All posts by Kaushik

A mobile technology lover and a Strategy and RPG-game fanatic. I also enjoy astronomy and programming. I am a biotechnology engineer learning through this fascinating subject while poring over computer science. Hit me up on Twitter for more

UK Court Rules That ISPs Must Block The Pirate Bay

The world’s most resilient public torrent tracker has been demoted to the world [minus the UK]’s most resilient public torrent tracker. The British Phonographic (no, read that word again, I made the same mistake) Institute (BPI), one of the primary defendants in the case argued that Swedish torrent tracker The Pirate Bay was the most vile and evil thing in the world that took away money from poor and needy creators of music (such as Coldplay, Dido and Leona Lewis) and “lined their own pockets” with this stolen money. Interesting thought here. The spokesperson said:-

TPB

Sites like The Pirate Bay destroy jobs in the UK and undermine investment in new British artists

Its operators line their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them.

This is wrong – musicians, sound engineers and video editors deserve to be paid for their work just like everyone else.

We sincerely wish we could knock some sense into them, but alas the court has already ruled in their favor. However the ISP ban will not affect those who can use VPNs and proxies. We suggest a VPN based in Sweden, just to be doubly safe.

This is distressing, but it is merely the beginning of a long and silent battle between the corporates who equate piracy to stealing and those who believe that copying is not theft.

Steam May Come to Linux!

According to a huge scoop from Phoronix, Steam might just come to Linux. That’s right, Valve’s insanely popular video game digital distribution platform will finally see the light of day on /etc/Steam (Linux users please note that I am a newbie and as such am just throwing around filesystem names to appear “cool”)

For those that have doubted the exclusive Phoronix claims for quite a while now that the Steam client and Source Engine are in fact being ported to Linux, the doubts can be nearly laid to rest. Even I began to wonder how long it would take before the clients for their popular games would be publicly released under Linux. However, after confirming the information perhaps a bit too soon, their level of Linux interest is much more clear after spending a day at their offices.

After years of denying Steam on Linux it seems that Gabe Newell has finally let slip the codes of Linux into the fiery pit of an Internet guy. Michael Larabel, the founder of Linux focused website Phoronix had been personally contacted by Newell and subsequently he flew down to Valve’s headquarters and has apparently seen the build in person. How awesome is that? He also says that he will be posting the Linux screenies soon on his twitter feed. Soon, he says. Soon. Which translates to “not soon enough!”

Since the announcement, a barrage of followers and users have pretty much taken down the site where he promised a video will soon be uploaded.

Excellent news? You bet. It is thoroughly welcome after Desura’s Linux-specific game search as well as Steam’s own SteamPlay Mac support. Cannot wait for the video!

Introducing 0x10c, A New MMO Being Developed By Minecraft Creator Notch

Minecraft creator Notch’s new space faring Massively Multiplayer Online game called 0x10c has an ominous backstory of a doomed people waking up after billions of years of cryogenic sleep in a universe that is slowly dimming:-

In a parallel universe where the space race never ended, space travel was gaining popularity amongst corporations and rich individuals.

In 1988, a brand new deep sleep cell was released, compatible with all popular 16 bit computers. Unfortunately, it used big endian, whereas the DCPU-16 specifications called for little endian. This led to a severe bug in the included drivers, causing a requested sleep of 0x0000 0000 0000 0001 years to last for 0x0001 0000 0000 0000 years.

It’s now the year 281 474 976 712 644 AD, and the first lost people are starting to wake up to a universe on the brink of extinction, with all remote galaxies forever lost to red shift, star formation long since ended, and massive black holes dominating the galaxy.

That is definitely a lot of information to digest, but I am guessing Markus Persson (Notch) wanted it that way, since it is a hard science fiction (read: as grounded in plausible engineering and science as it is possible) video game with a player controlled ship that is guided by a player controlled and software emulated 16-bit CPU. That is correct, you are a space farer on a ship that is controller by a computer from the ‘80s, that you have to program on the fly to work in deep space. Sounds like fun? We bet!

ox10c

The website for 0x10c mentions a lot features such as a fully working computer system, lots of engineering and knowledge-based game play and, of course, lots of space loot! The documentation for the working computer system has been released. There is also an unofficial FAQs available that answers a ton of questions!

Notch also mentions that this will be a game that features a monthly fee; probably not as much as the mainstream MMOs like EVE: Online or World of Warcraft, but is a sufficiently significant step in the annals of indie gaming history.

Fallout Goes Free on GOG.com For 48 Hours, New Premium Releases

At the recently concluded CD Projekt Spring Conference where, among ships, shoes and sealing wax, the new updates to GOG.com – the digital distribution arm of CD Projekt – were quietly rolled out to a high level of praise.

Starting with a small but important announcement of the preorder for Botanicula – a point n’ click game made by the creators of the much acclaimed Machinarium:-

This charming point & click game stars five friends on a perilous journey to save the last seed of their home tree from an infestation of parasites. With lush visuals and a soundtrack composed by Czech alternative band DVA, this game is sure to wow all of the fans of Machinarium and adventure games in general.

Next, a biggie, GOG.com announced the addition of “GOG.com Premium Edition” Games that are Good but not so Old. This is kicked off by Ubisoft’s two great hits of recent times Assassins Creed: Director’s Cut and Heroes of Might & Magic V both DRM free. That’s right, you just read “Ubisoft” and “DRM free” in the same sentence. Each is priced at $19.99, however until the 19th of April, the purchase of one game bags you the other for free!

fallout

And finally, the mega gigantic super god level behemoth kraken cthulhu roboto announcement: GOG.com will be giving away DRM free copies of Fallout: A Post Apocalyptic Adventure Game for free for the next two days. That’s right, they lived up to their hype of giving away a legendary game. Because this is one of those few games that deserves the epithet for making open world an actual workable mechanic in a highly believable alternate universe. Grab Fallout here!

CD Projekt RED Will Give Away a “Legendary” PC RPG On Thursday on GOG.com

Speaking to Eurogamer, the head of marketing of PC Role Playing Game developer CD Projekt RED, Michal Platkow-Gilewski, said that on Thursday at around 5PM GMT the Witcher developers will announce a giveaway of a “legendary” PC RPG. However he said that there is no announcement of a new game at the time of the CD Projekt Spring Conference where this announcement will be made.

witcher2

However, Platkow-Gilewski said that this announcement has nothing to do with the “extraordinary” announcement for current and future The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings owners, which will be… you guessed it, extraordinary. (Or so we hope!) Straight from the horse’s mouth:

No, there will be no announcement of a new game. But to give you some hints and not to spoil the surprise, CD Projekt RED and GOG.com have prepared something very special for all the PC fans of The Witcher 2 Assassins of Kings, who already have the game, as well as for all those who will buy one any time in the future.

Good stuff from one of the better video game development companies of our time! Any speculations/guesses on what this “legendary” PC RPG would be? My money is on one of the Black Isle games but one can never be sure, can they?

Blizzard Takes a Dig at EA, Ubisoft This April Fools With “Mobile Adventure Game”

EA (specifically its subsidiary Bioware’s game Mass Effect 3) is fair game these days it seems – what with the extremely unsatisfying ending, obvious greed with Day 1 DLC as well as numerous reports of Bioware blocking legitimate customers from Origin for allegedly trying to mod the single player (which is precisely the point of owning a game on the PC). Many of the gaming industry’s terrible policies originate from EA, Activision and Ubisoft. However currently EA is leading in the douche-race by a large margin.

supplydepot

So Blizzard, the developers of Starcraft and World of Warcraft (and, ironically, partners of Activision in the publishing business) have put up an entire mobile-game website for a game called Starcraft: Supply Depot 2 with the following description:-

It is a dark time for the galaxy. The alien forces of the savage insectoid Zerg and ancient, militant Protoss have threatened the Terrans for years – but the threat is finally over, and we have lost the war. The time of the descendants of Earth is at an end.

The Terrans pin all of their hopes on a champion – a pillar of war unlike any other before or since. He is all that stands between the advancing hordes and a safer tomorrow, and he will defend the future with his very existence.

Sounds familiar? Yep, that sounds almost but not quite unlike the plot of Mass Effect 3. It is also adorned with many “features” such as “Ridiculous Amounts of Action” and “Fascinating Dialog” and more. Notably these stand out:

Multiple color coded and unfulfilling endings!

Even more endings via revolutionary Democratic DLC™!

Hilarious. Play the game (apparently Android and iPhone versions will be out soon!) here.

mobileblizz

They also have some other games “in development” such as Blackthorne 2: Thorne Harder which is a dig at either the Modern Warfare series or the Battlefield series (probably the latter as Activision owns Call of Duty) and Queen’s Quest which features, among other things, a sweeping orchestral soundtrack and this rather simple DRM protection:-

  • Sweeping saxophone soundtrack
  • Literary consultation from “A Couple of Dudes from Mar Sara”
  • Comes on 17 floppy disks
  • A revolutionary Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme in 5 easy steps:
    • Open the Spin-A-Spacer DRM application on any smart phone*
    • Line up the spacer faces to reveal the page/word matrix value
    • Consult your player guide / lore manual, and turn to the appropriate page
    • Use the special 3d lenticular glasses to decode the margin text and find the keyword passphrase
    • Enter the special passphrase into the on-screen prompt
    • Speak “OK” clearly and audibly into the device’s audio input
    • ENJOY! (Occassionally, you may be asked to call a toll-free 800 number to verify your identity)

A++ will buy again!

Good Old Games Now Stocks Good New Games As Well!

Before we start this article, let’s take up a quick check list. Do you like good games? Do you like good old games? Do you like new indie games as well? Do you like them all DRM free? Of course, you answered yes to all of the questions here, especially the last one I’m sure.

So you shall be pleased to hear that GOG.com, the DRM free digital distributor of classic PC video games, has undergone a little sea of change and will now stock indie games as well! The games will be stocked at the newer price block of $14.99 (GOG.com usually has games for $9.99 and $5.99). The new games currently announced are Legend of Grimrock, SpaceChem, The Whispered World, Machinarium: Collector’s Edition, Darwinia and Trine. All amazing games (especially Trine and Machinarium!). Of course all of these games will come bundled with the signature goodies from the distributor such as the original soundtrack, wallpapers, avatars and lots more. Straight from the horse’s mouth:

GOG.com, the DRM-free digital distributor of PC games for download, is getting “Bigger, Fresher, and Newer” today, ushering in a number of updates to both the brand of GOG.com and the service as well. GOG.com is no longer only classic PC titles; starting today the distributor will be actively releasing newer titles into its catalog of 400+ games of all ages. The distributor has now signed a variety of indie game developers as partners of GOG.com

Is this excellent? I believe this is most excellent.

Bioware Shows Cautious Signs of Caving–May Be Creating “New Ending” for Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 seems to be an all round good game (I haven’t played it yet, of course) except the fact that Bioware, the developers of the game, bundled important story related content as paid downloadable content, said that it was created after the game was made, proved to be liars and have come at the receiving end of vicious criticism against the ending of the video game. From what the Great Viewing Crystal of the World (aka the Internet) tells me, the end game does not take into account any of the choices one has made through the course of the three games and is a little more than “save the game here, choose one of three dialog options and proceed to see three different endings”. Sure, we have come to see that in many games (Jedi Academy and Oni come to mind) but none of them had promised us the greatness and sense of accomplishment that Bioware did via Mass Effect.

raymuzyka2

In return, Dr. Ray Muzyka, GM Bioware, had this to say in a ‘sorry we did this, but deal with it’ blog post said that while the team was very happy with all the great critic ratings, they were quite disappointed with the fan feedback on the end game. He also promised some “game content initiatives” to provide “more clarity” and “bring about “full closure” to the game. To my ears they sound like they are making a different ending and, seeing as how this is Bioware, they might just charge a premium for it. Might. We will get to know in April if Mass Effect 3 will have a “proper ending”.

Court Order Against Megaupload Mogul Kim Dotcom Incorrect

Internet superstar-turned-mogul-turned-jailed-man Kim Dotcom of Megaupload seems to be coming out of the dumps of the past few months now. Justice Judith Potter declared the restraining order slapped on Kim Dotcom “null and void” because of some procedural error by the New Zealand police. Apparently the error was committed by the police while filing documents to seize Dotcom’s property. This was admitted by the Police Commissioner Peter Marshall.

Kim Schmitz

While this is an order on a temporary basis, it may lead to the Megaupload creator to receive all his assets back and a good chance to set up his defense in the trial that is to follow on the piracy claims against Megaupload. His site bought him great wealth and a string of luxury cars and a large mansion in Auckland.

Megaupload

However there is a really sick smell of a rat around these “procedural errors”. For one, a little bit of background research on Justice Judith Potter does not turn out to be quite so rosy, with a bunch of ‘shocking’ and ‘mocking’ sentences that she has passed and she might have been a little under the water. Secondly, it might be a case where the New Zealand Government has finally stopped taking orders from a pressurizing United States and showed them the finger with this “procedural error”.

Or it might just be an error. You can never trust bureaucracy, can you?

Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition Announced!

After many many fantastic memories given to us, the legend of Baldur’s Gate was shrouded in mystery and forgotten (not really, but go with the flow for now okay?) and lost to the Depths of Time… until now! If you remember a teaser website called baldursgate.com that was set up sometime ago, you will also remember the cryptic messages left in its source code. Now we know exactly what it was all about (more or less)!

baldursgate

Overhaul Games, a bunch of ex Bioware guys, have been covertly working on an enhanced remake of the Baldur’s Gate series right after their HD remake of MDK2. Very imaginatively titled Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition, both the games will include the content from the expansion packs as well. The games will still be using the Infinity Engine that has hosted a number of excellent titles from Black Isle/Bioware and the developers have promised to fix bugs, issues and incomplete quests that have till now been addressed by fan made mods. On that count, the enhanced editions will include modding support for greater post-release enjoyment. There will also be new voice actors (yay!) and the game will still be in 2D isometric (doubleyay!)

Pretty awesome indeed, but I fear the anticipation was way more exciting than the actual announcement. It is slightly underwhelming to find the same games, re-mastered when you can find the originals on GOG.com and mod them yourself. However I am groping in the dark here and the Enhanced Editions might live up to their monikers. Only time will tell. For now, Godspeed Overhaul!

How to Unlock the Prothean Character in Mass Effect 3 Without Paying for DLC

(Also known as “How to tell an unsuccessful lie to fans and to set new lows for the gaming industry” by EA and Bioware)

We all know that Bioware and EA were a bunch of greedy people. This was proved once again with the release of the Day 1 release of the premium Downloadable Content (DLC) called From Ashes which unlocked a Prothean member in Commander Shepard’s squad. This led to a lot of clamor and eventually many people (including me) decided to boycott the game completely, or at least until the game’s price falls to acceptable levels.

Bioware/EA’s response to this was that the DLC was programmed and created after the game was done coding, and that they had no intention of including any of the DLC in the core game. That is to say the Prothean team member’s model, texture, animation and voice was coded outside the main game. This sounded fishy to many people. Some enterprising fans tinkered around with just the core game’s code without installing the DLC at all and found out that Bioware was lying outright.

To recapitulate, here is how to get the Prothean character without buying the From Ashes DLC:-

1. Open Coalesced.bin with this http://wenchy.net/me3-coalesced-utility

2. Search for this:MemberValidCID=22, MemberAvailablePlotLabel=IsSelectableProthean,

3. Replace with this:MemberValidCID=, MemberAvailablePlotLabel=,

Awkward, Bioware. Awkward.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive Updated with Arsenal: Demolition Mode

The steady stream of updates on Counter Strike: Global Offensive is quite fantastic. The latest update from Hidden Path Entertainment, the makers of the newest Counter Strike game, is the addition of a new game mode called Arsenal: Demolition. Demolition, as we all have come to know and love, is the mode where the Terrorist team plants a bomb at one of two specified sites, while the Counter-Terrorist team either stops them [dead], or defuses the bomb once it is planted. Another “mode” for the game is the server side mod developed by many gamers called Gun Game. In a Gun Game, there are no buy menus and everyone starts with the same gun. As the game progresses and as the players rack up kills, the player is awarded either a better gun in the next round (the classic Gun Game) or is awarded with a weaker gun the next round (the reverse Gun Game).

arsenal

The new update for Counter Strike: Global Offensive includes the Arsenal: Demolition mode which is a combination of the demolition mode as well as the reverse Gun Game mode set in a brand new map called “Lake”. The CT team starts with the M4A1 and a knife, while the T team starts with the AK 47 and the knife. Each successive ‘level’ crossed brings the player a weaker weapon and increases the difficulty. The game goes on for five rounds per team with a 5 second break to switch teams. Thus it is a really short 10 round game.

The developers said that the classic Gun Game will make its appearance later in the Arsenal: Arms Race mode. T

We will have more on CS: GO with a short review soon (guess who got a beta key?)

Police Plan to Raid The Pirate Bay Leaked… by The Pirate Bay Itself!

Six years after the infamous raid on The Pirate Bay (TBP)’s servers in Stockholm, the Swedish Police (aided by two noted anti piracy prosecutors Frederick Ingblad and Henrik Rasmusson) have decided to go on a secret snooping adventure around TPB’s servers with the required warrants and other paraphernalia. There is just one small catch to this mission; TPB came to know of this and decided to make the “secret” mission, not so secret. Publishing a blog post and letting noted Torrent news site TorrentFreak that this was not a joke, the folks of TPB also told the alleged conspirers that they have many public computers “scattered like diarrhea around the world” and that finding one would probably lead to a nasty surprise because they have put small Easter-eggs in each machine.

TPB

While the TPB’s founders are quite nonchalant about the entire affair and are using a reverse scare tactic at the perceived aggressors, it is odd to see warrants against the website that has recently switched from being a .torrent-file heavy website to just a list of magnet links that can easily fit into USB flash drive. Thus even if the police manage to pull down the website, multitudes of clone sites will inevitably pop up across the world.

TPB also staunchly maintains that the site itself does nothing illegal (which is true) and that it is not responsible for its users’ usage of the website and thus they are going to stand ground. In their own words:-

“We’re staying put where we are. We’re going no-where. But we have a message to hollywood [sic], the investigators and the prosecutors: LOL.”

NASA and Samsung Team Up To Promote Angry Birds Space

It is not technically a “teaming up” because it’s mostly Samsung promoting its Galaxy Note device and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA providing some kid-friendly zero gravity physics demonstrations. However, the end result is a very odd pairing that can only bring more downloads for Rovio’s seminal casual gaming hit Angry Birds.

Announced after a short intro on trajectory physics aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Angry Birds Space will release on the 22nd of March, 2012 and will have the familiar birds hunting down the greedy green pigs once again in a sci-fi space setting with some gravity twists. Think Blast Off! mixed with Catapults and released on pretty much every casual gaming platform around.

angrybirds

Don Pettit, a flight engineer aboard the ISS, explains how trajectories matter for space travel as well as Angry Birds since the birds are nothing more than projectiles. The ISS, might we remind you, is orbiting the Earth about 391 kilometers above it and can sometimes be seen as a slow-moving “star” from our vantage point in the ground.

I do not know how Rovio managed to pull this one, but it is quite a brilliant publicity campaign for a generally average game that was at the right place at the right time. Will you be playing Angry Birds Space?

Legitimate Megaupload Users Set to Sue the FBI

Amongst the litter of pirated songs, videos and software that filled the servers of the deceased file sharing behemoth Megaupload were also some legitimate files, original content and other innocuous material – the material that is now forever lost to the internet, and the users who created and consumed this content are taking the murderer to justice. Indeed, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom’s house and took the website offline, they also unwittingly (?) took down several users’ legitimate files that were needed by them for work in the office or as backup. Now these users wish to sue the FBI in a court of law and this will happen quite soon.

megaupload

These users are also morally supported by the Swedish copyright and patent law reform advocate Piratpartiet (Pirate Party):-

The widespread damage caused by the sudden closure of Megaupload is unjustified and completely disproportionate to the aim intended. For this reason Pirates of Catalonia, in collaboration with Pirate Parties International and other Pirate Parties, have begun investigating these potential breaches of law and will facilitate submission of complaints against the US authorities in as many countries as possible, to ensure a positive and just result.

The Pirate Party of Catalonia, Spain has said that they will be leading the charges against the FBI:-

Regardless of ideology, or opinions on the legality or morality of those running Megaupload, actions such as the closure of this service cause huge damage to lawful users of the sites and are unacceptable and disproportionate violations of their rights.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Carpathia Hosting have opened Megaretrieval.com to assist users in filing legal complaints to get their data back.

Exciting times and I wonder what the FBI would say to all this.