Activision has officially announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will be have microtransactions.

The new in-game purchases are called “Micro Items” and will be made available on Xbox 360 tomorrow, followed by other platforms at a later date.

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Activision’s Dan Amrich calls the “Micro Items” either personal customizations or nice little luxuries”, which won’t “affect gameplay” but rather offer “small, specific ways to enhance your online experience”.

He goes on to say, ”At the end of the day, all of these items are completely optional, and were created for players who’ve asked for more customization options. If that’s not you, that’s fine; everybody gets Nuketown 2025 for free, so definitely take advantage of that.”

The items include:

  • Personalization Packs Like dress-up for your favorite weapons. Each themed pack contains a unique weapon camo, three targeting reticles (one each for the Reflex, EO Tech, and ACOG sights), and a custom player Calling Card. All that stuff comes as a set for 160 MS Points. One notable example: the Bacon Personalization Pack wraps your favorite weapon in the most delicious cured meat known to man.
  • Extra Slots Pack This one’s for the players who requested even more loadouts and/or are fans of Theater Mode. You can now get 10 more Create-a-Class slots (giving you 20 total if you’ve gone all the way up to Prestige Master) and significantly expand your media storage, allowing you to archive 20 more emblems, 32 more films and 40 more screenshots for 160 MS Points.
  • Flags of the World Calling Card Packs These packs include national flag-themed Calling Cards from countries around the world. Packs are divided by geographical region and costs 80 MS Points.

So, what do you guys think about this and Black Ops 2 in general! Sound off in the comments below!

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Says Deadline, “Despite turning 75, Scott continues to have an appetite for cutting-edge stuff and emerging technologies. He won’t direct any of these short films but will be a hands-on executive producer with RSA president Jules Daly. With Machinima, they will select directing clients of RSA and figure out what stories to tell.

“Machinima has provided a strong springboard for genre content on the web. The network distributed Mortal Kombat: Legacy, which revived the moribund Mortal Kombat franchise. It started with a short film and is now in its second season and led to a feature film in development. Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn premiered last fall and the series has received more than 3.2 million views.”

According to the article, Scott’s RSA is working with over 80 filmmakers, among them Sam Mendes, Martin Scorsese, Kathryn Bigelow, Joe Carnahan, etc. The idea is that as a source for potential ideas, these filmmakers will be approached to see if they have any concepts they’d enjoy bringing to life. Daly is quoted as saying, “There is a plethora of great talent here and sometimes they don’t have a platform for great ideas that would work well in shorts. It could be an established director wanting to try something new, or a brilliant young director from Sweden who surprises us.”

In a statement, Scott said: “RSA has always been at the forefront of creating innovative work. With new media transforming the way audiences connect with films and filmmakers, Machinima is a great partner for us as we embark on this new model of delivering original content to fans. It’s a tremendous opportunity for pushing the creative boundaries for both our filmmakers and the audience.”

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Lucasfilm announced here today that with the new focus on Episodes 7-9 they were going to need to bring the clone wars to an end, opting not to renew it for a 6th season. This also meant that the newly announced Star Wars Detours was going to have to be postponed. Following is the main part of this announcement:

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After five highly successful and critically acclaimed seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we feel the time has come to wind down the series. While the studio is no longer producing new episodes for Cartoon Network, we’re continuing production on new Clone Wars story arcs that promise to be some of the most thrilling adventures ever seen. Stay tuned for more information on where fans can soon find this bonus content. In the video below, Supervising Director Dave Filoni offers a peek of what is to come in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

At Star Wars Celebration VI last year, George Lucas gave fans a glimpse at the animated comedy series Star Wars Detours from Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, and Todd Grimes. Detours was conceived and produced before we decided to move forward with the new Star Wars trilogy, and in the wake of that decision, Lucasfilm has reconsidered whether launching an animated comedy prior to the launch of Episode VII makes sense. As a result, we’ve decided to postpone the release of Detours until a later date.

The bonus content they’re producing for The Clone Wars will likely end up as a web series on the official site. When The Last Jedi aired, it did kind of feel like a series finale; so at least the series went out on a good note.

 

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Perhaps most interesting – and of keen interest to the fans – was Lucas’ concern about creative control of the storyline for the next trilogy, even after the sale. That’s conveyed in the following excerpt from the piece:

“Lucas had paid close attention to how Disney had handled Pixar, which he still refers to as ‘my company.’ He founded it as the Lucasfilm Computer Division in 1979, and sold it to [Steve] Jobs six years later. He calls Disney’s decision not to meddle with Pixar ‘brilliant.’ If he sold Lucasfilm to Disney, he figured there might still be a way to retain some influence over his fictitious universe. Much would depend on who ran Lucasfilm after he retired.”

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That person, of course, was Kathleen Kennedy, who immediately accepted the offer. Details the story, “‘When Kathy came on, we started talking about starting up the whole franchise again,’ he [Lucas] says. ‘I was pulling away, and I said, “Well, I’ve got to build this company up so it functions without me, and we need to do something to make it attractive.” So I said, “Well, let’s just do these movies.”

“Lucas and Kennedy hired screenwriter Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, to begin work on the script for Episode VII. They enlisted Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, to act as a consultant. Lucas started talking to members of the original Star Wars cast, such as Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, about appearing in the films. In June 2012, he called Iger. In the five months of negotiations that followed, Lucas argued that the best people to make the next Star Wars trilogy would be his longtime Lucasfilm executives. ‘I had a group of very, very talented people that had worked for the company for many, many years and really knew how to market Star Wars, how to do the licensing and make the movies,’ Lucas explains. ‘I said, “I think it would be wise to keep some of this intact. We need a few people to oversee the property, you know, who are just dedicated to doing that, so we’re sure we get this right.”

“Iger understood Lucas’s concerns. ‘George said to me once that when he dies, it’s going to say “Star Wars creator George Lucas,”‘ he says. Still, Iger wanted to make sure that Lucas, who was used to controlling every aspect of Star Wars, from set design to lunchboxes, understood that Disney, not Lucasfilm, would have final say over any future movies. ‘We needed to have an understanding that if we acquire the company, despite tons of collegial conversations and collaboration, at the end of the day, we have to be the ones who sign off on whatever the plans are,’ says Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios.

“…At first Lucas wouldn’t even turn over his rough sketches of the next three Star Wars films. When Disney executives asked to see them, he assured them they would be great and said they should just trust him. ‘Ultimately you have to say, “Look, I know what I’m doing. Buying my stories is part of what the deal is.” I’ve worked at this for 40 years, and I’ve been pretty successful,’ Lucas says. ‘I mean, I could have said, “Fine, well, I’ll just sell the company to somebody else.”‘

“Once Lucas got assurances from Disney in writing about the broad outlines of the deal, he agreed to turn over the treatments—but insisted they could only be read by Iger, Horn, and Kevin Mayer, Disney’s executive vice president for corporate strategy. ‘We promised,’ says Iger. ‘We had to sign an agreement.’

“When Iger finally got a look at the treatments, he was elated. ‘We thought from a storytelling perspective they had a lot of potential,’ he says.”

From previous interviews, we knew Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) would be the lead of ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. show but we didn’t know how showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen, Joss,Jed, Jeffrey Bell and Jeph Loeb would accomplish this seeing as how Coulson died at the hands of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in The Avengers. With the show taking place after the climatic battle with the Chituari in NYC many theorized that Coulson would be seen in flashback, that he was really a robot, a Skrull shape-shifter or something else equally outlandish. Well S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Joss Whedon told the crowd at SXSW that Coulson is in fact returning from the dead.

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“I’ll tell you guys this, Heimlich,” Whedon joked, before effectively clamming up about the show. “I can’t talk about it,” he admitted, but said that he did bring Coulson back from the dead for the ABC drama. “Yes. For realsies.”

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Now that it’s established that Coulson really did die in The Avengers and that Fury didn’t lie to the other Avengers, the question now is HOW does Coulson come back from the dead? There are a number of items and methods that this could be used to accomplish this in the pages of Marvel Comics but the vast majority of such devices have yet to be presented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

No matter how they do it, it’s safe to say Agent Coulson is a badass at this point.

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Marvel Studios pioneer Kevin Feige recently talked extensively with SFX Magazine about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While he previously reassured that “cosmic” wouldn’t be a fair description of Phase Two, Feige was asked whether “magic” would be fitting for Phase Three.

“I’m not looking at Phase One as grounded and Phase Two as cosmic and Phase 3 as magic. The films are all so eclectic and different from each other that you can’t overarchingly categorize them like that. If and when we enter the magic arena, it will be through Doctor Strange. Sure, obviously. And that’s to me what’s exciting about Doctor Strange.”

Before Phase Three of the shared Marvel Universe kicks-off with Ant-Man in late 2015, The Avengers 2 will conclude the 2nd Phase earlier that same year. When asked about director Joss Whedon’s “go deeper, not bigger” comment, Feige said:

“I don’t know exactly what he meant when he said “deeper”. But, similar to Iron Man 3, we’re not saying, “Now it’s gotta be even bigger and more aliens come and there’s a giant monster!” The most exciting thing to us about the Iron Man franchise is Tony Stark and his journey. The most exciting thing to us about the Avengers franchise is the interaction amongst those characters. It’s putting them in situations that you wouldn’t expect to see them in. It’s that kind of fun; and the relationships between the characters in the Avengers, which I loved. Almost whatever the heck else is happening is gravy in that franchise, because all I care about is Bruce and Tony, Tony and Steve, Widow and Bruce – and how Thor fits into it, because he’s always the outsider amongst outsiders. So I think that’s where the value lies. And going deeper amongst those characters in those relationships.”

When pressed about taking risks in the future, Feige offered, “Look, never say never. We had Thanos sitting on a throne at the end of Avengers, we got Malekith in Thor, we’ve got Falcon in Cap 2. We always take our cues from the most successful elements of the comics.”

Although not much is known about The Avengers sequel, one thing that Feige and Whedon have reassured is that we should expect new additions to the roster of Earth Mightiest Heroes when they reassemble on the big-screen. Whether those characters will be Vision, Scarlet Witch, Giant-Man/Goliath, or Wonder Man, Feige reiterates: “I think it’s not a secret that Joss and I and all of us at Marvel think that part of the fun of Avengers is the rotating team, for sure [laughs].”


Marvel Studios already describes their highly-anticipated sequel to the No. 3 highest grossing film of all time, “Marvel’s The Avengers,” as another “big cinematic event.” And expected to feature the reassembly of iconic Marvel super heroes Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow & Nick Fury taking on a new unexpected enemy, new additions to the superhero team up of a lifetime are possible.

Expecting reprisals from Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Joss Whedon from a screenplay by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” sequel is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since. And set for release May 1, 2015, the film is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. In addition to the sequel, Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including “Iron Man 3” on May 3, 2013; “Thor: The Dark World ” on November 8, 2013; “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” on April 4, 2014; and “Guardians of the Galaxy” on August 1, 2014.

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Marvel’s “Phase Two” set of films will officially begin this year with Iron Man 3 on May 3 and it only gets bigger from there. Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige is the man behind it all and he knows all the little secrets for the upcoming films. In an interview with SFX Magazine, he spoke about the scale and genres of all their upcoming films and says that the word “Cosmic” isn’t exactly how he’d describe the phase as a whole.

“The Thor film and the Guardians of the Galaxy film certainly are cosmic. Guardians and Thor will take the brunt of the cosmic side of the universe, particularly Guardians, which is 95% in space. I think Iron Man 3 shows the other side of Phase 2, which is delving deeper into the characters. Throwing them on a much more personal journey. And Captain America will showcase… What’s exciting to me about Cap – sort of about Iron Man 3 too if you look at it – is it’s tonally almost like a different genre. Shane Black’s described Iron Man 3 as a Tom Clancy sort of political thriller, which I like a lot. We hired our directors on Cap because they loved our explanation that we really want to make a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a big superhero movie. Just like with the first film – we got Joe Johnston because we said, ‘We want to do a ’40s World War Two movie masquerading as a big superhero movie.’ I love that we’re doing a sequel to a film that’s a completely different genre than the first film. I think that’s fun. And the comics do it all the time.”

Of all the films that Marvel will be making over the next few years, the one we probably know the least about is Guardians of the Galaxy which Feige says will be a standalone film to a degree and isn’t completely integral to The Avengers sequel as the other solo films are.

“It’s much more of a standalone film. It takes place in the same universe. And when we’ve been on the other side of that universe in other movies, you might see those characteristics in Guardians, but the Avengers are not involved with what’s happening out there at this time.”

Phase Two kicks off this year with Iron Man 3 on May 3,  Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, and The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015.

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Currently in the “pure speculation and rumor” category, Latino Review is reporting that Warner Bros. has approached Christopher Nolan to take over everything related to their DC Comics properties. They allege that Nolan will be involved in the development and will produce all of the DC superheroes. They also say they are working toward having Christian Bale reprise his role as Bruce Wayne from The Dark Knight series to join up with Henry Cavill in the Justice League film and that Man of Steel director Zack Snyder will also produce and may direct the project.


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This would certainly make sense as an approach after seeing the huge success with the Avengers movie. The real question is, is a dark and gritty JLA movie set in a more realistic universe what fans will want to see? Warner Brothers seems to be banking on a yes based on the numbers put up by the Dark Knight series as well as Arrow on the CW network.

 

-Chris Zaragoza

 

-Chris Zaragoza

 

The popularity of Samsung smartphones in the last two years is a big part of the shift towards handsets with 4-inch+ screens. For a company like BlackBerry to attempt a rebirth into the mobile ecosystem, they would be crazy not to try and release a phone in that same arena. Luckily, they did packing their new smartphone with some very nice tech, enough that the Z10 is a viable competitor to the Galaxy S3. The real question here is, is it enough or are they coming to the party too late to stay alive?

So, BlackBerry Z10 vs. the Samsung Galaxy S3 — which phone offers the best overall experience?

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Specs

 

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is actually more than one phone. For the purposes of this comparison, we will be looking at the US LTE version of Samsung’s flagship smartphone. This means we will be looking at a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor clocked at 1.5Ghz with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage with a removable microSD card slot, and a 2100mAh battery. That specs list reads nearly line for line the same as the BlackBerry Z10, with a few seemingly insignificant differences. The BlackBerry Z10 is actually running a 1.5Ghz  Snapdragon S4 Pro, which is a slightly different (system-on-a-chip) SoC than the regular S4.

The S4 Pro offers a more powerful GPU and more capable processor in terms of both performance and power consumption. As a result, the BlackBerry Z10 is able to pack an 1800mAh battery and still offer the same usage expectancy as the Galaxy S3.

 

The Galaxy S3 and Blackberry Z10 also feature 8MP cameras, though the Z10′s 2MP front facing camera is just slightly higher resolution than the 1.9MP on the SGS3. While the GS3 has an excellent camera the Z10′s has been faulted for it’s performance in very low light. (It works great in normal lighting though.)

The most obvious difference between the two phones is the screen size, where Samsung’s 4.8-inch screen is noticeable larger than the 4.2-inch on the BlackBerry Z10. The quality of the screens, despite the size difference, is similar as well. The 720p AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S3 is 306ppi will offer deeper blacks and sharper colors than the 1280×768 LCD display on the Z10, but BlackBerry’s 356ppi IPS screen will hold up better in direct sunlight than the Galaxy S3.

Both phones also feature Bluetooth 4.0, dual band 802.11 A/G/N WiFi, NFC, and an LTE radio. Neither phone supports wireless charging out of the box, but the Galaxy S3 can if you replace the battery cover with one that offers the feature.

On paper, these phones are about as close to identical as you can get, though the Galaxy S3 has been out for almost a year and Samsung is rumored to be right around the corner from releasing a vastly superior Galaxy S4.

Look and feel

While these two smartphones are nearly identical under the hood, the Galaxy S3 and the BlackBerry Z10 couldn’t look more different on the outside. Samsung designed the S3 to be nothing but curves and smooth soft plastic. In your hand the Galaxy S3 feels ultralight, to the point of making me terrified of dropping it. Unlike previous Samsung phones the Galaxy S3 manages to feel solid, meaning the plastic doesn’t flex or bend as you squeeze it in your hand. The Galaxy S3 was released in several colors, though the pebble blue and white models are by far the most common.

The BlackBerry Z10 is only 0.1 ounce heavier than the 4.7 oz Galaxy S3, but the phone feels very different in the hand. The Z10 feels like a brick, made of thicker plastics with a variety of textures across the surface of the phone. while Samsung worked to make the S3 feel like a single solid piece of plastic, the Z10′s textured back and hard lines offer a more industrial experience. The S3 is taller, wider, and just slightly thinner than the Blackberry Z10, placing the phone right on the edge of being uncomfortable to use with one hand.

If you’re choosing a phone based purely on look and feel, the Galaxy S3 would win on style points alone. If you’re interested in a phone that feels like it would survive a drop or two, the Z10 will be much more your pace.

 

Software

 

Easily the biggest difference between these two phones are the operating systems. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is running a heavily modified version of Android that Samsung calls “TouchWiz”, while the Z10 is running the all new BB10 OS optimized for an all screen experience. Samsung and BlackBerry have both focused on a gesture driven experience with their operating systems, though Samsung still keeps a few hardware buttons around for navigation. BlackBerry 10 has a very rigid user experience with a handful of personal options, while Samsung’s flavor of Android OS has more settings and options than BlackBerry World has apps to install on the Z10.

Apps are a big deal for a smartphone today, and while it may not be fair to compare the massive library of apps, music, and movies in the Google Play Store to the brand new BlackBerry World, users are going to want to go where they know apps are being made. BlackBerry worked hard to make sure there were 70,000 apps ready to go in their new store, but the next step will be to convince major app developers to make BlackBerry a priority when making new apps. When you see that sign in the store that says “check out our app!” if the BlackBerry logo doesn’t start showing up soon it will cause users to lose interest.

And the winner is…

Existing BlackBerry users, or users who have been waiting for BlackBerry users to make an effort should be very excited for the Z10, but it would take a lot to convince someone who has never used a smartphone before to pick that phone over the Galaxy S3.

Put simply, there’s nothing you can do on a BlackBerry Z10 (that the average user is actually interested in doing) that you can’t do on a Galaxy S3, except for BBM. In fact, if you chose to, you could re-create most of the BlackBerry 10 user experience on the Galaxy S3 by installing a custom launcher and a virtual keyboard that emulated the features in BB10. Unfortunately for Blackberry, lack of REAL app support is going to kill them yet again. Deciding to get into the game “for real” at this point feels a bit “too little too late”.