Verizon is voted king of the carriers, but AT&T has the best LTE network

Wireless carriers

A survey from Consumer Reports indicates that Verizon Wireless is the top carrier in the U.S. and though AT&T ranked last again, its 4G LTE network was rated highest.

The results are in and Verizon Wireless has been crowned as the highest-rated major carrier in the United States. The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a survey of 62,253 wireless subscribers to find out which carrier was most popular with North America’s user base. Verizon scored favorably in categories such as voice and data service, support, staff knowledge, and resolution of issues.

Competing carriers Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T scored in middle to low ranges in these categories, particularly in the voice and text service field. AT&T placed in last for the third consecutive year.

“Verizon stands out from the pack if you are a heavy-duty data user,” Mike Gikas, Consumer Reports senior electronics editor, said to NBC News. “They’re the Cadillac network. They’re pricey in some respects, but in terms of overall quality of service, they are the overall leader.”

This contributes to J.D. Power and Associates’ findings from its 2012 Wireless Network Quality Performance Study back in August: Verizon consistently outperforms the average wireless carrier and most of its competitors. However, while AT&T came in last place in the text and service category, its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network was rated as the best of all the carriers.

“AT&T has been a basement dweller for several years now,” Gikas also said to NBC. “A lot of people are unhappy with the service, except 4G customers. In fact, when it comes to 4G service, AT&T had the fewest problems of any carrier.”

It’s also important to remember that cell service can vary depending on certain areas of the country. Consumer Reports factored this into its findings as well, reporting that Sprint and Verizon provide essentially the same quality of service in St. Louis, but Sprint falls behind in last place in Chicago.  

It may be safe to say that smartphone users are tied to their technology more than ever in today’s times. Smartphone users set the bar significantly high when it comes to the way their devices perform, Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates, told NBC. “They expect their smartphone to do whatever it’s supposed to do every time,” he said.

In terms of prepaid phones, Consumer Reports rated TracFone as the top competitor. You can read Consumer Reports’ cell phone and service buying guide here.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

It’s about time! Apple’s iPhone rumored to debut on T-Mobile’s network soon

An analyst with Merrill Lynch has hinted that T-Mobile could announce that the iPhone will come to its network in the near future.

T-Mobile is the only major carrier in the U.S. that does not offer Apple’s iPhone. In addition to Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T, nearly one dozen regional carriers also carry the iPhone. However, five years into the iPhone’s life, news has finally surfaced that T-Mobile may begin selling Apple’s smartphone.

According to Merrill Lynch analyst Scott Craig, “speculation is heightening,” that the German-owned carrier will announce a deal with Apple as soon as next week. This notion comes just after T-Mobile USA’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Jim Alling commented on the iPhone just last week, according to Information Week.

“Make no mistake about it: We would love to carry the iPhone. However, we want the economies to be right for us.”

With this comment, Alling could have been hinting that T-Mobile hopes to avoid the money pit Sprint had fallen into in order to be able to offer the iPhone to its customers. Sprint is reportedly paying Apple $20 billion to carry the iPhone, a cost that is said to be impacting the company’s financials. Craig, however, did not offer any specifics about how T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom would strike a deal with Apple to bring the Apple-branded smartphone to its network.

T-Mobile has made some impressive strides to allure users to its iPhone-less network. The company has allowed unlocked iPhones to operate on its network and has even supplies SIM cards to fit iPhone devices. T-Mobile was also the first carrier in North America to begin selling Samsung’s highly anticipated Galaxy Note 2 at the end of October. Samsung’s Galaxy S3, which is considered to be one of the toughest competitors to Apple’s iPhone 5, has become the carrier’s most popular smartphone to date.

Back in August, as retailers were preparing for the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5, an allegedly leaked internal memo from T-Mobile advised employees to sell “against the iPhone” on Sept. 21. More importantly, rumors about the iPhone’s arrival on T-Mobile’s network beg the question as to whether or not the carrier needs Apple’s smartphone. According to Alling, that answer is yes.

“We recognize that it has been a point of churn for us,” he said.

Apple has not commented on the matter, and T-Mobile users will have to wait until next week to see if Craig’s words turn out to be true.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Crytek offers unprecedented support to TimeSplitters mod


In an era where most mods based on existing gaming properties are promptly served cease and desist orders, it's jarring to see Crysis developer Crytek offer an ambitious group of amateur modders an unexpected thumbs up.

In the year 2000, a little-known developer called Free Radical Design released a small, unassuming first-person shooter that would quickly generate a staunch cult following. The game, known as TimeSplitters, married the solid shooter mechanics seen in the Nintendo 64′s classic Goldeneye 007 with a wacky sense of humor and a plot that was so high-concept that it effectively allowed the developers to create new levels and missions using almost any premise to set things up. Thus, while playing TimeSplitters (or one of its two excellent sequels), it’s not all that bizarre to be attacked by a squad of monkeys hurling bricks, or find yourself dueling a cowboy in the middle of the street in a dusty Western ghost town. In short, it’s a crazy, entertaining, engaging series and one of the most inventive first-person shooter experiences you’ll find anywhere.

Unfortunately for TimeSplitters fans, Free Radical fell on hard times when the global economy sputtered out toward the end of 2008. The company was scheduled to enter administration to solve its fiscal woes, but before it could come to that the company was purchased by Crytek (the people behind the Crysis series and any number of gorgeous tech demos you may have seen over the last half-decade) and redubbed “Crytek UK.” This new wing of the company was promptly tasked with working on multiplayer components for the then-in-development Crysis 2, then, once that game shipped, it was tasked with doing the same for the imminent Crysis 3. While Crytek has been relatively mum on the possibility of a new TimeSplitters game from the former Free Radical team, the few times the firm has directly addressed the series, its comments mostly amounted to, “we like the TimeSplitters games and might make one eventually, but for now we’re working on other things.”

So far this story seems pretty typical, right? Business is business and occasionally, in the course of business, a beloved intellectual property is stuffed into a closet in favor of more pressing projects. We’d expect that Crytek could continue churning out Crysis sequels and blissfully ignoring the TimeSplitters fanbase until the end of time, except that a plucky group of fans forced the developer to address the situation and managed to elicit one of the most unexpected reactions a developer could possibly offer in this situation.

Calling themselves the “100,000 Strong for Timesplitters 4,” the group was initially established to convince Crytek to complete work on the now-defunct, far-from-complete TimeSplitters 4. While the collective has thus far been unsuccessful in that quest, it has convinced Crytek to offer its official support to a TimeSplitters modification built on top of Crytek’s impressive CryEngine technology. Have a look at what recently popped up on the group’s Facebook page:

I have just had word from Crytek that they are going to permit and support a TimeSplitters CryEngine mod. I am now looking for modders that can handle the CryEngine. If i manage to get a group together, then they may let us use assets from the original TimeSplitters game! so the idea is to build a TimeSplitters all-in-one. All the levels, all the characters and all the weapons. This is BIG for anyone that wants to get into the gaming industry!

Grammatical issues and overly abundant excitement aside, this unnamed team leader has the right idea: This kind of developer support on a project like this is simply unheard of. Nintendo, the company whose intellectual properties are most often co-opted by amateur modders hoping to make something neat with as little originality as possible, has a routine response for inquiries like this that involves its lawyers sending out harshly worded letters to all necessary parties. Other developers are more supportive of the modding community, some going as far as to release software development kits for free purely so players can alter things as they see fit, but it seems highly unlikely that Epic Games or id Software would ever agree to let fans make a new Unreal or Quake game, especially not one that uses those series’ famous graphics and physics engines.

Not that gaming companies are wrong to protect their IP rights. You know how almost all generic tissues are known as Kleenex? The Kleenex corporation absolutely hates that, but since it didn’t go far enough in protecting the exclusivity of the Kleenex name, it’s now impossible for “Kleenex” to be recognized as solely referring to one specific brand of sanitary paper towels. Given this extreme example, it makes a lot more sense that Nintendo would do everything it could to hunt down anyone attempting to exploit the company’s various famous characters and locations, no?

Moving past that for a moment, we’re left wondering what this implicit permission to create an unofficial TimeSplitters sequel might say about Crytek’s near-term future plans for the series. If Crytek planned to release TimeSplitters 4, say, next year, it seems doubtful that the company would allow any group of creators, even an amateur band of modders, to use the name and concepts most closely linked to the series. That would only serve to shrink the game’s potential player-base (and that’s assuming the mod is a good game — which is a pretty big assumption). While we’re giddy to see Crytek offer this kind of polite support to its fans, we fear that this is simply further notification that a true TimeSplitters sequel won’t appear on store shelves any time soon. Sadly, the irony in this circuitous revelation is not lost on us.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

This tablet stand may kill you in your sleep

Life-Phorm on Andrew Couts face

The $70 Life-Phorm looks like an alien robot invader, but is actually a versatile stand for cameras, phone, tablets, and more.

This could be you! The first time we saw the spider-like Life-Phorm all-in-one positioning device it reminded us of those Facehugger things from Alien. It’s the kind of gadget that looks like it might spring to life while you’re sleeping, scurry across the floor, and go eat a baby. Or maybe it’s a pawn in a larger Decepticon plan to take over the world and get some Energon cube. We don’t know, and we can’t be certain, but in the meantime, it will hold your tablet, smartphone, or camera in a variety of helpful positions!

Alien invader-like qualities aside, the Life-Phorm’s six legs are actually very useful thanks to their multiple joints. The legs themselves have three points of articulation, two that adjust up and down and one that attaches to the base that moves left to right. Out of the box, the joints are just stiff enough to hold in place even with weighty items attached but are still easily movable. You can tighten the joints with a Phillips head screwdriver to make them stiffer still, if that’s what you’re into.

Life-Phorm spider position

Life-Phorm climbing

The plastic at the tip of the legs at on top of them also have a matte feel to keep the Life-Phorm from sliding around on most surfaces. Hooks on the end make it possible to tie them together with a bungee cord or hang them from precarious perches. Additional holes and notches are also present, but appear to have no purpose at the moment. The folks at Lethal Protection, the manufacturer, told us that they’re contemplating future accessories to fit in those places, including a set of wheels. We can only imagine the havoc a sentient Life-Phorm will have with a set of wheels. There goes the planet.

On the front is a grippy base that holds mobile devices, but it takes a few minutes to master and doesn’t make switching devices a quick process. Basically you squeeze the brackets around a device to grip it. There are three parts: two brackets and a screw with a bumper. Fitting the devices in the bracket requires effort if you want a firm grip. Depending on how you put these parts together and adjust them, they’ll fit almost any size smartphone, tablet, eReader, or similar device. The screw is standard tripod size, so any camera that will mount on a tripod is easy to attach here. We fit an iPad, Galaxy Note 2, Nexus 7, LG Mach, Galaxy Camera, and Olympus Pen EPL-2 on it in our testing.

Though the Life-Phorm can hold tablets up to 10 or 11 inches, it doesn’t hold all tablets the same way. Larger ones will only fit in landscape mode while smaller models only fit in portrait. Same goes for phones. Once the device is in you can position it in either orientation, but if it’s large or you don’t have the bracket on tight enough, it may slip out. If the larger bracket was a bit longer, this wouldn’t be a problem.

To attach a camera, leave the bracket off completely and just thread the screw up through the base. This is the least complicated and most effective use of the Life-Phorm and provides an excellent and sturdy holder that’s even more useful than the GorillaPod. The Life-Phorm can hold even hefty DSLR cameras. But if you have a large lens, you may want to wait for the Life-Phorm Pro, coming next year. That model will be more heavy duty and made of aircraft aluminum and carbon fiber instead of high-grade plastic. It should hold up to 22 pounds.

We’d recommend this product as a camera accessory for fans of Tim Burton, but it also makes a good stand for watching movies, hands-free reading, or video chatting. If you’re into hanging a tablet from a horizontal surface, it’s good for that, too. I used it in the kitchen to keep my tablet within view, but out of the way of food particles. Or, if you’re adventurous, wrap the thing around your wrist and go pretend to be Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood or that poor dude from the last Transformers movie.

We can’t wholeheartedly recommend it for tablet/phone use. Locking your tablet or phone into place can be frustrating and we wish it held onto devices better. Then again, there aren’t many products out there that work with such a wide variety of products.

The Life-Phorm is a great accessory for photographers and will make a nice gift to anyone who watches a lot of media on their mobile device. Sure, it may be plotting the downfall of humankind, but at least it will be useful until it turns on you. The Lethal Protection Life-Phorm is available for $70 at all of these stores.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Latest Humble Bundle offers Saints Row, Darksiders, Metro 2033, more

Previously limited to indie games, the Humble Bundle has teamed up with THQ to offer the ailing publisher's games for a price you can't refuse. Using the familiar pay-what-you-want model we've seen during a dozen other promotions, the Humble Bundle is serving up six THQ titles for as little as a dollar, including Darksiders, Metro 2033, Red Faction: Armageddon, Company of Heroes, CoH: Opposing Fronts and CoH: Tales of Valor.

If you're willing to spend a little more and match the average cash submission (currently $5.49), you'll also receive a copy of Saints Row: The Third. Additionally, no matter how much you spend, you'll receive official soundtracks for five of the games (Saints Row, Darksiders, Red Faction and two CoH albums). The Humble Bundle says that's a total value of around $190, which seems high, but Saints Row: The Third alone is $40 on Steam.

It's somewhat of a given, but we should note that the THQ games are only available for Windows users willing to redeem Steam keys, whereas most previous bundles have been cross-platform and available in DRM-free downloads, with Steam being optional. It's probably also worth mentioning that the Humble Bundle has a reputation for adding extra games partway through the event, so you may want to get in before the average price increases. We wouldn't be surprised if some Warhammer titles were added, especially Space Marine.

As usual, you can split your PayPal, Amazon or Google payment between the Humble organizers, THQ and charity (the Electronic Frontier Foundation is notably absent this time around, but Child's Play and the Red Cross are listed). So far, over 165,000 bundles have been sold for a total of nearly $1 million, with the top spender offering $1,000 and many others sending $100 to $600. The event ends in a little under two weeks.

Darksiders pic via Deviantart

Source : techspot[dot]com

iOS vs. Android: will screen size determine top phone system?

iOS vs. Android: will screen size determine top phone system?

Does size matter?

The battle between Apple's iOS and Google's Android for phone operating system dominance has raged for some time, and neither side shows any signs of permanently pulling into the lead.

But a researcher at Kantar Worldpanel told TechRadar that soon, the battleground could become hyper-focused on one deciding factor: screen size.

The research firm announced on Tuesday that iPhone 5 sales had allowed Apple to once again steal the top spot from Android in the U.S.'s volatile smartphone market, though the ranking, based on the latest research, isn't true in overseas markets.

But when TechRadar contacted Kantar Worldpanel to ask whether this battle will rage on forever, the firm's Global Consumer Insight Director Dominic Sunnebo replied with some interesting insights.

A crucial decision for Apple

"One of the key battlegrounds we see coming up in the next 18 months is screen size," Sunnebo told TechRadar in an email.

Sunnebo said that iOS vs. Android arguments between consumers have recently become more and more focused on how big a device's screen is.

Apple fans believe that a smartphone should be small enough to use with one hand, Sunnebo said, while Android users clearly believe the opposite, judging by the success of larger Android devices like Samsung's 4.8-inch Galaxy S3 and 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2.

So will Apple have to go even bigger than the iPhone 5's 4-inch display?

"There is no strong motivation for Apple to move from its current position as sales are strong," Sunnebo said, "but in the future as we near smartphone saturation point in developed markets, and the only way to drive real growth will be to steal customers from Android, this will be a crucial decision Apple will have to make."

He added that Kantar Worldpanel's ComTech research data indicates that consumers are generally unwilling to switch to a device with a smaller screen.

"This could prove a decisive factor in current Android consumers' next purchase (particularly as the gulf between Apple and Android screen sizes widens)," he said.

Apple leads for now, though

Sunnebo told TechRadar that although Apple's new devices typically allow the company to overtake Android for around three periods at time, he expects Apple's current lead to last slightly longer, since "the iPhone 5 is a whole new device."

He added that while Android is more attractive to feature phone users looking to upgrade to their first smartphone, those users tend to switch to iOS for their next device, according to Kantar Worldpanel's research.

Different OSes switch to iOS
Width of bar indicates importance of switch

That may change as the screen gap between iOS and Android devices continues to widen, though, if consumers truly are reticent to switch to devices with smaller displays.

Kantar Worldpanel's ComTech research comes from large proprietary panels of individuals representative of the 16 plus population in multiple countries.

In the U.S. alone, the firm conducts 260,000 interviews with consumers per year. That figure jumps to 2.2 million interviews globally.

Source : techradar[dot]com

iOS vs. Android: will screen size determine the winner?

iOS vs. Android: will screen size determine the winner?

Does size matter?

The battle between Apple's iOS and Google's Android has been raging for some time, and neither side shows any signs of permanently pulling into the lead.

But a researcher at Kantar Worldpanel told TechRadar that soon, the battleground could become hyper-focused on one deciding factor: screen size.

The research firm announced on Tuesday that iPhone 5 sales had allowed Apple to once again steal the top spot from Android in the U.S.'s volatile smartphone market, though the ranking, based on the latest research, isn't true in overseas markets.

But when TechRadar contacted Kantar Worldpanel to ask whether this battle will rage on forever, the firm's Global Consumer Insight Director Dominic Sunnebo replied with some interesting insights.

A crucial decision for Apple

"One of the key battlegrounds we see coming up in the next 18 months is screen size," Sunnebo told TechRadar in an email.

Sunnebo said that iOS vs. Android arguments between consumers have recently become more and more focused on how big a device's screen is.

Apple fans believe that a smartphone should be small enough to use with one hand, Sunnebo said, while Android users clearly believe the opposite, judging by the success of larger Android devices like Samsung's 4.8-inch Galaxy S3 and 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2.

So will Apple have to go even bigger than the iPhone 5's 4-inch display?

"There is no strong motivation for Apple to move from its current position as sales are strong," Sunnebo said, "but in the future as we near smartphone saturation point in developed markets, and the only way to drive real growth will be to steal customers from Android, this will be a crucial decision Apple will have to make."

He added that Kantar Worldpanel's ComTech research data indicates that consumers are generally unwilling to switch to a device with a smaller screen.

"This could prove a decisive factor in current Android consumers' next purchase (particularly as the gulf between Apple and Android screen sizes widens)," he said.

Apple leads for now, though

Sunnebo told TechRadar that although Apple's new devices typically allow the company to overtake Android for around three periods at time, he expects Apple's current lead to last slightly longer, since "the iPhone 5 is a whole new device."

He added that while Android is more attractive to feature phone users looking to upgrade to their first smartphone, those users tend to switch to iOS for their next device, according to Kantar Worldpanel's research.

Different OSes switch to iOS
Width of bar indicates importance of switch

That may change as the screen gap between iOS and Android devices continues to widen, though, if consumers truly are reticent to switch to devices with smaller displays.

Kantar Worldpanel's ComTech research comes from large proprietary panels of individuals representative of the 16 plus population in multiple countries.

In the U.S. alone, the firm conducts 260,000 interviews with consumers per year. That figure jumps to 2.2 million interviews globally.

Source : techradar[dot]com

Commit to non-commitment: Apple may start selling the unlocked iPhone 5 tonight

Apple may begin selling unlocked units of its iPhone 5 tonight through its online store, according to new rumors.

For those looking to buy an iPhone 5 but don’t know which carrier to commit to, today could be your lucky day. Apple may start selling unlocked versions of its iPhone 5 tonight at 9 p.m. PST, 9to5Mac reports. If Apple does start selling these unlocked units tonight, buyers will have to order them online. Apple’s chain of retail locations is projected to start selling the unlocked iPhone 5 soon, but no launch date has been specified at this time. However, some stores have reportedly begun receiving the non-carrier bound iPhone 5 handsets.

The unlocked iPhone 5 is expected to cost $650 for the 16GB version, $750 for the 32GB edition and $850 for the 64GB model. These numbers line up with prices that had leaked on Apple’s official website earlier this month. When searching “iPhone 5 factory unlocked” on Apple’s official page, various editions of the smartphone along with their prices appeared. The page has since been removed from Apple’s website, but if rumors prove to be true it will be returning tonight.

The costs listed above are also consistent with identical unlocked models currently being sold in Canada. Additionally, these price points are similar to what Apple has been charging for unlocked versions of its iPhone 4S.

Factory unlocked smartphones are not tied to any specific carrier. This means that a user can purchase the device up front before inking a contract with any particular network provider. In certain locations, users also have the option of changing carriers as often as they please.

The standard version of Apple’s iPhone 5 officially went on sale in the US on Sept. 21. It was projected to be one of the biggest smartphone launches in history, and soaring sales of the handset have recently pushed iOS to become the top smartphone operating system in the country. Google’s Android mobile software had previously held the honor, but research from market watcher Kantar Worldpanel ComTech now indicates otherwise.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Nintendo president apologizes for lengthy, mandatory Wii U updates

Wii U update

If you recently picked up a Wii U and were instantly soured on the system due to the massive update required on first plugging the device in, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata offers his deepest condolences.

When Nintendo’s latest console first hit store shelves on Sunday, November 18, a small yet vocal group of nascent Wii U owners immediately took to Twitter to decry the machine. Why? Was it a lack of quality launch software? A poorly designed peripheral that escaped media scrutiny prior to the device’s launch? Perhaps the Wii U itself proved unwieldy, like a modern-day retread of the awkward Nintendo 64 controller?

Nope. As anyone who was on Twitter on Sunday morning will attest, the key gripe being discussed and raged against by gamers who’d just picked up a Wii U was the massive download users are forced to undergo before they can use the machine to play games, surf the ‘net or do anything that might count as “entertainment.” As Spike TV’s Geoff Keighly pointed out at the time, the entire update is roughly 5GB in size and as a result it was common to hear gamers complain that the entire patching process took anywhere from four to six hours. Again, that’s four to six hours before these new console owners could use their fancy new machines for any of those machines’ intended purposes.

While Nintendo remains relatively coy on what exactly that update did for the Wii U (or why a new console should need a 5GB patch right out of the box), the company wants you to know that it sympathizes with your pain. In a chat with IGN, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was asked about the update, and while he maintained that it was both necessary and shouldn’t be all that jarring given our modern, Internet-enabled gaming industry, Iwata also offered his condolences for the inconvenience of the process. “Personally I think that users should be able to use all the functions of a console video game machine as soon as they open the box,” Iwata said. “So I feel very sorry for the fact that purchasers of Wii U have to experience a network update which takes such a long time, and that there are the services which were not available at the hardware’s launch.”

It’s certainly nice to see a figure as important and powerful as Satoru Iwata empathize with the common gamer, but more intriugingly, it’s also wildly out of character for not just Iwata, but also Nintendo and a sizable portion of Japan’s traditional businesses as a whole. In the Land of the Rising Sun, it was long thought that a successful businessman should never admit fault, regardless of how obvious or damaging a mistake may have been. The idea was that by never publicly second-guessing one’s self, these businessmen would seem more confident and self-assured, and thus powerful.

Here in 2012 that sort of thinking seems wildly antiquated, but it’s only been in recent years that Nintendo has begun adapting to more modern business tactics. You’ll notice that we never received an apology for the abysmal failure that was the Virtual Boy, and Nintendo never once admitted that sticking with cartridge games for the Nintendo 64 while the rest of the industry purposefully moved toward compact disc-based storage solutions might have been a poor choice. Though this single Iwata comment might not necessarily be indicative of a larger shift in Nintendo’s thinking as a corporate whole, we’ve got our fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, the Wii U has kicked off a new era for the company, in which it’s willing to listen to outsider input and consider what is best for its fans, instead of simply what’s best for Nintendo’s corporate appearance.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Rare hiring new developers for Kinect 2 and Xbox 720 games

Rare Kinect 2

Killer Instinct 3? Kinect Sports 3? Perfect Dark 3? No one knows if Rare is working to make any of its old series into a trilogy, but new job listings at the developer do shed light on its plans for the next Xbox and Kinect.

Rumor and speculation abounds in regards to the next Xbox, but outside of what we know from Microsoft’s leaked 2010 document in regards to the future of the brand, little is known for sure. It’s hard to tell what its future plans are by tracking Microsoft Game Studios developers even. New studio Black Tusk is reportedly working on the company’s next big franchise, but that game is for the Xbox 360. One of its studios is clearly working on the next Xbox, though: Rare Ltd. The Kinect Sports and Banjo Kazooie developer continues to staff up for projects headed to the next Microsoft console, whether it’s called Durango or Xbox 720.

Rare is hiring for three positions. First and foremost is the gameplay engineer position. “In this role, you will be a crucial part of a passionate team of gameplay engineers, working with designers and producers to create stunning, groundbreaking game entity reactions & input interpretations,” reads the job description, “During prototyping you will occasionally be working with extremely early prototype hardware co-developed with teams located off-site.”

The prototype hardware in question is likely not just the next Xbox but the Kinect 2 that’s rumored to go along with it. This is reinforced by the job listing for a principal network services engineer whose primary job will be to “push the boundaries of the Kinect hardware with our exciting new project.” Rounding out the list is a principal physics engineer who requires experiences managing physics-based online gameplay.

This is just the latest round of hiring at the UK-based studio this year. Back in May, Rare started hiring for multiple next-gen projects. These latest job listings suggest projects closer to the family-oriented Kinect games it’s made over the past three years, but the other jobs Rare was looking to fill were for a game closer to what it made during its years with Nintendo.

To wit: The software engineer Rare was hiring in May was “joining at a time when the studio is looking to move into new areas and develop new IPs for future platforms. You will have a successful history of releasing exceptional AAA games and these will ideally be in the Action/Adventure or FPS genre but this is not essential.”

It’s been seven years since Rare made an FPS and nearly five since it made an action/adventure game. Exciting times for the studio’s old fans.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Humble THQ Bundle revealed, includes 7 ‘legendary titles’

Saints Row The Third

Assuming you have at least one dollar and a desire to own a surprisingly large number of relatively recent big-budget THQ titles, the newly-announced Humble THQ Bundle should prove a very enticing proposition.

Over the past few years, the Humble Bundle has become something of a makeshift holiday for gamers on a budget. Though there is no real set schedule on which new Bundles appear, each time a new one crops up fans rush to drop their hard-earned cash on what is almost always an excellently curated collection of lesser known, independently-developed video games. Generally speaking, this is the purpose behind the Bundle: By collecting a varied selection of games and offering the entire thing at “pay what you want” prices, the Humble Bundle has become one of the best ways a new, relatively unknown developer can get their name out into the world.

But what of more established gaming firms? Companies that release games largely considered “triple-A,” that feature marketing budgets many times higher than the entire development budgets seen by most Humble Bundle entries? What could a company like this possibly hope to earn by taking part in the Humble Bundle scheme? In the case of THQ, the answer is simple: The long-beleaguered company has decided to bundle seven of its top games in a single Humble Bundle to raise cash for charity

There’s a video embedded below this text that offers a tongue-in-cheek look at the details behind the Humble THQ Bundle, but in short the bundle collects four complete games (Darksiders, Metro 2033, Red Faction Armageddon and Company of Heroes), two expansion packs (the Tales of Valor and Opposing Fronts expansions for Company of Heroes), and one bonus game (Saints Row The Third) for those willing to spend more than the average user-submitted price for the Bundle. Each of these games is featured in its PC iteration, and on purchasing the Bundle, instead of a physical package, users will be given downloadable Steam codes for each of the Bundle’s included titles. As with all Humble Bundle offerings, the price tag on the Humble THQ Bundle is almost entirely fluid: Players are free to pay whatever they’d like for these games (with a minimum price point of $1), though as we mentioned previously those who opt to spend at least one cent more than the average price paid for this Bundle will also receive the excellent Saints Row The Third in addition to the Bundle’s other six titles.

As great a deal as this seems, the really intriguing part doesn’t come until after you’ve decided to lay down your cash. Once your transaction is effectively complete, the Humble Bundle website will then offer you an option of how your purchase/donation funds should be used. Those of you with deep-seated allegiances to the concept of capitalism might want your cash going directly to THQ, as something of a monetary incentive to continue producing the kinds of games that have made the company a big-name publishing house in the undeniably cut throat gaming business. Those with more altruistic motivations however, may opt to send their cash toward more charitable organizations, such as Child’s Play or the American Red Cross — both of which do excellent work in the field of “making the world a better place.” Based on the options given, there also exists a third type of prospective purchaser who may want their cash going not to charity or the people who made these games in the first place, but instead to the people behind the Humble Bundle scheme. Personally, we’re opting toward the charitable donation, but it’s your money so far be it from us to determine how you’d like to see it spent.

Assuming all of this has piqued your interest, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, the Humble THQ Bundle is only available for a limited time. As of this article’s publication, the timer on the Bundle’s official page shows just a little over 13 days left before the deal vanishes into the ether (which makes it even more impressive that the Bundle has already attracted over 107,000 purchases, totaling over $581,000). Second, if you’re going to be buying this Bundle, you really ought to drop the extra cash to pick up Saints Row The Third. It’s easily the best game on offer here, and while you do have to top the average Humble THQ Bundle purchase price to grab the game, that average currently stands at a measly $5.42 — needless to say, that’s a phenomenal deal for one of the best open-world sandbox games ever created. Finally, it should be pointed out that all games featured in this Bundle were built for the PC. Thus, while you have games like the aforementioned Saints Row The Third that can be found on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the Bundle only features the game’s downloadable PC incarnation. Sorry dedicated console fans.

Assuming all of that is cool by you however, we heartily recommend grabbing your own Humble THQ Bundle. Not because these games are great, nor because the Red Cross could really use your cash, but instead because we like the trend this sets. Big publishers supporting charity by tossing out relatively new titles at obscenely low prices? Whatever the reason, we’re fully on board with that plan.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Redesigned, speedier iTunes 11 now available for download

One month after initially planned and with just a day to spare on its second deadline, Apple has finally released iTunes 11. The newest version of the company’s desktop media player and digital storefront has been redesigned from the ground up with a completely new interface and more iCloud-centric features.

The redesigned client features an “edge-to-edge” design that’s meant to take better advantage of the space on the screen, with new library views and album artwork that bear more than a passing resemblance to the music application for iOS. Cover Flow is gone and in its place is a new expanded view that shows the track listing, as well as a quick link to the iTunes Store for related content without having to leave the player view.

The status bar and left hand bar with Music, Movies, Podcasts and more is also gone from the default view, replaced with a drop down in the top left of the app. You can switch both back on, though. Navigating through your library might take some time getting used to if you’re coming from the previous desktop client, but overall it is a more consistent experience across Apple’s services and devices.

Among the new features is the ability to play purchases directly from iCloud -- they’ll appear right alongside your local content. It’s also possible to start a movie or TV show on any iCloud-enabled device and pick up where it left off on another -- so you can start watching on an Apple TV and finish on the iPad later.

Search functionality has been improved, a recommendations system will suggest songs based on what’s available in your library,  and a new feature called Up Next lets you see which songs are coming up and allows you to re-order them. There’s also a new mini player that’s been stripped off most of the controls.

Perhaps the most welcome improvement has less to do with new features and more with performance. Apple’s iTunes has a reputation for being sluggish and increasingly bloated as Cupertino patched new features onto it over the years. But iTunes 11 feels lightweight despite the ~85-200MB installer and is legitimately fast.

Download: Apple iTunes 11 for Windows 64-bit, Windows 32-bit, or Mac OS X

Source : techspot[dot]com

Microsoft Surface Pro tablet will start at $900 when it comes out in January

Microsoft has finally announced pricing for its new Surface tablets featuring Windows 8 Pro.

It’s been a little over a month since Microsoft graced us with their Windows RT tablet, Microsoft Surface, and Microsoft is now announcing pricing for its bigger brother, the beefier, Windows-8-fueled Surface tablet. Microsoft has stated that pricing for the Surface will start at $900 for the model with 64GB of internal storage, and $1,000 for the 128GB model. Both devices will be featuring Windows 8 Pro, Intel Core i5 processors, and 10.1-inch 1080p HD display.

The Surface tablets, both Windows RT based, and Windows 8 powered, were announced back in June, but it hasn’t been until now that Microsoft has revealed pricing for the more powerful tablet, featuring Windows 8  along with its new Modern UI interface. The tablet has also been given a higher resolution, officially garnering a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution in lieu of a previously rumored 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. The Surface with Windows 8 Pro also features USB 3.0, 4GBof RAM, a DisplayPort with a 2560 x 1440 output resolution, front and rear camera, and weighs about 1.5 pounds.  

The Surface with Windows 8 Pro is in a bit of a magic sweet spot, as its $900 price point, while much greater than the $500 Windows RT Surface price, is not much more expensive than an iPad with similar storage capacity, but also cheaper than Samsung’s ATIV PC with Windows 8, and most Windows 8 Ultrabooks with or without touch connectivity. As a result, this may be the true dream device Microsoft hopes to features to consumers  as the balance between having a lightweight tablet with Windows 8 and not breaking the bank. The Surface with Windows 8 Pro is expected to be released sometime in January, and no pre-order or retailer availability has been announced as of yet.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

DayZ may miss 2012 as Bohemia Interactive crafts the perfect zombie apocalypse

dayz xbxo 360

DayZ creator Dean Hall offers up an update on the furious development of a full version of his zombie apocalypse simulator. Vast changes and improvements to the existing mod may push the game back to 2013.

Zombies certainly got their fair share of action in video games over the course of 2012. The Walking Dead thrilled, Resident Evil 6 spilled, and ZombiU chilled. While there was no shortage of options for the devoted undead fan, DayZ stood above the competition as potentially the most revolutionary and unique game about flesh eating monsters. It’s not even a game per se. As of now, DayZ is still a particularly impressive multiplayer mod developed by Dean Hall for Bohemia Interactive’s military sim ArmA II. The mod proved so popular, though, that Bohemia wanted to make it a full game and release it in time for Christmas. That may not happen according to Hall.

“Due to the success of the development so far, and the interest in the project in general, we decided we want to do things properly,” says Hall in the latest update on the official DayZ site, “ This means we have been very bold with our architectural changes. We are moving to the server-client MMO architecture model. We are making weapons and items ‘entities,’ meaning we can support customization and variables assigned against items.

“This is a massive departure from the previous engine,” Hall continues, “While the graphics may look the same (for now), under the hood so much is being completely rewritten.”

Naturally changing DayZ into its own game rather than an alteration of an existing game and its assets is an involved, complex process. The undertaking may well push DayZ into 2013.

“We are still working towards a target for an initial foundation before the end of the year. But we will slip this date if needed, we will not compromise the project for the short-term gain of meeting this date.”

Hall and Bohemia’s willingness to keep the development process transparent, as well as to miss out on a potentially lucrative shopping season for games, is laudable to say the least. An online multiplayer game of DayZ’s scope needs to work as good as it possibly can before it’s released in order to build the best possible community, and there are only so many lessons it can use from the extended beta test offered by the mod-playing community to build a perfect standalone game.

DayZ should be a success even if it misses its 2012 release date. The mod gained more than 1 million players over its first six months.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Apple finally launches iTunes 11

Already a month late, Apple claims the new iTunes will be launched in November. With only two days left in the month, will we be seeing iTunes 11 today?

Update 2:15 p.m. EST: Yep, it’s here and available to download in the Mac App Store. From what we’re able to gather from our initial use, iTunes 11 is faster, the design is cleaner, and it’s easier to browse music. There’s also a new preview feature that lets you preview content before you buy it, the new mini player (mentioned below), and the iTunes Store now has a uniform design across all devices. Stay tuned as we delve more into the new iTunes.

Original story posted at 12 p.m. EST

During the iPhone 5 announcement back in September, Apple unveiled a plethora of new products. Most of them, like the new iPod touch, iPod nano, and iPhone 5, have been available for quite some time now. However, we’ve yet to see one of the most anticipated products: iTunes 11.

Though the company originally said the new version of iTunes would be available in October, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, told the Wall Street Journal yesterday that it had been delayed because of engineering issues that required the developers at Apple to rebuild parts of the program.

The iTunes page says the updated version is coming in November, and, since there are only two days left in the month, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing iTunes 11 very soon. If you ask the Wall Street Journal, we’ll most likely see it today.

When iTunes 11 failed to launch in October, Apple spokesperson, Tom Neumayr, told AllThingsD that the new iTunes was taking longer than expected. “We wanted to take a little extra time to get it right,” Neumayr said. “We look forward to releasing this new version of iTunes with its dramatically simpler and cleaner interface and seamless integration with iCloud before the end of November.”

After the company’s last major software snafu with Maps, resulting in the termination of Apple’s Maps manager, the company is likely being more cautious about its next big software release. However, there may be another reason for the delay. Talk of a Pandora-like radio service is a foot. But Apple has reportedly faced some difficulties from the music industry over licensing fees, which might be the reason for the delay in the release date.

The iTunes app has changed very little over the past few years. Apple has tried changing iTunes before. Most recently, it introduced a social media feature called Ping, which allowed iTunes users to interact with each other, share music, and follow artists. The project was a complete disaster and was shut down earlier this year.

However, the new version of the iconic music player, iTunes 11, has many of the changes fans were hoping for. Besides being more aesthetically pleasing, the new version will feature an album grid to sort music, which opens a gorgeous drop down menu with all the songs on the album (like an iOS folder). Another welcomed addition is improved iCloud functionality. Now, your iTunes purchases  will be pushed onto your iOS device, and vice versa, keeping your mobile iTunes and the computer version in sync at all times. Lastly, one of the main new additions is an updated mini-player. Right now, the iTunes mini-player is low on functionality and style. In iTunes 11, the mini-player will be able to search for songs, which saves users a lot of time, and also looks amazing.

Whether iTunes 11 will be released today, tomorrow, or next year still remains to be seen, but stay tuned. We’ll be updating you with more iTunes 11 news as it comes in.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Best Samsung Galaxy S3 cases

android s3 cases a samsung galaxy s3

We highlight our favorite Samsung Galaxy S3 cases on the market.

If you’ve taken the plunge and splashed out on a new Galaxy S3 phone then you’re going to want to invest in a decent case. Galaxy S3 cases come in all shapes and sizes. You can get top notch protection to guard against knocks and drops or you can go for a stylish eye-catching design. You can find options to suit any budget. We’ve got them all right here for you to peruse.

Let’s dive in and find the right Samsung Galaxy S3 case for you.

Seidio Convert Combo samsung galaxy s3 caseSeidio Convert Combo ($50)

This combo pack includes the Surface case, which is a pretty standard, sleek case with the usual cutouts. On top of that you get a rugged skin and skeleton which includes covers for the controls, ports and the camera lens. You also get the Convert holster for easily clipping your phone to your belt and protecting the screen. The package is completed by a precision cut screen guard. You won’t find too many Galaxy S3 case options with protection for that lens, and this is a nice adaptable solution for different scenarios.

Cruzerlite Persona Case for Samsung Galaxy S3Cruzerlite Persona Case for Samsung Galaxy S3 ($14.90)

If you’ve never tried a TPU case then it’s about time you did, there’s a good reason so many Galaxy S3 cases are crafted from it. It’s lightweight; it doesn’t scratch; and it feels solid, but it’s also malleable enough to absorb the shock from bumps and peel off the device with ease. This range from Cruzerlite is slim and offers full access to your phone’s functions. They’re also fun, with Android mascot designs in various eye-catching styles.

Cell Nerds Triple Defender Case samsung galaxy s3Cell Nerds Triple Defender Case ($9.50)

You’ll find great value protection with this triple layer case from Cell Nerds. The outer layer of TPU provides some grip then there’s an impact resistant polymer and finally some colored silicone. You’ll find extra cushioning on the corners and the case has standard cutouts for ports and controls. You can get this case in a wide range of two-tone color designs combining the black base with everything from yellow to pink to lime green.

Vaja Agenda Leather Case samsung galaxy s3Vaja Agenda Leather Case ($95)

Here’s a premium leather case that can be customized to suit you. Choose the colors you want for the outer skin and the inner lining. The cover is crafted from two types of leather – there’s a grainy effect on the outside and smoother leather on the inside. The fit is perfect, and the case opens like a book and closes securely thanks to a magnetic closure. Unlike most leather cases, it doesn’t block any access to ports or controls.

iLuv Designer Hardshell Case samsung galaxy s3iLuv Designer Hardshell Case for Galaxy S3 ($35)

You’ll find a range of artistic designs in iLuv’s hardshell case range from Snoopy, to more grown up options like these Pangborn Art Collection designs. The case itself is molded, hard plastic with a laminated design. It’s slim, tough, and durable. These hardshell cases are also smooth, so they work well if you’re slipping your phone in and out of tight jeans.

Ballistic SG Maxx Case samsung galaxy s3

Ballistic SG Maxx Case for Samsung Galaxy S3 ($50)

If you want tough protection then the four layers provided by the Ballistic Maxx should give you some peace of mind. There’s a molded screen protector, a shock absorbent polymer, a polycarbonate shell, and a soft, silicone layer with reinforced corners. To round off, it has a durable holster attachment. It comes in a range of two-tone colors and it does add bulk, but it also offers serious protection from falls.

Rock Quicksand Composite Poly carbonate Shell Case samsung galaxy s3ROCK Quicksand Case for Galaxy S3 ($19.10)

The distinctive Quicksand case from Rock is pretty stylish. It’s a polycarbonate (durable) shell with a sand-like finish that offers grip and won’t age easily. It’s tough, thin, and lightweight with all the usual cutouts you’d expect to find. It comes in a range of colors and sits flush with the screen, so it doesn’t compromise the look of the S3.

Cimo S Line Back Flexible Cover TPU samsung galaxy s3 caseCimo S-Line Back Flexible Cover TPU Case for Samsung Galaxy S3 ($8.93)

One of the main advantages of TPU is that it is soft and malleable so this case is easy to fit and it is shock absorbent. The edges are raised slightly to protect the screen and the case does provide some grip which prevents slips. The cutouts give you access to the ports you need and it’s nice and slim. It is cheap (in fact if you shop around you’ll probably get it cheaper than the direct price quoted above) so the quality isn’t amazing, but it offers good value for money.

OtterBox Commuter Case ($35)

otterbox commuter case samsung galaxy s3OtterBox cases are some of the strongest on the market. Great quality from a name you can trust, this Commuter Series case from OtterBox offers dual layer protection. The inner silicone absorbs impacts and the outer polycarbonate bears the brunt of any bumps or falls. Silicone plugs protect your phone’s ports and there’s an adhesive screen protector to guard against scratches. The device can be used without any need to remove the case. This case strikes a good balance, protecting your phone without adding too much bulk. If you need something stronger check out the Defender Series.

diztronic samsung galaxy s3 caseDiztronic TPU Case ($9.90)

There is no need to spend big if you want basic protection with a slim form factor. You can choose from a variety of colors to suit your phone and these Diztronic TPU cases are flexible and durable. The cases have all the necessary cutouts and each one comes with a screen protector.

elago leather samsung galaxy s3 caseElago G5 Leather Flip Case ($35)

Leather is a good, durable material and it feels comfortable to hold. This case fits the S3 like a glove and it can be opened and closed like a book. All the features and ports are accessible and the front panel protects the gorgeous screen when you put the device in your pocket or in a bag.

acase superleggra samsung galaxy s3 caseAcase Superleggera PRO Dual Layer Protection ($15)

Like the OtterBox Commuter series, the Acase Superleggera PRO offers dual layer protection, but at a much cheaper price point. There is an inner silicone sleeve that fits the phone perfectly and a snap-on outer case made of hard polycarbonate. You’ve got access to all ports and controls so you never need to remove it. The case is also fingerprint and dust resistant. It comes in a nice range of colors with the black inner case creating a nice two-tone effect.

iskin aura samsung galaxy s3 caseiSkin aura ($40)

If you want something stylish above all else then the iSkin aura is worth considering. The rubber-coated polycarbonate is tough and fits the phone snugly. The back of the case features a two-tone aluminum panel that matches the S3 design. It snaps on and provides cutouts for access to phone features and ports. There’s also a little loop for attachments and a screen protector.

fabshell spec samsung galaxy s3Speck FabShell ($35)

This is a single piece case that combines a hard plastic shell with a rubberized bezel and button covers and patterned fabric on the back. The case offers good shock absorption and protection from knocks. The fabric back makes it comfortable to hold and provides a splash of style. If you prefer a plain color then check out the Speck CandyShell range.

incipio samsung galaxy s3 caseIncipio Silicrylic DualPro Hard Shell Case with Silicone Core ($30)

A polycarbonate outer shell and a silicone core is a popular combo and Incipio employs it to great effect with this case. It is a snug fit, gives you all the access you need, and looks really stylish with that distinctive camera cutout and two-tone color effect. It also comes with a screen protector.

spigen neohybrid samsung galaxy s3 caseSpigen Neo Hybrid Color Series Case ($27)

This Spigen case comes in an unusual variety of two-tone color combinations. It’s another case with the dual layer approach. You’ve got a TPU back cover with a polycarbonate frame. It also comes with a screen protector and it offers the usual access to buttons and ports so you don’t ever really have to remove it.

barely there custom samsung galaxy s3 caseDesign Your Own Case Mate Barely There Case ($35)

What could be more of a personal statement than a case with your own design on it? The basic Barely There case from Case Mate is a popular option for a simple, one piece, lightweight case. For an extra ten bucks you can upload your own photograph or piece of artwork and have it printed on the case.

Aduro Shell Holster samsung galaxy s3 caseAduro Shell Holster Combo Case with Kick-Stand ($17)

With a screen as gorgeous as the one on the Galaxy S3 you will want to watch movies or TV shows from time to time, and that’s when a case with a kick-stand can be very useful. This case is a shell holster with a rubberized back cover for easy grip. The holster clip swivels and locks and you can remove the phone easily from the holster but keep it in the case. The kick stand on the back works in portrait or landscape mode. The holster does add a fair bit of bulk. This case is currently discounted on Amazon.

Have you been using another case for your Samsung Galaxy S3? If you want to recommend one, or let us know how you got on with one of our suggestions above, then please post a comment.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Tank! Tank! Tank! (Wii U) review: So very many tanks…

Tank! Tank! Tank! is charming yet simple, the sort of party game that offers mindless shooty-shooty fun and little beyond that.

Tank! Tank! Tank! Just say that out loud a few times. It’s fun, right? Unfortunately, the fun of shouting “Tank!” over and over again at the top of your lungs wears down almost as quickly as your interest in playing this Wii U launch title, ported over from its arcade release by an internal dev team at Namco Bandai. I can’t help but appreciate the simple charm of steering your assortment of colorful, improbably designed tanks around the cartoon devastation of a non-specific cityscape. It’s probably a bit of nostalgia talking there, hearkening back to the first time I blew up an opponent in Combat on my old Atari 2600. Unfortunately, while Tank! x3 nails the primal joy of a quick-hit arcade experience, it doesn’t quite manage to deliver in its souped-up console debut.

Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!

Fundamentally, Tank! Tank! Tank! is all about shooting alien(?) invaders of various shapes and sizes with an assortment of tank(! tank! tank!) shells. An assault rifle-like vulcan cannon, missile launcher, or laser sometimes pops into the mix as well, but the fundamentals remain the same: shoot everything that isn’t you. That “everything” normally consists of something giant-sized, whether it’s a bug, a kraken, or an animate skyscraper-robot-thing. There’s no tutorial to speak of, but the proceedings are simple and rely heavily enough on conventional arcade trappings like health bars and pick-ups that it doesn’t really matter. Play for five minutes and you’ll have digested the full scope of what Tank! Tank! Tank! is trying to pull off.

Tank! Tank! Tank!

There’s more than five minutes worth of game, of course. A full-blown campaign sees you tackling levels in which you’re tasked with either exploding X number of invaders or exploding one, giant invader. Unfortunately, this healthy offering of levels never really diverges from the core philosophy of “shoot everything in sight,” nor does that philosophy evolve in any significant way. You’ll earn medals as you progress based on your performance in each level, which in turn unlocks new tanks(! tanks! tanks!). Individual tanks(! tanks! tanks!) will level up as well when you use them. There’s just, most unfortunately, not enough of a hook to keep things enthralling all the way through. Especially since the mission progression eventually requires you to replay earlier levels in order to advance (unless you did really well in your initial runthroughs). Sure, you can level up, unlock new stuff to play with, and aim to see all the missions. But why would you want to when you’re just playing the same basic thing on repeat, over and over again?

The biggest sin that Tank! Tank! Tank! commits is it somehow manages to fumble on making you feel like you’re actually driving a tank(! tank! tank!). These military monstrosities are pretty simple and well-known to most of the world. An armored, treaded vehicle topped by a rotating turret fitted with some kind of powerful cannon. In the real world, tank(! tank! tank!) operators have the advantage of being able to move in one direction and shoot in another. You quickly learn that the tanks(! tanks! tanks!) of Tank! Tank! Tank! can’t do that though, for whatever reason.

Sitting alongside the campaign is a multiplayer, and it’s here that I should say: whether you’re playing campaign or versus, multiple player is the way to go. Tank! Tank! Tank! makes no secret of the fact that it’s a party game, and it’s best enjoyed in groups. The delightful use of the Wii U GamePad’s camera to create a cartoon helmet-wearing avatar of yourself, which appears on-screen at all times to show which tank(! tank! tank!) is yours, never really gets old. Especially when you use your dog’s face for your avatar. True story.

Online and local multiplayer modes offer a healthy selection of cooperative and competitive alternatives to the campaign. There’s free-for-all along with a variety of team-based objective modes. The best one, by far, is My Kong. One player takes control of a robotic King Kong-like boss with the face filled in by a Wii U GamePad photo. Three other players operate tanks(! tanks! tanks!) as they try to take the YouKong down. You look at the GamePad screen to control your Kong and use a variety of attacks — including a finisher that (no joke) involves firing a laser out of your ass — to decimate the opposition. It’s a real bright spot in an otherwise mediocre arcade port, but it serves to highlight just how much more fun the game is at parties.

Conclusion! Conclusion! Conclusion!

Tank! Tank! Tank! isn’t a terrible game, but it is an extremely simple one that loses its appeal almost immediately when not played with a group. It’s absolutely charming and admittedly earns some bonus points for its killer title, but ultimately it feels like it would be better served with a lower price point and perhaps an eShop release. It’s a tough game to recommend in its current form though, unless you happen to be on the hunt for a mindless party game that embraces competition through simple shooting mechanics.

Score: 6.5 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the Wii U using a copy provided by the publisher)

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

LG Nexus 4 Experiencing Cracking Problems Due to Glass Backing

LG Nexus 4

The LG Nexus 4 is certainly a gorgeous looking handset, and it doesn’t hurt that it also has excellent specs alongside a killer price tag. Unfortunately, gorgeous doesn’t always translate into durable. For the iPhone 5 its beautiful casing resulted in scuffs and dents. For the LG Nexus 4 it results in the back of the case potentially cracking.

The culprit is the back of the case, which is blanketed in glass. The back is supposed to be more durable than regular glass thanks to Corning Gorilla 2 protection, but with reports coming in of cracked backs, this just doesn’t seem to be the case. This isn’t a freak incident either, it has happened to several tech journalists and many everyday LG Nexus 4 owners as well. The same problem is said to occur with the LG Optimus G.

It seems that we have reached a point where smartphones focus on beauty first and durability second. Ironic, because consumers end up shoving this vulnerable handsets into protective cases where no one can see the work-of-art styling.

Could a fix arrive down the road? For new owners, maybe. For existing stock, I don’t see what can really be done other than for Google to maybe offer free protective cases or something. Have you had any problems with the glass back on your LG Nexus 4, or is the media simply blowing this out of portion? Let us know what you think.

Source : mobilemag[dot]com

VLC launches Kickstarter campaign for Windows 8 app

The team behind the popular open-source media player VLC has announced plans to develop a native app for Windows 8’s  Metro UI, and they’re looking to crowdsource funds for the project through Kickstarter. According to the team, although they currently receive donations through the VideoLAN association (a French non-profit) to purchase test devices and pay for servers, the Kickstarter money will allow them to work on the new port full-time while hiring professional designers to rework the user interface for Metro.

The goal for the project is set at £40,000, with £1,350 pledged so far and 29 days to go. According to the project description, an initial release should be ready within three months after finishing the fundraiser, with support for Windows RT devices powered by ARM processors planned for a subsequent release.

The Windows 8 app will support all the functionality of the existing desktop client, including the ability to playback a host of file formats and network streams, support for DVDs and VCDs out-of-the box as well as unencrypted Blu-Rays, a full fledged equalizer, video filters and support for subtitles.

There’s one major caveat, however. Apparently the client will require a significant number of forbidden API calls, so in theory VLC for Windows 8 might not even be allowed in the Windows Store. The developers think they might be able to find a way to work with Microsoft’s guidelines. If not, there’s the possibility of side loading.

Source : techspot[dot]com

New studio Black Tusk making Microsoft’s “next big entertainment franchise”

Microsoft, having wound down its internal game development operations in recent years, is ramping back up. New studio Black Tusk in Vancouver has been tasked with making the company's next Halo-level franchise.

 black tusk

Microsoft taketh away and Microsoft giveth, apparently in that order here in the final days of 2012. Last July, Microsoft went on a restructuring campaign of its game development studios, going so far as to completely lay off all staff in Vancouver, British Columbia, the studio where the company’s famous Flight Simulator series was developed. Microsoft didn’t abandon the city’s development community entirely, though. It’s opened an all new Vancouver studio called Black Tusk that says it’s working on the next major game franchise for Microsoft Game Studios. The big surprise: It’s for Xbox 360.

Speaking with the Vancouver Sun, Black Tusk studio manager Mike Crump described the studio’s goals now that Microsoft’s spun it out into a full studio. What started with just five staff members has ballooned to 55 and the group is actively hiring.

“We have been officially green-lit by Microsoft executives to go ahead with the project that we’re on,” said Crump, “That’s the way game development works—It’s just like making a movie, you go through pitching and concepting and then at some point you have a very large meeting with the executive team and present your full pitch with the business plan and get the green light so that’s happened for us.”

“What that means is we are working on Microsoft’s next big entertainment franchise. We’re not working on an existing franchise, we’re looking to build the next Halo here in Vancouver, which is really exciting. We are building something from the ground up.”

Microsoft has backed away from developing new intellectual properties for its gaming business in recent years. While the early days of the Xbox 360 saw Microsoft Game Studios pushing a number of core gaming series like Crackdown, Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: The Elements of Power, and even multiplayer shooters like Shadowrun, its internal development has shrunken dramatically focusing on small downloadable titles and Kinect games.

More shocking still is that Black Tusk says it’s focusing on the Xbox 360, not the expected Xbox 720, or Durango, that will release some time in 2013 or 2014. Crump’s experience to date has been with that hardware. His career began on titles like Need for Speed: ProStreet at Electronic Arts before joining Microsoft in 2010. If Microsoft’s next big franchise is starting as an Xbox 360 game, though, what does that mean about the company’s plans for the future? Will the rumored, budge-price Xbox TV set top box just use 360 hardware? Black Tusk is a studio to watch.

Source : digitaltrends[dot]com

Microsoft Security Essentials bombs tests, loses AV-Test certificate

Microsoft Security Essentials was the only entry to fail AV-Test's certification between September and October -- an embarrasing slip for the once well-regarded virus protection solution. MSSE received a total of 10.5 out of 18 possible points, most notably falling short in zero-day malware attacks. As a point of reference, 11 points are required to receive certification. The fallen AV only received 1.5 out of 6.0 for system protection, but fared better when it came to repairing infections and usability: 3.5 and 5.5 out of 6.0, respectively.

Thankfully, other free alternatives performed better: Avast (14 points) edged out AVG (12.5 points) and Avira (12 points), receiving above-average marks all-around. Meanwhile, Bitdefender topped payware offerings, netting an almost perfect score of 17 points.

If you're somehow not familiar with it, MSSE is Microsoft's nag-free, no-cost anti-virus solution for Windows XP, Vista and 7 owners. Although Windows 8 users can't install MSSE, the utility essentially comes integrated into the OS -- it's simply disguised as "Windows Defender". 

AV-Test is an independent German organization who, amongst other things, rates anti-virus utilities based on various metrics about every two months. AV-Test's certification is by no means an industry requirement, but their test results have served as a standardized way to benchmark anti-virus programs for years.

Similarly, AV Comparatives is another firm who offers their own, indepedent anti-virus grading service. After recalling MSSE scoring very high marks with AV Comparatives back in 2009, I checked out the site's latest tests to get a second opinion. Curiously though, MSSE has been missing from tests at AV Comparatives since 2010. Looks like we'll have to take AV-Test's word on this one.

Source : techspot[dot]com

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