Technological World for September 23: Microsoft buys Bethesda, Canadian James Dyson Award winners, Samsung's Galaxy S20 FE, Canadian Game Awards winners, back in time with Super Mario 3D All-Stars

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, UBC alumni win James Dyson Award for Canada, Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 FE smartphone, Canadian Game Awards winners, and having fun with Super Mario 3D All-Stars. But first, Microsoft is buying one of the biggest video game publishers.

Microsoft surprises gaming world with acquisition of Bethesda on eve of Xbox console preorder

Bethesda Softworks, which has published some of the most popular games in the past decade, is becoming an Xbox Games Studio. In fact, the acquisition by Microsoft is of ZeniMax Media, which includes not just Bethesda, but also Arkane Studios, id Software, Machinegames, and Tango Gameworks.

Xbox head Phil Spencer made the surprise announcement on Monday, the day before preorders for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles began.

This supercharges the Xbox Game Pass offering with games including The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, Dishonored, and Wolfenstein.

UBC engineers are Canadian winners of annual James Dyson Award

A group of engineers from UBC have won the 2020 Canadian James Dyson Award competition. The Attentiv catheter was designed to prevent IV infiltration, when IV fluid leaks into the surrounding skin.

Two runners up designs coming from teams based at the University of Waterloo were also recognized.

Scope is a camera lens that can be altered by applying an electric current.

SmartPatrol uses remote cameras and a computer to analyze landing zones at ski and snowboard areas to let people know when the area is clear for them to proceed.

The three Canadian designs will now be up against the national winners and runners up from all other countries. A shortlist of 20 will be announced, and James Dyson will pick the ultimate winning design.

Disclosure: I was one of three judges that reviewed submissions for the Canadian award this year.

Samsung reveals Galaxy S20 FE smartphone

In an online press event today, Samsung showed off a new smartphone in the Galaxy S20 family. The “FE,” for “fan edition,” keeps many of the premium features of the tech company’s flagship devices (the S20, the S20 Plus and the S20 Ultra), but at a lower price point.

One of the best features that the FE keeps is the 120 Hz refresh rate of its siblings, which delivers smooth animations and graphics on the 6.5-inch display.

To bring down the price point, Samsung compromised on the rear camera, but it still has three lenses that deliver up to 12 megapixels, so while you’re not shooting 8K video with the FE, the cameras are still better than those from a couple of years ago.

The chassis on the FE is also plastic, but that is one reason it’s available in six colours.

The issue with the Galaxy S20 FE is that while it’s cheaper than the other models in the family – pricing in Canada starts at $950 – you can move up to the S20 for $250, or to the S20 Plus for $380.

Whether that’s enough of a savings for consumers remains to be seen.

The Galaxy S20 FE will be released on October 16. Preorders begin on October 1.

Canadian Game Awards recognize achievement in video game development

The Canadian Game Awards were supposed to be held at the TIFF Bell LightBox theatre in Toronto in April. But along came … well, you know.

Instead, last weekend, achievement in the Canadian video game industry was recognized with an online broadcast.

Vancouver indie studio Brace Yourself Games won four awards for Cadence of Hyrule, a version of its Crypt of the NecroDancer rhythm game for the Nintendo Switch and featuring characters from the Legend of Zelda.

Cadence won Best Game Design, Best Indie Game, Best Console Game, and Game of the Year.

Vancouver’s Klei Entertainment was named Studio of the Year. Far Cry New Dawn, developed at Ubisoft Montreal, won for audio design, Best PC Game, and Best Performance for actor Leslie Miller.

Vancouver developed games Dauntless and Mechwarrior 5 also won awards, for Best Art Direction and Best Narrative, respectively.

Television personality Marissa Roberto was recognized for her hosting of esports events.

The full list of winners.

Play three old but still amazing Mario games on your Nintendo Switch

Nintendo makes great games, and one way to know just how great they are is to play them years after they were first released. Nearly every game, no matter how old, holds up.

The three games included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars are proof of this point. Included in the bundled release are three 3D platforming games featuring the moustachioed plumber:

  • Super Mario 64 (originally released for the Nintendo 64 in 1996)
  • Super Mario Sunshine (originally released for the GameCube in 2002)
  • Super Mario Galaxy (originally released for the Wii in 2007)

Your mileage with the three games will vary depending on your relationship with them. People who were old enough to appreciate what Super Mario 64 introduced to the platforming genre mostly dislike Sunshine, which replaces the jumping mechanic with a jetpack of sorts.

The presentation of the three games differs based on the age of the original assets, too. Super Mario 64’s single colour objects look just fine scaled up for modern screens, but the multi-coloured textures are muddy. Sunshine, meanwhile, had better starting graphics so looks better here. And Galaxy is stunning in high definition.

Where Galaxy might be frustrating is in how the controls have – or haven’t – been tweaked from the original game’s Wii motion controls. The spin attack on the Wii, for example, required you to shake the controller and here is linked to a button. But some actions still require you to tap and swipe the Switch screen, which is difficult if you’re using that hand to hold the device.

Playing the three games is a great opportunity to see how Nintendo sparked a new genre – 3D platforming – and play through the continuing experimentation.

If you’re looking for some laid-back platforming fun, don’t wait. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is available only until the end of March 2021.


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