The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is to give every 11-12 year old child in the UK starting Year Seven this upcoming academic year a free micro-computer as part of its ‘Make It Digital’ initiative to improve knowledge on coding from a young age.
The Micro Bit (a knowing nod to the BBC Micro of the 80s) is roughly the size of a credit card (4cm x 5cm) and features 25 programmable red LED’s, two buttons which can be utilized as a controller or to pause and skip songs in a playlist, a built in accelerometer, compass and magnet and Bluetooth compatibility. It is intended that once kids become familiar with the technology that they would then upgrade to a more complex system like the Raspberry Pi. Plans are already in place for a not-for-profit organization to be established to create commercial units from 2016 onwards. Continue reading WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE FOR 29TH JUNE -12TH JULY→
Good afternoon all; and welcome to the world of a post-E3 news update! I’m still bruised from when I flopped around the room following the Final Fantasy VII remake announcement…Apologies once again for a serious lack of output recently, but The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt continues to sap time out of my days with remarkable force. Anyway, the news!
Headline Of The Week
It’s been nigh-on impossible to escape the saga that has been the release of Batman: Arkham Knight this week. The final chapter in Rocksteady’s adventures with the Dark Knight has been one of the most anticipated games of the year, and early signs suggested that it was heading to glory with reviews in the highest echelon from several publications. The release of the PC port however has ensured that the game will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Continue reading WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE FOR 22ND-28TH JUNE→
In a move that is arguably long overdue given the increasing influence video games have had over modern culture, a world first Video Game Hall Of Fame has been set up at The Strong National Museum Of Play in New York. To coincide with this, a first class into the Hall Of Fame has also been selected commemorating games that have displayed longevity, icon-status, expansive geographical reach and influence – the six games which have been inducted are Pong, Pac-Man, Tetris, Super Mario Bros, Doom & World Of Warcraft.
“The games in the inaugural class of The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame span multiple decades, countries of origin, and gaming platforms, but all have significantly affected the video game industry, popular culture, and society in general” – The Strong commenting on its selection
It’s pretty hard to argue with the selection, but at the same time one wonders if Space Invaders or Elite could have made the cut as well. Anyone is free to submit a nomination for a game to enter the next class into the Hall Of Fame, so long as a claim is submitted before March 31st 2016 on The Strong’s website. Continue reading WEEKLY NEWS UPDATES FOR 18TH MAY – 6TH JUNE→
A new project designed as a spiritual successor to the long running Castlevania series, Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night, has proved to be a hit on Kickstarter by raking in nearly $1.3 million in funding within a day (as of writing this article, the figure has risen to $2,223,566!). The game is the brainchild of Koji Igarashi, who in the past has worked as Assistant Producer on Symphony Of The Night and as Producer on several other games in the series.
Among the stretch goals that have been hit for the proposal (which was only looking for $500,000) are local co-operative gameplay, voice work from the legendary David Hayter, Speed & Boss Rush modes and in a first for Kickstarter, the option to receive the game in a physical disc format for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Bloodstained is the second high profile game to receive press attention in recent weeks following Yooka-Laylee, and suggests a mini-renaissance for the crowdfunding initiative which has been largely quiet since Mighty No.9. Continue reading WEEKLY NEWS UPDATES FOR 4TH APRIL – 17TH MAY→
Hello one and all; my sincere apologies once again for a lack of blogging output over the last month or so, but I’ve been kind of busy…buying and moving into a house! What you will find below if some of the choicer stories that made the headlines over the past month.
Headlines For 27th April to 3rd May
If you remember a couple of months back, a group of former Rare employees broke off to create their own studio, Playtonic Games, with the intent to create a spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie. The project was subsequently revealed to be Yooka-Laylee, a colourful platformer featuring a chameleon and it’s bat sidekick in a 3D enviroment packed with good old collectibles.
A Kickstarter campaign was set up to help fund development of the game to the tune of £175,000. They raised that total in less than 45 minutes.
As I write this article now, I’m delighted to say that the figure stands at a whopping £1,480,866 – that amount means that a number of stretch goals were met that will result in the game having a 2-4 player multiplayer mode, an N64 style shader mode and a simultaneous release across PC, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U platforms. While the game is only set to come out in October next year, the incredibly positive feedback towards the project does put a smile across my face – it suggests that the love and enthusiasm for the classic platformer genre isn’t quite dead as feared.
For several decades now, Lego has been THE toy for young children – a simple set of blocks which can ingeniously fit together into structures limited pretty much only by imagination. Video games featuring the Lego brand have been pretty fun (if not repetitive in nature) as well for the last couple of years, and the Danish brickmakers are now set to barge into the highly lucrative toys-to-life genre with Lego Dimensions, developed by TT Games for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Wii U.
The game will support figurines and models from multiple franchises including DC Comics, Back To The Future, TheLord Of The Rings & Lego’s own Ninjago franchise. The base game and a starter pack of characters is currently set to cost £90-100 – if you were to pick up all of the extra packs which have been announced, then that figure rises to an eye-watering £350!
The Skylanders and Disney Infinity titles have been huge earners and much demanded Christmas presents over the past few years as kids empty their parent’s wallets to get the latest figurines, and one would imagine that the brand appeal of Lego will allow Warner Bros to make like absolute bandits on Dimensions. For that price though, I think I’ll stick with the bricks… Continue reading WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE FOR 6TH-12TH APRIL→
As has become a tradition each Easter weekend, Classic FM have been counting down the Top 300 pieces of classical music as voted for by the public in its annual ‘Hall Of Fame’ – and it has once again provided an excellent opportunity for the campaign to get more recognition for classical and orchestrated video game music to have their voices (and music) heard. With the countdown now at an end (SPOILERS – ‘The Lark Ascending’ was voted into top spot for the second year running), I am delighted to report that video game composers enjoyed another year of success.
Before lavishing praise on those soundtracks which made the list, sadly Austin Wintory’s moving score for Journey was unable to match its debut on the 2014 chart, falling out of the Top 300 completely. I would nominate ‘Apotheosis’ as a superb example of why it should be included on the charts.
Halo made its debut on the charts at #244 – now that Marty O’Donnell has left Bungie, one wonders whether Halo 5: Guardians will feature such a memorable score
Double Oscar winner Gustavo Santaoalla’s soundtrack for The Last Of Us was also a new debutant at #193. While I adore the soundtrack though, I find the inclusion of The Last Of Us to be the most contentious video game entry on the chart; the music is more designed for atmosphere than for orchestral/symphonic adaptation
The music of South Korea’s national sport – StarCraft II, composed by Glen Stafford led a zerg rush to #163
Nobuo Uematsu was always going to get on the list (see further below), but in the shape of Blue Dragon he can now claim two entries in the Hall Of Fame – another debutant for 2015 at #118
The final debutant was a long overdue entry – the music of The Legend Of Zelda composed by Koji Kondo, slotting into #84 and earning the prestige of being the highest new entry on the chart. There’s still no place for Mario though, so this is the only entry representing Nintendo’s wares
And so what of the returning old guard?
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning, the first of three works from British composer Grant Kirkhope (who therefore maintains his title as the most prolific video game compose in the Hall Of Fame) managed to rise by sixteen spots to claim #59
As the only MMORPG to make the chart, World Of Warcraft holds a heavy burden and slipped one place to #53 – still a great showing for Russell Brower et al
Kirkhope’s breezy and fun soundtrack for Viva Pinata, which has now been in the last three Hall Of Fame lists, rose 13 spots to #41
With a huge leap of 147 places, Kingdom Hearts is #30 on the chart – a brilliant feat also making composer Yoko Shimomura the highest placed female on a chart dominated by the male composers of the past. The recent release of 5 HD REMIX featured re-orchestrated versions of several tracks, no doubt helping to enhance the appeal of the series
The big surprise entry of last year, Kirkhope’s soundtrack for Banjo-Kazooie made even bigger waves this year; it made it to #13! The game specifically being recognized was the 2008 release, Nuts & Bolts
Having peaked in 5th place in 2013, Jeremy Soule’s superb soundtracks for The Elder Scrolls series dropped a little last year but has regained momentum to earn #11 on the charts. Whereas ‘Dragonborn’ has been used in the past to represent the series, this time the opening theme to The Elder Scrolls Online was played
And so finally, as has been the case for the past four years, Uematsu’s scores for Final Fantasy was the highest placed video game soundtrack on the list. While it was unable to match the heady heights of 2013 when it threatened Beethoven to be voted in 3rd spot (and it is unlikely to do so as the vote has become fractured for several different pieces including the mainstay ‘Aerith’s Theme’ and others such as ‘Dancing Mad’ rather than the series as a whole), remaining in the Top Ten at #9 is still a fantastic achievement. And to top it off, they played ‘Zanarkand’…one of my all time favorite pieces of music
2015’s Hall Of Fame was therefore a case of strength in numbers; a trend which I personally hope will continue and allow more soundtracks to be either played and recognized on Classic FM or at least be featured on the 2016 countdown. What did you make of the charts, and what soundtracks do you think would make great ambassadors for video game music? Let me know in the comments below, and a Happy Easter (or what’s left of it) to you all.
After years of trials and tribulations, the cloud gaming company OnLive is set to die off – oh, the irony in a name…
Services for OnLive will end on April 30th 2015, with all games currently on the service turning free-to-play for all up to that point – which is a nice gesture. No further subscriptions will be charged, and those whose subscriptions were set to be renewed on or after March 20th will receive a full refund. Interestingly, Sony have moved in to buy all of OnLive’s cloud gaming patents which one would imagine will be utilized by the Gaikai service that Sony purchased three years ago for $380 million.
OnLive has struggled to capture gaming hearts since being founded in 2009 – the release of its set top box in the UK in 2011 received little fanfare, and several staff were laid off in August 2012. A new business model was introduced in May last year, but again it barely made a dent on the landscape. As it stands, there has been no streaming device with enough mass appeal to challenge the three main consoles on the market, and with the possible exception of the cheaper Steam Machines, that trend looks set to continue. Continue reading WEEKLY NEWS UPDATES FOR 30TH MARCH – 5TH APRIL→
Afternoon all! The month of March has pretty hectic for me with extended work taking a toll, so apologies for the lack of news publication. Rather than create several smaller articles, I’ve bundled all the major headlines from the industry covering from the 8th-29th March into different sections below
Headlines For 23rd-29th March
The first British national center celebrating the history and culture of videogames has officially opened in Nottingham. The £2.5 million National Videogame Arcade was announced in October last year following the success of the annual Game City festival held in the Midlands, and is located in the creative quarter of the city, Hockley. The centre boats five floors, interactive exhibits and educational space for teaching.
Following a relatively quiet start to the year for the videogame industry, several announcements made at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco have shocked and surprised punters, and suggested what trends the industry may be following in the next two years or so. Of particular interest are the following flashpoints…
Valve have revealed the Source 2 game engine, which will be free for third party developers to use (following in the footsteps of both the Unreal 4 and Unity engines). It comes over a decade since the first Source engine was released, which has been responsible for the likes of Counter Strike: Source, Half Life 2, Left 4 Dead & Portal. Jay Stelly from Valve has suggested that the open availability of game engines will help to ‘continue the PC’s dominance as the premiere content authoring platform’.
In addition to the Source 2 engine, Valve also unveiled the Steam Link – a device which will allow streaming from any PC or Steam Machine at 1080p which will release in November for $49.99 (the same price as the Steam Controller which will release at the same time). A new hardware tab has also been added to Steam detailing the final prices of the Steam Machines, ranging from $499 to $4999. Yep, FIVE GRAND – although you do get the option to have that particular machine with a granite base for absolutely no reason.
Developers will be allowed to create cross-buy & cross-play titles for Windows 10 PC’s and Xbox One when the OS is released in late 2015, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has revealed. Games already confirmed to be using the cross-play functionality include Pinball FX2, #IDARB, Fable Legends and a certain space faring sim that was announced be to coming to Microsoft’s console…
And that game is Elite: Dangerous, which developer Frontier have confirmed will have the ‘same overarching narrative and galaxy state’ across PC, Xbox One and Mac systems. The game will enjoy its console debut on Xbox One, with David Braben later confirming on Twitter that the game will eventually be released on PS4 as well.
Finally, VR gaming took a good chunk of time at the conference as Sony outlined more details about its Morpheus heasdset, which it aims to have in production for general purchase in 2016. The headset now uses an OLED display running at 120fps, a higher rate than that offered by either the Facebook-funded Oculus Rift headset or the HTC/Valve produced Vive headset. Playstation executive Shuhei Yoshida has outlined plans for a software update to the Playstation 4 that will allow it to render games at 120fps as well as calling the current version of the Morpheus (now also boasting a 5.7inch screen and quick release buttons) ‘near final’ – expect it to still cost a small fortune.