Padmasree Warrior leaves Box’s board after joining Microsoft’s

Padmasree Warrior.

Former Cisco executive Padmasree Warrior is resigning from cloud file syncing and sharing service Box’s board of directors, effective on Sunday, January 31, according to a regulatory filing the company posted today. She joined the board in March 2014.

The news comes just less than two months after Warrior was elected to Microsoft’s board of directors.

Box went public in December 2014 and has announced multiple partnership arrangements with Microsoft. Now Warrior has a say in some of Microsoft’s biggest decisions as it remains focused on the “mobile-first and cloud-first world” that chief executive Satya Nadella often speaks about.

Warrior, 55, of San Jose, California, is currently chief executive of the U.S. branch of Tesla competitor NextEV. Earlier she spent seven years as Cisco’s chief technology officer, and she also held executive roles at Motorola.

Final Approach is an HTC Vive VR game that turns you into a kid playing with toy airplanes

Final Approach

One of the best games I saw this week at Valve’s demo of the HTC Vive virtual reality headset was Final Approach from developer Phaser Lock Interactive. This aviation-themed VR game makes you feel like you are a kid again, playing with toy airplanes in a pretty virtual world.

The title is one of the launch games for the HTC Vive, the VR headset for the PC that debuts in April. The game delivers the kind of experience that is immersive and you can only experience in VR. That’s exactly what the Vive will need to stand out from the competition and induce the masses to embrace a platform that some say will be a $30 billion industry by 2020. This is one of a dozen previews we’re running on game demos on the HTC Vive.

In Final Approach, you are something like an air traffic controller. You can stand in the middle of an island, point to a flying plan with your virtual finger, and guide that plane into a beautiful landing on an airstrip on the island below. It is an awesome, immersive experience where you can walk around inside the virtual world and control the planes in a way that is much more intuitive than controlling them with a traditional video game controller.

“That’s exactly the idea we wanted to get behind, the feeling that you are a kid playing with your toys” said Michael Daubert, chief creative officer at Phaser Lock Interactive, in an interview with GamesBeat. “You control these toys and care about them. You don’t want to break them. And there is this whole world of action going on around you.”

It’s sort of like a blend of aviation and airport management, with a bit of SimCity and flight simulation thrown in. The game world exists within the confines of your living room, as the HTC Vive has sensors that allow it to map a free space in your room. The VR system lets you maneuver around a safe space in your room, so you can wander around the Final Approach island and see it from different points of view. You can also use hand controllers to interact with the items in the virtual world.

“It’s a room scale virtual space,” said John Nagle, chief technical officer, in an interview.

Final Approach is like playing with miniatures in VR.

Above: Final Approach is like playing with miniatures in VR.

Image Credit: Phaser Lock Interactive

Like the 2D game on the iPad, Flight Control, you can manage the aircraft landing at a busy airport. Using the touch control system of the HTC Vive, you can point at aircraft and trace a path. you can get them to fly through a series of circles and land. I did this a few times, and the game was fairly forgiving at enabling aircraft to land even with crazy flight paths. The environment of the game was beautifully rendered. You can also scale down to a micro environment on the airfield, where you have to use fire extinguishers to put out a fire on an aircraft on the landing strip. So you can switch from a bird’s-eye view to a first-person view. You can chase away seagulls with air horns.

I didn’t have great luck with another level in the game, where I had to guide a helicopter through skyscrapers to drop a load of materials on a skyscraper under construction. I picked up the load OK using my fingers, but when it came time to drop them, I clipped the top of a building and crashed the helicopter.

The best part of the game seemed like a different title altogether. I was in the middle of a toy version of the Battle of Midway from World War II. I was able to control (historically out of place) military jets. I launched a series of drone aircraft with a tap of a finger. I traced landing paths for aircraft that were damaged. And I led an enemy fighter into a wave of flak from one of the nearby ships. This part of the game was more like a combat flight simulation, while the rest of the game was like an airport management game or SimCity game.

The Midway level in Final Approach.

Above: The Midway level in Final Approach.

Image Credit: Phaser Lock Interactive

There are six levels in the game right now. It could have three to five hours, with lots of replay value, said Daubert. The missions take seven to ten minutes. The missions force you to deal with flight challenges in crowded urban environments, tropical islands, and wilderness landscapes, while training them to battle forest fires, rescue boaters at sea, or even perform full military strikes. You have to watch out for other aircraft, landscape hazards, and even thunderstorms.

The game is the first title from Austin, Texas-based Phaser Lock Interactive, which has 14 employees. Daubert and Nagle are 25-year veterans of the game business. They started the company in May 2015, after participating in a game jam on room-scale VR. The team did a demo and then Valve, the creator of the Steam VR platform that the HTC Vive uses. Valve asked the team to create a title. The team is doing the game as a launch title for the Vive, but it also plans to do versions for the Oculus Touch and PlayStation VR.

The title will be a paid game on the HTC Vive, and it is expected to debut on other VR platforms too.

DraftKings And FanDuel Lose Ability To Process Your Deposits and Payouts Daily Fantasy Sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel have been dealt another major blow today, but this time it didn’t come from an attorney general or federal court. Instead, it came from the company that is responsible for processing deposits and withdraws for the millions of players on both sites. In a letter obtained by the New York Times, Vantiv, a major payment processor in… Read More

Delivery Startup Doorman Adds Support For E-Commerce Returns

Doorman girl signing Doorman can be a useful service for people who hate missing deliveries. Now it can help you get those products in the mail again, too. Rather than coming home from work to find a “missed delivery” slip, Doorman customers can set a delivery time between 6pm and midnight that’s convenient for them (packages get delivered to Doorman first, and then to the consumer). The… Read More

On the side of angel investors: Shanghai’s mayor defends protection …

Shanghai mayor Yang Xiong has strongly defended a controversial loss-proof measure that encourages venture capitalists to invest heavily in the city's start-ups, amid criticism from the business community and taxpayers. After the close of the city legislature's annual session on Friday, Yang also tried to allay concerns about a potential rivalry between the Disney theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, saying the two resorts would offer visitors different experiences and services.

Top video game training program at USC will publish student-created titles

Bridge will help students build businesses around their games.

The University of Southern California said today that it would publishing games created by its own students through a label dubbed USC Games Publishing.

USC Games director Tracy Fullerton

Above: USC Games director Tracy Fullerton

Image Credit: USC Games

The label will published games produced by students and faculty on the PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and mobile platforms. The label’s creation says something about the state of the game industry, where many complain that there’s very little creativity or true innovation. In this case, students might provide the antidote to that problem.

“Curation is one of the most important things that players deserve these days,” says Tracy Fullerton, director of USC Games, told Wired in an interview. “There’s a tremendous amount of content available for people to find, and yet it’s very difficult to find. One of the ways that this label that we’re establishing can participate is by curating important voices, really innovative work, and putting it out there under our publishing label.”

Fullerton has been director of USC Games since May 2014. The faculty includes people like Danny Bilson, former creative director at THQ and now a lecturer at the USC School of Cinematic Arts; and Richard Lemarchand, the former Naughty Dog game designer who helped create the Uncharted series.

The program has been lauded by the Princeton Review for having the best graduate and undergraduate schools for creating video games in the country. The USC Games grads have created titles like Flow, The Unfinished Swan, and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Fullerton told Wired that USC Games Publishing will be similar to the MIT Press in books. We have frequently covered the work that the students in the game program do. Earlier this year, USC was encouraging students to create their own game studios. Now it’s doing even more as a publisher.

“We are not expecting to make a profit,” she said. “We hope that what we reap from this is cultural recognition of this form.”

Of course, there are headaches that come from being a publisher. Some of the students will need extra money to publish and market games. Should university funds be used for that? If there are profits from a game, then who gets to share it? And if one of the game creators gets into any legal trouble, what happens next?

In the long term, the label could also open up to developers outside of the school. USC Games is a cross-disciplinary program that teaches students the various skills needed to make games. The new label will become active this spring.




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After booting out Kojima, Konami sells 6M copies of Metal Gear Solid V

Not a bad impression of The Lion King.

Konami part ways with legendary game designer Hideo Kojima last fall, just as he finished work on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. And last night, the Japanese company revealed that Metal Gear Solid V sold more than 6 million units.

Hideo Kojima in New York

Above: Hideo Kojima in New York

Image Credit: Eric Blattberg / GamesBeat

At retail, that’s an estimated $360 million in a single quarter, a very good result for a new video game in a very competitive holiday season.

In the last nine months ended Dec. 31, overall sales for the digital entertainment division was 93.4 billion yen for the nine months ending December 31, 2015, up from 67.9 billion yen the year prior. Profit for the division was 25.5 billion yen, a big bump over 10.7 billion from the same period a year earlier.

The company also said that Pro Evolution Soccer, its soccer game, also contributed a lot to the quarter. Konami also said it had a hit in mobile title Jikkyou Pawafuru Puroyakyu.

Kojima, who was the best known game designer, resigned in December and signed a deal to make his next game for Sony. That was the end to what seemed to be a fractious relationship between Kojima and Konami management.

Kojima’s troubles with Konami have been well publicized, and it was expected that he would leave after the publication the big game. During the airing of The Game Awards, host Geoff Keighley said that a lawyer from Konami informed Kojima that he would not be allowed to travel from Japan to the U.S. to be present for the awards show. Kojima had worked with Konami since publishing his first Metal Game in 1987.