trawg writes: It’s been more than 10 years since Mozilla released version 1.0 of Firefox, one of their first steps in their mission to “preserve choice and innovation on the Internet”. Firefox was instrumental in shattering the web monoculture, but the last few years of development have left users uninspired. Perhaps it is time to move on to the next challenge — ensuring there is a strong Thunderbird to help preserve a free and open email ecosystem.
trawg writes: Programming legend Michael Abrash has announced that he has joined the Oculus team to work on the Rift VR headset as Chief Scientist, and will be once again working with John Carmack to bring VR to life. His post covers a lot of ground, including the history of his quest for VR, and ends with his explanation of why he thinks the Facebook acquisition is ultimately a good thing — they have the engineering, resources and long-term commitment "to solve the hard problems of VR".
trawg writes: Facebook have just announced that they're acquiring VR headset maker Oculus for $2b. Oculus have made an announcement explaining that the two companies are "culturally aligned with a focus on innovating". They go on to say "we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step".
trawg writes: At GDC in San Francisco today, Epic's Tim Sweeney announced a bold new model for the Unreal Engine, their powerful game development environment. The new approach allows everyone from indie developers to large studies to get full access to every part of their toolkit for $19 a month — including the full source code of the engine which will be made available on GitHub — with a 5% royalty on revenue. While it's not being released under an open source license — it will be available under an "Unreal Engine 4 license" — this change gives game developers a strong incentive to consider the switch.
trawg writes: Microsoft's recent IllumiRoom concept video showcased what the future could be like if you combined an Xbox One, Kinect and a projector system, promising a new type of gaming experience. Unfortunately, speaking at an Xbox One press demo at Gamescom recently in Germany, the head of product planning for Xbox One Albert Penello revealed that IllumiRoom probably won't be made available as a consumer product:
"I wouldn’t expect you’ll see that,” Penello said. “It’s very, very cool tech but it’s, like, for a consumer, it requires projectors and things. It’s really super-neat if you’re in the lab and you’ve got Microsoft money and you could totally set up this awesome lab, but... we looked at it, but for an average customer it’s, like, thousands of dollars."
trawg writes: A new Australian study on the effect of violent video games on Australia has just been published, failing to find any evidence that playing video games affects prosocial behaviour. The study compared groups who played different types of games, including notably violent titles like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, as well as non-violent titles like Portal, comparing their behavioral response through a simple pen-drop experiment. In a follow-up interview, the researcher noted his perspective on how violence might affect people has changed since he started the research:
I’ve played video games for most of my life and got into this research because I couldn’t believe that violent video games could make me do something I didn’t want to do, that is, be aggressive. My attitude has changed somewhat. These days I find it totally plausible that violent video games could influence people’s behavior, but the real question is whether their influence is harmful, and I’m not yet convinced of that.
trawg writes: "In the throes of another holiday shopping season, with the year's top video game launches still setting records above all other entertainment mediums, gamers down under are still paying more than anyone else in the world, with many publishers adding an "Australia tax" to their latest tiles. We take a look at the factors and forces responsible for the disparity in retail prices for games in Australia relative to other developed nations, and as a solution suggest that consumers should support developers and publishers that don't discriminate, and import, and circumvent the products of those that do."
trawg writes: "Valve have joined the list of companies that have altered their terms and conditions to prevent users from filing a class action suit. Their official statement says that such claims "impose unnecessary expense and delay" and are "designed to benefit the class action lawyers". A new arbitration process is also included, in which Valve will reimburse costs (under certain circumstances) when dispute resolution can't be solved through their normal support process."
trawg writes: "As the release draws closer, Diablo 3 game director Jay Wilson from Blizzard has been working hard to keep the community updated. On a press trip to Australia last week, Jay answered a wide range of questions in this video interview (transcript provided) on topics such as PvP, patch releases, game difficulty, and the potential for D1 or D2 being re-released in HD form. He also touches on the subject of a Linux release of the game: '... I don’t think that it would be outrageous, but I think that we’d have to see that there’d be a demand for it. And then we’d have to see that that demand would be worth the time we take away from the other things that we could do.' So it sounds unlikely in the short term, but there's a glimmer of hope for the future."
trawg writes: "As the Diablo 3 release draws closer, game director Jay Wilson from Blizzard has been working hard to ensure the community knows as much about the game as possible. In this video interview (transcript provided) Jay answers a wide range of questions on topics such as PvP, patch releases, game difficulty, the potential for D1 or D2 being re-released in HD form and whether or not he knew the release date of Torchlight II — he even touches on the subject of a Linux release: "... I don’t think that it would be outrageous, but I think that we’d have to see that there’d be a demand for it. And then we’d have to see that that demand would be worth the time we take away from the other things that we could do.""
trawg writes: "The Australian High Court has just dismissed an appeal by Australian and American media companies against ISP iiNet, in what will hopefully be the final step in an ongoing copyright lawsuit drama. The Court noted that "iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent system to infringe copyright". Ultimately, the court has held that iiNet's inactivity to act on infringement notices implied any sort of authorization of that infringement by their customers. Good news for Australians as a clear line has been drawn that will help ensure ISPs don't have to bear the cost of policing their customers."
trawg writes: "BitTorrent, Inc have released a new application called "Share" (Windows only for now) offering simple, free, unlimited file sharing which is "private and secure". File shares are done only with individual users or groups of users that you select, all apparently built on the famous BitTorrent file sharing technology. Having a poke around I was surprised to discover that it also seems to store files that you upload on Amazon's Web Services, simplifying the process further by allowing you to send a file even if the other party isn't online at the same time. It's not clear exactly how private the network is but hopefully we'll see further investigation into that aspect soon."
trawg writes: "The first video footage from Rockstar's upcoming Max Payne 3 has landed, setting the scene for the next iteration in the popular series of games set featuring this gritty action hero. Gamers may remember Max Payne for its impressive visuals and use of slow motion in action scenes, and Max Payne 3 looks like it will be continuing the tradition. It's currently set for release in March 2012 on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3."
trawg writes: "Euclideon CEO Bruce Robert Dell has responded to the initial round of questions following the unveiling of their Unlimited Detail games engine, boldly calling John Carmack "incorrect" in his prediction that such technology would still be a few years away. There's also a separate response to the direct claim made by Minecraft developer Notch that it is pure "snake oil"."
trawg writes: "A small Australian software company — backed by almost AUD$2 million in government assistance — is claiming they've developed a new technology which is "100,000 times better" for computer game graphics. It's not clear what exactly is getting multiplied, but they apparently "make everything out of tiny little atoms instead of flat panels". They've posted a video to YouTube which shows their new tech, which is apparently running at 20 FPS in software. It's (very) light on the technical details, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but they say an SDK is due in a few months — so stay tuned for more."