Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Should kids be taught in schools using Minecraft?

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“The 14-year-old me was weeping inside” says Tom Bennett, the UK government’s school behaviour tsar. He’s recalling the time that Ian Livingstone – the co-creator of both Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy, the series of role-playing books – called him a “luddite”. “It really upset me, I used to love the books and the games that came from them.”

The reason Bennett became the target of Livingstone’s ire is because of his views on Minecraft in classrooms. Last November, Microsoft released Minecraft: Education Edition, an enhanced version of the game that has extra tools for teachers to plan and set up lessons, whether that’s recreating a Shakespeare play or building the Great Pyramids. They can build worlds faster than usual, monitor their students’ activity and help them build online portfolios of their work. In an interview with The Times shortly after, Bennett said that the game was a “gimmick” that would “get in the way of children actually learning”.

The topic of Minecraft in schools sparks a lot of passion on both sides of the debate: some teachers, academics, and Microsoft itself believe that Minecraft can change the way children learn. By giving kids lessons inside a tool that they’re excited about, they will learn more, the argument goes. But Bennett and others say that in-game lessons hinder children’s learning by distracting from the subject matter at hand. The question is: how do we know who’s right? And, as Microsoft prepares for the first full school year since the Education Edition launched, what does the future of Minecraft in schools look like? Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Halo: Combat Evolved?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

WHAT. How have we gone so long without mentioning Halo in ‘Have You Played’? Maybe because it’s such an obvious choice, a monster of both profit and influence. Every shooter since has something to owe Halo, for better or worse. Microsoft’s console expedition certainly has something to owe it, not that we care. Read the rest of this entry »

Halo fan game Installation 01 gets ‘OK’ from 343 Industries

We learned last year that Installation 01 [official site], a multiplayer-only fan remake of the early Halo games, was in the works, when they announced that they were aiming for a Halo 3 style of play. They’ve also been following Microsoft’s own legal rules for fan projects, said the team behind it, in the hope they’d avoid the SHUT IT DOWN message these projects often get from cross-looking men in suits. Well, it looks like their careful tip-toeing around those rules paid off, at least for now. They’ve been told by 343 Industries that the fan game is “not under imminent legal threat” so long as they keep abiding by those rules.
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Sea of Thieves’ storms, skeletons and treasure hunting

Pirates, the most untrustworthy of the Cowboy-Pirate-Zombie triumvirate in charge of the videogame industry, are getting their fill of the E3 booty this year. While Ubisoft revealed Skull and Bones, Microsoft have shown off more of the type of thing you’ll be doing in their online co-op plunder-em-up Sea of Thieves [official site]. You can see a Scottishly narrated (and highly scripted) example of a treasure hunt reaching its stormy conclusion in this trailer below deck.
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Deck-based beat ’em up Phantom Dust out now free

Phantom Dust is one of those games that lots of people talk about but nobody I know actually bought back in the day. Originally released for the Xbox None in 2004, it’s a 3D fighting game set in destructible environments. The twist is that all of your character’s abilities are determined by a deck of cards, so you can switch in new attacks, blocks and specials when you earn/buy new cards.

Today Microsoft re-released it free on both Windows 10 and Xbox One, with cards available as microtransactions. You can, I believe, unlock every card in the game by playing. Here’s a video from Microsoft explaining how it works.

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Halo Wars: Definitive Edition trundles onto Steam today

I went for the word “trundles” in the headline because “warthogs” isn’t really a verb and I don’t know if I have the literary capital to pull off that particular innovation. Sorry, everyone. Anyway, a spruced-up version of Halo Wars the First has come out on Steam, allowing many to play the spin-off’d RTS for the first time. Previously it was only available as an inclusion on a special edition of the recent Halo Wars 2, which is a Windows 10-only affair as far as PCs are concerned. This is good news nonetheless, but there is a multiplayer catch. You can’t play with Windows Store chums.
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What Xbox ‘Project Scorpio’ means for PC gaming

Microsoft has dished the deets on its upcoming ‘Scorpio’ hardware update for the Xbox console, and in what amounts to uncharacteristic detail and candour given the ruddy thing isn’t going on sale until the end of 2017. But what are we poor PC peasants to make of the Beast of Redmond’s latest game box and its towering on-paper capabilities? In short, what influence will Project Scorpio’s trick new hardware have on future PC games? Read the rest of this entry »

Windows 10 Game Mode tested: minimal gains, unless you’re unusually cruel to your PC

Microsoft chucked out the Windows 10 Creators Update this week, which is the sort of thing that true-blue enthusiasts of IBM-Compatible home computers used to call a Service Pack back in the day. It’s a surprisingly game-focused update in its way, a built-in streaming service (akin to Twitch, only inevitably far less popular) known as Beam, a concerted effort to put all its game-related settings into one place and Game Mode – a new setting that, in theory, can boost game performance.

We talked to Microsoft about their own hopes for Game Mode a couple of months back, but now it’s time to see what – if anything – it does in practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Minecraft Windows 10 launching mod Marketplace

All right: who picked Minecraft in the pool for who’d try paid mods next? Come see me to collect your winnings. Mojang have announced the Minecraft Marketplace, a microtransaction store coming to sell skin and texture packs, adventure worlds, minigames, and more in the brick ’em up’s Windows 10 and pocket telephone version. Mojang say they’ll curate the store and only accept submissions from registered businesses, so it won’t be quite as much of a free-for-all as Steam and Skyrim’s crack at paid mods in 2015. And this is only in Microsoft’s rebuild of Minecraft, to be clear, not the original Java version. Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Encarta’s MindMaze?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I was thinking of what else to include in this series and MindMaze bubbled up from the recesses of my brain like a sunken mafia victim, suddenly afloat. Bloated and warped with childhood memories. The details of this ancient trivia minigame come to me now like bits and pieces of an old dream. I know it was included in an Encarta 95 CD-ROM, and I know it was absolutely impossible to complete. You had to be some kind of genius to know the answer to these questions. Or, like, some kind of adult.
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Wot I Think: Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2 [official site] is undeniably a console RTS – a rare, exotic bird that looks a bit weird and could only have evolved on an island split off from the rest of the world. Removing it from its natural habitat and introducing it to the PC ecosystem, where its evolutionary niche isn’t quite so niche, might seem a little cruel and ill-conceived. But while it’s certainly not a perfect fit, it’s striking and, more often than not, quite a lot of fun. Here’s wot I think.

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Interview: Windows 10’s new Game Mode explained

Just last week (and yet somehow an eternity ago, in terms of world events), Microsoft announced that they’d soon be adding something called ‘Game Mode’ to Windows 10 with the aim of improving games’ performance, but gave away few details about what this might involve. Are we talking real framerate gains, suppressing potentially bothersome background tasks or just freeing up a wee bit of RAM?

With the first iteration of Game Mode due to arrive as part of Windows 10’s optional early Insider builds due today, I had a chat with Kevin Gammill, Partner Group Program Manager, Xbox Platform, spokesperson for the group building Game Mode, to find out what this thing actually does, which games it will support and what kind of control users will have over it. Read the rest of this entry »

Halo Wars 2’s Blitz Mode could be its salvation

This is Atriox, your chief adversary. He leads a rogue Covenant faction, the banished – the remaining Covenant races are now at peace with humanity following the events of Halo 2. I know these things because I once had to write a 5000-word Halo timeline.

I was all set to thoroughly dismiss Halo Wars 2 [official site], before I joined Microsoft for a spot of top-down Warthog-baiting earlier in the month, and I’m still not completely convinced. Last year’s Xbox One beta suggested yet another Halo game intent on rebottling the lightning of a departed era – in this case, that fleeting, Quixotic period when the idea of RTS on console sounded like cash in the bank.

Much of what made the original Halo Wars work so well on Xbox 360 has been preserved – the snappy, colourful visual design, the stripped-down resource and research aspects, the adroit translation of Halo’s alien Covenant and human UNSC factions into the language of an Age of Empires spin-off. Startlingly little has been added or changed, whether you’re talking about new units or a fresh approach to the typically leaden business of storytelling in a strategy game. This is exactly what many fans are hoping for, I’m sure, but given Creative Assembly’s success with the Warhammer license and Alien: Isolation, it’s hard not to wish for a shade more, well, magic.

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Zoom-o: Windows 10 ‘Game Mode’ to boost performance

Windows 10 will add a ‘Game Mode’ to “improve the performance of your PC games”, Microsoft have announced. They don’t say much about what it actually is but hey, free performance boosts are always welcome. I’d also accept it changing my desktop wallpaper to some glowy tendril-y abstract art made in 1999 with a pirated copy of Photoshop following a tutorial, adding System Shock 2 noises as system sounds, pausing my Napster downloads, and setting my AOL Instant Messenger away status. That’s what I’d want from a Game Mode, at least. Read the rest of this entry »

Windows 10 Store Games Now Support Offline Play

I welcome Microsoft’s latest renewed interest in PC gaming, glad to see their big Xbone games on PC, but it’s a shame they started so sloppily. Between requiring Windows 10, only selling on the janky Windows Store, capping framerates… it seemed so half-arsed. But they have slowly (too slowly) been buffing out problems, and recently fixed another big problem: Windows 10 games can now be played while offline. How could Microsoft have predicted that anyone would ever want to do that? Sheesh. Read the rest of this entry »

Minecraft 1.11 Brings Llamas & Magic Inventory Boxes

Everyone’s favourite block-based build-em-up contines to grow, like an unstoppable monster. A few months ago we saw polar bears introduced to Minecraft as well as underground fossils. Before that, the combat update brought skeleton riders and creepy block-mimicking creatures called Shulkers. Now Mojang has added the exploration update which adds llamas that can carry inventory and a very useful magic box.

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Custom Games Browser For Halo 5 Forge Post-Launch

Halo 5 might have skipped PC but the Forge creation tools arrive this week. The free release is coming to Windows 10 and contains Forge “along with a host of awesome new features, including mouse and keyboard support, 4k resolution display capability, a brand new content browser that makes showcasing and sharing your creations easier than ever before, and the ability play your creations with friends online”. PCGamesN spotted a NeoGAF post from Frank O’Connor, the Halo franchise director, in which he confirms a “custom games browser” post-launch.

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Halo 5’s Forge Coming To PC In September, And It’s Bringing 16-Player Custom Multiplayer With It

Halo 5 itself doesn’t seem to be coming to PC, but the developers have said they’d be bringing the sci-fi shooter’s sandbox editing mode, Forge, to Windows 10. Yesterday they announced the date: September 8. This mode will bring with it map editing and minigame-making using Halo’s bits and bobs, and has already been responsible for things like D-Days and mega beer pong on the Xbox Machine. But crucially, on the PC version, you will also be able to play 16-player custom multiplayer.

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