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Review: Star Wars Pinball photo
Review: Star Wars Pinball
by Brett Zeidler

It's been a couple years since Zen Studios first took on the Marvel license and subsequently released expertly crafted tables centered around the biggest characters and story arcs in the comic book giant's vast library. Each table outdid the last, and it seemed like there was no way they could do any better with the next tables. Then they did.

After fifteen tables and no signs of slowing down, the studio has done a brilliant job with the Marvel license, so what would the next logical step be for the masterminds at Zen? Well, Star Wars Pinball, of course.

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Valve fires employees from hardware and Android teams photo
Valve fires employees from hardware and Android teams
by Jordan Devore

[Update: Valve head Gabe Newell offered the following statement to Engadget: "We don't usually talk about personnel matters for a number of reasons. There seems to be an unusual amount of speculation about some recent changes here, so I thought I'd take the unusual step of addressing them. No, we aren't canceling any projects. No, we aren't changing any priorities or projects we've been discussing. No, this isn't about Steam or Linux or hardware or [insert game name here]. We're not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn't working here."]

Last night, word got out that Jeri Ellsworth had been fired from Valve. While I didn't think too much of it at the time, she was a part of the company's hardware R&D division and, as we learned today, she was not alone in being let go. What's going on at Valve?

Gamasutra is reporting that "several employees" have been laid off, including folks who were on hardware and Android development at Valve, with employees describing the situation as a "great cleansing." While unconfirmed, the number "25" has been brought up.

Considering the profitability of the company, it would seem that this has more to do with the direction Valve is heading in than anything else. Gamasutra suspects the cuts were due to company challenges as opposed to individual employee performance, which makes a lot of sense as new initiatives are underway.

Several out of work as Valve makes 'large decisions' about its future [Gamasutra]

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Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary photo
Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary
by Chris Carter

All this Grand Theft Auto anniversary talk makes me feel old. It feels like just yesterday I was listening to Michael Jackson, swerving around as Tommy Vercetti, and taking in the sights of Rockstar's faux-Miami setting.

I think a lot of people missed out on Vice City because it came out so soon after Grand Theft Auto III, and that's a shame. Just like Grand Theft Auto III on mobile devices before it, this new anniversary edition honors the franchise's legacy: so long as you're willing to put up with touch controls.

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Review: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition photo
Review: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
by Patrick Hancock

Baldur's Gate will forever be regarded as one of the classic PC RPGs. A lot of people never experienced it back in 1998, and it's not exactly the best-looking game anymore. To complicate things, it can be a pain to get the old game to run on newer machines, even after GOG.com began selling the title.

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition not only remedies these issues, it also adds a good amount of new content, making it way easier to recommend to someone who previously missed out.

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From the goat shack to Kickstarter: The origin of Stoic photo
From the goat shack to Kickstarter: The origin of Stoic
by Allistair Pinsof

A developer talking passionately about its game, a journalist receiving answers to questions without fail, and nothing in between keeping either side from doing what they set out to do. This is how it should be, but it rarely ever is these days.

Games have become more than entertainment. They are now multimillion dollar investments that can sink a company with 1,000+ employees or propel a humble one to graze the Fortune 500. Marketing, press representation, media tours, exclusive deals, sponsorships, trade show booths, partners, podcasts, blogs, downloadable content schedules, and social media presence have become part of the song and dance that is bringing a game to market in 2012.

But, over there -- way over there -- is a small studio called Stoic that is making a game like it’s 1999 again.

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OUYA interview: Julie Uhrman tackles consoles & critics photo
OUYA interview: Julie Uhrman tackles consoles & critics
by Jim Sterling

The OUYA console has generated a lot of discussion in the week since it was unveiled, and no small amount of controversy to boot. The Android-powered system hoped to raise funds via Kickstarter and had its wish granted in a stunning amount of time -- at the time of writing, OUYA has raised $4,895,999 ... with a goal of $950,000 and 23 days to go!

After the first day of fundraising, however, cynicism kicked in. The console has been accused of potentially "scamming" users, while Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade wrote a very skeptical article urging users to be cautious. Opinions are divided, with some hoping to trust the developers, and others planning to keep well away. 

I went straight to the source of the debate -- chiefly developer CEO Julie Uhrman -- to discuss the potential of OUYA, the plans for its future, and whether or not the accusations leveled against the project are worth considering.

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Kickstarter for Ouya Android console surpasses $3.5M photo
Kickstarter for Ouya Android console surpasses $3.5M
by Jordan Devore

The buzz for the upcoming Android-powered game console Ouya has been out of control lately, and much of that has taken the form of contributions for the system's Kickstarter campaign. At the time of writing, it has brought in $3,564,131 with a whopping 28 days left to go.

In the project's first update, the Ouya team says it's working hard to figure out how to handle the issue of all that extra money; talk about a wonderful problem to have. "Now we want to blow you away. The biggest thing for us right now: we are working on our stretch goals, what we can do if we raise more money. It might take us a few days to figure that out, and we want your help."

Personally, I really like the open spirit of the Ouya, but I'm skeptical that the games will be able to deliver in the long term. That's not as much of a concern for many of the Kickstarter contributors, clearly, though it's a concern I have seen expressed elsewhere and one I'd love to see proven wrong.

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$99 hackable Android console Kickstarter: $75k in 1 hour! photo
$99 hackable Android console Kickstarter: $75k in 1 hour!
by Dale North

The Ouya is a $99 Android-based game console that would come with free-to-play games and a development kit. Or, it will be once they make enough cash on Kickstarter to get it going. I think they'll be fine, though: They've raised over $75,000 of their $950,000 goal in one hour this morning!

The organizers say that they love console gaming, but have seen the market push developers away and more toward mobile gaming. This is their answer to the current situation, making games less expensive to make and buy. Their only condition to developers on the Ouya: at least some gameplay has to be free. That shouldn't be a problem, as just the whole industry seems to be moving that direction. 

Aside from the Android OS (4.0), the console would be Tegra3-based, have 1GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage, and sport HDMI and USB connectors. The concept image above shows a lovely wireless controller.

So, big, TV-sized, free-to-play games out of a little Android-based console? For $99? No wonder they've raised $75k in an hour. In fact, the pledge number jumped up to over $92,000 while I was writing this blog!

Are you down for an Android-based console? 

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E3: Microsoft introduces Xbox SmartGlass photo
E3: Microsoft introduces Xbox SmartGlass
by Jim Sterling

Microsoft has today announced Xbox Smart Glass, a new bit of tech that will "transform the devices you already own and love." Smart Glass is, essentially, a feature that allows all your entertainment systems to communicate and and work together to enhance the way you watch films, listen to music, and play games. 

Working with your Xbox 360, iOS, and Android devices, Smart Glass is designed to immerse the user in their entertainment. This can range from starting to watch a movie on a smartphone and then having the 360 resume it at home, to more interesting gimmicks such as watching Game of Thrones on the 360 while having your tablet sync up and portray a map of the series' world, giving you detailed information on the show you're watching as it happens. 

In games, you could spot an interesting object while having a round of Halo, and information about that object can beam straight to your handheld device. It was also revealed that you can use a portable gadget to select plays in Madden. Naturally, this can open up some interesting new ways to enjoy a game. 

Smart Glass sounds pretty interesting, and has certainly livened up an otherwise dreary conference. Very interested to see how it turns out.

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Sony announces two Android-based tablets photo
Sony announces two Android-based tablets
by Conrad Zimmerman

It was only a matter of time before Sony joined the rapidly developing tablet market. Today, they have announced two new tablet devices they plan to be releasing this fall. Code named "S1" and "S2", the tablets will run Android 3.0 and will be Wi-Fi and WAN (3G/4G) compatible.

The "S1" tablet features a 9.5" screen and a wedge-like shape Sony says, "realizes stability and ease of grip as well as a sense of stability and lightness, offering comfortable use for hours." Meanwhile, the "S2" has two 5.5" screens in a clamshell design. 

The dual-screen setup is intriguing. It's hard to judge just from the image (which may not even be the final design) but with 5.5" screens, I would expect it to be very portable and excellent for typing. It could also have some real problems with compatibility. Unusual hardware design is the bane of Android's existence, the other edge of the open-source sword, making it a constant challenge for application designers to make their code work with everything. Add one more to the pile, I guess.

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App Attack: Infinity Blade, Game Dev Story, N.O.V.A 2 photo
App Attack: Infinity Blade, Game Dev Story, N.O.V.A 2
by Jim Sterling

Many of you will have learned by now that I've started to become quite a spokesman for mobile gaming this past year. I think it's important, and I've been frustrated that I haven't been able to cover it properly. Hence, App Attack!

This is the pilot episode of what I hope will be a new Destructoid series. The editing is rough because I did this whole show on my own and I don't have much in the way of video talent. If it's considered worthwhile, I'll hopefully get someone with skills to help me. 

Anyway, check it out and see if you like it. I'll really appreciate constructive feedback, so feel free to let me know what you liked and despised!

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