Star Wars flicks to see 3D re-release, starting with Episode 1 in 2012

The Star Wars series hasn't even hit Blu-ray yet, but The Hollywood Reporter reports sources are saying George Lucas definitely intends to refill his money pit in 2012 by bringing out the movies, one each year, in 3D. Unfortunately that means even if you're optimistically expecting a well done 3D conversion process Episode IV is at least five years away since the plan is to release the movies in numerical order. According to the sources, even after demoing converted 3D footage of the movies in the past, Lucas was moved to greenlight the process after experiencing Avatar and realizing that by the time the movies hit theaters, and eventually homes, there will be more than enough capable screens to watch them on. Of course, all could be forgiven if this meant there were enough petty cash floating around to convince Lucas it's time to restore and rerelease the original editions on Blu-ray, but we're not holding our breath


Should I Automatically Be a Windows Phone 7 Fan?

File under: News
By: Adam Z Lein | 9:22 PM 17-Sep-10 | 23 Comments
As many of you know, I've been using Windows Mobile based phones since the smartphone was invented. They've always been the most powerful and capable devices. However, when we started hearing about Windows Phone 7 earlier this year, it became clear that the classic Windows Mobile (that could run on all sorts of hardware and do all sorts of things) was about to be replaced by a completely new "Version 1.0" product. Even though it is number 7, it's really something totally new and entirely unrelated to the old Windows Mobile that many of us have become accustomed to. On one hand, that's a good thing since Windows Mobile has such a bad stigma attached to it. On the other hand, that could be a bad thing since we might be missing out on some functionality from the past. The question is, should we automatically upgrade to Windows Phone 7 simply because we've relied on classic Windows Mobile for so long?

On one hand, we're losing…

A lot of the things missing from Windows Phone 7, are things that I rely on in Windows Mobile 6.x. For example, Outlook tasks that sync with Exchange. Unfortunately, being able to keep track of the things you need to do for work or in life, didn't make the cut for the first version of Windows Phone 7. This was initially pretty disappointing to me since Windows Mobile was really the only smartphone operating system left that could reliably sync Tasks directly with Exchange right out of the box. I also like having my Notes and voice recordings synced with Outlook. Both of those features appear to be gone from Windows Phone 7.

Then there's the lack of 3rd party application multi-tasking. When I'm in the car, I'm always playing music on my phone while also running the GPS navigation software, listening to the voice prompts for when to turn, and occasionally using Voice Command to make a call, or listen to my schedule, or hear emails and text messages read to me. The initial version of Windows Phone 7 won't be able to do all of that.

The lack of Copy/Paste support is also disconcerting, however we've heard that the feature is on the list to be implemented in an update. It just didn't make it to the launch versions that was released to manufacturing last week.

On the other hand, we're gaining…

The Windows Phone 7 interface looks amazing. The fluff-free design is very refreshing. The way content is used as navigation and the way the quick animations are used to define context is very innovative and beautiful. Visual cues and readable text that anyone will be able to understand make the operating system's usability stand out from other mobile OS's.

The new design also brings a high level of consistency. With classic Windows Mobile, any OEM or application developer basically had free reign over every aspect. There were plenty of Windows Mobile devices where manufacturer's added their own user interface layers that often felt completely out of place when compared to the rest of the operating system and any 3rd party applications you may want to use. Windows Phone 7 will remedy this by severely limiting crazy customizations and encouraging consistent design and usability guidelines.

Then there's the new Music & Videos Hub. Earlier this spring I pretty much fell in love with the Zune HD, Zune desktop software, and Zune Pass service. Windows Phone 7 will take advantage of these highly under-rated features. The artist imagery, related artist links, and bio text is so nice to have, too. Since Windows Phone will have a persistent internet connection, you'll be able to instantly download or stream practically any song you want using the Zune Pass subscription service. You'll also have a connection to the Zune Social so you can earn achievements based on your play count. You can bet we'll see more awesome Zune features in the future, such as Smart DJ, "Picks for You", and social music sharing. Zune also supports syncing Windows Media Center recorded TV shows (as long as they're not HD), as well as just about any type of video format (Zune should be able to convert it, if necessary).

OneNote syncing over SkyDrive is another fantastic feature that we'll see in Windows Phone 7. This program can certainly replace the Outlook Notes syncing capability that I've relied on in Windows Mobile for over 10 years. OneNote is much more powerful. It even supports password protected sections, so if those are also supported in Windows Phone 7, I may have an eWallet replacement in OneNote as well. For many, OneNote might be able to replace the tasks list as well. It's a great place to keep track of all of your projects, timing, and research, however it does not support due date reminder notifications, categories, or task assignments.

Then there's the Xbox Live integration. Many people are very excited about the Xbox Live Games Hub on Windows Phone 7 and they have good reason to be. The Xbox Live community is very large, and Xbox users have been very interested in a portable Xbox device for a long time. Making it part of the phone operating system in order to compete with Sony's Playstation Portable, Nintendo's DS, as well as the Apple iOS gaming platform while integrating with the existing Xbox Live community was a great idea. I've never really cared much for gaming on a mobile device. The most mobile gaming I've done was a Bubble Breaker competition while waiting for a movie to start in the theater. However, the idea of turn-based asynchronous multi-player games that can be played across the phone, PC, and Xbox while also earning achievements is quite intriguing.

Developers, Developers, Developers! Microsoft seems to have made developing programs for Windows Phone 7 ridiculously easy. We've seen companies porting popular iPhone apps over to Windows Phone 7 in no time at all. With 300,000 downloads of the free developer tools and Silverlight/XNA development tutorials popping up all over the place, it seems like you can expect some great apps to start appearing on the Windows Phone 7 platform when it's released. Of course, it's true that there are already a ton of developers creating apps for the highly popular iPhone and Android platforms. Microsoft is trying to get an edge out on those extisting platforms by using developer tools and programming technologies that millions of Windows and Xbox developers are already very familiar with… and making it extremely easy to repurpose code between Windows Phone 7, Xbox, and the PC. Allowing developers an easy way of creating applications that can be used across those three screens could be very advantageous.

So what do you think? Do all of the new positive features of Windows Phone 7 outweigh the positives from Windows Mobile 6.x?


Is The Age Of Exclusives Over?

Is The Age Of Exclusives Over? Not first party exclusives like Mario, Halo and God of War. Those will live on as long as there are console platform holders. Rather, is the age of big third-party exclusives finished?
The last big third-party exclusive was Metal Gear Solid 4, and that was in 2008. Before the game's release, a great deal of the interest surrounding the title was its platform exclusivity. More and more companies are releasing their titles on all platforms. It makes sense.
In Japan, Square Enix recently revealed that Final Fantasy XIII — which had previously been an PS3 exclusive in Japan — will be coming to the Xbox 360. The news caused a violent reaction on Twitter with mobs of internet users ganging up on Square Enix president Yoichi Wada and calling him a "liar" and "greedy".
Kotaku hears that Wada believes that the enjoyment Square Enix games give should not be limited by platform. Moreover, it is bad games that hurt the brand, not multiplatform games. It seems that Wada feels that the importance of platforms has diminished.
Certainly, the importance of platforms has diminished. Compare the development and publishing environment of 2010 to 1995, and it is very different. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that exclusives are finished.
Microsoft Game Studios exec Phil Spencer sees several different scenarios. "There are scenarios of proven hits in the market where the economics of the situation make it prohibitive for someone to choose one platform over another for the duration of the franchise," he tells Kotaku. "There are situations where exclusively working with one platform helps the creative process." He mentions Gears of War, an Xbox 360 exclusive developed by Epic Games, as an example.
"I think it did help Epic to build a game that could focus on the Xbox 360 and Live — they didn't have to think about anything else," says Spencer. "We backed it in a big way, and it's obviously made money for both of us." It ends up being a win-win situation for the publisher and the developer.
Sony, which is one of Microsoft's competitors, thinks exclusives can refer to elements of a game. The company does develop its own big, in-house exclusives like the upcoming Gran Turismo 5 and The Last Guardian. "With regards to securing platform exclusives from third parties," Sony Computer Entertainment's Shuhei Yoshida tells Kotaku, "it is becoming more and more difficult in regards to financial needs of third parties in order to justify not releasing the game on other platforms." Yoshida pointed out that the cost of making smaller titles is less, so there is a greater chance for them to become exclusives.
"Now you are seeing more and more exclusive downloadable content as well," Yoshida added. "It is becoming more and more difficult to get the whole title exclusive — even, you know, for Microsoft."
"There are many different angles to secure exclusives," Yoshida pointed out. For example, Yoshida said, Ubisoft's R.U.S.E. and Dead Space: Extinction support PlayStation Move motion controls, but do not support Microsoft's Kinect motion controls. "That's a kind of exclusive feature for the PlayStation 3 version."
According to Yoshida, "It comes down to what makes the most sense to the game's publisher. They'll look at different options and then make a smart choice."


Keanu Reeves Says Third Bill & Ted is Possible

Source: MTV
September 20, 2010

Keanu Reeves told MTV that a third "Bill & Ted" movie isn't out of the question.

"We're trying," said Reeves. "Alex and I are still friends and we're talking, and we're talking to Chris and Ed. They're going to try and see if they can write something. To me, I'd love to play the role. I'd love to work with Alex and Chris and Ed again."

"We'll see what they do. If it's a film that can stand up on its own, and I'm meeting people now, they've shown the film to their kids," he added. "We just seek to entertain, and if that could be something that could be worthwhile on its own..."

You can watch the interview using the player below!


Netflix "Frowns Upon" Libraries That Offer Netflix Movies & TV Shows

FastCompany reports that libraries are still using Netflix to offer movies to patrons, despite it being in violation of Netflix's Terms of Use.
Whoops. Turns out Netflix isn't actually cool with libraries using the service and doesn't want early adopting librarians to be encouraging others to do so. Netflix doesn't offer institutional subscriptions and expects its services to be limited to personal consumption. "We just don't want to be pursuing libraries," Netflix's vice president of corporate communications Steve Swasey told the Chronicle of Higher Education recently. "We appreciate libraries and we value them, but we expect that they follow the terms of agreement," he said, adding that Netflix "frowns upon" the liberties taken by librarians.



Legal Ruling Threatens Second-Hand Game Sales

Games are licensed, not sold says Courts of Appeal.

UK, September 14, 2010

 Following a protracted case involving the sale of second-hand software on eBay, the US Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld the right of software companies to deny their customers the right to resell their products.

Although the court case revolved around AutoCAD, software for computer aided design, the knock-on effect could have huge implications for the used game market, as the judge reiterated that – "A software user is a licensee rather than an owner."

As video games are also subject to license agreements, the court ruling could potentially prevent users reselling their used games in the future, as well as putting rental companies under draconian restrictions.


7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook

by Consumer Reports Magazine
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Using a Weak Password
Avoid simple names or words you can find in a dictionary, even with numbers tacked on the end. Instead, mix upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. A password should have at least eight characters. One good technique is to insert numbers or symbols in the middle of a word, such as this variant on the word "houses": hO27usEs!
Leaving Your Full Birth Date in Your Profile
It's an ideal target for identity thieves, who could use it to obtain more information about you and potentially gain access to your bank or credit card account. If you've already entered a birth date, go to your profile page and click on the Info tab, then on Edit Information. Under the Basic Information section, choose to show only the month and day or no birthday at all.
Overlooking Useful Privacy Controls
For almost everything in your Facebook profile, you can limit access to only your friends, friends of friends, or yourself. Restrict access to photos, birth date, religious views, and family information, among other things. You can give only certain people or groups access to items such as photos, or block particular people from seeing them. Consider leaving out contact info, such as phone number and address, since you probably don't want anyone to have access to that information anyway.
Posting Your Child's Name in a Caption
Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions. If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name.
Mentioning That You'll Be Away From Home
That's like putting a "no one's home" sign on your door. Wait until you get home to tell everyone how awesome your vacation was and be vague about the date of any trip.
Letting Search Engines Find You
To help prevent strangers from accessing your page, go to the Search section of Facebook's privacy controls and select Only Friends for Facebook search results. Be sure the box for public search results isn't checked.
Permitting Youngsters to Use Facebook Unsupervised
Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, but children younger than that do use it. If you have a young child or teenager on Facebook, the best way to provide oversight is to become one of their online friends. Use your e-mail address as the contact for their account so that you receive their notifications and monitor their activities. "What they think is nothing can actually be pretty serious," says Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. For example, a child who posts the comment "Mom will be home soon, I need to do the dishes" every day at the same time is revealing too much about the parents' regular comings and goings.



6 Things You Should Never Reveal on Facebook

by Kathy Kristof
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The whole social networking phenomenon has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and dozens of similar sites. But there are a handful of personal details that you should never say if you don't want criminals — cyber or otherwise — to rob you blind, according to Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

The folks at Insure.com also say that ill-advised Facebook postings increasingly can get your insurance cancelled or cause you to pay dramatically more for everything from auto to life insurance coverage. By now almost everybody knows that those drunken party photos could cost you a job, too.
[See 7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook]
You can certainly enjoy networking and sharing photos, but you should know that sharing some information puts you at risk. What should you never say on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site?
Your Birth Date and Place
Sure, you can say what day you were born, but if you provide the year and where you were born too, you've just given identity thieves a key to stealing your financial life, said Givens. A study done by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — and sometimes all — of the numbers in your Social Security number, she said.
Vacation Plans
There may be a better way to say "Rob me, please" than posting something along the lines of: "Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!" on Twitter. But it's hard to think of one. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like. But don't invite criminals in by telling them specifically when you'll be gone.
[See Burglars Picked Houses Based on Facebook Updates]
Home Address
Do I have to elaborate? A study recently released by the Ponemon Institute found that users of Social Media sites were at greater risk of physical and identity theft because of the information they were sharing. Some 40% listed their home address on the sites; 65% didn't even attempt to block out strangers with privacy settings. And 60% said they weren't confident that their "friends" were really just people they know.
You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational user of illicit drugs, but this is no place to confess. Employers commonly peruse social networking sites to determine who to hire — and, sometimes, who to fire. Need proof? In just the past few weeks, an emergency dispatcher was fired in Wisconsin for revealing drug use; a waitress got canned for complaining about customers and the Pittsburgh Pirate's mascot was dumped for bashing the team on Facebook. One study done last year estimated that 8% of companies fired someone for "misuse" of social media.
Password Clues
If you've got online accounts, you've probably answered a dozen different security questions, telling your bank or brokerage firm your Mom's maiden name; the church you were married in; or the name of your favorite song. Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? You're giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.
Risky Behaviors
You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to Insure.com. So far, there's no efficient way to collect the data, so cancellations and rate hikes are rare. But the technology is fast evolving, according to a paper written by Celent, a financial services research and consulting firm.

Windows Phone 7: Here's What You Can Pin to the Start Screen

File under: News
By: Brandon Miniman | 2:49 PM 14-Sep-10 | 18 Comments
The more we use Windows Phone 7 on our pre-release device, the more goodies we find in terms of what you can pin to your Start screen. It's pretty remarkable the extent to which you can draw forth your favorite content from your phone and put it within easy reach. Granted, other operating systems like Android have done this for years, but who's keeping track?

Here's a list of what we've found so far, and we'll add to it if and when we find more.

1. Apps. We knew this from the start...you can put your favorites apps within easy reach.

2. Live tiles. Live tiles change dynamically, and third parties can tap into them. There may be live tiles for sports scores, weather, and news. So far, there are live tiles for email and SMS, people, calendar, and others.

3. Multimedia: We recently discovered that you can not only pin videos to your Start screen, but also favorite artists, albums, or songs. If you're pinning a video, you'll see a thumbnail appear on your Start screen. If you're pinning a music artist/album/song, you'll see the album cover. Neat!

4. Places. Find a sushi restaurant in the city you want to find your way back to you? You can pin places to your Start screen via the Bing maps app.

5. Contacts. Call the same three people the most? Pin them to your Start screen. You can also use this feature to instantly stalk your friends, since clicking on a contacts tile will also let you see their Facebook updates if you're set up for it.

6. Photo Favorites. You can pin your Favorites album to your start screen.

7. Websites: This certainly isn't that exciting, as all other smarpthone operating systems can do this, but you can pin your favorite websites (like pocketnow.com, wink) to your Start screen for easy access.

Our wishlist...

8. Twitter, weather, sports scores, stocks (all should be possible via third parties)

9. System indicators like battery life percentage

10. Links to other documents/files (PDFs, etc)

11. Folders!


Microsoft launching Windows Phone 7 on October 11th?

With a gold master OS, plenty of devices raring to show themselves, and a more or less obvious October launch window, it's clear that Windows Phone 7 is right around the corner. Pocket-lint is reporting today that its sources, "senior figures within the industry," are pegging October 11 as the special day, with a New York launch event to make it all official. The handsets will then be available later that month, according to one of those sources. It sounds like everybody is ready for Microsoft to start fighting back in the world of phones, the question is: are you?


Windows 7: What Happened to Gaming?

In 2006, then Microsoft Vice President Peter Moore apologized for what he called a dereliction of duty to the company's number one gaming platform: The PC.
Now more than three years after promising, and some say failing, to deliver a PC gaming renaissance with the Vista operating system, Microsoft is set to roll out Windows 7.
But this time there are no apologies or promises. PC gaming, it seems, has taken a back seat.
When Windows 7 goes on sale on Oct. 22, PC gamers will have little reason to run out to buy it, says Matthew Murray, managing editor of ExtremeTech.
"I don't think there's a lot about (Windows 7) that's going to make it that much more compelling to gamers than Vista," Murray said. "It's a bit better using memory, and it's a bit faster in certain areas, but the performance overall isn't really that much different. If you have Vista and you're happy with it, you can probably keep it, at least for now."
To be fair, much of that promised renaissance in 2006 was tied to the Games for Windows initiative, which launched alongside the Windows Vista operating system.
While the two hit at the same time, they're not directly connected.
The biggest idea behind Games for Windows was to make it easier to play games on your PC. This was done by creating a set of criteria that computer games needed to meet to have the Games For Windows label on their box.
Those criteria included compatibility, easy installation and including parental controls. There were also a number of neat ideas tested out, but never fully realized. Most computer games require an installation before playing, but the Tray and Play option was meant to allow gamers to pop a game in their computer and start playing almost immediately, similar to what most console gamers experience now. Unfortunately, only one game, Halo 2 for the PC, currently uses this system.
The most noticeable way in which Vista and Games for Windows crossed over was the operating system's Game Advisor and Games Explorer.
The Game Advisor ranks a person's computer and available games making it easier to tell if a title would play on a PC.
The Games Explorer was meant to collect all the games installed on a computer and display them in one folder. It's here that Window 7 does bring a modicum of improvement for gamers.
One of the biggest issues with Games Explorer was that it often didn't detect games that were purchases through online retailers and providers like Steam.
While Windows 7 still doesn't seem to include Steam in the Game Explorer, it now has the ability to if the company wants to support the service. If a game provider does choose to be listed in the Game Explorer, computer owners will be able to view news from the service and information about the service's games, all inside the window.
Another update to Games Explorer allows you to be notified when a game you own has an update or patch and then install the update from the explorer without having to launch the game.
Finally, Games Explorer will track statistics for the games you play, showing you how many times you've played, how long and your win and loss ratio.
Currently only the included games seem to support this function, but I'm sure more will include it after the operating system officially launches.
Murray says the only improvement he can find in Windows 7 for gamers is in the Games Explorer, but even he doesn't find it that useful.
"Being able to check for updates for all your games in one interface is a nice feature, but since it doesn't install the updates automatically (the way Windows Update itself does), I don't know how useful that's going to be to a lot of people," he said. "And I've never gotten that into using the Games Explorer anyway—I tend to just add icons to the new taskbar, as with everything else. Aside from that, there aren't a ton of game-friendly changes I've come across."
The problem I have with Windows 7, though, isn't its failure to vastly improve the gaming experience, it's Microsoft's failure to take advantage of the attention brought by the launch of a new operating system to once more thrust PC gaming into the spotlight.
The biggest promise the Games for Windows initiative made when it initially was unveiled was that it would be backed by a huge marketing campaign, one similar to the push Microsoft gave the Xbox 360 when it hit.
But that was never fully realized and PC gaming was left to suffer as a second favorite system next to the Xbox 360 and Microsoft's continued marketing blitz for its gaming console.
In the vacuum left by Microsoft game developers, chip manufacturers and PC builders have come together to try and reinvigorate PC gaming though the PC Gaming Alliance. But even this effort seems oddly absent during Window's big week?
If Microsoft want its PC gaming platform to thrive they will need to do more than offer lip service in the future. But with the lasting success of the gaming console and PC gamers' ability to seemingly put up with anything, why should they?
Microsoft declined to comment for this article.


Ways to Recover Your Lost Windows Phone 7 Device

File under: News
By: Anton D. Nagy | 12:52 AM 6-Sep-10 | 7 Comments
We've seen the first blurry image of the Windows Phone 7 MyPhone Portal bring a Kin Studio-like arrangement with thumbnails of your photos and pictures of your Contacts and then we were presented with another screenshot of the Portal in action with the Find My Phone section.

Windows Phone 7 users will have four tools handy to find their lost or stolen devices right from launch and these will come for free for those adopting the platform, via the Windows Phone 7 MyPhone Portal's Find My Phone section. These are: Map it, Ring it, Lock it and display a message and Erase it.

Map it is able to display a Bing Maps representation of the location the Windows Phone 7 device is currently being at. Judging by the size of the circle on the map, besides GPS, the Device is communicating its location using cell tower data triangulation. And while you might be searching for your device within that particular circle, you can use the Portal to Ring your Device with a special ringtone. The ringer will be triggered regardless if the Device is set to Silent or Vibration and it will last 60 seconds.

If you fail to recover your Device, you have two more drastic tools of both protecting it and your data. After you create a unique four digit password to assist you in Unlocking should you recover it, you can use the Portal to lock the Device and have a message of your choice displayed on the screen. You have the option to ring your phone at the same time - same as above - so that people hear it ringing. This, together with the message displayed increases the chances of someone noticing a lost phone and even seeing the message displayed.

If everything else fails and you want to protect the information contained on your Device (Contacts, Pictures, Documents, etc.), you can Erase it which will do a Factory reset on your Windows Phone 7. Not quite sure whether that after this step you will be able or not to use the MyPhone Portal for recovering it since it loses its link to the Portal.

While some of these features and services were available before in a one form or the other, these free services undoubtedly increase your chances of finding your lost device. Also, after launch, more services will be ready for Windows Phone 7 users - rumor has it for free.


Which is the Hardest Halo Game?

We rank the all five games and come up with the one experience that is truly Legendary.

September 16, 2010


With Halo: Reach being Bungie's swan song for the series, it seemed the right time for a group of Halo experts to figure out which Halo game is the hardest. Among the committee that spent dozens of hours debating (and by hours, I mean minutes) are Halo aficionados Hilary Goldstein (that's me!), Will Tuttle, David Clayman, Erik Brudvig, Arthur Gies, and Nate Ahearn.

We judged the overall campaign difficulty for each game, considering both the single-player experience and the co-op experience. And always with a mind on the Legendary difficulty, since that's the true measure of each Halo experience. Co-op difficulty was a major influencing factor in the overall rankings, since many of the single-player experiences are fairly comparable for most of the games in the series.

Here are our picks from easiest to hardest.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Scared Little Grunt
It might have seemed tough nine years ago, but give Halo: CE a try now and you'll likely find yourself giggling at how easy it is to take down the Covenant. Despite the lack of cool moves like vehicle jacking, the weapons hold a ton of ammo, you can stock up on grenades, and the assault rifle is a beast. All the years of playing Halo make the original a cake walk. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The series should continually get tougher.

Halo 3
Non-Sniping Jackal
Even Bungie admits that Master Chief had turned into a super hero by Halo 3. Though the single-player may be comparable in difficulty to some of the other games (Flood snipers, really?!), the challenge is negated the minute your friends join in. Halo 3's co-op campaign doesn't scale. That means the challenge is three times less when you have three friends playing with you. Not an exaggeration: We beat Halo 3 on Legendary with four players in just a couple of hours at the review event.

Halo 3: ODST
Angry Brute
Putting you in the shoes of an ODST meant your character's abilities had to be stifled. No more super-human Master Chief stuff. You get one weapon to wield and, in the spirit of the first Halo, you have health that doesn't automatically regenerate but requires health packs. ODST is actually toughest at the outset, because it's hard to accept that, as a lone wolf ODST, you just shouldn't try and stand toe-to-toe with every enemy you encounter. It takes some time to acclimate, and once you do, caution is often the smarter choice over the usual Halo bravado.

Halo 2
Sword-Wielding Elite
Those God damned Jackal snipers, am I right? Anyone who played Halo 2 on Legendary can attest to how incredibly annoying those snipers could be. They could snipe the pixel off a gnat. But where Halo 2 gets really tough is when you play co-op. When one person dies, you're both sent back to the last checkpoing. When you have some truly tough (and unfairly accurate enemies) this can make progression through the campaign with a buddy close to impossible at times.

Halo: Reach
Many, Many Hunters
Bungie promised that Halo: Reach was the hardest Halo game and that was no lie, due to scaling cooperative play. The campaign has some tough difficulty spikes towards the end, but nothing a seasoned vet can't fight their way through. It's hard, don't get me wrong, but it's not impossible on your own. However, the difficulty scales in co-op, meaning that if you have three friends in tow, the game is basically three times as hard. Considering that Halo: Reach is already a pretty hard game to beat, upping the difficulty provides, well, a legendary challenge that only the best group of Halo players can hope to overcome.




Rumor: Lucasarts Cancels Force Unleashed 3

Rumor: Lucasarts Cancels Force Unleashed 3New Lucasarts president Paul Meegan certainly isn't wasting any time. Barely two months into the job and we hear he's already swinging the axe and cancelling high profile sequels.
If you were wondering why it was strange that Force Unleashed II creative director Haden Blackman would leave mid-project, this may explain things: according to sources at Lucasarts, Meegan has cancelled a third Force Unleashed game that was already in development, and members of Force Unleashed II's team (though we're not sure exactly how many) will be shown the door once that game ships.
Another unnamed project, due to ship next year, has avoided the axe, but has been "put on hold" while developers have been told to "expect management and reporting changes". Those changes are down to the departure of Blackman, who as work was winding down on Force Unleashed II had been leading development on this secret project.
These sources say "morale and productivity are at all-time lows" since Meegan took over, with most Lucasarts developers only finding out about Force Unleashed II's cancellation on the PSP by reading it on gaming news sites.
We've also been told that another sweeping change made by Meegan is that the majority of "external" development of Lucasarts properties is coming to an end, with BioWare's Old Republic MMO to be the last game not developed internally at Lucasarts. That would presumably mean, for example, no more LEGO Star Wars or LEGO Indiana Jones titles after the upcoming LEGO: Clone Wars, as those have all been handled by Traveller's Tales.
So, yes, if this is all indeed correct, big changes are afoot at the house that Star Wars built. Lots of them bad news for the developers currently there, but looking at the big picture, the silver lining could be that such drastic shake-ups could be exactly what's needed at a publisher and developer that, courtesy of its licenses and history, should be doing a lot better both commercially and critically than it currently is.
We've contacted Lucasarts for comment, and will update if we hear back.


Xbox Live launch titles for Windows Phone 7 finally revealed, we've got the full preview

59diggsdiggWe've known that proper Xbox Live gaming (powered by XNA) was coming to Windows Phone 7 devices, but we'd yet to see any of that thumb-spraining goodness in action besides a brief demo and a few developer videos. Well, Microsoft has finally come clean with details about its launch strategy for the platform, and from where we sit, it's definitely looking pretty promising. First off, the company has announced a full list of launch titles for WP7 handsets, including some familiar names and franchises like Castlevania, Halo: Waypoint, Star Wars, Crackdown, and Guitar Hero, alongside a handful of newer properties like the ultra-cute ilomilo, produced in-house by Microsoft Game Studios. In total, the company will launch with over 60 game titles, with new offerings appearing every week in the Xbox Live Marketplace, just like its big brother console version. We've got all the details, a full list of the launch titles, and our hands-on preview after the break -- so read on to get the scoop!

Besides just announcing some games today, Microsoft has also shown off the full feature set of Xbox Live integration in Windows Phone 7, and users of the service should be pleased to discover that there's not much missing from the version they know and love. Live on WP7 will allow for full avatar integration (we're talking fully rendered, interactive avatars) along with customization (clothes, accessories, and more). The company has even crafted an avatar-centric version of familiar phone utilities like flashlight apps and levels, adding some whimsy to what would normally be pretty staid affairs. Additionally, messaging, friend lists / status, achievements, and leaderboards (with friend comparisons) are all here as well, making for a pretty complete mobile Xbox Live experience. And also just like the console, every game will have a try-before-you buy demo to check out before spending your hard-earned cash.

We had a chance to sit down and play some of the new games (Rocket Riot, Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, The Harvest, ilomilo, Bejeweled, Max and the Magic Marker, and Uno) as well as check out the Live feature-set, and here are our first impressions:

We'll preface this by saying that both the hardware and software we demoed was still unfinished (the latter being the Samsung Taylor dev phone and the LG QWERTY model we broke news of on the Engadget Show). Regardless, the gameplay for the arcade titles seemed excellent, with frame rates holding fast even during graphically intensive 3D sequences (such as the chaotic, scattered-pixel play of Rocket Riot). The Harvest, while a bit familiar to our eyes, still showed the graphic promise of the platform. Gameplay was definitely well suited to a touchscreen device, though Microsoft's Kevin Unangst told us that developers could target controls for both touch and QWERTY-equipped phones (provided that a touch version was always present). The screen response seemed accurate and sensitive, reacting quickly to our input. Particularly in the Crackdown title -- a tower defense game "set in the Crackdown universe" -- pinch zooming, rotation, and finger tracking was excellent.

Besides just standard gaming, it looks like Microsoft will try and leverage some other components of the platform. In the aforementioned Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, the game utilizes Bing maps to create levels (not unlike the PSN title The Last Guy), and logic in the software is able to recognize things like roads for enemies to make their way down. A unique concept for sure, and the kind of thinking we hope we'll see more of on this platform. Though we didn't get to see a lot of titles (we particularly would have liked to see something like Castlevania), the polish and speed of the games we played was definitely competitive with iPhone or Palm Pre gaming.

We didn't get a chance to peruse the Live Marketplace because the phones were offline, but we did get to play around with cached elements, and we felt right at home. Updating and tweaking your avatar was fast and straightforward, as was finding friends and checking up on achievements or messages. Unfortunately, for the launch of Windows Phone 7 there won't be any true multiplayer options besides turn-based games, though Kevin seemed to indicate that head-to-head gaming (whether over a local or wide network) was in the roadmap. It only makes sense considering this is Xbox Live we're talking about, and it seems like something that would have been baked in from the beginning. We may be a little spoiled from the variety of multiplayer titles on the iOS platform, but that was one knock against Microsoft here. One other small issue we noticed was that game load times seemed long -- a little too long. Again, Microsoft says things are still unfinished, so we're hoping this is a side effect of debugging and non-optimized builds.

All in all, it's a promising picture for Microsoft. The company has the clout, the community, and most importantly the cash to pull this off, but as with all modern smartphone platforms, success can't be judged on one aspect alone. To make Windows Phone 7 really work, the folks in Redmond will have to hit the right note on not just gaming, but the basic user experience, hardware, applications, and carrier partnerships. Based on what we've seen of Xbox Live on these devices, we think the company can check at least one of those boxes off.

The complete "first wave of launch portfolio titles" includes the following:
* 3D Brick Breaker Revolution (Digital Chocolate)
* Age of Zombies (Halfbrick)
* Armor Valley (Protégé Games)
* Asphalt 5 (Gameloft)
* Assassins Creed (Gameloft)
* Bejeweled™ LIVE (PopCap)
* Bloons TD (Digital Goldfish)
* Brain Challenge (Gameloft)
* Bubble Town 2 (i-Play)
* Butterfly ( Press Start Studio)
* CarneyVale Showtime (MGS)
* Castlevania(Konami)
* Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst (MGS)
* De Blob Revolution (THQ)
* Deal or No Deal 2010 (i-Play)
* Earthworm Jim (Gameloft)
* Fast & Furious 7 (i-Play)
* Fight Game Rivals (Rough Cookie)
* Finger Physics (Mobliss Inc.)
* Flight Control (Namco Bandai)
* Flowerz (Carbonated Games)
* Frogger (Konami Digital Entertainment)
* Fruit Ninja (Halfbrick)
* Game Chest-Board (MGS)
* Game Chest-Card (MGS)
* Game Chest-Logic (MGS)
* Game Chest-Solitaire (MGS)
* GeoDefense (Critical Thought)
* Ghostscape (Psionic)
* Glow Artisan (Powerhead Games)
* Glyder 2 (Glu Mobile)
* Guitar Hero 5 (Glu Mobile)
* Halo Waypoint (MGS)
* Hexic Rush (Carbonated Games)
* I Dig It (InMotion)
* iBlast Moki (Godzilab)
* ilomilo (MGS)
* Implode XL (IUGO)
* Iquarium (Infinite Dreams)
* Jet Car Stunts (True Axis)
* Let's Golf 2 (Gameloft)
* Little Wheel (One click dog)
* Loondon (Flip N Tale)
* Max and the Magic Marker (PressPlay)
* Mini Squadron (Supermono Limited)
* More Brain Exercise (Namco Bandai)
* O.M.G. (Arkedo)
* Puzzle Quest 2 (Namco Bandai)
* Real Soccer 2 (Gameloft)
* The Revenants (Chaotic Moon)
* Rise of Glory (Revo Solutions)
* Rocket Riot (Codeglue)
* Splinter Cell Conviction (Gameloft)
* Star Wars: Battle for Hoth (THQ)
* Star Wars: Cantina (THQ)
* The Harvest (MGS)
* The Oregon Trail (Gameloft)
* Tower Bloxx NY (Digital Chocolate)
* Twin Blades (Press Start Studio)
* UNO (Gameloft)
* Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet (i-Play)
* Zombie Attack! (IUGO)
* Zombies!!!! (Babaroga)