Strategic Forecasting Inc. (STRATFOR) is a company started in 1996 providing “global intelligence” services. This means that they provide what is known as “subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis”. More importantly, according to Wikileaks, they provide “confidential intelligence analysis” to some big shot companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, the US Dept. of Homeland Security and Dow Chemicals of the Union Carbide ill-repute.
Today, Wikileaks went live with staggered posts of over five thousand emails from STRATFOR, much of which has to do with the company’s attempt to show “privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks”, as stated by RWW. Many of these emails also show how STRATFOR has engaged in malpractice in the name of security consulting:-
There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients.
For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.
This has the potential to be one of the coolest moves Sony has done in recent times and will help save their image (somewhat). IGN reported that the latest episode of the PlayStation Blogcast said that Killzone 3’s multiplayer component will become free-to-play (f2p) soon enough with the distribution being handled by the PlayStation Network (PSN). The downside is that there will be a level cap on the f2p mode which can be removed by paying $14.99. Players who had purchased the full version of the game will have no level cap.
This is a welcome move from the publisher and it would be quite cool to see this implemented in other first person shooters across platforms. A free to play structured multiplayer mode doubles up as a demo for the game’s capabilities and can also allow players to get adjusted to the game should they choose to buy it. Moreover, modular sales of the game at a fraction of the total cost will benefit both consumers as well as the company. For example, I am not big into multiplayer FPSs mostly because it is hard to find local servers, so I usually only play the single player mode. I would be very happy to pay $20 for a single-player only shooter which costs about $60 for the version with the multiplayer and other bells and whistles.
The Killzone 3 f2p multiplayer download will be available on PSN on February 28th.
How would it be if you could play a game that teaches you the intricacies of code? How would it be if you can use this code in real time to modify the game world? How would it be if the bosses of this action-packed game world assaulted you with code and you had to develop dynamically to counter their attacks? Do I hear you scream “OMG AWESOMESAUCE JUST EXPLODED FROM THE MONITOR ON TO MY FACE”? (If you are not screaming something similar or dancing with euphoric release, I must say you are missing out on some tiny joys of life)
This is history-making, in case the point did not hit the mark.
Now, the developers of CodeHero, Primer Labs, want you to help them out in their Kickstarter project. They have already reached the $100,000 goal they had set for themselves long back, but wish to take it further. Even a small pledge of $1 will get you the full game when it releases as well as access to the beta editions as they roll out. Awesome? You bet. The Kickstarter project ends in one hour so make it quick!
The official Counter Strike blog has put up a new Steam-only survey for the upcoming team-based shooter Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Completing this Steam-only survey may allow a player to receive a beta key to CS:GO. Developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and Valve Corporation,Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the multiplayer first person tactical shooter to look out for this year.
The beta program for CS:GO started last week with some 7,000 beta keys being given away to players of Counter Strike: Source and Counter Strike 1.6 directly on Steam, Valve’s digital distribution platform. About 2,000 more keys had gone out to other community websites from the developer. Now, with the online beta is kicking off with a Steam based survey with a random selection of players to get the most diverse amount of feedback on the game:-
Over the coming months we will make selections from the survey participants. Sometimes we might add experienced players, other times new players. Sometimes 1.6 players, sometimes CSS players, sometimes people who have played neither.
To take the survey, make sure you are logged in to the Steam client on your computer. Initially, the survey identifies the components of your computer and your internet connection speed, then you are taken to a web-based survey with a lot of rather odd questions on weapon preference, game preference (CSS or CS1.6) and other questions. Take the survey here.
I really really dislike the phrase Day 1 DLC (Downloadable Content). It is basically some extra content available for gamers who pay extra on the day of the launch of the video game. This is wrong on many many levels, but we will get to that shortly. Apparently the From Ashes DLC will cost about 800 Microsoft Points (~$10) if you wish to pay for it specifically, or it comes free with the Digital Deluxe Edition.
We’re happy to confirm that Mass Effect 3: From Ashes DLC will be available at launch for all platforms. For those of you who have purchased the N7 Collector’s Edition (including the PC Digital Deluxe Edition), you will get this content at no extra charge. We’ll have a lot more details for you later this week! Stay Tuned!
So what exactly is wrong with this? Let’s try “everything”. First, [spoiler warning], the DLC features a Prothean. You know, the advanced race that is pretty much central to the gamesince Shepard encounters a Prothean artifact? The race that is extinct, but now somehow there is a living, breathing Prothean character that you can encounter onlyif you pay extra for it. Bioware cannot claim that this is a “small” part of the game and not having the DLC does not mean that I do not experience the game in its entirety because there is an entire new dynamic that I am completely missing out on basically because I do not wish to pay over and above what I am paying for the finished product.
CD Projekt RED’s Role Playing Game behemoth The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has sold an estimated 1.1 million copies since its release last April. To give you an idea of how many copies of the game that is, let’s take a closer look at the number 1.1 million.
1.1 million is
the number of Korean or German people in the USA
the TNT-tonnage equivalent of a modern thermonuclear bomb.
the estimated production of cocoa beans in Ghana in 2011-12 in metric tons
Now that the obligatory irrelevant information part has been taken care of, let us move on to the beefy matter of the subject, shall we?
Yes, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has sold 1.1 million copies. Bear in mind that this is a PC only game, and sales like these without the marketing budget of a big publisher like EA or Activision-Blizzard is unheard of. Eurogamer reports that of the 1,110,055 copies sold 270,000 were digital downloads with about 40,000 on CD Projekt RED’s sister digital distribution site GOG.com, DRM free. It heartens me to tell you that the sales of the first Witcher game also picked up, with around 400,000 copies of The Witcher being sold along with the pre-orders and the like of the newer game.
It is no secret that I loved The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and that I harbor greater love for the developers since they released a beautiful AAA game DRM-free (the retail copies were made DRM-free via a patch), continued to support it with free DLCs and are now planning to update it to an Extended Edition – for free. This is way better than releasing Day-1 Downloadable Content, like a Certain Other Publisher Of Note. I can only hope that the Xbox 360 version of The Witcher 2 (to be released on April 17, 2012) also sees these kinds of sales.
I must say that the makers of Sins of a Solar Empire are terribly unimaginative when it comes to naming their games, but I have found little else to be annoyed at from Ironclad. The 4X Real Time Strategy (RTS) powerhouse of a game that was Sins of a Solar Empire (with some games stretching for days, yes – plural) revived the great old space strategy genre and Ironclad wish to use their knowledge gained from developing this game to power a new kind of RTS and field-combat hybrid game. You may have heard of several Massive Online Battle games (MOBA) such as League of Legends, Guild Wars or DotA. Yet, Ironclad is on the verge of doing something that only a few games have tried to do: make a real time strategy game in which players either control their armies from above – like most RTSs – or lead the armies in battle on the field a Heroes – like most action Role Playing Games (Mount & Blade comes to mind) called Sins of a Dark Age.
In Sins of a Dark Age, players either choose the Commander role to supply minions and make grand strategies or the Hero role in which quick-fire decisions and a physical presence in the battlefield are required. It is as yet unsure as to how the players will work together (beyond using obvious tools like chats and PMs). From the developer’s website:-
Sins of a Dark Age is a totally new and unique strategy experience that combines elements of the Traditional RTS and the Action RTS. We took the best parts of each, innovated on both, and added our own twists and turns resulting in something unlike any other strategy game. Despite all this we still feel it is remarkably accessible for new and veteran players alike.
We’ll be revealing progressively more information about the game over the next few months as we lead up to the beta this summer. One thing we learned from Sins of a Solar Empire is that the year-long beta and open player feedback is incredibly important and was critical in building it into the success it became. I remember people openly trashing our pride and joy and it was very painful – but it was necessary. We listened and changes were made. Hopefully, it won’t be that bad this time and it won’t take as long but we are willing to go through the same process (or worse) again if necessary. As you may have guessed we don’t have a release date – it’ll be done when it’s done.
So it will take a while for the game to go gold and be accessible to all. However, I am very much inclined to believe that Ironclad will make a successful game out of this. I cannot wait!
Note: There might be more than 870 Gajillion guns over and above the 87 Bazillion guns of the original. I am still debating as to which number is higher, but for now these facts must do.
Borderlands was one of the most fun (as in it made me laugh like a maniac every time I killed something with an Elephant Rifle) first person Diablo-type game with guns I have ever played. The cel-shaded world that could be explored as freely as you would want, mindlessly shooting skags, mindlessly shooting hoodlums, mindlessly shooting robots, and mindlessly shooting aliens and mindless- you get the idea. In addition playing co-op with our very own Sathya and trying to understand how the vehicles operated in the game made it tons more fun!
Now 2K Games is coming up with Borderlands 2, and the trailer promises that you will “joy puke your face off” when you play it. I am inclined to believe it. The bunches of features added in the new game are:-
New characters! The fat and beefy Salvador, the lithe and sensuous Maya, the Engineer-like Axton, and the Assassin-class Zero.
Flying machines! I think.
FOUR player co-op. Seriously, 4 player co-op gameplay. I cannot wait. I am already giddy.
Generally more violence and guns
Lots and lots of guns
Some more guns
Okay okay I’ll breathe! Sheesh. Man cannot have his share of being excited at things these days…
Borderlands 2 is set for a September 18 2012 release date for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Preorder goodies are also shown in the video!
The quick eyes of Setu at Woikr.com (no doubt helped by being there just in time) has revealed a new face of Flipkart. It seems that the Indian e-retail store is opening a digital distribution service for music, called “Flyte”. While the exact facts of the music store are yet to be revealed, the household online retail name wants to take up as much of the untapped market share of ecommerce as is possible in India. Considering that the brand is trusted, it would be nice to see digital music sales pick up in India which has long been known to be a pirate island.
Flipkart had acquired Mime360, a Mumbai based company that specialized in hosting streaming music for Indian labels such as Saregama, Universal Music and others. This, coupled with the fact that Flipkart had acquired rights to Chakpak.com’s huge digital catalog, obviously points out to the launch of this music (and hopefully movies) digital distribution platform.
The biggest clincher of the entire episode would be the pricing scheme decided upon by Flipkart. To satisfy the Indian wallet, they must price it evenly at about Rs. 15 to Rs. 20 per song, offering discounts and the like to newly released albums and movies. From what had transpired on the Twitter account, it seems that the songs will definitely be 320kbps DRM free (!), and that an eBook store with ePub files will be implemented in the “near future”. (You must know that by now I have a “:D” face)
Of course, the success of this entire venture depends on the end user. I am sure Flipkart has thought this decision through, but everything depends upon the non-pirating customer who believes that music actually carries a price and that the royalty money helps the musicians make more music. I really hope this works out for Flipkart and that a video game digital distribution with Indian prices starts up there!
Ah, Microsoft and Google. Two of the Great Tech Corporation Triumvirate, always looking to make sure the other does not trump them up in the many platforms in which they compete with each other. However, there are the select few fields in which each one of the three excels (Search and ads: Google, productivity software: Microsoft and selling overpriced gadgets for hipsters/suing the hell out of a competing phone maker creating innovative product designs: Apple) and Microsoft is hell bent on keeping it that way. At least, that is what I could make out with the recent ad launched by Microsoft against Google Apps, a cloud-based enterprise productivity solution that competes with Microsoft’s own Office 365.
The launch of the ad (ironically hosted on the Google-owned and operated YouTube.com, but let’s not make too many assumptions here as Microsoft is only targeting Google Apps and not the rest of the company’s diverse fields of work) adds to the new Why Microsoft website in which comparisons are drawn between Microsoft and Google’s enterprise productivity solutions. Terming Google’s non-search and ad services as “Googlighting” (a portmanteau of “Google” and “moonlighting”), Microsoft aggressively outline how their productivity suite is better than anything else in the market.
Googlighting is what happens when the world’s largest advertising business tries to sell productivity software on the side. In fact, according to Gartner, Google Apps accounts for merely 0.5% of the ad company’s revenue after five years of Googlighting. Meanwhile, Microsoft enjoys its trustworthy reputation in the cloud; with 40% of companies from the Interbrand list of top 100 brands.
The advertisement shows a flamboyant Googlighting Stranger as he tries to sell Google Apps to a corporation. Apart from general clarity and saturated colors, the ad looks like it was made in the 70s with very random jingles of why Microsoft is better than Google.
I honestly do not understand why Microsoft proceeded with this rather terrible ad campaign when the company has become generally better and NonDickish™. Most enterprises live by Office because it has been refined over the years primarily for corporations and end users and is known for its stability. It does seem like Microsoft is scared of Google Apps and is trying the scare tactic against medium to large enterprises, warning them to stay away from Google Apps because Google shut down Gears and Wave – known to be experimental projects while Google Apps is not – and that the software might change completely overnight because Google is using corporates as guinea pigs. I do not think Google needs to reply to this ad at all; as the Beatles said, Let It Be.