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.

PlayStation and Xbox Live Experiencing Outages

Sony PlayStation LogoThere’s a reason why you had difficulties accessing Sony’s online PlayStation store and Microsoft’s Xbox Live network during Christmas. Each has been experiencing disruptions from a DDoS attack that began on Christmas Eve, continued through Christmas Day, and is still ongoing.

The group that has claimed responsibility for the disruptions is the same one that has a history of destroying other people’s fun by making it impossible for them to access online games. This is especially problematic during Christmas as people who received new games try to get online to play them. Some have noted that Sony’s decision to let people download the controversial movie The Interview through Xbox Video could be adding to the problem.

The PlayStation Knowledge Center has mentioned the issue. At the time I am writing this, the PSN Status is “Offline”. Further information says: “We are aware that some users are experiencing difficulty logging into the PSN. We will update this article with any changes that occur in regards to this issue. Thank you for your patience.”

Similarly, Microsoft has posted some information about the outage on their Xbox Live Support page. At the time I am writing this, the Xbox Live Core Services is “Limited”. Further information says: “Xbox members, are you experiencing issues when attempting to sign in? We’re aware of this issue, and we’re working to find a fix ASAP! We appreciate your patience in the meantime, and we encourage you to retry signing in when you get a chance. We’ll update you as soon as we know more”.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset Review

Kingston LogoKingston have long been a brand of choice for gaming professionals, expecially when overclocking the HyperX range of memory modules to within a megahertz of their life. Not content with the inside of the PC, Kingston has put the performance brand on the outside with the HyperX Cloud headset. Sensibly they’ve not tried to start from scratch but partnered with Swedish pro gamers Qpad to get into the market. Let’s take a look.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Box

Initial impressions are good. The HyperX Cloud headset comes in a solid well-finished box that pulls smoothly apart to reveal the headset and accessories. There’s a slightly cheesy marketing message from the HyperX Gaming Manager in silver on the inside of the lid, but it’s a nice touch.

Kingston HyperX Cloud in Box

As you’ll see from the pics, the version on review is the white with black edition; there’s a black with red version if you want to look a bit tougher. Taking the headphones out of the box, they feel pretty good and well-made for the price point. There are no rough edges, the headband stitching looks good and the embroidery is neat. The audio lead is braided rather than bare PVC and that alone helps with the tangles. It’s the end of the lead that gives away the fact that the HyperX Cloud isn’t only for listening to music as rather than a single 3.5mm jack, there’s a pair; one for audio in (the headphones) and the other for audio out (the microphone).

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset

The detachable boom mic is on the left hand side of the box and plugs cleanly into a socket on the left hand ear cup. A small insert covers the socket when the microphone’s not needed to keep things neat. The boom is flexible and can be positioned to suit.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset with Mic

In the box there’s a comprehensive selection of accessories including an extension lead, in-line mic set and an adaptor to take the two 3.5mm stereo jacks into a single TRRS connector, as used in mobile phones. There’s even one of the adaptors needed for annoying aircraft seats, so whether it’s a PC, tablet, phone or plane, the HyperX Cloud can jack in.

But enough of the features….what is the HyperX Cloud like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear, especially when the leather-style pads are swapped for the included velour ones. I wore the headphones for several multi-album sessions without any soreness and would definitely recommend them for extended gaming sessions too. Obviously the preference between enclosed and on-ear cups is a personal one but for comfort, I think these are hard to beat.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony with Microsoft’s Lync. In the office, the headset is great. 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. Moving on to music listening, it’s always hard to critique without sounding critical. I thought the HyperX Cloud headset reproduced sound well with good clarity across the range. The sound could have been richer and more exciting but I was perfectly happy listening to the HyperX Cloud all day. Playing games, the headset was great with gunshots and explosions blowing up in your ears. Car engines came across well, so this headset was made for GTA. As with phone calls, abuse, sorry, conversation with fellow gamers was clear.

Overall, there’s not much to dislike and a great deal to enjoy with the Kingston HyperX Cloud headset. It’s well made and comfortable to wear, and comes with everything needed to plug-in. Audio quality is good without being outstanding. The Kingston HyperX Cloud has a list price of GB£79.99 but can be found on-line for less.  Stick it on your Christmas list.

Thanks to Kingston for providing the review headset.

Steam Launches Beta for Steam Broadcasting

Steam Broadcasting beta logoSteam has launched the beta for Steam Broadcasting. I think it is clear that this will put Steam in direct competition with Twitch for both viewers and streamers of video gaming content.

Steam Broadcasting is currently in beta. As of December 2, 2014, people can watch their friends play video games on Steam “with the click of a button”. The beta is open to everyone on Steam who wants to participate in it.

To get started, all you need to do is opt-in to the Steam Client beta through the Steam Settings panel. For now, concurrent viewing may be limited as the beta is scaled up to support a broader audience.

To watch a friend’s game via Steam Broadcasting, visit their profile and click on “Watch Game”. Or, you can use the Steam Client Friend’s List to open a window into a friend’s gameplay. Watching someone else’s game play through Steam Broadcasting does not require the viewer to own the game. There are no special fees attached for viewers, and it does not require the use of any additional app.

You can automatically broadcast your gaming session through Steam Broadcasting. Streamers get the option of choosing how open they want their stream to be. It ranges from allowing “anyone” to watch your games to limiting your viewers to only the friends that you specifically invite.

Steam is looking for feedback and suggestions on how to make Steam Broadcasting better. Visit the Steam Broadcasting Discussions forum if you would like to report a bug, ask a question, or share your experience with the Steam Broadcasting beta.

Blizzard Entertainment Hit by Another DDoS Attack

Blizzard GoldFriday nights are typically a great time to get online and play some video games. Unless, of course, you can’t play due to a DDoS attack destroying your fun. That’s exactly what happened to Blizzard Entertainment’s Battle.net the Friday night after Thanksgiving. Frustratingly, this is not the only DDoS Blizzard has experienced this month.

The Battle.net launcher is what players use to log in to any of Blizzard’s games. Those games include: World of Warcraft, Diablo III, Starcraft II, and Hearthstone. Players who were already logged in and playing noticed some big problems and mentioned their experiences on Twitter.

Many said that the World of Warcraft servers had crashed. Some lamented the loss of their hardcore characters as issues plagued the Diablo III game. If your hardcore character dies, for any reason, it stays dead. That character can’t be “resurrected” and keep going – you have to start all over again.

The @BlizzardCS account on Twitter later confirmed that they were experiencing a DDoS attack.

About 90 minutes later, the @BlizzardCS account tweeted that things had been resolved.

Earlier this month, Blizzard released Warlords of Draenor, the fifth and newest expansion to World of Warcraft. That same day, a DDoS attack prevented players from accessing the game.

Hearthstone “Bot” Accounts Banned Until 2015

Hearthstone logoBlizzard Entertainment, maker of Hearthstone (as well as several other well known games) has cracked down on the accounts that were using “bots”. Hearthstone is an online card game that is highly competitive. I am no longer surprised when some players feel the need to “bot” instead of actually play in an effort to do better in a competitive game. It is disappointing, though, when people cheat their way to victory.

Recently, Hearthstone did something about this problem. The Battle.net Hearthstone section has a post titled “Recent Actions Against Botting in Hearthstone”. The significant portion reads:

We’ve recently banned several thousand Hearthstone accounts that were associated with the use of third-party programs that automate gameplay, otherwise known as “bots” or “botting”. These accounts will be banned until 2015. As we’ve stated, fair play is at the core of the Hearthstone experience, and cheating and botting will not be tolerated.

It also very clearly states that: “From this point on, accounts found to be cheating will be permanently closed without warning.”

In addition, Hearthstone has banned accounts that were participating in “win-trading”. In short, “win trading” is when a player makes two accounts and queues them to play against each other over and over again. Doing that is against the Terms of Use in Hearthstone. The key portion of the announcement regarding “win trading” says:

We’ve recently banned Hearthstone accounts that were found to be participating in win trading. Win trading at any rank is something we do not take lightly, and is in violation of our Terms of Use. As we mentioned in our previous statement regarding fair play in Hearthstone, instances of cheating will not be tolerated. Accounts that were discovered participating in win trading have received permanent account closure and disqualification from events where ranking is used as a method of qualification.

It is my hope that these actions that Blizzard has taken will make Hearthstone less frustrating for the players who were playing the game without the use of “bots” or “win trading”. Personally, I’d like to see players reach a Rank via fair play instead of by cheating their way to it.