Thứ Ba, 19 tháng 7, 2011

Microsoft tailors Windows Azure for social game developers

Microsoft said today it is tailoring its Windows Azure cloud development platform for social game developers, making it much easier for them to develop, launch, and support online games.
The company will release a new Windows Azure tool kit for social game developers by the end of the week. The announcement shows that Microsoft wants to win over the allegiance of the developers that are making cutting edge social games that live or die based on the quality of interaction between users and cloud-based data centers.
Nate Totten, technical evangelist for the Windows Azure team said in an interview that Microsoft is releasing source code that makes it easy for developers to create games with built-in features such as authentication, gamer achievements, leaderboards, in-app purchases, monetization and other common requirements for social games. The platform is based on the HTML5 format for making cross-platform games.
“You just deploy it and it runs and it scales up as you add millions of users,” Totten (pictured right) said.
Microsoft also released a simple game, Tankster, that illustrates how to use the tools to create a two-dimensional game with a small amount of interaction. The platform is aimed at small developers who don’t have time to deal with a lot of the server-based code that has to support online games such as Facebook titles. Rival platforms includes Amazon’s web services platform, which offloads the server side of the business so developers can concentrate on their game code.
“If you just want to concentrate on the game and don’t want to deal with hosting or rebuilding your game for a lot of formats, then this is for you,” said David Appel (pictured left), director marketing for Azure. “We’ve got a platform that is cost-effective for startups.”
Some companies that have developed games using Azure include Three Melons, which made a soccer game last year for the world cup. That game reached as many as 5 million users a month. The benefit of using HTML5 is that it can be used to make cross-platform games, but its disadvantage is slow performance and an inability to easily use platform-specific features such as a camera in smartphone games.
Coincidentally, Dave Roberts, chief executive of PopCap, said that the promises of writing a game once and running it anywhere haven’t been fulfilled, even in the age of HTML5. But that’s not stopping companies from making that sales pitch to developers, and Microsoft is one of those delivering that pitch.

First Trailer for 'Zen Wars' – New Strategy Game with Online Multiplayer

posted July 19th, 2011 9:00 PM EDT by Jared Nelson in iPad Games, iPhone games, iPod touch games, News, Strategy, Upcoming Games
Earlier this year, angrt birth made a nice sized splash on the App Store with Legendary Wars [99¢/Lite/HD], their unique take on castle defense games that featured fantastic art, humor, and gameplay. Now they are teaming up with developer software to publish a new iOS game called Zen Wars.
Zen Wars is an arcade strategy title where you’re tasked with building up a base with both offense and defense in mind. Once finished, you’ll take on incoming attacks during the game’s multi-level campaign. When a battle is finished and you’ve come out on top, you’ll need to quickly repair the damage to your base and add any necessary offensive upgrades before the next attack hits.
It’s this rebuilding aspect in Zen Wars that sounds really interesting to me. Rather than just building up an epic base in preparation for a single battle, you’ll need to think on your toes in order to make the correct preparations for multiple attacks, adding an extra layer of strategy and planning over other similar games. You can see much of this in action, as well as the cool art style, in the following trailer for Zen Wars:
One of the most promising parts of Zen Wars is that beyond its single player campaign, you’ll also be able to engage in up to 3 player online multiplayer over Game Center. This type of gameplay definitely seems well-suited to some online play, and I’ll be interested to see how that turns out in the final version. The developers are hoping to submit Zen Wars in the next couple of days, and are shooting for a release at the end of July or the first week in August. It will be launching for an introductory price of 99¢ with a regular price of $1.99.
We’ll keep our eyes out for Zen Wars and will take a closer look at the game when it hits the App Store in the coming weeks.

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ALT1 Games USA Starting Troy Online Closed Beta

ALT1 Games USA is starting the closed beta test of Troy Online, a free massive multiplayer online roleplaying game(MMORPG) based heavily on the Trojan War mythos. In Troy Online, players pick one of three classes depending on their desired play style and use their character to defeat monsters. As each character grows, he or she will learn the reasons and mysteries surrounding their affiliation (Greece or Troy) and the greater reasons for their existence. As the player gains power, they will learn there is far more to the continent of Autis than what originally meets the eye. The closed beta test will be running from July 15th, 10am PDT to July 19th, 12 AM PT.
  • Troy Online Closed Beta Keys Giveaway Event
    Troy Online
    Troy Online currently supports three classes: the melee damage-doing and meat shield warriors, the long distance hunters, and the glass cannon mages. Players must learn to work together and figure out the strengths and weakness of their class to be successful. Along the way, players will be able to take advantage of features that are still in development. Some additional features include the cash shop where players can purchase additional equipment and abilities for their characters with real money and a socket system for items to improve their weapons. Troy Online is also adding in additional content including three new dungeons for players team up and conquer and five new battlefields for players to battle against one another. The balance of the three classes has also been worked on, as well as more informative and intuitive notifications.
    Troy Online
    ALT1 Games USA is calling all players to sign up for free at their website and download the Troy Online game.  The test will feature game masters keeping a close eye both inside the game, on the game’s official forums, and on social media services.  For a limited time, ALT1 Games will be giving out free currency (2500 ALT1 Coins) to test the technical back-end of the cash shop to two parties: players who registered accounts during the first closed beta or in between the first and second closed beta tests until July 8th 2011, and users who acquire beta keys from a number of websites including MMOsite, MMORPG, and MMOReviews. These two offers cannot be combined. ALT1 Games USA is looking to refine their game balance, latency, and item issues in this test.  For more information, visit the official Troy Online website. 
    Troy Online

  • Live Gamer acquires Brandport and GamerDNA as it moves into games ads

    Live  Gamer, a game e-commerce infrastructure firm, has acquired Brandport and GamerDNA as part of a move into the game advertising business.
    With these acquisitions, Live Gamer will have more ways to help game publishers make money from their online games. Not only will the company enable publishers to take advantage of virtual goods and micro-transaction business models, it will also help them make money from creative advertising inside their games.
    “We want to provide the total revenue solution for our game publishers,” said Andrew Schneider, president of New York-based Live Gamer, in an interview.
    With Brandport (pictured at top), for instance, game publishers can offer virtual goods to gamers who agree to watch video ads. IMVU, a fashion-oriented online world, uses Brandport to let users earn virtual currency. The users can watch up to 10 ads per day in order to earn virtual currency that they can use to pay for goods inside the game.
    The acquisition of GamerDNA  (pictured right) will give Live Gamer publishers accesss to a hardcore game advertising network that reaches 49 million gamers a month.
    Live Gamer now offers a one-stop shop for game publishers in the online web-based world. Schneider said that game publishers have a bunch of challenges to deal with these days. They have to acquire large numbers of users, since not every user pays for virtual goods in the free-to-play business model. They also have to convince a greater percentage of users to cross from free play to paid play. They must also try to increase the average amount collected from each paying user, and they must try to retain users for a longer period of time.
    By adding the new businesses, Schneider said that Live Gamer will be able to help publishers monetize their users. To date, Live Gamer’s customers have more than 95 million users.
    “We now enable content owners to optimize their entire revenue value chain end-to-end while giving advertisers direct access to Live Gamer’s 95 million users across the globe,” he said.
    GamerDNA is the fifth-largest gamer ad network in the U.S. and Europe, according to comScore. Advertisers include Blizzard, Best Buy, KFC, Ubisoft, Sony Online and Namco. Brandport will be re-branded as Live Gamer Ad Elements.
    Schneider said Brandport will let publishers monetize as many as 40 percent of free-to-play users, compared to only 10 percent for typical monetization.
    Live Gamer has seen 96 percent of users view all daily ads offered to them, resulting in $1 in incremental revenue per viewing user per month. That’s a five-fold increase in total revenue. A dollar per month is a lot of money, considering the average revenue per paying user in a month for a social game is typically around $5 to $7.
    GamerDNA was once a gamer social network, but it pivoted into the gamer ad network business more than a year ago. The company still operates web sites such as, Crispy Gamer, and
    Rivals include WildTangent, GamePro, and IGN. The purchase prices for the companies were not disclosed.

    Hunger Games Motion Poster Online

    Though the team behind The Hunger Games has apparently opted not to make a big splash at Comic-Con (there’s always the chance for a surprise or two), the promotion for the film is not slowing down. The latest element to escape into the wild wide web? A fancy motion poster, which you can see over at Yahoo.

    Yes, Lionsgate seem to like their motion posters, given that there’s been at least two for Conan. And with web technology the way it is, you can actually make them look fairly decent.

    The Games poster makes use of the story’s iconic Mockingjay image and that well-used phase as the tagline.

    Just in case it slipped your mind, The Hunger Games is adapted from Suzanne Collins' book trilogy about a devastated future world where kids and teens are forced to fight to the death in a brutal series of gladiatorial games designed to keep the population in order.

    Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, a young woman who agrees to enter the games in the place of her sister and discovers that she’ll need all her wit and cunning to survive. The cast also includes Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and many more.

    Gary Ross is busy directing the movie, which will be out on March 23 next year.

    Game of Thrones Season 2 Cast Grows by a Pair

    July 19, 2011
    Two major roles for Games of Thrones season 2 have been filled just ahead of when the new episodes are scheduled to begin production across the pond. Per Entertainment Weekly, British actor Stephen Dillane is on board to portray Stannis Baratheon, the eldest younger brother of the late King Robert who has his sights set on the Iron Throne. Dillane appeared in HBO's John Adams miniseries as Thomas Jefferson and also had a bit role in Tony Scott's Spy Game.
    The other role cast is for the character of Melisandre, a seductive sorceress who serves as a counsel for Stannis. She will be played by Carice van Houten who you may recognize from Repo Men and Valkyrie with Tom Cruise.
    Melisandre is the role Eva Green probably wish she had a shot at instead of playing a similar character on Starz' ill-fated Camelot.

    Unfortunately season 2 of Games of Thrones is not due to hit the small screen until spring, 2012. It seems so far away.

    10 things PopCap boss hates about casual games

    A week after orchestrating the sale of PopCap Games for up to $1.3 billion, the company's chief executive, Dave Roberts, unloaded on the casual games industry.
    Roberts was an opening speaker at the Casual Connect industry conference that's running today through Thursday at Benaroya Hall.
    Roberts took the opportunity to let loose a string of rants, urging game companies and developers to take the high road.
    His speech was titled "10 things I hate about casual games." They include:
    1. Gamification. He suggested it's a trend enriching conference organizers trying to get corporate money into their pockets by promising to make anyone an "engagement expert." "Really? Is everything a game?"
    2. Portals. "I am sick to death of portals," he said, specifically the commissions they charge game developers. "How can you charge developers 60 or 70 percent? I've been predicting for years that this would end ... and it continues to mystify me." Even with competition from Apple, Facebook and others, the portal rates haven't come down. Roberts said he makes more money selling a copy of "Bejeweled" at Wal-Mart - with physical stores and greeters - than at Yahoo's portal.
    3. Get rich quick. "More than any other business I've ever worked in it seems to attract people who think it's going to be really easy," he said, noting that "Angry Birds" was something like the 52nd game made by Rovio.
    4. Commoditization. "We have to figure out how to stop making shovelware ... it really cheapens the whole industry." Distributors need to be more selective and developers need to focus on quality, he said.
    5. Money over fun. This was a reference to "evil social games" that trick people, lead to people pressuring friends on social networks and let players pay their way to the top of leaderboards. "Really those games make you feel like a beggar," he said. PopCap is also making social games "but we don't start in the dark underbelly" and the company doesn't "want to ruin the environment for everybody."
    6. Simple games are easy to make. "This notion has been bugging me for years ... making simple products is way more difficult than making complicated products," he said. "Simple is more complicated, simple is elegant, simple is harder."

    7. Attack of the clones. Roberts showed a slide for a mock game called "VilleVille," then lambasted developers who look at the top-selling game charts and then copy the leaders. "Really do you think you can out Farmville Zynga? What's the point." This is "a blight on the industry that drives me crazy."
    8. Stupid venture money. A lot of investors Roberts talked to over the years "look at our business as if it's a manufacturing business" and expect it to be able to speed up production of its widgets. Money from these investors can "disrupt the entire ecosystem" putting in money "that makes it harder for people making great games."
    9. Middleware mania. Roberts called out "snake oil" vendors with tools promising to magically and instantly convert a PC game into a mobile and social title by pressing a single button. It never works, he said. "Usually the stupid venture money funds the stupid middleware companies," he added.
    10. Independent game companies. This was a self reference - PopCap was a standout independent, until last week's sale to EA.
    Roberts also added one thing that he likes about casual games:
    "We sell fun for a living. How awesome is that?"
    He didn't say anything about the awesomeness of the $25 million-plus bonus that he received last week.
    During a question session, Roberts touched on "frothy IPO" prices and said he doesn't envy chief executives running companies such as LinkedIn with high valuations based on expectations of their markets three to five years in the future.
    Zynga's going to have to "grow into" the valuation set by its offering, he said.
    "I don't think you can read into the frothy IPO market as a gauge of how the market will look three or four or five years from now," he said.
    Roberts said he's restricted in what he can say about the sale to Electronic Arts until the deal closes, but mentioned briefly at the end that "we did prety well with the deal with EA and we're excited about it."
    Even though he put up a slide showing EA as the Death Star

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