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by Mariella Moon via Engadget

EA isn’t only getting a lot of flak over Battlefront II’s loot crates, it’s also under investigation from Belgium’s gambling authority. According to VTM Nieuws, the country’s gaming commission is in the midst of taking a closer look at both Battlefront II and Overwatch, since add-on boxes that have to be purchased before you can see what’s inside might constitute gambling. As Commission chairman Peter Naessens points out, random loot boxes are a game of chance.

Authorities are especially concerned over the fact that the games are marketed towards children. Naessens says kids could feel forced to spend a lot of money under social pressure. EA made earning heroes easier after facing backlash, but players might still end up spending serious money on the game — according to a computation by Star Wars Gaming, it will take at least 4,528 hours of gameplay or $2,100 to unlock all its base content.

We reached out to Blizzard to find out the developer’s stance on the investigation. In a statement provided to GameSpot, EA made its position clear and insisted that Battlefront II’s loot crate mechanics aren’t gambling:

“Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game.”

If Belgium’s gaming authorities decide that loot boxes constitute gambling, EA and Overwatch will have to secure a special permit if they want to continue making those games accessible in the country.

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Photo credit: Jose Cordova/GameStop

Put on hold five days before full launch

by Owen S. Good via Polygon

GameStop’s all-you-can-eat subscription to used games has been suspended, apparently over concerns with how the aging computer systems in the company’s 7,000 stores can handle and track checkouts.

Kotaku first reported the suspension of GameStop’s PowerPass program. The retailer confirmed that it had halted the initiative in a statement, citing “a few program limitations we have identified” as the cause.

The retail giant announced the program at the end of October, with sign-ups set to begin Nov. 19. Under its six-month terms, the program would allow customers to take any used game from a local store’s catalogue, play it as long as they wished and exchange it for another until the subscription expired. At the end of the period, they could keep any one of the games they had checked out.

The program went through a soft launch in some locations earlier this month, with its full rollout to follow later. Those stores have been told to pull all promotional materials related to the PowerPass, according to Kotaku. Customers who got in on the soft-launch are being offered full refunds, plus their choice of a used game as a make-good for taking down the service.

Asked for comment, GameStop replied to Polygon with this statement.

We have elected to temporarily pause the roll out of the new PowerPass subscription service, based on a few program limitations we have identified. We feel this is the right thing to do for now to ensure we are able to provide our guests an exceptional service.

Those guests who have already purchased the service, we are allowing them to bring the pass and video game they have checked out, back to receive a full refund. In addition, we are allowing them to pick out any Pre-Owned video game for free.

There is no word when the program will be reinstated.

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by Swapna Krishna via Engadget

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by Mark Kaufman via Mashable

After years of mercifully letting Kinect continue to exist, Microsoft finally killed the once revolutionary console.

Microsoft told the innovation site Fast Co Design that after seven years of production, it will no longer make the Xbox auxiliary console, which allowed gamers to get off the couch and actively immerse themselves in gaming by jumping, ducking, and punching.

Kinect uses infrared mapping to capture the 3D shapes of rooms and the acrobatic movements of people inside them.

There are still some 35 million Kinect devices in the world today, a testament to its earlier popularity: In 2011, Kinect was the fastest-selling consumer device on Earth, selling over 130,000 units a day for two months.

Gaming developers, however, were not enthusiastic about developing games that involved actively moving bodies. Developers, who flourished by designing games that relied on just a traditional handheld controller, had little incentive to change — so in large part, they didn’t. As a result, few and mostly forgettable games were created that specifically took advantage of the Kinect’s motion features.

Big franchises — like, say, the Halo games — never made the leap to Kinect’s active style of play, at least in any kind of ground-breaking way that could validate the device’s use for developers.

In its later stages of life, Microsoft billed Kinect as a good way to broadcast video and sound over Skype and Twitch, but evidently this still couldn’t justify its existence.

Although a somewhat archaic piece of hardware now, Kinect’s depth-sensing legacy is still quite relevant. Microsoft, for instance, employs Kinect’s camera tech in its mixed-reality Hololens headsets.

Kinect’s 3D-sensing tech also exists beyond Microsoft and will soon be frequently utilized everywhere: It lives on in the forthcoming iPhone X, which has stimulated both excitement and unease with its infrared facial recognition technology, Face ID.

The Kinect itself may be dead, but we’ll see its applications extended well beyond its failed foray into gaming.

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by Nick Hastings via Digital Trends

Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox One S systems have struggled to keep up with the more powerful PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro consoles, with higher resolutions and better performance possible on Sony’s machines. Instead of waiting for the next full “generation” of consoles, however, Microsoft plans to launch a more powerful version of the Xbox One, a device that the company calls the Xbox One X. An enhanced console, the Xbox One X will be capable of playing games in native 4K resolution, and Microsoft claims it will be “the most powerful game console to date.”

Between the unveiling at Microsoft’s E3 event and Digital Foundry‘s exclusive access to the Xbox One X, we now have a much better picture of what will definitively be the most powerful game console yet, including detailed information regarding its internals as well as its supported games.

Digital Foundry’s analysis cleared up speculation about the specifications, but we’ll have to wait next week to see how that power translates to performance improvements on specific games. Although we liked the Xbox One S well enough, it did have some notable flaws, so a more powerful version of the console is tantalizing.

An incredibly powerful console

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With Xbox One X, Microsoft aims to set a new standard for console performance. Billed by the Xbox team as “the console [that] developers wanted us to build,” the console promises to deliver four times the graphical power of the current Xbox One.

This power — which allows the console to run games at higher resolutions with better framerates — is measured in teraflops, of which the Xbox One X boasts six, according to Microsoft’s E3 presentation earlier today. A teraflop is essentially a measure of graphical potential, largely dependent upon the console’s GPU, of which the new Xbox has 40 customized Radeon compute units at 1171 MHz — the Xbox One has 12 GCN compute units and the PS4 Pro has 36 “improved” GCN compute units. In essence, “Microsoft has defied current-gen constraints and redefined the way consoles are built in order to push clock-speeds up closer to desktop GPU counterparts,” with its custom AMD GPU, according to the Digital Foundry report. The Xbox One X chip’s four shaders — double that of the Xbox One — benefit from the high clock speed.

For a GPU comparison, the Xbox One X falls just shy of AMD’s Polaris-based RX 480 card, a card that we called “the only mid-range card that matters” in our Editor’s Choice distinguished review.

Like the Xbox One and PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X’s CPU has eight cores split into two clusters, but they aren’t Jaguar cores as expected. The Xbox One X’s custom x86 cores are clocked at 2.3GHz, dwarfing the Xbox One’s 1.75GHz clock speed while also beating out the PS4 Pro’s 2.1 GHz clock speed. Essentially, the Xbox One X’s CPU is closer to what you’d expect in a gaming PC. In addition to having more on-board cores, the x86 cores are 31 percent faster than the Xbox One’s Jaguar cores. The powerful CPUs will be called upon quicker thanks to an upgrade to the GPU command processor, effectively boosting processing speed in its own right.

And for users without a 4K TV? Microsoft will require super-sampling, meaning that higher resolution games must scale down for 1080p users while staying at or above Xbox One framerate levels. Over at Windows Central, you can see comparisons of games running on Xbox One versus games running on Xbox One X on a 1080p display. While the comparison was conducted with tech demos, there’s a stark difference in sharpness from Xbox One to the new model. It’s possible that Microsoft’s promised super-sampling for 1080p on the Xbox One X will further separate itself from the Xbox One with retail releases, but it’s already apparent that Xbox One X will offer considerable improvements for those with a 1080p TV.

To produce better visuals and stable framerate, the Xbox One X will utilize AMD FreeSync technology. AMD FreeSync ensures that refresh rate is undetectable by the user while dynamically adapting to mitigate latency and increase the smoothness of gameplay. This technology will be enhanced further with the support of HDMI 2.1, the next-generation of HDMI that will deliver Dynamic HDR. Xbox One X games will theoretically have variable refresh rates, meaning that they could adjust moment-to-moment. HDMI 2.1 support makes the Xbox One X future-proof in this regard, and should make next-gen games look even better when the technology hits the market.

The new Xbox will also abandon ESRAM, which worked with DDR3 to process data in the Xbox One. Instead, the console will feature 12GB of GDDR5 memory (4GB reserved for the operating system) and 326 GB/s bandwidth, far more than most its Xbox One relatives and the PS4 Pro. The extra bandwidth helps increase pixel counts while maintaining high resolutions and frame rates, and games will receive an additional 60 percent memory boost on the Xbox One X.

As for storage space, the new Xbox will launch with a 1TB hard drive, just like the PS4 Pro and some Xbox One models. The Xbox One X’s hard drive will offer 50 percent greater bandwidth than the Xbox One’s.

On the audio front, Xbox One X will receive an upgraded version of the Xbox One’s audio processor. With spatial surround sound and Dolby Atmos support, Xbox One X sounds will have ‘height.’ Dolby Atmos will also be available when using headphones, in addition to the proprietary HRTF format developed by Microsoft’s Hololens team. The optical drive supports 4K UHD Blu-ray, making it the only home console to do so.

Even though the Xbox One X will coexist with and play the same games as the Xbox One, the internals seem more like a next generation console than an upgraded mid-cycle iteration.

Kinect goes the way of the dinosaur

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The Xbox One S launched in 2016 with one notable omission: A proprietary Kinect camera port. Included on the original Xbox One, it allowed players to use their Kinect without needing to purchase a separate adapter. To make up for this, Microsoft offered a USB Kinect adapter for free to those who had previously purchased the original Xbox One, but this isn’t the case with the Xbox One X.

In October 2017, Xbox marketing executive Aaron Greenberg revealed on Twitter that Xbox One X owners would not be eligible for a free adapter, as the promotion expired in March.

This does not mean the Xbox One X won’t support Kinect, only that users upgrading from a first-gen Xbox One will need to pay to continue using the camera. Microsoft has continued to move away from the sensor, and now allows for voice commands through headsets. Gesture-based controls for the system’s home menu have also been removed in recent updates.

The most powerful console, and also the smallest

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According to Microsoft, the new Xbox One X is the smallest Xbox console to date, and a recent sneak peek at the Xbox One X dev kit shines a light on some of the upcoming console’s other features.

In early June, Director of programming for Xbox Live Larry Hryb (“Major Nelson”), and Kevin Gammill from the Xbox engineering team talked about decisions behind the dev kit and gave us our first look at the back of the unit.

The port arrangement on the back of the dev kit matches the retail unit almost exactly, except for a second network port to assist in the debug process.

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The ports on the back of the retail Xbox One X are arranged almost identically to those of the Xbox One S. There is an HDMI In and HDMI Out, two USB ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, a S/PDIF audio port, and an Ethernet port. The dev kit also has a port to the left of the HDMI Out, which connects to a dongle called the “Xbox Transfer Device,” which is used to transfer game builds at high speeds.

One small difference between the Xbox One S and Xbox One X is the addition of a small cutout above the HDMI-out port, so users can easily distinguish it from the HDMI-in port when they’re connecting their cables for the first time.

The front of the retail design won’t match the dev unit. The dev kit has an OLED screen and a navigation button, and five programmable buttons. The OLED screen can be utilized to the developer’s liking, and it’s even capable of running games right there on its tiny screen.

The dev kit also includes a network interface card, and three USB ports. There appears to be one USB port on the front of the consumer-model Xbox One X, just as there is on the Xbox One S.

Supported games

Like the PlayStation 4 Pro, the Xbox One X won’t have exclusive titles in the typical sense. Instead, it will play the same Xbox One games supported by its less powerful siblings, but will open the door for developers to add support for 4K resolution and other performance improvements. In April, 2017, Windows Central reported a “partial” list of games that will receive 4K support, including a few that haven’t been officially announced. Microsoft also provided information about some of these upcoming titles at its press event on Sunday. These include:

  • Forza Motorsport 7
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Call of Duty: WWII
  • Crackdown 3
  • State of Decay 2
  • Star Wars Battlefront 2
  • FIFA 18
  • Madden 18
  • Gears of War 4
  • Killer Instinct
  • Minecraft
  • Forza Horizon 3
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Resident Evil 7

And there’s far more than that. Microsoft is even bringing backwards compatible with the original Xbox to the Xbox One X (as well as Xbox One and Xbox One S).

For those who were thinking about purchasing an Xbox One X without also getting a 4K television, you’re going to have to stay on top of your games’ ballooning file sizes. All Xbox One X owners will have to download 4K asset updates for supported games, regardless of what kind of display they’re using, according to an interview Microsoft gave to Stevivor.

This may have a major impact on how players download games. With Forza Motorsport 7 coming in at around 100GB, for instance, you won’t be able to hold more than a few games on your hard drive at any one time.

Project Scorpio Edition

In addition to the standard model, Microsoft announced a limited edition Xbox One X, dubbed the “Project Scorpio Edition,” during Gamescom 2017. For the same $500 price, the console comes with a special finish, all-black controller, and vertical stand, as well as the words, “Project Scorpio” on both the console and the controller. It releases the same day as the standard edition and has the same 1TB hard drive.

When can you buy it, and how much will it cost?

Microsoft broke the news regarding the Xbox One X’s pricing and availability at its E3 event, saying that it will be available on November 7, 2017 for $500. Pre-orders are available now.

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by Kevin Murnane via Forbes

You thought the Xbox One X was the most powerful console ever built because it can display native 4K at 60 FPS with HDR? That’s only part of the story. The One X has Halo’s Master Chief hiding inside. And he’s riding a scorpion.

The image of Master Chief and his scorpion mount is etched on the circuit board inside the One X.  Unocero, a Spanish-language YouTube tech channel, revealed the tiny picture during a breakdown of the One X.

Besides being flat-out cool, the image is rich with symbolism. Xbox fans will appreciate that the Xbox rode to prominence on Master Chief’s back when Halo: Combat Evolved was released in 2001. Now Master Chief is given the honor of riding in on an Xbox that has evolved into “the most powerful console ever made”.

Xbox One X fans will understand why Master Chief is riding a scorpion. During development, the One X was code named Scorpio and a special Project Scorpio Edition of the One X was offered when preorders for the console first went live on August 20. It sold out in less than a day.

There’s something for Halo fans as well. The M808 Main Battle Tank in the Halo games is called the Scorpion and when Master Chief rides it, he kicks some serious ass. Looks like Microsoft is telling us the One X kicks ass as well.

You’re going to have to take it on faith that Master Chief is in your console unless you’re willing to break open the One X and see for yourself. However, after the One X gets kicked to the curb in favor of something better, the Master Chief enhanced circuit board might make a nice wall hanging.

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by Paul Tassi via Forbes

The rivalry between Xbox One and PS4 Destiny players is years old at this point, with the Sony version of the game always ending up with more content thanks to a never-ending deal with Activision. Continuing into Destiny 2, this really works against both groups, seeing that things like a PS4-exclusive sniper rifle can never be sold by Xur, or a PS4-exclusive strike can never be the Nightfall, yet that’s not enough of an issue for this partnership to be dissolved.

I finally got fed up with missing content on Xbox One, so for Destiny 2 I switched over to PS4, which always happens to be where most of the playerbase resides, given the console’s massive marketshare. It’s been…fine. I haven’t really noticed a difference because once you have all those missing items, you just view them as part of the game, not some special bonus. This is opposed to just being sad about not having X thing on Xbox, which is a hallmark of a deal that really does nothing except upset half your playerbase.

But I won’t lay into this deal for the 50th time. Rather, this is about another issue, one that gives Xbox One players the upper hand for the first time in Destiny’s history.

They can actually play the damn game.

I’m not joking. Destiny 2 on PS4 is reaching a point where playing it is more exhausting than it’s worth because of one error specifically. I cannot reach the Tower without a maddening series of glitches, crashes and restarts.

Yesterday, over the course of about two hours, I desperately tried to reach the Tower to decrypt engrams and turn in faction tokens for Faction Rally to try and secure the last few pieces of armor I’m missing.

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What followed was a comedy of errors. Either my ship would get stuck in an infinite loading loop, floating above earth or trapped in an endless tunnel of light and color, never reaching its destination even if it sat there for 5, 10, 20 minutes. Or if I was lucky, the game would just crash outright right away, at least sparing the sense of false hope that I might actually reach the Tower.

I ended up having to go to the Farm (the Farm!) for the first time since the story campaign. There I could load in just fine, and seeing how there were about 20 other level 20 people there, I assume this is a common workaround. But while you can support the lesser-known Cryptarch that lives there by having her decrypt your engrams, you still need to access to the Tower to reach all three Vanguard vendors, the Gunsmith, and most pressingly this week, all three Faction vendors.

I would say I was able to reach the Tower maybe one out of every three to five attempts yesterday. This is not just some minor error. Every time the game crashes or you get stuck in a loading loop, you have to restart Destiny 2, load the title screen, load the character selection, load to your ship, and set the destination again and hope it works this time. It is not a quick process, and by the fourth Tower failure in a row late in the day yesterday, I had to set down my controller and literally walk away from the game. This was just a waste of time.

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Bungie and Sony are aware of this issue, or at least some version of it. Previously, there was an error where every time you logged out of the game either manually or through inactivity, Destiny 2 would blue screen crash. That was fixed in a new patch, but now Bungie says they’re working with Sony to resolve this Tower crash, and hopefully the infinite loading loop as well, which is almost worse.

The common thread here? This is a Sony-exclusive error. Every time I complain about it online, I get a dozen Xbox One players saying they’ve never had a problem loading into the Tower since launch, followed by a bunch of jokes about how this is karma for me switching to the “enemy console.”

They’re right! I hate this. I really do. Destiny is already a time consuming game already, but wrestling with the basic functionality of going to the most important social hub of the game makes me want to stop playing until the issue is fixed. To me, it feels like it’s getting worse. I’ve had some Tower issues before this, but never what I experienced yesterday.

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I hope this is resolved soon, but until it is, Xbox One players, enjoy your temporary victory. Lord knows after all these years you deserve one.

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