ID@Xbox to get Unreal Engine 4 for Xbox One


ID@Xbox developers now have access to Unreal Engine 4 tools through the subscription program announced by Epic Games back in March 2014. Previously, the program was catered to Xbox One developers. Now it has been made available to participants in the ID@Xbox initiative. UE4 is a middleware toolset designed to improve and accelerate development efforts by providing smart scripting tools, material editors, and animation systems. Developers can apply for a subscription on the Unreal Engine website.

Source: Xbox Wire


Keeping Xbox Live running smoothly is a 24/7/365 job

Xbox Live Operations Center

This November will mark 12 years since the launch of Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming service that currently boasts more than 48 million global users. Ensuring all of those Live members are constantly connected with each other and enjoying all of the service’s many features is paramount to delivering the Xbox experience gamers have come to expect. To pull it off, Microsoft has staffers working around the clock at its Xbox Live Operations Center (XOC) in Redmond, Washington, reports Total Xbox.

As part of their job function, XOC staffers respond to clear-cut problems. The majority of their time, however, is dedicated to ferreting out issues that no one knows about. Team members search for irregularities and investigate them to discover whether or not they are problems that need solving. They can’t guess at whether something is a threat to uninterrupted Xbox Live service or not; they have to know. They have to find out.

Microsoft Gaming Ninja (yes, that’s his real job title) Eric Neustadter informed Total Xbox that his team has to be ready for anything at all times. “It’s a bit like being in the fire department or police, where you have to think through what would I do in [a worst case] scenario. My boss was in the fire department for years, and he went from doing that to running services like this. In a lot of ways, it is a similar mindset.”

Redundancy is Neustadter’s go-to tool for preventing an Xbox Live doomsday scenario. “We have all the things you need to run 24/7/365, like multiple power grids connected into the campus,” he explained. “When that fails, we have diesel generators with huge tanks out there so that we can run for roughly 72 hours without power, and then we can bring in tankers with more diesel and refill the tanks while they’re running. We also have a disaster recovery site… somewhere else on a different power grid with almost all of this replicated so we can go over there and work instead.”

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Star Wars Pinball Heroes Within release date announced


The newest addition to the Star Wars Pinball saga for Pinball FX2 now has a release date. Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within will release on April 29 for $9.99, offering four new tables for the price of three. Two of the new tables have already been highlighted in trailers: a table dedicated to Han Solo that takes place aboard the Millennium Falcon, and a table that runs through the major events of the original movie, A New Hope.

The Droids table stars R2-D2 and C-3PO after they’ve been kidnapped by Jawas. It’s up to you to navigate the perils and help them escape the massive Sandcrawler. Masters of the Force will pay tribute to the users of the light and dark sides of the force, from Yoda to the Emperor and everyone in between. Heroes Within marks the end of the Star Wars Pinball series, but considering how great the previous packs have been this last batch should be equally as epic. Check out the new trailers after the jump, and may the force be with you.

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Warface exits beta and gets launch trailer

Microsoft spokesman Larry Hyrb announced yesterday that Crytek Kiev’s promising free-to-play title Warface has completed beta testing and is now available to all XBOX Live Gold Members for the Xbox 360. Hyrb also confirmed that anyone who participated in the beta program will need to update their client, but will not need a complete re-install; better still, all progress and purchased content will be carried over from the beta.

Warface is a decent online FPS that features class-based, tactical combat between two opposing factions. The game features all the modes you would expect to see in an FPS of this type, but with an uncommonly high focus on teamwork. The game is available now for free, so why not check out the launch trailer whilst you wait for it to download?

Source: Major Nelson


Minecraft to be used for real-world redesigns

Block by Block

In what is likely the strangest, most amusing case of life-imitates-art-imitates-life, it appears that the free-form, sandbox-y block-placing smash hit Minecraft will now be used to submit entries in contests to redesign real world buildings. The initiative is called Block by Block, a joint venture between the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and Mojang.

UN-Habitat is a UN agency with a mission of promoting sustainable towns and cities. The goal is to engage young people (and realistically, any users of the PC version of Minecraft) in the design and upgrade of a total of 300 public spaces by 2016. Look for one of the first projects, Plaza Tlaxcoaque, to have its design presentation on April 27, 2014, with real architects transforming the models into real designs to present to city officials sometime later. Work in Nairobi has already begun, and similar efforts have started in Haiti, India, and Nepal.

Block by Block is a truly innovative and commendable international undertaking and goes to show how the gaming industry can give back to communities in creative ways. Being able to engage the gamers, themselves, is phenomenal, as well.

Here’s hoping no creepers slip into the presentations. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to these lovely models.

Source: Block by Block via IGN


Composer interview: Super Time Force

Super Time Force

Xbox Wire recently posted an interview with Jason “6995″ DeGroot, composer for Capybara Games’ highly anticipated downloadable title Super Time Force. DeGroot describes the soundtrack as based “around NES [Nintendo Entertainment System] sounds — simple pulse/triangle/noise waves.” Unlike sidescrollers of the past, however, this retro soundtrack is processed with modern technology, creating what chiptune audio enthusiasts refer to as a “9-bit” sound. For readers unfamiliar with this type of sound, think of the soundtracks to Dustforce and Fez.

DeGroot cites classic NES titles such as Ninja Gaiden II, Mega Man and Metroid as influences. Metroid is an interesting choice that DeGroot notes as “so sparse at times — a bold departure from most games of the era.” Such an unapologetically retro title with modern gameplay twists needs an equally well conceived soundtrack to match, and it sounds like Capybara has found exactly that fit with DeGroot’s tunes.

Source: Xbox Wire


Wulverblade trailer shows off story and combat

Recently announced ID@Xbox brawler Wulverblade released its first trailer – a look at the premise behind the game’s story and some examples of the main character’s moves. The game takes place during the Roman invasion of what we know now as Great Britain and focuses on the resistance of the Free Tribes in the northern part of the island. The gameplay is inspired by classic beat’em ups, which shows in the trailer. We spoke to the developers at PAX East, and they hinted that the team is aiming for an October release date. Stay tuned for more info from our interview soon.


Defense Grid 2 preview: break up for the kids

Defense Grid 2

The crawlers keep crawling, and the drip keeps dripping in Defense Grid 2.

Hidden Path Entertainment’s sequel to its 2008 tower defense game features a new resource and score system known as “the drip,” and it works exactly as planned: it makes games winnable for greenhorns while keeping aces chasing after higher scores that are achieved by killing crawling aliens with all manner of haste.

Never having played Defense Grid: The Awakening, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect out of its follow-up when I picked up the controller at PAX East. From the outset, the player is confronted with a multitude of options for defending the base from unwanted pests and a cluster of information tracking your progress in this endeavor. The amount of data and options on the screen paired with the constant march of baddies out of their gate, towards my tower and back again with poached cores in tow could have been overwhelming. It could have been, but it wasn’t. Hidden Path Entertainment saw to that with its streamlined presentation of data, tower building options and drip-drop of resources. Everything was pleasantly intuitive and easily manageable.

Sometimes, divorce is the answer

Being intuitive for beginners while remaining fun and challenging for experts is exactly what Hidden Path was aiming for with its sequel. Though it’s impossible to report on the latter, I can tell you that the studio pulled off the former with aplomb. The drip, which Polygon first reported on here, allows for resources to constantly accumulate as a line graph tracks your score in the upper right corner of the screen. Regardless of what your score is, your resource distribution rate remains the same. The rate of the drip in the PAX build allowed me to erect large quantities of a mixture of the six tower types present (cannon, missile, laser, gun, inferno and tesla) and upgrade many of them to carry more firepower.

Executive Producer Jeff Pobst explains that his team separated score from resource distribution in Defense Grid 2 in order to avoid the “negative feedback loop” that many players got stuck in due to poor decision making in the first game. As Pobst describes it, novices would waste too many of their resources early on building the wrong types of towers or placing towers in poor positions. This would leave them unable to repel enemies and unable to gather enough resources to compensate for their mistakes. Meanwhile, top players would dominate early on and find themselves with an embarrassment of riches, making victory too easily achieved.

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Minecraft Candy Texture Pack out now


Craving something sweet? Look no further than the new Minecraft texture pack! The Candy Texture Pack turns every block in the world into an edible treat. Forests are filled with ice cream trees, the ocean overflows with soda, and sheep grow thick coats of cotton candy. There’s just so much to see – check out all the delicious screenshots after the jump. You can pick up the texture pack here for $1, and as always you can check out the free trial before you buy.

Source: PlayXBLA

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Castle Crashers event happening in Happy Wars until Wednesday

Castle Crashers happy wars

Happy Wars developer Toylogic Inc. has announced that a Castle Crashers event is happening from now until April 23rd. Simply by playing the Bounty Hunters mode, you’ll be able to score equipment styled after the Blue Knight and Barbarian from The Behemoth’s colorful beat ‘em up. If you have at least one achievement unlocked in Castle Crashers, you’ll also automatically unlock a Barbarian-themed item. Check out more info over at PlayXBLA.

In addition to getting free Castle Crashers-themed gear, fans of the free-to-play game can also pick up a Premium Membership or Support Items for 25 percent off in the item shop. If you haven’t checked out Happy Wars yet, we gave it a Buy It in our review – an even higher honor considering you can play for free!

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