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The earthquake in Japan and the resulting flood as well as the threatening nuclear crisis now also induced the gaming industry to take some servers offline to save engery.
It is still unknown how high the radioactive exposure of the damaged nuclear plant Fukushima 1 is, which is about 250 kilometers north of Tokio. However, because of the earthquake as well as the tsunami, energy runs short. Therefore the publisher Square Enix took some servers offline, which will stay offline for the whole next week at least. This means that the Final Fantasy servers as well as the Play Online servers are down.
Konami also plans to shutdown the Metal Gear servers in order to support Japan.
The 4th NFC Congress 2011 took place in Hagenberg, Austria, on February 22nd and 23rd. 2011 will be an extensive year for the NFC community around the world, thus the NFC Congress was the right place to exchange views, experiences and information about the newest mobile phones, rollouts, services and technologies. In addition to the Business and Applications Conference, a Developer and Scientific Workshop provided a forum for researchers from academia and industry.
Google and NFC
Google announced NFC support for their devices in November 2010 for Android 2.3 Gingerbread. NFC is also available on the Nexus S, which is available since December 2010. However, this device initially only provided NDEF reading of NFC tags. An update to Android 2.3.3 adds writing functionality to NFC for the platform. Also support for more tag types, which have been certified by the NFC Forum, was added but P2P functionality is still limited (NDEF push). With the update the Nexus S provides an embedded secure element as well as SWP. The Samsung Galaxy S2 on the other hand comes with a fully functional NFC reader and also provides SWP. However, the device does not provide a secure element. Samsung also presented a live demo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
For Google, NFC is a logical extension to Google’s Places and Hotpot services. They already tested some Google Places Business Kit applications in Portland using some window stickers. Mr. Schmidt, speaking to a small
group of reporters late Tuesday after his keynote presentation at the Mobile World Congress, said Google could work with advertisers to “extend offers to phones with NFC chips.” Advertisers, he said, were interested in combining an ad
and an offer, presumably at the point of sale. Google is not looking to get into deals with exchanges for terminals and other areas that credit card companies are hoping to dominate, he said. Although NFC technology has been around for several years, Mr. Schmidt said he thought current ultra-powerful smartphone processors were speedy and sophisticated enough to handle those transactions and advertising deals.
Google has set its sights on neighborhood mom-and-pop shops, where it sees a largely untapped group of business customers and advertisers. When combined with GPS, NFC chips could make it much easier for
the company to show advertisements as a person swipes their phone to make a purchase or is in the process of storing information about or purchasing products.
Why is a secure element embedded if focus is only on advertisement which is a true “reader mode” use case and who controls the keys of the secure element, so which party can enabled “card emulation” services like m-payment to be hosted? For the moment Active NFC stickers can be used that provide Mifare card emulation, a secure element and feature full reader mode. These small stickers, can be placed at the bottom of any mobile phone. From the developer’s point of view the stickers can be accessed using bluetooth for OTA personalisation or visualisation of SE in any Android application.
Apple and NFC
Apple is leading the user experience on mobile devices. The simple NFC touch brings better end-user experience when connecting two devices, initiating a transaction or linking the app shop experience to a real shop experience. Apple has filed at least 14 patents where NFC is in the main claims:
- Simplified Resource Sharing
- Electronic Event Tickets
- Secure Wireless Transactions
- Media Gifts
- Portable Point of Purchase devices
- Peer to Peer financial transactions
- Peer to Peer sharing
- Control of electronic devices
- Transportation check-in
According to some expectations, NFC will be limited to tag reading to initiate transactions and P2P mode will work between Apple devices only as it is the same for the Game Kit. The secure element in the second stage (if there will be one) is expected to be controlled by Apple only, so it will only be available on a revenue share model like on the app store.
Apple’s motivation is having 200 million credit cards already registered for iTunes. That’s nice, but without Mastercard or Visa the use on an NFC iPhone will not be possible. But according to some silicon valley insiders latest rumors that Apple is interested in purchasing Vivotech to get into NFC accepting devices are not true. However, Apple is already placing orders for components and final manufacturing for its forthcoming NFC-savvy iPhone 5 device, bringing new manufacturers into the supply line and plotting for early and mid-summer ship dates (well, February production and May production cycles for some manifestation the following months) for the device, latest reports claim.
According to Phone Scoop, Deutsche Telekom today gave a presentation at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona outlining its adoption of NFC technology for mobile payments, and during the course of the presentation noted that it expects an NFC-enabled device from Apple to debut sometime this year. Deutsche Telekom announced that it expects NFC phones in 2011 from Apple, Samsung in Q2, and RIM & LG in Q3. The company expects mobile payments replacing cash to be the most popular use for NFC technology, followed by mobile ticketing for services such as public transportation. It is of course unknown whether Deutsche Telekom representatives were simply speculating based on the existing NFC-enabled iPhone rumors, or if they have additional information that may have been gleaned from testing with the new device.
iCarte 3 as an addon for iPhone 3G, 3GS and iCarte 4 as a NFC Shell for iPhone 4 featuring:
- Secure Element according to GP standard
- Mastercard and Visa certification
- Mifare Emulation
- Mifare reading
- P2P upcoming
The develeopment team around American McGee’s action adventure Alice Madness Returns, which will be released in June 2011, comes up with the first gameplay trailers. Check out the scary ambience and the cool setting of the game.
A few days ago I posted a some screenshots demonstrating a few new features for the Unreal Engine 3. Now, here is a demo video in HD:
Epic Games‘ Unreal Engine 3 game development tools are by far the most popular third party software tools used by game developers around the world. Two days ago at GDC 2011, Epic Games announced that an upcoming update to Unreal Engine 3 will allow the tools to support DirectX 11 graphics features including tessellation.
The demo is running at Epic’s GDC 2011 booth using Nvidia‘s GeForce GTX 500-based graphics cards. Unreal Engine 3 already supports Nvidia’s propiertary gameplay features such as PhysX (for in-game physics) and APEX (for more realistic animations). In addition to Unreal Engine 3 the free UDK software will also get an update that will support DirectX 11 graphics features.
New features such as billboard reflections, subsurface scattering, shadowed point light reflections and bokeh depth of field are only a few features to be included. However, these features are included in the Unreal Engine 3, which makes up a Unreal Engine 3.995 rather than a Unreal Engine 4.0
Current browser games mostly make use of plugins, flash or they require a special player. Google plans to improve browser gaming by removing these special requirements. At the GDC 2011 Google demonstrated a first Demo showing Quake II in a common browser just based on GWT and HTML 5.
According to Vincent Scheib, one of Google’s software engineers, all games work without plugins or a certain player:
Most of the techniques and technologies presented in these demos are already available or at least in a beta stage. It is not necessary to use flash.
First of all, Vincent presented a version of Jake 2 in his browser – without plugin, without flash and without a special player. Jake 2 is a Java version of the original Quake II source code by id Software. Technologies used for the game are WebGL 3D graphics, HTML5 audio, HTML5 WebSockets, HTML5 LocalStorage, HTML5 Canvas. The game runs at 60 frames per seconds and there is also multiplayer mode supported. For the moment, the game runs in Chrome and Safari. HTML5 also allows dynamic rendering of bitmap graphics.