Microsoft has announced that the Live service for Windows Vista will be available in North America on May 8th, which is also the release date for the PC port of Halo 2. The Windows flavor of the network differs a bit from its console cousin in that the server browser and multiplayer components aren’t restricted to Gold subscribers. This makes sense on a platform where online multiplayer has been freely accessible for years, but causes some problems justifying the Gold and Silver subscription levels. The benefits for Windows gamers offered by the $50/yr Gold subscription, over the free Silver package, include friend invitations, multiplayer achievements, and a dedicated skill-matching system. Shadowrun, the first cross-platform Live enabled game, hits in June, and then we’ll see who fares better in the KB&M vs gamepad debate.

One of my old favorite print magazines, Computer Games Magazine, has gone the way of the tasty buffalo. Back when I subscribed, it was called Computer Games Strategy Plus, but since then it has changed hands a few times, ending up with publisher Apparently, is cutting costs, a move which includes dumping the underperforming magazine and its MMO-focused sibling, Massive. No other publisher has yet flown to the rescue. I used to really enjoy Cindy Yans’ articles on adventure gaming, but I’ll admit I haven’t cracked the pages on the magazine since the local newsstands stop carrying it in favor of row upon row of GameInformer.

Speaking at a South by Southwest event, Will Wright has declared his hope that Spore will serve in part as an educational tool for children, citing specifically the environment modeling in the game. By giving players the ability to manipulate the atmospheres of their worlds, Wright envisions basic ecological lessons sinking into impressionable brains. He cites an example of increasing the carbon-dioxide levels on a planet, which, when taken to an extreme, will make that planet uninhabitable. Why do I get the feeling that more kids will find it hilarious to set their own extinction-level events loose on their unsuspecting critters? I guess because very few people learned lessons of human dignity from The Sims.

GamesRadar has an interview with Castlevania creator Koji Igarashi (he of the "2D will never die!" declaration) covering the future of the franchise, as well as details on the upcoming PSP Dracula X Chronicles. The whole interview is a good read, but I seize upon the confirmation that the port of Symphony of the Night included on the UMD will feature re-recorded voice acting. I can only hope that the dialogue itself remains untouched.

Midway, developers of Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy are being sued by screenwriter William L Crawford III (whose name suggests he ought to be writing comedies of manners) over that game’s plot and characters. Crawford alleges in his suit that commonalities between his unproduced script, also called Psi-Ops, and Midway’s game suggest the publisher lifted some of his ideas without attribution or compensation. I guess you’ve got to fight for what you believe is yours, but it’d be way better on Crawford’s self-esteem to take credit for the brilliant gameplay than for the rubbish story.