Pac-Man is one of the first gaming franchises that fans turned into a phenomenon. But these days, the yellow pizza-shaped hero is spending more time chasing other hit games than his own power pellets.
Bandai Namco released Pac-Man: Puzzle Tour for iOS and Android today. It is the publisher’s spin on the megapopular Candy Crush Saga games. Pac-Man must match together three of the same kinds of fruit instead of chasing ghosts through mazes. This is Bandai Namco’s latest crack at the $30 billion mobile market, and the company has once again tried to jump on a trend by leveraging one of its existing properties. Of course, Bandai Namco tried to do something new with Pac-Man last year with the well-received Pac-Man 256 from the studio that created the beloved mobile action hit Crossy Road. But that was an exception to the company’s general strategy that came from its efforts to revive its retro brands from the 1980s by working with indie developers. Puzzle Tour is not the result of that initiative.
Bandai Namco developed Puzzle Tour itself — just like it did with Pac-Man Bounce, Pac-Man Dash, and Tap My Katamari. Those previous apps also cloned mechanics from other, more popular games already on the market. Bounce is similar to the early mobile physics puzzler Cut The Rope. It is a puzzle game where you must fling Pac-Man through elaborately set up stages. Dash is an endless runner, which is one of the few genres more saturated on mobile than match-3. And Tap My Katamari is a mind-numbing take on those clicking games where all you do is tap the screen and buy powerups.
Despite these attempts to tack popular styles of gameplay onto a familiar franchise, Bandai Namco hasn’t had a ton of success on smartphones and tablets. It only has one game, Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle, in the top 200 highest-grossing apps on Google Play in the United States. In Japan, it’s doing better, according to data from industry-tracking firm App Annie. But most of that is coming from modern releases and licenses that primarily appeal to a Japanese audience. And, even then, it has nothing close to the hyper-lucrative Puzzle & Dragons and Monster Strike games that dominate mobile in Bandai Namco’s home territory.
But iOS and Android has too much money for the publisher to ignore, so that’s why we get something like Pac-Man: Puzzle Tour.
I tried Puzzle Tour out for myself, and it’s definitely a game where you match three things. Like everything else in this genre, it is free to download. It has a world map with various levels. It makes you feel like you feel great about almost every move you make by using audio and visual feedback. It also gives you obvious “fun pain,” which is a method of putting you in situations where you had fun making progress and then it threatens to take away the progress because you failed … unless you wanna spend some coins that you can buy for real money.
You can check out some of gameplay for yourself below:
But as derivative as Puzzle Tour is, it doesn’t take away from the original Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, or Pac-Man 256. This franchise still has plenty of great games.
And Puzzle Tour isn’t even the most depressing thing attached to the Pac-Man name. That honor goes to Pac-Man powered by Moff:
Evil is ready to reside in 2016.
Capcom announced today that Resident Evil 6, RE 5, and RE 4 are coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One throughout the year as digital downloads. They’ll each cost $20. The series has sold over 66 million copies, making it one of Capcom’s most important franchises. Resident Evil 6 will come first on March 29, with Resident Evil 5 following in the summer and Resident Evil 4 releasing in the fall.
Capcom has been busy re-releasing Resident Evil games, with the original and Resident Evil 0 already available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Resident Evil 2 is also on the way. We’re going to go ahead and guess that Resident Evil 3 is probably coming, too. Digital releases of older games are a popular tool for many publishers. They’re a relatively easy way of generating revenue, since they don’t require building a new game from the ground up. They can also introduce older titles to a new audience. Resident Evil 4, for example, came out originally back in 2005, so there’s a whole generation of gamers today that were likely too young for its initial release.
The reverse order might seem strange, but Capcom is more likely to keep fans’ interest in the releases by going this route. Starting with Resident Evil 4, which many considered a landmark game for reinventing third-person shooter action, fans and critics regarded each subsequent entry in the series with less enthusiasm.
The startup said the investment will be used to expand in North America its technology, which “gives modern businesses the ability to see their now borderless network.”
GV (formerly known as Google Ventures), Sequoia Capital, and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in series C the round.
ThousandEyes has raised at least $60 million to date.
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WASHINGTON (By David Morgan for Reuters) — The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday said it would develop drone regulations allowing some unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to fly over people, an authorization eagerly sought by a range of industries including real estate and agriculture.
The U.S. aviation regulatory agency, under pressure from Congress and industry to accommodate commercial drones, said it established a rule-making committee that would recommend a new regulatory framework by April 1.
Authorization to fly over people would be vital to the kind of package delivery services envisioned by Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google. But the new committee will focus on smaller UAVs that are used for aerial photography in real estate, agriculture and surveying.
The drones to be examined would include micro UAVs that weigh no more than 4.4 pounds (2 kg). But larger ones could also be included if their design, shape or slow speed posed little or no risk to people on the ground or to manned aircraft, the FAA said.
Commercial drone operations are illegal in the United States without specific FAA permission. The agency is expected to release final regulations by late June that would allow flights by commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds (24.95 kg).
An FAA spokeswoman said the new committee’s work was part of a separate effort.
“We recognize the significant industry interest in expanding commercial access to the National Airspace System. The short deadline reinforces our commitment to a flexible regulatory approach,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
Lobbyists predicted the process would take years to produce an actual rule.
The announcement came as lawmakers in Congress consider legislation that would greatly reduce restrictions on micro drones. A six-year FAA reauthorization bill, which could be weeks away from a vote in the House of Representatives, would exempt small drones from requirements including the need for an operator to acquire a pilot’s license.
The FAA said the committee will develop recommendations for performance-based standards fordrones that can be operated safely over people and determine how drone makers can comply with the requirements.
The agency will draft a rule-making proposal after reviewing the committee’s report.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bill Rigby, Chris Reese and Phil Berlowitz)
Few bands could probably inspire a mobile role-playing game, but Iron Maiden has always been special.
Since forming in 1975, the heavy metal group has created 16 studio albums, including The Book of Souls just last year. It was the 10th best-selling metal album in 2015. In total, Iron Maiden has sold over 14 million albums worldwide. But fans have celebrated the band’s mascot just as much is its music. Eddie is a zombie-like creature whose appearance often changes. He’s been front-and-center on the cover of every one of Maiden’s albums. He also adorns nearly every Iron Maiden T-shirt. Now, Eddie’s traveling to the world of mobile with Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. The game hopes to take advantage of a $34.8 billion mobile industry and potentially introduce the band to a new audience.
GamesBeat interviewed Llexi Leon, creative director for Phantom Music Management (which represents Iron Maiden worldwide) and Hammish Millar, director of the game at developer Roadhouse Interactive. We discussed the Legacy of the Beast, how it’ll incorporate Iron Maiden’s music and art, and why Eddie has become so popular.
GamesBeat: How did these two entities, Iron Maiden and your developer, come together?
Llexi Leon: I’ll try and keep a long story short. There’s a gentleman named Gavin Shackell. He’s a partner in a company called 50cc Games. He’d previously worked in the music industry as an executive at Virgin Records. He’d worked with Bruce Dickinson [Iron Maiden’s lead singer] and Rod Smallwood, Iron Maiden’s original manager and still manager today, many years ago. Then he moved into games and felt that Iron Maiden would be a great partner and property to work with for the games industry.
He reached out to us. We said it sounds cool, but we get a lot of offers for all kinds of things. We’d need to see your take on this and why we should do it. We should be compelled to do it for the right reasons, with it being a fantastic product. It turned out that Gavin knew James Hursthouse, the CEO at Roadhouse. James is a massive Maiden fan, an incredible knowledge of the band. They came to an arrangement and came back to us with a very detailed pitch with a lot of love that went into it, a lot of interesting takes on Eddie as a character, how they’d interpret that and interpret the world of Maiden.
That caught my eye, because at the time I’d been brought into the company to oversee some of the digital and interactive and new media creative. I said, these guys know what they’re doing and this is an interesting take on the character. It went from there. It was about six months to a year of back and forth over that and how we’d actually do it and what shape it would take before we knuckled down and did the business deal.
GamesBeat: What exactly is the concept that you settled on?
Hammish Millar: Initially we went through a number of stages in arriving at the concept. One of the starting points was that we wanted to tell the story of Eddie like it hadn’t been told before. We were looking for a format within mobile to flesh out his character and all the facets of Eddie throughout the history and lore of Iron Maiden.
Looking at mobile and knowing that we at Roadhouse are in the free-to-play space, we thought that the party battle RPG would be a great fit. We worked with the biz dev team here to establish that as our core genre. It worked really well, because if you look at the history of Eddie, he has so many different incarnations. That worked quite well in terms of turning each one of those Eddies into a different character.
GamesBeat: Is it a linear exploration of his history, starting with the original Eddie, then going to hell, then being lobotomized, and so on? Or is it all those different versions coming together at once?
Leon: There’s a certain mystique to Eddie. We wanted to preserve that. Even though we’re taking Eddie on a journey and telling a story with him for the first time, a lot of it is about looking at the mythology and a lot of the things you just referenced. Eddie when he’s lobotomized in the asylum, Eddie when he’s a cyborg, Eddie as a space monster, and all these different facets of Eddie and what he has been, is, and will be. Trying to condense that down into a cohesive narrative where we’ve created something new in order for there to be an Eddie that encapsulates all of these things.
So it’s not, to answer your question, a linear tale that tries to tell the story as the albums came out, what was happening to Eddie between these times. It’s a new overarching mythology, but with a lot of details going into it to bring in all of these different imageries from the tour shirts, the event shirts, the tour posters, the album art, the single covers. We’ve looked at everything across four decades of the band’s history and tried to create a new overarching tale that brings that all in and gives it a reason for existing within the context of this game. We want to bring as many of those different Eddies to life as possible, but the way the game is set up is that really they come from all the same Eddie, this Eddie Prime if you will.
A big part of the story, without giving too much away, is that in the beginning, a malevolent force kind of tricks Eddie and shatters his essence and scatters it across the universe. Each piece of his essence represents a different facet of Eddie, one of these different versions of Eddie you would have encountered on your favorite event shirt or album cover.
GamesBeat: Do you guys look at any other RPGs for an influence on this game?
Millar: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been fairly original in terms of art style. I’d say the one area that we really needed to take influence from was just in terms of the RPG metagame in the mobile space. We want this to be a game that players will play for months and months, not a short set story arc that’s over. That’s more akin to a premium product.
Some of the games we’ve been looking at in terms of benchmark metagame would include Contest of Champions and Summoner’s War. Both of those games do an incredible job of giving the player long and compelling upgrade paths for the characters and reasons to build different teams of characters for different purposes in the context of the metagame.
GamesBeat: This is a free-to-play game, so what kind of things will people be able to buy?
Millar: We understand soft and hard currency. But within that context people will be purchasing XP boosts and largely running through a gacha system, where players will be collecting souls as they navigate the worlds of Iron Maiden. Souls can be purchased or collected. That’s where the character collection comes from in the game.
There are Eddies that will be familiar to Maiden fans, for sure. Those will be the rare and valuable characters. But we’ve worked with Legacy to expand the lore of Maiden and invent all these other fascinating characters that we can imagine populating the worlds familiar to Maiden fans from the album covers and tour posters. We’re looking at roughly 200 characters at wide launch. Dozens of Eddies and over 100 supporting characters.
GamesBeat: Will the band members themselves be appearing in the game?
Leon: No. We decided — it’s very much all about Eddie and exploring the worlds that Iron Maiden have created with both their lyrical output, the songs themselves, and the artwork. We’re bringing that to life. The band members aren’t part of that. But their music is a huge part of it. That’s something that — a huge amount of work has gone into re-creating a lot of the music for the game. Long-time fans of the band are going to be excited to hear a lot of previously unreleased recordings of iconic songs from the current band’s lineup that we’ve specially tailored for this production.
GamesBeat: So you’ll be using actual Maiden songs as the soundtrack?
Leon: The soundtrack is expansive. It contains tracks from across the band’s entire history, a huge number of tracks and ever-expanding. The way we’ve tried to incorporate them thematically is that there are worlds in the game, which speaks back to how the main narrative plays out — there are worlds within the game, four at wide launch, and each world is an amalgamation of different Iron Maiden tracks with similar thematical content.
You think about a track from, say, Brave New World, like “The Nomad,” and then a track like “Powerslave.” They’re both set in the desert sands and ancient Egypt and all of this, so we have a world in the game called Kingdom of the Sands that encapsulates all that good stuff. Obviously the soundtrack is appropriate to that.
GamesBeat: Was it a fun thing to sort of go through all these songs and try to pair them up by theme like that?
Leon: For me it’s the ultimate geekout, having an excuse to listen to nothing but Iron Maiden nonstop for six months, trawling through all the liner notes and the gatefold vinyl stuff. We have something called the Iron Maiden companion, which was compiled by an Italian megafan about 10 years ago. It’s a 400-page compendium of every single piece of tour artwork and shirt artwork and album or single variant artwork he could get his hands on going over about 20 years of the band’s career. Then he followed up and did a volume two that had another 10 years of stuff.
Looking at all this imagery and all the lyrics and all the music and trying to piece it together thematically, seeing what works where and how we can build worlds and narrative out of this stuff. Things, for me, that have been really rewarding seeing it come together — taking concepts, and in some cases things like the Wicker Man, and making that into an actual character and part of the story, how Eddie interacts with that character. And also iconic characters from Maiden history like the Ancient Mariner, which obviously has a deeper history beyond Maiden in the literature that inspired that song. And then we’re looking at both Maiden’s interpretation and the actual poem and drawing from both of those things and bringing that character into the world. There’s a lot of exciting stuff like that in the world-building that’s been thrilling for me.
GamesBeat: I was going to specifically ask you about both of those songs, so that’s awesome.
Leon: It’s all coming. There’s a lot of content at launch, and we have a long-term schedule to bring in more. We’re just starting with these four worlds. As you can imagine, the worlds of Maiden that have been touched on are quite broad. There’s a huge amount we can do in the future as well.
GamesBeat: Other bands have had mascot characters, but it seems like Eddie has sort of transcended the mascot role. He’s become something more. I don’t know exactly what you’d call it. But why do you think Eddie has resonated so well over the years?
Leon: From my point of view, a lot of people initially — I remember as a teen being drawn to Iron Maiden by the album art first. You’d heard of the band and you’d see Eddie on people’s T-shirts or on the cover of Metal Hammer and instantly you’re just like, that’s really damn cool and I want to know more about that. A lot of people, that was their first exposure to Maiden, through Eddie. They were drawn to the band because of the character.
But in terms of why he’s transcended that role, I think it’s because the band, they’ve never really put themselves in the spotlight. It’s always been Eddie. There are very few bands that, over 16 studio albums, have their mascot, if you will, take the spotlight on every cover and every tour poster. Whenever they go to different countries they do these themed versions of Eddie, so as well as the iconic album ones, you then have Viking Eddie or samurai Eddie that’s come about from the band going to those territories and wanting to bring Eddie with them. He’s obviously become part of the live show, so all of a sudden you have a seven-foot cyborg on stage battling the band. This is something unique to the theatrics and imagery of Iron Maiden.
The game, because of the mystique around Eddie, he’s sort of all things to all people. Or he can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. That’s fascinating as well, because he isn’t this archetypal hero character, or even an anti-hero. He has so many different guises and so many different roles that people gravitate toward him for different reasons.
That, to me, is probably the thing that’s most exciting about Eddie. You can’t put him in a box and say, this is what he is. You can get a huge amount of feedback from the fans about what Eddie is to them, and then we can try and act on that and allow the fans to tailor Eddie to what they want him to be based on all the things he has been.
Millar: To add my perspective, first and foremost, Maiden has the coolest shirts. Most of the metal bands I’ve seen interviewed that have been asked about that will agree. Because it was working so well, I think the band just continued with it. If you look at some of these other bands that have grown and changed over time, there’s a difficult balance to strike between growing and changing and still maintaining a sense of cohesion.
Eddie seems to be that conduit for Iron Maiden. They can branch out and change and experiment, but it’s all sort of anchored in Eddie, whether it’s the live theatrics on stage, the album art, or tour posters and localizing those just as Llexi pointed out. In many ways he’s this conduit through which all of the band’s experimentation gets pushed, and he ties it all together really well. It’s really cool.
GamesBeat: You were talking about how part of Eddie’s appeal is how he can be different things to different people. He doesn’t necessarily have a set personality or anything like that. Does that make it challenging when you try to adapt the character into something like a game?
Leon: You have to treat him with the reverence he deserves. There’s certainly an attitude and an energy to Eddie that comes through in almost all the imagery I’ve ever seen of him. We try to capture that. The decision was made early on that Eddie’s kind of a primal force, almost a force of free will. He’s not necessarily a character that articulates in English or has verbose conversations. We went with what I refer to as the “hero of all of time” approach, which is fitting given his predilection for time travel.
The story is driven forward by the characters around Eddie that he interacts with. Eddie doesn’t actually converse directly. So we maintain this mystery around him, which I think is pivotal to his character. In his case, it’s about what he does, not what he says.
Millar: We have that challenge there, where you do want to leave him open enough that people who are playing the game can project themselves onto Eddie and identify with him. But the more specific you make him, it’s a bit like when Final Fantasy [X] gave Tidus a voice. Suddenly they lost some people and their connection to the main character.
For the most part he’ll be a silent protagonist. But at the same time you’ll see him go on his own character arc over the game. While it doesn’t follow any linear fashion, the exact part that Eddie’s taken throughout the history of the band, you will see some parallels. One of those would be, when you look at when Iron Maiden first started as more of a punk band, more aggressive — you look at the Killers cover, for example. As the band matured and they started — the pure aggression became intertwined with larger questions about life, what is real, what is right, what is wrong, what is here.The clairvoyant Eddie, the Seventh Son Eddie, almost transcending the initial state that Eddie began in.
You’ll see Eddie change and grow throughout the game in parallel with that. Starting out as perhaps more of a pure revenge motivation and then really starting to ask larger question in terms of, what is this plot that’s starting to unravel? Perhaps it’s actually bigger than Eddie himself. Maybe Eddie has a greater purpose in the game.
GamesBeat: Do you guys have a favorite version of Eddie yourselves?
Leon: For me, it’s kind of an amalgamation thing. I really like Holy Smoke Eddie, the classic Eddie with the white hair and the leather jacket. That’s why, when I got the opportunity to that bit of live video, I immediately went for him being the archetype — ripped jeans and a T-shirt and a leather jacket, that very classic look. But they’re all just fantastic. There are a few cool new ones we’re doing as well. One I’m working on right now I’m very psyched about, but I can’t talk about it.
Millar: The answer to that question has been somewhat influenced by working on the game. Some of the Eddies really show well in our game engine. Somewhere in Time, the cyborg Eddie, has become my favorite as a result of looking at him and playing with him in the game.
GamesBeat: Cyborg Eddie is the right answer. [Laughs] Somewhere in Time was my first Iron Maiden album, so that’s always the one I’ve loved the most. Do you guys have a target release date for this?
Millar: We do. We’re planning on soft launching the game toward the end of March within a small set of countries. That list hasn’t been confirmed. We’ll be rolling out into a wide launch in the next few months following that. More details on an exact worldwide launch will be forthcoming.
Google today announced the launch of a smart feature people can use once they’ve uploaded videos to YouTube. Now you can draw a box around the thing you want to blur in a video, and YouTube will automatically keep that thing from being seen clearly, even as it moves elsewhere in the frame.
With this new Custom Blurring feature, you can adjust the size of the box, move it, and adjust the start and stop time. A Lock button keeps the blurred box in the same place. You can save the changes to your video or create a separate one that reflects your changes.
“While the use cases for this tool are vast, we built this feature with visual anonymity in mind,” YouTube privacy lead Amanda Conway wrote in a blog post. “We wanted to give you a simple way to blur things like people, contact information or financial data without having to remove and re-upload your content.”
Custom Blurring builds on the introduction of face-blurring capability in YouTube in 2012. But this is far more granular.
YouTube has more than 1 billion active users, and Google frequently adds or ipmroves features to the service, including some intended just for creators. For instance, Google recently improved the system that recommends frames that people can use as thumbnails for videos they upload. Google also recently launched a translation marketplace for creators.
You can find Custom Blurring in the Blurring Effects tab of the Enhancements tool in YouTube.
Microsoft today announced the launch of multiple products that are meant to make companies more secure online.
Perhaps the most compelling new feature is a more intelligent way to spot threats that could affect applications and data that companies are running on Microsoft Azure. Today Microsoft is introducing a service called Advanced Threat Detection for the Azure Security Center that’s been available in public preview since December.
“After years of examining crash dumps that our customers opted to send to Microsoft from more than a billion PCs worldwide, Microsoft has developed the capability to analyze this data to effectively detect compromised systems because crashes are often the result of failed exploitation attempts and brittle malware,” Bret Arsenault, Microsoft’s chief information security officer, wrote in a blog post. Not surprisingly, Microsoft won’t be going it alone here. In the coming weeks Azure Security Center will make room for add-ons from third-party vendors, Arsenault wrote.
With many customers, Azure operates at scale. Now Microsoft is taking advantage of that scale. This is one way for Microsoft to try to stand out from cloud infrastructure rivals Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform.
But cloud infrastructure isn’t the only layer in which Microsoft gets cloud business. The company also fields Office 365 and other software. Toward that end, last year Microsoft acquired cloud security startup Adallom, which monitored usage to discover irregularities that could turn out to be threatening.
Microsoft took the Adallom technology and used it to build something called Microsoft Cloud App Security. Now that tool will become available in April, Arsenault wrote. That service can give Office 365 admins alerts on suspicious activity and information about the cloud services that end users are using.
Microsoft also will be extending its Customer Lockbox technology for limiting what Microsoft employees can do with end users’ data. The tool will become available for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business early in the second quarter of 2016. (Last year Microsoft said SharePoint Online would get it in the first quarter. The feature currently works with Exchange Online.)
In addition, Microsoft is starting a public preview for a new service called Azure Active Directory Identity Protection. Here’s Arsenault’s explanation of it:
Azure Active Directory security capabilities are built on Microsoft’s experience protecting consumer identities, and gains tremendous accuracy by analyzing the signal from over 14 billion logins to help identify 300,000 potentially compromised user authentications per a day. Azure Active Directory Identity Protection builds on these results and detects suspicious activities for end users and privileged identities based on signals like brute force attacks, leaked credentials, sign ins from unfamiliar locations and infected devices. Based on these suspicious activities, a user risk severity is calculated and risk-based policies can be configured allowing the service to automatically protect the identities of your organization from future threats.
The preview begins next week, Arsenault wrote.
The Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) lab today announced a new partnership program that will benefit academic researchers in Europe. It’s not just that Facebook will work in lockstep with the academics — Facebook will actually be giving out 25 servers powered with graphics processing units (GPUs), free of charge.
“These will be utilized to accelerate research efforts in AI and machine learning. FAIR will also work with recipients to ensure they have the software required to run the servers and send researchers to collaborate with these institutions,” FAIR engineering director Serkan Piantino and research lead Florent Perronnin wrote in a blog post.
Why is this interesting? Because it’s a novel way for Facebook to keep its eye on some of the most promising AI researchers and techniques. Eventually these giveaways could turn into hires for Facebook. And if that does happen, the researchers will already be well acquainted with Facebook’s AI hardware and software. There are certainly other stacks to choose from. With the donations of real gear, Facebook is being proactive.
The first person to receive four of these GPU servers is Klaus-Robert Müller of Technische Universität Berlin. “Dr. Müller will receive four GPU servers that will enable his team to make quicker progress in two research areas: image analysis of breast cancer and chemical modeling of molecules,” Piantino and Perronnin wrote.
It’s not as if the appearance of the hardware in claustrophobic university basement offices will be a revelation. Facebook last year shared the designs for its AI servers for all to inspect. And Facebook has open-sourced some of its AI software.
And the FAIR lab has been growing, particularly in Europe. With this partnership program, continuing expansion would not be a surprise.