Jack Gardner

Earlier this week, Valve dropped a knowledge bomb by unveiling SteamOS. Today they revealed that what was rumored to be a Steam Box will actually be multiple boxes from multiple manufacturers coming in 2014.
While Valve hasn't said what companies will be creating the hardware, they have said that they will be coming next year and all will come running SteamOS. As a means of testing their own box, Valve will be giving away 300 beta machines to Steam users free of charge. "We have designed a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam. Of course, it’s also completely upgradable and open," read the announcement.
Want to be eligible to be chosen for the beta? Just follow these simple steps:
  Before October 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility Join the Steam Universe community group Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already) Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already) Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode
  If you have more questions regarding the box, there is a handy FAQ included in the Steam Machines announcement. There are still many unanswered questions related to the specs of Valve's beta box, who will be making the other boxes, etc. However, Valve is making it clear that these boxes will be highly modifiable.   There is a third and final countdown for Friday and the last words of the Steam Machines announcement read: "Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room? If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input." Does this mean we will be seeing a Valve controller reveal? Stay tuned and we'll keep you up to date.   What do you guys think of this turn of events? What do you make of Valve's plunge into hardware and operating systems?
Jack Gardner

Valve's countdown has reached its conclusion and their announcement is *drumroll* a new, free operating system tailored for living room machines.
SteamOS combines Linux and Steam into one super OS that exists in your living room. The basic concept of the operating system seems to be that it can operate on "any living room machine" and works to stream games, movies, television, music, etc. from your current Steam library to your television. This means that Valve will soon be adding the ability to purchase music, movies, and television shows to the Steam marketplace in addition to video games. The entire Steam library will be compatible with SteamOS, including all user-created content. Even user's friends lists will make the jump to the new operating system.
As a result of a dedicated OS, Valve reports that they have, "achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we’re now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level." This seems to imply that less powerful devices could run more powerful games while running SteamOS.
Besides allowing users to stream their entertainment library to their television, the new OS will allow users to create family accounts for their Steam. On paper, this will allow families to easily share their games among their household with separate achievement tracking and permissions for each family member. Don't want little Timmy to be playing Metro: Last Light? BOOM, that content is restricted from his family account. Tired of your significant other nabbing those achievements before you do? BAM, you both have separate accounts for the same library.
The Steam Cloud allows for users to carry over their saved progress from their main machine to their living room, provides storage, and automatic updates on everything.
According to Valve, the operating system will be free forever and will be available, licensing free, to hardware manufacturers. 
There are still many unanswered questions regarding SteamOS. Just what Valve means by "any living room machine" isn't clear quite yet. Does that mean I can download SteamOS onto a PS4 or Xbox One? Or will it require a dedicated living room PC? How much storage does the Steam Cloud provide? Exactly when will the SteamOS launch? When will Steam be opening their market for movies and music?
Also, what is with the second countdown that began after the SteamOS announcement? I guess we will find out when the timer reaches zero on Wednesday. Until then, let dreams of a free Steam operating system that runs on your television dance in your head.
You can read the full announcement here.
Jack Gardner

What could Gabe Newell be planning? Is the Steam Box finally going to become a reality?
Let's take a look at the facts.
Last year, Valve released Big Picture for their digital distribution platform Steam, which allowed users to easily connect the service to their televisions. Even before Big Picture Valve has been quietly hiring people for hardware development, hardware that hasn't surfaced yet, though Gabe Newell has repeatedly assured the public that something is being worked on.
Oh, and Valve has posted a countdown until 1 PM Eastern under the url store.steampowered.com/livingroom.
The page teases that "The Steam Universe is Expanding in 2014" and a statement reading, "Last year, we shipped a software feature called Big Picture, a user-interface tailored for televisions and gamepads. This year we’ve been working on even more ways to connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room. Soon, we’ll be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam."

Jack Gardner

Today, Take-Two Interactive announced that Grand Theft Auto V has generated more day one sales than any other title in the history of Take-Two or Grand Theft Auto.
Strauss Zelnick, Chairman and CEO of Take-Two, issued a statement on Rockstar's accomplishment saying, "Beginning at midnight on Monday, consumers around the world gathered in anticipation to be among the first to experience the evolution of this remarkable series. In North America alone, more than 8,300 stores opened their doors at midnight to welcome fans [...] We are incredibly proud of Rockstar Games' creative achievement and could not be more pleased with the success of this launch."
If nothing else, the future of Take-Two Interactive is looking incredibly bright and Rockstar will probably be free to pursue whatever creative project their hearts desire. Perhaps we can finally get a massive open-world game based on feudal Japan? A guy can dream, right?
What would you like to see coming out of Rockstar next?
Jack Gardner

On October 29, Battlefield 4 launches on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. The PlayStation 4 version of Battlefield 4 hits shelves on November 12, followed closely by the Xbox One version a week later on November 19. Battlefield fans who don't want to wait the two or three weeks for the next wave of consoles can purchase a current-gen copy and upgrade to a next-gen copy via a number of methods for a small fee. Upgrading will carry over all multiplayer statistics and premium memberships.
Where can you upgrade and how do you upgrade and how much will it cost?
PlayStation 3 customers who want a PS4 upgrade for Battlefield 4, marked copies will come with a code that can be redeemed for $9.99. This offer expires on March 28, 2014.
Microsoft is offering upgrades at numerous retail locations. Best Buy, Microsoft stores, and GameStop* can trade-in an Xbox 360 copy of Battlefield 4 and upgrade to an Xbox One version for $9.99. Alternatively, Amazon is offering $25 of credit toward Battlefield 4 on Xbox One in addition to the minimum $25 trade-in value of the game. All offers expire December 31, 2013.
*GameStop trade-in only available to GameStop Power-Up Rewards members.
Jack Gardner

The 90s was a good time for video games for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons being the popularization of full motion video (better known as FMV) games.
FMV techniques didn't use sprites or 3D models, but relied instead on filmed video files. This led to them being marketed as interactive movies. Years of $10 budgets and underwhelming gameplay eventually sunk this snippet of gaming history shortly before the turn of the century and many thought it was gone for good.
They were wrong.
In the midst of the glorious heyday of FMV's cheesy acting, cheap sets, and ridiculous plots, there was the particularly beloved Tex Murphy series of adventure games. Between 1989 and 1998 seven games were released chronicling the exploits of Tex Murphy, an old-school detective working in a grim post-war San Francisco set during the 2040s. The series drew critical praise as well as an incredibly loyal following. However in 1998, the final Tex Murphy game, Overseer, was released only to end on a colossal cliffhanger. Fans gave the series up for lost and moved on, until developer and Tex Murphy IP owner Big Finish Games brought their idea for a new game to Kickstarter. Fans of the series came out of the woodwork, together managing to raise enough money to resuscitate Tex for another adventure titled The Tesla Effect.
The new game will carry on the traditions of FMV games while updating the presentation for modern audiences. Chris Jones, the original Tex Murphy, will be reprising his role alongside Todd Bridges, who played Willis from Diff’rent Strokes, Larry Thomas, perhaps better known as the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld, and Kevin Murphy, who was Tom Servo on Mystery Science Theater 3000.   
The Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure will release early 2014 on PC and Mac.
Honestly? I am pretty excited about this. The Tesla Effect looks like it just might scratch that old-school adventure game itch that resides deep within my soul while giving me some laughs.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Jack Gardner

Well, it is that time again. Prepare to pay what you want for a selection of great games!
What if I told you that there was a magical land where everything was perfect and you could pay what you wanted for anything your heart desired? Well, I'd be lying. However, a small sliver of that exists in the form of The Humble Indie Bundle, a collection of games for which people can pay as much as they want. Purchasers can then choose how much money goes to the developers, to Humble Indie Bundle, and to various other partners. If you pay more than the average, you unlock more games in your purchased bundle.
Bundle number nine comes with the following: Trine 2: The Complete Story, Mark of the Ninja, Eets Munchies Beta, and Brütal Legend. Donate more than the current $4.41 average and you get FTL: Faster Than Light and Fez. Additionally, all games come DRM free and soundtracks are included. Juest head on over to humblebundle.com to get started.
Jack Gardner

Most people will associate the word “literacy” with literature, and rightly so. Both words stem from the Latin root litterae which roughly translates to letters. Literacy, or the state of being literate, refers to the ability to read, write, or otherwise comprehend something.
If someone lacks the ability to read, they cannot understand or appreciate a book. It becomes a collection of lines on paper that flaps and flops around when given a good shake. Reading makes books valuable; it unlocks the information they contain. This seems like common sense, but only because it is the most straightforward example of literacy. There are many different types of literacy besides reading and writing. If something requires a bank of pre-existing knowledge in order to understand it, that knowledge is required in order achieve basic literacy in that subject.
When people first began making movies, there were no set standards. Length, film type, subject matter, editing, everything could greatly vary as there were no agreed upon consistencies in the burgeoning film industry. It was the Wild West as far as movie makers were concerned. This translated into a time of experimentation during which film makers realized that they could “cut” film to create different shots. Instead of having one long take, directors could have different angles, and indicate the passage of time without actually showing every second passing. This might seem a given to modern audiences, but to people who had no experience making or watching movies it took a while to pick up this new visual language. Learning that an hour long film can span decades isn’t something that everyone just inherently understands. It takes time to build up a certain amount of visual literacy, to gain the ability to comprehend the graphic language of cinema. Much in the same way, it takes a great deal of time to learn the language of video games.
Video game developers are still figuring out accepted conventions of the medium and so are their video game playing audiences. The element of interactivity inherent to games creates so many variables for creators and users that it is likely this exploratory moment for games will last much longer than it did for film, especially given rapid improvements in technology to which the industry must adapt. However, given that people are playing, understanding, and enjoying games it seems clear that a language of video games has emerged over the years, distinct from any other medium.
Two distinct graphical presentations have also come into being; cutscene visuals and gameplay visuals. Cutscenes operate more along the lines of film, they can show action from multiple perspectives, the player has no direct control over them (unless the part in question includes a quick-time event), and that static quality has led to higher visual quality in cutscenes of the past, though that gap is quickly being bridged as technology advances. Gameplay visuals, meanwhile, are a completely different beast and vary wildly depending on the genre. If there is anything consistent to be said about the graphics during gameplay segments it is that the virtual camera is almost always consistent and depicts events in an easily understood chronological order. Gamers also learn to accept the virtual worlds presented in-game during gameplay with a degree of suspension of disbelief. Players aren’t thrown for a loop when in-game characters don’t react to floating health bars or enemies that seem to materialize from thin air.

Music and sound design also play crucial roles in understanding the video game. Both function similarly to cutscenes and gameplay presentation, but with more nuance and genre specific meaning than I want to delve into in this general overview. Suffice it to say that both are important and add a lot to the overall experience, but they apply too specifically to different genres for someone to generalize in a way that does both elements justice.
Control schemes are one of the most crucial hurdles to becoming video game literate. Every game requires some way to interact with the digital world, but not every game uses the same control layout or even device. Playing a game with a mouse and keyboard, a controller, a touchscreen, or motion controls are all very different experiences with differing learning curves. In fact, I’d argue that this level of differentiation is why video games have taken so long to seep into mainstream culture. Learning one game can be hard, but when each game has different rules and the controls keep changing it almost seems unfair to people who are trying to learn how to enjoy gaming. Over time, certain consistencies have evolved. For example, on a dual analog stick controller, the left stick usually dictates movement, while the right directs the camera. In shooters the left trigger usually makes aiming more accurate, while the right trigger fires your weapon. However, these general observations can prove inaccurate when looking at different genres of games or when taking into account remapped or alternate controller layouts. Without going into insane levels of detail, there seem to be general rules that you can apply to some subsections of gaming, but don’t work for every game or every player.
Gameplay needs to be taught making it one of the most unique features in any medium. Nearly every video game has some sort of tutorial or introductory level for that very purpose. Over time, there different types of gameplay mechanics have become established genres that prospective players can expect to have similar elements and rules to what they have learned before. Gamers began to pick up on the subtle patterns that permeate games in given genres and develop affinities for certain types of games. The end result is that experienced gamers have the feeling that they know how to play a game in a familiar genre even if that title might use different parameters and rules.
Amazingly, even though video games present numerous barriers and challenges to their players, people are more than willing to sink hours into learning how to play an RTS or days into grinding through a long RPG. Why? I’m not really an expert on the subject. I’m just a guy that knows how to write, but I’ll take a stab at it. The answer is that there is no one answer. Much like the variables that exist when a player interacts with a game, I expect that everyone’s answer would be a little different because everyone is bringing something different to the game.

The challenges of learning and overcoming may be difficult, but I do know that at the end of the journey, at least for me, the victory seems sweeter.
Do you agree with me? Am I a crackpot? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Jack Gardner

Have you seen someone advertising beta access to Respawn's next-gen FPS? If so, clutch onto your sensitive information a bit tighter because they were completely not legitimate.
A tweet sent out by Respawn last week, which was caught by Gamespot, read, "To keep our fans safe from scammers, please note that all sites advertising beta access are 100 percent scams. #BePCSafe #Titanfall." If you see sites claiming to give early access to the title, steer well clear of them. 
Titanfall is expected sometime next year on PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Jack Gardner

"This is a great moment for video games and for Mixed Martial Arts,” said Dean Richards, the General Manager of EA Sports UFC.
Following the recent creation of the women's bantamweight division, female fighters have been receiving more recognition in the Octagon and beyond. For the first time, EA Sports is releasing a UFC game with playable women characters. Two bantamweight fighters will headline the additions to the roster in EA Sports UFC: current champion Ronda Rousey and championship contender Miesha Tate.
EA Sports UFC will release in the first quarter of 2014 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Jack Gardner

The expansion, titled XCOM: Enemy Within, drastically expands the roster of enemies and adds a new type of resource that can be used to purchase a wide variety of upgrades to aid against the extraterrestrial threat.
New missions, objectives, maps, etc. have also been added, many centered around the acquisition of Meld, a substance that can be used to augment your soldiers into either mechanical monstrosities or mutant warriors greatly enhancing their combat abilities. Meld canisters are always equipped with self-destruct timers meaning that missions will have critical time constraints where players will have to weigh the benefits of acquiring Meld against the risks of potentially placing your soldiers in harms way. Nearly 50 maps have been added as well as additional tweaks to existing maps.
XCOM: Enemy Within will release November 12 and retail for $29.99. More XCOM can never be a bad thing, right?
Jack Gardner

The new Alpha and Bravo trailer highlights the free-to-play PSN exclusive's online interactions, as well as showing some of the more traditional (read: incredibly over-the-top) aspects of the series making a return.
The online co-op missions appear to feature a return to pre-Ace Combat: Assault Horizon gameplay, fantastical flying fortresses, and the co-op battles. Each player will control their own squadron, Alpha or Bravo, and work together to complete objectives. Details on the title are still scarce, but after two years since the last Ace Combat, we'll take any info we can get our hands on.
No release date has been announced and no payment model has been detailed for the free-to-play title.
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