Rovio announces layoffs, calls it a ‘simplified organiztion’

angry birds

Rovio, a game studio based in Finland, is known best for its Angry Birds titles. The games have been a runaway success and run on multiple platforms. However the news coming out of the company isn’t all good. The latest news has nothing do with the games, but instead focuses on some bad things.

Rovio plans to streamline the company, which in effect means a dowsizing. The studio will be laying off as many as 130 employees, which it claims is about 16 percent of its workforce.

In a new statement from CEO Mike Hed, it reads that “We are an entrepreneurial company and have been exploring multiple areas. We have been building our team on assumptions of faster growth than have materialized. As a result, we announced today that we plan to simplify our organization around our three key businesses with the highest growth potential: games, media, and consumer products”.

This is never an easy decision to make, and is even worse for those affected by it. Hopefully, while it’s a shame for the folks involved, it will help the company do better.

Angry Birds Stella debuts on Android, iOS, Blackberry, Amazon and Nook

Rovio has become synonymous with mobile gaming, thanks to the wildly popular Angry Birds franchise. The Finnish company has released multiple versions of the title, covering everything from Rio to Space, and even Star Wars. Now the long-awaited new one is here, with Angry Birds Stella debuting across multiple platforms — sorry Windows Phone users, but you were left out.

The new game adds a different dimension to Angry Birds (as each has managed to do). “Angry Birds Stella offers a new take on slingshot action. There are stunning visuals and animations, as well as an all-new flock of feisty characters with amazing superpowers. And they all live a previously unseen corner of the Angry Birds universe: Golden Island”, the studio explains.

The game is free on all of platforms, including Android, iOS, Blackberry and Amazon. It’s a fun little time-waster that will likely get the company even more revenue, but time will tell on that one.

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DDoS Attacks Shut Down Online Gaming Servers

Sony Playstation LogoWas your favorite online video game difficult to access over the weekend? There is a reason for that. A group decided to use a DDoS attack against several of the big gaming companies servers. I’ve no idea what the motivation of this group was, and choose not to speculate as to what they may have been thinking. If you were on Twitter this weekend you may have seen a lot of confused and frustrated tweets from gamers who were just trying to have fun playing some online video games.

The group targeted Blizzard Entertainment’s servers. This caused difficulties for those trying to access Battle Net, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, Hearthstone and other Blizzard games. Riot Games’ League of Legends was attacked and so was Grinding Gear Game’s Path of Exile.

Blizzard was keeping people informed about the outage through their @BlizzardCS account on Twitter. They did not directly mention a DDos attack, and instead tweeted things like “We’re investigating issues where players are unable to connect or log into their characters.” Updates about the situation were provided through that Twitter account.

Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) was attacked, too. The PlayStation Blog has a post that gives some details.

The original post started with Like other major networks around the world, the PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network have been impacted by an attempt to overwhelm our network with artificially high traffic. The blog was later updated to say: The PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network are back online and people can now enjoy the services on their PlayStation devices. The networks were taken offline due to a distributed denial of service attack.

Grinding Gear Games sent out a Tweet on their @PathofExile Twitter account about it.

From what I saw via Twitter, it appeared that some of these gaming companies had their servers go down more than once. I am of the impression that stability has been restored to the affected servers now. Hopefully, that is the end of the problem.

Devolo Develops for 4K

Devolo LogoDevolo today announced their new dLAN 1200+, the fastest Powerline networking adaptor in their range with Gigabit-class data transmission. The latest adaptors double the speed of the dLAN 650 by using a combination of Devolo range+ technology, the newest generation of Powerline chips and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, offering a maximum of 1200 Mb/s. This is ideal for anyone wanting to stream 4K video but doesn’t have a network point close to their UltraHD TV.

Devolo dLAN 1200+ Powerline Adaptors

With the Powerline adaptors on all the time, Devolo has kept the power consumption low. When in use, the dLAN 1200+ uses a maximum of 4.2 W, and if the connected device, e.g. TV, is switched off, the adapter automatically goes into standby mode, using just 0.7 W. If security is a concern, users can also activate 128-bit AES encryption to avoid any unauthorised access to the network.

As can be seen from the pictures, the dLAN 1200+ is equipped with a gigabit Ethernet connection and an integrated electrical socket with mains filter.  It’s fully compatible with all previous dLAN models, though the maximum speed will be limited by the slowest adaptor.

The adapters can be purchased as a starter kit for setting up a home network or as individual adapters to extend an existing network. The starter kit is priced at GB£119.99, while the single adapter costs GB£64.99. Devolo will be officially unveiling this new range of products at the IFA Conference in Berlin from 5th-10th September.

Hmm, these might be my next upgrade – hopefully they’ll be available before Christmas.

Game Over Foursquare

Foursquare logoIt’s game over, Foursquare. After several years of intermittent playing, I’ve decided to pack it all in and delete my account from the site. I’m no longer happy to take a service without questioning the value and cost to me and Foursquare doesn’t break even anymore.

Foursquare may have been at the forefront of gamification and I like games, honing skill and strategy to succeed, but the problem with Foursquare was that the limit of expertise was how much time you can spend in a local hostelry. Yes, there were occasional benefits of being a mayor, but most places that rewarded frequent visitors ran a loyalty programme anyway. Of course, the really good shops and restaurants knew you because they paid attention.

The reviews helped maintain interest for awhile but the puerile (“the waitress is hot”) and trivial (“the drinks were nice”) usually outweighed any valuable critical assessment of places to visit. In the end, I didn’t bother putting the app back on my smartphone after changing devices and that was the end of it all.

I’m not going to leave my personal data lying around for the next security breach, so it’s time to delete the account. To its credit, Foursquare make it easy to go.

Delete Foursquare Account

Facebook…you’re next.

Angry Birds Go gets multiplayer mode

Angry Birds, the Rovio franchise that brought mobile gaming to the forefront, has released many iterations of its titles, and all continue to be updated with new levels. One of the newest is Go, which takes a different approach to things, bringing Kart racing to the franchise, and lots of interesting features with it.

Now the game is finally receiving multiplayer mode, allowing gamers to test their skills against others. “This is the first part of Angry Birds Go! Multiplayer, and brings the quick race mode where you’re matched against the performance of three other players. Will you come out on top and leave them in your dust? For an even more personal experience connect to Facebook and you’ll be pitted against your friends to show them who’s the boss”, the official announcement states.

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You can grab the update now, though if you already have the game installed, then you should get it automatically. It’s free, but there are in-game purchases that can be made.

Diablo III Auction House Closes Forever

Diablo III LogoThose of you who still have unsold items sitting in the Diablo III Auction House have a very short time in which to collect them. Back in March of 2014, Blizzard Entertainment announced hat they would be closing both the gold Auction House and the real-money Auction House. Both will be closed forever on June 24, 2014.

Players have had a lot of time to remove their items from either Auction House. Blizzard has done a very effective job of making it clear that the Auction Houses are about to close. They posted it on the log in screen for Diablo III many times. Several different Blizzard Twitter accounts have sent out Tweets about it. Even Tyrael (@AspectofWisdom) reminded players about it!

Those who had items left in either Auction House got an email a few days ago that reminded them to go get their stuff before it disappeared. The email included instructions about how to go about collecting the items.

Despite all the warnings about the impending closure of both Auction Houses (which Blizzard started sending out in March) there are going to be people will be completely shocked and surprised when they realize sometime tomorrow that can no longer retrieve the items that they left in the Auction House. The items that they ignored, and left to gather virtual dust in the Auction House, suddenly become incredibly meaningful to them. I am expecting a lot of complaining by disgruntled, procrastinating, players all over social media tomorrow.

LEGO Minifigures Online Game is in Beta

LEGO Minifigures Online Beta logoLooking for an adventure video game that has been designed with children in mind? The LEGO Minifigures Online game is now in beta. The game is made by Funcom, who also are makers of The Secret World (and other games).

The LEGO Minifigures online game involves collecting all the minifigures that are represented in the game and taking them on grand adventures. There is a Pirate World, a Space World, and a Medieval World.

Players choose a minifigure as their playable character. Each one has special abilities. Players can interact with the environment in the game by smashing walls and building machines. It is an adventure type of game that includes a story line that is geared for children.

It is an online game, and parents are encouraged to play it with their children. LEGO Minifigures Online is a Free-to-Play game. As you may have expected, it includes optional in game purchases. However, it promises that the game can be played completely without requiring players (or their parents, to be more accurate) to spend real world money on it. The game requires children who are under the age of 13 to have to rely on their parents for in-game purchases.

Memberships can be purchased for 1 month, 6 months, or 12 months (and are priced at $7.99, $39.99 and $69.99). The more you spend, the more “extras” it unlocks. It should be noted that you cannot use the chat function unless you have paid for a membership.

Right now, the game is in beta, which means that things within it in could change. Those who would like to give the game a try must download it and be using a Windows PC. The Funcom website says the game will launch for PC, iOS and Android during the second half of 2014.

One big advantage of having your kids play with virtual LEGOs, instead of physical ones, is obvious. You greatly reduce your risk of stepping on a LEGO that your kids left on the floor!

Riot Games Announces Queue Dodge

Riot Games LogoRiot Games, maker of League of Legends, is doing something new. It doesn’t take place inside a video game, either. Queue Dodge offers employees “cash to quit”.

New hires at Riot Games will have the ability to quit their jobs and get some money for doing so. They can take advantage of Queue Dodge anytime within their first 60 days. Those that choose to quit will be paid up to 10% of their annual salary (up to $25,000). Right now, this offer is only available for newly hired employees of Riot Games that are in North America.

It seems like a strange move. Why would a company put a potential employee through what they describe as a “rigorous interview process” and pay if they quit within the first 60 days? It sounds counterintuitive. Wouldn’t that encourage people to quit?

The answer appears to be directly connected to “the unique flavor” of their culture. In short, Riot Games wants to ensure that people stay working for them because they are a good fit, and not just for the paycheck. They want to provide a “well-lit, safe exit path” for workers who self-identify as a mismatch. I think it is meant to be an open, positive, way to end an employment situation.

I can see where Queue Dodge would give newly hired employees the financial flexibility to opt-out of working for Riot Games without having to worry about how they will pay their bills while they are looking for another job. It can take some of the stress out of being unemployed.

On the other hand, I cannot help but wonder if the existence of Queue Dodge might influence current employees to be less accepting of new hires who are a little different than themselves. The pessimist in me wonders if Queue Dodge would function as a way to pressure people to quit.

Angry Birds Epic launches across all mobile platforms

The Angry Birds franchise has proven to be one of the biggest mobile gaming hits in the world, with multiple versions available for play, regardless if you use Android, iOS or Windows Phone. Regardless of which version you prefer, and they range from Rio to Star Wars, there is one that almost anyone will enjoy.

Now a new one has launched, though it’s a bit different from what gamers have come to expect. Angry Birds Epic is a role-playing game (RPG) and it had a simultaneous launch across all platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

In this all-new role-playing game, you lead your heroic flock into battle against the green snout-nosed scoundrels in a fantasy Piggy Island. From tribal villages and frosty mountains to tropical beaches and mysterious caves, get ready to navigate your way through this treacherous land and meet all kinds of wacky and offbeat characters”, the Finnish game studio states.

All platform versions are free to grab and play, so get ready to line up your birds, head after the pigs and enjoy some good fun during your next break.