Tag Archives: Microsoft

Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiative revealed

After patiently waiting for days Bioware and EA have unveiled the Mass Effect Andromeda Initiative. What started out as a trailer has now turned into an interactive site where you learn more about the backstory of Mass Effect Andromeda. 

 Your reward for completing the initiative. 
Your reward for completing the initiative. 

Upon completion, you’re rewarded with a “pathfinder grade” helmet, as pictured above. If you’ve been starving for some Mass Effect news this is a great way to delve deep into the world and earn yourself a nifty prize. Mass Effect Andromeda can’t come soon enough. 

Microsoft Surface Studio: Retrospective

 Image courtesy: Microsoft.com
Image courtesy: Microsoft.com

With the dust settling from last weeks Microsoft (MSFT) press conference, it’s time to look back on the Surface Studio with clear eyes. To call the Surface Studio an “iMac clone”, is not only stupendously inaccurate but misses the mark who this product is intended for. The Surface Studio is aimed at business professionals such as architects, creative designers, magazine editors etc… Where the iMac has long been used by creative professionals it is also has low end options that are perfect for everyday users browsing the web. The Surface Studio starting at $3000 dollars is not the machine you want to buy to browse Facebook. It’s for those who want to “Do More” with their products and get the most out of them. 

It’s easy and lazy to compare the two. They’re both all in one computing machines, the display is the prominent feature, use a stand and have the brushed aluminum look. Apple (AAPL) may have popularized the all in one but Microsoft is taking it to a new level. Targeting the creative professionals is a bold move from Microsoft. Aligning with their strategy of devices that “Do more”. The Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 have long been targeted at those who need more from their computing devices. Business and tech press have taken notice of the Surface Studio and touted Microsoft’s bold take on an all in one PC. Where Apple is removing headphone jacks and claiming courage the Surface Studio delivers a new way of thinking about the desktop. The iMac which was once the pinnacle of all in one personal computers and the crown jewel of a desk, now seems outdated. Competitors from the likes of Dell, Hp, Lenovo, and others have competitive or better specs and are not bad looking designs. Though none of these devices have the look and clout of an iMac, they offer distinct features, cheaper prices and better hardware in most cases. The saving grace for iMac’s are the incredible 4K and 5K screens which come at a considerable cost. Apple is still great at industrial design, but has clearly shown they have no interest in making a touch screen iMac. The omission of a new iteration of iMac’s at Apple’s event was disappointing for fans. Apple is very diligent in the markets they enter. If the Surface Studio starts chipping away at Apple’s high end creative professional market, expect to see a reaction from Cupertino. While the Hp’s and Dell’s are not battling it out in the high end Microsoft has changed the game with the Surface Studio and it’s gorgeous 4.5K display, discrete graphics and unique “zero gravity” hinge. Which lays the device down at a 20 degree angle and functions much like a drafting board. The one way Microsoft has learned from Apple is how to make compelling videos that elicit emotion from their audience. This incredible reveal of the Surface Studio and its features paired with an incredible rendition of “Pure Imagination” hits all the right notes of how to deliver a message. 

Enthusiast will point out the high starting price for the Surface Studio. Though as stated Microsoft has chosen to focus on the higher end and target creatives, going so far as to name their next Windows 10 update the “creators update”. A graphic designer who would usually purchase a Wacom tablet for digital inking plus an 4 or 5K iMac for the computer side of things has a legitimate new option. A 13in Wacom cintiq tablet cost 800 dollars to start and clearly states it must be connected to a computer to work. Pair that with a $1600 iMac or PC of your choice and a 28in 4.5K Surface Studio that can do all that is looking a lot more appealing. The Surface Studio is not without its faults. It would be nice if the base hardware specs were an intel core i7 processor and a slightly beefier graphics card at a 3000 dollar starting price but what you’re getting in one device makes up for the cost of multiple devices. For a first gen model it’s pretty incredible what the folks at Redmond have come up with. The Surface Dial while not officially a part of the Surface Studio delivers another unique way to interact with the product and it does come free with all initial pre-orders for the time being. Contextual menus on the screen, color palettes, scrolling, zooming, volume controls etc… It’s nice to see a new way of thinking to interact with our devices.  

Microsoft has its work cut out for itself. Windows 10 the operating system which all this fancy hardware exist still has some issues with updates botching systems, rendering web cams unusable and the overall growing pains of switching Windows to a delivery service with constant updates as opposed to major 3 year cycles. Apple has long been known for its computers “just working”. If Microsoft expects creative pro’s and business’ to invest in these high cost machines it better make sure the ugly issues with their previous Surface devices (pardon the pun) don’t resurface. Despite these harsh critiques Windows 10 is a great operating system and Microsoft has the extra burden of supporting thousands and thousands of different configurations of computers that Apple does not have. But with a high point of entry comes high expectations. Microsoft can ill afford another “Surfacegate” with Surface Studio. With Microsoft swinging for the fences and pushing itself to deliver impressive products and new categories of computing it’ll help push its competitors to innovate in new and exciting ways. If they can correct their past sins with new hardware launches, Microsoft can position themselves as the haven for creatives it envisions. 

Microsoft Releases Minecraft Xbox One S Favorites Bundle

 image source: Microsoftstore.com
image source: Microsoftstore.com

Today Microsoft announced its latest Xbox One S bundle featuring Minecraft. Despite everyone already playing Minecraft the game continually sells well every month. This Xbox One S bundle is a great way to get those still waiting to upgrade to the new console. The bundle includes a downloadable copy of not only Minecraft for Xbox One but also a downloadable copy of Minecraft beta for Windows 10. The system itself has a 500gb hard drive. Not great but at least it’s priced correctly at $299. Considering the target audience for a Minecraft console the price had to be low in order to incentivize parents to get it for their kids come holiday season. The bundle also includes 13 favorite community packs including Halo Mash up and Festive Mash up. While not the “sexiest” of bundles be sure it’ll move a decent amount of xbox one s’ come holiday season. 

Hands On Preview: Recore

 Image Copyright: Dinosaur Spaceship
Image Copyright: Dinosaur Spaceship

With only weeks till release Recore to many is an amalgam. Its debut last year at E3 was filled with fancy CGI that gave no hint to what the game was about. This past E3 Microsoft delivered about a 60 second sizzle reel that showed some of its mechanics but not much; combined with a $40 price tag people are concerned about the quality of the game. After hands on time with Recore at Nerd HQ the game showed signs of promise but revealed very little again.

In Recore you play as Joule Adams awoken from cryo sleep on a planet Far Eden that was to be the new home for humans. Something has gone wrong, most of the “corebots” that were supposed to be helping terraform the planet are instead hostile. From there, your journey begins. Recore at its heart is part platformer and part shooter. The demo I had hands on time with was low on the platformer side and heavy on the shooting side. 

The shooting mechanics were enjoyable with more to it than just holding down the trigger. Different types of robots need different types of ammo to effectively take down. The ammo was mapped to your a,b,x, and y buttons. This provided a nice change of pace then simply blasting everything in sight with little or no thought. The platforming pieces came into play when I needed to scale a wall. Thanks to a jet pack Joule can double jump and one of her trusty corebots can help sling her against walls and carry her higher up. In the demo there was a male voice giving Joule directions so perhaps she is not alone on the planet or it is an AI of some type. The demo did not make this part clear. Hopefully Microsoft will release more information on Recore before it is available to get a better feel for what the game actually is. The Gamescom demo  did not show much more than what had already been seen with the exception of a couple more core mechanics. These core mechanics gave a hint to the upgrade system of the corebots adding new abilities. 

Though my time was enjoyable I could see myself growing weary of all the jumping and shooting. The world needs to be rich and enticing in order for me to keep going back. Microsoft and the developer have held back talking about any more of the story and world behind Recore. Hopefully that choice was made to preserve the experience when playing the game for the first time and not because there’s not much more to talk about. 

 

 

“Hey Cortana” Fancy Seeing You Here

 image source: Microsoft
image source: Microsoft

Today Microsoft announced the roll out of the Xbox summer update. With it brings improved UI features, background music and much more. But the biggest addition of them all is Cortana. If you don’t use Microsoft products you may be unfamiliar with Microsoft’s digital voice assistant. With Cortana you can use casual conversational English to ask her to do things like check the weather or sports scores among many other things. Cortana has been available on Windows phone for the last two years and on Windows 10 the last year. With this update Microsoft brings Cortana to the Xbox. As a lucky member of the Xbox preview program I’ve had hands on time with this update for the past couple months. Cortana is everything you want her to be and much more useful than the antiquated voice commands the Xbox One previously utilized solely through Kinect. Everyone can now use voice commands on an Xbox One with either a headset or Kinect. Most likely the former as Microsoft has nary a mention of the Kinect in the past few years and stopped bundling it with the system years back as well. If you have an Xbox One go to settings and check for your update to experience it all for yourself. If you need a little help here’s a video from Microsoft showing off all the new features. Happy gaming. 

E3 2016: Microsoft Press Conference

 source: xbox.com
source: xbox.com

After a somber start to the conference with Microsoft acknowledging the victims in Orlando with a moment of silence. They kicked things off by announcing the Xbox One S. A device that is 40% smaller than the original, includes High Dynamic Range technology for games and 4K media playback. Microsoft also announced “Play Anywhere” whereupon buying a title digitally nets you the copy for both Xbox One and Windows 10 on select titles. There weren’t many surprises as many things had been leaked in the previous weeks. “Project Scorpio” Microsoft’s answer to fans who complained the Xbox One was under-powered. The usual suspects were on display with “Gears of War 4“, “Halo Wars 2” and it’s open beta starting today, Monday June 13th and lasting till the 20th. Dead Rising 4 was announced with the return of Frank West. “Forza Horizon 3” was announced, “Recore” had a quick showing, “Scalebound” has a 4 person demo and “Sea of Thieves” had a pre-recorded demo showing off some of the gameplay. Microsoft also introudeced “Xbox Design Lab” where fans can create their own unique Xbox One controller for purchase. Some welcome features like “Clubs” and “Looking for Group” have been added to Xbox Live. Overall it was a solid though not surprising showing from Microsoft. We’re excited to see what PlayStation has in store later tonight.