MapleStory Hacked In Korea

Roughly 13 million MapleStory accounts were recently hacked, compromising player names, user IDs, passwords, and South Korean federal registration numbers. It is being investigated by the Korea Communications Commission; no word on whether this will affect publisher Nexon’s IPO.

While roughly 75 percent of the MapleStory was affected, no player outside of Korea need worry. “We operate separate servers in each country. Only Korean users’ information was affected,” said the company.

Source: Korean Herald

Shogun 2: Total War – Fall Of The Samurai

Shogun 2: Total War was set during the ‘Sengoku Jidai’ or ‘Warring States Period’ of Japan, while the expansion Rise of the Samurai dealt with the ‘Genpei War’ some 400 years prior to that. However, a new stand alone expansion Fall Of The Samurai leaps a few centuries into the future to depict the ‘Boshin War’ and the modernization of Japan during the ‘Meiji Restoration.’

Spec Ops: The Line – ‘The Journey’

Spec Ops: The Line seemed to be dormant for a long time, but 2K Games has confirmed that they are still working on the title. The shooter set in Dubai looks to tackle heady issues over the consequences of war and the devastation of a sandstorm.

Kinect 2 Reportedly Can Read Facial Expressions

According to reports, Microsoft is already planning a next-generation Kinect device that can read lips. Kinect 2 is said to offer improved motion tracking and voice recognition and come bundled in future Xbox consoles.

Specific abilities of the Kinect 2 are said to determine player facing, emotions like anger and the pitch and volume of player voices. The reason for the limitations on the current Kinect are because it is a USB device, which the Kinect 2 is not.

“[Kinect 2] can be cabled straight through on any number of technologies that just take phenomenally high res data straight to the main processor and straight to the main RAM and ask, what do you want to do with it ” the source said.

Source: eurogamer.net

Miyamoto Was Reluctant To Make Changes For Mario Kart 7

Mario Kart 7 could be a huge seller this holiday and a big boost for Nintendo’s 3DS handheld (along with Super Mario 3D Land), but Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto almost didn’t let Mario Kart 7 turn out the way it did.

“The way the gliders fly isn’t particularly faithful to real life, but I think it feels pretty good in action,” Miyamoto related to Famitsu. “I was actually pretty well against some of the customization features of the game, though. It can be fun to win money for racing and use it to buy parts and such, but I didn’t think that had much to do with the core fun of the series. The idea for that came from the studio staff, though, and my final response was ‘If you can build this customization on top of a solid control and gameplay foundation, then go ahead’.

“Sometimes people yelled at me to look at things more closely but like I said, the core of Mario Kart is pretty solid by this point and I think it’s safe to have it evolve in a pretty staid and traditional manner.”

Source: 1UP

Zynga Staff May Exodus After IPO

A quarterly staff survey at Zynga recently solicited 1,600 responses, many angry at the long hours to meet deadlines. The company has maintained very strict standards for its employees, and despite indications that they are open to fixing those HR problems, it could come back to bite the social games company.

“Zynga should be an example of entrepreneurship at its best,” said Roger McNamee, a co-founder of the venture capital firm Elevation Partners. “Instead it’s going to be a Harvard Business School case study on founder overreach — this will be a cautionary tale.”

Despite all the acquisitions by Zynga over the past couple years worth $119 million, they’ve been rebuffed by major parties. PopCap rebuffed a $950 million in cash offer from Zynga because of rumors of their internal politics while Rovio, walked away from a deal worth roughly $2.25 billion in cash and stock.

Already recruitment firms are turning up the heat prior to the IPO. “I expect a lot of game and tech companies will begin recruiting Zynga’s talent after their equity becomes liquid,” said Gabrielle Toledano, head of human resources for Electronic Arts. “Competitors will make the case that they offer much more compelling opportunities for creative people.”

CEO Marcus Pincus carefully goes over all the reports for the game using multiple spreadsheets to carefully track the progress of Zynga’s games and its roughly 3,000 employees. “It’s very similar to a New York investment bank,” said Lou Kerner, an analyst at the brokerage firm Liquidnet, who has followed Zynga for years. “It’s data-driven, and it’s intense.”

While Zynga has offered buy backs for certain senior employees, counter to most Silicon Valley start-ups, Pincus sees the company as more of a pure meritocracy. “Mark Pincus has the reputation that he is driven to the point of a madman,” said Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Securities analyst. “Zynga is driven because it has a gigantic competitive advantage right now.”

While the company looks to soften its image, there’s still a headwind of negativity on the employee front, and that the IPO might make ambitious young talent look elsewhere. “We’ve learned that when companies treat talent as a commodity, the consequences are severe,” said Toledano. “It takes years to repair a reputation.”

Source: New York Times

Scribblenauts Developer Bashes Retail Model

5th Cell creative director Jeremiah Slaczka is saying that the current retail model for games is broken. Skyrocketing budgets have exposed the weakness of the $60 price tag, he asserts.

“Before the model was tolerable, because the cost was reasonable enough to allow mediocre selling games to make money,” he said. “Now it’s just insane. If you aren’t going to be a mega hit at $60, you might as well give up before you even try, because it’s tens of millions down the hole.”

“As a consumer, why would I want to play an okay FPS when I can play a bunch of great FPS titles for the same price And that’s what the consumers did,” said Slackza. “But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30 All of the sudden it’s not a binary purchase option anymore.”

Source: GameInformer

YouTube Gains An Edge On Netflix With Disney And Pixar Rentals

Netflix has seen a lot of angry customers of late, mostly due to their new pricing plans, which separate the physical disc rentals from streaming video. Recently, Netflix also lost access to more than 1,000 Disney titles after failing to renew a deal with distributor Starz. Now Netflix is facing additional pressure from YouTube, which just signed a deal to offer Disney and Pixar rentals.

While the deal initially only providers YouTube with a few movies, like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Cars 2”, Google has already promised that hundreds will be coming to the site in the near future. Additionally, YouTube will offer up “extras” from Disney like behind-the-scenes clips.

Disney and Pixar fans will be able to rent both on the Web and through the YouTube app on Google TV.

Microsoft To Launch Kinect Hardware For PC

Microsoft has revealed via its Windows blog that it’s preparing to launch a PC-specific Kinect camera peripheral early next year. The new Kinect will launch as part of the Kinect for Windows commercial program, and the camera’s firmware will feature a new “near mode,” enabling the device to keep track of objects as close as 50 centimeters away, “with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters.”

That’s a whole lot better than the Xbox 360 version of Kinect, which has difficulty tracking players if they’re too close in a tightly packed living room.  It’s not clear if the “near mode” will be brought over to the 360 version with a later update, but we sure hope so.

The PC Kinect will also come with a shorter USB cable, and a small dongle to “improve coexistence with other USB peripherals.”