Players drive zombie game offline

Screenshot from The War ZThe War Z challenges players to survive in a zombie-infested world

A zombie-themed video game has been removed from the Steam online store after a series of player complaints.

Gamers complained on Steam chat forums that The War Z lacked features promised in promotional material.

They also complained about changes that let players pay to return to the game quicker after being killed by zombies.

Steam-operator Valve said it had been a “mistake” to put War Z on sale and offered full refunds.

Missing features

In a statement, Valve said The War Z had been issued “prematurely” and would not go back on sale until “we have time to work with the developer and have confidence in a new build”.

Those who downloaded the game and are happy to keep playing can continue to do so, it added.

The War Z was promoted as an open-world massively multi-player game that challenged gamers to survive in a many different zombie-infested virtual environments. In addition, said developer Hammerpoint, up to 100 players would be able to join each server and gamers would be able to draw up friends lists, rent their own private servers and improve game characters via a sophisticated skill tree.

When the game went on sale it quickly became the top seller on the widely used Steam service. However, those who bought the game and installed it found few of the claims made for it were accurate.

Complaints began appearing on chat forums on Steam and on social media site Reddit. Players vented their feelings about an update that changed re-spawn times from one hour to four hours when their character was killed. Players could resurrect instantly if they paid using an in-game currency that can only be bought using real money.

The furore led Valve to halt sales of the game and offer refunds. In addition, Hammerpoint changed the way the game was described on Steam to be more accurate and issued a statement to address “questions and concerns”.

Hammerpoint said the version of War Z released on Steam was a “foundation release” that was equivalent to a basic version that would be regularly updated as development work was completed. Private servers, more virtual environments, skills and other promised features would be added in the next few months, it said.

Sergey Titov, executive producer of The War Z, told PC Gamer that he agreed with Valve’s decision to remove the game from Steam. He said Hammerpoint “made the mistake of not communicating effectively to the Steam community”.

Although no longer available via Steam, The War Z is still available via the Hammerpoint website.

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Wireless car phone charging in 2013

Toyota wireless chargingThe Qi wireless charging standard was agreed upon in 2008

Charging your smartphone while driving could soon be a simple process needing no cables or adaptors, but using a special wireless mat.

Toyota plans to introduce the system for mobile devices in 2013 in its new Avalon sedan, using a charging standard known as Qi (pronounced “chee”).

Chrysler wants to offer a similar option in its Dodge Dart model.

One analyst told the BBC the feature was likely to become mainstream in the months to come.

The wireless charging option will be a part of Toyota’s $1,950 (£1,200) “technology package”, said to be available from next spring.

To charge a device, a driver will simply have to place it on the mat, though the handset has to have a Qi protocol integrated in it.

Currently, Qi wireless charging is supported by 34 mobile phone models, including the LG Google Nexus 4, Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8X.

There are also add-on systems for other smartphones.

“Pioneering the ability to charge with no wires or connectors by simply putting devices in the car console is an intuitive innovation which reflects Toyota’s continuing commitment to improve the consumer experience,” said Randy Stephens, chief engineer of Toyota Avalon, in a statement.

Magnetic induction

Qi works via magnetic induction that involves transmitting energy over a magnetic field.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

We’re constantly striving to get thinner devices but by adding an infrastructure inside a device can compromise the thinness”

End Quote
Shaun Collins
CCS Insight

Inductive charging plates have been around for several years, and have been integrated in some mobile phones, such as the Palm Pre.

But in 2008, the Wireless Power Consortium, which has more than 100 members, including Samsung, Nokia, HTC, Motorola Mobility and Sony, signed an agreement for an open standard for wireless power, called Qi.

This means that any Qi-enabled handset is compatible with any Qi charger, regardless of the brand.

General Motors announced in 2011 plans to introduce a pad using magnetic induction in its Chevrolet Volt, but so far it has not happened.

An Israeli firm, Powermat Technologies, is currently placing charging pads for mobile phones in numerous public venues around the US, including Starbucks.

There are companies investigating wireless charging via induction for electric cars, which works by having a charging pad on the floor of your garage.

The technology is finally becoming mainstream, according to Shaun Collins, an analyst at consultancy firm CCS Insight.

“Wireless charging is emerging after some years in the wilderness, and is now being adopted [more and more],” he told the BBC.

“The technology is starting to take on much more prominence with the devices [such as the latest] Nokia Windows 8 phone that has wireless charging in it.

“There’s a slight dilemma for mobile devices though, as we’re constantly striving to get thinner devices but by adding an infrastructure inside a device can compromise the thinness.”

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Ofcom names 4G auction bidders

Woman walks past 4G advertThe results of the 4G auction will be known in February and March

Seven bidders for the auction of bandwidth for 4G mobile broadband services have been named by Ofcom.

The bidders are Everything Everywhere, BT, Vodafone, O2 and Three, as well as Hong Kong conglomerate PCCW and UK network supplier MLL Telecom.

The telecoms regulator said the auction would increase the amount of airwave available for mobiles by more than 75%.

The auction is due to start next month, with licences granted by March and services launching in May and June.

The complete list of bidders is:

  • Everything Everywhere (EE), which has already been permitted to launch the UK’s first 4G service using existing bandwidth and did so on 30 October
  • PCCW, a major Hong Kong telecoms conglomerate, operating through its subsidiary HKT
  • Hutchison Whampoa, another Hong Kong conglomerate and operator of the 3 network
  • MLL Telecom, a telecom network supplier founded in 1992 and based in Marlow, Buckinghamshire
  • BT, via its subsidiary “Niche Spectrum Ventures”
  • Telefonica, the Spanish incumbent telecoms company that owns the O2 network
  • Vodafone

“New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK, and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive.

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The radio wave spectrum




Below 800 MHz

Radio navigation, transport communications, commercial radio


800 MHz

Old analogue television frequency, being auctioned for 4G

900 MHz

Original 2G frequency, now also used for 3G

O2, Vodafone

1.8 GHz

Original 2G frequency, now also used for 3G and 4G (EE only)

O2, Vodafone, EE

2.1 GHz

3G frequency created in 2000

O2, Vodafone, EE, Three

2.3 GHz

Military radio communications, slated to be auctioned for 4G in 2014

Ministry of Defence

2.4 GHz

Household devices, such as wi-fi, bluetooth, cordless phones, microwave ovens

None designated (often resulting in local interference)

2.6 GHz

Being auctioned for 4G

3.5 GHz

Military radar, slated to be auctioned for 4G in 2014

Ministry of Defence

Above 3.5 GHz

Radar, satellite communications


Download speeds will initially be at least five to seven times faster than existing 3G networks, Ofcom claimed.

Ofcom aims to award licences to at least four “credible national wholesalers of mobile services”.

The auction is expected to raise £3.5bn for government coffers, or 0.2% of the UK’s annual economic output, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility – far less than the £22bn raised by the auction of 3G space, which was held at the height of the dotcom bubble in 2000.

However, many analysts are sceptical that the 4G auction will raise even £3.5bn.

Penetrating buildings

The auction is making use of the 800MHz radio spectrum freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television, and also offers an additional higher-frequency 2.6GHz band.

Ultra-high frequencies – between 300MHz and 3GHz – are seen as a sweet-spot for mobile communications, as they combine acceptable signal range with adequate capacity for high data transmission, such as in the case of video streaming.

Lower frequency radio waves travel further and penetrate buildings more easily, and are seen as better suited to rural areas.

The higher frequency band is better able to cope with heavy data transmission, and is seen as preferable in urban areas, although its more restricted reception area means that operators may need to set up more masts, including inside some public buildings.

EE, which was formed from the merger of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, is said to be taking part so that it can gain additional frequency bands to expand its recently launched 4G service.

EE has made use of old 2G – non-broadband – 1.8GHz bandwidth, that the merged network inherited from its two predecessors, after being given a special dispensation from Ofcom in August.

However, the network has been criticised for being patchy and unreliable.

One test conducted in Manchester found that just 40% of tested locations got 4G reception from EE. The 4G provider, however, said the test was conducted in Greater Manchester and the service is available in over 80% in the city itself.

Spare capacity?

More 4G capacity will become available in the coming years.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Defence said that it would also auction off even higher frequency bandwidth – up to 15GHz – that it owns, but not until 2014.

Meanwhile, a ruling by the European Union requires Ofcom to permit operators to switch existing 3G bandwidth they currently control over to 4G from 2014.

The additional bandwidth is useful to operators, as individual 4G services take up a bigger chunk of spectrum than earlier mobile telephony, although 4G is also more versatile in the range of bandwidths that it can operate within.

Mobile services occupy relatively tight bands of the radio spectrum within the 300MHz to 3GHz sweet-spot, meaning that there is plenty of capacity available to support much greater mobile data transmission in future.

However, Ofcom’s ability to provide new bandwidths within the UK is limited by the need to harmonise bandwidths internationally.

Mobile handsets are designed to tune into the same specific frequencies in many different countries. Producing a separate handset just for UK-only frequencies would be more expensive for manufacturers.

The new 800MHz frequency for 4G is being made available across the whole of Europe as a result of the switch-off of analogue television broadcasting.

Ironically, the UK was the first country to inaugurate digital television in 2007, but then had to change the frequency of digital TV broadcasting – requiring people to retune their television – in order to bring the UK into line with the rest of Europe.

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