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Dec
02
2014

The ZX Spectrum is returning – as a retro gaming device

Back in the 1980, when computers were expensive, far more basic and far less capable, a number of computers that tried to keep everything simple gained cult followings. The landmark of these was the ZX Spectrum, a simple plug-in-to-your-TV affair which was inexpensive (for its time), but had a wide variety of uses and many additional options such as modems and printers. It also was easy to develop for thanks to its simple BASIC programming language, which caused it to turn a number of children, teenagers and adults working in their bedrooms overnight into game and software developers; and the ZX quickly gained a following in Britain as an early game console with classic home-grown hits such as Elite, R-Type and Manic Miner.

A 3D model of the ZX Vega Controller, which may not be the final design. Image courtesy IndieGoGo.

A 3D model of the ZX Vega Controller, which may not be the final design. Image courtesy IndieGoGo.

Flash forward to today, and now – thanks to efforts by Retro Computers – the Spectrum is being reintroduced to a modern audience. The Sinclair Spectrum Vega is an all-in-one controller and console that's styled after the original, but uses modern advancements to reduce the cost and streamline the design. While designed to look similar to the most well-known and iconic of the original Spectrum designs, with that classic rainbow motif in the corner, the Vega's design is focused solely on playing those classic Spectrum games of old, to the extent that the full QWERTY keypad of old has been simplified to just the five most commonly-used buttons – R, F, S, 1 and 2 – plus a brand new D-Pad for directional control and a dedicated "Reset" function.

Retro Computers – a startup backed by Sinclair Research, the company founded by ZX Spectrum inventor Sir Clive Sinclair – are pitching the new computer on IndieGoGo after successfully completing a prototype model of the device. The company are aiming for an initial production run of just 1,000 of the new devices, and are asking for £100,000 ($157,115 USD) to begin work; with pledges of £100 ($157 USD) or more bagging one of the first models. Retro Computers says it'll come with 1,000 games pre-installed and support additional Spectrum titles loaded from an SD card, plus further free games are planned to be added down the line.

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    Previous Articles


    Jul
    24
    2013

    Microsoft: Everyone can make XBox One Games – via XBox One

    The next generation of console gaming may have finally found its niche – as the generation that blurs the line between video game players and video game creators. That's according to a new announcement by Microsoft, which confirms – like Sony with the PS4 – that XBox One owners can use the next-gen console as their very own development kit.

    Xbox's corporate vice president Marc Whitten said that all Xbox Ones will function as development kits, which are usually only available to licensed developers. This will give everyone who owns an XBox One the tools to build their own XB1 games as part of the very system they're playing them on – a trend Ouya started with its independently-focused Android-based console; and subsequently adopted by Sony for the Playstation 4. To add to the appeal, reports spreading on the internet claim Microsoft will allow indie developers to self-publish on the Xbox One, though Microsoft are yet to comment on this part of the equation.

    UPDATE: However, the functionality WON'T be available immediately at the console's launch; it will be installed on all consoles at a later date.

    Here's Microsoft's official comment:

    Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox LIVE. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox LIVE. We'll have more details on the program and the timeline at gamescom in August.

    Let me be the first to claim this day, Global Gamedev Independence Day 🙂

    UPDATED TO ADD:

    Mark Whitten added in late-breaking news today that independently-published games will have just as much potential for exposure as professionally-published games, with Microsoft having no intention to separate the two from the future XBox Live Marketplace:

    "My goal is for it to just show up in the marketplace. Of course there will be different pivots inside of that. There will be everything from what are we curating, kind of like spotlight content, to the normal discoverability stuff like recommendations, what's trending, what's got a lot of engagement on the platform. And you'd be able to find that content in any of those. There wouldn't be any difference based on what type of game it was. Then of course there will be other type of pivots where you can go and look at whether its a genre of game or any other. But you shouldn't think of it as there's an indie area and a non-indie area.

    Just as today, where we will highlight things that are coming in on the service, we want to make that more discoverable. We'll make it things that we curate as well as the other ways that you find content whether that's what your friends are doing or what we recommend based on your play behaviour. Or top listings. We want to make sure we have all of those types of discoverability mechanisms."

    Microsoft are yet to comment on whether indie developers will experience any cost to their own pockets to acquire devkits or publish their games. But you WILL have full rights to charge for the games if you prefer; and pricing is aimed to be similar to today's Xbox 360 Marketplace.

    With little else revealed, Whitten says we'll have to wait to Gamescon to know the rest of the details. Stay tuned!

    Jul
    24
    2013

    Xbox One Game Prices Announced For UK

    Set to retail with an RRP of £49.99, compared to $59.99 in the States.

    Microsoft has announced Xbox One games in the UK will come with a Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of £49.99.

    OXM spotted the prices on the company's online store, which currently lists Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport 5 and Kinect Sports Rivals for that price.

    Last month, Microsoft announced that first-party Xbox One games would be sold in North America for $59.99, which is the same price games are currently sold for there. In terms of the UK, it's worth remembering that retailers are likely to undercut Microsoft – in fact, Amazon is already listing Need for Speed Rivals at £43.99.

    Sony has yet to announce any UK pricing for its games, though the company has similarly confirmed an American price point of $59.99.

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]

    Jul
    12
    2013

    Fans Create Petition To Bring Back Xbox One DRM Policies

    Turns out the internet is not quite as united on the issue of DRM as we were led to believe. A fan by the name of David Fontenot has started a petition on Change.org claiming that “consumers were uninformed” during the initial outcry against the DRM policies that were announced with the new Xbox One.

    To review, when the Xbox One was initially announced at E3 in June, it was also announced that the Xbox One would have to log in via internet connection every 24 hours to verify ownership. If a log in was missed, gamers would not be able to use their consoles to play games until a connection was re-established. Microsoft also talked about their game sharing and trading policies, stating that games used games could be resold, given as gifts, and even resold to retailers, but this could only be done once per game license.

    And as they are wont to do, gamers got a bit upset.

    After about two weeks of listening to their fans’ rage, Xbox announced that they would be repealing their DRM policies on the Xbox One, and the system would operate largely the same as the 360 does currently, with no online requirement and infinitely resell-able games. Unfortunately, along with the removal of DRM, came the loss of several features that were announced with the Xbox One, namely the ability to trade and resell digital licenses for games, and play your games on any Xbox One.

    What really needs to happen here is that both parties need to step back, take a deep breath, and really look at what each side is asking for. Xbox made a serious misstep in their initial release statement by claiming that “every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection”, and not highlighting that it is the DRM policies that allowed several of their notable new features to operate. This situation exacerbated by Phil Spencer’s sarcastic claim that “We have a product for people who can’t access the internet, it’s called Xbox 360”.

    The fan response could have been a little more controlled as well. Any appearance of the letters DRM these days seems to cause an immediate, visceral reaction in gamers, leading to copious quantities of “nerd rage” and not a lot of well thought out research and reasoned discussion. Perhaps a calm complaint would have elicited a more informative response from the executives at Microsoft, than the wave of outrage that was put forward.

    So where do you stand on the Xbox One DRM policies? Do you want the many-featured, but DRM restricted Xbox? Or are you in the DRM free, but less innovative camp? Let us know in the comments below, or over in the forums. To check out the petition, head over to http://www.change.org/petitions/microsoft-give-us-back-the-xbox-one-we-were-promised-at-e3-2

    ~kemosaabi

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]

    Jun
    19
    2013

    Microsoft U-Turn on XBox One Plans

    When the XBox One was revealed at E3 earlier this month, many details were revealed about the console that caused widespread criticism of the console by both players, press and gaming journalists alike. I'm sure by now you've read the myriads of articles about it; but if not, here's a quick recap: The console would require an internet connection every 24 hours to check validity of licences to play any games stored on the console (possibly being unusable for gaming if a connection could not be established); used games could only be transferred to a new owner once; reactivating a third-hand game would cost a fee and games could not be resold for less than 90% of their original value (meaning buying used games could end up MORE expensive than buying them new); and so on.

    After soon being followed by Sony's announcement of the PS4 allowing full sharing of disk-based games just by giving the game away like you would do today, lack of online requirement and £100 lower price tag, Microsoft were looking like real losers in this year's "console wars" (an endearing term given by the media to explain the concept of gaming consoles battling for control of the market by selling the most consoles). Even Nintendo got a pot shot in, with Satoru Iwata revealing in an interview his view on controlling the trade of used games:

    "The best possible countermeasure against people buying used product is making the kind of product that people never want to sell. Taking as an example Mario Kart or Smash Bros., even though you might think, 'I’ve done enough with this,' you’ll still have second thoughts. 'Wait a minute. If one of my friends comes over, I might need this again.' You’re never going to want to sell these games. That’s something that always occupies our minds. We need to make software that players don’t want to sell."

    It seems Microsoft have finally thrown in the towel and admitted their plans to control usage of their console AND trade of used games just isn't going to work. Today, in an official posting on XBox Wire, Microsoft announced a complete reversal of their strategy, ditching the online requirement and removing control over used games.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Jan
    08
    2013

    unuTM The World’s First All-in-One Tablet, Gaming Console and Smart TV System at CES 2013

    Originally Posted at Sanitarium.FM

    The multifaceted device that first greeted the world at gamescom 2012 under the name “snakebyte eins” is now celebrating its world-premiere at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, as well as a new name, “unuTM”. The pre-release version will be playable for the duration of the event.

    What is unu ™ ?

    unu™ is entertainment. unu™ is gaming. unu™ is different. Unlike previously announced and currently available Android-based gaming platforms, unu™offers a truly multifaceted experience. Whether in your lap as a tablet, in the docking station on the TV or right in front of you on the table, unu™ goes where you go, ready to be used wherever and however you want. Games, videos, music, apps, mobile surfing and email – unu™ provides the total package. Developed and designed entirely in Germany, unu™ draws on fifteen years of experience in the games industry.

    With perfectly balanced components, unu™ enables users to experience their familiar media and games in totally new ways. The heart of unu™ is the tablet and its custom-coded user interface. But there’s more to the package: unu™ comes with a docking station, a game controller and an air mouse, opening up optimal gaming, media and smart TV experiences. Thanks to the docking station, the unu™ tablet can be quickly connected to the TV so that users can enjoy movies and music as well as games on the big screen. With the tablet docked, the user interface can be operated by the game controller or the air mouse.

    The unu™ air mouse makes it possible to intuitively and comfortably interact with the user interface while sitting on the couch, just as easily as if you had the tablet in your hands. No other smart TV manufacturer has been able to offer that kind of ease of use. Touch-based games like Angry Birds can be comfortably played on the TV while relaxing on the couch. A full-fledged keyboard for surfing, writing email and posting to social media is integrated on the back of the unu™ air mouse.
    When it comes to intense gaming experiences, the unu™ game controller has all the bases covered. Games optimized for controllers can be played as though they were real console games. snakebyte has been designing and manufacturing gaming peripherals for more than fifteen years and that wealth of experience shines though, reflected in the high-quality components employed. There are already many games with controller support and the number is continually growing. Thanks to an integrated button mapping app, games without native controller support can also be enjoyed with unu™ and the game controller.

    Tablet. Gaming Console. Smart TV.
    unu™ unites the worlds of tablets, gaming consoles and smart TVs. The heart of the unu™ concept is diversity. unu™ isn’t just a stationary gaming console like its competitors, unu™ is also a tablet that can be used while on the go, out in the back yard or curled up on the couch. But unu™ isn’t just a tablet. With its docking station and game controller, unu™ delivers a 100% authentic console experience on the TV. And thanks to its multimedia features and the wealth of digital content providers, like Netflix and Maxdome, unu™ is the television of tomorrow – a truly smart TV.

    unu™ at CES 2013

    Every day during CES 2013 in Las Vegas, unu™ will be playable at the snakebyte booth (LVCC, South Hall 2, Booth 25200). Appointments for personal presentations are also available.

    You’ll find more info on Facebook on the official unu™ page:
    www.facebook.com/Unutablet

    Watch the CES 2013 trailer on youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqwlOHVP9q4

    Jan
    28
    2012

    Confirmed: Nintendo announce 2012 Wii U Release, Nintendo Network

    Nintendo confirms new console will launch this year, controller gets NFC function

    In its Third Quarter financial results briefing, Nintendo has revealed new details about its plans for the upcoming next-generation console, the Wii U.
    It has been confirmed the company is planning to showcase the final format and discuss the details of the new hardware at E3 2012, which will be held in Los Angeles in June this year. Nintendo can confirm that they will launch the Wii U in Japan, the U.S., Europe and Australia in time for the year-end sales season.
    "For the launch of new hardware, it is, of course, regarded as a sort of requisite not to miss the critical year-end sales season. The company is aiming to firmly complete the development of the entire system and prepare sufficient software so that the Wii U will be at its best at the time of the launch. Needless to say, we have learned a bitter lesson from the launch of the Nintendo 3DS," -Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Jan
    25
    2012

    Rumour: Microsoft phasing out Microsoft Points

     

    A rumour making the rounds today is Microsoft will phase out its Microsoft Points currency by year's end, in favour of real currency. According to InsideMobileApps, the change will affect Windows Phone, the Zune Marketplace and Xbox Live.

     

    The site claims "a source" provided the information and notes that mobile developers with Microsoft publishing agreements are being told to plan their upcoming downloadable content and in-app purchases in accordance with the change. Finally, customers with Microsoft Point balances at the time of conversion will have it switched to the their local currency.

     

    Two developers we spoke to who are working on Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live content told us they hadn't heard anything about such a conversion. However, both noted that sometimes Microsoft doesn't tell them about major changes until it becomes need to know. They also hadn't heard whispers about the conversion until we contacted them.

     

    Checking in with Microsoft, a company spokesperson told us: "We do not comment on rumour or speculation."

     

    Update: Microsoft Switzerland has reportedly told Gbase.de that the rumour is not true. The Google translation is a bit confusing, but it roughly translates: "We can not confirm these rumours – we are currently satisfied with the current Xbox Live Business model."

    Oct
    03
    2011

    Rumour: Comcast, Verizon Coming to the Xbox 360

    Subscription-based streaming TV allegedly on they way.

    According to a new report from Bloomberg today, Microsoft is planning to partner with Comcast and Verizon to offer subscription-based streaming television service on the Xbox 360.

    Citing sources “with knowledge of the situation,” Bloomberg says that the company is in talks with two dozen networks and media service providers in both the United States and Europe, including HBO, Crackle, Bravo, SyFy, and LoveFilm in the UK.

    The report falls in line with other recent rumours, as well as Microsoft’s presentation at this year’s E3, where they demoed Kinect-enabled television control.

    Most importantly, sources suggest the announcement of the new services could arrive as soon as next week.

    Aug
    31
    2011

    Nintendo Selects series gets more games

    Following the apparent success of Nintendo’s recent “Nintendo Selects” series – classic Wii games considered as shining examples of the console’s best, given a reduced price and brand new red-and-gold packaging to make them feel extra special – Nintendo has announced the addition of new games to the series.

    Originally launched on May 20 in Europe, the Nintendo Selects series of four classic Wii Games – WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Mario Strikers Charged Football, Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City, and Wii Sports – will on September 16 have two more games added to this repertoire – Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. This makes six games in Europe now given the honour of being considered Nintendo’s “Gold-Standard” Wii Games.

    North American players get a slightly different and larger list of titles, with the four Nintendo Select titles of Mario Super Sluggers, Animal Crossing: City Folk, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Wii Sports being joined on August 28 with a further four titles: Punch-Out!!, Mario Strikers Charged, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Paper Mario.

    The new entries to the regional line-ups makes WarioWare: Smooth Moves the only of the six European Nintendo Selects games to remain exclusive to Europe so far; while Americans get Mario Super Sluggers, Punch-Out!! and Super Paper Mario to themselves until at least next time around. What a gyp, huh? Still, what’s your take on the new entries to Nintendo’s “Select” list?