The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Has Gone Gold

Alright slight disclaimer here, but the post that follows might have the tone of giddy as a schoolboythat you have heard from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That is mostly because The Witcher was one of my favorite games of all time. With its non-linear storyline, excellent character progression and a unique experience not seen often in Role Playing Games it struck a chord with my Excellence-O-Meter and has forever remained as one of the pinnacles of modern video gaming.

thewitcher2

CD Projekt RED reports that the much expected sequel, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has gone gold. In video game industry parlance, this means that the game has finished Quality Assurance testing and the last round of bug fixing, and is in production now for retail and digital release. This means, that Geralt of Rivia will grace our computer screens on time on the 17th of May.

Preorders for the game online will start on the 10th of May on both GOG.com as well as the other reputed digital distributors. On GOG.com, a lot of special goodies are available for anyone who preorders the game (without actually paying yet). The AAA title will not have any kind of Digital Rights Management (DRM) on GOG a first for its kind in recent times.

In a time where most high-end titles are beset with postponement and QA woes, CD Projekt RED have gone and outdone themselves by announcing that the game will be released on time, and will be available DRM-free for those who want it that way. Additionally they are doing this without taking the unnecessary route of Downloadable Content (DLC) as a way to further the story and make more money in that process. Kudos to you!

Sony Finally Comes Clean on PSN and Qriocity Intrusion, Admits That Almost All User Information Was Stolen

SonySony has finally come clean on the PlayStation Network and Qriocity intrusion, and everyone’s worst fears have been realized. Last week Sony pulled down its highly popular PlayStation Network and Qriocity services, which have remained offline since. Initially, Sony offered little by the way of clarification, and only stated that they are working on rebuilding PSN and Qriocity, which have been victims of external intrusion. Rumors flew thick and fast. Most people pointed fingers at “Anonymous“, which had earlier caused temporary outages of PSN. Some suggested that Sony’s actions might have been prompted by the release of a custom firmware called Rebug, which enabled PlayStation users to pirate content from PSN using fake credit card credentials. Unfortunate, the real situation is a lot more critical.

Sony has now revealed that “certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion” into their network. Sony became aware of the intrusion between 17th and 19th April, and turned off PSN and Qriocity on 20th April. The intruder managed to gain access to profile data, which includes name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. Needless to say, all of this is extremely sensitive information. In the wrong hands, this kind of information can be misused in any number of ways. However, the bad news for PSN users doesn’t stop at this. According to the official update:

While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.

The fact that your credit card information might be up for sale is unnerving. PlayStation Network, which is accessible via the PlayStation 3 (PS3) and PlayStation Portable (PSP), has more than 60 million registered accounts. If you had your credit card information stored with either PSN or Qriocity, then it’s highly recommended that you change your credit card number. Get in touch with your credit card issuer to find out how you can do so. However, this is something that will take time. In the meanwhile, it’s recommended that you place a fraud alert on your card.

At no charge, U.S. residents can have these credit bureaus place a fraud alerton your file that alerts creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity prior to granting credit in your name. This service can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name. Note, however, that because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you, it also may delay your ability to obtain credit while the agency verifies your identity.

To do this, contact any one of the agencies recommended by Sony (Experia, Equifax and TransUnion). If you also have the nasty habit of using the same password for multiple services, you will have to go through the time-consuming procedure of manually changing passwords for each of those services that had the same password as your PSN account.

In the coming days and weeks, Sony will have a lot of answering to do. What is baffling me is the fact that sensitive information like account password and credit card were obtained by the hacker. It is common practice to secure such data by using encryption along with salting. Unless, the information was stored in plain text, or encrypted using weak techniques like MD5 hashing, the intruder should never be able to extract the original data. If Sony didn’t implement appropriate security measures, then they have no one to blame but themselves, and they will probably have to pay very dearly.

It was also irresponsible to sit on this information for a week before alerting affected users. Sony should have come clean as soon as they knew what had happened. Instead they seem to have been busy trying to save their own ass.

This incident once again highlights the pitfalls of storing your information on the cloud. Every time you trust an online service with your data, you add another source that might be exploited by hackers. It’s time that the congress makes it mandatory for every service that stores sensitive information like credit card numbers to have certain minimum security protections. Sony is currently working on making PSN and Qriocity more secure, and hopes to restore services, at least partially, within this week.

Wolfire Games’ New Overgrowth Video Is Unexpectedly Creepy

Overgrowth is the full-fledged video game from Wolfire Games that is currently under development. As a successor to their earlier release Lugaru (which was marketed as a Shareware, rather than an entire game) features anthropomorphic rabbits who are resident Fight Club fans. In other words there are rabbits that fight other rabbits and wolves. What kind of fights you ask? The bloody, brawny barroom brawl kind.

The emphasis on bloodyis not mine it’s theirs. With their new update, Wolfire Games has added realistic blood effects on all the characters of Overgrowth. By realistic effects, we mean the artery severed and gushing, spraying blood like a fountain on the environments around while the character prances about as if nothing happens and occasionally jumps up in the air with utter joykind of realistic.

See the video here, and decide for yourself. It’s not as graphic as I make it out to seem, but it’s getting there… (see what I did there? No? Okay.)

With their developer diaries being keenly followed by expectant fans and quite a few of them converting to a pre-order, the game seems to be on the right path to commercial success. Incidentally, Wolfire Games is the brain behind the original Humble Indie Bundle and Lugaru was one of the games introduced in the first bundle.

Google Checkout Evilly Takes Over Indie Gaming Money

PayPal is been vilified countless times on the internet, including by our very own Editor-in-Chief. However, compared to what Google Checkout has just done to small indie Project Zomboid makes PayPal looks like a cute kitten jumping on a couple of butterflies on a sunny April afternoon while you lazily look at it from under a shade, sipping some mojito. Google Checkout has frozen and banned Project Zomboid’s account (which had 80% of the game’s preorder money) and has refused to answer any questions regarding the sudden derailment of the service.

zomboid

The indie studio was initially beset with problems from PayPal who gave them a warning a month in advance so that they could remove all the cash that they could. After an email or two the problem was solved. Regardless, the developers decided to put up a Google Checkout widget which turned out to be the more popular option. However, Google Checkout does not offer the Pay What You Want model so they put up these options:-

Preorder Project Zomboid
Preorder Project Zomboid + £5 Donation
Preorder Project Zomboid + £10 Donation
Preorder Project Zomboid + £15 Donation

It turned out that there is a clause in the Terms of Service where Google Checkout strongly relates the term Donationwith Charity, while the developers meant Tipor Extra Paymentor something. Seeing as this was against the TOS, Google Checkout stopped providing service and access to their money.

googlecheckout

When did Google Checkout go about doing this? A whole month later after a huge amount of the preorder money had already filled the Google Checkout coffers. Why did they wait for so long? That’s the question.

When the developer, Indie Stone, sent a really long and angry email to Google Checkout, they were presented with this cold and impersonal reply:-

We advise buyers to contact sellers directly to resolve any order-related issues.

Really, Google? I hope this does not continue in the future…

Plausible Reason For The PlayStation Network’s Downtime Revealed

Slight disclaimer: we do not usually beautify content from Reddit and put it up as an exclusive reveal. That is left for other blogs of repute.

PSN

A PSX-Scene.com moderator has put up a post on Reddit with a speculative reason (it may not be the real reason) as to why the PlayStation Network has   been down for a long time now. Most of the information below comes from facts and logical inferences:-

Some days ago a new Custom Firmware (CFW) called Rebug was released for the PlayStation 3. A CFW allows the user to run unsigned content. What this usually means is that Homebrew games and applications can be made to run only on a PS3 running a CFW. Whenever a PS3 is flashed with a CFW, it cannot connect to the PlayStation Network (PSN) since some necessary files for the connection are overwritten (I am not very familiar with the internal dynamics of the system).
As is usual with CFWs, third party developers caught on and released a patch that allowed users to connect to the PSN via the PlayStation Developers Network. So far, so good.

However, the trouble began when some CFW users found out that the PSN did not bother verifying your credit card credentials whenever you enter it for purchasing a game. Apparently, since the CFW is on the developer’s network, it is a trusted network so security is lax.

What followed was a torrent of piracy (I think I may be on to something with that collective noun) that led to Sony shutting down PSN and keeping mum about it for days on end.

This is a seemingly logical explanation since the chronology allows for that conclusion (from the post):-

1. Rebug was released on 3/31/11.
2. First guides of how to use the dev network to get back on COD games on 4/3/11.
3. Word of “shady” sites finding a way to pirate PSN content via the dev networks on 4/7/11 (basing this on posts I had to delete on the website). 4. PSN goes down on 4/20/11

Since Anonymous vehemently denies any hackingattempt on the PSN this could definitely be one of the reasons. It also fits under the external intrusionexplanation allegedly given by Sony, since this is technically external intrusion.

Thoughts, readers?

Minecraft Sells 2 Million Copies

Ah Minecraft. We never cease to report about the darling of the indie movement, do we? There have been many successes from the incredibly simple game that has taken the world by storm, and I am pretty sure that there will be no end to the brilliance of its players that shines through in the internet. With the release of the Minecraft Beta 1.5, the game is inching towards completion, but there is still a lot of work to do before the game is completed.

MC6

Two million satisfied customers? I’m pretty sure. The thing is, the game cannot be defined or reviewed very easily. There has been debate after debate on Quora and other less-web2.0-y parts of the internet on what exactly is the thrill or joy in playing Minecraft, which at most gives cheap thrills during in-game night time with the monsters. For my part, I can attest to the fact that the game (it is a game, even though it has no set achievable goals per se) pulls you in with its deceptively simple nature (punch trees to get wood and so on) and then surprises you with its depth (such as Redstone electricity, huge area to mine in etc.). The fact that such a horde of people on the internet find it alluring is reason enough for some to at least try it, while for others it is the fact that the game easily lets you forget the world outside and return to your childhood with electronic Lego is the charm.

Whatever the case, Minecraft is on a steady rise on the course of world domination.

Humble Bundle Inc. Receives By $4.7 Million In Venture Capital

When I read the report for the first time, I was surprised that it was an entire corporation called Humble Bundle Inc., and not Wolfire Games that actually ran the Humble Indie Bundles. I blame my sudden loss of memory on the jaw-dropping amount of funding that the company has received from investors the incredibly large sum of roundabout four point seven million US dollars.

humbleindie

The Humble Indie Bundle is basically a non-regular deal of a conglomeration of developers (except the latest) selling a bundle of their games together without any Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection at the incredible price of $pay_what_you_want. The model has has tremendous success in all of the iterations, since the indie games on offer are typically very well known and liked and also because the customer can decide where his/her money will be going whether to the developers or any of the participating organizations as charity.

All the games run on the recent versions of the three major operating systems (Windows, Mac OS and Linux) and recently redemption codes for the game on other platforms such as Steam or Desura have also been introduced.

There have been three Humble Indie Bundles so far, with the latest still on offer with Frozenbyte’s well known game Trine being one of the games in the bundle.

Gamasutra says that Sequoia Capital has led this series A funding round. The firm is well known to have backed other video gaming and entertainment startups such as Unity Technologies and GameGround.

PlayStation Network Continues to Remain Offline as Sony Works on Rebuilding It

PSNSony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) is down for the fifth straight day, and there is no word on when it will become operational again. Earlier, we reported that PSN and Qriocity were pulled down by Sony due to “external intrusion”. In a sparsely worded update, Sony’s Patrick Seybold wrote, “We sincerely regret that PlayStation Network and Qriocity services have been suspended, and we are working around the clock to bring them both back online”.

While Sony didn’t divulge any specifics, it did state that it is working on re-building the system to further strengthen its network infrastructure. The simple fact that Sony chose to suspend its services, instead of restoring the services as it is, and working on beefing up security in the background, suggests that the intrusion was quite severe. The big question is exactly what kind of information, if any, did the hackers manage to get hold of. The PSN is an online multiplayer gaming, and content distribution service that is an integral part of the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable (PSP) experience. Many customers have sensitive information like credit card details. Unconfirmed reports suggest that admin dev accounts were breached. Understandably, Sony is remaining tightlilpped about the nature and the extent of the intrusion. Hopefully, once it manages to get PSN and Qriocity back online, it will share more details. For now, the only thing that we can do is wait.

Fable III Will Arrive On Steam And GFWL As Well As Retail

Fable: The Lost Chapters was the source of an unending amount of mirth that is not usually associated with Role Playing Games (RPGs) of yore. With some genuinely funny moments, derisive nicknames and a cartload of funny characters along with a decent story and progression, the game was a great overall experience. Fable III promises to entertain as much as Fable: TLC, if not more. However, just how much it does entertain is still debatable as the game is yet to be launched.

Fable3

However, the Lionhead Studios game will be distributed on both Microsoft’s Games for Windows Live (GFWL) Marketplace, as well as Valve’s huge digital distribution platform, Steam. Preordering the game on each platform gives you a different bonus:-

  • Preordering Fable III on Games for Windows Live Marketplace gives you instant access to the previous game Fable: The Lost Chapters for you to romp about in the Darkwood Bordello (and other places of course)
  • Preordering it on Steam gets you the Rebel’s Weapon and Tattoo Pack which is basically a collection of four exclusive weapons and five exclusive tattoo sets to customize their rebel hero.

I guess that’s very nice. (I would go for the GFWL deal, if I were you. Just sayin’)

Sony Confirms That PlayStation Network Downtime Is Due to “External Intrusion”

A couple of days back, Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity services went offline without any prior notice. Immediately speculation began to mount that “Anonymous”, an infamous band of hacktivists, had succeeded in hacking the PSN. Anonymous had earlier taken issue with Sony’s strong stance against jailbreaking of the PS3, and the treatment meted to Geohot. It had threatened to fight back against Sony. However, after initially causing intermittent outages of PSN, Anon decided to stop its attempts to knock out the PSN, in order to avoid inconveniencing users.

Now, Sony has finally broken its silence, and has confirmed that the PlayStation Network and Qriocity were taken offline due to “an external intrusion”. Anonymous has, however, distanced itself from the hacking of the PSN through its press release titled “For Once We Didn’t Do It”. The release states that, “While it is possible that other Anons have acted by themselves, AnonOps was not related to this incident and does not take responsibility for whatever has happened”.

Anonymous-PlayStation-Network

Irrespestive of the cause of the outage, this is bad news for gamers all over the world. Sony hasn’t clarified how long the outages are likely to continue; however, there is a good chance that the services will not be restored within the next couple of days. This means that PS3 owners are going to have a long weekend.