James Ransom-Wiley

    James Ransom-Wiley

  • SSFIV Arcade Edition PC to discourage piracy (and frustrate buyers) with 'limited' offline mode

    Okay, so there is a catch. We figured Capcom had a "solution" in place when it confirmed that Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition was coming to PC. The problem? Piracy -- the threat of which kept Capcom from releasing vanilla SSFIV on PC just a year ago. In a blog post on Capcom-Unity, company VP Christian Svensson has addressed some "Stuff You Want to Know About SSFIV:AE for PC." Scroll down and you'll get to the catch. "SFIV unfortunately was plagued by pirates and hackers that messed up leaderboards," Svensson writes of the original iteration on PC (which still sold well by Capcom's earlier account). "To hopefully remedy that, SSFIV:AE will be making use of what is called SSA technology." While not as random as certain TSA measures -- SSFIV:AE players can still wear shoes and needn't limit their beverages to 3.4-ounce bottles -- the game's Software Security Assurance protocol is no less strict. Players are required to be signed into Games for Windows Live in order to access most of the game's features and content. In offline mode, SSFIV:AE is reduced to a sort of demo, with players limited to local play only (obviously), but also restricted to 15 of the 39 fighters and unable to save settings or challenges progress. DLC is inaccessible when playing offline, as well. Should the GWFL connection be lost mid-game, the player is given a chance to sign back in at a "logical break point" -- but should that fail ... you're in demo mode. And if you don't live in a GFWL-supported region? Svensson calls that a "buyer-beware situation." Prospective purchasers should also be aware that Steam and Impulse will implement their respective "security solutions" (in addition to SSA), and that Steam users won't use GFWL Marketplace to purchase DLC. "We'll provide more details on that wrinkle at a later date," Svensson notes.

  • Rumor: Syndicate script slips out

    Siliconera has published alleged "chunks" of a script for Starbreeze's long-rumored Syndicate game. If authentic, the excerpts would join some trademarks in a modest pile of evidence pointing to a reboot of EA's dormant cyberpunk series, created by the now defunct Bullfrog Productions in the early 90s. The narrative and dialog excerpts share some commonalities with the old Syndicate games' bleak, corporate cyborg–regulated world -- namely, the suggestion of brain-implanted "chips" -- but don't otherwise let on to any gameplay elements. In June 2009, Sean Cooper, who designed the original, isometric tactical shooter, commented on EA's failed attempts to revive the franchise. "Every time I've seen a prototype of a new Syndicate it's just been misguided," he told IncGamers. Cooper did not appear to have any knowledge of Starbreeze's possible recreation, which is rumored to have been in development since August 2007. "The essence of the game was killing people -- and that was it," Cooper said of Bullfrog's 1993 classic. "Big guns, strong dudes; Terminators essentially. If I have to kill everyone, I will. That to me was the essence of the gameplay." [Screenshot source: MobyGames (with script overlay)]

  • 'Collapse' game site registered by Ignition

    Domain hound superannuation has dug up pending website domain Collapse-TheGame.com, registered to Ignition Entertainment. The discovery would fit nicely with recent comments made by Ignition's Shane Bettenhausen, who told SideQuesting that there's a "99 percent chance" the company would be announcing a new project at E3. Of course, there's no evidence yet linking the so-called "Collapse" to the potential E3 reveal. Bettenhausen added that the publisher's next project "might be" for NGP and suggested that Ignition's E3 announcement was dependent on Sony's press conference plan, according to SideQuesting. Ignition's latest release, El Shaddai, was developed by its Tokyo-based studio and debuted in Japan a month ago. It's expected to be released in North America and Europe later this year. The company's recently consolidated Austin branch is said to be working on the long-delayed FPS Reich. Additionally, Ignition's website (pictured above) indicates that the publisher has "more coming soon" to reveal.

  • PSA: PSN maintenance today, no Store update

    The PlayStation Network will undergo maintenance today, according to an announcement on PlayStation Blog. The downtime is scheduled to begin at 11AM ET (in 10 minutes!) and conclude eight hours later, at 7PM. That might sound like perfect timing for the return of the North American PlayStation Store's weekly update, but ... it's not happening. "For those asking about the PlayStation Store, we're still targeting restoration of all services by the end of this month," adds Jeff Rubenstein, the Blog's manager. "Contrary to reports, the Store will not be publishing today." Rubenstein notes that some users may have trouble signing into PSN during the maintenance, but assures that "the majority of consumers will be able to play online as well as sign in to external sites that require PSN authentication" -- only account registration and management (including password resetting) will be inaccessible. On the European PlayStation Blog, manager James Gallagher suggests you sign into PSN and remain online before maintenance begins -- so, like, ASAP! -- to ensure connectivity throughout the day.

  • Big changes (and one bighorn beast) afoot in Final Fantasy XIV

    In his tenth letter to the community since assuming the Final Fantasy XIV producer role in December, Naoki Yoshida posted a staggering list of changes in process and planned for the troubled MMO. The exhaustive and meticulously charted notes suggest that Yoshida's team at least has its "concrete" plan in place -- the first goal of the leadership shakeup -- to right the game following its disastrous launch eight months ago. Better yet, some updates have already been implemented through the two most recent patches, 1.16 and 1.17. While it's sort of impossible to concisely sum up the changes coming in the upcoming 1.18 patch -- expected before this summer -- some of the highlights include a revamped battle system and a new job system, in addition to the "long-awaited" Ifrit battle (early concept pictured). Of course, these improvements and add-ons might be met with mixed reaction from players. Should they succeed in bringing about a better Final Fantasy XIV, it would be an undeniably good thing -- but perhaps a good enough thing for which Square Enix could finally start charging a subscription fee.

  • NBA extends multi-year licensing agreements with 2K and EA Sports

    Six years ago, the NBA counted five major game makers -- including Sony, Midway and Atari -- in its non-exclusive circle of licensees. That number has since dwindled to two, as the league today re-upped its multi-year licensing agreements with its longstanding (and still standing) video game partners, Take-Two Interactive and Electronic Arts. Unsurprisingly, through its 2K Sports label, Take-Two will continue to make use of its NBA license in its successful NBA 2K franchise. The most recent release, NBA 2K11, has now sold more than five million units since its October 2010 debut, according to the publisher. The next iteration, NBA 2K12, is expected to be announced at E3. Assuming 2K12 is on track to be released this fall (lockout or game on), it would mark a second straight year that 2K Sports' simulation series entered the market with no direct competition (Madden style!). EA, the NBA's oldest video game partner, permanently benched NBA Elite 11 last November after the company determined, "It was just going to be a bad game." EA Sports' next basketball sim won't be released until Fall 2012, with a download-only NBA Jam sequel subbing in this October. Additionally, Take-Two is expected to "explore and develop new NBA licensed gaming opportunities, including online on social media platforms," according to a press announcement. Counting itself as "the No. 1 U.S. sports league on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube," the NBA, through its NBA Digital label, has already released NBA Legends (developed by Lionside) and NBA Dynasty (in partnership with Disney-owned Playdom) on Facebook this year. [Pictured: Bulls versus Lakers and the NBA Playoffs (EA, 1991); source: Hoopedia]

  • PSN breach and restoration to cost $171M, Sony estimates

    In the lead-up to its fiscal year 2010 earnings report this Thursday, Sony today released a revised forecast -- forewarning a $3.2 billion loss (yowzah!) -- for the twelve months ending March 31, 2011. Having occurred in late April, the PlayStation Network attack and subsequent data theft and outage fall outside of that period, but the company nonetheless addressed "the impact" of the event during an investors call today, "since there have been so many media inquiries about this incident." "As of today," said Sony, according to its call script, "our currently known associated costs for the fiscal year ending March 2012 are estimated to be approximately 14 billion yen on the consolidated operating income level." That's roughly $171 million -- a "reasonable assumption," says Sony -- that the company expects to spend throughout the current fiscal year on its "personal information theft protection program," in addition to "welcome back programs," customer support, network security "enhancements" and legal costs. Sony noted that revenue loss from the outage and recovery, which also spans its Qriocity and Sony Online Entertainment services, had been factored into the cost, as well. "So far, we have not received any confirmed reports of customer identity theft issues, nor confirmed any misuse of credit cards from the cyber-attack," the company added. "Those are key variables, and if that changes, the costs could change." And what about the class action suits? Sony qualifies them as "all at a preliminary stage, so we are not able to include the possible outcome of any of them in our results forecast for the fiscal year ending March 2012 at this moment."

  • 'Kinect Me,' 'Crimson Alliance' among new Microsoft games rated

    A trio of game ratings appeared on the Australian Classification website today, perhaps spoiling some of the titles Microsoft will announce just around the corner at E3. New entries for "Crimson Alliance," "Fusion: Genesis" and "Kinect Me" all list Microsoft as publisher and run the gamut from Mature-rated to PG to G. Only the Crimson Alliance page notes a developer, Certain Affinity, which is corroborated by the game's Brazilian classification. Likewise a rating for Fusion: Genesis has also shown up in Brazil, where both titles are listed for Xbox Live Arcade. Kinect Me remains the most mysterious of the mystery titles and could perhaps feature some connection to the kinect.me promotional site (pictured above) that's been live since last summer. A source tells Siliconera to expect an E3 announcement of "Kinect Fun Lab," which the site surmises could be a working title for Kinect Me -- both names are at least sufficiently generic-sounding to be one and the same game. Additionally, Brazil has classified two more Xbox Live Arcade titles, Fruit Ninja Kinect and Hole in the Wall (from Ludia), supporting previous ratings of the pair of pending releases.

  • Hunted sound design video takes sneak peek around dark corners

    As you inch along in the darkness, you reassure yourself that the noise is just the sound of a game designer rubbing his cello bow all over a kitchen pot. But even if that's really all it is, isn't that still kind of scary?

  • Dragon Age 3 artists wanted, Bioware sr. director tweets

    Dragon Age 3 was unceremoniously outed on Twitter last night in a call by BioWare creative lead Alistair McNally for new artists. "I'm looking for exceptional environment artists to join me at #BioWare Edmonton, Canada to work on #DragonAge3," he tweeted yesterday evening. He added a few corresponding hashtags, but otherwise left the subtle reveal at that. An hour later, seemingly with environment artists still on his mind, McNally was praising The Witcher 2 for its topnotch graphics. "Looks stunning with DX11 and everything turned up," he tweeted. [Thanks, Tyler C.]

  • PlayStation Store expected back online next Tuesday

    Sony has notified its developer and publisher partners that the PlayStation Store is scheduled to relaunch next Tuesday, May 24, according to a memo obtained by Gamasutra. In the message, PSN content manager Jack Osorno details plans to update the Store twice weekly -- on Tuesdays and Fridays -- for two weeks in order to speed up the release of content that's been delayed due to the outage. Next Tuesday's update will include content originally scheduled to be released on April 26, while an update on Friday the 27th will bring releases previously planned for May 3. Updates on May 31 and June 3 will comprise the remaining content intended to be published throughout the rest of May. By the regularly scheduled June 7 update, the Store is expected to be up to date. "If there are concerns, we are willing to consider adjusting the release date of your content on this schedule," Osorno notes. "Adjustments will be made on a case by case basis." (The memo does not address any other kind of adjustment that might be made to appease concerns.) While the launch date for the "Customer Appreciation Program" wasn't noted (this was a memo to devs and pubs, remember?), the choice of two free games is expected to be made available "shortly after PlayStation Store is restored," for a limited time, according to an announcement earlier this week. [Image source: PlayStation.com]

  • Xbox 360 PayPal update arrives right on schedule ... in some territories

    Microsoft has today begun the anticipated rollout of probably the least anticipated Xbox 360 system update in the post-NXE era. The automatic update is being "gradually" deployed to consoles across the globe through Xbox Live over the next few weeks. "Just like any other update to our service," Major Nelson notes, "you will know you've received it when you turn on your Xbox 360 console, connect to Xbox Live and receive a notification to download the update." Most notable, the update includes the option to add your PayPal account as a billing option on the console (it was previously limited to Xbox.com) for Microsoft Points and Marketplace content purchases. The feature will be available to all Xbox Live users, excluding those in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan. So ... just a few (million) people left out. Additionally, the new system update adds and enables (by default) an auto-standby feature that's activated after one hour of console inactivity. You can switch it off in System Settings, but ... why? Finally, the update will also introduce support for the new Xbox game disc format (a.k.a. "XGD3"), which adds 1GB of storage capacity and some fresh anti-piracy coating. According to internal documents we obtained earlier this month, Avatar Kinect is scheduled to be released as a separate update on May 27.

  • PSN website sign-ins disabled after users identify potential exploit [update]

    Call it another "hiccup" in Sony's bumpy road to getting the PlayStation Network back up and running, securely: The company has disabled PSN sign-in access on its PlayStation-related websites for "essential maintenance" purposes. "Clarification: this maintenance doesn't affect PSN on consoles," tweeted PlayStation Blog EU this morning, "only the website you click through to from the password change email." A follow-up tweet added, "We'll let you know as soon as the landing page is back online." Although Sony has yet to specify the reason for the maintenance outage, the action follows users' discovery of a potential exploit of the PSN password change function on Sony's websites. UK gaming news site Nyleveia was the first to sound the alarm when it warned, "A new hack is currently doing the rounds in dark corners of the internet that allows the attacker the ability to change your password using only your account's email and date of birth." In actuality, it was not so much a "hack" as it was a critical oversight by Sony, which had not changed the PSN password reset method on its websites when it began to partially relaunch the service last weekend. Any website user, nefarious or not, needed only to provide a PSN account's associated email address and the account holder's date of birth to change the password -- information that was stolen by hackers during the PSN breach last month. Needless to say, if you have received an email confirming your PSN password has been changed (and you didn't change it yourself), you should contact Sony. For now, the password reset function has been disabled on Sony's websites. "Unfortunately this also means that those who are still trying to change their password via Playstation.com or Qriocity.com will be unable to do so for the time being," Sony said in a statement posted by Eurogamer. "This is due to essential maintenance and at present it is unclear how long this will take." Update: Sony has issued a statement on PlayStation Blog, describing the issue as "a URL exploit that we have subsequently fixed." The company adds, "Consumers who haven't reset their passwords for PSN are still encouraged to do so directly on their PS3. Otherwise, they can continue to do so via the website as soon as we bring that site back up."

  • Gears of War 3 beta attracted 1.29 million testers

    The cogs did their part, as 1.29 million fans enlisted in the recent Gears of War 3 multiplayer beta and pre-ordered the game in hordes. In all, Epic gathered 249 years worth of match-time data from players spanning 145 countries during the four-week public testing phase, which wrapped up this past Sunday. And it was all up and running, for the first time, on dedicated servers. (Oorah!) While neither Microsoft nor Epic specified how many beta testers got in early through their "Epic Edition" copies of Bulletstorm, the pair was quite pleased to announce that Gears of War 3 has surpassed one million pre-orders (the other ticket into the beta) -- and we're still four months away from the game's September 20 launch. That's got to be some kind of record, right? Uh-huh. Gears 3 now holds the distinguished honor of being "the fastest pre-ordered Xbox exclusive title to reach this milestone in the history of the platform." (*Golf clap*) Pore over some more beta stats after the break.

  • Phil Harrison joins Gaikai advisory board

    Backing up his talk, Phil Harrison has joined the advisory board of cloud-gaming service Gaikai. In his keynote address before the Italian Videogame Developers Conference last December, Harrison precipitated "the browser wars of the 21st century" -- a battle to distribute console-quality, triple-A games on any browser-equipped device. "Somebody is going to win," he said at the time. "Somebody is going to deliver console-level 3D graphics, video and audio into a web browser." It would appear that Harrison has placed his chips -- or at least some of them -- on Gaikai. The one-time president of Sony Computer Entertainment (oh, and Atari, too -- don't forget), Harrison will maintain his role as rich guy investor at London Venture Partners, which he co-founded last year with some other fat cats. Joining the rich guy on the Gaikai advisory board is rich gal Robin Kaminsky, the former executive VP of Activision, who led both studio and marketing activities. Kaminsky's marketing experience in particular is coveted by Gaikai CEO David Perry. "The first use of Gaikai's open cloud is to disrupt how video game advertising works," he said in today's advisory board announcement. Gaikai's current mission differs from the service provided by chief competitor OnLive (oh, and Otoy, too -- don't forget) in that it seeks to provide browser-based demos that developers and publishers can feature on their websites to drive full-game sales. Gaikai is currently in a closed beta testing phase.

  • Catherine trailer pops the question, fans answer

    Last month, Atlus asked its fans to be featured in this new Catherine trailer -- they just had to answer a few, short questions about marriage on camera. Were you one of those foolish enough to take the bait?

  • Rumor: God of War PSP collection coming to PS3

    The so-called "God of War Portable Collection" is headed to PS3 in Asia this July, according to a reported press release sent out by Sony Computer Entertainment Taiwan and posted by international gaming news outlet The Magic Box. While we could not locate the press release on the SCET website, it does appear to have been redistributed on additional news sites, including China Times, a major Taiwan-based media company. According to The Magic Box, the collection will include graphically enhanced versions of the two God of War PSP games, 2008's Chains of Olympus (pictured) and last November's Ghost of Sparta. The HD ports are said to include both Chinese and English language options and will be packaged together for release in Asia on July 7. It's not been specified whether the collection will be disc-based or digital (or both). Additionally, no development studio has been attached to the project. The PSP games were created by Ready At Dawn (Ghost of Sparta in collaboration with Santa Monica Studio). Last fall, Ready At Dawn co-founder Ru Weerasuriya said the team had moved on to an action-adventure game based on new IP. The original God of War Collection, an HD-ification of the first two PS2 games, was released as a single-disc compilation for PS3 in November 2009. A downloadable version followed a year later. We've contacted SCEA for comment on the Portable Collection.

  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier scheduled for Q1 2012

    During an investors call today, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is now scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2012 (the company's 2011–12 fiscal Q4). This places it at the tail end of the fiscal year, which was the previously given (and rather large) release window. "We want first to assure the best quality possible," Guillemot explained in a moment of déjà vu, "as well as to avoid the very crowded Christmas landscape in the shooter genre." It was as if he was still reading last year's script. On May 18, 2010, Guillemot had offered those exact same reasons about Future Soldier's readiness then, saying, "Due to a very competitive environment, we decided to move the game out of the Christmas [2010] quarter, and into the March [2011] quarter." He added, "It will also provide additional time to our development teams to realize their vision." At this rate, Ubisoft is going to have to change the title to "Ghost Recon: Soldier." Wait a minute -- we already used that one ... These delays are getting old.

  • Ubisoft continues to just dance around fiscal year losses

    A year ago, as Ubisoft reported net losses of €43.671 million for its 2009–10 fiscal year (ending, March 31, 2010), CEO Yves Guillemot brushed aside concern, saying, "We forecast a return to profitable growth in 2010–11." Well, here we are -- and Ubisoft isn't exactly basking in the sun. For the 2010–11 fiscal year ending March 31, 2011, the publisher's net losses slumped further to €52.120 million (about $74 million). Yet Guillemot again played the role of the optimistic fortuneteller as he looked to the company to "post further growth in both sales and current operating income in 2011–12 and 2012–13." (Notice how he didn't drop the P-word this time.) He put a positive spin on the 2010–11 fiscal year, too, observing "a sharp upturn in revenue." Indeed, sales were up 19 percent over the previous fiscal year to €1.039 billion. In addition to "another success" with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Guillemot attributed much of the sales growth to a rebounding casual market, which Ubisoft dominated with its (just) dance game segment, as well as strong support for the Kinect and 3DS launches. Notably, 38 percent of the publisher's game sales over the 12-month period came from Wii titles. Ultimately, Ubisoft's bottom line suffered from reorganization costs, which amounted to €95.9 million in non-recurring charges, including unspecified project terminations (so, Am I Alive?). Presumably, if Ubisoft is now appropriately restructured, it can focus more effectively on making successful products again. "For example," Guillemot offered, "we plan to launch a free-to-play world based on our highly popular franchise for young girls, Imagine."