Newsbriefs: Live, Comedy, and Halo 3

[UPDATED: 4.36pm PST] Today's regularly updated newsbriefs include news of Telltale's continued episodic work on Sam'n'Max, official word of Xbox Live security changes and dashboard updates, a new Halo 3 trailer, and Valve's direct response
Today's regularly updated newsbriefs include news of Telltale's continued episodic work on Sam'n'Max, official word of Xbox Live security changes, Austin showing initiative, a new Halo 3 trailer, and Valve's direct response to its Half Life players' problems. - In a recent investor note from Pacific Crest Securities, analyst Evan Wilson warns that EA's image is in danger of tarnishing, as its survey of GameRankings data shows EA's overall game quality in a downward trend. Said Wilson, "Reviews of all of EA's annualized titles, its primary source of profit, have declined over the past two years. Although market share has not declined dramatically to date, in years such as 2007, which promises to have tremendous competition, it seems likely if quality does not improve. EA's aggregate review has also declined significantly in the past two years." Though the analyst sees EA as still a safe long-term bet, Wilson concluded that with EA's operating structure crippled by development expenses, a 'ballooning' number of developers and poor quality games will cause the publisher to "lag its top competitors in the near term." - Technology firm Rambus announced today that the recently released PlayStation 3 console makes use of its XDR memory and FlexIO processor bus interface technologies. The system employs four XDR DRAM devices, providing 256MB of memory capacity. In addition, Rambus officials note that the XDR memory interface connecting to XDR DRAMs achieves data rates of 3.2GHz to 8.0GHz, and that together the XDR memory interface and FlexIO processor bus account for 90% of the PS3's Cell Broadband Engine's signal pins, enabling aggregate bandwidth of over 65 gigabytes-per-second. “The Rambus XDR memory and FlexIO interfaces are integral to enhancing the overall system performance for PS3,” said Izumi Kawanishi, corporate executive of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. “Rambus engineers and project managers have given us confidence throughout the development program and enabled us to deliver the most advanced computer entertainment system in the world.” - Xbox Live official blogger Major Nelson has updated with news of an Xbox 360 dashboard update now available the next time players sign into Xbox Live. According to the site, included in this update is improved support for HD video output over VGA, including 1080p resolution, improved plug and play performance for wired headsets when being used with wireless controllers, changes made to recently played games list to improve accuracy. - Gaming subscription service GameTap has announced that Sam'n'Max developers Telltale Games has released the first in a series of Sam'n'Max machinima shorts. More of the animated films are expected each Thursday weekly on GameTap leading up to each consequent episodic game release. In addition, episode two of the Sam'n'Max game has been announced as "Situation: Comedy," and will be available for purchase on January 5th, or two weeks earlier for GameTap subscribers. - After earlier rumors of Xbox Live players seeing their out-of-region accounts leading to a ban from the service, Xbox Live official blogger Major Nelson has updated with word of the new official Microsoft policy on the matter. Due to licensing matters associated with the service's new video marketplace (presumably American TV and movie content being downloaded overseas), Xbox Live subscribers must provide a billing address that matches the country the Live account is associated with, but, no banning has or will take place for those with outside accounts, and players can continue to use subscription cards and Microsoft Points cards in those regions. - Representatives from Austin Game Initiative, LLC, organizers of events such as the Austin Game Conference (now part of CMP Technology, owners of, have announced that the company has changed its name to Show Initiative, LLC "to reflect the company's broader mission." With the sale of Show Initiative's gaming related expos to CMP, the company is now building a new event portfolio, and expects to make an announcement on the matter in a month. - Microsoft has announced that the new 60-second Halo 3 trailer will air in North America, Monday, Dec. 4 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football (between 5:50 and 6:20 p.m. PST) and in both America and Europe (at 8 p.m. PST /04.00 GMT/05.00 CET). Apparently, the trailer will "provide telling, new hints as to what Bungie Studios has in store for the highly regarded game". In addition, the Halo 3 public beta sign-up program will start Monday, Dec. 4 at -the beta itself is scheduled to kick off in spring 2007. - As part of a new Hollywood Reporter feature, Valve's Erik Johnson has been discussing the perhaps startling level of insight gained from analyzing network-transmitted information from gamers playing Half-Life 2: Episode 1. He commented: "For example, there was a particular scenario in Episode 1 where you're fighting a bunch of zombies, ammo becomes difficult to find, it's getting pretty frenetic, your health tends to be pretty low and a timer is running. From the metrics, we learned that not many players were getting through that part of the game, even when they played on 'easy' mode; there was too high a rate of people quitting at that point. Clearly this moment had become too frustrating for them." Johnson concluded: "So we went back, made it somewhat easier for them to survive, and the metrics proved that we'd done the right thing -- the data came back to levels that we consider acceptable." - The latest updates on Gamasutra sister alt.gaming weblog GameSetWatch include peculiar family reviews and pseudo-children care of of GameProFamily, a look at alternative game console Game Wave, and an update to indie space exploration game Weird Worlds. - The latest updates from Gamasutra sister website Serious Games Source include news of 3Dsolve's chief operating officer Frank Boosman speaking at Berlin's Online Educa Conference. - The latest updates from Gamasutra sister website Game Career Guide include a call for papers for the third annual Gamers in Society, Play in Culture seminar, and a new feature covering school options for artists trying to get into game industry. - Also updated today: the latest Gamasutra job postings, including openings from iWin, LucasArts, NaturalMotion, PopCap Games, and Spark Unlimited.

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