The absolutely terrifying playable teaser for the next Silent Hill game might only be available on PlayStation 4, but if you have an Xbox One you might be able to play something close to it. Someone has gone ahead and recreated P.T. in Redmond’s game creating game, Project Spark. The familiar sights are all there: a never-ending hallway filled with horrors, a ghoul waiting just around the corner, Nic Cage screaming in terror. Wait, what? Well, the trailer is intercut with clips of Nic Cage’s performance from the 1999 film about snuff movies, 8mm. Because watching him watch… well we aren’t going to describe what he’s watching, but let’s just say it fits the theme of P.T. pretty spectacularly. Need to see the horror for yourself? Jump past the break and prepare for a descent into madness — don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Source: KavinskeeZ (YouTube)
When next Tuesday’s 2.0 update hits for the PlayStation 4, Sony will finally turn one of the most ambitious promises it made when the console was first announced a reality. We’re talking about Share Play, of course. We know: the ability to virtually hand a controller off to a pal via the internet and have them work through a game’s tricky section for you sounds kinda like magic — the type that only Disney is capable of. But, in theory it sounds pretty simple, and the catch-up king has recently released a video that walks through the process step by step. From the looks of it, the new feature is added as an option from the DualShock 4’s Share button. Naturally. How well it all works in the wild, however, remains to be seen.
The rub of it is that every function other than screen sharing (meaning, controller passing and a virtual second player controller hand-off) requires a PlayStation Plus subscription. What’s more, these virtual sharing sessions are limited to an hour apiece. After all, Sony’s in the business of selling games — letting you stream a pal’s indefinitely probably isn’t good for the bottom line.
Source: PlayStation Blog
The developers at Harmonix Music Systems know a thing or two about music. And we’d hope so, it is in the company name, after all. The studio’s latest Kinect game, Fantasia: Music Evolved, is quite a bit different than anything they’ve done previously, though: it puts players under Mickey’s wizard cap from the classic animated movie of the same name and has them remixing pop songs and classical tracks from the likes of Beethoven and Dvorak with rhythmic gesture controls. Sounds pretty neat on paper, right? But, it’s natural to be skeptical of the title considering the general hit-or-miss nature of Microsoft’s motion sensor. Well, you can come back here at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific and see for yourself as we broadcast live gameplay from the Xbox One. We even have a download code to give away during the stream, too!
[For the record, I'm playing Fantasia: Music Evolved on an Xbox One, using a retail copy (download) provided by Harmonix. I'm streaming the game over wired internet using the Xbox One Twitch app. All that to say, "This game will likely look prettier and run more smoothly on your home equipment. Streaming conditions vary!"]
Nintendo was dropping Smash Brothers info-bombs left and right last night, but the company also felt compelled to dive a little deeper into how the Wii U version of the game will play with those curious little Amiibos. You know, the Nintendo character-themed figurines that both look adorable and store game information via NFC? Now, thanks to the marketing wizards in Redmond, we’ve got a four-minute chronicle of young love, combat and tiny figures that explains just about everything. Key takeaways? You’re not actually playing as your Amiibo character — instead, the little avatar springs to life as a support character, getting in people’s faces and generally having a grand ol’ time once you tap the figure to your Wii U’s gamepad.
Once they’re in the game, you can level up their stats, too (the cap sits at Level 50, or so the video would have us believe), either by wailing on your Amiibo directly or lugging it into battle against others. Since all of that stat and level data can be stored on the Amiibo itself, it should be a piece of cake to lug your partner to and fro (it doesn’t appear in the video, but you’ll presumably touch it to the Gamepad once more when done to lock all that data down). Perfect companion for those ridiculous eight-person Smashfests? Nintendo certainly thinks so, if only because deep integration into already-popular games means its little figures are more than just your run-of-the-mill Skylanders knock-offs. Just remember that Amiibo pickins’ will be a little slim at first: the first batch of twelve are all Smash characters and will hit in late November, followed by another wave of six just in time for the holidays.
Source: Nintendo (YouTube)
The developers at Harmonix aren’t afraid to hit the reset button if something isn’t working correctly. Chances are, strumming a plastic Stratocaster changed quite a bit before you ever even started playing “Creep” by Radiohead in Rock Band. Same goes for stepping to the beat of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” in Dance Central, too. That willingness to start from square one time and again? Well, it’s carried through to the developer’s latest Kinect title, Fantasia: Music Evolved, out now for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, as well. The team’s aim, seemingly regardless of project, is for whatever you’re doing in one of their titles to seem perfectly obvious and natural.
“There’s a huge willingness to throw stuff away and start over,” Fantasia‘s lead programmer Mike Fitzgerald says. “It feels like [the final product] just works, when in reality it took a long time and a ton of work to make [gameplay] invisible.”
The Police’s “Message in a Bottle” in Fantasia: Music Evolved
To do that this time around, Harmonix turned to the Kinect-hacking scene for its Disney-funded project. At the outset, the team was keeping a close eye on what garage-based developers (and likely a few rock stars) were doing with Microsoft’s do-all sensor, using its SDK as they saw fit for all manner of things. Harmonix brought in Jason Levine. He’s well-known in the Kinect community, and has done live stage performances using Redmond’s camera setup to track his body position for real-time visualizer backgrounds. He seemed like a perfect fit to consult on a game that ultimately turns you into a conductor on songs ranging from “Night on Bald Mountain” to more contemporary fare like “Royals” from Lorde.
Levine’s position-tracking input can be seen in the game: the silhouette at the bottom of the screen that reflects your motions back to you. That bit became one of the game’s core design elements, letting you see what it was the Kinect was watching you do in real-time as a sort of positive reinforcement. “It’s different from Fruit Ninja [Kinect] in that you have to manage your silhouette,” lead designer Jonathan Mintz says. Meaning, it’s getting the rhythm of your movements synced with the actions onscreen — not just swiping at fruit randomly as it flies in front of you. “We don’t care about positions; what we care about is timing,” he adds. “We let the player find a style of motion that works for them; then they listen to the music and watch the [gesture] cues to get a sense of rhythm.”
Jason Levine at New York City’s Hardware Hack Lab
The inherent problem with basing a game off of hacks, apparently, is teaching others how to use them. “If you build a tool for yourself — like a 3D DJ controller-like Kinect hack — you can perform it really well,” Mintz says, “but it’s got this really steep learning curve.” That can make it hard for anyone else to use. “It’s probably more frustrating than learning an instrument, where at least you know what fret you’re holding.” he adds. He likens it to learning a theremin, an electronic instrument that you don’t even touch for it to produce different sounds. “You have to learn how to move in space and you can get these outrageous results.”
To combat this with Fantasia, individual movements are taught to the player on a song-by-song basis until the training wheels come off and songs start getting more and more complex.
A group of French theremin players
Mintz says that while creating a hack might look impressive, making it fun is completely different. That’s where partnering with Disney has its advantages. Mintz says that Walt and Co. afforded the team “a lot” of time to get the actual game aspects of their hack right and, perhaps most importantly, to make it enjoyable. Implementing a structure that guides players through the complexities of the title at a deliberate pace before taking the training wheels off completely was paramount as well. “That’s where having the time to figure out the structure that would help as many people be able to do that as possible was really great,” Mintz says. In practice, the progression in the game feels pretty natural and after a few songs of training, the skills that make it feel like you’re behind the music control come in.
“Getting something functional on the hardware is doable, right? That’s why you see all these cool hacks out there,” he says. “Taking the time to build that into a game context where there’s a really strong design around it, where there are goals and things for the player to explore with it? That seems like the harder part.”
It’s difficult because any tech demo can be fun for five minutes, but stretching it into a 10-hour or more experience that people actually want to come back to takes work, along with, naturally, some talent and a willingness to keep exploring new avenues when older ones aren’t panning out. It takes a bit of a maturity to not have tunnel vision or get stuck on an incorrect solution to a problem, too — something forged in the hobbyist scene. If something isn’t doing what you want, you either have to find a creative way around it, or just take a step back in the project and start fresh.
“Night on Bald Mountain,” from Fantasia
In the embryonic stages, Fantasia was more like a puzzle-based point-and-click adventure, but with gesture controls. That led to an issue of trying to avoid overwhelming the player with the user interface so that he or she wouldn’t literally be flailing about, not knowing what to do next — actions that clashed with the game’s target audience of kids and families.
“It always felt to me that it was giving players a point-and-click adventure’s inventory puzzle, but the inventory was anything you could physically do in front of the camera,” Mintz says. There was much waving about in vain attempts to solve puzzles, and the feature was ultimately scrapped, but it led to Fantasia‘s 3D cursor system in the end. What’s in place now is nigh-invisible, and surprisingly intuitive.
There was even a two-handed mode at one time, where each extremity represented a cursor, and you were spreading paint around a given scene. While it might seem like a waste, these failures eventually led to the game’s final form: more or less putting you in Mickey Mouse’s wizard cap to conduct an orchestra (or pop song) — often two hands at a time, and remix music set to some pretty wild visuals.
“It’s a matter of seeing [a hack] in a game context and with a whole host of other problems,” says Fitzgerald. “Not the least of which is what will people pay you for? [laughs]“
[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images (Theremin players)]
The peripherals you play with can be just as important to your gaming success as actual skill. A suboptimal keyboard or sluggish mouse can open the door to defeat, which is why it’s a good idea to pick up equipment specifically made for the job. But like a lot of specialized tools, gaming mice don’t come cheap, and you wouldn’t want to spend a pretty penny on one only to find it lacking in speed or features. We don’t review mice very often here at Engadget, so we’ve consulted the opinions of trusted critics to find some recent options that can help pave a path to victory.
The game industry is capable of building incredible worlds, engrossing us with believable characters, and empowering us to destroy (or create!) both. The unfortunate side of all that enchantment is the shaky business models that much of the industry are built on, which leads to cyclical, annualized layoffs that affect even the most successful franchises. Just look at the recent history of Joystiq‘s layoffs tag: it’s ridiculous. Why is this the case? Kotaku‘s Jason Schreier did an excellent job reporting that last year, right here, so we’re not going to duplicate efforts. This piece is about what you can do, should you find yourself being put through the wringer this holiday.
Oh, and yes, the annualized layoffs tend to happen around the holidays (which coincides with many companies’ financial quarters ending). Sucks, right?
Seattle-based animator Floyd Bishop took to his website, GameDevTalk, and laid out a list of best practices should you encounter the ever-swinging scythe of layoffs. First and foremost? Make sure you actually listen when human resources is walking you through the proceedings.
“There will be lots of information, and you’re still reeling from the initial shock. Try to write things down, if you can. If you didn’t hear something, or have a question, ask it now. They may also have some hand outs ready for you that tell you what happens next. Be nice! This is not a fun day to work in human resources.”
Okay, okay — that’s pretty general “I got laid off” advice. Fair enough. If you’re of the game developer variety, though, Bishop’s got targeted advice too. For instance, get your work online immediately, and sign up for job newsletters from the biggies. “Sites like Gamasutra, Creative Heads, and even Indeed have both job listings and job alert email lists,” Bishop points out.
Despite video games going mainstream, the industry that creates those games remains surprisingly small. As such, Bishop recommends, “Do not instantly talk trash about the studio you were just let go from.” Is it tempting? Sure is! These are the bastards who just fired you, right? Yes, they are, and they may also be the people who hire you for a new project in five years.
Bishop of course has far more detail than we’ve put in here, so we suggest heading over and reading the full piece if you’re in the regrettable position of being laid off as a game dev this holiday.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]
If you’d rather that your non-game Oculus Rift experiences be nonfiction, it looks like that wish is coming your way rather soon. Next week, Zero Point hits Steam and it offers full 360 degree views of a Department of Defense military training camp, a beach scene and even the extremely crowded LA Convention Center during E3 2013. The rub of the video is that it’s the first of its kind — a documentary about virtual reality, filmed in VR and made for the platform. It’s very meta. Each scene is explorable, with either head tracking, a game controller or a mouse running the action. It’s apparently compatible with all past-and-future Oculus dev kits, and will cost $15 come its October 28th release. However, IGN notes that if you purchase before November 4th it’ll only run you $12. Want a preview before you buy? Of course you do; just head past the break for that.
The early ’90s were a simpler time: Mullets were acceptable, everyone was wearing Zubaz pants and rocking your dad’s flannel didn’t make you a hipster. In an effort to bring us back to the era when grunge ruled the earth, the folks at formerly-defunct 3D Realms has bundled 32 of its classic games into one package and is selling ‘em DRM-free over at its website. What’s in the collection of almost everything the company produced? A killaton of games (and a remastered soundtrack, apparently), that’s what; including, but not limited to: Duke Nukem 3D, Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy, Wolfenstein 3D and Wacky Wheels. The anthology will set you back $40, but if you act within the next two days you can get it for half of that. There’s a video after the break if you need a refresher course on who the company is, too. 3D Realms also promises that in the coming months it’ll have much more to talk about including its in-development games. Come get some, indeed.
Source: 3D Realms
Think you know everything there is to about Super Smash Bros for Wii U? Think again: during today’s Smash-centric Nintendo Direct event, the gaming giant announced an eight-player mode for absolutely bananas action. How will you even keep track of all that madness on the Wii U? We’re willing to find out. There are sure to be some more announcements coming out of the broadcast, and we’ve embedded the live player just after the break.
Update: Remember the create-a-stage feature from Super Smash Bros. Brawl? Well it’s back in the Wii U version and it’s gotten a pretty big upgrade thanks to the console’s touchscreen-based Gamepad. You can now draw out your custom levels using the stylus (sorta like Mario Maker) and even share them online with others. Pretty neat!