EA is shutting down the studio that created The Sims

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Another development studio responsible for countless gaming memories is going away. Maxis Emeryville, which launched the massively popular The Sims franchise, is being closed by publisher Electronic Arts. Designer Guillaume Pierre tweeted the news earlier today. “Well it was a fun 12 years, but it’s time to turn off the lights and put the key under the door,” he wrote. Founded in 1987 by Will Wright and Jeff Braun (and acquired by EA a decade later), Maxis has dreamt up some of PC gaming’s greatest triumphs. The main Emeryville studio also produced Spore, a memorable title that became one of the iPhone’s earliest high-profile games from a third-party developer.

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Does Apple Pay really have a fraud problem?

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Apple Pay is being used for fraudulent activities by criminals with stolen identities and credit cards, as first reported by The Guardian. While Apple Pay encryption has not been breached, the mobile payments system has seen an increase in fraud as criminals exploit a hole in the verification process when you add a new card to Apple Pay, allowing them to add stolen credit cards to their iPhones, according to sources familiar with the situation.

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The new Avengers: Age of Ultron YouTube trailer was off to a bouncy start

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Something was clearly amiss with Marvel Studios’ new Avengers: Age of Ultron YouTube trailer, almost to the point of being unwatchable. It seems there was a bizarre stabilization filter on that’s warping every frame — and causing the black bars to bounce around like crazy throughout the clip. (Update: It’s fixed now, thankfully — all verb tenses updated from present to past).

Here’s Iron Man, for example:

It wasn’t intentional (although it does make for some trippy art). Marvel is aware, however, and is working to fix it (update: it’s fixed — see above). This is Executive Editorial Director of Digital Media Ryan Penagos (aka “Agent M”):

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The fast, furious, and futuristic cars of the Geneva Motor Show 2015

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This year’s Geneva Motor Show has been a special one, hosting the announcements for an usually large number of special cars — everything from McLaren’s P1 GTR to the Koenigsegg Regera, a 1,500-horsepower hybrid capable of chewing up and spitting out virtually everything else on the road. Oh, and the very last Bugatti Veyron was shown here after a ten-year run.

Here are some of the highlights.

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Why video game engines may power the future of film and architecture

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Epic Games, the company best known for Gears of War, has a very different plan for this generation of video games — one that expands far beyond what games are typically assumed to be. Founder Tim Sweeney sat down at the annual Game Developers Conference to explain why the company has moved away from expensive boxed blockbusters to its ambitious strategy for the future.

“We realized the world was changing,” says Sweeney. “Last generation Epic was like this badass AAA game developer, but we were pretty remote. We’d ship a game every two or three years, it’d get a huge reception, and we’d go off and build another one.”

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Microsoft is bringing Xbox games to its futuristic HoloLens headset

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Appearing at Game Developers Conference 2015 today, Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft intends to bring Xbox gaming to the company’s futuristic HoloLens headset. “Gaming and entertainment is going to be critical,” to introducing consumers to such a radically new experience, Spencer said. He revealed that Microsoft’s own first-party development studios are already at work trying to build captivating experiences beyond what we saw in January. But eventually, Microsoft’s going to open the doors to outside developers.

“While there are going to be many uses and industries that take advantage of Microsoft HoloLens and everything that holographic computing has to offer, gaming is a huge opportunity,” Microsoft said in a press…

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The new Audi R8 looks the same as the old Audi R8, and that’s okay

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Apart from fashion, I’m not sure that there’s any industry that’s as insatiably hungry for newness than the automotive world. It’s a devastatingly design-focused business, endlessly devouring itself in the name of creating something unique, something you haven’t seen before. Even the notoriously iterative smartphone market is cut more slack: Apple can effortlessly get away with slapping an “S” on an iPhone’s name and using the body for another year. Cars are different. If you release a new model that looks essentially the same as the one it replaces, you’re going to hear about it. People are going to ask questions. I can’t tell the difference. It’s the same car.

There are, as always, exceptions to the rule. Retro-themed vehicles are c…

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The design studio behind Monument Valley is rethinking in-car displays

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For most, Ustwo is best known for its breakout mobile hit, Monument Valley — but the company is also an accomplished design studio. As part of a partnership with car design consultancy CDR, Ustwo took a hard look at instrument clusters, offering up a few fundamental redesigns for how we interpret speed and other critical information while we’re driving.

The company notes that even in the digital age, instrument clusters are presently quite skeuomorphic — digital speedometers typically resemble analog ones, and so on — but the freedom afforded by an LCD display means that there’s probably an opportunity to try other things that make more sense. It applied what it calls “adaptive hierarchy,” displaying only the most relevant information…

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Microsoft launches Xbox One SDK to let any developer build apps for its console

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Microsoft is finally letting developers build apps for the Xbox One. While the software maker has had a private SDK since the console’s launch, that will start to go a lot more public today. At the Games Developer Conference (GDC) today, Xbox chief Phil Spencer revealed that Microsoft is launching its Xbox One SDK today to select testers, with plans to let any developer access the SDK in the coming months.

Developers will be able to create apps using the Windows 10 universal app platform that spans across PCs, tablets, phones, and the Xbox One. Microsoft demonstrated a Windows 10 app running on the Xbox One earlier this week, and it looks like it’s going to be fairly simple for developers to target the console alongside other devices….

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John Carmack says Samsung will put its full strength behind the Gear VR later this year

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Samsung and Oculus haven’t pushed the Gear VR too hard just yet — but that’s going to change later in 2015. Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack just said that the formal strategy for his company is to put all of Samsung’s considerable marketing muscle around Gear VR later this year, during Samsung’s next big release cycle. “We’ve got a plan now, we’ve got a date, you can mark this in the calendars,” Carmack said. “Oculus is going forward as hard as we can, trying to sell as many units as possible with the next Gear VR.”

Carmack noted that he couldn’t discuss unannounced Samsung products — but then said that history has shown Samsung has two big releases per year. During the next one Gear VR would receive the full weight of…

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Xbox One wireless controller adapter for Windows arrives later this year

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Microsoft is planning to release a wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers later this year. If you’re a fan of using an Xbox One controller on PC, then this will allow you to play games without a USB cable. The software maker had a similar adapter for the Xbox 360, and this timely release comes alongside Windows 10. Later this year you’ll be able to use the Xbox app on Windows 10 to stream Xbox games on PC all with an Xbox One controller, so this adapter will come in handy if you hate cables.

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HBO’s streaming service is reportedly called HBO Now, costs $15 per month

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HBO’s subscription streaming service will be called HBO Now and is expected to cost $15 per month, according to the International Business Times. The report says that HBO is targeting a launch for Now in early April, ahead of the start date for Game of Thrones. While Game of Thones would be a great way for HBO to drive subscriptions to the new service, it’ll have to be careful if it plans to do that: last year, HBO’s online streaming option for cable subscribers, HBO Go, wouldn’t work for many who were trying to watch during the premiere. That would be a very bad look for a new service, and the Times says that HBO doesn’t plan on launching until it’s satisfied that it can do so without issue.

Apple is reportedly one of the partners that…

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Instagram will now let you upload photo sets, but only if you’re a brand

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Since it launched, Instagram has been a way of telling a story with a single, square-shaped image. The Facebook-owned company may have expanded to video and time lapses, but its heart remains in those singular, postcard-style pictures. That changes today with the introduction of (gulp) “carousel ads” — photo sets of up to four pictures that you swipe through, Tinder-style, while thumbing down your feed. Instagram says the move comes in response to advertiser requests for ways to tell sequenced stories. Have you ever seen McDonald’s post a hamburger and wondered what happens to it?* You are going to love carousel ads.

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I wore the Vive VR headset and didn’t want to take it off

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If the point of virtual reality headsets is to transport their wearer into another world, then HTC’s Vive VR is already a success. I strapped myself in for one of HTC’s demos at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, and I did indeed feel like I had stepped into the 3D worlds rendered around me. But that standard has already been met by the excellent Oculus Rift, the headset that got the world excited about VR all over again. Where the Vive VR looks to set itself apart is by expanding the scope and scale of motions that I can perform while inside its simulated realms.

Oh, and it has some pretty outrageous controllers, too.

Co-developed by HTC and feted game developer / distributor Valve, the Vive VR is designed to deliver a…

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NVIDIA announces Titan X, the new most powerful GPU on the planet

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During today’s Epic Games event at the Game Developers Conference 2015, NVIDIA co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang rushed the stages like a professional wrestling hero to announce the Titan X, NVIDIA’s latest GPU. Huang claims it is the most powerful GPU on the planet. With 12GB frame buffer and 8 billion transistors, it is — on paper — a significant step past NVIDIA’s current hardware. NVIDIA’s Titan used to be its most powerful hardware.

Huang autographed the GPU’s box and gifted the hardware to Epic Games’ co-founder Tim Sweeney. “As a result of Tim calling me,” said Huang, “and his phone call was, ‘Can you save GDC’ […] we decided to launch Titan X at the Epic event. This has never happened before in the history of our industry.”

Huang came…

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This is the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer that held Twitter hostage

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Marvel movies are so big that they have a gravitational pull unto themselves, leading studios to make unprecedented dealsmove toward expanded universes, and draw in filmmakers that one might not think are particularly interested in comic book movies. What they usually don’t need are needy, public demonstrations of how much people really, really like them in advance — but that’s what was behind this new trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Earlier this morning, the official Twitter account for the film asked followers to tweet out the hashtag…

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You can now control your Hyundai with an Android Wear smartwatch

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The Android Wear app that Hyundai demonstrated at CES several weeks ago is now available on Google Play, letting owners of appropriately-equipped models control their cars from their wrists. The app is basically a scaled-down version of the Blue Link app already available for Android phones — you can start and stop the engine, lock and unlock the doors, find the car if you can’t remember where you parked it, and flash the lights, among other things. The app also supports voice controls, so you can just say things like “find my car” instead of tapping through the UI.

Any car with first- or second-generation Blue Link is supported, starting with the 2012 Sonata. In addition to Android Wear support, Hyundai notes that an Apple Watch…

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The Homo genus is nearly half a million years older than we thought

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A new fossil pushes evidence for the human genus, Homo, back hundreds of thousands of years. Discovered on a hilltop in Ethiopia, the 2.8-million-year-old piece of a jaw containing five teeth is giving researchers a rare look into a period that they still have little evidence on: the changes to human ancestors between 2 million and 3 million years ago. Findings on it are being published today in the journal Science.

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Indie games could help save the Wii U

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Owning a Nintendo console means being patient. While the company’s internally developed games are as amazing as ever, the Wii U, and to a lesser extent the 3DS, are largely bereft of third-party content. Once Mario Kart comes out, all you can do is wait until The Legend of Zelda arrives. But the company may finally have found a solution for the quiet periods in-between big Nintendo games: smaller, digital releases from indie studios.

It’s far from a unique concept; Sony has been aggressively pursuing indie developers for some time, while Microsoft recently followed suit with its ID@Xbox program. Nintendo has also released a number of independently developed titles in the past, but it never approached the endeavor with the same fervor…

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Project Morpheus is almost ready — it just needs games

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The consumer version of Project Morpheus — Sony’s foray into the world of virtual reality — is slated to launch in the first half of next year. But the device itself is basically ready right now. “On the hardware side,” says Shuhei Yoshida, president of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, “we are pretty close to final.”

All it really needs are some games.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco yesterday, Sony unveiled the second prototype of the headset, one that adds some significant improvements compared to the original that was unveiled one year ago. These include a much nicer 1920 x 1080 RGB OLED display, a 120hz refresh rate for “super low latency,” and a more ergonomic design that makes it easier to put…

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