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Gaming News

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Has Died

October 15, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Photo: Stephen Brashear (Getty)

Paul Allen, who along with Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, has died at the age of 65 of complications associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Allen—who also owned the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers—first overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1982, before also beating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009 until its recurrence earlier this month.

He was one of the world’s richest men, with a personal net worth of just over $20 billion. In his later years, as his involvement with Microsoft waned, Allen became a noted philanthropist, donating over $2 billion to causes like research, exploration and the arts.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella issued the following statement:

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Sources: Microsoft Is Close To Buying Obsidian

October 9, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Screenshot: Pillars of Eternity 2

Microsoft is finalizing a deal to acquire the independent development studio Obsidian Entertainment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations. We don’t know if ink is on paper yet, and plenty of major acquisition deals have fallen apart in the final hours, but those close to the companies believe it is all but done.

One person with knowledge of the deal told Kotaku they’d heard it was “90%” finished. Said a second person: “It’s a matter of when, not if.”

Obsidian, best known for its work on critically acclaimed role-playing games like Knights of the Old Republic II (2004) and Fallout: New Vegas (2010), has been independent since it was founded in 2003. The Irvine, California-based studio has long been beloved by RPG fans, but has often faced financial strains, nearly going out of business in 2012 before it signed a deal for an online tank game and launched a Kickstarter for the isometric throwback that would become Pillars of Eternity.

One compelling argument for the sale is that being owned by a company with deep pockets will offer Obsidian stability and resources the likes of which it has never had before.

“We do not comment on rumors or speculation,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

“Unfortunately, we don’t comment on rumors or speculation other than to say that the Rumors album by Fleetwood Mac still holds up,” said an Obsidian spokesperson.

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In late 2017, Obsidian announced that it was developing a new RPG that would be published by Private Division, a label of 2K Games designed to fund mid-sized games. The companies did not say anything about which consoles the RPG will be available on, and it’s not clear how this sale will affect that game. One option is for Microsoft to buy out the contract; another is for Microsoft to simply inherit it, allowing Obsidian to tie up its loose ends as part of the acquisition.

“While it is our policy not to comment on rumors or speculation, we look forward to publishing the upcoming RPG from Obsidian Entertainment, and remain confident in the team there to deliver an outstanding game,” said a representative for Private Division.

This would be a huge move for the company behind Xbox, which has been on a shopping spree this year, snapping up four game studios including Playground (Forza Horizon) and Ninja Theory (Hellblade). Its most recent notable game studio purchase before that was Mojang, the maker of Minecraft. Microsoft has kept Minecraft multiplatform, even enabling cross-play between Switch and Xbox One players, but console makers usually buy studios with the intent for those studios to make games for their consoles, not the competition. Microsoft’s biggest weakness this generation has been its stable of first-party developers, and with Obsidian, the company now has an RPG-focused studio that can help it compete against the PlayStation’s strong lineup.

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A person familiar with goings-on at Microsoft said the company has been looking to bolster its PC development, which makes the PC-focused Obsidian a perfect fit.

Obsidian and Microsoft have a checkered history. Before the release of the Xbox One, Obsidian was working on an Xbox-exclusive role-playing game, published by Microsoft, called Stormlands. Tense disagreements between the two companies led Microsoft to cancel the game in 2012, and to some involved it was hard to imagine the pair working together again. The Xbox department is under different leadership now, however, with Phil Spencer taking the top role in early 2014. And the move appears to make sense for both parties.

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Microsoft announces Project xCloud, its own AMD GPU-powered game streaming service

October 9, 2018 — by PCGamesn.com0

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Microsoft has announced its own online game streaming service: Project xCloud. The gaming world is changing, and we’ve seen the likes of Blade’s Shadow, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Playstation Now, and even Google Chrome’s own browser-based streaming solution gain traction over the last year. And now Microsoft, the PC and console giant, will join the list of hopeful tech companies fighting for streaming supremacy.

While technically an Xbox streaming service, Microsoft has been set on opening up its gaming library to more devices than just its own proprietary hardware as of late – with Windows PCs some of the first to benefit. This move looks to be similarly targeting the platform boundaries we’ve been locked behind for so long, instead opening up the Xbox library to more devices than the company’s dedicated hardware can reach alone.

Project xCloud will use custom server rack hardware to power the experience – all based on existing Xbox One console components. That means custom AMD GPUs and accompanying memory will be the workhorse keeping Microsoft’s cloud gaming servers ticking over. This looks to be a big win for AMD – most cloud servers we’ve run into so far have employed Nvidia graphics cards for the grunt work rather than team red’s tech.

AMD works closely with both Microsoft and Sony on their respective Xbox One and Playstation consoles. AMD’s Navi architecture, arriving sometime in 2019, was even rumoured to be making its way into a future Playstation 5 console.

But it’s the software developments that might interest us PC folk most of all. Latency poses a huge challenge for anyone developing a streaming service, or indeed playing one, but Microsoft reckons it has the best expertise and access to deliver a stronger streaming service than ever with Project xCloud.

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Microsoft is developing low-latency networking, encoding, and decoding advances to combat the issue of latency and poor quality. It aims to deliver “high-quality experiences at the lowest possible bitrates that work across the widest possible networks”, and that includes a promise for 4G and 5G rollout, too.

The current Project xCloud ‘test experience’ is running at 10Mbps, which is impressively low. Blade’s Shadow is one of the market leaders in this regard at 15Mbps, and it’s not unlike a streaming service to require upwards of a 25Mbps downstream connection. However, we don’t know exactly what quality, framerate, resolution, etc. this experience was running at, so a direct comparison cannot be made this early in the game.

Microsoft looks to be planning a rollout across every Azure data centre location worldwide, encompassing 54 ‘regions’ and 140 countries. Microsoft has already rolled out its custom server racks into one of its data centres in the US, and public trials for the game streaming service will begin in 2019.

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Microsoft announces Project xCloud, its own AMD GPU-powered game streaming service

October 9, 2018 — by PCGamesn.com0

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Microsoft has announced its own online game streaming service: Project xCloud. The gaming world is changing, and we’ve seen the likes of Blade’s Shadow, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Playstation Now, and even Google Chrome’s own browser-based streaming solution gain traction over the last year. And now Microsoft, the PC and console giant, will join the list of hopeful tech companies fighting for streaming supremacy.

While technically an Xbox streaming service, Microsoft has been set on opening up its gaming library to more devices than just its own proprietary hardware as of late – with Windows PCs some of the first to benefit. This move looks to be similarly targeting the platform boundaries we’ve been locked behind for so long, instead opening up the Xbox library to more devices than the company’s dedicated hardware can reach alone.

Project xCloud will use custom server rack hardware to power the experience – all based on existing Xbox One console components. That means custom AMD GPUs and accompanying memory will be the workhorse keeping Microsoft’s cloud gaming servers ticking over. This looks to be a big win for AMD – most cloud servers we’ve run into so far have employed Nvidia graphics cards for the grunt work rather than team red’s tech.

AMD works closely with both Microsoft and Sony on their respective Xbox One and Playstation consoles. AMD’s Navi architecture, arriving sometime in 2019, was even rumoured to be making its way into a future Playstation 5 console.

But it’s the software developments that might interest us PC folk most of all. Latency poses a huge challenge for anyone developing a streaming service, or indeed playing one, but Microsoft reckons it has the best expertise and access to deliver a stronger streaming service than ever with Project xCloud.

frameborder=”0″ allow=”autoplay; encrypted-media” allowfullscreen>

Microsoft is developing low-latency networking, encoding, and decoding advances to combat the issue of latency and poor quality. It aims to deliver “high-quality experiences at the lowest possible bitrates that work across the widest possible networks”, and that includes a promise for 4G and 5G rollout, too.

The current Project xCloud ‘test experience’ is running at 10Mbps, which is impressively low. Blade’s Shadow is one of the market leaders in this regard at 15Mbps, and it’s not unlike a streaming service to require upwards of a 25Mbps downstream connection. However, we don’t know exactly what quality, framerate, resolution, etc. this experience was running at, so a direct comparison cannot be made this early in the game.

Microsoft looks to be planning a rollout across every Azure data centre location worldwide, encompassing 54 ‘regions’ and 140 countries. Microsoft has already rolled out its custom server racks into one of its data centres in the US, and public trials for the game streaming service will begin in 2019.

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Microsoft Announces Xbox Game Streaming Service

October 8, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Today, Microsoft announced its plans to enter the world of video game streaming with Project xCloud, an ambitious service with a silly title that promises to allow the streaming of Xbox One games across computers, phones, and tablets.

Microsoft says it’s currently testing out Project xCloud and plans to open up tests to the public next year. In a blog post, the company said that game developers will be able to support the streaming service “with no additional work,” and that in addition to trying to solve the big ol’ latency problem (with Microsoft’s many datacenters), the team is developing “a new, game-specific touch input overlay” for controller-free playing.

“Our goal with Project xCloud is to deliver a quality experience for all gamers on all devices that’s consistent with the speed and high-fidelity gamers experience and expect on their PCs and consoles,” the company said.

This news comes just a week after Google announced its own stab at the streaming world, Project Stream, which entered a closed beta test this weekend and allows users to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a Google Chrome tab.

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Sea of Thieves' New Volcanic Region Is Difficult And Hilarious

October 4, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Rare’s online pirate adventure game Sea of Thieves launched into some rough waters, feeling more like a beta than full game. Since then, the developers have worked to make the seas more treacherous and exciting. Last week’s Forsaken Shores content adds an entirely new region packed with dangerous volcanoes and difficult quests. It’s the perfect destination for pirates who think the game’s still too easy.

When you get down to it, there are only a few core things you do in Sea of Thieves: find buried treasure, fight skeletons, and transport merchant supplies. That lack of variety made the game’s launch prime time for trolls looking to break the monotony. But Sea of Thieves has expanded since then, finding ways to encourage exploration and cooperation. The Hungering Deep’s megalodon battle and the skeleton ship battles added in Cursed Sails both required multiple crews to work together, and the addition of reward-granting skull thrones encouraged players to search off the beaten trail. Forsaken Shores expands the world size and aims to appeal to explorers and dare-devils alike. It offers a new and dangerous spin on the game’s core quests.

Forsaken Shores adds The Devil’s Roar, a chain of volcanic islands that act like something of a “hard mode” zone. There’s a small quest to help a grimy captain find their lost crew, but the big draw is a chance to take on more lucrative jobs than you could normally. Contracts in the Devil’s Roar pay a pretty penny and can grant access to very stylish loot. The catch is that the island’s various volcanoes erupt with alarming frequency, making the waters difficult to navigate as massive lava spurts and rocks slam down on your location. The islands themselves have other pitfalls: earthquakes can prevent you from running, heated water can turn picturesque pools into boiling death traps, and geysers can erupt and send you flying into the air.

I set off on a journey to the Devil’s Roar last night with my friend Evil Nick and some friends, where we promptly found ourselves scrambling to pick up treasure before the islands could destroy us. The first time we saw an erupting volcano, we were both transfixed with the spectacle but felt cocky, assuming we’d be safe. But as molten rock slammed the ship, we needed to weave through the waters in ways we’d never had before. Landing on the nearest island was an equally strange misadventure, as difficult skeletons chased my friends while I tried to dig up a treasure chest sitting on a geyser that threw me around like a ragdoll. It was absurd, and some of the most fun I’ve had playing the game.

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I don’t think that Sea of Thieves has cracked the code of its structure; these content updates don’t fundamentally change the clumsy core progression. But Forsaken Shores’ map expansion and higher difficulty keeps things fresh. There’s a lot of joy in sailing quietly on the seas, but there’s a very special kind of fun that comes from hurriedly digging up treasure while your buddies fight fast-spawning skeletons in the middle of lava rain. My hope is that, as the game world expands and more new regions like the Devil’s Roar are added, Sea of Thieves can accommodate both kinds of adventure. Forsaken Shores gives me hope that even if Sea of Thieves remains firmly aimless, the world will always have surprises in store.

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Windows Will No Longer Interrupt Your Games To Annoy You About Updates

October 3, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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We’ve all been there: you’re in the zone with a game—so dialed in that you can practically smell the body odor of the man you just kicked off a cliff—but then, suddenly, it’s gone. Windows has decided it’s update time, and also that you can go fuck yourself. Mercifully, that problem is now history.

The latest big Windows 10 update includes, among other things, improvements to Game Mode. Most are just standard quality-of-life things, but this one, spotted by PCGamesN, is a life-saver:

“Now auto-enabled for all games with a master On/Off toggle in Windows Settings, Game Mode suppresses Windows Update driver installs and blocks Windows Update interruptions such as restart notifications while you’re gaming. You may also see improved game performance with less FPS variability depending on the specific game and system.”

Finally. Thank goodness. Is it too late to declare today a national holiday?

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Every Car In Forza Horizon 4 Has Its Own Perk Tree, So Of Course I'm Hooked

September 26, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Back in 2016 I spent a great deal of time farming skill points in Forza Horizon 3 in order to unlock bonuses in the game’s Skill Shop perks tree. In Forza Horizon 4, every single one of the over 450 cars in the game has its own perks tree to unlock. I am filled with glee. A little dread, but mostly glee.

Not that I needed more of an excuse to tool about for hours in my favorite Forza Horizon 4 vehicles. I was perfectly content with the way the previous game handled skill points. I’d perform lengthy stunt combos, stringing together jumps, drifts, hops and wanton destruction. Doing so would earn me skill levels and points, which I would spend in ye olde Skill Shop.

This was very exciting in 2016.

This time around, instead of having a single set of perks enhancing one’s entire Forza Horizon career, we get this:

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This is the Car Mastery perk tree for the Jaguar C-X75, one of the vehicles from the James Bond downloadable content for Forza Horizon 4. Being a Legendary class vehicle (as opposed to Rare, Epic or Common), the C-X75 has 16 different perks to unlock.

Daily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.

These aren’t random perks, but a group of bonuses carefully cultivated to reflect the vehicle. For example, in the lower left corner of the board is the “Collector’s Item” perk. Its flavor text reads, “Your car is a masterpiece. Get an instant 5,000 Car Collection influence.” So by spending a skill point, drivers instantly gain a nice chunk of influence. Other perks help players build up their skill combos, offering bonuses for specific actions, more time to string together stunts or an increased combo multiplier.

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The caveat here, if that’s even the right word, is drivers can only earn skill points for specific cars while actively driving those cars. So in order for me to rack up all of those perks, I had to spend hours driving this:

Woe is me, right?

Let’s take a look at a slightly different ride. This is my Rally Fighter, my off-road/dirt racing vehicle of choice. It’s an Epic, so it only has 13 perks to unlock, but those perks are appropriate to its character. They’re enhancing air skills, destruction skills and speeding up combo multiplier generation. This is a vehicle to weave through trees and knock down fences.

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I love this beastie.

Like the previous Forza Horizon games, Forza Horizon 4 is a joy to play. It strikes the sweet spot between arcade and simulation racing so perfectly that it’s easy to get lost for hours doing absolutely nothing. Look at my game map. I need to start racing or doing events or whatever.

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Or I could just hop around the hills and master all of those cars. It’s like the developers knew my proclivity for screwing around and added in the Car Mastery system in order to encourage and reward that behavior. Thanks, developers!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have several hundred cars to master, and at least one to Master Chief.

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Xbox One Getting Mouse + Keyboard Support

September 25, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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FPS games (and…strategy games?) are about to get a lot more precise on the Xbox One, with the announcement today that Microsoft is “enabling mouse and keyboard support on Xbox One for select Xbox Insiders in the coming weeks.”

It’s a game-by-game thing, with developers free to choose whether they implement the added compatibility or not, and it won’t ever be enabled by default in a game.

Warframe will be the first game to feature it, with m+k support coming next month.

Microsoft say “most wired or wireless USB keyboards and mice will work on Xbox One”, but they’re also teaming up with Razer to “bring you the best possible mouse and keyboard experience for this new functionality”. Which likely just means Razer gear with an Xbox logo somewhere on it.

There’ll be more information on which games will be supporting the feature in Microsoft’s next Inside Xbox show in November.

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Microsoft's Custom Charity Consoles Are Great

September 19, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Xbox and Make-A-Wish are teaming up again for their Consoles For Kids charity drive, and the 2018 batch of custom-designed celebrity consoles are looking very pretty.

How pretty you find them may depend on your feelings towards a particular celebrity, since many of them just have someone’s face plastered over the front, but there are also some special game-related consoles that look like something you used to be able to buy in a bundle at Christmas time.

Each console is signed by either the celebrity or the team behind the game. They’re currently up for auction here, with the current top bid being over $2000 for the Halo console.

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Here are some of the other Xbox Ones up for auction:

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Microsoft, if you and Wiz wanna put his one up for general sale, I would buy one.