It might not be well publicized, but there's a major war brewing between Microsoft and Adobe, and they're fighting for you. Each one of them wants to be your provider for rich media content, a task that has traditionally been served by Adobe with its Flash player, but one Olympic sized loss could change the game in Microsoft's favor.
It was Microsoft who won the deal to supply NBC with video-viewing technology via Silverlight for the Olympics in Beijing, and while Microsoft and NBC have ties that go back to their collaboration building MSNBC, Adobe could have been considered a favorite to the win the account based the mature nature of Flash technology. So how did Microsoft secure the gold?
"We talked about features like adaptive streaming, the ability to automatically keep checking how much bandwidth you have and deliver the appropriate quality stream and how to be smart about knowing what's coming up in the stream," said Rob Bennett, the general manager of sports for MSN.
In other words, Microsoft won the account on a combination of Silverlight's feature-set, and convincing NBC that Flash's scalability had never been put to an Olympic-size test, unlike Silverlight's underlying technology which is based on Windows Media technologies.
Of course, it's only one account, but it's not so much what Adobe lost, but what Microsoft gained. While download specifics have not been disclosed, we do know that it's registering 1.5 million downloads a day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, "in the last several days, more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already have Silverlight 2 installed."
Recently, I was flipping through the latest Electronic Gaming Monthly when I came across an ad for Too Human. The ad itself was nicely produced, essentially screaming "This game is about killing robots," with hero Baldur standing confidently before a heap of his slain foes. The plethora of robo corpses that cluttered the page wasn't what interested me, though. Instead, it was a small quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that drew my focus. After that, my first thought was, "Well, now I need to read up on Nietzsche to fully understand the point that Dyack and co. are trying to make with their game. Cool!"
But, by that same token, I've met and spoken with plenty of people who, after a long, exhausting day at the office, want nothing more than a little catharsis. With their brain already floating in a hazy cloud of near-unconsciousness, they don't want to think. Games as art? Who needs 'em? Some people just want to have fun.
So, which side of the line do you call home? Do you F5 Brainy Gamer all day long while extolling the virtues of story in games? Or did you think Metal Gear Solid 4 was a pretentious pile of crap -- treading on territory reserved for literature and film? Thought-provoking or mindless fun? Which do you prefer?
Today's Roundup has a little something for everyone. With a story about one of the artsiest designers out there packing up shop and heading for the PC, some big news concerning the most cathartic series in all of gaming, and a use for games that's neither art nor entertainment, no one will walk out of this theater with a dissatisfied frown. Jump past the break for the full thing.
The last thing you want to see while hanging from a wire high above a crowd of spectators is Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death lingering in mid-air, but that's exactly what happened to Li Ning, one of China's sporting greats. The incident took place during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and as Ning geared up for the torch lighting climax inside the Bird's Nest, stadium projectors beamed the BSOD onto the roof where it was clearly visible for all to see.
The BSOD came as an unfortunate side effect to using specialized theatrical computer controlled lighting equipment to light up the Bird's Nest, making the process not only automated, but susceptible to software failures. But hey, at least Windows was only running the light show and not the high wire act!
Technological trends may come and go, but every once in awhile they turn out to be more than just temporary fads. Consider that many of today's gamers weren't even born yet in the Atari 2600's heyday, yet 30 years later gaming consoles have become so popular that there exists an entire generation of FPS junkies who actually prefer lining up a headshot with a gamepad instead of using a keyboard and mouse. And speaking of videogames, let's not forget the 3D revolution sparked by the now defunct 3DFX (moment of silence).
More than just fun and games, recognizing lasting fads can prove lucrative for companies and upstarts who ride the hype, but it's not always easy predicting where PCs are headed. If we were to look back 10 years from now, what would we say were most influential technologies of the time? No need to hop into your time machine, because with the help of Gartner Inc., an information technology research and advisory company, we answer that question right now.
Hit the jump to see which of today's technologies are at the pinnacle of their hype cycle.
When I was a youngster, in between seven hour sessions of the latest 60 hour role-playing behemoth, I always told myself that I wouldn't be like those other adults when I grew up -- those adults who whiled away their days in front of a cramped desk, wishing they still had room in their busy schedules to work through their ever-expanding pile of shame. But here I sit, leg sandwiched between a desk and my chest, foot resting on my chair. Yeah, the prognosis isn't looking so hot.
These days, I'm happy to fit in some game time every couple of days, so it's only natural that my tastes have changed. While many vocal gamers whipped up sternly-worded message board posts after beating Portal in a single afternoon, I only grinned. I'd taken the tour, seen the sights, and gotten the ubiquitous tune stuck in my head -- in and out, no filler. If the credits roll within a mere couple of hours, so be it. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time; I see no reason to be dissatisfied. In the end, short games fit snuggly into the hustle and bustle of my life, while encouraging their creators to craft tightly-paced experiences. Win-win.
But what's your take? Do you prefer long journeys whose plot threads tangle you up and never let go? Do you gripe when a game doesn't include any sort of multiplayer? Or do you currently have Braid penciled in for this weekend, with all times subject to change?
Well, for those of you who fall into the former camp, today's your lucky day. This particular Roundup is all about lengthier titles -- from a day-long boss battle to BioWare (Need I say more?), and maybe a quick smoke in between. Jump past the break for the whole shebang.
According to a previous report by The Wall Street Journal, Google's open-source Android platform likely won't see the light of day until 2009, but that may not be the case. A new rumor hitting the web claims that T-Mobile will debut the first Android phone for pre-sale as early as September 17th.
Blog site TmoNews, who claims to be privy to this information based on a "trusted source," also says the new phone (codenamed G1) will cost consumers $399 - ouch! But that's when it goes fully public. TmoNews says the G1 pre-sale will last for one week and be available only to T-Mobile customers, who will be able to pick up the phone for $250 below retail. Everyone else will have to wait until mid-October.
The site also claims the G1 will come in black, white, or brown and include a 3-inch wide touch screen, 3G support, and a slide-out Qwerty keypad. Anyone that plans on picking one up will need a Gmail account, or so the rumor goes.
AMD Cinema 2.0 is a technology every gaming aficionado, game developer, movie buff and filmmaker would die for. Photo-realistic 3D rendering is the Holy Grail that researchers and developers have been chasing for a long time. Now that AMD is unwrapping its Cinema 2.0 tech layer after another, it seems as though the wall of technological disability that has stood between virtual reality and the real world is about to be razed to the ground.
But for more details of the groundbreaking technology you will have to make the "jump" to the rest of this entry.
Today, I finally got around to checking out the latest Futurama movie, "Beast with a Billion Backs." It was great, but aside from Pac-Man chess, had nothing to do with gaming. However, an awesome little bonus feature -- cut-together scenes from the disappointingly awful Futurama videogame -- did.
What really struck me about the "game," though, was its meticulous (and oftentimes hilarious) need to explain every gaming cliche in the book. See, the game itself was a trite licensed platformer, but its story went the extra mile toward making that a-okay. Additional lives, level restarts, and other gaming tropes made perfect sense within Futurama's twisted logic. But while I applaud Groening, Cohen, and co. for their creativity, I think story in gaming can do so much more.
Right now, we're sort of in an awkward teenage phase -- just beginning to shrug off the shackles of other media forms. Only now are we collectively realizing that our medium is unique, so our stories have shifted to convey that fact. Whether it's Futurama's wacky antics, Bioshock's "Would you kindly?" or other games taking sly digs at each cliche they so willfully employ, we've come to realize what our medium is, but we haven't even begun to break ground on gaming's well of potential.
So, my question to you: What topics would you like to see gaming explore? What stories need to be told? Are there any games out there that you think could very well be the next step forward for story in gaming?
This edition of the Roundup features, among other things, details on a story that could be one of this year's greatest. Additionally, you'll find an article about casuals becoming hardcores, and another about why I'm stupid for using the terms "casuals" and "hardcores." Jump past the break for more.
Innovation. In gaming, it's a weighted word, but really, what does it even mean? Portal was "innovative" because it allowed players to slap portals onto walls and travel into their depths. But at one point, Warcraft III was declared "innovative" for mixing basic RPG elements with tried-and-true RTS gameplay. And then we have things like the Wii, which can (potentially) add brand new dimensions to the way we play games.
So, in your opinion, what actually makes something innovative? Do you think an innovative game has to blow minds and shift paradigms, or can it be something as simple as Call of Duty 4's experience system -- subtle, yet effective?
Today's Roundup sees so-called innovators both succeed and fail, with one highly unexpected title snagging an award for Interactive Innovation, while another causes its creator to drop out of the gaming industry altogether. Also, in the "And More" section: data that shows PCs beating consoles at their own game. Hit the break for the full scoop.
Power users know how critical it is to change their passwords often and to avoid using easily guessed characters. Creating a login for your bank account based on your first born's birth date is a good way to share your financial information with anyone who cares to look, and the best passwords are the ones that contain a random mixture of letters and numbers. But is it enough?
An article in the New York Times points out that all password-based log-ons are susceptible to being compromised in any number of ways, and they're right. We're constantly warning users against falling for phishing schemes, and new forms of malware have become so adept at sneaking past common security fronts that a host of vendors have begun looking at new ways of dealing with the latest threats (see Internet Security 2.0 in Maximum PC's February 2008 issue, or download the PDF).
Hit the jump to see why security experts are now saying we should abandon passwords altogether.