The UpStream

Unreal Engine No Longer Just for AAA Titles

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Unreal Engine No Longer Just for AAA Titles

If you have been a serious gamer for a long time, you will certainly know the name Unreal Engine. If you have been around even longer, you will probably remember the games Unreal and Unreal Tournament, for which the engine was named and developed by Epic. You probably are also aware that the engine is one of the most popular for many AAA titles for Windows, Xbox, PlayStation and mobile.

Now, it's not to say that the engine has not had interest from smaller developers, but its licensing costs were such that only the top-tier developers could afford to work with it. The world of gaming is changing, however, with small developers completely owning the mobile gaming space, leaving the big guys out in the cold completely. With the increase in indie games' successes comes a collection of new indie-focused tools, like Unity.

Unity is a platform which allows you to develop a videogame using their gaming engine and deploy it to all of the usual suspects. While Unity has a tremendous amount of potential, it is no Unreal Engine. As it turns out, Epic has recognized that there is a need for a product of their caliber in the smaller market space and has decided to fill that need themselves.

Available right now to early adopters who are interested in trying out the new release of the engine, Unreal Engine is available to any developer for $19/month and 5% revenue share. This is a very different revenue model compared with Unity, which, to license the platform for Windows, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, iOS and Android runs $225/month, but has no revenue sharing requirement. Epic, on the other hand, is really counting on their developers to release games of value.

Personally, as a developer, I like that these different companies are experimenting with different pricing models. The up-front cost of developing any application is very high, and the ability to cut down that cost, even by forfeiting future revenues, can be attractive to start-ups. Our sister company, Sumo Software has been in this very situation several times, and we have offered the Unreal model versus the Unity model successfully.

If any of our readers are currently developing a game with either Unity or Unreal Engine, let us know in the comments.

Class-Action Lawsuit Hits Fitbit After Reports of Severe Rashes from Using the Force

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Class-Action Lawsuit Hits Fitbit After Reports of Severe Rashes from Using the Force

Fitbit has had some experience being on the receiving side of a lawsuit in the past. However, after its voluntary recall earlier this month of the Fitbit Force, a class-action lawsuit has now been filed.

Earlier this week the lawsuit was filed with the Superior Court of California in San Diego county. In it, the class-action filing says that Fitbit's promotional and marketing campaign deceived customers. Customers were not made aware that rashes could be caused by using the Force.

Aviation teacher Jim Spivey has headed up the lawsuit. Interestingly enough, Spivey has never even had a reaction to the Force but he feels that Fitbit didn't do a good enough job of informing customers. "I have a concern that there is still a risk of developing an injury for me and others," he said. To that point, 9,900 have reported some sort of rash or other irritation from using the Force. It should also be noted that 250 people indicated they experienced blisters. All in, that's only 1.7 percent of the total Force owners out in the sea of 1 million US and 28,000 Canadian devices currently being recalled.

The lawsuit goes on to describe out the way Fitbit should tell all Force customers in the state of California about the voluntary recall, why the irritation is happening and how to get a refund for the wristband. Lead attorney for the lawsuit John Fiske said,

We are asking for full disclosure of the dangerous aspects of the product and a full disclosure of why it's causing these injuries.

Now, if you recall back to my article on the news earlier this month, CEO James Park already wrote a letter and has put up a full, dedicated website on the matter. Because of that, a representative from Fitbit spoke about the lawsuit, saying that,

Based on our initial review of the lawsuit, the complaint asks for a recall of Force and a refund to consumers. Fitbit took initiative long before this complaint was filed, publicly offered refunds, and worked closely with the CPSC on its voluntary recall program. We strongly disagree with the statements about the product and the Company.

So, from Fitbit's standpoint, the company has already done the things requested by the lawsuit, which also goes along with common sense when you discover issues like this. From the lawsuit's standpoint, it feels a little like the people involved are just seeking monetary damages, as usual with these type of cases. But McDonald's now has to label hot coffee as hot, and BMW has to state that you shouldn't turn into a lake even if your GPS says so, as they both lost similar common sense cases like this. My guess is that the same thing will happen here and Fitbit will have to say that "metal might give you rashes if you are allergic to metal." Not everyone is Fit to use the Force.

Sony Lays Off Hundreds of Employees in Media Division

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony Lays Off Hundreds of Employees in Media Division

After Sony's rejection of spinning off the media division in order to possibly save the company, CEO Kaz Hirai then had to cut $250 million from the media budget, which meant a reduction in movie releases for the year. Now, after another grueling loss in profits and revenue, Sony is laying off hundreds of employees in the division.

The terminations are happening at the California TV and film studio just outside of Los Angeles. In total 216 Sony employees will have to find new work and the company's interactive and digital marketing teams appear to have been hit the hardest. Sony started notifying employees of the layoffs this week and should have been done by Friday. This is after the company ended the employment of Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies, and Mitch Singer, the chief digital strategy officer for UltraViolet storage, back in January.

Sony spokesperson Charles Sipkins said in an email statement that, "We (Sony) are continuously evolving the business to make Sony Pictures Entertainment more efficient and competitive."

Now that Sony rejected a plan that could have possibly avoided this mess, are people still confident in the ability of its media division to pull through? More so, is Sony going to be around in five years? Things are looking bleak as it stands, with the consumer electronics division not doing well, however the one saving grace is the strong sales of Sony's latest gaming console, the PlayStation 4.

Can the momentum of the gaming unit keep the entire company afloat? So many questions and only time will give way to the answers. However, we're curious to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Marvel Adds Soundtrack and Commentary to Digital Comics

posted Sunday Mar 9, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Marvel Adds Soundtrack and Commentary to Digital Comics

Announced this afternoon at their SXSW, Marvel has added a few long expected multimedia features to their Marvel Unlimited mobile apps. Beginning with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel has begun adding a collection of additions to their new release comics.

Intended to make the books more immersive, one of the media features will be a smart soundtrack capability, which they refer to as "adaptive audio," playing related Marvel-style music from scene to scene as you read through the digital book. Kristin Vincent, Marvel's vice president of digital products, said the goal was to make the digital version of the comics feel more authentically digital, without becoming foreign to the avid comic readers. She added,

We knew we had something conceptually but we weren't sure how it was going to work with comics. We wanted to figure out how we could tell stories in new ways.

Arune Singh, director of communications for publishing and digital media, believes that this could fundamentally change the way digital comics are produced by the company, stating,

The way we used to paste comics together on the page in production, so far we have been pasting comics on our iPad. Now, we have adaptive audio.

It is definitely a change in the way that Marvel thinks about comics and their production. The adaptive audio is a huge shift in production, and an interesting technological feat. The app, now written in native code as opposed to HTML5, is able to detect when you switch panels and adjust the music PER PANEL with background score similar to the films. It is also able to adapt the music's speed and transitions based on how quickly you individually read the comics: a faster reader will have quicker transitions planned.

In addition to the adaptive audio, there is also the ability for DVD commentary-style videos. While certainly not the most popular part of a DVD, commentary is popular among a particular type of viewer. Many of those viewers are the same ones who are avid comic readers, so this feature makes a lot of sense. This feature has been available before now, but via a QR code, mostly in print comics, meaning that the already digital content was mostly unavailable to already digital subscribers.

If neither of these new features are exciting to you, there is good news. Both are able to be turned off in the app's settings.

Newsweek Returns to Print, Sets Off Internet Manhunt

posted Sunday Mar 9, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Newsweek Returns to Print, Sets Off Internet Manhunt

This is one of the weirder stories we have ever covered here that isn't in the middle of April or based in New Jersey. Newsweek, after taking a 15 month hiatus from its print edition, returned to printing this week with a bang. In addition to the obvious coverage that accompanied the first major digital reversal, Newsweek decided to print a massive 4,600 word article about Bitcoin. Specifically, they printed that they had identified, found and confirmed the identity of the illusive Bitcoin founder.

Known to the Internet simply as Satoshi Nakamoto, the possibly fake name of the Internet poster who had originally unveiled the Bitcoin concept, Newsweek tracked the name back to 64-year-old southern California resident Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. Thursday morning, they printed the article, which included a quote from Dorian, "I'm no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it." That confession was all that was needed to go to print.

A few hours later, news reporters from all over the area had found Dorian's address and were camped out outside, hoping to catch a photo of the man or, even better, get a quote from him. Obviously, everyone was hoping for the type of success Newsweek had found with their article, finding some sort of exclusive piece of information, despite no reporter having any privacy from the others.

At lunchtime is when things started to heat up in the race for a scoop. Dorian, probably getting tired of people in his yard and growing hungry, decided to take advantage of the media circus and comes outside. Of course, he is immediately barraged by reporters and, on video, denies having been involved in the creation of Bitcoin. He doesn't answer any questions from anyone, but does seem to quickly make a decision, probably with no information, about which reporter he will speak to, tells the crowd he would like his free lunch and takes the reporter away.

The reporter, the Associated Press's Joe Bel Bruno takes Dorian to lunch at a sushi restaurant, with a parade of reporters following behind in what LA has become famous for: car chases. After arriving at the restaurant, and the other reporters joining them, the two leave and head off to the Associated Press offices to talk in private.

As morning turns to afternoon, the two spoke privately for two full hours, with everyone else from the #Bitcoinchase waiting outside. While they speak, it is assumed that Dorian continued to deny his involvement in Bitcoin, as shortly after the AP published a story about his denial. Obviously someone created the digital currency, but it seems it is not Dorian.

That evening, in a Jawed Karim-style return to the Internet, the "real" Satoshi Nakamoto broke their 5 years of complete silence to post thier own denial saying simply, "I am not Dorian Nakamoto." With this possibly correct new information, what is the Internet supposed to do?

Friday morning Newsweek responds to the mountain of evidence that their story may have not been entirely, or at all, factual. They claim that "the same high editorial and ethical standards that have guided Newsweek for more than 80 years" were in play during the fact gathering process for this story and that "The facts as reported point toward Mr. Nakamoto's role in the founding of Bitcoin."

Friday afternoon, two important things happened. First, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office claimed that the quote in the original article was correct, and was reported by the Los Angeles Times. This leads us all to believe that, either the question was not understood by Dorian, or the response was misunderstood.

Around the same time, TechCrunch was able to confirm that the email address used to post the denial from the "real" Satoshi Nakamoto is the same one used to post the original Bitcoin spec. This certainly suggests that it is the same person/people that are letting us know that Dorian is unrelated to the process. That sounds like double confirmation to me.

There is no telling how this story will eventually end, but one thing is for certain: the Bitcoin creator is real and Dorian does not fit the bill. Someone will find the person/people responsible one day.

Rumor: Facebook Spends $60 Million on Solar-Powered Drones

posted Sunday Mar 9, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Rumor: Facebook Spends $60 Million on Solar-Powered Drones

Move over, NSA. It looks like Facebook might have spent $60 million on solar-powered drones that can fly for five years without needing to land. This week, the Internet giant has been rumored to have acquired Titan Aerospace, a New Mexico-based start-up and the company behind these insane devices.

The good news is that on face value, or at least according to what Facebook says, we won't see them using these drones to spy on you sun tanning in your backyard. Instead, Facebook, vowing to make the Internet more affordable and accessible to 5 billion people worldwide as part of the movement, has probably purchased Titan Aerospace in order to make that promise more of a reality.

Sources close to the matter said that Facebook would be building 11,000 of Titan Aerospace's Solara 60 model. This drone runs off of internal battery power and is launched at night. It then uses the solar panels attached to the unit to rise up to 12.5 miles above sea level, about 3 miles higher than commercial and military jets. The Solara 50 has a wingspan the same as a Boeing-787 and can carry a 70 pound payload. The company is also looking to launch the Solara 60 sometime in 2015, which will be able to hold 250 pounds.

All in, these aircraft should be able to dish up Internet access in an 18-mile radius. Hooking up 11,000 of these bad boys in one insanely true-to-life Skynet would surely make Internet an accessible thing to almost everyone.

Of course, all this is a rumor as of right now until we get an official statement from either party involved, but it sure does make sense, considering Facebook's stance on affordable Internet. To further aid the rumor to being true is the recent $16 million purchase of WhatsApp, a company that currently has 1 billion users, of which, Facebook is looking to tap into. Perhaps the two worlds can unite and Facebook's "next billion" initiative can become a reality. Hey, if it puts the power of the Internet in more hands, I'm okay with all of this. Well, as long as I can suntan in peace.

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