Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (19 June 2016)

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I’ve come down with a very annoying and distracting cough. So please bear that in mind as you read through this week’s WNR, and if things don’t seem to make much sense, you’ll know why (it’s either the fever, or the fact that I can’t see properly through my phlegm covered screen).

*cough cough cough cough cough*

On with this week’s news …

Copyright

The Walking Dead - Lucille

Who’s on the other end of this screenie from The Walking Dead is the subject of a copyright dispute

Can you file a copyright lawsuit against someone for posting spoilers? Especially if those so called spoilers are really just guesses based on deduction? Apparently you can, with The Walking Dead’s AMC suing a spoiler Facebook group for just that.

The Facebook group, The Spoiling Dead Fans (TSDF), uses aerial photography, cast sightings and other means to guess at key plot points in coming episodes of the hit zombie series. And with the latest season of The Walking Dead ending on a huge cliffhanger, in which an unrevealed key character was killed. With fans eager to find out just who got it at the end of a barb wire coated baseball bat (called Lucille), TSDF did its usual thing and promised to post information that could prove who the unfortunate victim was.

This, however, was a step too far for AMC, and they promptly issued a cease and desist letter to TSDF. TSDF backed down with hesitation (and some anger from its fans), because they simply couldn’t afford to fight a lawsuit against AMC, even if AMC doesn’t really have a case (based on common sense, and also based on expert advice). It’s legal bullying at its most obvious!

Adding to all of this is the fact that comic book readers already knows who most likely ended up having their head bashed in (and eyeball bashed out), and also the fact that most TWD TV show fans were incensed at the decision by producers not to reveal Lucille’s victim (having spent a whole season building up to the confrontation).

So are spoilers, especially ones based on nothing more than conjecture, copyright protected? So if I post here that Heath is the one most likely to get it, am I committing copyright infringement? (note, it’s most likely not Heath).

Gaming

E3 was interesting to say the least. Nintendo finally got solid information out about its long overdue Zelda game, Sony had a very exciting game line-up, but it was Microsoft that had the most up its sleeves. Microsoft unveiled not one but two new Xbox One consoles, and while one is 18 months away from seeing the light of day, the other was almost as exciting.

Xbox One S

The Xbox One S – best value Ultra HD Blu-ray player on the market?

The console 18 month away from release is the Xbox ‘Scorpio’, a souped up version of the Xbox One that Microsoft says will be the most powerful game consoles when it is released most likely in time for Christmas 2017. The rumours have mostly proven true, with the Scorpio being 4K capable for games, VR, and all sorts of other things.

But the console I most want to talk about is the other one, the one available as soon as August – the Xbox One S. The ‘S’ moniker does stand for Slim, but the S is more than just about a small factor (40% smaller to be precise). There’s no more power brick, for one, and there will be more storage (up to 2TB).

And most exciting of all, the new S will include a new Ultra HD Blu-ray drive that allows for 4K Blu-ray playback (as well as 4K Netflix and the like, but no 4K gaming until the Scorpio). There’s also HDR support, for both video and gaming. With the expected price of the Xbox One S to be $299, this would make the Xbox One S potentially $100 heaper than Samsung’s Ultra HD Blu-ray player!

But there’s even more. The new Xbox One will be more powerful than the original Xbox One, not quite Scorpio levels of upgrade, but enough to make the Gears of War 4 developers to add code to take advantage of the increase in GPU and CPU power.

Not bad for a minor upgrade!

The 2TB “special” edition of the S launches in August for a slightly inflated price of $399, but the cheapest 500GB edition won’t be here until the end of the year (a third 1TB edition, for $349, will also be available in the US at least).

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That’s it for the week. I’m off to cough up what’s left of my lungs. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (12 June 2016)

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Got lots of other work lined up, despite it being a nice and sunny (but still cold) Sunday for once, so going to have to get through the news roundup stuff pretty quickly today!

Copyright

Censorship

Take down, stay down is just censorship by another name, says the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is the latest to come out against the proposed “take down, stay down” changes to the DMCA, with the non-profit warning that such a regime could spell doom for sites like themselves. The Internet Archive, as its name suggests, archives content on the Internet for posterity, and while it endeavors to only store content with the right licensing terms (ie. public domain), the vast amount of data it archives means that some copyrighted content will get through. But under “take down, stay down”, sites like the Internet Archive will be made responsible for not only taking down such content, but also identifying it in the first place. This puts tremendous strain on the already limited resources of the Internet Archive, and also opens sites like them up to copyright lawsuits if they fail to implement a robust take down and stay down process.

It’s basically just the latest attempt by rights-holders to shift all work and responsibility to others when it comes to copyright enforcement, even though they themselves are the *only* party actually capable of identifying copyrighted content. And such as regime also mean sites must monitor and censor their own users actively, which is a serious privacy risk for users, as well as being a possible danger to freedom of speech on the Internet.

But if the copyright lobby greases the right wheels and “take down, stay down” becomes a reality, sites will have to get used to self-enforcement. But there will always be a group of sites that won’t be very much interested in self-enforcement, not even if you send them pre-piracy warnings. That’s what Sony did last week, in an attempt to preempt Euro 2016 piracy, by sending pre-piracy warnings to torrent and streaming sites before the first match has even been played. The attempt may have backfired, with many of the sites receiving the notices promising to not only ignore the warnings, but to also put extra focus on bringing pirated matches and clips to users. I guess they’re thinking if Sony are so concerned about piracy that they went to the effort to send pre-piracy notices, it must be anticipating a great demand for such content – demand that the piracy sites would love to meet.

High Definition

Metal Gear Solid V PS4

The PS4 Neo will include an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive

The worst kept secret ever is no longer a secret – Sony have confirmed that a new, upgraded PS4 is on the way. And the main reason this news story has been placed in this section instead of the gaming section is also the confirmation, for the first time, that the PS4 “Neo” will include a new Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for playing back Ultra HD Blu-ray movies.

If Sony can hurry up and get the Neo out before Christmas, this would mean the new PS4 would be Sony’s first and only Ultra HD Blu-ray player at that time (standalones are not expected to arrive until 2017). This could be an extra selling point for the new PS4, and I’m thinking a bundle offer with Sony’s own 4K TV range might be on the cards.

With E3 just around the corner, you might expect more details to emerge then about the Neo, but don’t hold your breath, Sony have confirmed there won’t be an official unveiling of the Neo there.

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That’s it, nice and short this week. See you in seven!

Weekly News Roundup (5 June 2016)

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

I’m really enjoying the current season of Game of Thrones. It’s moving along rather quickly, perhaps as a result of not having to follow the books anymore. There’s also the obligatory shocking plot twist, senseless violence, and of course, the nudity (both female and the “in your face” male variety). More on the latter, later in the roundup.

A good amount of stuff to go through today (although technically, all of them are copyright stories), so let’s go for it.

Copyright

Porn. There, I got your attention. Game of Thrones. Bang, you’re now even more interested. Mix the two together and what you have? A lawsuit! HBO is taking on porn video site Pornhub over illegally uploaded clips from Got, and given the nature of Pornhub, you can guess which clips those were.

Game of Thrones - Shae

HBO going after porn sites

Pornhub have nobody but themselves to blame though, because they’re the ones who brought attention to the fact that Game of Thrones related porn searches rise dramatically just before the start of a new GoT season. Pornhub proudly publicized this fact, along with a list of the most popular GoT related keywords, only last month, and with HBO in the mood to take on pirates, the expected has happened. HBO is now taking legal action to get those clips removed.

And in case you’re interested in what the top GoT related keywords were, the top one was ‘Emilia Clarke’ (strange, considering how she doesn’t like to do nude scenes anymore, one episode this season apart), followed by ‘Natalie Dormer’ (who plays Queen Margaery). One name that may not be surprising is ‘Sibel Kekilli’, who played Tyrion Lannister’s one time love interest Shae. It isn’t surprising because not only did Sibel take part in several nude scenes, she is also a former porn actress with her previous works available to view on Pornhub. The Game of Thrones producers often cast porn actors and actresses in roles that require nudity or a sex scene (or a dozen), so the connection to sites like Pornhub seems quite natural to me.

And in case you were wondering, yes, there were also some searches for Jon Snow.

High Definition

Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray

The Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Deadpool failed to make a huge impact

A new study shows that delaying disc releases in overseas markets may be causing piracy and sales losses. That’s not so surprising, but what is surprising is that the study may have been funded by MPAA money, and so the conclusion that studios themselves are sometimes to blame for piracy is indeed surprising.

There is definitely a strong moral component to the decision to pirate or not. And if people feel justified in doing it, because studios, in their infinite greed, decided to put in artificial release windows, then that justification will simply drive piracy. The same applies to outrageous regional based pricing, region control, and all the other things that studios do to squeeze some extra money out of a release.

Speaking of studios squeezing money out of us poor consumers, their latest effort in trying to make us re-buy everything again, Ultra HD Blu-ray, is off to a start. I can’t say it’s off to a great start because there was an opportunity to really lift the format a few weeks ago, and it didn’t really happen. I’m talking about Deadpool and how, being one of the biggest Blu-ray titles of the year, it was also made available on Ultra HD Blu-ray at the same time. Unfortunately, only 3.28% of all disc copies (or when removing DVDs from the equation, 4.6% of all Blu-ray copies) sold were for the 4K version of the film. I guess it’s still early days for the format, and hardly anyone has the TV or the UHD player for the discs, but I think it’s going to take a really long time before UHD discs start to make a real impact.

Gaming

GOG Connect

Get DRM-free copies of some of your Steam games – I managed to only get 3 games myself

Want a free DRM-free copy of some of your Steam games? Then head over to GOG Connect, and you may get just what you want. GOG is giving away free, and DRM-free, copies of selected Steam games, and all you have to do is to import your Steam game list into your GOG account, and the free copies will be added to your account. Your Steam games remain the same as before, except you’ve also got a DRM-free version on GOG that will never expire, and will always be playable.

GOG is making this happen by negotiating with these games’ developers, which means they are the one that may be paying for this transfer. As a result, this is strictly a limited time offer, and there are also only 23 games supported so far (mostly indie hits, but some commercial ones including Saints Row 2 and GOG’s own The Witcher).

This is great, but what I would like to see is game publishers guaranteeing that all who buy the game will get a DRM-free version of it some set time after the game’s release. If you buy something, then you should get to use it for as long as you need, and not as long as the publishers deems necessary (ie. when it cost them too much to maintain the DRM).

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And with that, we come to the end of another issue. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (29 May 2016)

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Another relatively quiet week, but we have a couple of quite interesting stories to go through, so let’s not waste any time on this very cold Sunday (brrr!).

Copyright

Game of Thrones - Bran Stark

Oh Bran, what have you done? Did you warg into an HBO intern’s mind to leak the new episode?

Starting with copyright news as always, HBO’s anti-piracy efforts took a step backwards this week with their Nordic branch decided that the world couldn’t wait another 24 hours (and a bit) to see the next episode of Game of Thrones. Someone at HBO Nordic decided to try their hand at pre-release leaking, and the new episode was put up online a day earlier than expected. To make matters worse, HBO Nordic has a 30 day trial for their online video services, meaning that anyone from around the world with a VPN were able to enjoy the episode titled “The Door”, and do it for many hours before HBO wised up, and more than a day before the official US premier.

It appears that despite all of HBO’s renewed anti-piracy efforts this season, this gaffe opened the door and held it open for pirates to take advantage – they promptly uploaded a (initially a poor quality version, and then a 1080p version) copy to all the usual piracy places, for all to enjoy. I’m sure HBO will be much more careful this week, when the sixth episode of the sixth season, “Blood of My Blood”, will be broadcast.

And yes, that was deliberate (don’t want to say too much than that – no spoilers from me, thank-you very much).

High Definition

US Netflix subscribers will have some great movies to look forward to, when Netflix’s exclusive deal with Disney starts in September. Under the deal, Netflix will have exclusive pay-TV rights, in the US, to all of Disney’s films, starting from 2016 onwards (so The Force Awakens just miss out … boo!). This includes all Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm films, as well as films released under Disney’s banner, all available shortly on Netflix after their initial Blu-ray/DVD release (the same release time-frame that pay TV operators used to enjoy). The exclusivity part ensures Amazon, Hulu and cable operators won’t get these films during the pay TV release window, which is a much needed boost to Netflix’s flagging (non original) movie line-up.

Gaming

Xbox One Halo 5 Edition

Microsoft will be bringing out own super duper Xbox One to take on the Neo

The Xbox One is getting not one but two upgraded models, and one of which will directly take on the PS4 Neo. Dubbed the ‘Scorpio’, the super powerful Xbox One is rumored to be targeting 6 teraflops of peak power, which compares rather favourably with the Neo’s 4.14 teraflop target (and much better than the Xbox One’s current 1.32 teraflops). Both companies appears to have embraced the iterative upgrade model (think iPhone), and will be releasing upgraded consoles at shorter intervals. I’m not sure I like this to be honest, and I’m not sure if it will even work. It’s one thing to upgrade a phone every year, but a game consoles that has severely reduced resale value (and not as easily passed down to family members)? I just don’t know …

But if it does work, then the PS4 and Xbox One could be the last major console release as we know it. The Neo and Scorpio are basically just new consoles with a healthy dose of backwards compatibility – both Sony and Microsoft can actually keep this up indefinitely if they wanted to. Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s remarks about turning to the PC’s model for upgrades, is now starting to make sense. He wasn’t talking about opening up the Xbox One and plugging in a new GPU, but rather on the architecture and design point of view of incremental updates, and in regards to backwards compatibility. So instead of a major new architecture that destroys compatibility, the upgrades will be more minor, but more numerous.

Let’s wait and see how gamers react to all of these changes, especially when it comes to forking over their hard earned cash.

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That’s all we have time for this week. Actually, we have plenty of time, but we’ve run out of news, so that’s that. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (22 May 2016)

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

A lot to go through, but I’m time constrained on this cloudy and cold Sunday, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Wait, is that cheering and applause that I hear? I’ll try not to take it too personally …

Copyright

YouTube Content ID

Content ID is not perfect, but the last thing we should do is to make broader and more automated

Now, I love a good rant as much as anyone, but have been responsible for a few of my own right here, but this one by musician Maria Schneider takes the cake. One simply doesn’t throw around terms like “racketeering”, “bullying”, “coercive” and “orgy”, and that was just in the first couple of paragraphs. Basically, Maria thinks YouTube is actively and deliberately encouraging piracy so it can make more money, all at the expense of rights-holders and “creators” (a term that was used often in Schneider’s open letter, one that I’m sure has been picked deliberately for effect).

Basically the crux of the problem comes down to the fact that YouTube assumes an innocent until proven guilty attitude, allowing content to be uploaded and waits for rights-holders to complain before acting. This isn’t just a YouTube policy though, it’s what the DMCA demands and it’s done so for obvious reasons. But Maria doesn’t like it. She wants a guilty until proven innocent policy that starts from the moment the clip is uploaded, and also want a “take down, stay down” approach (which, to be fair to YouTube, is already mostly there with their automated Content ID scanning system).

I’ve reported here time and time again about YouTube’s problematic and false positive prone Content ID system, but Schneider wants to go the other way and have Content ID block more stuff, faster, and with less checks and balances.

And while some of her points are valid, such as the relative high entry hurdle for joining the Content ID program, I’m just not sure she is the best person to launch the complaint. For one, she’s not exactly a prolific artist, with her most popular works (which has won Grammy Awards) barely having a presence online, legally or illegally (in other words, not too many people are clamouring to download or stream her stuff – her most popular video on YouTube only has 40,000 views). And if you do listen or watch her work (mostly as a big-band-leader), it’s the kind of stuff best enjoyed live in concert, as opposed to via a YouTube video. If anything, the illegally uploaded YouTube videos may help raise her profile and her work. Had a Taylor Swift or Drake come out with the same complaint, it might have held more weight, in my opinion.

Double Dribble

Double points for those that know what game this screenie is from

Look, the DMCA is not perfect, and neither is Content ID. But if anything, it’s already too prone to false positives, meaning legitimate uploads and creativity is already been impeded. This is already a too high a price to pay in my opinion, and we definitely don’t need more of it!

And just like clockwork, we have another example of why Content ID is flawed and why it should not be expanded. To summarise, Fox used YouTube clip in a Family Guy episode without seeking permission, and then used Content ID to get the original YouTube clip banned. Does this sound like something we need more of?

YouTube doesn’t block all illegally uploads. But only the really popular videos manage to do any harm to rights-holders, and these are easy to find and destroy (via Content ID, or just by reporting it). And in the end, only rights-holders can decide what should be and shouldn’t be allowed on YouTube, since just because a video wasn’t uploaded to an official account, it doesn’t mean that the artist isn’t aware or in support of the upload (but under the system Maria Schneider wants, artists and rights-holders may end up spending all their time apologising to legitimate partners for having their legal uploads banned, with practically no financial benefit).

High Definition

Netflix

Netflix has overtaken live TV in the US

Twice as many people now prefer Netflix over live TV as their preferred viewing choice, according to a new survey. This to me is amazing. Just ten years ago, this would have been unimaginable, and now, it’s a reality. That’s not to say video-on-demand wasn’t something people wanted back then – it was – but it was just hard to imagine having a service like Netflix, for such as relatively small price.

I think this is partly because we used to expect content to be overpriced (think how much it would take to fill an iPod back then with legally purchased music), but the subscription model completely disrupted the market (in a way that some rights-holders, mostly musicians, did not like) and finally gave us the value we were looking for. We want to consume (or have access) to a huge amount of content, that under the old “buy to own” model would never have been possible either due to physical space restrictions (I’ve long run out of shelf space for my movie collection) nor the astronomical cost of it. Subscription solved the problem, and ad-supported free listening also managed to win over the “I would never pay for it” pirates.

And “creators” and rights-holders simply have to adjust, even if it means lowering their expectations.

And to bring all of the stories I’ve mentioned this week so far back to a full circle, one has to talk about YouTube Red (which has just been launched here in Australia). A subscription model for YouTube would have been blasphemy years back, but I think people are finally open to the idea of paying (a small fee) for, what is essentially quite a lot more than what they would have gotten, even illegally, ten years ago. It’s a good thing for content creators, even if it means many won’t get much of that subscription fee. With that said, I’ve noticed seeing a lot more ads on YouTube recently – if this is Google’s way to further differentiate YouTube Red and make it seem like a more attractive product, then this isn’t a good development in my opinion.

Gaming

VR gaming is the all the rage these days, so it was only a matter time before the ugly head of DRM reared itself onto the scene. Those trying to make games from the Oculus store available on non Oculus hardware is now facing a new DRM that prevents just that. Oculus says it’s an anti-piracy measure, but others find it strange that it only seems to do anything on non Oculus hardware. Something to keep an eye (or two, via headset) on.

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Well so much for brevity. See you next week.