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)



Is An HD Mortal Kombat Collection On The Horizon?

If a leaked game listing is correct, it looks like the highly-anticipated new Mortal Kombat title isn't the only thing series fans have to look forward to. A listing for Mortal Kombat Arcade Compilation appeared on ShopTo.net, but was later pulled.
According to CVG, the disc will contain HD versions of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and be released on October 12th of this year. It's far from confirmed, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to drum up interest in the new title by reminding gamers why MK is an industry icon to begin with. We'll update this story if new information breaks.


Star Wars Announced for Blu-ray

Source: Lucasfilm Ltd, New York Times
August 14, 2010

Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox officially announced today that all six live-action Star Wars films will arrive on the Blu-ray format in Fall 2011 as a commemorative box set.

The news, part of this week's Celebration V festivities, promises "the highest possible picture and audio presentation, along with extensive special features – including documentaries, vintage behind-the-scenes moments, interviews, retrospectives and never-before-seen footage from the Lucasfilm archives."

Blu-ray is the absolute best way to experience Star Wars at home – in pristine high definition,” said George Lucas of the release, “The films have never looked or sounded better.

At this time it is unclear what versions of each film will appear in the set. Past Star Wars home video releases have focused on the updated special editions, though fan demand led to a later, unrestored release of the original theatrical version on the DVD format.

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting that the set will include only the updated versions of the original trilogy. "[W]hen we did the transfer to digital," Lucas is quoted as saying, "we only transferred really the upgraded version.”



Droid 2 R2-D2 edition coming September 30

Looks like Verizon and Motorola have finally come clean with the release dates on that sweet Droid 2 R2-D2 edition -- a poster next to that demo unit at the Star Wars-themed Celebration V convention in Orlando says it's due to arrive on September 30. Unfortunately there's no word on how much more this thing will cost over the regular Droid 2, but hey -- Artoo's worth it, right? Check a couple more high-res shots at the source link.



Spider-Man and Men in Black III Start Dates

Source: ComingSoon.net
August 1, 2010

ComingSoon.net/SuperHeroHype has learned that the Marc Webb-directed Untitled Spider-Man Project will start shooting in December in Los Angeles. We've received no word yet whether Sony's Columbia Pictures will also film in New York. Andrew Garfield stars in the July 3, 2012 release, produced by Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad.

The studio's Men in Black III, however, is scheduled for filming in New York starting in September. Barry Sonnenfeld is directing the May 25, 2012 release, starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Jemaine Clement.


Microsoft algorithm uses six-axis motion sensors to fix blurry snapshots, inadvertently pimping your ride

Trying to snap a shot of your cherry red Mazda, but can't keep your hands still? You'll find all the tech you need to smooth things out in an iPhone 4 or (MotionPlus-equipped) Nintendo Wiimote. Experimenting with 6DOF inertial measurement sensor packages, scientists at Microsoft Research have developed a software algorithm that literally records your exposure-destroying shake via accelerometer and gyroscope, then magically removes the blur by canceling it out. While the technique still isn't perfect -- spot ghostly line above some of those background cars -- the Microsoft researchers compared their results to other in-progress algorithms, and we think you'll agree this new solution presents the best results by far. It's a shame Microsoft doesn't say when we'll see the tech in a spiffy DSLR attachment, or better yet a cameraphone. See before and after animated GIFs after the break, and find high-res comparison images and much more at our source link.