Will my next gaming console be Apple TV?

May 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

While Sony and Nintendo are quite concerned about Apple taking a big chunk of the portable gaming market, I think they should be more worried on the non-portable side of gaming. Currently, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are enjoying a large base of hard core gamers but think about this for a second – what’s stopping Apple from entering and eating this market?

Let’s start with the hardware. The new iPad with its quad core GPU is already capable of powering a display that is even higher in resolution than a full HD display. So it is safe to say that that the next version of Apple’s SoC, the A6, will be a fairly capable piece of silicon that should be able to deliver at least the same quality of games that the 7 year old Xbox 360 and 6 year old PS3 currently do. Apple is already using a cut-down version of the A5 CPU on Apple TV so upgrading to a full A6 SoC on the next version of ATV won’t be much of an issue.

The next thing Apple needs is a gaming controller which they obviously don’t have at the moment. However, one of the articles from Anandtech suggested that Apple is indeed working on a gaming controller for iOS. While many people might start thinking in the direction of an iPad or iPhone, remember Apple TV is also based on iOS. Apple can easily utilize Bluetooth for pairing up the controller to Apple TV- maybe even use the latest low powered 4.0 standard already present on the iPhone 4S.

Last and certainly not the least, you need a gaming ecosystem. Guess what? You already have that in the form of App Store- much like Microsoft has Xbox Live and Sony has SEN. Games like Infinity Blade and Epoch are pushing non-casual gaming on the iOS further and further and with studios like EA and Ubisoft, Apple already has support from the gaming industry. In fact, there are rumors of Blizzard entering the iOS market; and then a supposed visit by Tim Cook to Valve adds fuel to the fire, even though Gabe Newell denied it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can see all the pieces of the puzzle coming together. At $99, the Apple TV is even more affordable than a $160 Nintendo Wii and becomes an impulse purchase. Games on the App Store are also much cheaper than their console counterparts- yes, I know they are cut-down or alternate versions but last-year devices can play games like Max Payne so imagine what next year’s silicon will bring?

So don’t be surprised if Apple repositions the Apple TV as not just a multi-media player but also a full blown system capable of playing games that are as good as the current-gen consoles games.

Rovio buys Futuremark Games Studio

March 27, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Rovio, the company that has developed the super popular Angry Birds announced today that it has bought Futuremark  Games Studio, the gaming arm of software developer Futuremark- the company reponsible for benchmarks in the PC industry such as 3DMark and PCMark (both of which are used at t-break to benchmark components and computers). Both the companys are based in Finland, however, details of the deal havent been announced.

“They are an incredibly talented and experienced team, and we are thrilled to have them on board,” said Mikael Hed, Rovio Entertainment’s CEO said in a statement. “Rovio’s success is founded on the excellence of our team, and Futuremark Games Studio is going to be a superb addition.”

Futuremark’s CEO Jukka Makinen says that the remaining company will continue to focus on benchmarking software, used by the gaming industry to test and improve the performance of their games. “Future will now focus on supporting gamers and industry with 3DMark,” he said in a statement. The company is planning to release a new version of the software later this year that will let developers test across different platforms.

Futuremark has previously mentioned that they will be developing a benchmark for mobile devices so don’t be surprised to see little red wingers stress testing your iOS or Android device in the upcoming future.

Source: Tech Crunch

Top 5 Reasons to Attend Tbreak Developer Conference

March 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Features, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

1) Keynote by industry leaders from Nokia and RIM

The Tbreak Developer’s Conference kicks off with a keynote from Industry leaders such as Mike Al-Mefleh, Director of Product Management – Middle East at Research In Motion and Praveen Prabhakaran, Head of EDX – Middle-East at Nokia who will discuss the opportunities that exist in the Smartphone world for upcoming developers.

2) Discussion Panel

Following the keynote, you will get a chance to listen in on a discussion about the industry with some hard hitting questions about what is being done by platform providers to grow the developer’s community in the region as well as the effeccts of piracy and whether casual gaming is becoming the future of gaming

3) Free Classes from Nokia, RIM and Qualcomm

If you are interested in learning about developing apps and games for Smartphones, then you have a great oppportunity to listen in on free sessions from the likes of RIM, Nokia, Qualcomm and Microsoft. Think of it as a 101 class on development straight from the platform providers.

4) Opportunity to show off your app if you are an upcoming developer

If you’re a developer who is just starting out and have an app that you think could make it big, then TDC is the event to showcase your app to a panel of judges and walk away with prizes such as the latest Smartphones from Nokia and RIM.

5) Honoring the best

Part of TDC is recognizing the best from the indusrty within the Middle East. The nominations for best apps, websites and games were publicly voted upon on TDC’s website and the panel of judges has decided upon the winners. Come and find out who won from categories like best App, best website and best social media personality

Will Star Wars: The Old Republic finally challenge World of Warcraft?

December 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog

There is no denying that when it comes to MMORPGs, World of Warcraft pretty much rules the roost. There have been many MMORPG games released in recent years, some good ones too like Rift and Guild Wars, but none of them has managed to take the title away from Blizzard. So when it was revealed that Bioware will be working on an MMORPG based in the Star Wars Universe, things certainly started looking interesting.

With the public beta launched, I played Star Wars: The Old Republic over the last two weekends and I must say that I’m impressed with what Bioware has done. It just might become the first true challenger to World of Warcraft.

So what is it that make The Old Republic so special? Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is the awesome Star Wars Universe that already has a pretty big following. But that would only drive gamers to give the game a shot. It’s the task of keeping them that will be the most difficult challenge. Considering Bioware is behind SWTOR, I guess you can say that it’s in pretty safe hands. While they haven’t really done an MMORPG before, they do have a lot of experience creating super popular RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Not only that, but they have also created KOTOR which, arguably, is the best Star Wars game.

So, as I mentioned, I managed to play the game for a few hours and I’ve tried both, the light and dark sides. Everything from creating your character to entering the game is a fairly easy process and anyone with any WoW experience will be able to jump right into it. Obviously, this is not a review of the game so I’m going to stop here but let me say that after the first few quests, SWTOR feels very well balanced and engaging enough to keep you coming back for more.

EA, the publisher of the game, is wisely staying pretty close to WoW as far as pricing is concerned with the first month coming in free and subsequent months set at $15 per month with a bit of a discount for quarterly or higher period subscriptions. But pricing alone isn’t something that will make SWTOR succeed. It’s the combination of everything that I’ve talked about.

The Force, is certainly strong with it.

Interview with Yannick Theler of Ubisoft

November 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Editor's Picks, Features, Spotlight

We had some pretty big news coming out last week when Ubisoft announced their plans to open a studio at twofour54 in Abu Dhabi. Being MEGamers, we had to dig deeper and managed to score a phone interview with Yannick Theler who will be acting as the General Manager of Ubisoft in Abu Dhabi. We asked him questions on what to expect in the next few years.

What was the reason behind selecting Abu Dhabi as the place to open Ubioft Studios?

Why Abu Dhabi – there are 3 main factors that led us to Abu Dhabi for Ubisoft. The first one is that Abu Dhabi and the region has a combination of readily available resources that we can foresee. The second one is the comparatively limited financial risk because we have the government backing and the third point is the gross potential in the region because, again, we foresee the region growing fast in the industry. These three factors make us believe that Abu Dhabi is an excellent choice for Ubisoft to open it’s latest studio.

Ubisoft has an office in Morocco as well. Is that going to continue or are you guys going to shift operations from Morocco over here?

Yes we have a studio in Casa Blanca that is going to continue operating in Morocco. I don’t know yet if we will have people from Morocco coming over to Abu Dhabi. We also internally announced at Ubisoft that we are going to open a studio in Abu Dhabi and I am going to have a core team of experienced people that will set up the office with me- especially on the production side. But it is not defined exactly which studio people are going to come to Abu Dhabi yet.

Can you tell us how big of a team are you planning on being based out of your Abu Dhabi office?

We are going to start in December- we move there in December. Then, we work on renovations for our office which should hopefully end by the first quarter of next year. At that time, we will have the first set of people coming in. Then the objective is to grow to 100 people by the next 3-5 years.

Are you planning on nurturing and recruiting local talent or bringing people from outside?

First we will have Ubisoft people coming to Abu Dhabi, but the objective is to train and hire people from the region.

Can you tell us a little bit about the relation with the twofour54 gaming academy?

Yes, for the academy the Ubisoft’s implications will be to commit time and resources to support the training that takes place in the academy. It will include time from local hires as well as visits from other Ubisoft experts teaching here.

What kind of games can we expect to come out of the Abu Dhabi office in the next few years?

First of all it is a new Ubisoft studio. We will work on the existing Ubisoft brands and we will port games. That’s mandatory at the beginning because we are going to be new team with new people- people from the region may be they never worked with such product. We have to do that at the beginning- to learn and to grow the expertise and the experience of the people. That’s the step we have to take, it is important. After that, it can take one year or two years- you know standard production cycle can go up to three years. Then we will see what is going to come out from Abu Dhabi in the next few years but for now it is really too soon to speak about specific titles.

So am I correct in assuming that we probably won’t see any new IPs to start with and that it will be more of development work on your current games that will happen in the region?

Yes you are right. I wish we could start with new creations but it is impossible. I mean you know people who work on our previous IPs have a seniority of 5-7 years. It is important to reach a duration in the project. But of course the objective at the end is to think about our own title from Abu Dhabi.

We want to thank Yannick for his time and wish him the best of luck with his Abu Dhabi studio. And we can’t wait for them to start working as they will be our neighbours at twofour54.

Diablo III Hands-on Preview

October 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Editor's Picks, Features, PC, Spotlight

While there are plenty of great video game developers out there, if someone asked me to pick one that I think would rank on top, it would be Blizzard. My decision to chose Blizzard is solely based on the number of hours I have spent playing games developed by them. And though, I might have clocked in more hours playing World of Warcraft, it is their Diablo franchise that is closer to my heart. The clickfest had me hooked right from the start and the sequel to it was the first game for which I bought a Collectors Edition. Almost ten years after the second game, Blizzard is finally releasing the third installment and I was one of the lucky souls to try out the beta.

Like the previous games, Diablo III starts out with character selection and this time around you have five characters to chose from. The traditional grunt the is played by the Barbarian and joining him are Demon Hunter (Ranger), a Monk that relies on swift and fast attacks, a Witch Doctor that can summon creatures and finally a Wizard that can take advantage of elements to destroy its foes. When you have chosen your character, you once again commence your journey from Tristram where a fallen star has created a crater in the Cathedral and the undead are rising from it.

[jwplayer config="meg_600px" mediaid="41590"]

I played the game as a Barbarian for the first time around (and then the Monk) and if you just go from start to end, the beta can probably be completed within a couple of hours- but where is the fun in that. Like the previous games, Diablo is best when you try and explore every corner of dungeon or crypt that you come across that may or may not reward you with an awesome piece of armor, a weapon or a magical item.

Combing through the map, I defeated the Skeleton King, which is when the beta stops, in about six hours, although my longest single session was about an hour and a half after which point my hand gave up and I was cursing every imaginable profanity I could think of. Yes, at it’s heart, Diablo 3 is still a clickfest that shows absolutely no mercy. However, there are so many improvements/ additions to the game that are not necessarily related to the core of it that make it so much better than its predecessors.

For example, within the demo, I had two NPCs that helped me in my quest at different times. In fact, defeating the final boss, the Skeleton King, would have been insanely hard if I did not have the Templar helping me. Your Blacksmith can now be leveled up as well, in the sense, that you can find training manuals for him to learn how to do new things. One interesting addition is socketing Runestones into your skills. Previously you were able to socket your weapons and armour but now, even your skills can be socketed.

Also, at least during the course of the beta, all journals you find lying around are read to you while you are playing so you don’t have to pause and read the sometimes lengthy texts found in previous games. Blizzard has also made some things easier such as converting inventory into gold. Previously you would have to take items to a merchant to see them in town which took over a large chunk of your inventory but with the Cauldron of Jordan, you can instantly convert your junk to gold from anywhere at all. You also have a Nephalem cube that turns items into crafting materials and a Stone of Recall that creates a two way portal to the town. There is a cool down period for the Stone of Recall so you can’t use it all the time. Similarly health potions have a cool down time now as well so you can’t continuously keep upping your health.

Other than the tweaks in the gameplay, graphics have been updated since the original and Blizzard has managed to create an extremely atmospheric game that never looks out of place. The game plays incredibly smooth- I was running it on my 30” display on the Mac with a 2560×1600 resolution with medium settings on an 8800GT which is a fairly old graphics card. Don’t let the video in the post fool you- the choppiness is purely because of the video capturing software. The background score is generally subtle and haunting, increasing in volume when you are close to something big giving a very dramatic effect. Voice acting is Blizzard quality- top notch.

As far as playability goes, what else can I tell you except to expect the finest Diablo experience. If you liked the first couple of games, then you’ll love this one but if the original and the sequel didn’t do much for you, chances are that this might not either. I am a big fan of the original two so I enjoyed every minute of playing it. Blizzard has put just the right amount of everything in Diablo 3 and I noticed that when I tried defeating the Skeleton King on my fifth attempt- his health bar was near it’s end, so was mine and I was all out of health potions. And my heart was pounding. That is pure Blizzard magic.

MEGamers booth at GAMES11

September 21, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Come visit Middle East Gamer’s booth, located right at the entrance of Games 11 at the Dubai Mall Ice rink and get your picture taken as your favorite gaming character.

A professional photographer at our booth can either snap you in a costume of your choice based on several video game characters or let you take a pic with one of the video game characters roaming around at the event.

We will post your pics on our website and Facebook pages and select our favorite pic at the end of each day to award some awesome goodies.

Our stand - work in progress!

Alter Ego Review

September 9, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, Reviews

Have you ever wondered what your life could have been like if things had gone a little bit differently?

That, basically is the premesis of Alter Ego- a game I first played on the Comodore 64 over twenty years back. I remember being fascinated by the game when I was a kid and that made me download it on the iPhone. The iPhone has certainly proven to be pretty awesome for nostalgic games like the Monkey Island series.

Priced at US$5, Alter Ego is certainly a bit on the expensive side for a game that is more like a Q&A session with a shrink. It starts off with you being selecting your gender and making the choice on how you enter the world- peacefully, fighting or not come out at all. That, pretty much sums up what Alter Ego is about. The game is basically a life simulation in a multiple choice question format. You can chose to follow it as you, in your real life would, or be someone completely different.

At the start, the game asks you six questions to “establish your personality” which include “I will probably try to answer these questions honestly” , “The people who know me best like me as a person” and “I think that questions like this are stupid and meaningless.” Needless to say, Alter Ego is not your average game.

Questions in the game range on topics which include Social, Emotional, Intellectual, Phsical and family. These are all denoted by icons. There is one more icon that lets you progress in age and move to the next stage in your life. You are free to skip moving forward without answering any questions but really, thats not what you paid $5 for.

There is absolutely nothing to talk about as far as graphics and sound are concerned in Alter Ego- because there really isn’t anything other than a few icons and random pictures in a quiet environment. The black color with white text tries to create the righ mood and I suppose it works as the inverse might have made the game less appealing to look at.

Sadly, Alter Ego failed to create as much of an impact on me as it did in my childhood. That is probably because I have grown up and don’t find the questions and scenarios in the game as interesting or intriguing. Maybe a younger gamer that isn’t trigger happy might find it more interesting but would they pay $5 for it? I’m guessing not as the game is availabe to play for free on the web at http://www.playalterego.com.

Is it me, or are video games getting old?

August 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Last week a friend, @derrickpereira, tweeted a link to a CNN article titled “Why most people don’t finish video games.” The article, written by Blake Snow pointed out that 90% of players who start a game will never see the end of it unless they watch a clip on YouTube. Wondering how much reality to that absurdly high number was, I looked at the games I purchased of late.

Me after 30 years still catching up on Xbox 360 games.

Starting with my Steam account, I have Braid, Dirt 3, Half Life 2, Portal 2, Civilization 5, Torchlight and The Witcher 2. On the same PC, I also have WoW, Starcraft II, Dragon Age 2 and Rift installed. On my PS3, I remember buying L.A. Noire and Mass Effect 2 in the last few months. Here comes the shocking part- I haven’t finished a single game of all of them.

These aren’t titles that you randomly pick but games that are considered genre leaders or AAA titles that gamers swear by. In fact, two games from the list are ones whose prequels I’ve played, enjoyed thoroughly and completed without any cheats or codes. So what does that mean? Are games getting too long or am I getting too old. Interestingly, the article I’ve linked to says both are true and I couldn’t agree more. Jeremy Airey, head of U.S. production at Konami nails it by saying:

“The average age of the most frequent game buyer is 41. They’re raising kids. In the middle of a career. Worried about retirement.” Not only that but “the amount of digital distractions now is far greater than it’s ever been before. People need time to check their Facebook, send a Twitter (tweet), be witty on their blog, play with their phone”

The reason why I was late for my first date with my wife.

I have continuously been stating that I probably end up gaming more on my iPhone than I do on any other device because of the short bursts of fun that I am in total control of- be it while waiting for a meeting or going to bed. The massive titles that I’ve bought for my PC or PS3 just don’t have what it takes to sit me down for hour after hour and come back to it.

Having said that, I know that I will end up buying Deus Ex: HR, Skyrim and Uncharted 3- and I doubt I’ll ever finish either of them. My only hope is Diablo 3. And if I never end up completing this sequel to the game that could have something to do in me being late for my first date with my wife, then my faith in games will surely be shaken.

Avadon: The Black Fortress HD Review

August 2, 2011 by  
Filed under iPhone, Mobile, Reviews

I play games on my PC/Consoles as well as on my portables such as the iPhone/Android and iPad. Over the last few years, I’ve realized that my portable device works out much better for a quick fix while my desktop and console are for longer sessions. And that, primarily is the reason why Avadon HD, the RPG I am reviewing today, couldn’t manage to impress me. It’s a far more engaging game than I would like from my portable device.

Published by Spiderweb Software Avadon HD is the first chapter in a new, fantasy role-playing adventure. You will serve the keep of Avadon, working as a spy and warrior to fight the enemies of your homeland. As a servant of the Black Fortress, your word is Law.

Like most RPGs, the game starts off with you choosing a character for yourself. However, your choices are limited to the following four- a Blademaster, a Shadowwalker,a Shaman and a Sorceress. The first two are male characters and the last two are females. Following your “character creation” you select a difficulty mode and before the game starts, you are given an idea on amount the narrative- there is lot’s of it.

Once you get past the background story, you find yourself on the Avadon campus and like almost all RPGs, are informed that things aren’t the way they should be. You are also told that you are a “Hand” of RedBerad, the feared guardian of Avadon who also has “Eyes” and “Hearts”

The graphics on Avadon HD aren’t really much to talk about. They look quite a bit dated- as though from a PC games of ten years back. The sound isn’t much to speak about either with average effects for fighting and the bird chirping in the background. You can tell that the game was designed to be played with a mouse, however, the touch controls generally work well with the occasional registering of a tap on a place you didn’t intend to. Luckily, with turn-based combat, that doesn’t turn out to be a frustrating experience.

Where Avadon HD tries to distinguish itself from other games is by being an old-school RPG and if that is something that you are open to trying on your iPad, then you’ll be pretty pleased with it. As I mentioned at the start, I prefer short bursts of quick games on my iPhone or iPad and was thus not to ecstatic about the amount of reading and patience that is required from a game like Avadon HD.

Priced at US$9.99, Avadon HD is strictly for the fans of RPG that are willing to invest a lot more time in one go that your average iPad gamer. And if you are one who is ready to do that, you will probably enjoy Avadon HD much more than I did.

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