Gaming

Nintendo launches a free Pokémon game that looks like Minecraft

Will also launch more Pokemon games by next year

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For all its popularity, the Pokémon series has taken its sweet time entering the current-gen market. The series’ latest games, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, are still exclusives for the Nintendo 3DS. Finally, Nintendo is breathing new life into the series with a flurry of Switch exclusives.

To start, Nintendo has quietly launched a free-to-play Pokémon game today for the new console. Called Pokémon Quest, the game mixes our favorite critter catcher with the graphics of Minecraft and the elements of an RPG.

Set in Tumblecube Island, Pokémon Quest offers a unique experience for those new to the series. Players create their own camps where they can attract and befriend Pokémon from the Kanto region (Pokémon Red and Blue). From there, they can take Pokémon expeditions to explore the cube island. Every expedition ends with a gaggle of loot, which you can use to upgrade your Pokémon or spruce up your camp.

While the game itself is free-to-play, players can boost their experience with a set of paid DLCs that upgrade their abilities.

Regardless, the game uses mechanics that are simple enough even for more casual users. Nintendo’s latest push for more Pokémon aims to draw newer users to the series.

To complement this, Nintendo is also launching a couple more games this November. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee will link the new current-gen exclusives with yesteryear’s smash hit, Pokémon Go. Despite the AR integration, both games are essentially remakes of 1999’s Pokémon Yellow. As such, they will feature only the Pokémon from Kanto.

Additionally, all three games will herald the series’ first major release on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo has not revealed any details on these games yet. However, they promise that they will launch sometime in 2019.

SEE ALSO: Pokémon might release its eighth generation on the Nintendo Switch

Features

Indie game developers in Asia get exclusive training from Google Play

Now is the time to make mobile games!

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huuuuge venue, hundreds of thousands of people, and everything gaming wherever you look.

This was the scenario during last week’s G-STAR 2018 at Busan, South Korea. Known to be one of the most important gatherings for game developers from around the world, Google Play took advantage of this event to showcase something new.

Instead of having additional big names thrown into the lineup of the four-day event, the company brought its promising platoon of independent game devs to share their works with everyone. More importantly, to share their stories of how they started and how Google has helped them get to where they are now.

Indie Games Accelerator program

Earlier this year, Google Play introduced the Indie Games Accelerator program that targets gaming startups based in India, the Philippines, Singapore, and other nearby countries. This is due to a rising revenue in mobile gaming in the APAC region with the Philippines and India being one of the fastest-growing players in Asia.

Google Play Director Purnima Kochikar explains that they want to keep their customers coming back and downloading their apps at the Play Store.

The goal is to help budding developers make high-quality games and reach their full potential. Google Play does this by conducting gaming bootcamps and providing them with all the tools and mentoring they need to create a successful title.

Aspiring developers may apply for the four-month program where they learn to build, scale, launch, and market the next generation of mobile games.

Game developers from the Philippines (middle) and Vietnam (right).

Apart from the tools and technology that Google is providing, developers accepted into the program will work with people already in the industry, be connected to its networks, and be given professional insights to help keep them walking on the right path.

Philippines’ Mochibits

Howard Go, an indie game developer from Mochibits, is the first Filipino to participate at a Google Play event at G-STAR. His game, Bounc.io – Balls vs Balls, lets players battle it out PvP style in real-time.

A former VP for a local telco, he quit the corporate life and went for what he really likes doing.

Howard Go, Mochibits

According to Go, the reason he took this path was that he wanted to do something that actually belonged to him. And by joining the Indie Games Accelerator program, he was able to produce a quality game that meets the standards of today’s big titles.

He was given tools that help detect in-game problems, avoid app crashes, and more. Go said the company also provides feedback and tells the developer what works and what doesn’t based on actual stats.

His game now has a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5 at the Google Play Store.

Mobile Gaming as the future of gaming?

There’s no denying that mobile gaming is on the rise.

Our smartphones are getting more and more powerful and we take them wherever we are — making them a perfect platform for gaming on the go. During the event, some of the biggest tournaments were not played on a console or PC, but on mobile phones. That’s something you didn’t see a few years back.

After a friendly debate with Go on whether mobile gaming is indeed the future of gaming, we’ve agreed that it’s not something that will die down soon. In fact, it will simply get bigger in the coming years.

If you’re an aspiring developer, now is the time to start making games. Google Play just made it a lot easier to get your ideas out there.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Phone review: A true gaming phone done right?

Undeniably a phone built for mobile gamers

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Finally, the ROG Phone from ASUS is out in the market! We first saw the gaming smartphone back in Computex 2018 last June, and we waited a long time (four months to be exact) to take one home.

We received a lot of questions about this phone. Is it the best gaming smartphone today? How is it different from other flagship phones with similar specs? And, how much value are you getting out of it?

To answer all those, here’s my review of the ROG Phone. You know the drill, let’s start with the phone’s physique.

Its AMOLED display measures 6 inches diagonally

With a Full HD+ resolution and 18:9 aspect ratio

It features stereo front-facing speakers

It’s not exactly borderless, but you get great loudspeakers

The physical buttons are on the right side

They are made of metal

The left has the card tray and side-mounted USB-C port

The phone doesn’t support expandable storage via microSD

Another USB-C at the bottom along with a 3.5mm jack

This phone doesn’t sacrifice wired connectivity

The back looks aggressive with the ROG logo

The logo lights up!

The phone is pretty angular with lots of unusual shapes

The ROG persona goes mobile

In case you’re wondering what ROG means…

It’s definitely for gamers

There are two rear cameras and a fingerprint reader

Almost forgot about those!

Obviously designed with gaming in mind

One look at the ROG Phone and it already screams that it’s a gaming smartphone. Unlike other game-centric phones from Honor and Razer which have subtle gaming looks, the ROG Phone belongs with the rest of the ROG laptops and peripherals that are made by ASUS.

When there are a number of phones on the table like in our office, it’s not difficult to differentiate the ROG Phone from the rest. The front of the phone has a distinct copper accent on its front stereo speakers, and the back is uniquely ROG. If you own an ROG laptop or desktop and use ROG-branded peripherals, the ROG Phone should be part of your collection.

Like with other 2018 phones, the ROG Phone has a glass back using Corning’s tough Gorilla Glass. Don’t expect things to be symmetrical here because the dual rear cameras and the LED flash are housed in an unusual shape. Even the fingerprint reader is slightly positioned to the right of the phone, but don’t worry, it’s still reachable using either index fingers.

The ROG Phone’s bold design doesn’t end there. The back also has a futuristic styling using lines and an ROG logo that lights up in virtually any color you want. To top things off, the phone even has an exterior for its cooling system.

Encased in a metal frame, the ROG Phone is premium all around. It certainly feels more well-built than its ZenFone cousins. But of course, the loud design is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some gamers might even find it too much, but ASUS is not following Razer’s design choices.

Apart from the phone’s body, there is also a lot to talk about the phone’s display. The 6-inch display is not just your ordinary AMOLED panel. Apart from producing deep blacks and vibrant colors, the display is capable of a 90Hz refresh rate with 1ms pixel response time. Basically, you can play with the phone in uber-smooth motion. On top of that, it supports HDR and has a wide color gamut that’ll please professionals.

The fastest Android gaming phone today

The ROG Phone is powered by a Snapdragon 845, which is practically found on all high-end Android phones that came out this year. To place this gaming smartphone ahead of them, ASUS threw in an overclocked variant of the already-powerful chip and paired it with lots of memory and speedy flash storage. The result is one of the fastest Android phones available today.

Android Oreo runs the show, but it’s customized by ASUS to make it one of their own. Being an ROG device, it comes with a combative theme. Turning on the “X Mode” will even make everything red, which means that the ROG Phone is performing at its peak.

Like with ROG notebooks and desktops, the phone has a command center where you can closely monitor the phone’s condition. The Game Center is as aggressive-looking as the phone’s body. Here you can check the CPU and GPU speeds, the battery’s temperature and remaining power, the setting for the RGB light customization, and the fan speed control for the external cooler.

The configuration I have for review has 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage. If you find 128GB not enough for all your games and personal files, there’s also a 512GB model. Without a doubt, the ROG Phone is insanely fast. Coupled with a 90Hz display, this will be your smoothest Android experience. The 120Hz display of the Razer Phone 2 is more fluid, but the eyes can already appreciate what the ROG Phone has.

Keep in mind that not all games take advantage of the high refresh rate, but popular titles already do. My all-time favorite, Asphalt 9: Legends, is more enjoyable when it’s rendered in 90fps. Other graphics-intensive titles like Free Fire (which comes pre-installed) is fully supported and PUBG: Mobile is playable in the highest settings without lag, as well.

Also, the AirTriggers, which are ROG’s virtual shoulder buttons, aid in mobile gaming. Basically, the sides of the phone are touch-sensitive. They are kind of gimmicky in a way because they are pretty difficult to reach during gameplay. When you get used to it, you’ll have an edge against other players using regular phones.

It even comes with fun cameras

The ROG Phone is not just fun in gaming, but it’s also a good picture taker. It won’t match the likes of the Pixel 3 and Mate 20 Pro, yet I am impressed with the phone’s cameras. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it to be this good?

It’s got dual rear shooters. The main one is a 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.8 lens, optical image stabilization, and Dual Pixel autofocus. Of course, the phone’s camera is powered by AI that detects the scenes and adjusts the settings accordingly. Thankfully, there’s no over processing going on like with other AI-enabled shooters.

Here are some photos taken using the main sensor in Auto mode:

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They aren’t bad, right? Although, ASUS didn’t put much attention on the 8-megapixel secondary shooter with an ultra wide-angle lens. I’m a fan of wide-angle secondary cameras, so I enjoyed shooting GoPro-like shots. Too bad it’s got no autofocus and the quality isn’t at the level of the main sensor.

Here are some samples taken using the main sensor and the wide-angle camera for comparison:

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Moving to the front, we have another 8-megapixel shooter but it’s just wide enough to take spacious selfies. It comes with an f/2.0 aperture, so low-light shots shouldn’t be a problem — at least on paper. You can also apply bokeh effects to your selfies for added depth.

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No one is buying the ROG Phone for photography purposes, but those who are interested in it will be able to take great photos. The use of an ultra wide-angle secondary lens is also a good choice by ASUS. Why? Because it’s more fun to take wide shots.

Incredible power takes a toll on battery

With all the features the ROG Phone has, a trusty 4000mAh battery keeps the lights on. But, it is enough? Based on my usage, no. If you wish to enable the phone’s highlighted features such as the 90Hz refresh rate, you should make sure to have a power bank around.

The phone didn’t last a full day as my daily driver. I usually get fewer than three hours of screen-on time. My usage includes typical work duties with the phone constantly connected to either Wi-Fi or LTE, and lots of gaming in X Mode.

When I set the refresh rate back to default (60Hz), I was able to get better battery life. The ROG Phone was my secondary device during my four-day business trip to Singapore and I only had to charge it twice. I mainly used the phone for taking photos, checking out web pages, uploading IG stories, and, of course, for playing mobile games once in a while.

Speaking of charging, the ROG Phone comes with a super-fast charger in the box. In just 15 minutes, I was able to charge the phone from zero to 26 percent. The charging rate slows down when you’re nearing 100 percent, so a full charge takes about an hour and 40 minutes. That is still very impressive, though.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The ROG Phone is a premium device from ASUS with all the bells and whistles of a gaming smartphone. Some might argue that regular flagship phones are already good at gaming. Yes, that’s true but they are not meant for it. That’s where gaming smartphones, such as the ROG Phone, come in.

It has the fastest available processor, super-smooth refresh rate, loud front speakers, optimized software, and extra hardware features such as shoulder triggers and both passive and active cooling systems.

But, everything comes at a price. When the ZenFone 5Z came out earlier this year, we were in awe at how ASUS is offering a flagship-specced phone at an affordable price. It’s even cheaper than OnePlus in some regions, but not as affordable as a Xiaomi flagship. Things are different with the ROG Phone and ASUS is asking quite a lot of money for it, but at least it’s not your usual Android phone.

The ROG Phone has an official starting price of US$ 899 for the 128GB model. In the Philippines, it goes for PhP 49,995, which is not far from the international pricing. If you want more storage, you can get the 512GB model for US$ 1,099. You can also get the top-tier model for PhP 61,995 in the Philippines, SG$ 1,598 in Singapore, and NT$ 31,990 in Taiwan where it’s the cheapest.

If you wish to complete the set, the ROG Phone is being sold along with all of its accessories but the asking price puts it in the league of gaming laptops, so you might want to think carefully before purchasing any of them.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ROG Phone tops AnTuTu benchmark for Android

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Razer Game Store hits Malaysia and the Philippines this weekend

In time for Singles’ Day

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Remember that partnership between Lazada and Razer to bring a new region-centric digital game store to Southeast Asia? Well, it’s finally making its way to Malaysia and the Philippines.

We first reported about this back in April when the Razer Game Store arrived in Singapore. An expansion for the rest of the region was promised then, but we’re only seeing it come to fruition now.

Beginning November 11, which happens to be Singles’ Day and the start of Lazada’s major 11.11 sale, anyone with access to the online store in Malaysia and the Philippines can purchase from a wide selection of PC games.

This adds to the aforementioned Singapore store, as well as the one offered for Thailand, bringing the total in the region to four. Teaming up with Lazada means there are multiple ways to purchase the titles, minus the hassle of exchange rates and uncertainty with authenticity.

To celebrate, numerous games will be discounted up to 90 percent off. You can find the Malaysian and Philippine Razer Game Stores here and here, respectively.

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