The new One announced by HTC

HTC OneHTC just announced the new One, the latest version of its latest flagship smartphone. The phone features aluminum unibody construction like last year’s model with 90% aluminum vs 70% last year which makes it a little heavier. Buyers will get a beautiful design and a huge 5-inch, 1080p S-LCD3 screen that gamers should love! The front is protected by a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3 so your little brother will have a harder time breaking it as well.

With a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 and 2GB of RAM it should be able to handle all sorts of games including 3D graphics. Buyers can choose between 16GB and 32GB versions, and HTC is including a microSD slot that can accomodate 128GB more in storage. Finally, Google is replacing Dropbox and will provide 50GB of storage on Drive for two years. It’s amazing to see this whole new ecosystem grow up around phones!

And that doesn’t even get to the games! Phones like this drive the mobile game market, as they make the whole experience that much more enjoyable. Even games that don’t have masssive animation like poker for Android phone are just more fun to play on a beautiful screen.

And of course all of this leads to a discussion of Apple, and the new state of affairs where they are now trying to keep up with the competition instead of inventing new categories. Perhaps their incredible run would have slowed even if Steve Jobs were still at the helm. And of course for now they are still a cash-generating machine, but they’re getting attacked at the high and low end. Now there are tons of $50 tablets on Amazon, and it’s easy to play games like online poker there as well.

As for HTC, they’re pushing ahead with regular improvements, and that keeps the Android market humming. If you’re a mobile game developer, you have to be drooling at the exploding market.

Legal battles impact gambling trends

Is poker a game of skill or a game of chance?

If the President of the United States can go on television picking March Madness brackets, including even the women’s NCAA bracket where he picked UConn, haven’t we admitted that picking games involves some skill or knowledge? Sure, there’s a ton of luck involved, but you don’t randomly pick #1 seeds to fall in the first round of the men’s bracket and you probably have to have UConn and Notre Dame in the Final Four for the women.

If that’s the case, does it really make sense that there’s a Federal law blocking New Jersey from adding sports betting to their casinos? Why does Las Vegas get to have all the fun along with the mob?

There’s little rhyme or reason as to why things are the way they are. How did we get to this place?

Meanwhile there are always new developments and trends in the world of gaming, to things like the Billion Dollar Bracket that got so much attention for Dan Gilbert and Warren Buffett to cool card game trends, like Omaha Hi poker is a growing trend online. Fantasy sports games keep evolving, and now you have daily fantasy games for cash and survival pools, but don’t try to pick a game against the spread!

As all of this stuff becomes a bigger part of everyday life, we realize that most of it is harmless fun. Instead of being grumps to stop people from enjoying themselves, why not put programs in place to help those who get all compulsive about it?

Meanwhile, the NCAA bracket marches on with tons of great games and exciting finishes. Nobody won a billion dollars, but there will be plenty of happy winners in pools around the country. And in Las Vegas, the casinos get rich, while the ones in New Jersey are empty. Pretty strange . . .

Microsoft slow to tune in as gaming sites lead the way

Most readers here will remember the good old days of Microsoft Xbox live chat. Back then, most of the chat was good humoured and very sociable. You could really muster some lovely tactical approaches to games like COD, as everyone was much more in tune with the camaraderie that live chat brought with it. Sure, there was the odd killjoy, but on the whole, the experience was friendly.

Sadly, those days have pretty much disappeared. With the Xbox 360’s stela rise in popularity its market domination saturated the live chat arena with pre-pubescent kids, angry teenagers and feral adults all looking to troll and insult those gamers just wanting to play. To balance the last statement up a bit it must be acknowledged that not everyone on live wanted to ruin the experience but quite literally every live game most of us ever played had some delinquent at the ready to spit drivel.

Microsoft did listen, eventually, to the discerning many that complained about the ruined experience and as consequence they introduced something Party Chat.

Late to the party?

Party Chat was never going replace the damaged service with the good old days of live and for many, many gamers it failed. Essentially, the new system allowed chat between friends or invite only members but how many times do you and your friends log on at the same time? Party Chat essentially diluted any good left in live chat.

But the core of the problem was never fully understood, we feel. Rather than change a service to block out unwanted trolls or haters, why didn’t Microsoft establish a robust system that allowed the service to be policed by experienced and trusted individuals who could make an immediate and positive impact within live games? If someone trolled, they’d be warned once. If they did it again they’d be barred for a set duration of time with repeat offenders getting the boot altogether.

In fact, Microsoft only had to look across at other gaming platforms to see effective chat management. If we take the gaming fraternity as a case in point, sites such FreeBingo have mastered the art of providing a safe, enjoyable gaming experience with almost no threat of trolls or abuse. What FreeBingo did to allow players to enjoy their game was to introduce Chat Moderators, also known as CM’s. These CM’s police game chat services as well as building up virtual relationships with players, they are proactive and encourage a sense of community, something Xbox live lost a long time ago.

If only…

If Microsoft had at least tried to implement some kind of game moderator for its own live services at the beginning in order for a philosophy of good conduct to breed as did Freebingo the maybe a young lady called Jenny Haniver could enjoy her gaming experiences more.

Jenny Haniver is an Xbox live gamer and the founder of Not in the kitchen anymore Her website documents and exposes her weird experiences as an online gamer involving sexist comments and the downright disturbing behaviour she faces while she games online, not just by men, women included.

Most comments are recorded and put up on her site after a gaming session which prove abhorrent but seemingly regular.

Microsoft has again listened to the drove of people complaining about their poor live experiences, Jenny Haniver included, and have since tried to recruit experienced Xbox live gamers as game ambassadors to help enforce live etiquette. Yet any tangible improvement has yet to be seen. Microsoft still has a huge job on their hands, gamers themselves know all too well how live has changed and to convince them to help Microsoft it will mean doing a lot more than just to incentivise taking the offer up.

What are your experiences of Microsoft Live? Have you switched off or do you still enjoy the live sessions? Let us know.

Gamers get rewarded for good behavior

ID-100137511 By franky242 Playing Game Console
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/franky242

Gamers can be quite competitive, so anything that results in rewards of any kind could become pretty popular. Enter Microsoft’s reputation algorithm for XBox Live. The company wants better behavior on their system, so they’re going to try the carrot instead of the stick. The idea is that if you reward good behavior, that’s more effective in discouraging bad behavior.

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out. In the heat of a live game, passions can get pretty heated, and frankly there a psychological and intimidation aspect to any good game, whether it’s a war game on XBox or Texas Holdem’ or other new poker games you can play in real time. Sometimes trash talk can rattle your opponent. Other times being quiet works as well, but that’s really up to the gamer.

Of course encouraging sportsmanship is a worthy goal, and I’m sure the behavior on these systems can get pretty bad. It must rival tthe comment section on YouTube and Reddit for depravity. But for many that’s a huge part of the fun.

Frank Savage, partner and development lead at Microsoft, says they are still in the brainstorming phase for Xbox Live’s reputation system, so who knows how this will play out. And I do like the rewards idea better than punishment for the reasons outlined above, though blocking and muting will still likely be part of the overall system. And of course you need those tools. The best gamers can find ways to intimidate without being offensive.

And this is the real lesson here. These are “games” and should be treated that way. If you can jab your opponent and get him off his or her game without being offensive and thus getting muted or blocked, then you’re a much more effective gamer. This applies in real life as well with games like pool, ping pong etc.

So take stock of this and up your game.

Our Favorite Movie Tie In Games

Ever since the early 1970′s merchandising with movies has been a massive market that has seen the cash roll in for the film’s backers. After a decade of t-shirts, lunchboxes and action figures, the early 80′s saw the first movie – video game tie-in as Hollywood looked to take advantage of the fledging home console market to bring in more cash. One of the first tie-ins was the 1982 movie/game E.T. The Extraterrestrial on the Atari and it was such a very poor effort it was cited as one cause of the video game industry crash. There have been many instances of poorly licensed games over the last 30 years, but there are also plenty of gems too and we list our favourite movie tie in video games here.

Chronicles of Riddick – Escape from Butcher Bay

The character Richard B. Riddick was created in the film Pitch Black, a low budget film released in 2000, and by 2004 a sequel, the titular Chronicles of Riddick, was being made and although the second movie did not do as well as expected, the spin off game Escape from Butcher Bay had the exact opposite story. The game was developed by Starbreeze Studios, published by Vivendi Games and is a first person action/stealth game, similar to Half Life or Splinter Cell, set before the first of the Riddick films.

Film actor Vin Diesel reprised his role of Riddick for the game that sees the title character have the escape for the Butcher Bay maximum security facility using both brawn and brain, just as Riddick does in the movies. The game was released on the Xbox in June 2004 to critical acclaim with IGN giving it 8.5/10, GameZone 9.2/10 and Game Informer giving 9.5. It also won three awards in 2004 and 2005, including the Unsung Hero Game of the Year (Editors’ Award) at the Golden Joystick Awards. An expanded and updated version was released in 2008 with the game The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.

Star Wars: Battlefront

Battlefront is one of the great tie-ins with one of the great movie series’ as you take control of one character from one of the four main groups of protagonists from both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy of Star Wars movies and battle to eliminate your opponents. The game came out in 2004 to fine reviews receiving a Metacritic high rating of 82% for the PS2 version, while 1UP.com said “Battlefront manages to stand tall as a great game that does the best job we’ve yet seen of playing out the battles of the Star Wars movies.”

There are many other Star Wars games that could easily feature on this list, such as The Knights of the Old Republic – although not a direct movie tie in – as well as X-Wing and TIE Fighter where you commanded the space craft of the Rebels and the Empire, but Battlefront with it pitting you at the centre of some of the biggest Star Wars battles edges it for us.

The Dark Knight

While there was a planned video game for the release of this 2008 Christopher Nolan follow up to the rebooted Batman Begins movie from 2005, but the game for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 did not materialise and was cancelled. However, from the embers of this there was another type of game linked to the movie – an online slot machine created by Microgaming. In December 2012 a UK resident, Jon O. – a member of free bingo games site butlersbingo.com – turned a 30p spin into almost £6m! This online slot machine features cinematic spins, with video clips straight from the movie, while both Batman and The Joker appear at random to award prizes.