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.

Twitch Would Like You to Wear Clothing

TwitchTwitch updated its Rules of Conduct section to make it clear that streamers are expected to wear clothing. That may seem like a “no-brainer”. In general, dress codes are not put into Rules of Conduct unless there have been problems. I’m not aware of anything specific that may have prompted this change, but it seems to me that Twitch must have had reasons for making it.

The new change to their Rules of Conduct includes a section called “Dress…appropriately”. The key portion says:

Wearing no clothing or sexually suggestive clothing – including lingerie, swimsuits, pasties, and undergarments – will most likely get you suspended, as well as any full nude torsos, which applies to both male and female broadcasters.

It goes on to says that “you may have a great six-pack” but suggests that you share that at the beach instead of on Twitch. The new rule is directed at both male and female streamers, but I kind of doubt that Twitch has had too many problems with men wearing “lingerie, swimsuits, pasties, and undergarments”.

In case that wasn’t clear enough, Twitch went ahead and offered some advice to help people to stay within the boundaries of the rules. If the lighting in the room is too hot, get fluorescent bulbs. You can crop the webcam so that it only shows your face. Move your Xbox One Kinect closer to you as a means of cropping your image. Or, you know, you could always turn it off.

World of Warcraft Servers Coming to Australia

Blizzard GoldBlizzard Entertainment has announced an upcoming deployment of infrastructure that will support World of Warcraft players in Australia and New Zealand. These new servers are going to be hosted in Australia and will support the Oceanic realms.

This is huge news for people who live in Australia or New Zealand and who play World of Warcraft (WoW). The more localized servers will reduce the latency that many have experienced when they had to play WoW on the servers that were located in North America. In other words, this change should reduce the lag. Nobody likes lag, so this change should make a lot of people happy.

The only thing that people might not be so happy about is that the maintenance period for World of Warcraft will very likely be at the same time. It takes place on Tuesday in the wee hours of the morning when most players who live in North America are asleep. That same maintenance period falls into a part of the day in which many AU players would like to be able to get into the game.

I like that Blizzard Entertainment is starting to make an effort to reach out to players who are outside of North America. This week, they did a Launch Event for their upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion in Australia. Previous to this, Blizzard had local game servers for Diablo III. They also have local game servers for the players who are in the Technical Alpha of their upcoming Heroes of the Storm game.

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.

stella_Key_Art_C_landscape