Steam Limits Accounts in Effort to Fight Spam

Steam logoSteam has come up with a unique way to fight against spam. Steam users need to spend at least $5.00 USD in order to have full access to all of Steam’s features. The purpose is to limit what spammers and “malicious users” can do. The reasoning behind this decision is explained by Steam as:

We’ve chosen to limit access to these features as a means of protecting our customers from those who abuse Steam for purposes such as spamming and phishing.

Malicious users often operate in the community on accounts which have not spent any money, reducing the individual risk of performing the actions they do. One of the best pieces of information we can compare between regular users and malicious users are their spending habits as typically the accounts being used have no investment in their longevity. Due to this being a common scenario we have decided to restrict certain community features until an account has met or exceeded $5.00 USD in Steam.

It’s easy for “regular users” to avoid ending up with a limited account. You can add $5.00 USD to your Steam Wallet. You can buy a game(s) that are equal to $5.00 USD or more from the Steam store. Or, you can purchase a Steam gift that is equal to $5.00 USD from the Steam store and give it to a friend who also uses Steam. To me, it seems that $5.00 USD is a low enough amount so as not to be cost prohibitive for people who are using Steam in the way it was intended.

Those who have a limited account will be prevented from accessing several features. Some of those features include: sending friend invites, opening group chat, participating in the Steam Market, and posting frequently in the Steam Discussions. Those who have a limited account will not be able to vote on Greenlight, Steam Reviews, and Workshop items.

Zynga is Closing Eleven Games

Zynga logoZynga has announced that it will be closing eleven of its games on April 30, 2015. I first learned about this when I tried to play CafeVille and was presented with an informative page that discussed the upcoming end of the game. It was a fun, extremely simple, game that involved virtual food.

Zynga posted on its blog a “games update”. Part of it said:

Based on the natural evolution of our game storylines and changing consumer preferences, we have made the tough but important decision to close 11 of our older Web and mobile games, some of which have been in market for more than 4 years. The games impacted are: Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, Bubble Safari Mobile, Bubble Safari Ocean, CastleVille, ChefVille, Duck Dynasty Slots, Pioneer Trail, Puzzle Charms, Skateboard Slam, Riches of Olympus Slots, and Zynga Slots. All games will be ending by April 30th. Games have begun rolling out closure information via in-game messages and a thank you to players.

At the time I am writing this blog, Zynga has six games that are accessible to play on the website. Or, at least, they used to be. I’m having difficulty trying to play CafeVille today because the game keeps having an error and then refreshing (and making me lose progress). Your experience may vary.

Later on in the blog post, Zynga points out that they have three mobile games slated to launch later this year. Those games are Farmville: Harvest Swap, Empires & Allies and Dawn of Titans. There is no specific date on when those games will appear. Interestingly, the blog also says “…we are excited to usher in a new era of Zynga and NaturalMotion games that we hope you will enjoy.”

NaturalMotion is the creator of the Clumsy Ninja game that was featured in the Apple Keynote Event in 2012. It seems NaturalMotion joined Zynga in 2014.

Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset Review

Creative Logo

Earlier in the month on GNC, I reviewed Creative’s E1 Portable Amplifier, which improved the listening experience for headphone wearers. To go with the E1, I have the Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset, aimed squarely at gamers with a detachable flex mic and in-line controls. Priced at a penny under GB£40, the Inferno sits at the lower end of Creative’s range so expectations need to be set appropriately. With all this in mind, let’s take a look.

The Inferno headset comes inside a mainly black and red box with a transparent window on one side, showing off the goods inside, all held neatly in place with a lightweight plastic moulding.

Creative Inferno Box

Inside the box, there’s the red-infused SB Inferno headset. From the outer shells to the inner driver covers and the audio lead, it’s all red. It’s a good strong red which may not come across in the photos.

Creative SB Inferno in Red

The Inferno has a TRRS 3.5 mm jack (that’s the one with three black bands) and works out of the box with smartphones and tablets. For more old school devices with separate sockets for headphones and microphone, then there’s a splitter in the box too. Sadly, this doesn’t carry the red colouring and is boring black but on the plus side, the Inferno works with Sony’s PS4, connecting into the controllers.

Interrupting the red cable is the in-line control for adjusting the volume and turning the microphone on and off. With no controls for pause / play or FWD / RWD, it reminds us that the Inferno is primarily a headset for gaming rather than music listening.

Inferno Inline Remote

The flexible boom mic plugs into a socket on the left had ear cup and there’s a little shim to ensure correct insertion. It’s easily detached when not required – just pull.

Inferno Flexible Mic

But enough of the features….what is the Creative SB Inferno HyperX like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear. The headband is a little bit too plastic for my taste but it does make the Inferno lightweight and doesn’t exert too much sideways pressure on the head. The cloth padding on the band and the ear cups is good and I wore the Inferno for several extended sessions without ear soreness. The Inferno has what I would describe as “snug” closed cups, meaning that the cups fit neatly over the ears and there’s not much movement inside the cup. I like this but it obviously depends on the relative size of your ears.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony. Overall, I thought that the Inferno provided even, balanced sound to the extent of being unexciting but the Creative headset is a clear step up from the average junk out there. With music listening, much of the sound came through but it certainly could have been a bit richer – it simply didn’t have the “wow” factor and was too flat for real appreciation. A little bit more bass and more depth across the board would be a big improvement.

As I’ve said in reviews before, these headsets are great in office. One minute you are listening to music, the next minute you are taking a phone call with no need to fumble around taking the headset off while picking up the phone. Voices were clear and callers could hear me well.

For games playing, the headset was good with the action coming across clearly from bullets to bombs. Machinery clanked away and steel screeched against concrete. Again a bit more oomph in the bass department would have been an improvement but there’s enough clarity to hear noises off. For the gamer, this can mean the difference between fragging or being fragged.

Overall, the Creative SB Inferno is right on the money. At an RRP of £39.99, the Inferno delivers nicely to the price point giving a decent gaming headset. It’s not for audiophiles but it doesn’t set out to be sonically superior, so I think the Inferno would have a good claim to be the best entry-level gaming headset.

Thanks to Creative for providing the review headset.

Maingear DRIFT is an Ultra Compact PC and Steam Gaming System

Maingear logoWhen people think of gaming systems, they often imagine large beige or black boxes overflowing with cables and accessories. And while these types of rigs may be fine with a certain class of gamer, there are many who’d prefer something compact and sleek to take them into their preferred virtual worlds of play. For those who’d like to devote a little less real estate to diodes and PC boards, Maingear offers its new DRIFT gaming system.

DRIFT is compact but speedy with an F-1 engine featuring a stylish unibody aluminum chassis that is whisper quiet thanks to an Epic 120 liquid cooling system and superbly engineered airflow. Powered by the latest in gaming technology, including Intel Core i7-4790K CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 or AMD Radeon R9 290X GPUs, the DRIFT may look small but it’s definitely a might machine.

4K gaming is possible with DRIFT and its compact design is versatile enough that it can be placed either vertically or horizontally. It supports up to 16 GB of DDR memory, can hold 2 1TB SSD’s and a 6TB HDD, and can be fully upgraded and customized with Maingear’s automotive paint finish available in many colors and combinations.

DRIFT can be configured to boot directly into STEAM big picture mode with Windows and the system is now available for purchase directly from Maingear. Pricing begins at $949.00 without an operating system.

MSI Bridges the Performance and Affordability Gap with New Gaming PC’s

MSI laptopIt’s the eternal struggle. You need a powerful PC to maximize your gaming experience. And while high-end systems bring premium features and performance, they often demand an equally premium price. PC manufacturer MSI Computer Corp is making the divide between pricing and performance ever smaller with its new line of laptops and all-in-ones.

One qualification for a high-performance system is a quality graphics processor. MSI delivers here as the company’s Gaming 24GE AIOs, GE60/GE70 Apache and GP60/GP70 Leopard series gaming laptops will be outfitted with NVIDIA’s GTX 960M, 950M and 940M GPU’s. Designed to bring desktop graphics to a laptop, NVIDIA’s latest GTX GPUs deliver impressive gameplay at 1080p resolutions, allowing gamers to experience even the smallest particles of digital dust. The new GTX 960M, 950M and 940M GPUs also decrease energy consumption when compared to previous models, enabling longer play time without having to find a wall outlet.

Of course, high-quality video is nothing without a matching level of audio. That’s why MSI’c systems supply 3-D sound by Nahimic, an audio performance technology that offers virtual 7.1 sound in immersive high definition. Designed to work with standard stereo equipment, Nahimic technology transports gamers into the action, allowing them to sense every footstep, hear each bullet whizzing past, and feel every explosion around them. Nahimic technology highlights even the smallest sounds, intensifies gameplay by boosting bass, and reducing noise for optimum in-game voice clarity and comprehension. It also features a high definition audio recorder to easily capture studio quality sound. This new technology currently is available for the GE60 / GE70 Apache gaming notebooks and the Gaming 24GE AIO.

[Read more…]

Blizzard Fights Gold Sellers with WoW Token

Blizzard GoldBlizzard Entertainment is about to enable World of Warcraft players to securely purchase gold and to use their gold to buy game time. Something new, called a WoW Token, will make it harder for the illegal gold sellers to find people to scam. Why bother with gold sellers when the WoW Token will safely enable a player to purchase gold?

The concept behind the WoW Token is not new. Eve Online uses a similar system called PLEX. Wildstar uses a similar system called C.R.E.D.D.. However, this is the first time that something like this will be available to World of Warcraft players.

How does the WoW Token work? A player that needs more gold will be able to buy a WoW Token from the in game shop. That person can then sell the WoW Token in a special portion of the in game Auction House for gold. The player will get a quote of how much gold they will receive if another player buys that WoW Token.

Need game time, but don’t have enough real-world currency to purchase it? A player in that situation can buy a WoW Token from a special portion of the in game Auction House. The player can then redeem the WoW Token for 30 days of game time.

The cost of the WoW Token is going to be set by Blizzard Entertainment based on an algorithm that considers supply and demand. That means that players won’t have to bid for a WoW Token (like they can for other Auction House items). It also means that individual players won’t be able to set the price for the WoW Token they want to sell on the Auction House.

Best of all, the WoW Tokens, once purchased, cannot be sold directly to another player. They will be account bound. This makes it impossible for third-party illegal gold sellers to buy up all the WoW Tokens on the Auction House in an attempt to make money from them.

Level 257 Offers Dining Inspired by PAC-MAN

Level 257 logoWere you a big fan of PAC-MAN back in the day? Do you have fond memories of going to the arcade, putting your quarter in line to save your turn, and hoping to get the high score? There’s a restaurant and entertainment center that was designed with you in mind. It’s called Level 257, and it is located in Woodfield Mall, in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Level 257 is a 42,000 square foot entertainment complex that offers casual dining, craft beers, wines, and cocktails. It has its own bowling center, and, of course, plenty of video games for guests to enjoy. It was inspired by the very popular PAC-MAN arcade game.

Their Tumblr notes that Level 257 has a 180-seat dining room, 16 boutique retro-styled bowling lanes, table tennis, and pinball machines. It also has a games lounge with original arcade games that are alongside new titles. There are custom built game tables and free-to-play board games. It’s like a grown up version of the arcade we loved when we were kids. Their Tumblr also says:

Level 257 seeks to explore PAC-MAN’s impact upon our society and pop culture, reminding us all of the importance of play in our lives, while facilitating our desire to relive those times when beating the next level was the most important thing in the world. All while indulging that which we love now – great food and drinks with our friends and family.

The “beta period” (or soft-opening) is happening now through March 2, 2015. Those who want to know more can sign up for more information through Level 257’s website. Personally, I would love to check out this place out, and would happily do so if I still lived in the Midwest.

Snail Games Leverages the Power of Android at CES

Snail logoThe video game market is ready for some real disruption. For years, gamers have been tied to consoles, PC’s or mobile devices, all of which have their limitations. Snail Games is a technology company that got its start in software and game design. Now, the company is moving into the hardware space and its employing the Android operating system in some impressive ways.

Nick and Jamie had a conversation with Tim from Snail Games. Tim brought two of his company’s newest devices with him. The first is the W3D mobile gaming platform. The W3D runs Android and it has specific game-centric controls built right into the device. And if that’s not enough, the W3D is also a full-fledged Android phone. Next up is the OBox, a game console that also runs Android. The OBox is modular in design and its GPU, CPU, RAM, and storage can all be upgraded. Also, the W3D and OBox can interact in some very useful ways. For example, the OBox controller can be used as a controller for the W3D or the W3D’s screen can be streamed to the OBox where it can be fed to a large-screen display.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the Tech PodCasts Network.

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Immersis Takes Gaming to Another Level at CES

Immersis logoVideo games have come a long way since the days of blocky bits bouncing ’round on a TV set. The unrealized dream of gaming has always been to transport the player to worlds otherwise unreachable in reality. And while gaming sound and graphics have improved dramatically, those improvements are still stuck on a flat, two-dimensional screen. French developers Immersis are working on a new projector system that brings gaming environments out of that two-dimensional state and into an entire room.

Scott spoke with Daniel from Immersis. Daniel showed off a miniature mockup of the full-sized Immersis projector and he explained that the Immersis system will consist of the full-sized version of their special HD protector that’ll work with either a console gaming system or PC to project the gaming environment onto all of the walls surrounding a player, putting that player right in the center of the action.

Immersis is launching the product thru Kickstarter and the company has already reached its goal of raising $100,000 thru the crowdfunding platform. Daniel believes that Immersis will be able to bring the projector to market by November of this year and that the retail price will be $2500.00.

Interview by Scott of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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Mad Catz M.O.J.O. Makes Mobile Gaming More Affordable

Mad Catz logoMad Catz Interactive has announced a new lower-price point for its M.O.J.O. Micro-Console for Android. It will now retail across North America for an MSRP of just $149.99. Similar price adjustments will take place across all leading territories. The new price makes mobile gaming massively affordable.

The M.O.J.O. is the most versatile micro-console for Android. It’s an all-in-one gaming and media center that fits with today’s mobile-connected lifestyle. The M.O.J.O. offers a deep catalog of content, high performance gaming, streaming, movies and more. It was built on the open standard Android operating system, which means it gives gamers instant access to content via Google Play. Users get full access to hundreds of OUYA games, OnLive cloud gaming service and the Limelight PC Streaming App.

The M.O.J.O. is powerful enough to handle the most demanding Android games and streaming content. It enables users to bring all of their favorite Android content into the living room in full HD quality, with the ability to output content in 4K native resolution and to take advantage of the latest generation of UHD TV’s.

Mad Catz M.O.J.O. Micro-Console is packaged complete with Mad Catz’ Bluetooth 4.0 enabled C.T.L.R. Mobile Gamepad, HDMI cable, and Male-to-Male USB 2.0 cable. M.O.J.O. delivers high definition Android gaming right out of the box. It is fully compatible with Mad Catz’ GameSmart suite of mobile accessories. This lets users expand their experience with Bluetooth enabled keyboards, mice, and headsets.