Of course they did: Harmonix created the game Guitar Hero for Activision before departing to branch out on their own leaving it to the studio’s other in house teams to make future follow-ups to the title which they beat to death. Given the announcement last week that Rock Band may be coming back (with rumours circulating about old content and peripherals being compatible) it is hardly a shock that Activision are saying Guitar Hero will be making a comeback on the new consoles. No news of any former music migrating with it (given the short life of the DLC support for Guitar Hero as opposed to Harmonix’s long lived DLC store that recently came back from the grave) it’s highly unlikely that they maintain rights and further given some of the rocky relationships Activision have had with licensees they may struggle to get bands on board but time will tell. (Source Engadget)
To alleviate this problem they recently introduced the GTX 970 a throttled GTX 980 advertising 4GB GDDR5 RAM, 64 Render Output units, and 2MB L2 RAM cache. The problem is, this isn’t entirely true, the reality is the card comes with 56 Render Output Unites, 1.75 MB L2 RAM cache and only 3.5MB GDDR5 RAM the remainder being a lower speed memory segment. This becomes a problem for many PC gamers who spend the same amount of money on a single video card (or paired video cards) as they would on a console in the hopes these cards will last them 5 to 10 years at times. The reduced specifications eliminate the future proofing that these cards have making them much shorter term investments especially as 4k titles become more common which is only part of the problem for Nvidia, while this midrange card (arguably the market where there’s the most to be made) may not have as much juice as they hoped. Nvidia have indicated the lower spec only results in a 3% drop in performance which is true but the problem is they continued to advertise the old specifications.
This is where things get rough, if they had been straight with their customers Nvidia would have probably been fine (sure it wouldn’t have been as appealing as some of the other options but when it comes to brand loyalty video card enthusiasts would have probably let it slide). Unfortunately there was a “communication problem” between marketing and the engineers and marketing listed the incorrect specifications which has resulted in a monster thread on the support forums at over 379 pages, a change.org petition at 9,000 signatures demanding a refund and most troubling for the company a class action lawsuit has been filed stating Nvidia “engaged in a scheme to mislead consumers nationwide.” Oooops, it would appear some one’s head will role. Some retailers are already offering refunds in order to distance themselves from the problem.
That said the boys in red over at AMD/ATI have taken this time to offer discounts on its Radeon cards for people returning GTX 970 cards when getting a replacement with the tagline that at AMD “4GB means 4GB”. I think as we used to say back in high school BURN! (Source Ars Techina)
The video game industry needs to learn to proof read: Nvidia is not the only company getting in a bit of trouble for not quite putting the truth on their advertising. Capcom recently re-released an updated version of Resident Evil 2 on Steam including the wording that there will be co-op play when in fact it does not. Thankfuly for them it has not yet resulted in a class action lawsuit (though I’d not be shocked if that happened given our over litigious society) and Capcom quickly apologized for the confusion and explained:
The PC version of Resident Evil Revelations 2 supports a variety of customizable visual settings and resolutions. The decision to prioritize a single local screen was made to ensure a stable user experience across a variety of different PC settings and devices.
Raid mode will support online co-op shortly after launch when a free patch is available for players to download which adds this feature, but the main campaign on PC will only be available to play in single local screen.
Since then due to public response they’ve indicated they are exploring options to bring this to the PC in future. (Source Ars Technica)
This same government unfortunately is reeling from a major policy gaff that resulted in hundreds of companies abusing a Temporary Foreign Worker Program bringing in low skilled workers to fill roles like working at McDonalds or on Oil Rigs for lower wages where Canadian workers were recently laid off or available to take these roles. As a reflexive response to public outrage the government has over compensated making the program much more difficult to use. The problem is for high skill sectors like Universities and Tech industry this has caused a skill shortage (because honestly almost any game dev or professor given an opportunity will leave for pastures where there are more opportunities). Universities recently received an amendment allowing for flexibility on the program and now the video game industry is seeking a similar exemption.
Many have conflated the issue to the layoffs of mid-level IT professionals at the Royal Bank who were replaced with Indian IT staff (literally being forced to train their replacements) or oil workers replaced by cheap Asian labour. The difference is for video games, a very young industry, Canada has only a handful of native developers and simply does not have the talent pool to support the number of studios requiring the import of skilled high salary workers from foreign markets. This is to help build the staff and eventually make a self-sustaining Canadian talent pool. This level of nuance is of course lost on the general public who immediately start braying “they took our jaaawwwbs”. (Source The Globe & Mail)
I’ll believe it when I see it on shelves: Valve have an “interesting” history with hardware, their failed Steambox initiative led to several disgruntled OEM partners like Alienware, their controller has gone through revision after revision and still not made it to market (and at this point looks very similar to an Xbox controller) and their OS while still actively developed is by many accounts very far from prime time (and also hampered by restricted layer access). Well, it seems since Sony is doing it, they’ve decided to bring out their own VR hardware. This week at GDC Valve will have a presentation where they indicate they will speak of not only the SteamOS, finally show the “finished” version of the controller, discuss the Steam Hardware initiative and show their own VR hardware. Given the unpleasant circumstances of former hardware division employees who noted a lack of rigour making it impossible for the company to do what’s needed to mass produce hardware and their two week support timeframe with issues (something I do not want to have to deal with for a hardware vendor) as the title says, I’ll believe it when I see it. (Source PC Gamer)
All hail our new robotic overlords: In the quest for robust artificial intelligence scientists at Google have been experimenting with system architecture based around the structure of the mammalian brain. The team at Google DeepMind set up the network to interact with Atari 2600 games and the only input it gave were the pixel output. Basically they set the AI up like a kid sitting in front of an Atari 2600 with a stick and no instructions. The scary part? It started learning, the system performed at 75% of the level of pro gamers on half the games and in some cases outperformed pros in games like Breakout, Video Pinball, Star Gunner and Crazy Climber! A little bit of relief comes from the fact it kind of sucked at Asteroids, Gravitar, Montezuma’s Revenge and Private Eye. So, to sum up, scientists at google made a self-learning AI that functions like a mammal brain which can kick ass at video games including missile command. Let me speculate what comes next, it gains access to the Google Search Engine, looks up the dredges of 4chan and decides to wipe humanity from the face of the planet. This, my friends, is how Skynet is born. (Source Ars Technica and Gizmag)
Free fun: Lionhead have been working on an interesting new variation on the 4 player co-op team game with Fable Legends. The game would pit four heroes against a “villain” who sets up traps and dispatches monsters to take them down. Fable Legends has been the cornerstone of the cross play initiative between the Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms for Microsoft. Lionhead have released an update on their Fable Legends blog indicating that their goal is to be open, fair and generous. Basically you will be able to complete the entire game and get any in game item without paying a penny. Many “F2P” games make that claim and turn in to grindfests. Only time will tell if this is the case or not. (Source Lionhead Studios)
Seriously Sony: Sony as a corporation have had a lot of marketing and professional missteps over the last couple of years but Sony’s PlayStation division have remained fairly incubated from the big flubs of the rest of the company even with a couple of DoS attacks and some questionable network issues. That is until recently, Sony Japan have had an ongoing contest for people who bought a PS3, PS4, Vita or Vita TV in Japan between December 4th and January 15th. The winner received one of those sexy new 20th Anniversary PlayStation 4s. Unfortunately somehow Sony wiped the entire database of entrant data and now will not say how that happened. Good work Sony Japan, not only screw up your contest but ignite the fires of rampant speculation as to how it happened. (Source VG247)
Rest in peace: This week saw the loss of two people who helped shape our lives one who was quite well known to us and another who operated behind the scenes. Steve Bristow the creator of Tank and Breakout and an engineer who helped shape Atari and their arcade presence passed away at 65. He and his wife designed the two-player mode for Computer Space the first coin-operated video game and worked with Nolan Bushnell and many others following Bushnell to Atari where he made the multi-player versions of Pong, developed Indy 800 and more.
This week also saw the passing of Leonard Nimoy who is best known for his portrayal of Spock in the classic Star Trek. A talented poet, photographer, director and arguably singer he helped many of us recognize the fact that we can be outsiders and not feel quite at home but still love and be loved. Having left us at the age of 83 Leonard Nimoy remained a part of the Star Trek universe appearing in both of the new Star Trek films and will be sadly missed. I end this week with the last tweet that Mr. Nimoy gave us.