TIME Gadgets

Business Card Plays Tetris, Might Be for Sale Soon

TAKE MY MONEY!

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The above video showcases a credit card-sized whatsit with a built-in screen, control pad and two buttons. It plays Tetris! If you’re not convinced by now that we’re either at or very near the pinnacle of human ingenuity, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to convince you otherwise and I’m not sure it’s worth your time to keep reading this. We should amicably go our separate ways.

For the rest of you, this project is called Arduboy. It’s about a millimeter and a half thick and apparently packs north of nine hours of battery life. Its creator, Kevin Bates, created the proof-of-concept you see in the above video and has plans to roll out a Kickstarter campaign to sell these things, complete with a website where people can share other types of software and games they create for Arduboy.

Bates writes on his site that he wants to use Kickstarter to raise $820 to cover licensing costs. I write here that he’ll probably be able to raise that amount faster than he can clear the first level of Tetris. He’ll also probably have to sell the cards without a game loaded onto them to avoid legal issues, though.

No word on how much a final version would cost, but you can visit Bates’ website to read more about how the project came together, complete with photos of the Qdoba and REI gift cards he used to test some of the early builds.

My business card plays Tetris [YouTube via The Next Web]

TIME Video Games

The Final Fantasy XIV PS4 Beta Is Live, and Anyone Can Join

Square Enix

Beta testing is live for phase one.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn arrived for PlayStation 3 and Windows last September. After some early launch problems with glitchy servers, it settled into a kind of groove. It’s been in that groove pretty much since. And while it’s not trying to reinvent the MMO — who is these days? — it went over well with critics.

Picture everyone at Square Enix heaving sighs of relief, because failing twice to get this flagship MMO off the ground might well have broken the company. The initial game, released back in 2010, was a dreadful mess — arguably the first dead-serious mainline Final Fantasy flub ever. Square Enix’s reaction matched that level of seriousness: the company scrapped the game, tripped over itself apologizing, then spent the ensuing three years nose to the grindstone overhauling everything. When April 14 rolls around and Final Fantasy XIV launches on PlayStation 4, both versions will have been in development, collectively, for over half a decade (and probably well over, at that).

Yesterday, Square Enix made the beta version of the PS4 version available on the PlayStation Network. It’s free, and anyone can join. I pulled it down last night: it’s 11GB, and took around three hours on my entry-level (16 Mbps down) Comcast business line.

I haven’t played much, and since this is still the same game, the only reason to play if you’re coming from the PS3 is the massive visual upgrade, but a few thoughts: They haven’t fixed the kludgy PC mouse interface, where you’re using the gamepad to push a tiny hand-pointer around the screen like it’s 1995 and we’re playing X-COM on the original PlayStation. You can tab around with the d-pad, sure, but how much trouble would it have been to create a login overlay specific to the console version — a version that used the face buttons like any other self-respecting console game? I guess my bigger concern is that at 1080p, the text is so small it’s darned near illegible. Try playing this using Remote Play on your Vita (yes, it’s supported) if you dare.

A few notes about the beta, which the company’s running in two phases: The first was supposed to last from February 22 to March 3, but it started late, so I imagine it might run later than next Monday, as originally scheduled. Then the game goes on hiatus for a month, before a second test phase, currently set to run from April 4 to April 7. As noted, the PS4 version launches on April 14.

For phase one, you’ll be unable to use existing characters if you’re already a FFXIV player (the game’s running on cordoned-off beta servers in Japan), though the final version will support cross-platform play with both PS3 and Windows players. When phase two rolls around, you’ll be able to use those preexisting characters, and, presumably, your accomplishments will then roll forward to whatever version(s) you opt to play thereafter.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Music

This Ancient Chinese Instrument Was Made to Play the Super Mario Bros. Theme

Right down to the sounds of collecting coins and mushrooms.

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We’re assuming that when the musical instrument known as the sheng was invented in China thousands of years ago, no one knew that it would one day be used to play a magically spot-on version of the Super Mario Bros. theme music. But here we are.

At a recent concert in Taipei, Taiwan, a performer treated her audience to the classic video game tune, complete with all the nuanced sound effects, played entirely on the sheng. It’s pretty bizarre to hear that modern music coming from such an ancient instrument, right? Well, keep in mind that the instrument this performer is playing isn’t in itself ancient, but evolved from something ancient. Slate explains:

This particular sheng could very well have been engineered specifically to sound like an old Nintendo. It’s not like it was unearthed by archaeologists and when they played it, the mystical thread that binds all things Asian was revealed at last. The oddity here isn’t how much an ancient instrument sounds like modern technology, but how much a modern instrument echoes ancient video game technology.

It’s still pretty amusing to think of ancient Chinese emperors hanging out playing Super Mario Bros. in their opium dens.

TIME

The Sundance of Indie Games: Welcome to IndieCade

IndieCade tirelessly culls through countless games, bringing you the best being developed today.

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Each year, more and more independent game makers are trying to make their mark. IndieCade has stepped in to separate the wheat from chaff, curating and identifying the best that independent gaming has to offer.

The annual international festival began in 2005 in Bellvue, Washington, when less than a 100 developers in the US were creating independent games. As the indie gaming scene grew, so did the festival, eventually moving to Los Angeles.

In 2013, the festival added IndieCade East, a more intimate festival based in Queens, NY at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Producer: Corey Protin, Editor/Cam Op: Derek Lartaud, Cam Op: Justin Damiano

TIME Video Games

The Thief Launch Trailer Has Everything, Including Electric Guitars

Not your parents' Thief, and that's probably fine.

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As videos go, the Thief launch trailer plays it safe and standard, resembling the sort of melodramatic workup you’ve seen a zillion times during the previews deluge at a movie theater, including the uplifting, rockin’ tune that kicks in about a third of the way through (in this case, see 0:50). You half expect the thunder-throated voiceover to go something like “In a time, when good men carried blackjacks, a hero emerges…”

We’ve come a long way from November 1998, when Looking Glass Studios’ Thief: The Dark Project felt like creeping through a gothic glass darkly, where the tenebrous stone passageways and starless crypts and brilliantly bleak sound effects gave the impression — or it did me, anyway — that the game world itself was a dim veil hung over a starless mystical void.

Eidos Montreal’s Thief-the-reboot looks both grander and splashier, trading the original game’s sepulchral atmosphere for less abstruse narration and parkour-style scampering over soaring rooftops that give the sense of looking at a negatives reel of someone playing Mirror’s Edge.

If you hold with the notion that lighting strikes twice — and it certainly struck for developer Eidos Montreal with Deus Ex: Human Revolution — there’s plenty to be excited about when this one launches for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One next Tuesday, February 25.

TIME Accessories & Peripherals

Don’t Faint, but the Xbox One Finally Has Its Own Media Remote

Xbox One gets it own remote.
Xbox One gets it own remote. Microsoft

The remote every Xbox One owner's been waiting for.

Incredible. Stupendous. Mind-altering. Life-changing. All terms you wouldn’t use to describe Microsoft’s revelation this morning of a stylish official remote control for the Xbox One. But “A step up from the Xbox 360 remote’s button zoo”? Looks like it.

Larry Hryb did the honors, announcing the Xbox One Media Remote this morning on his blog. Two s-words that describe it: sleek, and — compared to the longish Xbox 360 wand, anyway — stubby. It’s out in March, and it looks like it’ll go for a few dollars more than the Xbox 360’s ($20) at $25.

Here’s the info-blurb:

Releasing across Xbox One markets worldwide in early March, the Xbox One Media Remote lets you control video playback for Blu-ray movies and streaming video on Xbox One. Additionally, there are dedicated Back and OneGuide buttons. The OneGuide button provides one-touch, quick access to your favorite TV shows and movies through the Xbox program guide. This remote is designed to help you listen, watch and switch among experiences instantly – allowing you to rule your entertainment. The Media Remote can also control TV/Receiver power and volume through Kinect, which uses IR blasting to send signals to your TV and/or receiver.

It’s a little strange that the Xbox One — a console Microsoft’s pitched from the start as a be-all, end-all media control hub — didn’t ship in November with this new remote. It’s even stranger, given the more than three month interim between the console’s launch and the remote’s debut next month, that the Xbox 360’s media remote doesn’t work with the new console.

Perhaps it’s all part of Microsoft’s “you’re still the controller” angle, but I’d wager most would agree Kinect’s dependability metrics, in particular when you want to zip around the interface without asking for stuff to happen twice, is imperfect enough that Microsoft’s going to sell a whole bunch of these things.

The Xbox One Media Remote [MajorNelson.com]

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Video Games

Sadistic: Flappy Bird in a Box Is a Real-Life Flappy Bird

Witness a bunch of people who can't help themselves.

Fawn Qiu has degrees from Harvard and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s also worked at MIT’s Media Lab. Despite such a pedigree, she got sucked into the Flappy Bird hoopla just like most of the rest of the world.

Instead of mourning Flappy Bird’s passing, however, she’s gone and done what any good tinkerer would do: slapped together a couple servo motors, an Arduino board, a switch and some magnets to recreate a real-life Flappy Bird inside a cardboard box.

Watch the above video to witness a bunch of people who can’t help themselves, and cross your fingers that this is the last Flappy Bird-related post to get published here for at least the rest of the month (I’m so sorry).

[via BuzzFeed]

TIME Video Games

Apps with "Flappy" in Their Names Reportedly Being Rejected by Apple and Google

Sad boy is sad.
Sad boy is sad. Getty Images

Might I suggest Bappy Flird?

Bet you thought you’d wake up this morning to find that the ’round-the-clock coverage of Flappy Bird that saturated tech blogs last week had finally ground to a halt.

Sorry. And I recognize the irony that I’m part of the problem. Again: sorry.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez reports that several developers have found their Flappy Bird clones being rejected by Apple’s and Google’s app stores. One developer spotlighted in Perez’s story was apparently told by Apple that his app – Flappy Dragon – was rejected because it “attempts to leverage a popular app.”

As of roughly 9am on Monday, a search of “Flappy” turned up oodles and oodles of Flappy-themed results in the Google Play store: Flappy Pig, Flappy Doge, Flappy Fish, Flappy Flying, another Flappy Doge, two Flappy Bees, another Flappy Fish, another Flappy Pig – you get the idea. Apple’s iTunes app store is still returning plenty of results for a “Flappy” search, too.

These apps may be grandfathered in, but it appears Apple and Google are all set when it comes to new games in the Flappy Bird vein. At least, apps with “Flappy” somewhere in the title. Might I suggest Bappy Flird?

Apple & Google Begin Rejecting Games With “Flappy” In The Title [TechCrunch]

TIME Video Games

Common Sense Prevails: Goat Simulator Video Game Coming Soon for $10

Never ever EVER underestimate the will of the people when it comes to our desire to run around wrecking stuff as a digital goat.

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Never ever EVER underestimate the will of the people when it comes to our desire to run around wrecking stuff as a digital goat.

What began as a half-joke, half… well, maybe a full joke by Coffee Stain Studios, footage uploaded to YouTube of Goat Simulator’s alpha gameplay whipped the collective Internet into such a froth that Coffee Stain has decided to go through with the game. It’s available now for pre-order on Steam for $10.

Since we last checked in with Goat Simulator, some new moves have been added: namely, the ability to use your tongue to grab stuff and swing it around at terrified humans. Aside from that, the overarching premise of the game is pretty simple.

According to its description on YouTube:

Goat Simulator is like an old school skating game, except instead of being a skater, you’re a goat, and instead of doing tricks, you wreck stuff. It brings next-gen goat simulation to YOU.

The Goat Simulator website looks to tamp expectations a bit further by adding that we won’t see multiplayer features and the game isn’t planned for Mac or Linux. We might someday see the ability to cobble together our own levels, however.

Oh, and there’s this disclaimer, too:

Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. It was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat.

I’m good on hula hoops and bricks, but the possibility of owning a real-life goat hadn’t dawned on me until right now. I’ve got some thinking to do.

Goat Simulator [Product Page via Gamespot]

TIME Video Games

The 12 Most Promising PlayStation 4 Games of 2014 So Far

A dozen upcoming titles to keep your eye on.

  • Ones to Watch

    Sony

    If you want a gander at all the exclusives coming down the pike for the PlayStation 4, these aren’t the slides you’re looking for: Sony’s opening maneuvers during 2014 — same as Microsoft’s for the Xbox One — are mostly multi-platform affairs.

    But the upside of pointing you at what’s nearly here in lieu of future-gazing games listing a year or more out? We’re looking at stuff you can play in just a few weeks or months: a rundown of games with firm timeframes, including two or three PS4-only heavy hitters.

  • Strider

    Amazon just purchased Double Helix, making Strider the studio’s first release as a subsidiary of the octo-retailer. Co-developed with Capcom, it’s a remake of the 1989 arcade side-scroller (also by Capcom) wherein you guide a sword-swinging martial artist through a Blade Runner-esque metropolis, dispatching ninjas and the like on your expedition to cross blades with the game’s big bad, Grandmaster Meio.

    What’s new? Metroid-like “free” city exploration, allowing you to hunt for weapons and other miscellany at leisure.

    February 18

    (Also for PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

  • Thief

    The original Thief, subtitled “The Dark Project,” was a revelation in 1998, a murky world of dim sluiceways and moonlit machine-works that melded tiptoes exploration and combat avoidance with purloining, puzzle-solving and ingenious light manipulation, all staged in a dark fantasy world by way of H.P. Lovecraft and Terry Gilliam — a welcome antithesis to id Software’s frenetic, atmospherically one-note Doom.

    Developer Eidos Montreal’s Thief reboot seems less a radical rethink than reimagining of that original game, a chance to introduce players who missed the 1998 PC game to stealth-play staples like the protagonist’s concussive blackjack, manipulating light sources to streamline stealth navigation, and the series’ lovely-weird Victorian steampunk purlieus.

    That, and the reboot offers fresh wrinkles, like A.I. sophisticated enough to probe more inquisitively (think souped-up versions of Assassin’s Creed‘s haystack-needling guards) as well as nonlinear problem solving designed to make levels feel less like levels and more like mini-sandboxes.

    February 25

    (Also for PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

    Ground Zeroes is really a teaser for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which we probably won’t see until 2015 (or later). It serves as a narrative bridge between Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and the latter game — a budget-priced interlude that’ll offer either a little or a lot of gameplay, depending on your approach.

    That clear time variability hinges on how much of the game’s open world you opt to explore, say how many side missions you engage (and in what order) before tying off the prologue’s primary narrative. As in Peace Walker, there’s a base management angle whereby you can devise or upgrade weapons and other items.

    March 18

    (Also for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

  • inFAMOUS: Second Son

    Sony’s first major exclusive after Resogun and Killzone Shadow Fall, inFAMOUS: Second Son is another sequel that’s probably banking more on the PlayStation 4’s prowess than reinventing the series’ open-world wheelhouse.

    You play as a fresh-minted superhero ingenue with series-unique abilities — in this case, powers that riff on a chain-wrapped around your arm (yep, others have noticed the similarities to God of War, too) — executing parkour-style maneuvers to zip around a dystopian near-future version of Seattle and do battle with a government-based anti-superhero outfit.

    March 21

  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

    What I’ve played of Final Fantasy XIV on the PlayStation 3 is often fantasy retread, but at least we’re talking highly polished retread — leaps and bounds beyond where this game was in 2010.

    Since it’s been available for Windows and PS3 for months, we already have a gameplay verdict (thumbs up), so with the PlayStation 4 version, you’re looking at a visual and performance upgrade (I assume on par with the PC version’s graphics), hopefully an improved gamepad interface and the option to play remotely with the PS Vita. As with the PS3 version, the game will not require a PlayStation Plus subscription to play.

    April 14

    (Also for PlayStation 3, Windows)

  • Dying Light

    Mirror’s Edge meets Dead Rising? Could be enticing, considering how fantastic Mirror’s Edge and Dead Rising were. Dying Light‘s first-person parkour angle could prove enough gameplay sugar to help the post-apocalyptic zombies shtick go down. Only instead of avoiding combat, this game’s full of it, playing out in shanty-filled rural and metropolitan areas somewhere unspecified.

    The twist, and anything starring zombies nowadays needs at least one if not several, involves the game’s day/night cycle: During the day, the zombies are shambling, barely threatening husks, but at night, they can move like you, sprinting, leaping and climbing up the sides of structures and other hidey-spots. And woe unto players spotted by a certain rare strain of nighttime-only zombie: you’ll only survive such an encounter if you can elude the thing using traps and other tactics (the creature’s apparently unshakeable) until sunrise.

    March 31

    (Also for PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

  • Child of Light

    Just look at that trailer — who doesn’t want to play Child of Light, a roleplaying platformer “inspired by fairy tales” that’s as adorable as adorable comes? You play as an abducted child trying to return home while challenging the Queen of the Night, who’s snuffed-out the sun, moon and stars.

    Yes, I typed “roleplaying” and “platformer” in a sentence. The platforming elements appear to hew more Castlevania than Super Mario Bros., but combat — when you’re not off solving environment-based puzzles — resembles something you’d see in a turn-based RPG. Imagine something like Rayman if enemy encounters summoned a Final Fantasy-style battle interface and you’re probably close. Ubisoft adds that you can unlock over 200 skills and fiddle with over 600 crafting combinations, so beaucoup de RPG-style customization.

    April 30

    (Also for PlayStation 3, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

  • The Elder Scrolls Online

    The most promising thing I’ve read about The Elder Scrolls Online is this beta player’s first impressions writeup, and the words “I have yet to be asked to go kill 10 skeevers, or cut some maple wood for someone’s house, or gather 20 wolf pelts.”

    Sounds promising indeed, assuming whatever you do instead of that’s as (or more) engaging. There’s little else to say at this point: It’s an Elder Scrolls MMO, meaning epic, deeply Dungeons & Dragons-indebted high fantasy, scaled even further up.

    Will it break any major MMO molds? Unlikely. Will it give Elder Scrolls wonks something to do until the next main series installment? Sounds like it.

    June 2014

    (Also for OS X, Windows, Xbox One)

  • Murdered: Soul Suspect

    A game about a deceased detective trying to solve his own murder while fending off supernatural adversaries — I have no idea what to think, but I want to know more, so give the marketing department its due. It’s by Airtight Studios, the developer of Dark Void, a so-so 2010 flight-based combat game, and Quantum Conundrum, a more warmly received puzzle-platformer, neither of which tell us much about the studio’s hand at story-driven action/adventures. Fingers crossed then.

    June 2014

    (Also for PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

  • MLB 14: The Show

    The ninth entry in Sony’s critically acclaimed baseball series gets its first PlayStation 4 makeover. In addition, the 2014 version will lay the groundwork for year-to-year saves (letting you carry them forward to future versions), include a Quick Counts option that’s basically a way to speed through a full 9-inning game in under 30 minutes (without compromising statistics) and Sony says it’s further fleshed out the series’ popular Road To The Show mode.

    Spring 2014

    (Also for PlayStation 3, PS Vita)

  • Pavilion

    Indie developer Visiontrick Media (a two-man studio) bills Pavilion as “a fourth person exploratory experience about guidance, influence and subliminal control.” We’re talking a genre-abstruse-possible-puzzler with hand-painted 2D backdrops and “dreamy ambient music,” where “reality [clashes] with fantasy,” where you “manipulate the surrounding environment, influence [the main character's] sense and guide [him] on the path towards truth” and where I’m obviously mystified enough by all of this that I’m using the developer’s own words to describe what I can only hope turns out to be as thought-provoking as it sounds in the pitch.

    Spring 2014

    (Also for PS Vita)

  • LEGO The Hobbit

    Traveller’s Tales returns to Middle-earth in this obligatory LEGO Lord of the Rings followup. Your desire to partake, since the gameplay particulars are unchanged — puzzle your way through film locations and events with a cutesy comedy filter — probably depends on how many you’ve played already, or how invested you are in Peter Jackson’s voluminous trilogy.

    1H 2014

    (Also for Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

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