Microsoft

Former Steam director Jason Holtman moves to Microsoft, to focus on PC gaming

Phil Savage at

A quick exercise, before we begin a day of Hard News: list the various PC game-selling digital storefronts/services by your order of preference. I'm going to guess that, for most people, Steam and GOG will be towards the top; GamesGate, GMG and Desura will be filling out the middle; and that Origin will be the Wildcard - its placing likely dependant around each person's perception of its parent company. Then we have Microsoft, with Games for Windows Live/Marketplace and the Windows Store. Neither is much loved, and neither has earned much reason to be. And, at a guess, Microsoft isn't too happy about that situation.

Which may explain why they've hired Jason Holtman, Valve's former director of business development for Steam. His new focus at Microsoft: PC gaming and entertainment strategy.


Reinstall: Rise of Nations

Duncan Geere at

It all begins so peacefully. A vast field of inky darkness, with just one point of light in the middle. Within it, a library stands tall and proud, but with many shelves left empty. Next to it, a few fields are tended by villagers, and a woodcutters’ camp stands in a clearing nearby. A scout sits and strokes his pet dog. In the middle of it all stands the town centre, its homes packed with children, waiting to come of age and leave a legacy unmatched by any other civilisation on Earth.

Rise of Nations attempts something quite audacious: fitting the entire span of human history into your lunch hour. It’s real-time, as in ‘real-time strategy’, but it accelerates that supposedly ‘real’ time to ludicrous levels, packing the scope of a game of Civilization into an hour without compromising on the detail. You might send a group of hoplites into battle with bronze spears and have them arrive armed with muskets. Imagine the aforementioned Civilization blended with Age of Empires, the Total War series and Red Alert and you’re getting close, but Rise of Nations has a few tricks of its own.


Hate me for it if you want, but I like Windows 8.1. Here's why.

Dave James at

Right, I’m very much aware there’s a good number of folk out there with absolutely no interest in Windows 8 or it’s subsequent updates and I’m likely to be vilified in the comments for saying this, but I’m still a big fan. I like the apps, don’t mind the new interface - even on a desktop rig - and it’s got a host of behind the scenes code improvements for gamers.

And with the Windows 8.1 Preview released last week, around Microsoft’s Build developer’s conference, I think this latest OS has only gotten better.


Project Spark beta registrations now open

Katie Williams at

Yo dawg, we heard you like games... Yeah, so remember Project Spark, that "game-making game" that was so tantalizingly, so awkwardly revealed to us by Microsoft at this year's E3? Its website is now accepting sign-ups for beta, so get on over there if you're keen to craft some whimsy.


E3 2013: What the next gen consoles mean for the PC

PC Gamer at

Xbox One. PS4. What effect will the poster children of E3 2013 have on the future of PC Gaming? Will new hardware architecture mean more high-profile PC ports or—dare we say it—PC-led titles that are ported for consoles afterwards? Are Microsoft's touted 15 exclusive launch titles going to be anything we'd even want in the first place? Will the pull of the indie scene be enough to turn gamers away from hardware manufacturers that shun them? We chew on this, and feed you our analysis like a mother bird to her chicks.


E3 2013: The impact on the PC

PC Gamer at

The new consoles have the spotlight at E3 2013 this year, but what will the expo's many reveals, demos, hardware rollouts, and buzzwords mean for the PC? Is this even a show for us at all, with the focus on the brick and mortar retail market? We discuss the implications, and speculate on which of the big, all-star console titles will eventually make it to our corner of the gaming universe.


State of Decay: the state of the delay on this open world zombie survival game

Tom Sykes at

Zombie-infested open world survival sim State of Decay is out now for the Xbox -1, but we haven't heard a groan about the PC version for quite a while. Unfortunately, now that we have, it's not all good news - while the game will be coming to lap/desktops at some point, "it isn't going to be soon by any meaningful use of the word 'soon'." The zombie apocalypse just got a little more depressing.


EA CTO: Xbox One architecture is "a generation ahead of the highest end PC on the market"

Tyler Wilde at

Former Microsoft Corporate VP and current EA Chief Technology Officer Rajat Taneja has claimed in a LinkedIn post (thanks, GamesIndustry) that the Xbox One and PS4's architectures are "a generation ahead of the highest end PC on the market."


Microsoft (still) won't focus on the "traditional desktop PC game"

Phil Savage at

You can't see my face right now, but it's contorted into an expression of bemused bewilderment. That's because of an interview by ShackNews with the excellently named Matt Booty, Microsoft's "general manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms". In it, he distances the company's Windows game strategy away from the perception of the "more traditional desktop PC game," heavily suggesting that the majority of the Xbox One's "15 exclusives" won't be arriving on Microsoft's other platform.


Kinect will be available for Windows PCs "at some point"

Ian Birnbaum at

While the internet took cover from the barrage of Xbox One announcement news yesterday, some pertinent details for us PC gamers slowly rose to the surface of the TV-TV-Sports-Dog news conference. Among them were the release date for Battlefield 4, what the Xbox One might mean for PC gamers, and the hint that the Kinect 2.0 will eventually be available for Windows.


Xbox One: Three ways it could affect PC gaming

PC Gamer at

Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal this morning didn’t present any immediate or obvious implications for Our Dear Hobby. Conspicuously few games were shown during the debut of a new video game console, and no games were demonstrated live. Microsoft mostly spoke about the new utilities (Skype!), partnerships (NFL!), and living room takeover (Kinect!) we’ll expect from the Xbox One when it releases this year. From a technical perspective, 8 GB of RAM is the only concrete hardware spec Microsoft dropped.


Call of Duty: Ghosts introduces new engine, destructible multiplayer maps, a dog

Tyler Wilde at

The big finale at Microsoft's Xbox One reveal today was not Call of Duty: Ghosts. It was Call of Duty: Ghosts' instantly famous mo-capped dog. That's right, Ghosts will feature Peter Molyneux's essential invention: a dog companion to keep us company as we fight back against an oppressive someone. This is Call of Doggy. Collar Duty. The rex generation of gaming. I could go on, but I'll stop before you flea.


Windows 8.1, formerly known as Windows Blue, will be a free update

Tyler Wilde at

Microsoft announced on its blog today that Windows 8.1, previously called "Windows Blue," will release as a free update on the Windows Store, with a public preview coming June 26. According to the post, the update will help "deliver the experiences customers—both consumers and businesses alike—need and will just expect moving forward."


Microsoft shares Kinect for Windows sample code under open source license

Omri Petitte at

Here's a spot of news tracking strongly on the intrigue-o-meter: Microsoft has released sample code for its Kinect for Windows peripheral under the Apache 2.0 license. In other words, the tech giant is giving PC developers a partially open source Kinect to play around with, opening up interesting possibilities for utilizing Microsoft's motion control device in games and other software.


Microsoft doesn't consider Valve as competition in console space

Omri Petitte at

As Valve finally prepares to roll out prototypes for its Steam Box in as little as four months, it's apparently as good a time as any for established living-room-gaming lords to talk about what they think of PC gaming's strongest push into their realm. During a talk at Microsoft's TechForum conference earlier this week (via The Verge), Microsoft's head of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick—that's "Xbox boss" in non-corporese—gave a simple "no" in response to being asked if he considers Valve a competitor.


Games for Windows Live error locks some users out of online profile, saved games

Phil Savage at

Games for Windows Live users have been experiencing problems connecting to the service's servers, leaving some unable to access their online profiles. It's an unusual situation, because the much-loved GfW Live is normally so reliable, and definitely not something we recently described as "one of the most ill-conceived and poorly executed pieces of software it is possible to install on your PC."

...Is how I might begin this story if we were in a parallel universe. Instead, all I can do is offer a resigned shrug and urge publishers to stop putting the bloody thing in their games.


Playstation 4 details hint at next-gen specs

Tom Senior at

The first clues as to how powerful the next generation of consoles will be has popped up on Edge. "Sources close to the hardware" clued them in on a more PC-like, developer-friendly architecture that will run on a 1.6GHZ eight-core AMD CPU. Current dev kits are apparently running on 4GB of GDDR5 RAM. More below.


Tales of Middle-Earth mod brings the War of the Ring to Age of Empires II

Omri Petitte at

We never turn down the opportunity to send men to their deaths to recover a piece of jewelry. Lord of the Rings continues to be great modding fodder, proven most recently by Tales of Middle-Earth. The total conversion adapts RTS classic Age of Empires II, adding 18 LOTR factions ready to clash steel on maps based on iconic battles.


Freeworlds: Tides of War mod sticks Star Wars dogfights with Freelancer sights

Omri Petitte at

Our resident droid's cursory glimpse at the Freeworlds: Tides of War Star Wars conversion mod for open-space roamer Freelancer elicited an approving "beep-boop." Translated into English: "OH GOD, YES." A free demo has been around for the majority of the year, but as PCGamesN reports, a new gameplay video released today showcases the mod's progression via a carrier launch and brief sortie against Imperial fighters.


Microsoft's new Black Tusk Studios, headed by ex-EA devs, looking to make the next Halo

T.J. Hafer at

Deep in the clandestine cubicles of Vancouver, a team largely made up of former EA developers has been assembled. Yesterday, it finally went public. The Microsoft-owned Black Tusk Studios is working on a new franchise that it hopes will become "the next Halo."