Friday 19 June 2009

Blizzard Aims for 2009 StarCraft 2 Release

 Christo [PCD]    19 Jun : 20:54
 None    Software

Blizzard announces it will release StarCraft 2 when it is "ready"

Blizzard announces it will release StarCraft 2 when it is "ready"

In a video interview with Swedish game site, lead producer Chris Sigaty and lead designer Dustin Browder discussed in depth the decisions and thinking that went in to the development of StarCraft 2. One of the key bits of information revealed was that Blizzard is aiming for a 2009 release as long as the game is “ready???. Sigaty stated, “Blizzard is going to try to get the game out this year. However, we're not going to ship the game if it's not ready. Blizzard is working hard to get the game out the door, but won't put out an unfinished title.??? The interview itself revolved extensively around Blizzard’s decision to release the game as a trilogy and what this decision meant for gamers.

When quizzed why it took six years since the release of the Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne for StarCraft 2 to be ready, Sigaty explained one of the reasons was they had decided to develop a completely new graphics engine and to not use any Warcraft 3 technology. Another factor that extended development time was the need to development a graphics engine that could accommodate the real-time strategy multi-player part of the game and also support the extensive single player story telling aspect of the game.

The discussion about the single player aspect of the game lead to a question about why StarCraft 2 is going to be split into three separate releases with each release focusing on the story of one race. Browder reiterated the company line this was a “creative??? decision that was needed due to the fact the single player focused story telling aspect had grown so large it could not possibly fit in to a single game.

The two Blizzard employees were then asked why StarCraft 2 was so focused on creating a very well developed single player component when the original StarCraft’s extended popularity and immense replay value came from the multi-player component. Sigaty explained that their goal was not to use the single player experience as a training ground for the multi-player experience. He pointed out for many Blizzard real-time strategy games players who had finished the single player component and went on to play on Battle.Net for the very first time were painfully unprepared for what awaited them when playing against experienced players. He explained the single player component existed to develop the story of the StarCraft universe.

They were also asked if they were concerned some players would not bother to purchase and play the second and third installment of the StarCraft 2 trilogy because the first installment would include a fully featured multi-player component. Browder repeated the mantra he believes players would still be interested in the single player parts of the second and third installment because it would provide so many unique experiences that cannot be enjoyed in multi-player due to issues such as game balance.

The interviewers then came straight to the point asking if the second and third installments of StarCraft 2 would include new units and other new content which would provide a powerful incentive for players to purchase the rest of the trilogy. Browder completely dodged this question claiming he could not answer because the game was not finished and not all the decision had been made.

In terms of music for the game Sigaty confirmed that a full scale orchestra would be used and stated that their music director was busy recording at that very moment. He also confirmed the release of the StarCraft 2 beta was imminent although he did not announce a specific date. One interesting point Browder made with regards to the beta was that StarCraft 2’s release date would be influenced by fan reaction to the beta and he encouraged fans to provide as much input as they can once they have tried it.

[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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Friday 12 June 2009

Windows 7 Will Ship Without Internet Explorer in European Markets

 Christo [PCD]    12 Jun : 19:52
 None    Software

Even Windows 7 "N" versions will not have IE

Even Windows 7 "N" versions will not have IE

Microsoft is anticipating great success with its new Windows 7 operating system, but is being wary of any antitrust violations that may occur. The company has already been fined over $2 billion USD by the European Commission for previous infractions, including a record setting $1.4 billion USD fine in February of last year.

Those infractions centered on Microsoft's inclusion of Windows Media Player in Windows XP. After several costly appeals, the firm relented and shipped "N" versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista in order to comply with the European Commission's directives.

Earlier this year, the European Commission moved to require Microsoft to package third-party browser software with Windows. Those rules would also require Microsoft to provide support to make third-party browsers work with Windows components, such as Windows Explorer. Microsoft is currently in litigation to appeal the introduction of those rules.

In order to avoid any potential problems, Microsoft will ship special European versions of all its Windows 7 editions. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 will be available, but will be appended with an "E" at the end of the product name. For example, "Windows 7 Home Premium E" will most likely be the most common edition in Europe. The "E" versions of Windows 7 will ship on October 22, the same time as Windows 7 ships to the rest of the world. Global language support is extensive, and in Europe alone Windows 7 will be available in 23 European languages.

"We're committed to making Windows 7 available in Europe at the same time that it launches in the rest of the world, but we also must comply with European competition law as we launch the product," wrote Dave Heiner, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Microsoft.

The "E" versions will be sold alongside new Windows 7 "N" versions in Europe, with the only difference being that "N" versions do not include Windows Media Player. "Microsoft will not offer for distribution in the European territory the Windows 7 product versions that contain IE, which are intended for distribution in the rest of the world," Microsoft said in a memo distributed to its OEM partners. "This will apply to both OEM and Retail versions of Windows 7 products."

OEMs can choose to add any browser they want to their Windows 7 machines, including Internet Explorer, so European consumers who are purchasing new PCs will be still be able to access the Internet. Consumers will also be able to add any web browser to their PCs, to supplement or replace the browsers preinstalled by their computer manufacturer.

"Given the pending legal proceeding, we’ve decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users. This means that computer manufacturers and users will be free to install Internet Explorer on Windows 7, or not, as they prefer. Of course, they will also be free, as they are today, to install other Web browsers," elaborated Heiner.

EU officials have proposed a ballot screen system which would tailor the OS to a specific browser of the user's choice when first using the OS. Among the browsers considered as candidates are Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, and Opera.

In order to meet its October 22 Windows 7 global release date, Microsoft needed to start telling OEMs this week exactly what to expect in Windows 7, so they can begin the software engineering work necessary to have their Windows 7 PCs available in stores on that date. That includes the ballot screen system if OEMs choose to adopt it, as well as legal, financial, and technical negotiations on including the browsers from the various third parties.

Microsoft is moving forward with a collaborative tone: "We will continue to discuss browser issues and other matters with the Commission. But even as the Commission processes continue, we know we need to have a clear plan in place to address the “bundling??? issue in Europe because, at the end of the day, the obligation to comply with European competition law belongs to Microsoft alone".

[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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Wednesday 10 June 2009

Apple Blasts Windows Vista, Announces $29 Snow Leopard, Safari 4, QuickTime X

 Christo [PCD]    10 Jun : 16:43
 None    Software

Apple claims to have refined 90 percent of the Leopard OS

Apple claims to have refined 90 percent of the Leopard OS

Apple's WWDC today was filled with big announcements -- new and repriced Macbooks, and the iPhone 3G S. Not to be lost in the announcements was Apple's new OS, Snow Leopard. As anticipated, Apple used the conference to introduce Snow Leopard, the successor to Apple's Leopard (OS X 10.5).

At the conference, Apple bragged of now having close to 75 million active OS X users worldwide, up from 25 million in 2007. It also blasted competitor Microsoft's Windows Vista OS as a failure, quoting InformationWeek's Paul McDougall. Mr. McDougall wrote, "Vista has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users, while business have shunned it outright."

Apple is gunning aggressively for Windows 7, releasing Snow Leopard in September, a full month before Microsoft's release. The release is priced at $29 (versus $129 for the previous OS, Leopard) and $49 for a "family pack" that can install on several home machines.

The company brags that the new OS improves 90 percent of the Leopard base, includes better standards support, and deploys new technologies. The install process is also reportedly 45 percent faster and the OS consumes 6 GB less space, similar to the shrinking footprint of Windows 7 versus Vista.

The new OS also features some snazzy new features, such as the Stacks (for better folder exploration) and the Exposed dock feature. It also features new algorithmic enhancements such as text selection in PDF documents. Chinese character recognition is also now supported via a drawing interface.

Safari 4, which has been being beta tested, also was released as part of the new OS. Also released for Windows, Apple claims that the browser is 8 times as fast as Internet Explorer 8 at JavaScript rendering. It receives a perfect 100/100 on the Acid3 test; unlike IE 8 which fails with a 21/100 (other browsers like Opera 10 also received perfect marks).

QuickTime X is another key program, bringing "hardware acceleration, color correct, new technology for streaming (HTTP streaming)."

Apple is also making a fuss about its new OpenCL graphics and computing standard, which it hopes will be leveraged for better graphics and compute-heavy processing alike.

Between Safari 4, QuickTime X, and Snow Leopard Apple certainly delivered on all the rumors and expectations when it came to its OS and software. However, the biggest surprise of all had to be the price. With the new ultra-low price of OS X, the pressure is on Microsoft to lower its prices accordingly, or convince the consumer that it has a more functional new product.

Microsoft is somewhat safeguarded, though, by the fact that Apple's closed box hardware policies won't allow non-Apple-hardware users to jump to OS X. Still, the newly reduced price helps erode Microsoft's cost arguments, and invariably will soon be appearing in smarmy Apple commercials on TVs across the nation.
[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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