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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)


WHAT better way to try out the latest Wii light-gun accessory than with a re-run through one of the spookiest series ever to hit the console world - Resident Evil.

With gun in one hand, knife in the other and a few grenades to keep things cooking, this is a scripted shooter that takes you around familiar ground as you seek to pop the clogs of every zombie, licker, bug and bat in order to progress the familiar story.
Graphically, there's a reminiscent feel to things, rather than a revolutionary advance, but that's OK - it's likely to be hardcore fans of the series looking for a slightly different Evil experience on Wii.

And this is good stuff, just aim, fire and forget the real world for a while!

What do you think? Have your say.

Hackers say they can steal 'Second Life' currency

Over on Dean Takahashi's San Jose Mercury News blog today, he reported on the discovery by a pair of security researchers that it may be possible to steal Second Life users' in-world currency.

That would be a big problem, of course, because the currency, known as Linden dollars, are directly convertible to U.S. dollars.

According to Takahashi's story, hackers Charles Miller and Dino Dai Zovi told him that they have uncovered an exploit that could allow someone to fleece Second Life residents of their Linden dollars.

The exploit is related to Apple's QuickTime software, which is used to display videos in Second Life.

"The exploit works because Second Life allows users to embed videos or pictures on their characters or their virtual property," Takahashi wrote. "When someone comes nearby and is within view of the object, the Second Life software activates QuickTime so it can play the video or picture. In doing so, QuickTime directs the Second Life software to a Web site. By exploiting the flaw in QuickTime, the hackers can direct the Second Life software to a malicious Web site that then allows them to take over the Second Life avatar.

The end result of that could be that a malicious hacker could then strip the avatar of any Linden dollar holdings.

For its part, Takahashi wrote, Linden Lab told him that the exploit is easily patched. Nonetheless, the company put up a warning on its blog Friday.

Takahashi said that Linden Lab told him, "We were alerted a short time ago by Internet security professionals that a QuickTime exploit has been discovered which may allow an attacker to crash or exploit any user of the QuickTime software from Apple. The Second Life viewer uses QT to play videos and therefore this exploit could potentially affect the residents of Second Life. This exploit affects all platforms that use QuickTime and, to date, Apple has not released a fix for it."

To date, however, Takahashi wrote, Linden Lab said it isn't aware of anyone actually using the exploit to rob anyone.

For residents of Second Life, then, the solution may be to avoid holding onto large numbers of Linden dollars.

As I told Takahashi when he asked me to comment for his story on Linden dollar security, "As one SL business owner said to me...you should always have a backup plan in case of a glitch that causes you to lose everything, because you never know what might happen. And in the case of Linden dollars, that likely means doing regular (Linden dollar/U.S. dollar) exchanges so as not to keep too many Lindens in your SL account. You can't lose what's not there."

More here...

Open Source Mac Gaming: 10 Free Games Reviewed

These are interesting times for Mac gamers. Thanks to the healthy state of the Macintosh marketplace, the economics of porting Windows games to the Mac are more favourable now than they have ever been. A number of Mac-focused developers are putting out high-quality games too, and most notably for this article, the open source world now provides a number of excellent games for Mac users. But before we look at the wide world of free open source games, here's a brief overview of commercial gaming on the Mac.


State of the Gaming Mac -- Things weren't quite so rosy ten years ago, when one of the largest porting houses at the time, MacPlay, essentially shut up shop as its parent company, Interplay, abandoned the Mac platform.

But that was then, and this is now. Two companies that endured the 1990s were Aspyr and MacSoft, and they now boast impressive portfolios of blockbuster games. Feral Interactive appeared on the scene in 1996, and quickly grew into a major porting house. Even MacPlay eventually returned to life in 2000. So while not every best-selling PC game makes it to the Macintosh, a lot of them do, even if you don't see them on sale at your local computer superstore.

A further upswing brought on by the switch from PowerPC to Intel processors, something that makes porting PC games to the Mac significantly easier to do. TransGaming has developed a product called Cider that enables PC game code to run on an Intel-based Mac without modification.

Besides the companies that port PC games to the Macintosh, the Mac enjoys good support from companies that create original games just for the Mac. Ambrosia Software and Freeverse are two of the best known and most respected. Ambrosia has been around since 1993, producing both games and utility software, but unlike the porting houses, most of their sales are done through shareware. Demo versions of their games can be downloaded from the Internet or found on the cover discs supplied with Mac magazines. This way you get to try out the game, and if you like it, you can pay the shareware fee to get an activation code that converts the demo into the full version of the game. Freeverse is another purveyor of fine shareware games, as well as some legendary freeware "toys" that serve absolutely no purpose at all but are well worth downloading nonetheless (I'm looking at you, Jared the Butcher of Song).

GameHouse is a new kid on the block. Initially a developer of board, puzzle and arcade games for the PC, GameHouse was acquired by RealNetworks in 2004 and has quickly expanded its product range to include a huge number of Macintosh games as well.

But even putting aside the relative abundance of commercial and shareware Mac games, the Mac gamer has two other sources of computer games. Firstly, there's the option of running Windows versions via Boot Camp or virtualization technology such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion. On the plus side, this approach lets you play new games straight away without having to wait the months or even years it takes for PC game to be ported to the Mac (if it happens at all). The downside though is you'll need to install Windows onto your Mac (with all the usability and security issues that involves). So besides the game itself, you'll need to factor in the cost of a copy of Microsoft Windows as well. Plus, new copies of Boot Camp are available only for people running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard (though existing copies continue to work in Tiger). If you go the virtualization route, then you'll need to pony up for a copy of Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion. So while playing Windows versions of Mac games can be worthwhile, it's an expensive approach and not without a significant hassle factor.

The second source of computer games is that collection of developers and testers collectively known as the Open Source Movement. While the value of open source software for productivity programs and even operating systems is well known, most Mac users don't think of open source when looking for games. That's an oversight, since open source community has developed a wide variety of games for the Mac.


Updating the Classics -- Open source works particularly well with older games have been placed in the public domain by their original developers. Among the companies that have done this are id Software and Bungie. In 1999, id Software released the Quake engine source code under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The Quake II engine source code was released two years later. It's important to note that id Software didn't give the full games away, just the engines. All the data files, including the maps and monsters, remain the property of id Software.

In practice this means that while you can download a number of Mac OS X versions of Quake and Quake II from sites like MacGLQuake and Fruitz of Dojo, you will still need to obtain the original game CDs to actually play the games.

Gamers with PowerPC-based Macs can use either the Macintosh or DOS/Windows Quake and Quake 2 CD-ROMs. If you have a Mac game disk, the supplied installer will put all the files where you need them. Because the Installer is a Classic application, Mac users with Intel-based machines will have to use the DOS/Windows disks instead. This isn't difficult: all you need to do is create a Quake or Quake 2 application folder, copy across the relevant folders from the CD, and then install the open source Quake or Quake 2 applications as instructed. For Quake, copy the folder that's called ID1 and lurks inside the Data folder on the CD; for Quake 2 the folders you need are in a similar location but are called baseq2, ctf, rogue, and xatrix.

Like id Software, Bungie initially released only the Marathon engine source code in 2000. An open source version of the game called Aleph One followed shortly afterwards and remains in active development. In 2005 Bungie put the data files for all three versions of Marathon online for free distribution, so that unlike the situation with Quake, gamers can play the Marathon trilogy without having to buy any of the original CDs.

Sincerest Form of Flattery -- The open source community has also actively created clones of many popular games. To no small degree this was driven by the fact that Linux users didn't have access to the best-selling commercial games of the time. The results, though variable in terms of fidelity and quality, did at least plug some gaps.

Lincity started out as a Linux equivalent of SimCity, a strategy game that has the player developing a city by constructing buildings and adjusting finances. The original version of Lincity had a simple two-dimensional, top-down interface but in its latest incarnation, LinCity-NG, the game is pseudo-three-dimensional. It also has improved graphics and sounds, and the overall look and feel is similar to SimCity 2000. Betraying its Linux origins somewhat, the Mac version runs in X11.

Freeciv is an open source alternative to Civilization, a turn-based strategy game of exploration, resource management, and world domination. As with Lincity, there's a bit of a retro feel to Freeciv because it looks and works a lot like Civilization II. That said, Freeciv is much more modifiable, so that the rules can be adjusted to create a much different game. Again, Freeciv has its heart in the Linux world, but thanks to Apple X11 it runs nicely on the Macintosh.

Simutrans Transport Simulator is another strategy game. It's not so much based on one particular game as an entire gaming genre, that of the "transportation tycoon" where the player builds networks of roads, rails and other modes of transport to make money and achieve certain goals. Yet again, the graphics are relatively old fashioned compared with modern games, but attractive nonetheless. A special version is required for Intel-based Macs.

Sauerbraten is a shoot 'em up rather like Quake III in terms of performance and gameplay. It's definitely a step up from the open source versions of Quake and Quake II, having much more realistic and dramatic visuals. But Sauerbraten definitely shines brightest when used for death-match play rather than single player use. In single player mode, the monsters don't form a particular coherent or impressive assembly, and the artificial intelligence behind them is fairly basic, so that if they frag you it's most likely due to overwhelming numbers rather than cunning strategy. The single player maps also tend to be rather simple, lacking the atmosphere and story lines that made the original Quake games so compelling. Still, it's a good-looking game offering plenty of explosive fun.

Finally, there's The Battle for Wesnoth, a Myth-like game of strategy where the player gradually builds up an army through a succession of battles until some particular goal is achieved. The game is set in a fantasy-type realm with elves, archers, knights, orcs and so on, meaning that there's a nice range of melee and magical attacks available for use. The graphics are relatively cartoonish but beautifully drawn, and combined with a nicely balanced tutorial, it's an extremely pleasant game to explore.

Come Fly with Me -- Although Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0 was the last version produced for the Macintosh, the Mac has been reasonably well served with flight sims over the years, most recently by the excellent cross-platform simulator X-Plane. There's also an interesting open source flight simulator as well, called Flight Gear. Compared with X-Plane, Flight Gear has more moderate demands in terms of hardware and while it might lack some of the bells and whistles, it's still pretty realistic and a lot of fun to play with. At first glance, you'll be impressed by the quality of the aircraft models but likely a little underwhelmed by the scenery. In Microsoft terms, the look and feel is somewhere between Flight Simulator 98 and Flight Simulator 2002. To download, visit the page of pre-built Mac binaries.

An entirely different sort of simulator is Beyond the Red Line, a game that puts you in the world of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Beyond the Red Line is a combat simulator, with the accent more on having fun blowing things up than real flight simulation. Like the Quake and Marathon games mentioned earlier, Beyond the Red Line has been built upon a commercial game engine that was placed in the public domain, in this instance, the FreeSpace engine developed by Volition. It's an impressive game, not just in terms of the spaceships and action, but also in the general look and feel.


Bottom line: Do you get what you pay for? It's likely that the Open Source Movement will become an increasingly important source of gaming software for many Mac users. The diversity of games already out there is considerable, and in many cases the games are polished, sophisticated, very playable and lots of fun.

Let's review the pros and cons. On the plus side of the equation there's obviously price. It's hard to fault a game like Flight Gear that delivers most of what you'd get with a commercial Macintosh flight simulator but at zero cost. Then there's the steady improvement in open source software. The projects behind each game steadily work through the bugs, releases new versions of the game at frequent intervals. Compare this with commercial games that are can be left in a bug-infested state if the developer decides to focus on the successor game instead.

But on the downside, many of these games feel "old" relative to the latest commercial games in the same genre. Some games also lack polish. Games like Quake sold well not just because the game mechanics were good, but because the story lines and atmosphere were solid and engaging. This isn't always the case with open source games, though in some cases it is (most notably the rich in-universe feel of Beyond the Red Line).

Open source games aren't really a threat to the commercial Mac game developers. No one considering Sim City 4 is going to switch to Lincity simply because it's free; the difference in quality is just too great. But open source games do improve the variety of games available, and that can't be a bad thing.

[Neale Monks is a writer, journalist, and educator who has been using Macs since 1990. He is a regular feature writer for the two major Macintosh magazines in the UK, Macworld UK and MacFormat, as well as a number of Mac-oriented Web sites including MyMac, AppleLust, and Informit. Among his book credits are "Astronomy with a Home Computer" and an ebook all about used and vintage Macs, "Buying Used Macs." Neale lives in a quaint little market town in Hertfordshire, England.]

Source: TidBits

Watch Global MMO Game Festival on your PC!

Seoul, Korea - November 30,2007 - Watch the grand finale of Game and Game World Championship (GNGWC) 2007 on live with 800kbps high-quality video! Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency(KIPA), the host of this global MMO game festival, announced that they will broadcast the final match on GNGWC web page with support from the professional user created content (UCC) provider in Korea "The mgoon".

The broadcasting schedule sets up as below:

Time (GMT) Program
4:00-4:20pm Bomb N Dash Final Match
4:30-4:50pm Record of Lunia Final Match
5:00-5:50pm War Roack Final Match
6:00-6:40pm Silkroad Online Final Match
6:50-7:30pm Shot Online Final Match
7:40-8:20pm Navy Field Final Match
8:30-9:00pm Closing
To watch the live show, installation of web-broadcasting plug-in is necessary. Although GNGWC live web page will automatically detect visitors' system and request to install the plug-in, the representative in mgoon suggested to visit the GNGWC website before the show starts and download and install the software to avoid possible network bottleneck caused by too much visitors and download of the file during the live show.

"For this internet live show, we adopt P2P live solution from CDNetworks Co., Ltd", Marketing director of mgoon Choi, D.I. said, "We expect from mgoon that this live show boosts wide interests from global MMO gamers, and help GNGWC official games to thrive their services." He added.

In this event, 100 players who survived from preliminary matches among 1.500.000 players all over the world will compete in 6-divisions (Game: Navy Field, Lunia, Bomb 'N Dash, Shot Online, Silk Road Online, War Rock) for the No.1 place in the world.

On the one hand GNGWC2007 is proving and spreading excellence of Korean online games by hosting online game festival which has only Korean online game divisions unlike others. Also GNGWC is expected to be foundation for Korean online games to enter the world market hereafter.

GNGWC is part of the marketing campaign of KIPA's "Global Service Platform" project, which began in 2004 to give Korean online games opportunities to enter the overseas market. In this year's competition, six Korean mmo games ('Bomb 'N Dash', 'Shot Online', 'Navy Field', 'Silk Road', 'War Rock', 'Lunia') were selected as the official games and 102 best players, out of 1.5 million participants from Europe, America, South East Asia, Korea, Japan, are advanced to the Grand Final Match held in Seoul on December 1st.

About GNGWC (Game and Game World Championship)
GNGWC is an international game competition which began in 2006 by KIPA in order to promote Korean online games throughout the World. Last year, 1,070,000 gamers from 5 regions including Korea, Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan, America took participation in competing in 3 Korean games, 'Silkroad Online', 'Gunbound', and 'Shot Online'. With the success from previous year, the event is planned to continue in the future.

About KIPA
KIPA (Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency) was established in 1998 by the Ministry of Information and Communication as a non-profit organization. Its role is to contribute to the globalization of the Korea information technology industry, support start-up software companies, and improve the quality of Korea's software the industry's productivity through process improvement efforts. "Global Service Platform" initiative, which is also known as "game&game" and "Game and Game World Championship", is an part of its global marketing support program for the information technology industry.

About Levelup Communications
Levelup Communications is an agency focused on supporting the marketing and publicity initiatives of companies involved within the game industry. The agency offers a suite of services, including public relations, advertising, promotions, branding and business development. Visit http://www.lvlupcommunications.com/ for more information about Levelup Communications.

BioShock Downloads Coming Next Week


A patch and a selection of free downloadable content will be available next week for both the PC and Xbox 360 versions of BioShock, developer 2K Games said today.

According to the game’s official Cult of Rapture web site, a PC patch and Xbox 360 title update will go live next week, and both will also include additional content. 2K’s Elizabeth Tobey told IGN that, among other things, the download will include new plasmids and a change to the game’s widescreen field of vision.

A full list of bug fixes and extra content will be posted on the Cult of Rapture site when the patches are ready, 2K said.

In October, BioShock creator Ken Levine told 1up that the game’s future downloadable content would likely take the form of combat enhancements or other gameplay additions rather than new levels. Levine has also said number of plasmids were cut from the final game.

Source: http://www.ign.com

Grand Theft Auto IV video game cover


Rockstar today unveiled the boxart for Grand Theft Auto IV, which is set to be released in the first half of 2008, after being pushed from it's "October 2007" release date a few months back.

There isn't much to say about it, other than the choice of artistic style is certainly very appealing, and that the layout is painfully similar to the previous three entries in the series. But that's not a bad thing.

I'm sure I could waffle on for a while, but I'm sure you'd much rather just see the thing. Behold, in all of it's juicy, 640-pixel-wide glory!

PS3 Beats Wii Sales in Japan

In November Sony's PlayStation 3 outsold Nintendo's Wii in Japan for the first time--but does one month signal a trend?

Sony's PlayStation 3 outsold Nintendo's Wii for the first time in Japan during the month of November, game magazine publisher Enterbrain said on Friday.

In the four weeks leading up to Nov. 25, Sony sold 183,217 PS3 systems in Japan. By comparison, Nintendo sold 159,193 Wii consoles. In previous months, the Wii has outsold the PS3 upwards of 6 to 1.

The news marks a first for Sony on its home turf also given rise to the prospect that Sony may return to it former dominance over the last 11 years.

One analyst remained skeptical, however, saying one month is hardly enough to forecast a turnaround. "Overseas, I don't really see the PS3 doing that much at Christmas time primarily because it's still more expensive than the other machines and has less software," said Hiroshi Kamide.

"It's nice to see the system selling much better than six months ago. But is it a sustainable trend? Is it going to really escalate from here? I'm not so sure."

Source: PCWorld

Video game consoles: Pick all the right boxes

If you're giving a games console, make sure it's the right one, says Steve Boxer

Much as we all love Christmas, it can be a stressful time - especially when we agonise over finding the perfect presents.

Videogame consoles make ideal gifts but, if you're not an expert, deciding which one to opt for can be fearfully tricky, especially since this is the first year that all three next-generation consoles have been available at Christmas, as well as the now?superseded but still temptingly cheap PlayStation 2. Oh, and two handheld consoles.

It's a tough market. The latest figures from VGChartz.com show that, since its release a year ago, more than 14 million Wii consoles have been sold around the world, followed by the Xbox 360 with just over 13 million units sold in two years. The PlayStation 3, which hit the UK in March, has sold just under six million worldwide. But all these figures are dwarfed by Nintendo's big hitter, the handheld DS, which has shifted a staggering 55 million worldwide so far. And Sony's handheld, the PSP, has sold more than 26 million units.

With so many competing options, all with their own merits and downsides, it's no wonder people get confused about which console is right for them. Hopefully, our bluffer's guide will simplify things nicely.

The consoles

Nintendo Wii


Price: £180
From: wii.nintendo.com


Nintendo's Wii, with its TV remote-style motion-sensitive controller that can be wielded like a tennis racket, baseball bat or bowling ball, has made an enormous splash this year, because it is so intuitive that even non-gamers can enjoy its charms.

The Wii is the ideal console to buy for young children or teenagers who are not yet avid gamers, and games such as Wii Tennis, Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games and Rockstar's Table Tennis can provide fun for all the family.

Nintendo is very good at aiming its consoles at a young audience, but the recently released Super Mario Galaxy - simply one of the best games ever - and Metroid Prime: Corruption will also thrill keen gamers. Sadly, at the moment, Wiis are in short supply in the shops, but Nintendo hopes to rectify that situation before Christmas.

Ignore so-called bundles, in which a Wii comes with several games, because those games are invariably sub-standard. T

he basic Wii comes with Wii Sports anyway, and you can then buy whichever individual games you want.

Microsoft Xbox 360


Price: £180
From: xbox.com


If you're buying a console for someone with an existing interest in games, then the Xbox 360 is the state-of-the-art choice.

It has by far the best portfolio of challenging "hardcore" games (racing titles, shoot-'em-ups and the like), and Microsoft is also working hard to generate a better library of more lighthearted games for it.

It is also supported brilliantly by the Xbox Live online service.

But don't be tempted by the cheapest variant, the Xbox 360 Core - it's too basic.

The Xbox 360 Arcade, which costs around £200 and comes with a 256Mb memory card but no hard disk(you can buy hard disks and plug them in later), plus five retro-style arcade games, is better value.

You won't have to do any upgrading if you opt for the £249 Premium edition, so that is also recommended, but the bells-and-whistles Elite version, despite its 120GB built-in hard disk, is a harder purchase to justify.

And bear in mind that all Xbox 360s really need HD-ready TVs in order to fulfil their promise.

Sony PlayStation 3


Price: £299.99
From: uk.playstation.com

D The PlayStation 3 isn't an inherently bad machine - it's technologically impressive, nicely finished and can play Blu-ray high-definition movies - but given the way in which Sony dominated the games industry with the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 (the latter has sold a staggering 120 million units worldwide), it is proving to be one of the biggest disappointments in the history of gaming.

For a start, it's fearsomely overpriced; even the new, no-frills 40GB version (which won't play PlayStation 2 games) costs £299.99, and the more desirable 60GB version, which is being phased out, costs a whopping £349.99.

Sony's online gaming service, the PlayStation Network, is also a mess compared with Xbox Live.

But the PS3's biggest flaw is its lack of compelling exclusive games.

A few, notably Metal Gear Solid 4, LittleBigPlanet and Killzone 2, will arrive next year, although probably towards the end of the year. Until then, the PS3 will remain an also-ran.

Sony PlayStation 2


Price: £99.99
From: uk.playstation.com

The PlayStation 2 is the console that refuses to die - indeed, it has generally outsold its successor, the PS3, despite being effectively obsolete.

With a fantastic back-catalogue of games, available increasingly cheaply, it might seem tempting if you're on a tight budget.

A trickle of new PS2 games continues to arrive, but to all intents and purposes, it's defunct.

That doesn't make it a bad buy, though.

Handhelds

Nintendo DS Lite


Price: £99.99
From: nintendo.co.uk

The idea behind the DS Lite is simple - to make a handheld console with two screens, one of which responds to touch input - but in practice it turns out to be a stroke of genius, with the touchscreen allowing all manner of innovative play.

It is hugely popular, has a phenomenal library of excellent games, and will make an ideal Christmas present for young and old alike (games such as Brain Training have particularly found a constituency among so-called "Grey Gamers" from the older generation). You can't go wrong with a DS Lite.

Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)


Price: £129.99

From: uk.playstation.com

The new Slim 'n' Lite PSP, with its superb screen and more manageable proportions, is an even sexier gadget than its predecessor. It's particularly good at playing video, and links well with the PS3.

But its portfolio of games is nowhere near as impressive as that of the DS Lite - in fact, most are warmed-over PS2 titles. More style than substance, unfortunately.

Source: The Telegraph