Microsoft’s new NFL app is ready for kickoff

microsoft nfl xbox oneMicrosoft’s updated NFL app has arrived on Xbox One and Windows 10, just in time for the start of football’s regular season.

The new release brings a number of improvements, chief among them the addition of “Next Gen Stats” from games including information about player speed, distance traveled and acceleration. Those stats get integrated into new features including replays that show the paths of each player on the field, for people who want a detailed breakdown of what happened.

Here’s a video of Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb showing off the new functionality in the app with Jeff Tran, Microsoft’s director of sports marketing:

 

Microsoft’s app, which was announced earlier this month, also features a new “Next Gen Stats Pick ‘Em” game that combines users’ prediction skills with the new statistics. Each week, game players will be able to make predictions about how players will perform in areas covered by the statistics. Those who do well will have a chance to win smaller weekly prizes, and one overall winner will get tickets to Super Bowl 50. The game is currently only available to Xbox One owners, but Microsoft said that it will be coming to the Windows 10 app later this month

Like last year, the app lets fans follow their favorite teams, track the results of their fantasy football teams and view videos from the NFL. On game day, users can “check in” to games that they want to keep tabs on in order to receive notifications about the score while they’re playing other games on Microsoft’s console.

The app is part of Microsoft’s technology partnership with the NFL, which has also seen the company provide Surface tablets for player and coach use on the sidelines. Interestingly, the Next Gen Stats data is collected from sensors players have attached to their pads and then stored by the NFL in Amazon’s cloud, not Microsoft’s.

Microsoft is using the app — especially the Next Gen Stats features — to promote the Xbox One to American football fans at a time when sales of the console still trail the PlayStation 4. Right now, Microsoft’s platform is the best place for fans to find those statistics, and the company is selling a bundle that includes a Xbox One and a copy of “Madden 16.”

It may also help drive adoption of Windows 10, which the company released a month ago and has already been activated on 75 million computers.

Xbox One Preview’s most vocal users will get a chance to test Windows 10 for Xbox

xbox one experience previewXbox One Preview users who’ve been the most vocal in providing feedback will be first in line for the New Xbox One Experience—in other words, Windows 10 for the Xbox One. Microsoft said Thursday it will invite a small, active group of users to help test out the new look and feel of the Xbox One. The NXOE will launch in “early November,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

The new experience will introduce Xbox 360 backward-compatibility, a feature that Xbox gamers have wanted for some time. Microsoft has also promised a more social experience with a new Community section, as well as a revamped OneGuide that focuses on apps as much as live TV—a theme that Apple also sounded in its announcement of its new Apple TV, incidentally. Finally, Microsoft will revamp its Store, placing movies and TV shows alongside apps and music, all in one spot.

Why this matters: If you’re a gamer that doesn’t want to futz with his Xbox setup, then this isn’t for you. There’s always the possibility that the NXOE will break something, and you’ll be unable to unwind one night with the new Madden game, The Witcher III, or more.  But if you’d like to be in on the next wave of code, Microsoft can accommodate you, provided you’ll be willing to help out.

How it will work

According to Microsoft, here’s what you’ll need to do to participate:

First, you’ll have to opt in for it. The Preview members who have submitted the most feedback will be among the first invited, with larger and larger groups invited over subsequent waves. “Our goal is to start with a group, get feedback, then roll out to larger groups for additional feedback over time,” Microsoft said.

Users who have been invited will receive an Xbox Live message. If you do, you’ll need to launch the Preview Dashboard, select the registration option, and then opt in to the ‘Preview – New Xbox One Experience.’

You don’t have to opt in—you can still be part of the Preview Experience and still receive Preview updates. You just won’t be invited to preview the NXOE code. The NXOE builds will roll out every few weeks, Microsoft said

Pokemon Go Augmented Reality Game for Android and iOS Announced

Not content with Pokemon games released at a regular pace on the Nintendo 3DS, the Pokemon Company – the corporation responsible for marketing and licensing the Pokemon franchise – announced Pokemon Go for Android and iOS. It’s an augmented reality game that lets players find and battle Pokemon in the real world.

And unlike most games in the Pokemon series, this is not being developed by Game Freak. Rather Niantic Labs is making this, which is not a bad choice considering its experience creating Ingress, the one time Android only augmented reality game. Niantic Labs used to be owned by Google but split soon after the latter’s corporate reorganisation as part of holding company Alphabet.

(Also see: Why Nintendo Making Mobile Games Is Great News for Everyone)

As is the case with most games on mobile devices, Pokemon Go is free-to-play and features an assortment of in-app purchases. While the details of these are not known at the moment, given that Nintendo’s take on microtransactions has seen some disruptive models emerge on the 3DS, it will be interesting if we’d see the same here.

This won’t be an app-only affair either. Nintendo is working on a companion smartwatch device to enhance the experience. It’s called Pokemon Go Plus (pictured above) and it allows you to check if there are Pokemon present to capture with your smartphone without having you permanently glued to your phone’s screen.

RacingCUBE Immersive Motion Controlled Driving Seat

RacingCUBE

If you are looking for the ultimate driving experience from your racing games at an affordable price you might be interested in a new system called the RacingCUBE.

The RacingCUBE provides gamers with a motion platform specifically designed for racing games to provide an immersive experience without compromise, yet compact enough to suit almost any room.

Watch the video below to see the rotation and motion that is capable of being simulated using the RacingCUBE which is taken to Kickstarter to raise the required funds to make the jump into production. As developers explain a little more about its design :

The key element in the RacingCUBE is three (RC3) very fast servo actuators.  Fast actuators is the single most important element in making a racing simulator. The elements for the servo actuator is specially chosen to provide maximum performance without the need of bolting the simulator to the floor.

The gear is a steel worm drive and by carefully calibrating the actuator’s controller, we have made a strong and very responsive high performance servo motor. It is so responsive that it makes you feel the smallest bump and the slightest road texture.

For simulating a vehicle, its rotation is incredibly important, and with rotation you instantly feel when you lose traction. When you’re driving a car that’s sliding all over, it’s the rotation that tells when you lose traction. It gives a realistic sense of feeling, and makes it possible to drive the car to its limit.

The nine greatest stealth games

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain brings stealth gaming to the fore once again – but what were its most deadly and efficient predecessors?
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain brings stealth gaming to the fore once again – but what were its most deadly and efficient predecessors? Konami Photograph: AP

After years in development, a fascinating prelude and some interesting marketing decisions, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was finally released Tuesday. Following grizzled hero Big Boss on his journey into war-torn Afghanistan, the latest title in the series is looking like another epic, bewildering and brilliant stealth adventure.

Metal Gear Solid, of course, popularised the stealth concept in 1998, introducing millions of gamers to the basic conventions of this then formative genre. You need a protagonist who relies more on watching and avoiding enemies than shooting them; you need an artificial intelligence system that gives baddies predictable patrol behaviours but also lets them see and hear the hero; and you need an environment that allows players to hide. A lot.

Here then, are our nine favourites from the whole history of sneak’em-ups – we’ve only allowed one title from each of the major franchises to ensure variety, and make it more fun/annoying.

Feel free to quietly add your own favourites in the comments section, while no one is looking.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Warner Bros, 2009)

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman: Arkham Asylum – hanging about with gargoyles, waiting for just the right moment…

The first of Rocksteady’s excellent Batman titles is the most claustrophobic and contained, taking place almost entirely within Gotham’s favourite hotel for the criminally insane. Although there’s plenty of melee combat, lurking in the shadows and getting to grips with the Dark Knight’s range of silent takedowns was the real thrill here, providing the thoughtful video game experience that the character has always demanded.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Square Enix, 2011)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – a wonderful sense of environmental realism within its cyberpunk setting

Although the original Deus Ex is probably superior as an open-world cyberpunk adventure, Human Revolution excels in its stealth game design. The augmentation system allows for a range of specialist abilities, while enemies are just clever enough to make them a challenge rather than impassible omniscient death machines. Plus, as with Metal Gear, the game has interesting things to say about technology and its effect on society – and it gives you time and space to listen.

Hitman: Blood Money (Eidos, 2011)

Hitman: Blood Money
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Hitman: Blood Money – Agent 47 pretty much silences everything

Every fan of IO Interactive’s slap head assassination series has their favourite title, but we’re going for the fourth instalment. It follows the familiar recipe: work out your own way of reaching the target – avoiding guards, civilians and cameras – and then take them out with whatever is at hand. It’s the variety of scenarios and tight mechanics that make Blood Money so compelling. Whether you’re in the quiet suburbs or the White House, you’re given the thrilling freedom to be a monstrously efficient killer.

Manhunt (Rockstar, 2003)

Manhunt
Manhunt – possibly the most messed up stealth game ever made

Surely one of the most bleak and transgressive mainstream video games ever made, Rockstar’s stealth murder sim has the lead character attempting to buy his freedom by carrying out a range of gangland killings for an anonymous client called The Director. It may be a treatise on the nature of interactive violence and player culpability or an unreconstructed slab of interactive torture porn, but the way it gets you up close and personal with your victims is unforgettably creepy.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Konami, 2004)

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – we were so tempted to run a screenshot of the Ape Escape mini game… Photograph: Konami

Serving as an engrossing and complex prequel to the Metal Gear series, Snake Eater goes all Connery-era James Bond with its 1960s setting. But, more importantly, it really plays with the whole stealth concept. Snake is able to poison or starve enemies, as well as using the classic “porn mag as distraction” technique, but then he must also sustain himself in the large open environments, hunting and eating animals – adding a survival stealth element. Plus, there are also classic boss encounters with Fury, Pain and The End to add blistering contrast.

Second Sight (Codemasters, 2004)

Second Sight
Second Sight – sort of Metal Gear meets Carrie

Okay, controversial choice here, as this psychological thriller drew mixed reviews at the time. However, UK studio Free Radical Design crafted a really interesting slant on the stealth genre with its tale of a parapsychologist John Vattic waking up in a medical research facility with no memory, but kick ass psychic powers – including the ability to remotely control objects and enemies. The only downside is that players ended up having to use conventional weapons much more than the Darth Vader-style choke holds that the game enthusiastically provides.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (Ubisoft, 2005)

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – the old ‘sneak up with a dance and a dagger’ approach

As with Hitman, fans will endlessly argue over which is the best in this Tom Clancy-inspired espionage series. While later titles headed too much into narrative action adventure territory, Chaos Theory is a gritty, taut and demanding stealth experience, pitching hero Sam Fisher against an audio mechanic that demands he remains quieter than the ambient noise in any area. The sense of quiet power derived from lying on a rooftop in South Korea, just watching a target stroll into your cross hairs, is scary and ridiculous.

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (Activision 1998)

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins – the first title in the Tenchu series introduced the concept of traditional Ninja techniques into the stealth canon

Developer Acquire created the most authentic video game depiction of the ninja assassin in this demanding and unforgiving PlayStation classic. Set in feudal Japan, it’s all about creeping through the darkness, slashing the throats of enemies (resulting in great splatters of blood), and using throwing stars and grappling hooks, while attempting to remain entirely undetected. The visuals and voice acting are laughable now, but the tension and atmosphere still impress.

Thief: The Dark Project (Eidos 1998)

Thief: The Dark Project
Thief: The Dark Project – the first-person view let you stare into the terrifying lifeless eyes of the enemies

Legendary US developer Looking Glass Studios completely set the standards for environmental stealth with its seminal Thief series. Lead protagonist Garrett has to read everything from light levels to the texture of walking surfaces in order to get around undetected, and the open design encourages thoughtful, creative play that contrasts heavily with most first-person action titles of the era. Designers Ken Levine and Doug Church would go on to push the genre further with titles such as System Shock and Bioshock, while Looking Glass colleague Harvey Smith would co-create the excellent Dishonored, effectively a Thief modernisation.

Destiny The Taken King Launch Gameplay Trailer

Destiny The Taken King

A new gameplay launch trailer has been release for the Destiny The Taken King, providing gamers with a look at what they can expect from the new Destiny expansion before they purchase.

The Taken King Destiny expansion Is available to purchase in both a Collectors edition and Legendary edition, both of which are now available to pre-order ahead of the official launch that will take place on September 15th, 2015.

Destiny: The Taken King, the next great adventure in the first person shooter Destiny universe, introduces a new story campaign and quests, new enemies to fight, new locations to explore, new Strikes and Crucible maps, a new Raid that will put players to the ultimate test, and more. To stand up to the challenge, players will have access to three new devastating Guardian subclasses, and a massive arsenal of weapons, armor, and gear.

A dark shadow has fallen over our worlds. Oryx, The Taken King, is hell-bent on vengeance and is raising an army of corrupted “Taken” forces by manipulating the Darkness itself. You must find a way into his impenetrable Dreadnaught ship to defeat The Taken King before he and his dark army consume our civilization and bring our solar system to ruin.

Steam’s selling all four Mad Max movies alongside new Mad Max game

mad max 2
Avalanche’s Mad Max game (which runs like a champ) isn’t the Road Warrior’s only new appearance on Steam. To coincide with the launch of the game—and push Steam’s theatrical ambitions into the spotlight—all four Mad Max movies have touched down on Valve’s gaming platform. Yes, even Mad Max: Fury Road, which made its small-screen debut just yesterday.

“Steam is the ideal place to launch both the fantastic new title from Avalanche as well as the full collection of films together,” Warner Bros. president Jim Wuthrich said in a press release.

If Mel Gibson’s the only post-apocalyptic hero in your heart, Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome, and the original Mad Max film will each set you back $15. Fury Road is $20, while Avalanche’s open-world Mad Max game costs $60. If you want to go all-in, Steam also sells the game with all the movies in a $106.20 bundle, which shaves roughly $19 off the cost of buying all the individual titles separately.

mad max steam

Prices may vary in Canada, Russia, Brazil, South Korea and much of Europe, where the movies are also available.

The story behind the story: “As Steam’s library of games and movies continue to grow, the Mad Max game and film anthology represent major offerings for the platform” Valve’s Doug Lombardi said in a press release, and that’s no joke. While Valve’s quietly expanded Steam’s cinematic offerings to more than 100 films after introducing the first fictional title in March, the vast majority are documentaries and B-list films. The Mad Maxseries is easily the gem of Valve’s nascent film collection.

You have to watch Kung Fury though. That glorious love letter to 80s action flicks is well worth spending a half hour of your life on—and unlike the Mad Max flicks, it’s utterly free.

Witness: The Mad Max game runs well on PCs

mad max
With the burning wreckage of both Mortal Kombat X and Batman: Arkham Knight’s PC ports still pumping smoke into the skies, I’d started to wonder whether WB had it in them to release a competent PC game again. And with Mad Max review codes delayed until launch day, I’d pretty much written it off as another disaster.

Not so! I haven’t ran through a huge chunk of Mad Max yet, but from what little I’ve played it appears to be both stunningly competent and well-optimized. I’ve been at PAX so I don’t have a decent desktop rig nearby to test it on, but I managed to eke out a solid 45+ frames per second at High settings even on the old Blade Pro’s GTX 860M.

Steam reviews seem to concur, with reports of 60+ frames per second at Ultra on a 660 Ti and 100+ frames per second (presumably on Ultra) on a 980/980 Ti. And I’m not seeing widespread reports of problems with AMD hardware, so hopefully that means Team Red is on par with Nvidia for this launch.

Now, whether the game itself is any good? I don’t know. What I’ve played so far feels like a pretty standard open-world game with a Mad Max twist which is…well, pretty much exactly what I expected. But we’ll have a more comprehensive review as soon as we’re able, if you want to hold off.

Either way, props to Avalanche for putting out a PC game that actually works as advertised on launch day, and doing it under the WB umbrella no less. Hopefully this bodes well for Just Cause 3’s December launch also.

The Diamond Minecart becomes most popular YouTube channel

Daniel 'The Diamond Minecart' Middleton is YouTube's biggest star at the moment.

The most popular channel on YouTube now belongs to British gamer Daniel Middleton, whose Minecraft videos published as The Diamond Minecart were watched more than 402m times in July 2015 alone.

That was enough to make him the biggest channel on YouTube that month ahead of wrestling body WWE’s 399m views, according to the latest chart published by analytics firm OpenSlate and online-video industry site Tubefilter.

Another British channel, nursery-rhymes collection Little Baby Bum, was third in the rankings with 391m views in July, followed by BuzzFeed Video’s 382m views, and musician Taylor Swift’s 381m.

It’s a mark of The Diamond Minecart’s rise, as well as sharp increases in views for the WWE and BuzzFeed Video channels in 2015, that the two channels that have traditionally topped this chart by some distance have fallen out of the top five.

Gamer Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg’s channel was ranked sixth in July with 373m views, while toy-unboxing channel Fun Toyz Collector was seventh with 370m views.

However, PewDiePie remains the top YouTube channel by subscribers, with more than 38.6 million people having signed up to get updates on his new videos through the service by the end of July. The Diamond Minecart had 7.5 million, likely reflecting his young audience.

The top ten was rounded out by It’s Baby Big Mouth, Masha and the Bear and Popular MMOs, reinforcing the sense of YouTube as a service attracting huge audiences of children and gamers – with The Diamond Minecart’s child-friendly videos neatly straddling the two.

Middleton was one of the big draws at the Minecon Minecraft conference in London in July, where he attracted a crowd of thousands of children and parents for a one-hour session blending live gameplay and answering questions from young fans.

Middleton is signed to multi-channel network Maker Studios, which also counts PewDiePie – born in Sweden but currently living in Brighton in the UK – and another child-friendly British Minecraft gamer, Joseph “Stampy” Garrett, in its roster.

According to the OpenSlate/Tubefilter chart, the top 100 YouTube channels collectively generated 17.3bn video views in July 2015, an 82% increase from the 9.5bn views recorded a year before in July 2014.

Xbox One Elite Bundle and Lunar White Controller Announced

Microsoft has announced the Xbox One Elite Bundle. It’s a 1TB console with a matte finish and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. While it might sound similar to its earlier 1TB announcement, the difference this around is that the hard drive in the Elite Bundle is a solid state hybrid drive.

“The Xbox One Elite Bundle includes a 1TB Solid State Hybrid Drive, which stores frequently-accessed files on a solid state partition and optimizes system performance so you can get to the action up to 20 percent faster from energy-saving mode,” said Xbox’s Director of Programming, Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb on his blog.

(Also see: Xbox One Gets a Price Cut in India; 1TB Console and New Controller Announced)

Sporting a retail price of $499 (around Rs. 33,000), the Xbox One Elite Bundle is one of the many options for those looking to get an Xbox One. From the standard 500GB console to collector’s edition variants for heavy hitters like Forza Motorsport 6 and Halo 5, the Xbox One Elite Bundle is the most expensive of the bunch. But if you factor in that a Elite Wireless Controller on its own is $150 (around Rs. 10,000), it seems to be better value for money. It will be available worldwide from November and will be exclusive to GameStop and Microsoft Stores in the US.

lunar_x1.jpgAlso announced was the Xbox One Special Edition Lunar White Wireless Controller. It has all the updated features of the standard Xbox One Wireless Controller such as the 3.5mm jack and adds a white and gold colour scheme and improved grip texture for more control and comfort. The company didn’t mention if it will be available outside the US where it is exclusive to GameStop from September 1 for $64.99 (almost Rs. 4,320).