Spec Ops: The Line is hiding something (preview)

Publisher 2K Games wasn’t afraid to take up a huge portion of the PAX East show floor with its four big titles. Spec Ops: The Line is probably the lowest profile of those games, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. With an intriguing narrative and satisfying shooting mechanics, The Line has a lot of potential.

Acer starts selling a laptop with a not-so-secret Nvidia graphics chip

Acer has begun selling its Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG Ultrabook(thin laptop) — the first Ultrabook that has a stand-alone graphics chip in addition to the integrated graphics in the laptop’s Intel chip. That means the new computer will be thin and light yet still able to run outstanding graphics in games such as Battlefield 3.

A roundup of stories from the Game Developers Conference

Our GamesBeat team is exhausted after five days of covering the biggest show for game developers in San Francisco. Here’s a day-by-day roundup of the major stories that we wrote from the Game Developers Conference this week. We’ve also thrown in stories from Microsoft’s pre-GDC press event. As you can see, it was a busy week for game news.

GamesBeat weekly roundup: DICE Summit news and more

Here’s some of the stories that ran only on GamesBeat this week. We’re running more stories exclusively on the GamesBeat section of VentureBeat now, particularly when the stories are mainly of interest to game readers. The broader interest stories are running on VentureBeat as well. And please visit the GamesBeat section to catch up on game news. We’re ramping up our game coverage, so you’ll find more and more news at GamesBeat.

Epic’s 3D graphics wizard Tim Sweeney says business and technology are “intricately linked” (interview)

Tim Sweeney is one of the gods of 3D graphics in video games. He is the founder and chief executive of Epic Games, the maker of blockbuster video games from Unreal to Gears of War. At the upcoming 2012 D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas, Sweeney will be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame and he’ll be giving a talk for the first time at the exclusive industry event. Sweeney has led Epic Games for more than two decades and is the technological wizard behind the company’s industry-leading 3D graphics. Not only does Sweeney enable Epic’s designers to create some of the coolest games, which are catalysts for creativity that inspire the rest of the game developers. He also built the Unreal Engine, which Epic licenses to the rest of the game industry, raising the overall graphics quality of many games. Sweeney has led the company in its transition from PC game maker to console game maker and has helped it expand into iPhone and iPad games. Sweeney is a shy programmer, until you get him in a discussion about what is right when it comes to a technology decision. He is an advocate of open technology, and he has played a big role in pioneering 3D graphics. At Raleigh, N.C.-based Epic, his job is to see the future of games and create the technology that will deliver it to consumers’ living rooms with the highest fidelity. We’ll be covering his award ceremony and talk at the Dice Summit, which takes place Feb. 8-10. Meanwhile, we were able to interview him recently. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Sweeney.

Which anti-SOPA game companies are fighting back, and how

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) have definitely gotten the Internet’s attention, but not in the good Elmo orders Taco Bell sort of way. This is more like Rebecca Black announcing she’s obtained the license to the entire library of The Beatles music.

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Minecraft developer says “No sane person can be for SOPA”

Markus Persson, creator of the breakout hit indie game Minecraft, has announced that minecraft.net and mojang.com will be taken down on Jan 18th, in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Speaking on Twitter, Persson said “Decided. We’ll silently take down minecraft.net and mojang.com on the 18th in protest of SOPA.”

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League of Legends developer takes anti-SOPA stance, urges players to write to Congress

Riot Games, developer of popular free-to-play online game League of Legends, has announced its opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Chief Executive Office Brandon Beck announced in a forum statement “While we do support efforts to prevent online piracy, the current form of this legislation comes at far too high a cost for us, our players, and online communities across the internet.”

Epic Games favored by new ruling in Too Human lawsuit

While still far from over, a court ruling dated December 22 can be seen as a major setback for Silicon Knights in their suit against Epic Games. According to The Escapist website, the motion by Epic Games to exclude key opinion testimony from certified public accountant and financial analyst Terry Lloyd about potential damages in the suit has been upheld by the judge on the case.

The DeanBeat: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception tops our list of the 10 best games of 2011

This year, with our ramped up our GamesBeat review team, we’ve taken our Game of the Year choices much more seriously than we have in the past. We asked our reviewers to select the semifinalists and then picked the final winners ourselves. But our vote on the best game of 2011 ended in a tie, so we had to hold a tie-breaker round to pick our winner.

For publishers, the next consoles mean new digital revenue streams

Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 weren’t designed with a wide array of post-release revenue opportunities in mind, which has caused a number of video game publishers to implement slipshod measures such as online passes or subscription services. This won’t be an issue for the next generation of consoles, with analysts predicting future PlayStation and Xbox devices will provide the appropriate infrastructure for companies like Electronic Arts and Activision to double digital revenue.

This week on Xbox Live: Expansions for Battlefield 3, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and Gears of War 3

Microsoft has expanded Xbox Live to enable new entertainment options such as YouTube and Verizon’s FiOS TV, but the bread and butter of the Xbox 360 remains games. This week will see a slew of attention-grabbing new content on Xbox Live for some of the year’s biggest titles. Battlefield 3 finally gets its Back to Karkand expansion, available for $15, or free to those who purchased the Battlefield 3 Limited Edition retail package. Gears of War 3 kicks off its 12 Days of Gearsmas celebration with the RAAM’s Shadow campaign. You can read my review here. I didn’t like it. And Assassin’s Creed Revelations receives the first of several content bundles with the Ancestors Character Pack, which adds a few new faces to the multiplayer.

Final Fantasy VII remade using Unreal Engine, looks bad

A modern Final Fantasy VII remake is easily the most-requested video game of our generation. There’s even a long-running petition with over 65,000 signatures. I’m more of a Final Fantasy VIII fan personally, but I’d happily take either or. Sadly, the official word from Square Enix is that giving fans what they want would essentially be too hard, so instead they’re going to continue making easy sequels that no one asked for in the first place.

Infinity Blade II review: more is actually more

Infinity Blade II is debuting today, and the mobile game reminds us of the attractions of iterative game development. The risk is low, the potential for gain is high. While an innovative game can change the course of development in its own right and become the fastest selling game in iOS history, a well done sequel can polish what the first game got right to a high gleam, and add just the right amount of extras and enrichment to become something even sweeter. We’ve seen it with a series like Games of War, another Epic Games property, and now we can see it again with Infinity Blade II, my pick for the most console-like experience on the iOS platform to date.

The DeanBeat: Top games to play on the iPhone 4S

Mainstream consumers may be drawn to the iPhone 4S because of its Siri personal assistant. But gamers will want to pick up the iPhone 4S for its ability to play games. The new smartphone from Apple has the ability to run games that are much better-looking than those on the iPhone 4.

Our picks for the best video games of the fall season

NOTE: Each week, I’m writing a column on videogames called The DeanBeat that’s available to newsletter subscribers a day before it appears on the VentureBeat website. This week, my column was co-written with Matthew Lynley.

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The DeanBeat: The video game industry’s grudge matches

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to VentureBeat’s new newsletters. Each week, I’m writing a column on an aspect of gaming world that GamesBeat covers. My colleague Dylan Tweney is writing a column on technology and business called Dylan’s Desk. Together, these columns will be available to newsletter subscribers a whole day before they appear here on the website.

Hands-on preview of Gears of War 3: an epic story with closure

Gears of War 3 from Epic Games will be one of the game industry’s early seasonal blockbusters when the third-person shooter game debuts on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Sept. 20. It will set the tone for the console game industry’s all-important holiday selling season. I’ve had a good look at the first act of the single-player version of the game and am happy to report that it won’t be a disappointment. Up until now, Epic has kept the details of the single-player campaign secret.

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VentureBeat’s photo gallery captures the noise of E3 2011 (part 1)

The only thing bad about an E3 photo gallery is that you can’t hear the sounds. E3, the video game industry’s trade show, is an extremely loud trade show, with game exhibitors blasting sounds as much as they can to draw attention to their games. The convention drew an estimated 45,000 people to Los Angeles this week. We were there from the first parties to the last. We saw many of the 35,000 screens showing off new games. Here’s the show in pictures.