Tire firm enters video game world

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin’s business page today carried my story about Kumho Tire’s hiring of a video game developer to create a game that doubles as an advertisement for its product. 
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The president of the development company, Austin, Tex. based Retired Astronaut Collective, foresees ad-inspired games as being the foundation of a new business model for companies designing free or inexpensive apps for mobile devices.
Company president Chris Chuter expects the popularity of smartphones will enable his company and other development houses to win contracts to devise inexpensive games with product tie-ins.
“We can make these smaller games, of pretty good quality, and wrap it around a product,” Chuter said, observing that a game could be a better marketing tool than a billboard.
“As a business model, we are telling customers that you can make a high-quality product that isn’t just a branding thing,” Chuter added.
Kumho Tire is a Korean firm. Its American headquarters is in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Review: Tron – Evolution


Tron: Evolution is the “prequel” to Tron: Legacy, Disney’s big sequel to the eighties movie that stunned crowds with its stylized idea of a world within your computer.

Evolution preps fans for the film by explaining a little of what happened since the eighties in the Tronverse making it something of a spoiler for what it reveals, but not so much that it lessens your enjoyment of the film. I still got a kick out of it and as a fan, the extra lore was great stuff.
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Konami announces new DLC for “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow”

Konami announced today that two downloadable add-ons for “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” are scheduled to be released early next year.

From Konami’s press release:

In “Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Reverie,” players will return to the Castle as Gabriel to help Laura, the former servant to the vampire Carmilla, in destroying the unruly evil that was previously kept in check by the recently slain Queen. 

Once completed, fans of the series can download the second DLC entitled “Resurrection,” which continues the story directly after the end of the original game and gives some insight into the dramatic epilogue seen by players upon completion and Gabriel’s ultimate destiny. 

Tech Out contributor Reggie Carolipio gave Lords of Shadow a favorable review in October. The game is available for PS3 and XBox 360, but it would be hard to find an NES fan who did not enjoy the really, really hard original from 1987.

“Call of Duty” battles continue in legal system

News today on the legal battle between Activision and Electronic Arts over the former lead creators of the highly-lucrative “Call of Duty” series. 

Kotaku.com reports a new legal filing from Activision reveals the publisher is demanding $400 million from its rival. Activision claims that Electronic Arts improperly courted Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in 2009, while the pair were still working on CoD: Modern Warfare 2 and under contract to Activision.

The nasty lawsuits between Call of Duty publisher Activision and the ousted lead creators of that hit series got nastier today with accusations that the president of rival EA was instrumental in trying to “hijack” the Call of Duty developers.

And there’s more mud being slung. Activision also says the makers of Modern Warfare gleefully sabotaged the sister studio behind this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Activision spelled this out in a legal filing today through which they intend to add Medal of Honor and Battlefield publisher EA — their Coke-vs-Pepsi rival — to their lawsuit against Jason West and Vince Zampella, the founders of original CoD studio Infinity Ward. West and Zampella were fired by Activision in March for alleged acts of insubordination, just months after the studio the men founded finished and released the huge hit Modern Warfare 2.


(After this story was originally filed, Kotaku heard back from both West and Zampella’s attorney and a spokesperson for EA. Both shot down the claims, the attorney calling them “a pathetic mash-up of false and reckless assertions.” EA called them “deliberate misdirection” but declined to specifically address the actions the company is accused of having taken.)

Infinity Ward, of course, developed the original Call of Duty game. Pretty much anyone reading this post remembers the first CoD game was a World War 2-themed FPS that emerged as a rival to EA’s “Medal of Honor” series. The first CoD came out way back in 2003 with an outstanding single-player campaign, something some gamers (the ones who considered to be lacking in more recent CoD offerings. 

“Medal of Honor: Allied Assault” and its expansion packs were good games in their own right, but “CoD” improved upon the other series by placing players in the midst of American, British and Soviet units. In this writer’s view, CoD and CoD 2 provided more immersive experiences than MoH games, which sometimes made it seem as if the player was in the role of the only soldier fighting the Nazis.

But that’s all in the past. The real-life fighting also includes allegations that West and Zampella tried to sabotage another studio’s marketing efforts. Treyarch, the alleged target, has developed other CoD titles, including the most recent offering, “Black Ops.”

Kotaku reports the case is expected to proceed in mid-2011. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether legal scholars will view either sides’ filings as examples of innovative legal strategies or whether the publishers’ attorneys will be accused of basically rehashing and repackaging previous efforts.

Deal would lead to California mine supplying rare-earth metals market


As you may know, Tech Out is affiliated with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and The Sun of San Bernardino. The writers who contribute to this blog usually post about games, movies and other topics related to consumer electronics and entertainment. Those topics will continue to be Tech Out’s focus, but I would also like to use this space to spotlight some of the technology and science coverage at the Daily Bulletin and Sun, as well as our sister papers within the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
Today’s issue of the Daily Bulletin includes business editor Rebecca Cho’s article on Molycorp’s tentative deal with Tokyo-based Hitachi Metals to produce neodymium magnets. Molycorp is based in Colorado, but its mine in Mountain Pass, Calif. is the only place in the United States for the mining of rare earth metals.
Rare earth metals are used in the manufacture of products ranging from hybrid cars to cruise missiles. 

Molycorp expects to place its Mountain Pass mine, the only mine for rare earth minerals in the United States and the company’s site for the mining of neodymium, back into full operation by the end of 2012, following an eight-year hiatus.

“The automotive industry worldwide is the biggest user of rare earth permanent magnets,” said Jack Lifton, a strategic metals consultant with Technology Metals Research in Carpentersville, Ill. “This is very important to that industry that the manufacturing of these magnets continue … (and) the supply of such magnets goes uninterrupted.”

The growing clamor over fuel efficient and electric cars has brought a concern that the manufacturing of the vehicles, which use rare earth metals, could bring on a global supply shortage of resources. Nearly all of the world’s rare earth metals, about 97 percent, are mined in China.

FCC approves new Internet rules, “Net Neutrality” arguments to continue

The Federal Communications Commission today approved controversial “Net Neutrality” rules that supporters claim will keep Internet access open for consumer, whereas critics claim the regulations are either a gift to broadband providers or a means for dramatic government regulation of the Web.

From the New York Times’ Media Decoder blog:
The F.C.C. indicated that the rules would not be published in full until later in the week. In short, the rules will forbid fixed-line broadband providers like Comcast and Qwest from blocking access to sites and applications. The rules would allow wireless companies like Verizon and AT&T more latitude in putting limits on access to services and applications.


But a wide swath of public interest groups have lambasted his proposal as “fake net neutrality” and said that it was rife with loopholes. On Tuesday, one such group, the Media Access Project, said, “There is a reason that so many giant phone and cable companies are happy, and we are not. These rules are riddled with loopholes. They foreshadow years of uncertainty and regulatory confusion, which those carriers will use to their advantage.”

There’s more dissension. Others, often Republicans, say the FCC went beyond its proper authority in even making rules. Whereas Net Neutrality advocates, as this writer understands the issue, want the government to stop Internet providers from blocking or stopping access to content, opponents of the new rule describe the FCC’s action as a government takeover of Internet freedom. 

Anyone who has accessed the Drudge Report lately has seen that website make repeated comparisons between FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to Roman dictator Julius Caeasar. For a more measured take on the opposing view, here is a clip from the Wall Street Journal:

Republicans at the FCC and on Capitol Hill blasted the FCC’s new rules, saying that they could stifle new investments in broadband networks and are unnecessary since there have been few complaints about Internet providers blocking or slowing web traffic.

The FCC’s action “is not motivated by a tangible competitive harm or market failure,” said Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican, who said she couldn’t support the rule because the agency was intervening to regulate the Internet “because it wants to, not because it needs to.”


The rules passed Tuesday are also likely to be legally challenged, and it isn’t clear if they will be upheld. Congress has never given the FCC explicit authority to regulate Internet lines, so the agency is using older rules to justify its authority.

Net Neutrality is an issue involving the Internet and is often discussed on the Internet, which means the public debate on the topic is always discussed with the utmost civility. Experts on both sides of the debate always do their best to ensure that readers lacking technical backgrounds in telecommunications technology and the law are able to understand the difficult issue.

This means anyone should be able to realize the FCC’s ruling is a Communist-inspired plot from President Obama (a known Marxist) to destroy freedom and/or a corporate windfall for companies like Comcast, who will make their customers deliver their souls and first born in order to watch streaming movies.

It would be easier to understand the implications of the FCC’s rule if it had been released, but that was not the case. This writer admittedly lacks the expertise to know at this point whether the new regulations are likely to be good or bad for the country, but has been a reporter long enough to know it is wrong for a government panel to adopt a landmark ruling without giving citizens enough time to study the proposal.

If this is the way the FCC goes about its business, Congress needs to force them to become more transparent.

Review: GoldenEye 007 (Wii)


Rare’s GoldenEye was a sharp reply to PCs of how exciting the FPS genre could be on a console – especially the N64 – in 1997. It also stands out as what is probably the only movie-based game to actually expand on its own material while being good at what it set out to do.

With those two things in mind, it’s easy to see how GoldenEye became such a influential legend, one that fans would even go so far as to bring the experience back to where the FPS began on PCs with mods recreating its famous levels with Half Life 2’s engine, Source.

Those same fans had also clamored for Nintendo to release the classic game on the Wii’s Virtual Console as a downloadable game only for the idea to die a slow and license litigated death.

And then developer, Eurocom, stunned everyone when they announced their own GoldenEye game built from the ground up as a re-imagined reboot. But far from being sacrilege, Eurocom’s remake is both an unmistakable homage and a fantastic FPS in its own right.
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Sony’s “Uncharted 3″ revealed in Hollywood

By Michael Sorba

Staff Writer
HOLLYWOOD — Newly-unveiled gameplay footage shows Playstation 3 owners may have much to look forward to as they await the Nov. 1, 2011 release of “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.”
The folks at Naughty Dog, the Santa Monica-based video game developer responsible for the “Uncharted” franchise, say they’re looking to top the game’s predecessor, 2009’s “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves,” by packing in even more graphical polish, cinematic presentation and white-knuckle thrills.
That could be a tall order, given Uncharted 2’s success. The game sold more than 4 million copies and various media outlets honored the game with a slew of “Game of the Year” awards. Critics and fans hailed the game for for setting a new standard in graphical detail.
But there is even more juice to squeeze from the PS3’s powerful cell processor, Naughty Dog brass say.
“We work really hard to push the power of the PS3 and innovate new technology with all of our games,” “Drake’s Deception” creative director Amy Hennig said.

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Review: James Bond 007 – Blood Stone


I’m a Bond fan. I love his films. Not all of the movies were great, but at least on the whole, they’re better off than his often polarized career in gaming has been.

Blood Stone is the latest to punch and shoot it’s way onto shelves. But the question I have is why it’s begging me to buy a smartphone.
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Dead Money, the first DLC for Fallout: New Vegas

Bethesda Softworks on Thursday released its trailer for “Dead Money,” the first downloadable expansion for this year’s “Fallout: New Vegas.”
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Judging by the trailer (and Bethesda Softworks press release) players and three NPC’s get to fight their way through the Sierra Madre Casino in search of a “legendary treasure.” Who would have ever expected a Fallout game to make an allusion to a classic movie?
The DLC is set for release on XBox Live on Dec. 21. Playstation 3 and PC gamers don’t get to play it, at least for now. If you want to watch the trailer while having a chance to read through juvenile comments on which system is superior, watch the trailer on YouTube. Otherwise, please click this link.