The UpStream

Verizon Blamed for Slow Netflix Speeds by Bandwidth Provider

posted Thursday Jun 20, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Verizon Blamed for Slow Netflix Speeds by Bandwidth Provider

Many Verizon customers are starting to recognize a lack of performance on their Netflix streams. The blame seems to lie in a battle between Verizon and Cogent Communications, who is a major bandwidth provider. The battle exists over a concept known as peering, which you might not know anything about. Let me explain.

The concept is this: two companies that provide Internet access can transfer traffic between each other for free, allowing both companies to provide decent service to their customers. Verizon is a huge provider of consumer Internet access and Cogent is a major provider of bandwidth, making them a pretty good pairing. When ports get jammed, the sharing begins.

The problem lies in Verizon's tendency to allow the ports to jam up and not transfer bandwidth. Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer said,

They are allowing the peer connections to degrade. Today some of the ports are at 100 percent capacity. Think of it as the on-ramp to the freeway being log-jammed.

Verizon let Cogent know that the reason for this policy change was because Cogent was providing bandwidth for a major media company. The company, according to Schaeffer, is Netflix. So, with the popularity of Netflix, why would Verizon get up-in-arms about who Cogent decides to do business with? Verizon is part owner of RedBox Instant. So, this is a Google-style anti-trust business decision.

As we know, FTC investigations over self-service promotion have cost Google plenty; it seems like a crazy decision for Verizon to be going down the same road, just a few years behind.

Hopefully Verizon, along with Comcast and Time Warner Cable who have also had Netflix degradation issues, will realize that limiting Netflix quality doesn't send people looking for other video services, but instead other Internet services.

Microsoft Changes Policy on Used Games and Online Check

posted Wednesday Jun 19, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Changes Policy on Used Games and Online Check

A visit to the Xbox Wire today revealed quite an interesting turn of events. If you've been following the news since the Microsoft E3 press briefing, you'll know that the new Xbox One caught a lot of slack for needing to be "always online" to check that you have a legitimate copy of the game you bought. Our editor-in-chief Scott Ertz went into detail after the press day of E3 as to why this was and why Sony was kind of doing the same thing. Well, it appears that enough people have complained to Microsoft, on the Internet, that they don't have Internet, and Microsoft has changed its mind on some of its policies that the Internet disagreed with.

Here are the highlights of the policy changes, from the update Xbox Wire today,

Update on June 19, 2013: As a result of feedback from the Xbox community, we have changed certain policies for Xbox One reflected in this blog.

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

•An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games - After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

•Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today - There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console - there will be no regional restrictions.

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.

So, a lot of people are extremely happy with all of this, saying that "gamers won" and that the Internet was able to reject a limitation. But isn't this simply stifling the future and innovation? Microsoft said this announcement will change some previous scenarios for the Xbox One. Could this include some of the very innovative cloud-connected features we saw announced at E3 and at the media presentation? Are we yet again going down the path of preventing the inevitable future, albeit a bit longer, for the never-ending desire for immediate satisfaction and to save a few bucks (or not) at GameStop? It all boils down to making sure the developer who spends 18 hours a day working on your game, gets paid for the work he puts out. And until that happens, should we, as a gaming community, accept the fact that gaming studios lose revenue due to third party game retailers?

Obviously, a lot of questions are still unanswered, even after the policy announcement, and it would appear that I am one of the few that does not see that this news is all roses and daisies? There's a bunch of time left until the consoles get launched, and things can surely change in that time. That, and there's still a bunch to be announced from both Microsoft and Sony. Do you agree with my sentiment? Let me know in the comments below.

Nintendo to Serve Up a Free-to-Play Game by March, Platform Unknown

posted Monday Jun 17, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Nintendo to Serve Up a Free-to-Play Game by March, Platform Unknown

Since Nintendo didn't hold a big press conference this year like Microsoft and Sony, largely to them not having a console to release, what was Nintendo doing during E3 this year? Aside from holding several private events to talk about games (Bayonetta!) and future roadmaps for the Wii U and 3DS, the company also chose to announce that they are taking on a new path in their gaming world.

During an analyst briefing, Nintendo said they are pushing forward with their first free-to-play game some time before March of 2014, their fiscal year. As of right now, we are unsure as to what platform, or even what game it will be. What we do know is Nintendo said that there will be a big focus on DLC, expansions and free-to-play titles moving forward, which they hope will improve digital sales on both the Wii U and 3DS.

What we also know is what franchises the F2P game won't be for: Mario and Pokemon. Nintendo's CEO Satoru Iwata commented specifically on those two franchises, saying that they "already have good relationship in those brands" so they see no need in trying something uncertain in them that could potentially cause disaster.

David Gibson, an analyst who was in on the briefing, said,

Nintendo plans to boost digital sales with launches like new super luigi u but also the first free to play game. Nintendo free to play game will be released this fy but will not be Mario or Pokemon game as already have good relationship in those brands. FY is fiscal year ending march 2014. Nintendo analyst briefing comments earlier were from President Iwata and FTP game platform not clear but was said when talking about WiiU

This could either mean we'll see a brand new IP that is free to get started with, a resurrection of another, older franchise or even a successful brand that will take on the F2P beast. Either way, it's definitely new territory for Nintendo and could lead to future success if done the right way. At any rate, it's time to speculate. What game would you like to see free-to-play? Let us know in the comments below.

Steam Introduces Item Gifting and Trade Offers to the Entire Steam Platform

posted Sunday Jun 16, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Steam Introduces Item Gifting and Trade Offers to the Entire Steam Platform

Even though Valve's absence from E3 this year spoke volumes on the lack of relevancy the show is becoming with each passing year (regardless of how crazy Gabe Newell gets over the same time span), the company was still able to announce some news that gained some attention. This would be much like last year, when they announced Counter-Strike: Global Offensive during Microsoft's press briefing.

This year, however, Valve announced a pretty big Steam update that will include some features gamers have been wanting for a while. And, if you've been running the beta client, you would have seen these features come and go over the past couple of months.

First up is the new Trade Offers feature. Bringing some in-game economy features from Team Fortress 2, among other, into the full Steam platform, Trade Offers will allow you to send a trade request to other Steam users, outside of a game. You will be able to trade any items from any inventory in any of your Steam games and users can then choose to accept or reject any offers made. As of right now, this will be limited to your friends list, but Valve has said they will incorporate the entire Steam community in the near future.

The second big update is Item Gifting. As it stands, you can gift games that you purchase to pretty much anyone with an email address. However, it is still not possible to gift away inventory items, like TF2's Premium Upgrade item. Instead, you currently have to trade for the item, and only can do so in games that feature a trading system. Now, Item Gifting will let you choose in-game items and cosmetics to send to your friends, or even strangers if you wanted to.

The update should be rolling out soon, so keep looking back for the infamous Steam pop-up box about an update.

Outlast Captures Real-life Human Craziness to Make the Scariest Game Ever

posted Sunday Jun 16, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Outlast Captures Real-life Human Craziness to Make the Scariest Game Ever

I know I don't speak for everyone, but I am growing a little bit tired of zombie/horror games. It feels repetitive at this point, and nobody is bringing a fresh idea or concept of gameplay to the table. So when I first got wind of Outlast, from the description I thought we'd be in for another redundant iteration of shooting, running, hiding, hunting and gathering. Thankfully, I was wrong in the best possible way.

Developer studio Red Barrels takes the horror genre to a whole new level with their latest creation, Outlast. For those unfamiliar with the game, you play the role of one Miles Upshur, a journalist who has stepped foot into the Mount Massive Asylum, which houses convicted felonies who are mentally unstable. Upshur's mission is to unveil and expose the harsh reality of the treatment of these convicts and the only weapon he has is a camera. That's right, no guns, knives or clever Solid Snake tactics here; a camera is your only weapon of false defense. And, even though Upshur's motives are pure, the convicts are not very happy to have the presence of an outsider roaming about through the hospital and each inmate will react to your character in a different way.

Now, other than having the power of megapixels to defend yourself, what makes this game so different? Red Barrels hired on real-life neural psychologists in order to accurately portray the reactions and behaviors of mentally insane humans.

Philipp Morin, Red Barrels co-founder, said in an interview,

Working from real-world profiles and information has allowed us to portray a wide variety of behaviors to represent the patients in a realistic way. It's helped us validate ideas for the nature of the experiments that players will see in the game.

The information gathered from the doctors plays into the game in several ways. While some patients will see your character and go absolutely nuts, others will simply pay you no mind at all, and it will be up to you to determine who is safe to investigate and navigate around. Oh, and the best part about the entire experience is that not only do you merely have a camera, you also have the fighting and survival skills of a journalist (read: none). You better pack your running shoes, because if you get too close to the wrong inmate, it's off to the races to find the nearest maintenance shaft or closet to hide in.

So, while this may not be a hide-and-wait, run of the mill zombie shooter Manhunt game, this game will surely scare you on a more mental level. Literally. Want to see some of the insanity before you decide if you want to play it yourself? Check after the break, as we have the official trailer from the studio along with some live demo gameplay, courtesy of IGN. The game is slated for PC and PS4 only and will launch sometime this year.

Microsoft Stays Commtted to Xbox 360 with More Games, New Console

posted Saturday Jun 15, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Stays Commtted to Xbox 360 with More Games, New Console

Regardless of one's opinion of the Microsoft press event at E3, one thing for sure: Xbox was still committed to its 360 users. To prove this, they announced a huge variety of new Xbox 360 titles that will be releasing over the next 12 months, plus a bunch of free content, games and other exclusive offers. To round out their emphasis on the 360 before jumping into what everyone wanting to hear (and bash) about, the Xbox One, Microsoft also announced a brand new, redesigned Xbox 360.

In keeping with the look and feel of the Xbox One, the new Xbox 360 E model takes on a more box-like body, as opposed to the Xbox 360 S, which tapered off in the center from both sides. The Kinect also got a slight rehaul, and while it is nothing like the Kinect 2, the minor tweaks made to the frame really bring the full look together. Best of all, the new 360 is slimmer, quieter and does look a little sleeker than the previous one. Upon announcement, Microsoft made the console immediately available, although some retailers may take up to a week to get the product in-store.

On the commitment to the 360, Microsoft's Yusuf Medhi said,

Xbox 360 offers unrivaled value - with more great games, an Xbox Live community with 48 million members, and a compelling line-up of apps, sports, movies, TV and music. We've taken all we have learned these past eight years and engineered a new Xbox 360 console that is elegant and accessible to anyone. There's never been a better time to experience everything Xbox 360 has to offer.

Considering that the Xbox 360 S had no major flaws with it, I'd have to agree that now is the best time to upgrade your 360 console. I know I already picked one up, and you should too, at The Microsoft Store. The only downside is that you cannot buy a 250 GB version of it, with the Kinect bundle. The redesigned Xbox 360 is available for the same prices as the existing console: $199.99 for the 4 GB console, $299.99 for the 250 GB edition and $299.99 for the 4 GB Kinect Bundle. Luckily, I'm moving my hard drive into a new one as soon as it gets to my door step. How about you?

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