Angry Birds 2 receives a substantial content update, with new levels and piggies

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The seasons are a-changing, and Rovio’s way of acknowledging falling leaves and the return is the PSL is by throwing Angry Birds 2 a bunch of new content. The forefront of this sizable update is two new chapters, which each bear 40 new levels and 6 boss pigs to sling-shot your way through. The chapters aren’t Fall-themed like one might expect. Rather, they’re a ode to the sunny days leaving us: a hot and humid jungle called Hamazones and the beachy Copacabacon.

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You’ll also get a couple new (and pesky) piggy foes along the way. One of them, known is the Beamer Pig, is equipped with a gravity altering beam gun that can frustratingly throw your bird off course. The second new enemy is actually three, on top of each other. Aka, the Pig Tower, a trio of balancing pigs will stop your bird in its place if caught in the wrong angle.

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Rovio is also adding onto the daily challenges, and upping the game. A new challenge mode called King Pig Panic will unlock upon completing a daily challenge, comprised of five stages. It’s not for the faint of heart, as you’ll be on a 30 minute time limit to complete them all. There’s no do-overs if you fail, you’ll just have to do better the next day.

Lastly, if you’re into dressing up your birds with fashionable hats and multiplying your damage points, Rovio threw in three new collections: Back-to-School, Beach, and Pirate. The update is out now, which you can grab in the link below, so get crackin’.

Why Gaming companies are signing deals with celebrities

New study suggests that girls can be motivated to explore programming and create rich gameplay experiences by building on their skills in literacy and storytelling.A growing number of gaming companies are eyeing celebrity partnerships as a smart customer-acquisition strategy, eliminating the need for spending on excessive marketing. Their focus is on creating strong IP’s and gameplay.

Mumbai-based mobile gaming company Nazara Games recently inked a multi-year partnership deal with Bollywood celebrity Hrithik Roshan, with plans of spending up to $100,000 (Rs 68 lakh) to create each game, aiming to see five million monthly active users on the game.

“Gaming partnerships with celebrities doesn’t always pay off, the objectives need to be clear, out of 10 games released, only one may survive in the long run and be profitable,” said Manish Agrawal, CEO of Nazara Games. “Being in nascent stages in India, a winner in this category is yet to be seen.”

Gaming company founders cite American reality star and socialite Kim Kardashian’s game as a success due to the IP being strong as well as celebrity engagement being high. However, American musician Katy Perry’s game ended up being a failure.

“In order for the game to succeed, it’s essential for the celebrity to be invested in the digital medium and have gamification qualities.

Indian celebrities aren’t involved with the end user,” said Alok Kejriwal, founder of Games2win.

Games2win steers away from partnerships with Bollywood or Indian cricket celebrities, preferring to opt for international Youtube celebrities, musicians or the like. The company claims to have seen Rs 25 lakh in revenue during the first two weeks of launching Miranda Sings game on the Playstore.

It aims to see Rs 1 crore in revenue during the 2016-17 financial year. “Youtube star Miranda Sings or Tyga, such partnerships work out because they are constantly interacting with the end user. Indian celebrities on the other hand are likely to lose interest a short period after the launch of the game,” adds Kejriwal.

According to Nazara’s Agrawal and Rohith Bhat, founder of 99Games, the problem lies in the fact that Indian smartphone gamers are not ready to pay for virtual products and it will take time for the market to mature.

“It’s difficult to predict the kind of revenue that could come in, but I think in the next 6-7 years, some of these celebrity-partnered games that have a strong IP and gameplay might make over $50 million or even close to $100 million,” adds Agrawal.
When Nazara Games launched a game with cricket celebrity Virat Kohli, within the first three weeks, they claimed to have seen over a 1 million downloads, indicative of high consumer sampling levels.
Another recent partnership involves 99Games and Yash Raj Films multi-year deal to launch their product, ‘FAN: The Game’, featuring Bollywood celebrity Shahrukh Khan. Bhat estimates that they will see 20 million downloads and 3 billion minutes of gameplay within three months of the game’s launch in April.
The company eyes more celebrity gaming partnerships in the future. “In the long run, five years ahead, celebrity gaming partnerships will at least have a 5-10% market share of the $3-billion gaming industry in India,” adds Bhat.

Sony may be planning to launch VR Glove for PlayStation 5

Sony Computer Entertainment has reportedly filed a patent for a glove that can interact with objects in virtual reality world. Sony Computer Entertainment has reportedly filed a patent for a glove that can interact with objects in virtual reality world.
Seems Sony is planning to give gamers an altogether different experience of virtual reality. Sony Computer Entertainment has reportedly filed a patent for a glove that can interact with objects in virtual reality world.

Spotted first by NeoGaf user Rosti, the patent suggests that the Japanese company may be looking at a new way to interact with PlayStation. Media reports suggests that the glove would be able to track position of gamers’ fingers. This means that gamers may be able to see what their hands are doing in real-time within VR.

According to a report in Stuff.tv, “It could also detect pressure and wrist movement, and include rumble feedback to create a sense of touch to go with the visuals.”

Sony is scheduled to host a PlayStation VR event on March 15. The company has sent out invites for a press conference focused on the virtual reality headset. The invite-only event is part of the Games Developers Conference.

Virtual reality (VR) is expected to become a $1 billion global business. HTC’s Vive VR headset was one of the key highlights of this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. Vive recently went on pre-order at a cost of $799 per unit.
South Korean tech giants Samsung Electronics and LG recently unveiled new smartphones with better cameras and turned to virtual reality to boost interest in their headsets at a time of slowing sales.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance at the Samsung press conference to announce a partnership with the South Korean firm to promote the use of virtual reality on the social network.

Amazon Opens Lumberyard to Game Devs

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Amazon on Tuesday announced that it has widened its footprint in the game industry, complementing its development studio with the Lumberyard 3D game engine.

Based on core components of Crytek’s CryEngine, Lumberyard will support development for PCs and consoles (Xbox One and PlayStation 4). Amazon plans to add support for mobile devices and virtual reality gear soon.

The game engine, which is available in a beta build, is free of charge, and there is neither a subscription fee nor revenue-sharing model to bar entry to small development teams.

Lumberyard also will grant developers access to its source code and allow them to redistribute it to modders. However, Amazon is reserving its rights to Lumberyard’s core, so it isn’t open source.

The Worksite

Amazon has been active at this worksite for years. That movement included abillion-dollar buyout of video game streaming service Twitch, the formation of Amazon Game Studios, and a reported US$50 million to $70 million to the troubled Crytek in exchange for licensing rights to its CryEngine technology.

There’s also Amazon Web Services, which spokesperson Rena Lunak said has been serving some of the world’s biggest games and studios for years.

“When we talked to these customers, they asked for a powerful game engine that is inexpensive, helps them connect their games to the AWS cloud and to a large and growing community of broadcasters and fans on Twitch,” she told TechNewsWorld. “With Lumberyard, this is what we did. Cloud and community are important aspects of making games.”

To help developers tap into AWS, which is optional, Amazon launched GameLift alongside Lumberyard. GameLift will facilitate the deployment of servers across AWS for multiplayer play.

Amazon is charging its standard fees for AWS and is offering GameLift by the seat, which is priced at $1.50 per every 1,000 active daily users.

“With Amazon Lumberyard, we aim to help developers spend more and more of their time creating differentiated gameplay and building communities of fans, and less time on the undifferentiated heavy lifting of building game engine components and managing server infrastructure,” Lunak said.

Workers Wanted

With more support inbound, Lumberyard could rival go-to game engine Unity, said Christine Arrington, senior analyst of games at IHS. With Amazon’s industry-leading AWS at the back end, Lumberyard could be “extremely attractive to new developers.”

For developers, Amazon’s top two objectives for Lumberyard appear to be making it easy for them to integrate AWS and just as easy for them to optimize games for e-sports through Twitch.

“This makes two of Amazon’s services indispensable to games developed on Lumberyard,” Arrington said. “It also allows Amazon to monetize its game engine in ways that other engine makers cannot.”

For Amazon’s part, it gets an in-house engine, she noted. That’s typical for developers and technology companies.

“Everyone from EA with its Frostbite engine to Rock Star with RAGE seem to have their own proprietary engine,” Arrington said. “Many developers see it as a competitive advantage. So having an in-house engine for any games that Amazon develops serves that function.”

As far as its impact on the industry, Lumberyard may make bigger waves in the e-sports sector than the broader game industry, she noted.

“Many developers are already using Amazon Web Services, and that part simply makes using those services more streamlined,” said Arrington. “If Amazon can attract more developers to its services and bring new titles in to e-sports, the competition gets tougher for other publishers trying to expand the spectator market.”

Gadget Ogling: Gaming Revivals, Clever Cameras, and Smartphones for All

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Hello, friends, and welcome to another edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, your guide through the mists of the gadget announcement universe to the clearing where the best stand out a little more clearly.

On the other side of the haze this week are a handheld retro gaming system, a home monitoring camera with style, a 3D printer for action figures, and what may be the least expensive smartphone yet.

As ever, these are not reviews — they’re first-look observations about each item. The ratings denote only how much I’d like to test each with my own two hands.

Across the Spectrum

Sir Clive Sinclair helped popularize video games as a viable home entertainment option with the ZX Spectrum. After reviving the brand a little over a year ago with the introduction of the Vega microcontroller, which plugs into televisions, Sinclair and Retro Computers now have launched a handheld version, the Vega+.

The Vega+ design is aligned with other current handheld consoles, with a directional pad on the left and a quartet of action buttons on the right. Three secondary action buttons are positioned below them. It’s not quite the same as using a keyboard to play, but seven action buttons might make up a touch for the lack of full QWERTY flexibility.

I’ve been playing games as long as I can remember. The Spectrum was a little before my time — I was aligned more with the Commodore 64 and the Super Nintendo. So, having the opportunity to play hundreds of games I missed out on without having to resort to downloading pirated versions absolutely interests me.

It can connect to a TV for big-screen gaming, and it has 1,000 licensed games preloaded, with an SD card slot for gamers to add their own favorites.

That it’s a handheld system is even better. What better to do on the beach this summer than play 30-year-old games?

Home Senses

Sense is a home-monitoring camera that can take complete charge of the connected devices in your home. It can recognize multiple faces and carry out custom actions for each person, and it can alert you when it thinks a stranger is in your home.

It’s not as noticeable as most other home cameras, meaning intruders will have no idea you’re watching them. It even has night vision so you can see what’s happening in the dark.

Sense looks elegant, and it’s intelligent about how it controls your devices. It not only will adjust the lighting, thermostat, television and music playing, but also detect when you’ve dropped something, and send out your robot vacuum cleaner to take care of the mess.

It includes voice recognition, so you might ask it to change the current playlist. Sense also has an open source platform, so you might like to create an app that carries out completely custom actions, such as switching on the lights, television, and radiators when it recognizes you within a certain time frame — e.g., when you’re returning home. You may not wish for all that when you’ve just awakened.

We’re getting closer to finding a way of unifying all the disparate operating systems and protocols of connected devices in the home. Sense looks like a strong option for controlling our products with a single device that offers both simplicity and power.

Figure It Out

A 3D printer is taking the idea of Mattel’s ThingMaker — which lets children make their own rubbery toys in an oven — to a new level. Also called “ThingMaker,” this printer lets kids young and old create their very own action figures and other toys.

Would-be designers can use an app to create the figures of their dreams, with a ball-and-socket system making it easy to swap components in and out. Colors are customizable as well, and Mattel plans to make available components related to its major brands such as Barbie and Hot Wheels.

Mattel ThingMaker 3D Printer and ThingMaker Design App Eco-System

The ThingMaker’s door stays locked while it’s printing, and the print head retracts when it’s finished, so as to avoid burns.

I’m excited for this, and not only because I’ve always wanted to make my own action figures. It should help the adults of the future gain a stronger understanding of design and technology, opening their minds to creative career paths they might not have considered otherwise.

ThingMaker looks like it has a shot at finally catapulting 3D printing into the mainstream. A lot of people need a better entry point to the world of making, and ThingMaker’s strong interface, ease of use, and clear purpose could give it a fighting chance at achieving success beyond toy making.

Cheap Connections

With a similar design to the iPhone 4, there’s nothing terribly innovative about the Android-powered Freedom 251. The clue’s in the name, though, as the device costs 251 rupees. That’s around US$3.70.

With 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, a quad-core processor, 3G connectivity, a 4-inch screen, and front and back cameras, the specifications are hardly terrible.

I wonder exactly how its maker is able to meet that price point, if at all.

Still, the possibility that it could deliver smartphones rather than feature phones into the hands of a larger number of extremely low-income people is a welcome prospect.

I’d like to try one to see if functions decently. If so, it might prove a useful, very low-cost backup device.

Superhot Warps Time

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Three years of thought went into the think-between-steps shooter gameSuperhot, which was released Thursday.

Born of a week-long first-person-shooter game jam, Superhot’s concept caught the attention of the Kickstarter crowd, raising US$250,000.

The indie title is available on Windows, Linux and OS X. It will arrive on Xbox One next month.

Watch Your Steps

It’s a novel approach to the FPS genre, reminiscent of the movies Crank andSpeed. In Superhot, stopping doesn’t come with a consequence such as a bomb detonating on a speeding bus or a lethal dose of crank killing the protagonist. It’s quite the opposite.

When the player character stops moving, everything and everyone around the individual slows to a crawl, similar to Max Payne’s Bullet Time.

That gives the player the advantage of being able to weigh the most precarious of situations at any time.

Though shards of its core mechanic have been seen in other games, Superhothas found success in anchoring itself to the novel approach to the FPS, according to Matthew Diener, analyst for EEDAR.

Superhot is the sort of game that sounds so bizarre in concept that you wouldn’t think it would work, but once you see it in action, it makes you wonder why no one’s tried it before,”.

As for story, Superhot breaks the third wall to tell the tale of a player becoming sucked into the game itself. The player and player character find themselves being drawn deeper into the metaweb, and the gameplay gets more intense and difficult in turn.

All of that makes for an experience that’s rewarding and worthy of praise, said Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research.

Superhot provides a welcome change of pace in the first-person-shooter genre and acts more like a puzzler than an action game,” he told TechNewsWorld. “More broadly, its popularity is evidence of the strength of the indie scene as a source of innovative gameplay.”

The game’s core mechanic has existed for years in “rogue-like dungeon crawlers like the Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer series,” said van Dreunen, who first got his hands on the game about a year ago.

However, “Superhot presents it in a much more immediate and flashy manner — yet the fundamental stop-to-strategize gameplay mechanic is pretty much the same,” he said.

Little Room for Followers

Games that follow in its footsteps may find fewer people following them than the crowd Superhot has drawn, said Diener. The novelty could fade after players run into this mechanic three or four times.

“I doubt that we’ll see a Superhot version of Call of Duty anytime soon, but it reminds us that even well-establish genre categories are open to creative interpretation and that there is an appetite for games like it,” said van Dreunen. “It reminds me of the early version of Portal and, more recently,Rocket League.”

While others may not be able to run with the idea, the Superhot team might be able to get more miles out of the concept. It’s basically a virtual reality game that isn’t in VR, Diener said.

“It would be an easy game to translate to virtual reality based on its graphics, perspective and general design — but the stop-to-strategize mechanic would provide a welcome and clever way of preventing player fatigue and disorientation,” he said.

Here’s how the gaming press has scored Superhot, based on a compilation byMediacritic, with score converted to a scale of 1 to 10:

  • USgamer: 9
  • Videogamer: 9
  • Destructoid: 9
  • Polygon: 9
  • PC Gamer: 8.4
  • PC World: 8
  • GameSpot: 8
  • Giant Bomb: 8
  • IGN: 7.5
  • Twinfinite: 7

Nintendo NX to Resemble Samsung Hardware, Nintendo 2DS

Nintendo NX to Resemble Samsung Hardware, Nintendo 2DS: Report

Another week, another Nintendo NX rumour. This time, industry tipster Geno who has a surprisingly solid track record chimes in with what to expect from the House of Mario’s next console.

“I don’t have many details on the device itself but I do have some background for it and some PR techniques they will use for it. A thing to note about this device is that much of its production was started in 2014 and many [sic] of the stuff I list here was outlined by the late Satoru Iwata before his passing. Hence in the company, the NX is considered the last project of their late president,” the insidersaid in conversation with Dual Pixels. “Employees since his passing utter a phrase at the end of meetings and during idea brainstorms which is “岩田のために!” which roughly translates “For Iwata!””

According to Geno, motivation at Nintendo is high to deliver a top-notch console.

“The importance of this is that this “new” Nintendo is highly motivated in delivering a fantastic system and games, something that I quote from an employee “have not seen this much forward momentum on a project since they launched the original Famicom”,” the post continues.

Geno went on to outline six potential Nintendo NX features. Here they are:

  1. It features an advanced iteration of the streaming technology seen in the Wii U. Users can pull out a wireless HDMI dongle attached to its back and insert it into a device with an HDMI output.
  2. Analogue controls have small motors for full haptic feedback. What this means is, if you hit a wall in a game or fire a gun, you’ll get a larger amount of feedback from the controller as the sticks would move away from the direction you’re going in, allowing for greater resistance.
  3. Bluetooth sync across devices so you can take calls and get texts on your console without having to get to your smartphone.
  4. In terms of power, it’s comparable to the Xbox One. Games made for Android OS or in Unreal Engine 4 can run with almost no changes to the source code. “It’s the easiest device we’ve ever developed for. You just take your code, compile it and it works,” claims one of Geno’s sources. This could possibly explain why some third-party developers don’t have developer kits yet.
  5. Augmented Reality (AR) and multiplayer features will evolve beyond what we’ve come to expect. Pokemon Go will be an example of what to expect.
  6. Usability and ease of use are key tenets of the Nintendo NX. NintendOS is what its operating system is called and it visually and functionally resemble the Nintendo 2DS and something Samsung would make.

Like most rumours, we’d suggest taking this with metric tons of salt despite Geno’s past accuracy. Hopefully we’ll hear something from Nintendo soon.

PlayStation TV Discontinued in Japan. Other Regions to Follow?

PlayStation TV Discontinued in Japan. Other Regions to Follow?

PlayStation TV (PSTV) – Sony’s attempt at having a presence in the micro-console space – seems to be on the way out. While the company has not made an official announcement, eagle-eyed industry enthusiasts at NeoGAF noted that the official Sony Japan website mentions “end of shipments (translated)”. What this indicates is that the device is discontinued in the country.

This should come as no surprise. The PlayStation TV has been relegated to bargain bin status in stores the world over. For a substantial period of time, you could buy one in the US for $20 (around Rs. 1,400).

In India it retailed for Rs. 9,990 with four games, a PS3 controller, and an 8GB memory card. Though that might sound like a decent proposition, it’s a poor buy what with an 8GB memory card being barely hold four PS Vita games and cost in excess of Rs. 2,000 each, the value proposition doesn’t look as pretty.

It’s something most Indian gamers have realised as well. Take a cursory glance at most game stores and you’ll notice launch day PSTVs hidden under a thick layer of dust. So poor was the response that Sony hasn’t bothered bringing new shipments in after the initial lot.

All of this indicates that it’s just a matter of time before Sony pulls the plug on the PSTV the world over. What does this mean to you? Well, if you’re looking to pick up a device that lets you play PS Vita games on a big screen, act fast.