Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expansions are incoming | The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt


Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expansions are incoming | The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Witcher 3 has two expansions in the pipeline, totalling about 30 extra hours of play. Excited? You should be.

In a big announcement, one that will likely make fans of the Witcher series very happy, CD Projekt Red have announced their plans on releasing two purchasable expansions for The Witcher 3.

In the press release of the announcement, Marcin Iwiński, CD Projekt Red co-founder, outlined the company’s plan for the future, and talked about the two expansions.

“With the development of Wild Hunt coming to an end, the team has embarked upon the creation of two new really big adventures set in The Witcher universe,” … “We remember the time when add-on disks truly expanded games by delivering meaningful content. As gamers, we’d like to bring that back. We’ve said in the past that if we ever decide to release paid content, it will be vast in size and represent real value for the money. Both our expansions offer more hours of gameplay than quite a few standalone games out there.”

The two expansions are named Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. Hearts of Stone is planned to be released later in 2015, while Blood and Wine should be available for people to download Q1 in 2016.

In the announcement, CD Projekt Red also cautioned players in buying their own stuff, warning players if they weren’t happy with having to pre-order more content, to just not buy it and wait for reviewers to get their hands on it. A very honest and transparent view, and a noble one, too. Both adventures together should total around 30 new hours, with a bunch of new items and characters – everything a new expansion should have.

The language of the announcement is also very interesting, particularly CD Projekt calling their content “Expansions” rather than DLC. Maybe they’re afraid of the bad taste the world “DLC” has been leaving in players’s mouths recently.

Whatever the reason, it gives Witcher fans more things to be excited about. Hopefully it will all be polished to a mirror shine before being released. I, for one, am very excited. What about you?

Both expansions will be available on all platforms.

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Blackberry stung again in patent dispute


Blackberry stung again in patent dispute

Despite expectations by industry and legal analysts that Research in Motion (RIM) would settle its ongoing patent dispute with NTP, the BlackBerry maker came out swinging Monday, bolstered by recent decisions by the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that call NTP’s claims into question.

RIM lashed out Monday with an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal accusing NTP of prolonging the PTO’s reexamination of the patents in hopes of getting a US injunction on the sale of BlackBerry devices and services before its patents are struck down. RIM is willing to settle the case, and would agree to pay a fair royalty rate, but only as long as the patents in the case remain valid, wrote Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-chief executive officer of RIM, in the essay published Monday.

The PTO has already issued “nonfinal office actions” that invalidate NTP’s claims at issue in the dispute, and its recent decision to expedite its process of issuing final actions could assuage Judge James Spencer’s concerns that the PTO is holding up the legal process, Balsillie said in a phone interview with IDG News Service Monday.

Wireless

NTP’s patents cover a system for distributing wireless email to mobile devices. A jury and appeals court have found that RIM’s BlackBerry devices and software infringe on those patents, and the final hearings in the case are looming before a Virginia judge who is expected to reimpose an injunction that would stop BlackBerry users from receiving their email in the US. That injunction was stayed during the appeals process and lifted by an appeals court that decided a key claim was misinterpreted. However, that same appeals court upheld the fundamental finding of infringement. Observers now expect the lower court to reinstate the injunction.

Last week, the PTO denied several NTP requests for more time to respond to the preliminary findings and created a special team to handle claims related to this case, which has generated “outstanding public interest,” it said in documents available on its website. On Nov. 30, Judge Spencer of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied RIM’s request to stay the trial pending the PTO reexamination process, saying it could take years before a resolution was reached through that process.

The patents were initially rejected because other inventions similar to the NTP patents were on record prior to NTP’s filing, the PTO said in the preliminary actions it issued in June. Since then, the PTO has also learned of additional prior art developed by Telenor ASA, the Norwegian telecommunications company, that it cited in the most recent claim rejection announced this month.

Appeals

NTP has the right to appeal any final action to the PTO’s board of appeals, and beyond the PTO to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, said James Wallace, an attorney with Wiley Rein & Fieldling, representing NTP. That appeals court already has ruled that the BlackBerry infringes on the patents using a narrower claim description, he said.

“The court of appeals said the claim covers a square city block,” Wallace said in comparing the PTO’s viewpoint and that of the court of appeals. “But the PTO said it covered two blocks.” The entire appeals process could still take years, he said.

However, RIM believes that if the PTO quickly issues final actions invalidating the patents, it would create enough doubt around the patents to persuade the lower court to halt the proceedings until the validity of the patents is settled, Balsillie told IDG News Service.

“The PTO has said, ‘We’ll be on time, and we’ll reject these claims.’ If that’s persuasive to the court, then great. If not, then we’ll have to do the workaround,” Balsillie said.

injunction

RIM has not provided many details about the “workaround” it would use to keep the service up if the injunction is imposed. The company doesn’t want to tip its hand to NTP about how the workaround bypasses the disputed claims, but it is based in software, Balsillie said in the interview. RIM would incur some costs to implement the fix, but it is prepared to do so if the legal arguments don’t fall the company’s way, he said.

RIM and NTP have been in court-ordered mediation talks, but neither party would comment on how those talks were progressing last week. Earlier this year, the companies agreed to a settlement with a lump-sum payment of US$450 million that did not involve royalties, but that agreement fell apart. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that NTP was now seeking 5.7 per cent of RIM’s revenue on BlackBerry sales, and CNBC reported that the company wanted a lump-sum payment as well.

eMachines merges with Free-PC


eMachines merges with Free-PC

eMachines – the PC manufacturer that is being sued by Apple- is to merge with Free-PC, the companies have announced.

The merged company – to be be called eMachines – will continue selling affordable PCs, and will use Free-PC’s direct marketing technologies to generate additional revenue.

Free-PC caused a splash earlier this year, after offering free desktop computers to customers agreeing to take part in varied advertising and marketing schemes.

eMachines, meanwhile, still faces an outstanding summons from Apple for its iMac-alike eMachine PC computer.

Free-PC chairman Bill Gross said his company’s merger move “isn’t a sign that the free PC model doesn’t work”. However, he did admit that, in order to meet its goals, Free-PC needs to distribute “far more than the 30,000 computers we have given away since February”.

“One of our dreams was to get the widest possible distribution,” and merging with eMachines will make that possible, he said.

Founded in September 1998, eMachines has grown to challenge the largest players in the US market. The company claims to have sold 1.6 million PCs, and, in October, ranked third in the US retail market behind Compaq and HP.

Google Apps ‘lacks required features for the blind’


Google Apps ‘lacks required features for the blind’

The National Federation of the Blind claims that Google Apps lacks required features for blind people and wants the U.S. government to investigate whether schools that adopt the e-mail and collaboration suite run afoul of civil rights laws.

The NFB is asking the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to probe whether New York University and Northwestern University are discriminating against blind employees and students through their use of Google Apps’ Education edition.

Specifically, the NFB alleges that Google Apps applications like Gmail, Calendar and Docs contain “significant accessibility barriers” for blind people using screen access technology, which converts the contents of the computer screen into synthesized speech or Braille.

“The NFB will not tolerate this unconscionable discrimination against blind students and faculty and callous indifference to the right of blind students to receive an equal education,” said Marc Maurer, the NFB’s president, in a statement.

NYU and Northwestern, as well as other schools using Google Apps for Education, should suspend their use of the suite until it gains the missing accessibility features, or discard it outright, he said.

Alan Eustace, senior vice president, engineering and research at Google, said that the company had “a productive discussion” last week with Maurer.

“He shared a powerful message on the importance of accessibility. We left the meeting with a strong commitment to improving our products,” Eustace said in an e-mailed statement.

Tech to watch in 2012


Tech to watch in 2012

We saw a lot of great gear in 2011, but we can think of some other stuff that we’re itching to play with in the next 12 months.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Is Android fragmentation over? The next version of the OS looks to be a feature-filled mashup of phone and tablet platforms, with sliding widgets, a task launcher, and a “holographic” interface. A unified OS should help developers make device-agnostic apps that run on any Android gadget.

The Next iPhone: Apple’s iPhone 4S upgraded to a dual-core processor, CDMA and GSM radios, a revamped camera, and iOS 5; but the end result was a phone with stats similar to today’s higher-end Android handsets. The iPhone game-changer could be the iPhone 5. We expect a 4G LTE phone with the same or better core specs, a redesigned body, a bigger screen, and a few surprises.

Lytro Light-Field Camera: This astonishing camera lets you shoot and then focus after the image is captured. We were impressed by Lytro’s interactive output in a demo earlier this year, and we got some quick hands-on time with the first-generation Lytro a few weeks ago. If it works as advertised, it will be one of the most innovative consumer cameras of all time.

Ultrabooks: 2012 could be a big year for Windows-based Ultrabooks: thin-and-light laptops with Intel Core CPUs, fast-booting SSDs, great performance for the size, and mid-range price tags. The first wave hits in late 2011, with models such as Toshiba’s Portege Z830, Acer’s Aspire S3, Asus’s Zenbook UX21, and Lenovo’s IdeaPad U300s.

Canon PowerShot S100: The PowerShot S95 was an outstanding pocket-size camera. This successor bolsters its few weaknesses. With 1080p video, an 8-fps burst mode, a low-light-optimized CMOS sensor, and the same F2.0 aperture and manual control ring, the PowerShot S100 will be a worthy heir to the S95’s throne.

Hearthstone Open Beta Pushed Back to 2014, No More Data Wipes | Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft


Hearthstone Open Beta Pushed Back to 2014, No More Data Wipes | Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone beta keys have gone out en masse, and open beta is a bit away.

If you got your hopes up for a very Hearthstone Christmas, Blizzard has some bad news for you: the game’s open beta has been delayed until 2014.

The above may be upsetting, but according to the most recent Hearthstone developer’s blog post, everyone who signed up for the closed beta before December 16th have been sent keys to get into the game.

If you signed up for the closed beta one of these people but still have yet to receive a key (nor can find an email from Blizzard in your spam folder), keep your chin up. Accounts that signed up for the closed beta but did not claim their beta keys will be automatically allowed access sometime in early January.

Closed beta opt-ins will end on January 7th, so if you’ve yet to opt-in for the Hearthstone beta on your Battle.net account, now is the time to do so.

Beyond all of this is another piece of good news: Blizzard have no more plans to wipe player card data. This means you can push on without the fear of losing your card collection. Isn’t that nice?

Social networking to overtake email in future says Gartner


Social networking to overtake email in future says Gartner

Move over Outlook, make way for Twitter and Yammer. The hegemony of email as a business medium is set o be superseded by social networking in the future according to new research from Gartner. The company is predicting that 20 percent of business communication is going to through social networking sites by 2014.

The company said that collaboration was slowly moving to the cloud, and we could expect to see steep growth rates for sales of social networking services – both on-premises and cloud software. Gartner predicted that the percentage of email accounts on cloud services will grow to 10 per cent by year-end 2012, up 7 per cent from 2009.

“In the past, organisations supported collaboration through email and highly structured applications only,” said Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner. Speaking at the company’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2010, she said “Today, social paradigms are converging with email, instant messaging (IM) and presence, creating new collaboration styles. However, a truly collaborative, effective and efficient workplace will not arise until organisations make these capabilities widely available and users become more comfortable with them. Technology is only an enabler; culture is a must for success.

“The rigid distinction between email and social networks will erode,” Basso said. “Email will take on many social attributes, such as contact brokering, while social networks will develop richer email capabilities.”

Three years of OS X


Three years of OS X

It’s been three years and a day since Mac OS X hit stores worldwide. Mac users have now seen four iterations of the operating system, and at £99 a time some have paid out nearly £400 for the privileged of running what Apple described as “The world’s most advanced operating system”, when it launched on March 24, 2001.

Ars Technica has posted a potted history of Apple’s Unix-based OS. Taking readers though the three years of OS X releases that have seen it move from OS X 10.0 Cheetah – described as a beta – to the current OS X 10.3 Panther.

Cheetah to Jaguar
The Arstechnica report said: “OS X was more stable than OS 9.1, I liked using it. I quickly realized that this release was not really ready for prime time.”

It describes “rough edges”, including the fact that DVDs didn’t work: “You could read data off them, but you couldn’t watch them. Printer drivers were few and far between, and CD burning? Forget about it. Legacy support? Forget about that too.”

The highlight of OS X 10.1 (Puma) was that it “no longer felt like a beta”.

“The trickle of OS X-native applications began to turn into a stream.” These applications included Microsoft’s carbonized version of Office, Macromedia Freehand, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

“Other OS X software got faster, notably QuickTime, and overall stability improved markedly.”

“For many people Jaguar delivered the goods. Many felt it was all that the original 10.0 release should have been, and were upset at having to pay $129 (£99) for functionality that should have been present in Cheetah or at the very least, Puma.”

Jaguar was the first version of OS X to be advertised by its code name. According to the report the highlight of Mac OS X 10.2 was Quartz Extreme. “The new tech offloaded the window compositing calculations to the GPU instead of handling everything in the CPU. This meant that for the first time with OS X, the CPU was freed up from thinking about how to draw windows. The difference was quite noticeable.”

Other improvements with Jaguar included a spam blocker, address book, iCal, iSync, iChat and Rendezvous.

Panther time

According to Arstechnica: “The most useful new feature in Panther, and the one with the most “gee whiz” bang for the buck, has to be Exposé.”

Panther also bought with it the brushed metal interface that had been introduced with iTunes and QuickTime and used in Safari.

“The sidebar was another big Apple UI change with Panther. One morning, Steve Jobs woke up, looked at his PowerBook, and realized that the screen was wider than it was tall and decreed that the icons should move to the side of the Finder windows from the top,” according to Arstechnica.

Panther also had some significant under-the-hood Unix tweaks, Apple’s own X11 implementation shipped with Panther, as did Xcode, their developer tools.

The report concludes: “There are times when Panther still feels like a work in progress, and it would be great if some of the functionality and UI changes rolled out in Panther had been there from the start.

“After three years, Mac users have a modern, mature, and stable desktop OS. While there have been some hiccups along the way, Apple has generally done a good job rolling out new features in the four major releases.”

Flappy Bird Clone Made With Unreal Engine 4


Flappy Bird Clone Made With Unreal Engine 4

Tappy Bird is the first game created by Epic Games with the new Unreal Engine 4 and is currently available in Android Play Store and Apple App Store.

Those of you who didn’t get a chance to jump on the Flappy Bird bandwagon earlier this year, or those of you who were so obsessed that you issued a death threat to the developer Dong Nguyen when he pulled it from the app store can rest assured that you can get your fix with the new game, Tappy Chicken.

But what makes this game so different from the countless others that have surfaced in the Android Play Store or Apple App Store?

Tappy Chicken

Tappy Chicken is a free-to-play game (with in-game ads) offered in the Android Play Store and the Apple App Store and is essentially a clone of incredibly popular game Flappy Bird made by Gears of War developer Epic Games.  The game is played by tapping your screen to make your chicken fly higher and avoid anything that might be in the flight path.  If (read: when) you die, the chicken’s eyes turn to x’s and it lays a cracked egg.

However, what makes this game remarkable and different is that it was made by a single artist, Shane Caudle, who has no traditional programming skills.

It was made with the new Unreal Engine 4, “a professional suite of tools and technologies use for building high-quality games across a range of platforms” and shows how simple it is to create a game, even if you have no experience in game development.

Blueprint

Blueprint is a part of the Unreal Engine 4 and includes simplified scripting to make it accessible to those who are not familiar with it.  For only $19 a month plus 5% gross revenue from any created product, anyone can have access to the software that includes multiple developmental levels. A more detailed description of the aspects can be found here, but this is just a quick summary.

Create Level Script

Each level has its own blueprint that can manipulate actors and cinematics.  Here level streaming, check points, and other related factors can be created.

Create Interactive Objects

 

This is ideal for making interactive factors like doors and switches, but can also be expanded to collectible items and destructible scenery.

Create Customizable Prefabs

This aspect is useful for creating customizable props which can be time-consuming at first but will save time later on with continued use.

Create a Playable Game Character

Here any element for a playable character — such as camera behavior, mouse and controller input events, moving, jumping, swimming, and more — can be worked on.

Create a HUD

This can be used for any HUD variables from other blueprints and can also be used to display factors such as healths bars, score values, objective markers, and more.

Flappy Bird  was designed to be a fun game to play when you have a few minutes of down time but became highly addictive — one of the main reasons for its deletion.  Time will only tell if Tappy Chicken will be as popular and addictive.

But maybe we shouldn’t give up on Flappy Bird  just yet as Nguyen said that a multiplayer and “less addictive” version of the game will be released sometime in August.

Apple’s ‘deeply concerned’ board of directors pressuring Tim Cook to innovate faster


Apple’s ‘deeply concerned’ board of directors pressuring Tim Cook to innovate faster

Apple’s board of directors has been increasing the pressure on CEO Tim Cook to release new products amid concerns about the company’s pace of innovation, according to a new report.

FOX Business News correspondent Charlie Gasparino cites “reliable sources” in his report that claims Apple’s board is “deeply concerned” that Apple hasn’t released any innovative products recently.

 

While we’ve seen some product refreshes from Apple, such as the iPhone 5 and fourth-generation iPad, as well as some updates to the Mac lineup, the most recent new product is the iPad mini, which arrived in October 2012.

“That concern is basically manifesting into pressure on Tim Cook to innovate – do something fast,” said Gasparino.

The report insists that the board isn’t looking to fire Tim Cook, but that the directors are worried about what’s in the pipeline, and whether the company will be able to keep the momentum going. “From what I understand [the board] is 100 per cent behind [Cook],” Gasparino said.

Despite the concerns, Cook did reveal earlier this year that Apple is working on “amazing” new products in “exciting” new categories, which has led to the belief that an iWatch could be in the pipeline.

Plus, it’s widely expected that an iPad 5, iPhone 5S, iPad mini 2 and low-cost iPhone are on their way later this year. See: Leaked parts round-up: iPad 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C.

In addition, Apple has already previewed its upcoming Mac Pro, which has been completely redesigned inside and out.

See also:

Just how close is Apple’s Tim Cook to being fired?

Apple CEO Tim Cook admits: ‘We shouldn’t have announced new iMac until 2013’