Winchester told the publication that state environmental officials, who have the final say on the approval of a waste excavation plan, rejected it last month. He added that the filmmakers have yet to submit a new plan.

Requests for comment by CNET to the New Mexico Environment Department and Fuel Entertainment were not immediately returned.

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Stephen Luczo leaves Microsoft board

Stephen Luczo leaves Microsoft board

Steve Luczo is stepping down from Microsoft’s board of directors after just two years, ostensibly to concentrate on his role at storage giant Seagate.


Microsoft has confirmed that Stephen Luczo is to step down from the company’s board of directors after just two years in the role, as new broom Satya Nadella continues to sweep clean.

Better known for his role as chief executive officer of storage giant Seagate, a role he adopted back in 2009 and at which he famously predicted hybrid drives would easily dominate the market compared to dedicated solid-state drives (SSDs), Luczo was appointed to Microsoft’s board of directors two years ago. During his time there, Luczo served as a member of the compensation committe and was part of the team which named Satya Nadella as the company’s new CEO following Ballmer’s exit from the role.

Steve has been an excellent board member, and I particularly appreciate all of his hard work as a member of the CEO search committee,‘ claimed John Thompson, chair of the Microsoft board, in a press release regarding Luczo’s sudden departure. ‘Steve also played an important role in helping to craft a compensation plan that tightly links CEO pay to shareholder returns, as chair of the compensation committee.

It has been a pleasure serving on the Microsoft board, and helping to guide the company through such a historic period of change and reinvention,‘ Luczo said of his exit. ‘With the CEO search completed and Satya off to a strong start, this felt like an appropriate time to make this change so I can turn my full attention to leading Seagate. Seagate and Microsoft have a long history of working together, and I look forward to continued collaboration and partnership under Satya’s leadership.

With Luczo’s exit, Microsoft’s board is down to ten: John Thompson; Steve Ballmer; Bill Gates; Satya Nadella; Dina Dublon; Maria Klawe; David Marquardt; G. Mason Morfit; Charles Noski; and Helmut Panke. There has not yet been an indication that Microsoft will seek a replacement board member following Luczo’s departure.

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