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

The Witcher 2 Sells 1.1 Million Copies

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.

TheWitcher

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.

Ironclad Games Announces New F2P MOBA Sins of a Dark Age

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.

SODA

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!

Borderlands 2 Trailer Reveals 870+ Gajillion Bajillion Guns and 4 Player Co-Op

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.
  • Player customization.
  • More Claptraps
  • 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!

Rumor: Flipkart Opening Digital Music Store ‘Flyte’ Soon

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.

Flyte

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!

[Image from Woikr.com]

Microsoft Launches All-Out Anti-Google Apps Ad Campaign

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.

Mass Effect 3 Preorder “Offer” Ends a Little Too Quickly on Origin

I have a feeling that EA has a ginormous amount of insurance against Origin’s failure. If I take that as a sound basis then all of EA’s moves with respect to their digital distribution platform would start to make sense. Currently, it just makes them look so silly that the phrase “what are they stupid?” becomes redundant and obvious. Remember the (US/Canada only offer, as pointed out by Sathya) Mass Effect 3 preorder offer at Origin? The one that would give away a free copy of Battlefield 3 to all those who preorder the game? Well, it turns out that EA has “run out of the limited copies of Battlefield 3” and will be ending the offer 3 weeks early. They ran out of digital copies.

At least, that is what I suspect, because the deal was on until the 5th of March. It has stopped now and those who had preordered the game will receive the Battlefield 3’s key by March 8th. That is right, they have to wait until Mass Effect 3 is released and then get the key for the existing game. Apparently, EA has done this before – with the Battlefield 3 preorder which came with a free copy of Dead Space 2.

I have no idea who decides these things at the head office of Origin, but it’s certainly not someone with a lot of sense. I mean, there’s not even an apology or a blog post explaining the issue.

Mojang Starts the Humble Mojam Bundle–All Proceeds to Charity!

We all know of the Humble Indie Bundle by this time, I’m sure. It’s a pay-what-you-want bundle of indie games with proceeds going to the developers, charity or the organizers of the bundle – Wolfire. However, this time the developer team behind Minecraft and Scrolls – Mojang Specifications – has put up an entirely new kind of pay what you want sale for a game that will be made over the weekend. That is right, you will be paying (whatever you want) for a game called Mojam that will be made right before your eyes (did I tell you that the making of the game will be livestreamed? Yes it will be). The best part? All proceeds from this sale will go to charity and non-profit organizations.

mojam

The indie studio Mojang will be livestreaming all the glory and drama of making a brand new game in 60 hours. Based on a poll of more than 100,000 users, Mojang is tackling a real-time strategy shoot ’em up with a steampunk ancient Egypt theme!

The participating organizations for this one-of-a-kind sale are the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Child’s Play Charity, the American Red Cross and for the first time, Charity: Water. This excellent venture has already received about $97,000 plus at the time of writing. It would be fun to see it go past the 500,000 mark as the game starts taking shape.

Notch Responds to All the Psychonauts 2 Hype

You must have heard all about this on the inter-tubes, or at least here on Techie Buzz. Notch (aka Markus Persson, the developer of Minecraft) tweeted to Tim Shafer saying that he was interested in making Psychonauts 2 happen and seeing this, the internet pretty much exploded. Everyone wanted to see the indie darling dev send some of that ginormous bank balance to DoubleFine Studios and make one of the most beloved yet commercially a failure of a game be revived with a sequel.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet tw-align-center”><p>@<a href=”https://twitter.com/TimOfLegend”>TimOfLegend</a> Let’s make Psychonauts 2 happen.</p>&mdash; Markus Persson (@notch) <a href=”https://twitter.com/notch/status/166838426207924224″ data-datetime=”2012-02-07T10:59:15+00:00″>February 7, 2012</a></blockquote>
<script src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

So in an interview, Double Fine lead Tim Schafer mentioned that they wanted to make Psychonauts 2 happen, but that nobody had been willing to fund it so far. Being a big fan of the first one, and thinking a sequel could probably be profitable, I semi-jokingly tweeted Tim about me funding a sequel.

Now Notch has put up a blog post where he explains that at this time it is all conjecture, and that he would be willing to invest in this only because he feels this would be profitable – not as gaming charity or anything of that sort:-

All I know is that IF the numbers work out and IF they still want to do it and IF they don’t decide to self fund a sequel by doing more crowd funding (which is honestly what I would’ve done if I were them), I would be most interested in doing this type of investment.

This is a sort of preemptive blog post in case stuff does not go as planned. We all know how crazy some kinds of fans get, do we not?

However, I really hope it does work out!

EA Sends Mass Effect 3 To Space–Literally

Electronic Arts, the publisher of the upcoming Bioware game Mass Effect 3, has decided that for its hype machine the sky is not the limit. To increase publicity and to let more people know that this is a sci-fi game set in space, EA will be attaching copies of the game on to weather balloons and sending it high into the stratosphere. They will also be attaching a GPS tracking system inside the weather-proof (hehe) package and will be putting up live coordinates of each package as it descends slowly back to terra firma. If you are in and around the area, you can get to the cache and take your free copy of Mass Effect 3 back home with you!

ME3

That’s right, this is also one of the novel ways of tying up the sport of geocaching, publicity stunts and space battles (well not exactly, but it sure is getting there). I honestly think they are wasting money here, but hey I would not mind it if one of those balloons somehow manages to ride an air current and comes to Eastern India and falls squarely on my lap while I am busy reminiscing about Miranda [or Liara, or Samara].

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled for a March 6 release in North America and a March 9 release in Europe and other countries.

Bulgaria and the Netherlands Refuse to Ratify ACTA

The controversial multi-national Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (Read: What is ACTA and How it Will Affect You) is steadily losing ground in the European Union, following key players’ withdrawal from ratifying the agreement. Germany and Poland’s holdback, following a wave of protests in the former and much debate in the latter, has fueled other nations’ misgivings about the vagueness with which the Agreement is written and the fact that there are no clear answers as to how it will ensure anti-counterfeiting and not violation of basic human rights.

Acta

The newest withdrawers are Bulgaria – which is waiting for a clearer stance in the entire EU about the Agreement – and the Netherlands, whose parliament refused to ratify the bill. The Dutch parliament is so vehemently against it that they will refuse to budge from their positions until there is irrefutable evidence that the Agreement will not harm basic human rights. This applause-worthy rejection comes with the same message as the open letter by various organizations that have vowed to protect internet freedoms:-

[T]he Commission’s analysis confirms that the current draft of ACTA would profoundly restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of European citizens, most notably the freedom of expression and communication privacy. These are very much at risk, since the current draft pushes for the implementation of three-strikes schemes and content filtering policies by seeking to impose civil and criminal liability on technical intermediaries such as internet service providers. The text would also radically erode the exercise of interoperability that is essential for both consumer rights and competitiveness.

However, is this the end of ACTA? Not really; a majority of Big Producer countries have signed the Agreement – from the US to Japan to South Korea. Europe is the final hurdle in this entire mess and we must hope that they fight the good fight and end this choking Agreement.

[Photo: Stop Acta by Robert Pasini]

Preorder Mass Effect 3 on Origin to Get Battlefield 3 Free! (US or Canada Only)

It seems EA will go to any lengths to make sure that their Origin digital distribution system is widely accepted. Joystiq reported that if you preorder Mass Effect 3 on Origin (that is, only for PC), you will get a free copy of Battlefield 3 right on your Origin game library. Before you pucker up your face and go “ewwwww Orrriiiggiiiiiiiin ewwwwww”, consider this – for the price you get two games – one of which is brand freakin’ new, and the other one which is quite recent.

me3origin

Origin has been on the receiving end of a lot of bashing from fans of EA games who specifically did not like being forced into yet another digital distribution store. The fact that Origin tracked your computer information, was buggy as hell and that EA had the worst customer support in the entire solar system did not help its case. However, EA’s marketing team is hot in pursuit of its customer’s wallets. They did the same thing with Battlefield 3’s preorder, giving away a copy of Dead Space 2 free with it.

Keep in mind that Mass Effect 3 will need Origin to play even if you buy the box from a brick-and-mortar store. This way, you are not directly contributing to a lot of paper and plastic usage and also get to keep much of your gaming library online. So, will you be preordering Mass Effect 3?

EDIT: This is only for the customers in the USA and Canada. Aw shucks.

The Newest Ace Up In Tor’s Sleeves Helps Thousands of Iranians Access the Free Internet

When Iran blocking country wide access to many commonly used services, it also apparently blocked a large amount of secured traffic movement inside the country. This was done for two effects – to stop Iranians from using SSL technology that may make the Government’s “monitoring” job difficult, and secondly to stop some more tech savvy Iranians from using TOR. TOR, as we know, is a free Internet anonymizing proxy network that works by routing data from the client software to a network of relays and bridges into an exit node somewhere outside the censored country via secured channels. With the blockade of these channels, the usual bunch of 50,000 to 60,000 active TOR connections in Iran plummeted down to 20,000 and eventually to near zero. To counter this, the TOR project’s Jacob Applebaum outlined a new plan that might enable these users to regain access to TOR.

TorObfs

Applebaum, who had also more or less predicted this event a few days back, talked about a “new weapon” that TOR has in the “arms race” that might enable these users from Iran to start using TOR. The technology in operation is the TOR Obfuscated Proxy (obfsproxy) which “camouflages” the traffic entering and exiting the TOR client as being unsecure and thus being usable in a country with a strict censor such as Iran.

The TOR project website has detailed technical instructions on setting up a TOR obfsproxy, which Applebaum admits, is a little rough around the edges. However, nothing is ever useful unless it is applied where it is most needed. This technology is manna from heaven for the Iranian Internet democracy fighters. If you have the technical know-how to apply this technology in your TOR bridge or relay, please do so to help out these people in oppressed regimes!

Counter Strike: Global Offensive–Tentative Concept Art and Map List Leak

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the newest planned Counter Strike game that aims to completely revamp the series from its somewhat outdated setting and places and bring it back into modern day insurgency and counter insurgency skirmishes in and around the world. Valve is looking to add new factions and weaponry as well as new locations for players to battle out in teams in what was arguably the most played team FPS game before Team Fortress 2 became free to play.

image 1 (CS_Yakuza_Female.png)

Steam Community user 12and4, while poking around with the CS:GO code found a bunch of unusual strings such as this:-

gungame classic gungametrbomb gungameselect gungameprogressive pro competitive casual de_shorttrain de_stmarc de_quarter de_sugarcane de_lighthouse de_safehouse de_generator de_freight de_docks de_depot de_club de_bank de_lake gs_baggage ar_shoots ar_monastery ar_baggage de_vertigo de_balkan de_prodigy de_nuke de_inferno de_dust2 de_dust de_aztec cs_office cs_italy cs_assault

To fans of Counter Strike the map codes of two letters (signifying demolition or counter-strike) followed by a name, quite a few of these names (such as ar_shoots, de_balkan or de_freight) must be new, as are the two-letter codes of ar and gs. In addition, it also has icons for the Xbox 360 controller buttons such as X and Y as well as RB and LB – for tutorial use or something similar, we think.

image 8 (CS_Separatist.png)

In addition, 12and4 also extracted a bunch of images from CS:GO (the matchmaking.dll file) and uploaded all of these to MediaFire. A lot of the images are icons for achievements while a good few are concept images for locations as well as factions. Interestingly, there are concept arts for both male and female soldiers from a faction and a lot of new factions. The new factions included are:-

Yakuza
Separatist
Scuba
Professional
Pirate (Somalian Pirate, that is, not the Capt. Jack Sparrow variety)
Insurgents
Georgians
Cultural Revolutionaries
Anarchist

image 58 (map-italy.png)

In the immortal words of [some anonymous GIF file captioner] “Dis gon’ b gud!”

Blizzard Legally Opposes Valve’s Move to Trademark the “DOTA” Name

Well this had to happen, but not in the way it actually did. Blizzard sought to stop Valve from trademarking the “DOTA” name, associated with a custom map for its highly successful Warcraft III franchise that eventually broke off from its parent game and is being developed by Valve as DOTA 2. Blizzard, till now, had no problems with this since Valve was not taking anything that was explicitly its own to use – considering that DOTA was fan-made and fan-enjoyed from start to finish. However, Blizzard does have a problem with Valve trying to trademark the DOTA name.

dota

The gist is that Blizzard never owned or wanted to own the DOTA name. It merely exuded goodwill to its fans and wishes to let the name be open and free for anyone to use. It’s a lot like the name “chess”. If Zynga decided to suddenly trademark the name “Chess” for one of its absurd Facebook games, it would look odd and many people will call foul. That is exactly what Blizzard is doing:-

By attempting to register the mark DOTA Valve seeks to appropriate the more than seven years of goodwill that Blizzard has developed in the mark DOTA and in its Warcraft 3 computer game and take for itself a name that has come to signify the product of years of time and energy expended by Blizzard and by fans of Warcraft 3. Valve has no right to the registration it seeks. If such registration is issued, it not only will damage Blizzard, but also the legions of Blizzard fans that have worked for years with Blizzard and its products, including by causing consumers to falsely believe that Valve’s products are affiliated, sponsored or endorsed by Blizzard and are related or connected to Warcraft 3.

This surprising turn of events also had a tow of die-hard Valve fans calling foul on Blizz because Valve Cannot Do Anything Wrong®

Mass Effect 3 Demo Playthrough Releases To Mass Complaints From Fans Who Have Not Played the Game

The title pretty much sums it up, but the posts here need to have some writing, so I’ll just fill stuff in here. As you all know (or you may not know, so I am telling you now) Mass Effect 3 is the final installment of Bioware’s science fiction action Role Playing Game series set in the far future when the Mass Effect technology is in vogue and humanity as well as its allied races across the galaxy are in danger of being hunted and destroyed by the mysterious Reapers. In Mass Effect 3, the Reapers have set their sights on Earth, the capital planet of the human system. You being the famous Commander Shepard have been called once again to save humanity and restore peace and prosperity to Calradia and bring justice to the Iron Throne bring the reapers to justice.

To increase the hype and hyperbole as well as to make fans of the series generally giddy about the March 6th/9th release of the game, VE3TRO released an exclusive forty minute gameplay trailer of the game. In it, a really indecisive player, walks Shepard through a lot of extremely unimportant areas and shows off the really terrible sprinting animations of Bioware. Also, the forty minute playthrough has some twenty eight minutes of cutscenes (70% of 40), prompting many fans to start polarizing between the “yay story, boo action” and “story sux, action roxxx” camps. However, Bioware has three different ways of playing the game to cater to all kinds of fans of the game – both story lovers and trigger happy soldiers. I hope Bioware knows what it’s doing, otherwise it is going to enrage an entire gaming community. But who am I kidding, I am about as giddy and super excited about this game and really cannot wait for March. Catch the video below.