Microsoft

PCs do it better: why I don't care about Smartglass

Owen Hill at

Microsoft unveiled their new Smartglass technology at the E3 press event on Monday. Smartglass lets your iOS, Android or Windows phone tablet/smartphone act as a second interactive screen. As mentioned at the E3 presentation, the “magic of smartglass” occurs when “devices work together to immerse you in entertainment."


South Park: The Stick of Truth trailer features machine-gun Jesus, war, flaming farts

Tom Senior at


 
The South Park trailer was a beam of light in an otherwise fairly turgid Microsoft showing at the E3 2012 conference earlier today. Show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took to the stage to take a playful jab at Microsoft.

“How many times have you been watching an episode of South Park and thought, ‘I’d like to watch this on my television, while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator,” said Parker. “Well, we’re not doing that. We’re just doing this game. It’s an RPG.”

The pair went on to talk about how Obsidian had managed to nail South Park's "crappy" look. They're right about that. It looks like the show, it feels like the show, it farts like the show. It'll be interesting to see how it actually plays.


Windows 8 Release Preview ready

Adam Oxford at

Love it or loathe it, Microsoft's next operating system is creeping closer and closer. That fact has been marked today by the launch of a new beta called the Release Preview.

Coded 'Build 8400', it's an update from the Consumer Preview that's been available since March, and brings a few new apps and interface tweaks to the now familiar Metro/Desktop look and feel. According to Microsoft, this will be the final version until the Release To Manufacturing is posted to its website – an event suspected to be planned for sometime in the autumn.

Not had your fill of Win 8 betas or want to know what's new? Read on.


Beat Age of Empire Online's devs in PvP this afternoon, win entire civilizations

Josh Augustine at

At 2 PM PST today, Age of Empires Online's Balance Team testers are taking all challengers in the PvP arena. Fair warning, these are the guys and gals whose full-time job is knowing every tiny nuance of the game--including how to perfectly counter your Egyptian camel rush tactic--so don't expect an easy fight.


Age of Empires Online: Premium Celtic Civilization review

Josh Augustine at

My half-naked Woad Raiders leap into a formation of Roman archers with axes whirling around them. Meanwhile, in a serene forest far from battle, my Augur sacrifices a sacred fawn to Andrasta, goddess of war. Lightning crashes and my army glows with magical energy as the goddess’ boon charges their devastation of the Roman outpost.

The Celts, the newest civilization added to Age of Empires Online’s free-to-play roster, is the best one released yet, adding several new mechanics that advance the game’s complexity and will appeal to RTS gamers who crave more micromanagement. The first major addition is activated abilities on individual units, like the four different animal sacrifices available to the Augur to buff your army in various ways, that raise the skill ceiling for managing troops in battle.


Microsoft Flight review

Steve Hogarty at

I’ve never been birthed by Enya. I’ve never even gestated inside her womb. But I imagine the experience of floating around inside her amniotic fluid as a foetus is similar to visiting Microsoft Flight’s main menu.

The flight sim wastes no time in serenading you in an echoing, listless wail of lyric-free yawning and aspirational, muffled lady-howls, albeit set against a rolling, majestic cloudscape rather than the Gaelic songstress’s pelvic floor. It’s quite relaxing really, a bit like being dead.


Microsoft "continues to support" Games for Windows Live

Chris Thursten at

As we reported in September, Xbox Live will be a major part of Windows 8. Despite concerns that PC gamers are being pushed to the sidelines in favour of the console service, this has the potential to be a very good thing. After all, well-integrated support for games could do away with the need for Games for Windows Live, whose primary purpose seems to be to inject a strain of Kafka-esque absurdity into our hobby.

NeoGamr recently asked Microsoft whether GfWL would be receiving the axe with the launch of Windows 8, and the answer, emphatically, is no.


My strangest PC gaming problem yet: I've lost Games for Windows Live

Tom Francis at

The year is 2012, and yet somehow Games for Windows Live is still a thing. It's a dark future, to be sure, but even so I never imagined I'd have a problem as weird as this: I need it. And I can't get it. It's hard to stay angry when you're laughing.

I'm trying to play Batman: Arkham City on PC, an excellent game that was unfortunately developed in 1408 AD, the last time anyone alive didn't know Games for Windows Live was universally hated. And it's working - in fact, it's working better than usual. It's working without Games for Windows Live. That part of the game simply never starts - I'm not asked to log in, the Home key won't summon it, the main menu option does nothing, and the game seems to function smoothly without it.


Kinect on PC: more expensive, less useful, still exciting

Tom Senior at

Microsoft unveiled a PC version of their motion-sensing, voice activated, mind-reading Kinect camera at CES recently. It'll be out on February 1, which is exciting. The price tag is a bit problematic, however. It'll retail for $250, $100 more than it does on Xbox.

The main differences between PC Kinect and Xbox Kinect is a close-up mode that'll let it recognise nearby gestures, and an SDK kit to let programmers create applications to actually use the camera. The SDK, however, is already freely available on the Microsoft site. Why, then, is the PC version so expensive? And why should we think about buying one?


Alan Wake devs talk self-publishing and dodgy console ports

Henry Winchester at

2012 looks like it’s going to be the year of the bigger studios self-publishing games on the PC. Rebellion Studios have already told us their plans to omit a publisher for the PC edition of Sniper Elite V2. Now Alan Wake developers Remedy have discussed the intricacies of their self-publishing arrangement for the PC version of the much-vaunted episodic Xbox 360 thriller.

Alan Wake was published on the Xbox 360 by Microsoft, so it seems a little odd that Remedy are publishing it themselves on the PC. We assumed that Microsoft’s vested interest in PC gaming (after all, they make that Windows thing) would put them at the forefront of publishing it, just as they have with Fable 3.


Skyrim mod adds Kinect controls, includes voice activated dragon shouts

Tom Senior at

[embed width="610" height="340"]http://youtu.be/Z83wzJwrBK0[/embed]

Members of the PC Gamer team have been known to shout FUS RO DAH when activating dragon shouts out of instinct alone, making for a noisy office at lunch times. This man's suite of Kinect controls actually use the dragontongue shout as a vocal cue, letting you blow enemies away with the power of your voice. You also get to attack by flinging your arms at the screen and draw your sword by shouting "LONGSWORD!" See all of this in action in the impressive demonstration video above, spotted by Destructoid. It's easier to see how Kinect interprets his movements and turns them into game actions in KinectFAAST's Morrowind video. If you want to mess with Skyrim's inner workings yourself, check out CVG's Skyrim guide and tips.


Microsoft Flight beta takes off in January

Owen Hill at

The Microsoft Flight beta has started accepting signups. The testing period begins in January. To apply for early access, locate your Windows Live ID and password and click here.

Microsoft Flight was first announced at Gamescom 2010. It looks a lot like classic plane sim, Microsoft Flight Simulator. Click through for the trailer, even though it give absolutely nothing away. Apart from the fact that planes and oceans are going to be involved. Oh, and dreams; childhood dreams will also feature.


Kinect for Windows to go commercial

Adam Oxford at

Microsoft has announced that developers will soon be able to charge for Windows software that uses a Kinect as an input device. A non-commercial beta SDK for Windows development has been available to download from Microsoft Research since April, along with various programming resources. But profiting from desktop development has so far been prohibited.

That restriction should be lifted soon after the new year, apparently.


Xbox Live is coming to Windows 8

Tom Senior at

Gamespot report that Xbox Live will be incorporated into the next edition of Windows. Xbox Live's director of programming Larry Hryb confirmed the announcement, saying "bringing Xbox LIVE to Windows 8 is part of our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy." Hmmm.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC DLC will be delayed, courtesy of Microsoft

Richard Cobbett at

From the frustrating news department, CVG report that Microsoft has signed a timed exclusive with Bethesda for at least the first two pieces of Skyrim DLC. That means only Xbox 360 players will get it originally, with everyone else having to wait 30 days to hand over more money. Exactly what this DLC will consist of remains unknown, though Bethesda has previously mentioned larger expansion packs than most of the Oblivion extras, so it's probably not going to be Horse Armor 2.0. On the plus side, it's not as though the regular edition is going to be desperately short on content when it lands on November 11th.


Seriously, Microsoft? GFW Marketplace moving to Xbox.com

Dan Stapleton at

Remember not too long ago when Microsoft claimed there'd be a new push into PC gaming by the software giant? Well, they're kicking that bold initiative off by relocating the freshly relaunched (and actually respectable) Games for Windows Marketplace PC game store to...wait for it...Xbox.com. Because when you think of PC gaming, the first place you look is Xbox.com. That's quite a slap in the face - how much more out-of-touch with PC gamers could they get? Was the crushing cost of maintaining the domain registration of www.gamesforwindows.com really dragging down Microsoft's bottom line?

The details on the merge listed on the site read as follows:

"Games for Windows Marketplace will fully transition over to Xbox.com. Now you can get all of your gaming needs in one place. It’s convenient, it’s concentrated, and it’s a whole lot of great games."

There are so many things wrong with that statement it's hard to know where to begin. We've reached out to MS for comment.

Update: Microsoft responds with a predictably uninteresting statement. Hit Read More to be underwhelmed. We're pushing further, but 4th of July festivities mean we probably won't hear back until next week.

Update #2: Microsoft has declined our request for an interview on this topic. We are shocked. Shocked.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim pre-orders to get bonus map, will Skyrim use Games for Windows Live?

Tom Senior at

Breaking news, everyone! We have just received word from Bethesda that pre-orders will come with a bonus map. And you thought unlimited dragons were exciting. If you pre-order the game you'll actually be able to plan your route by physically tracing your finger over the map's contours, before reaching over to press the fast travel button on your keyboard.

The map is listed as "premium quality," but will it be made of cloth? Cloth maps are on average 150% more caressable and andventurey than paper or plastic ones. You'll find a picture of the map below, floating in a grey void with copies of the game perched on top, carefully obscuring any information written on the map's surface. In addition, RPS commenter JFS spotted what could be the Games for Windows Live logo on the PC box of the game, suggesting that Skyrim could use Microsoft's much maligned system.


Age of Empires Online dev diary shows loot, crafting and war elephants

Tom Senior at

The latest dev diary for Age of Empires Online shows off some of the loot we'll be able to unlock for our armies in Age of Empires Online. In traditional MMO style, items range from bog-standard to Epic, and can be earned in a number of ways. The items can be found in chests, crafted, or bought from city marketplaces. The free-to-play massively online RTS is set to launch on August 16, and is being developed by Supreme Commander 2 devs, Gas Powered Games. Find out more on the Age of Empires Online site.


Kinect development tools beta incoming

Tom Senior at

Rumour has it that the Kinect software development kit beta will be launched during a developer presentation that kicks off in less than an hour. Microsoft promised the SDK kit earlier this year, now Winrumours say the beta version of the tools will be announced shortly in a presentation to be broadcast live on the web.

Microsoft announced Kinect fun labs at E3 this year, a service designed to host the most promising community creations as downloadable games on Xbox Live Arcade. News of a Kinect SDK beta will be particularly important to budding game makers, but it also means the rest of us can likely look forward to some more weird and wonderful Kinect creations on the PC, too. Check out our pick of the ten best Kinect hacks for a taste of what's in store.


E3 2011: The Microsoft conference - your reactions

Tom Senior at

The first conference of E3 is over. Microsoft's E3 showing was mostly spent waving madly at a camera device. It was all Kinect, all the time, with barely a mention of the PC. We've been reading your reactions. You weren't happy, and rightly so. Here's a roundup of some of our favourite reactions.