Archive for August, 2010

These days, it seems like every videogame and its Atari 2600 grandmother is getting a movie tie-in. But hey, games are awesome and so are movies, so where’s the problem? Well, see, as it turns out, game movies are not awesome. Not in the slightest. So, is it Game Over for gaming’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame? Not necessarily, says Valve’s Gabe Newell. We just need to change up our approach, is all.

“Where we got into this direction was after Half-Life 1 had shipped. There was a whole bunch of meetings with people from Hollywood. Directors down there wanted to make a Half-Life movie and stuff, so they’d bring in a writer or some talent agency would bring in writers, and they would pitch us on their story. And their stories were just so bad. I mean, brutally, the worst. Not understanding what made the game a good game, or what made the property an interesting thing for people to be a fan of,” he explained to PC Gamer.

“That’s when we started saying ‘Wow, the best thing we could ever do is to just not do this as a movie, or we’d have to make it ourselves.’ And I was like, ‘Make it ourselves? Well that’s impossible.’ But the Team Fortress 2 thing, the Meet The Team shorts, is us trying to explore that.”

And so, on this day, our dream of Jason Statham playing an illogically acrobatic, crowbar-kung-fu master Gordon Freeman – while wearing a phony beard, of course – died a quick death. We’re not sure whether to be happy or incredibly depressed about that, honestly.  

Hi there, valued Xbox Live Gold customer! Are there any sharp objects nearby? How about firearms? We’re just the messenger, after all, and would rather not be shot for this one. So, are you calm? Have you followed the late, great Bruce Lee’s teachings and become as water? Ok then, here it goes:

Beginning November 1, Xbox Live Gold will cost $60 per year. That’s a ten dollar price hike, for those of you who don’t read your credit statements. One month and three month subscriptions have also been increased accordingly. 

So, why’s Microsoft randomly kidnapping yet another one of your precious Alexander Hamiltons – especially after eight years of the same price point and Sony’s constant “neener-neener” proclamations of free online multiplayer? Well, the long and short of it is that you’re now getting a whole lot more stuff.

“As an Xbox LIVE Gold member, you can not only play blockbuster games, such as Halo: Reach with your friends online, you can also stream movies from Netflix and music from right to your TV. You can even connect with friends near and far on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, you also enjoy exclusive discounts and early access to game demos,” said Microsoft, while also citing the upcoming additions of Hulu Plus, Video Kinect, and ESPN this holiday season.

Granted, some of those services require you to fork over additional subscription fees, but there’s no doubting that Xbox Live Gold’s a pretty slick service. The question, however, remains: is it pocket-change-worthy fool’s gold, or is it the genuine, worth-$60 article? Also, what about people who bought their game consoles for, you know, games – and couldn’t care less about Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, ESPN and the like? What’s in it for them, if anything at all?

Tough questions, huh? So we’ll let you do the heavy lifting on this one: Do you think Microsoft’s decision to rip another rib out of your piggy bank is a fair one? Will you continue subscribing to Xbox Live Gold?

Time for another Old School Monday – this week, Online Reviews Editor Michael Brown takes us back to boot May 1998’s cover story, 3D Cards of Champions:


This article is about 3D graphics cards, circa 1998, but it also shows boot Senior Editor Andrew Sanchez at the height of his editorial powers. No one could have guessed that Andrew would tragically leave this world less than a year after this story hit newsstands.

As for the 3D cards of that era (we didn’t call them videocards back then), 3Dfx was the undisputed king of the market; but since their Voodoo 2 chipset was 3D-only, you had to buy a second card for everything other than games.

Rendition took second place in this roundup, but the innovative company flamed out a year later and was purchased by Micron (where the company’s third-generation product—the V3300—was promptly cancelled). 3Dfx went bust in 2000 and Nvidia (whose Riva 128 didn’t do all that well in this story) picked up the pieces.

Take a look at the feature chart in this story: Most of the cards in the roundup had only 8MB frame buffers, and the maximum supported video resolution was 1,280×1,024 pixels. ATI’s All-in-Wonder Pro took first place in terms of features by virtue of having a strong 2D/3D chip (the 3D Rage Pro) and an excellent TV tuner on the same card. AMD acquired ATI in 2006 and announced today its decision to retire the ATI brand altogether.

Intel hoped its i740 processor would convince graphics-card manufacturers to switch to AGP from the PCI bus. AGP would eventually have its day in the sun, but when it came to the i740, Intel had effectively turned left as the rest of the industry turned right: Game developers began producing games that relied on very large textures. Since the i740 stored textures in system—versus local—memory, as the competition’s 3D accelerators did, the i740 delivered extremely poorly benchmark performance.

Meanwhile, 3DLabs was probably wondering why it even decided to enter this market: The Permedia 2 chipset on the company’s FireGL 1000 Pro card finished last in each of Andrew’s benchmarks. 3DLabs sold its FireGL product line to ATI in 2001, and Creative Labs bought the rest of the company the following year.













Google has been quietly dabbling in streaming movie rentals since the beginning of this year. YouTube’s repertoire of rentable movies continues to grow at a steady pace, but the service commands little attention. That is likely to change in the next few months as big G plans to add streaming movie rentals from major film studios to its catalog, according to a Financial Times report that cites several sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between Google and the movie studios.

The plan is to launch the streaming movie rental service, or more accurately its expanded avatar, in the US first, before offering it to the rest of the world. New titles will be available for streaming at the same time as their Blu-ray and DVD releases, with each movie rental costing $5.

If none of the movies in YouTube’s current catalog impress you, or if you live in a country where the service is currently unavailable, then you could consider scouring its Movies channel, a repository of free streaming movies that recently received a massive shot in the arm through partnerships with movies studios like Lionsgate, MGM and Sony Pictures. The channel now boasts 400 free movies that can be watched from anywhere in the world.

Microsoft’s legal battle against Canadian firm i4i has been a complete disaster from the very outset. Last August, Microsoft was ordered to pay i4i $290 million in damages by a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas after certain versions of Word were found to be  infringing on an XML-related patent held by the Canadian firm. The fine was accompanied by an injunction barring the sale of infringing versions of the popular word processing software.

All subsequent attempts to turn the tide also proved unsuccessful. Now, Microsoft has filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to review the lower court’s decision. This hasn’t come as a huge surprise to i4i, which is confident that it will once again “prevail” over its storied rival.

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