PS4 and Xbox One high volumes no problem for AMD


AMD’s Saeid Moshkelani on his company’s next-gen “clean sweep” and high-end PCs driving innovation

PS4 and Xbox One AMD

AMD owns the next-generation of consoles. In the past, game consoles were more custom and piecemeal: a little IBM here, some AMD there, a tiny bit of Nvidia. With the reveal of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U, it’s clear that AMD has put significant legwork into locking its PC competition out of the game console market. At E3 2013, GamesIndustry International spoke with AMD corporate vice president and general manager of Semi-Custom Business Saeid Moshkelani about the milestone and AMD’s place in the game industry.

“It is a very, very proud moment,” replied Moshkelani when asked about AMD’s position in the next generation. “They are very complex projects, very complex designs, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It has been a journey of over two years in development to get to today.”

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have semi-custom AMD Jaguar system-on-a-chips (SoC) at their core, while the Nintendo Wii U has an AMD Radeon graphics processor paired with an IBM PowerPC CPU. Moshkelani explained that all the chips we designed in concert with the platform holders, based on “very different visions and philosophies.”

“There were different teams that were dedicated to these projects, working with the customer and collaborating with them to develop these chips,” he said.

xboxoneMicrosoft’s Xbox One, open for all to see.

Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are expected to launch this holiday season. While Microsoft has had a rough time post-E3, Sony has raised sales estimates of the PlayStation 4 and GameTrailers recently reported that Sony has also allowed GameStop to take “unlimited” pre-orders on the PlayStation 4. We asked Moshkelani if AMD was prepared to handle the demand for both consoles on the manufacturing side.

“From a manufacturing perspective, in a year we ship tens of millions of units,” he replied. “So we have a very strong manufacturing base for our APUs and discrete graphics. We leverage the same manufacturing infrastructure to develop for game consoles. So the volumes were not something that actually raised an eyebrow for us, because we’re already in high-volume manufacturing.”

Having a hold on the graphics side of all three consoles puts AMD in a unique position as a bridge between PCs and consoles. Moshkelani and AMD Global Communications Travis Williams both agreed that game development and porting between both platforms can be smoother with AMD’s help.

“We are working with all of the major developers for PC games, as part of our strategy for PC products. It enables the developers to optimize their games on PCs by working with us. And then at some point, they can port those to consoles,” said Moshkalani. “Historically, the consoles were all different architecture. Porting from PC to PowerPC architecture was not as easy. AMD makes it much easier to port games back and forth.”

ps4Sony’s PlayStation 4 could be the primary driver of AMD SoC sales this holiday.

“You look at the PS4 and the Xbox One now being x86-based and you look at where gaming is in the PC industry. So now you have game developers coding for x86, working with the console vendors, working with AMD to optimize their solutions for x86. It helps speed time to market, lowers costs, and now they don’t have to worry about coding for different platforms across console and PC,” added Williams.

Despite the fact that many have repeatedly predicted the death of the PC market with the rise of tablet and smartphone gaming, Moshekelani said that AMD’s discrete GPU division is “thriving and growing.” He and Williams both believe that high-end PC gaming will continue on as a driver of future innovation.

“If you look at what drives innovation, it’s the investment and research in those high-end products,” explained Williams. “That’s what helps fuel products like the SoCs you see in consoles and notebooks. That’s going to continue to be a huge revenue stream for AMD. If you look at what we announced today, it’s a 5GHz CPU. That should answer your question about our commitment to high-end PC gaming.”

“Those are the technology drivers. In 2000 or 2001, we were the first one to announce the 1GHz CPU. Today, we’re the first ones to cross 5GHz,” added Moshkelani. “That trend is going to continue. The demand for more horsepower is always going to be there. What is added to it is battery life. Consumers want all of the horsepower, but they want it to have a 15-hour or 24-hour battery life. That changes the design target to something new, but that technology that you develop [at the high-end] is what gets taken to new markets.”

“If you look at what drives innovation, it’s the investment and research in high-end products”

AMD Global Communications Travis Williams

AMD’s semi-custom division is a way to help the company diversify its business, according to Moshkelani. During its Q3 2012 earnings release, AMD CEO Rory Read said that the company wanted 40 to 50 percent of its revenue to come from non-PC-related sources. Moshkelani agreed that semi-custom and embedded chips are “going to be a larger portion of the business than they traditionally have been.” He said the shift isn’t as drastic for AMD as many think, with mobile, gaming handhelds, and cloud gaming all being on the roadmap.

“Developing products that are suited for tablets or mobile computing is absolutely something that we are focusing on. It’s not something where we have to do something drastically different. We know how to implement low-power technology. It wasn’t a necessity for us before, but now that we are focusing on tablets and ultra-thin notebooks, absolutely,” he said.

“One of our goals is to be the dominant player in game consoles, handheld, and cloud gaming. The semi-custom initiative is not just about gaming. There are other markets that we’re going after. There are markets where AMD does not currently play. We are using the AMD intellectual property, the AMD know-how in engineering, and being able to provide unique solutions for market segments that are growing,” Moshekelani explained. “But gaming is our DNA. It’s not just this generation of consoles. We had a clean sweep with this generation, but we were in Xbox 360 and Gamecube. Gaming has always been a part of our business. We want to be the dominant player in gaming SoCs.”

 

[source]

A Week with Nintendo’s Wii U


I wasn’t going to get a Wii U, I swear. Growing up with games, however, has created an intangible draw to launch day hype. I’m fine up until the bell actually tolls, but that launch lure just sucks me in time after time. So, here I am, one week and some change after the launch of Nintendo’s latest console, still very much in that Honeymoon period. Of course, Wii U isn’t without its many oddball quirks and flaws, so let’s see how things stand at this early chalk mark in its lifespan.

This is no doubt the true allure of Wii U to most. Just as the remotes positioned Nintendo Wii as something fresh and different, the GamePad opens up its own realm of interesting possibilities. It also acts as a living room evolution of Nintendo’s super successful line of dual-screen portables, which started with Nintendo DS in 2004.

While it’s true that Wii U is an extension of the Wii in many ways, the GamePad and TV combination is much more comparable to what Nintendo has achieved with two screens over the past eight years. Add to this the asynchronous gameplay made possible by a group of players choosing between wielding either the GamePad or the remotes, and you have the recipe for something that has the potential for great innovation if applied wisely.

The screen itself looks great, though games appear a bit more washed out and dull on it when held up to the crystal clarity of a large HD TV. Most importantly, it’s comfortable. Perhaps not everything will feel at home in the clutch of its wide grip—high intensity action games, for example, might be best played with a Pro Controller—but it holds up to Nintendo’s typically tight standard of ergonomics.

When Nintendo first unveiled Wii U, it was kind of unclear exactly what was going on with the GamePad. Would there be more than one? Would we still need remotes? Nintendo rolled it out with a thick veil of mystery, but it’s starting to make sense now that it’s in homes around the world. It sounds simple, but the ability to play plenty of Wii U games without even turning the television on is fantastic. To streamline things further, the GamePad can be programmed to control both the TV and cable remotes, a sign of Nintendo’s efforts toward making this console a true centerpiece of the living room. How effective this is, or how much it matters, may vary, but it’s clear what Nintendo is after, and this time they actually seem serious about it.

What would a new Nintendo console be without a strong launch lineup? Actually… that’s usually not the case. Nintendo 64 launched in 1996 with a paltry selection: Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64. To be fair, almost everyone just wanted Super Mario 64, but let’s just say Nintendo hasn’t always been known for having a robust selection right out the gate. Contrast that with the Wii U launch, which packed around 23 titles on day one. The majority of the releases have been third party games already available on competing consoles, but it was nice to see Nintendo coming a bit bolder on opening day.

Of the available games, I decided to keep it exclusive by sticking with Nintendo Land, which comes bundled with the deluxe unit, ZombiU, and New Super Mario Bros. U. Each offers something a bit different when it comes to sampling what Wii U has to bring to the table, so it seemed like the perfect trio of games to start out with.

Nintendo Land includes a selection of mini-games spread throughout a small, colorful theme park hub world. True to its purpose, each game has its own unique way of implementing both the GamePad and the remotes for multiple players, from the spirit-hunting Luigi’s Ghost Mansion to the considerably meaty Pikmin Adventure. There’s plenty of variety throughout, and, for my money at least, it’s a much more satisfying pack-in than Wii Sports ever was. Sure, the latter really changed the game as far as introducing new folks to video games, but Nintendo Land is something I keep coming back to, and despite a few duds it’s also an eye-opening first look at the world of Nintendo in high definition.

I won’t spend too much time getting into ZombiU here—it’s a really interesting game that deserves a full review—but fans of legitimate survival horror should be pleasantly surprised by this one. Shockingly, ZombiU has more in common with a roguelike RPG, in which constantly starting over from scratch and seeing how far you can make it is the name of the game. It can be tough—brutally unforgiving, even—but if you don’t go in expecting a traditional zombie head-popping first-person shooter, you’ll come out finding something special, if flawed, in Wii U’s first horror entry.

Those of you who have been reading the site on a regular basis will recall my displeasure with New Super Mario Bros. 2 on Nintendo 3DS. You might have even wondered why I would pay for another entry in the series, but it’s clear from the start that Nintendo saved its creative gas for New Super Mario Bros. U. From gorgeous visuals to some genuinely clever and fun level design, it makes one wonder why Nintendo even bothered with that last entry… until you realize the theme of NSMB2 was raking in tons and tons of coins. It’s nice to be having fun with a 2D Mario game again, and the platform-assisting GamePad features are great, hectic fun with a few friends on the couch.

Oh, I also tried out the eShop and downloaded Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition, which takes developer WayForward’s 3DS game and spruces it up for HD. It’s a terrific 2D platformer/puzzler, but the really dangerous thing was learning that, once again, Nintendo has composed some brutally catchy music for the online shop. Once Virtual Console hits this thing, I’m toast.

Let’s face it, beyond everything else, the craziest, most mind-blowing thing about Wii U is that Nintendo is finally online. Yes, I know Wii had online capabilities. I know 3DS goes online just fine. But this is a legitimately competent effort toward connectivity from the company, and it almost feels strange that it works so well.

Miiverse is likely one of the first aspects of the Wii U community players will notice. At first its purpose is a bit tough to figure out, until you realize each game has its own sub-community, all of which essentially act like a highly specific Twitter with a 100-character limit. Oh, and you can draw on messages… It sounds kind of insignificant, but Miiverse is so integrated and so startlingly on topic—likely thanks to Nintendo’s strict patrolling and flagging policies, people actually talk about games!—that it’s hard not to be charmed by it. Players can ask for help, offer tips to those stranded in areas, or just doodle pictures of their favorite characters, many of which are marvels to behold as far as stylus art goes.

Wii U also has a bunch of video apps, another area in which Nintendo has decided the other guys are doing it right. Whereas Wii just had stuff like Netflix, Wii U has a handful of options, and its multimedia TVii service is set to launch in December. For the purposes of testing things out, I busted out a Netflix account and launched the app, which works pretty much like any other console Netflix app, but with the added bonus of browsing titles with the GamePad. Oh, and the tap of a button swaps the picture between the television and the GamePad… which is kind of awesome.

Oddly enough, I think I’ve spent the most time watching YouTube videos on Wii U; so much in fact that it already has me considering canceling cable. Seriously, why not? Select a video on YouTube and it automatically starts playing on the big screen, but you can keep browsing other videos on the GamePad while it plays. Or you can just open up another tab in the system’s excellent web browser and do something else entirely while others watch the video. That’s right, I just referred to a console’s web browser as “excellent.” I can’t believe it either, but it works really well. You can even use the GamePad’s gyroscope to scroll up and down pages without touching a button. The GamePad might not have multi-touch capabilities, but if you were thinking of getting a tablet just for web browsing, this does the trick nicely.

As slick as Wii U is, it still seems like Nintendo is ironing out a lot of the kinks post-launch. The system debuted with patches and updates galore, and, as previously mentioned, some of the services planned for launch are going to be a bit of a wait. It’s going to be really interesting to see where Nintendo takes this thing, though, because it has a ton of potential, regardless of whether or not you think Nintendo is joining the “last generation” a little too late. It’s clear this time around that they actually have their head in the game, and they’ve blatantly, if quietly, admitted that maybe, just maybe, the other guys were on to something over the last half-dozen years or so.

A little over a week into Wii U’s life and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what we have here. It’s not perfect. It’s a little confused at its own existence. It contradicts almost everything Nintendo was boastful about sticking to and avoiding the last time around. But it works. Let’s hope Nintendo keeps it kinda weird for the foreseeable future.

 

ZOMBI U


zombi-u-box

ZombiU is a first person shooter game for the Nintendo Wii U console. The game takes place in London in 2012, where humanity has been hit by a virus that turns people into zombies. ZombiU is based on the survival horror gameplay mechanics, where the player is tasked with missions fighting through hordes of zombies. Players will control a series of “survivors” in ZombiU, where they can switch from one to another as they are killed by zombies, where the objective is to survive as long as possible to clear the level. The game will include a series of different levels, ranging from tight indoor areas, to large open spaces in demolished cities and towns.

ZombiU features

ZombiU
ZombiU will make use of the new Wii U GamePad controller, and will use the tablet screen as the survival kit, where players stash their weapons, med packs, items, and more. The game will also features a unique death mechanic that puts the survivor into the body of a different survivor each time, and lets them recover equipment and weapons. ZombiU will also be fully playable using the Wii U pro controller, which doesn’t feature a tablet screen and is suited for old fashioned first person shooter gameplay.

ZombiU screenshots

ZombiU videos

The ZombiU videos include trailers, gameplay sections, and even developer walkthroughs.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star Review


paper-mario-sticker-star

Mario’s adventures have led developers to think outside of the box for the many different games featuring puzzles, sports, strategy and even fighting games. While fans of the famous plumber have experienced it all, there was a special element introduced back in the Super Nintendo days that had fans seeing Mario in a whole new light, Role Playing Games. Super Mario RPG was an amazing title that was developed by Square Enix that introduced Mario into the RPG limelight. Mario would then take his RPG adventures to the Nintendo 64, Gamecube and Nintendo Wii. This time the focus would change to a 2D papercraft art style designed by Intelligent Systems, the team behind the Fire Emblem series.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS

Developer:  Intelligent Systems 
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 11, 2012
MSRP: $39.99

The story begins as the Mushroom Kingdom is celebrating the Sticker Star Festival. Mario, Princess Peach, and the Toads are celebrating until Bowser causes havoc. Mario tries to stop Bowser but gets knocked out. He awakens crumpled up and finds out that the princess has been kidnapped and the town of “Decalsburg” is in havoc. Mario meets the keeper of the Royal stickers named Kersti who blames Mario for all the havoc and forces the silent hero to help using the power of stickers to save the day.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the first Paper Mario game for the handheld system. With the previous Paper Mario titles splitting into chapters, Paper Mario: Sticker Star instead splits it into areas reminiscent of the original Mario titles. Each area is filled with Bowser’s minions, hidden paths, mid-bosses and stickers. Mario must fight or dodge his way to each goal to proceed to the next area. Some stages may have more than one exit, making you work to complete the stages. Other stages will be filled with mid-bosses or requirements, forcing you to go back and search for items that can be turned into stickers to proceed.

paper-mario-sticker-star

In a change of pace from the previous Paper Mario games, Mario’s actions are based off of stickers, so entering a battle with zero stickers leaves Mario without any way to battle. Don’t fret though, you can always find stickers in the town or stage by hitting or peeling the infamous “?” boxes. Defeated enemies will also randomly drop stickers. If you need to, you can always buy them in town or from certain toads along the way. Mario is also equipped with a hammer to help him with many of the hazards along with his infamous jumping ability.

In battle stickers are key to winning. There are a few hundred stickers in the game under the class of jumping, flower, hammer, mushroom, and turtle shells. There are dozens of other collectible stickers used for battle. Each sticker takes a space and later on you find larger stickers that take up more space, requiring you to manage your sticker pages. As you defeat bosses, you can unlock more pages. Finding out what each item does and its usefulness can be key in battle, especially when fighting against specific enemies. I don’t think it’s smart to jump on spiked enemies, but you can if you have the Iron jump shoes. Items like Turtle shells, line jumps, snow balls and fire/ice flowers are great against multiple enemies.

paper-mario-sticker-star

When you see an enemy you have a choice to fight them or avoid them, you can surprise your enemy by jumping on them or hitting them with the hammer or battle sticker. Later in the game you’ll get the ability to use the spinner, a slot machine-like game where you can get a box of battle stickers and a special rewards like an item, health or coins. You can also choose to run from battle by mashing the A button. If you miss your escape, be prepared to take some damage. Have no fear, because Mario doesn’t just stand there. He can defend by pressing the A button right before the attack, and when using a sticker Mario can do more damage. Each item is unique so you need to test it our for yourself.

paper-mario-sticker-star

Bowser has in his possession a very powerful tool that allows him to mess with the world called “paperize”. Paperize allows items to be taken out or moved which Mario’s enemies use to stop him. Thanks to Kersti Mario can put items back or fix incorrect items.

Once you complete the game, you can try for 100% completion. One of the toads has a sticker collection and asks you to help him complete it. The good part is you only need one of every sticker; the bad part is you need one of every single sticker including special stickers. You may even see a certain green brother around in the game, make sure when you see him to paperize the screen.

Recently many of the Nintendo 3DS titles have really taken advantage of the 3D capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS, but Paper Mario isn’t one of them. You could easily play the game in 2D the whole time. The papercraft visual style the game uses is vibrant and enjoyable. Intelligent Systems takes the 2D element and messes around with it to create some creative atmospheres and enemies, taking advantage of their paper flat design.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a game you can easily enjoy. You will find yourself lost and backtracking quite a bit. There will even be times that you won’t be able to find a path you need until you find the right special sticker. The game loves to be challenging and tough, but luckily Kersti will give you hints in battles or on the map, albeit sometimes useless.
Read more at http://nerdreactor.com

Bricked Wii U Count Increases Due To Impatient Software Updaters


The first thing many people noticed when first plugging in their shiny new Nintendo Wii U and powering it on was how long the initial software update took. Many people waited 1 to 2 hours for the download to complete. This is no surprise as launch hype was high and Nintendo’s servers were likely being pounded.

Public service announcement: do NOT restart or turn off your WiiU during the initial software upgrade. Many users did exactly that, probably assuming their system froze, Wi-Fi was messed up, or something else, but apparently these users are now enjoying a very heavy paperweight: their WiiUs are bricked.

Patience is a virtue, people. Whether you’re downloading updates to your phone, updates to your PC, or updates to anything else… we always see the, “Do not restart or power off your device during the installation/upgrade process.”?  It’s pretty much common sense, but I guess the anticipation and excitement has gotten the best of many Nintendo fans.

Just wanted to share this experience with you in hopes that I can save the lives of so many WiiU consoles that may find themselves endangered due to unknowing or incompetent owners.

[WiiUForums via vr-zone]