Microsoft’s Xbox consoles are considered a pillar of the industry, part of a trifecta that makes up modern gaming. The first Xbox launched in 2001; the Xbox Series X and S arrived just last year. Today, Xbox is a powerhouse, yet it wasn’t always so. Bloomberg’s Dina Bass published an oral history on the creation of Microsoft’s Xbox that recounts the console’s conception, from an executive retreat through release day — with snags like a failed bid at Nintendo detailed along the way.
The original Xbox was known as Midway — or Coffin Box to some, according to Xbox technology officer Seamus Blackley, “because they worried that it would fail and end their career at Microsoft.” As part of an effort to lock in exclusive games, Microsoft tried to acquire companies like Electronic Arts, Midway Games, and Square. Kevin Bachus, director of third-party relations, says that president and later Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also made the team meet with Nintendo. Their pitch revolved around the technical powers of the Xbox. It did not go as planned.
“They just laughed their asses off,” Bachus told Bloomberg. “Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.”
Bloomberg’s story goes on to explore the console’s actual achievements, including its successful bid for Halo creator Bungie. The full piece is well worth a read, especially for the anecdote about an unnamed Konami executive.
As for Nintendo, chairman of Nintendo America Howard Lincoln told the publication that the company “does not talk about confidential discussions with other companies. In any event, nothing came of these discussions.”
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: which top-end phone is for you? – TechRadar
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the biggest, most expensive entry in the Samsung Galaxy S21 range, so of course it’s directly competing with the iPhone 12 Pro Max – Apple’s biggest and most expensive phone.
These are both big, ultra-high-end handsets, and both come with much of what you’d expect, including top-tier power and near endless features. But while they have a lot in common, the specifics of what they offer also vary in numerous ways.
So if you’re trying to decide between the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, this article should help, as it compares the two phones in full.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a slightly curved glass back with a very large camera block in the top left corner, from the front, there’s an all-screen design, with curved edges and a single-lens punch-hole camera in the top center.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max on the other hand is a lot flatter – both on the front and back, but it too has a glass back and is light on bezel, though rather than a cut-out in the screen for the selfie camera, it has a sizeable notch at the top. Its rear camera block is smaller than the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s though, and it’s square, where Samsung’s is more rectangular.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max itself is a similar size to the S21 Ultra though, coming in at 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4mm, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm. So Samsung’s phone is a bit taller and thicker, but slightly narrower. The two phones weigh exactly the same amount though, at 228g each.
Both handsets also have IP68 certification, meaning they’re dust and water resistant. In the case of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, that water resistance extends to depths of 6 meters for 30 minutes though, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is only tested to depths of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.
As for colors, you can get the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in Phantom Black and Phantom Silver, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max is available in Graphite, Silver, Gold, and Pacific Blue shades.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s screen is enormous at 6.8 inches. It’s a curved OLED screen with a 1440 x 3200 resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. Unlike previous Samsung flagships you can also run it at both full resolution and the highest refresh rate simultaneously.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a big screen, in fact it’s the biggest Apple has ever put on a phone, but it’s slightly smaller at 6.7 inches.
This also uses OLED, but it’s a flat display, and it comes in at 1284 x 2778. In terms of pixel density, you’re looking at 515 pixels per inch on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and 458 on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
While we haven’t yet fully tested the S21 Ultra’s screen, Samsung’s flagships typically have among the best smartphone screens of their release year, but so do Apple’s phones, and in our review we found that the iPhone 12 Pro Max had a great, bright screen with excellent color reproduction.
There’s a quad-lens camera on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, with a 108MP f/1.8 main sensor, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide one, a 10MP f/2.4 telephoto one (capable of 3x optical zoom), and a second 10MP telephoto one, this time with an f/4.9 aperture and support for 10x optical zoom.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a quad-lens camera, but the specs are quite different. There’s a 12MP f/1.6 main snapper, a 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide one, a 12MP f/2.2 telephoto one (with 2.5x optical zoom) and a LiDAR scanner, for judging depth and distances – which is particularly useful for augmented reality.
On the front meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 40MP f/2.2 camera, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 12MP f/2.2 one.
While the numbers might look less impressive on Apple’s camera, we were certainly impressed in our review, noting that the camera is “powerful” and performs well even at night. It remains to be seen how the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera will perform at the time of writing, but we’re expecting good things.
There’s a huge 5,000mAh battery in the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which dwarfs the 3,687mAh one in the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
We don’t know how long the S21 Ultra’s will last yet, but in our tests we found that the iPhone 12 Pro Max lasted over a day comfortably, but was unlikely to stretch to two. With its slightly sharper and larger screen the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra might eat through battery faster, but then it’s got a lot more available as well.
Both phones support fast charging and wireless charging, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra additionally supports Wireless PowerShare – which lets you use it to wirelessly charge other gadgets.
Specs and features
Both of these phones are very powerful, as you’d expect, though the exact specs differ. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has either a Snapdragon 888 chipset (if you’re in the US) or an Exynos 2100 (in most other regions), while the iPhone 12 Pro Max has an A14 Bionic. All three of these though are the top of their ranges.
One thing that the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a lot more of though is RAM, with 12GB included in the 128GB and 256GB models, while the 512GB model has 16GB of RAM. The iPhone 12 Pro Max on the other hand only has 6GB of RAM, whichever model you buy (128GB, 256GB, or 512GB). That said, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a very fast phone, so we wouldn’t read too much into that.
One feature that both of these phones have is 5G, so you’ll be ready to take advantage of the new generation of mobile connectivity, but a lot of their other features differ.
For one thing, while the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has an in-screen fingerprint scanner, the iPhone 12 Pro Max instead goes all in on Face ID.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports Samsung’s S Pen stylus (though this is sold separately), while the iPhone 12 Pro Max supports MagSafe accessories, which you can magnetically attach to the back of the phone.
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra starts at $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,849, for which you’ll get a 128GB model. It’s easy to do a direct comparison with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, as that also starts with 128GB of storage, for which you’ll pay $1,099 / £1,099 / AU$1,849.
So the two phones cost the same amount in Australia, but in the US and the UK the iPhone 12 Pro Max is actually slightly cheaper, which isn’t a sentence you’ll hear very often. There’s not much in it though.
As for availability, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is of course available now, while at the time of writing you can pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, with it going on sale on January 29.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra really stand up well to each other on paper. Both have premium builds, top-end power, 5G, quad-lens cameras, up to 512GB of storage, and similarly large screens.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display is marginally larger and higher resolution, it has longer range optical zoom, a bigger battery, and more RAM, plus support for the S Pen stylus. But with the iPhone 12 Pro Max you get MagSafe support, better water resistance, and a LiDAR scanner, plus in most places the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a slightly lower starting price.
If any of those factors are a big deal for you, that should help in making a purchase decision, but you might want to wait for our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review before buying either.
New report details Cyberpunk 2077's development troubles, crunch and "almost entirely fake" E3 demo – Eurogamer.net
A new report has shed fresh light on Cyberpunk 2077’s troubled development.
According to Bloomberg‘s development sources (paywall), Cyberpunk 2077 suffered from a raft of technical problems and unrealistic deadlines set by CD Projekt management.
Cyberpunk 2077’s disastrous December 2020 launch, which revealed serious technical issues with the game on consoles, and glitches, bugs and cut content across all platforms, resulted in its removal from the PlayStation Store and a warning label on the Microsoft Store about the performance of the game on Xbox One.
This week, CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiński addressed the events leading up to the botched launch of Cyberpunk 2077 in an attempt to explain how the game’s widely lambasted Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions were released in such a poor state.
According to Iwiński, problems with the console release stemmed from Cyperpunk’s “huge” scope – specifically the “multitude of custom objects, interacting systems, and mechanics” all condensed into a single big city and “in a relatively loading-free environment”.
Despite the significant hardware gap, the studio believed “things did not look super difficult at first”, but Iwiński conceded “time has proven that we’ve underestimated the task”.
That proof, of course, came on launch day, when considerable criticism was immediately levied at Cyberpunk’s prominent bugs and awful performance, particularly on base consoles. However, Iwiński insisted the studio’s testing “did not show a big part of the issues you experienced”, and that the developer saw “significant improvements each and every day” as it got closer to release and “really believed we’d deliver in the final day zero update”.
However, according to Bloomberg, CD Projekt’s own developers said many common problems were discovered, but the staff didn’t have time to fix them before launch. According to Bloomberg’s sources, CD Projekt’s management dismissed concerns raised by engineers that Cyberpunk 2077 was too complex to run well on the ageing last-gen consoles.
The report also revealed that while Cyberpunk 2077 was announced in 2012, full development began in 2016 when studio head Adam Badowski took over as director and overhauled the game, including shifting it from third-person to first-person.
Bloomberg reports Cyberpunk 2077’s eye-catching E3 2018 demo “was almost entirely fake”. “CD Projekt hadn’t yet finalised and coded the underlying gameplay systems, which is why so many features, such as car ambushes, were missing from the final product,” Bloomberg said. “Developers said they felt like the demo was a waste of months that should have gone toward making the game.”
Jason Schreier, author of the report, took to Twitter to reveal more, saying features originally planned for Cyberpunk 2077, such as wall-running, flying cars and ambushes were all cut during the process of development.
CD Projekt addressed the removal of the wall-running feature – shown off in gameplay demos prior to launch – in a July 2020 interview. Speaking to GameReactor, level designer Max Pears said wall-running was removed “due to design reasons”.
Previous gameplay had shown player-character V using Mantis Blades to perch in hard-to-reach spots before leaping down to assassinate enemies. This never made it into the final version of the game.
Schreier also tweeted to comment on Cyberpunk 2077’s disappointing police system, which “was all done at the last minute”.
“As is evident by the final product, it was unclear to some of the team why they were trying to make both an RPG and a GTA with a fraction of Rockstar’s staff,” Schreier said.
– And if you’re wondering why the police system in Cyberpunk 2077 is so janky: well, it was all done at the last minute. As is evident by the final product, it was unclear to some of the team why they were trying to make both an RPG and a GTA with a fraction of Rockstar’s staff
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 16, 2021
CD Projekt’s approach to crunch has come under fire in recent years. In September 2020, CD Projekt told employees it would require them to work six-day weeks until the game’s November launch (it was subsequently delayed to December), breaking a previous promise not to force compulsory overtime to finish the project.
This new, compulsory overtime was paid, as is required by Polish law, but came after many employees were reportedly working long hours already.
At the time, Badowski tweeted to say: “This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but everyone is well compensated for every extra hour they put in. And, like in recent years, 10 per cent of the annual profit our company generates in 2020 will be split directly among the team.”
When CD Projekt delayed Cyberpunk a final time to December, it said it was struggling to ship the large number of different versions of the game it needed to have ready this year – including current and next-gen consoles, PC and Google Stadia.
Bloomberg reveals the extent of the crunch that occurred at the studio over the years, with some staff saying they felt pressured to put in extra hours by their managers or coworkers.
– A few non-Polish staffers shared stories about coworkers using Polish in front of them, which violated company rules. Made them feel ostracized, they said… were their coworkers talking shit about them? Combined with crunch and low salaries, this led quite a few expats to quit
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 16, 2021
Thoughts now turn to CD Projekt’s ongoing attempt to turn Cyberpunk 2077 around. The studio plans to release variably sized patches – intended to fix bugs and improve the experience across all platforms – “on a regular basis”. The first of these is due next week, with another more significant patch to follow in the coming weeks.
But will Cyberpunk 2077 patches be enough to restore CD Projekt’s reputation in the eyes of fans and investors?
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G First Look: No SD, Insane Zoom – Forbes
The biggest takeaway from my last 24 hours with Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is that it feels like the ‘ultra’ phone Samsung should’ve released in 2020. In almost every area, Samsung has listened and remedied some of the major complaints from last year’s expensive predecessor, including the price. The S21 Ultra is $200 cheaper than the S20 Ultra despite the upgrades, although it’s not exactly a steal at $1199.
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To get the price down, Samsung removed the micro-SD slot—a feature the Korean company resolutely stuck with when others ditched it years ago. The charging brick has also disappeared supposedly in the name of environmentalism.
But the S21 Ultra isn’t a story of loss. There are fresh upgrades that feel appropriate for the “ultra” moniker. There are four camera sensors on the back, including a 12MP ultra wide, 108MP wide, 10MP periscope telephoto with 10x optical zoom and a 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom.
The star of the show appears to be the 10x optical zoom, which elicited a bona fide “wow” from me when I first tried it out. Check out the side-by-side below, which shows how powerful the optical zoom is. The compression doesn’t quite do the image justice because you can read the street sign clearly in the full quality picture, but you get the idea. As much as technology has improved, optical zooms are, and will continue to be, unbeaten. Hats off to Samsung.
The 100x Space Zoom tech returns with apparent improved focusing and clarity, and as amazing as it sounds, we’ll have to see how it fares in testing. There are a lot of neat new features too, like 8K video recording—which now lets users take high resolution stills from footage—improved night mode with better noise reduction, and a ‘zoom lock’ feature that steadies zoomed-in images and reduces camera shake.
On the video side, the S21 Ultra achieves a first by offering 4K recording at 60 frames per second across all lenses. Around the front, the 40MP sensor dials up the detail for selfies. There’s also a new “director’s view” feature that captures dual video on both the front and back cameras for reaction shots.
The design has improved too. Gone is the shiny frame from the S20 Ultra, instead there’s now a flat matte finish that feels more premium to touch. It is, however, still a huge phone. The 6.8-inch screen is very much a matter of taste. Personally, I’d like to see Samsung cram all of this tech into a 6-inch body.
However, Samsung has attempted to fix the top-heavy issue of the S20 Ultra. The weight distribution is more even in the new phone, which I’m grateful for. There is an upside of a giant screen: seeing Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED 2x QHD tech in all of its glory, which looks outstanding, as do all Samsung flagship displays. I’m looking forward to testing it out with Game Pass Ultimate.
Elsewhere, the S21 Ultra has a 25% brighter display (1500nits) than the S20 Ultra, now supports the S Pen and has a 1.7x larger in-screen fingerprint reader. I still prefer the physical fingerprint reader on the back of the Pixel 5, which feels faster and more responsive.
I have concerns around lasting power because the 5000mAh battery has a lot of work to do powering this giant display and everything under it. I suspect the promise of a 50% charge in 30 minutes will be important, as will the automatic display refresh rate (which fluctuates between a range of 10Hz and 120Hz to save power).
The S21 Ultra appears to have fixed the mistakes of past and delivered the Ultra phone Samsung should’ve released in February 2020. If you were wise enough to hold off on buying the S20 Ultra last year, this appears to be much more worthy of your money. But I’m still boggled by the sheer size of the device and I can’t help but feel like the same tech in a 6-inch body would be a game changer. I’ll know more in my upcoming full review, so stay tuned for that.
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