Last year, the Tribeca Film Festival began highlighting new mediums being used in storytelling, and that trend has translated over to 2015. Virtual reality is, naturally, a big part of this movement, as filmmakers start creating more content for consumer-grade devices like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. This is why the current edition of the event is hosting Stanford’s Virtual Human Virtual Interaction Lab, a venture started in 2003 by Jeremy Bailenson, who’s a professor at the university and has been working on digital human representation since 1999. It features a set of VR experiences that attendees can check out, all with the same goal of transporting you into another reality.
Nowadays, that mission is simplified by the myriad companies investing in the space — including Facebook with Oculus VR, Google, Samsung and, most recently, HTC and Valve. “We used to have a $40,000 headset that couldn’t leave the lab, with thousands of wires on it,” Bailenson says, emphasizing how much easier it is to use Oculus hardware as part of the workflow. The fact that he no longer has to rely on a stationary, ridiculously expensive headset is extremely valuable. If he did, bringing his latest work to the Tribeca Film Festival, roughly 3,000 miles away from home, simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Jeremy Bailenson during a Tribeca Film Festival panel.
So you can not only be the Stanford University quarterback in a training session, but also travel as a marine biologist to the bottom of the sea and even fly like a superhero. Or you can walk in someone else’s shoes, which is slightly similar to The Machine to be Another experience, though not nearly as immersive. While these projects are fun and interesting in their current state, Bailenson believes he’s just scratching the surface, noting that there’s still the need for better technologies, such as improved tracking, to get the most out of VR. (For reference, a DK2 was powering the demos I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival.)
“In the last year, there’s been more change [in virtual reality] than in the previous 18 years,” he says. “What we want right now is to tell people about VR.” Beyond that, Bailenson tells me there are many other projects in the works at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab — which, by the way, happens to be funded by none other than tech titan Google.
[Image credit: Getty Images]
We covered the League of Legends basics during our very first episode Training Day. Loc Tran, he of San Jose State University’s rising League team, gave us the lowdown on just what mobile online battle arena (MOBA) games actually are, what it’s like to play them and which ones are right for beginners. This week, we dive into matches against live players. What do you need to know the first time you play League of Legends? What class of character is good for you? We’ll answer those questions and more on today’s Training Day.
Bad news for Super Nintendo fans: your Wii U fix is about to dry up. Nintendo’s Virtual Console, the download service offering older games on its consoles and handhelds, has never had the most robust selection. With Nintendo turning its eye towards N64 games, though, SNES releases are being left behind. According to Natsume, a publisher with a plethora of SNES games primed for re-release, Nintendo is done with 16-bit for now.
“At this point, it’s unlikely we’ll see any other Natsume SNES games coming to the Virtual Console, as Nintendo’s interest has moved onto other classic systems,” said Cee-Cee, Natsume’s Community Manager in the US, responding to questions about whether the company’s game Pocky & Rocky would hit Wii U. When fans asked follow-up questions on Facebook about other, possibly more popular games from the archive, Cee-Cee dashed any hopes. “If it’s not up now, it’s not coming.”
During its April 1st Nintendo Direct presentation, the company did announce that it would start releasing N64 games on Virtual Console, but that didn’t necessarily mean it would stop releasing SNES or NES games. It never shied away from releasing Virtual Console games for multiple old devices simultaneously on Wii. Nintendo may be more interested in committing its internal resources to new projects, though. Natsume said that even though most of the games on Virtual Console come from outside publishers, it’s Nintendo that does most of the work preparing them for sale.
“The titles for Virtual Console are handled by Nintendo,” explained Cee-Cee. “The publisher and Nintendo discuss which classic titles would be a good fit and have the best potential to sell. Once a title is agreed upon, Nintendo and the publisher work together to bring that title to the designated system, with Nintendo doing the bulk of the work.”
Valve’s move to start selling community-created mods on its PC-game storefront looks like it could boost that $57 million user payout from earlier this year. And it’s starting with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — one of the most popular moddable games. The process sounds pretty easy as Valve tells it, too. Upload your tweak to the Skyrim Creation Kit, agree to the new Steam Workshop terms, enter payment info and set your creation free. Within the week, it’ll go up for sale at a price of your choosing. You can even add revenue splitting if you’re working with a team and generally control the whole process from start to finish.
The promise is that the cream’ll rise to the top here and you’ll start seeing higher quality mods as a result. You can get refunds on any that you’ve bought so long as it’s within 24 hours of purchase, and really, that about sums it up. Polygon reports that pricing on the first wave of mods is between $0.25 and $5.99, with Newell and Co. selling a pack of 17 of ‘em at a discounted rate of around $29. And just like that, your weekend’s booked solid.
Telltale, the studio behind Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead adventure games, has partnered with Marvel for a game series due out in 2017. Telltale announced the collaboration in a brief blog post, and details from an event in San Francisco note that it’s a PC and console game (via GameSpot). Other than that, we have the above image and our imaginations.
– Telltale Games (@telltalegames) April 23, 2015
Source: Telltale Games
The final round of the collegiate championship for Heroes of the Storm — Blizzard’s answer to hugely popular MOBA games League of Legends and Dota 2 — will be broadcast live on ESPN2 on Sunday at 6:30PM PT. That’s prime time, baby. This marks the first time that ESPN will air an eSports match on live TV; it hosted the League of Legends finals last year online only, and that stream brought in more viewers than the NBA Finals or the deciding game in the World Series. Also last year, ESPN2 aired a documentary about Dota 2 and ESPN3 hosted an online stream of that game’s championships. Professional gaming is a booming business, with the top title, League of Legends, bringing in an estimated $1 billion in 2014 alone.
It’s smart for ESPN to test the waters with the “Heroes of the Dorm” tournament, ahead of this year’s Dota 2 and League of Legends championships. If it does well, maybe this experiment will convince ESPN president John Skipper that eSports are, in fact, viable for his channel. In September, Skipper had the following to say about eSports: “It’s not a sport, it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. Mostly I’m interested in doing real sports.” Fast forward to this week: The Heroes of the Storm collegiate championships kick off, online-only via ESPN3, at 2:30PM PT on Sunday, and then transition to ESPN2 for the final round at 6:30PM PT.
Source: Heroes of the Dorm
In the three months leading up to March 31, 2015, Microsoft reported a 24 percent drop in revenue from its Xbox division compared with last year, attributing much of the decline to sales of an “increased mix of lower price Xbox One” consoles. Microsoft cut the price of the Xbox One from $500 to $400 (and it ditched the Kinect) in June 2014, and it’s knocked off another $50 since. The corporate Xbox arm includes both the Xbox One and Xbox 360, and Microsoft did not separate sales of each console in its Q3 2015 financial report. Hardware revenue overall was down just 4 percent, boosted by Surface tablet sales, which were up 44 percent over last year to $713 million.
To the dismay of many users, Microsoft decided to remove its Solitaire, Hearts and Minesweeper games from Windows 8. But now, to celebrate the venerated card game’s 25th anniversary (it debuted all the way back on Windows 3.0), the company is making things right. Microsoft has announced that a modernized version of Solitaire will return to the Start menu from the Windows Store where it had been relegated. Unfortunately fans of both Hearts and Minesweeper will still have to grab both of those games online and install them individually.
Via: The Verge
Source: @stroughtonsmith (twitter)
“Well, my opinion is Jedi are evil.” That’s how Raph Koster, creative director of the 2003 MMO Star Wars Galaxies, begins discussing the problems that faced his design team back in the day. Jedi were too powerful, too desirable and too canonically rare to be successfully implemented in Star Wars Galaxies as a standard class — and this was precisely why so many fans ditched the game when its third major patch added Jedi as a starting character. Before launch, the Star Wars Galaxies creative team obsessed over ways to implement playable Jedi into the game, and one solution stands out to Koster as “the crazy idea I still wish we had done.” Inspired by Diablo‘s Hardcore mode, it was a system “that effectively gave a different way to play the game. A method that kept Jedi rare, powerful, and yet allowed everyone a shot,” Koster writes. This solution was, in a word, permadeath.
Koster’s idea had players start with an additional character slot locked to the Jedi class. These Jedi would start out as “weak as a kitten,” and they’d build up their powers by using and practicing the Force. The twist was, whenever a Jedi used the Force in range of anything Imperial, Darth Vader’s Death Squadron would be alerted and someone would hunt the player down with a mission to kill. It would start with Stormtroopers, then build to harder bounty hunters like Boba Fett, and eventually, Darth Vader himself. Not many people would make it to Vader, though.
“These would be brutal fights,” Koster writes. “Odds are you’d just die. So hiding and training very carefully would be essential. But it wouldn’t matter, of course. As you advanced, your powers would get ‘noisier’ and cooler.” And when you died, you died. Your stats would be posted to a leaderboard where other players could admire how far you made it, but if you wanted to be a Jedi again, you’d have to start over. Also, any Jedi that fought Darth Vader would die, guaranteed. “It would be rigged,” he says. Players who made it that far wouldn’t be totally out of luck, however: They’d get a special emote for their main character that would allow them to summon the ghosts of every Jedi who had made it to Vader.
“All the bragging rights would carry over to your other character,” Koster writes. “Heck, I had a picture in my mind of the most amazing player summoning up not one, but a whole set of them — the most badass player would have a coterie of Jedi advisors, hovering around their campfire, as they showed up.”
The powers that be, however, didn’t enjoy the idea of permadeath, so the Jedi sub-class never happened. In his blog post, Koster runs through the myriad problems that assailed Star Wars Galaxies‘ development, demonstrating once again how complex and risky it is to build any MMO. It’s an honest and enlightening read.
Source: Raph Koster
Shovel Knight raised a mighty pixelated fist to the sky when it came to Nintendo Wii U, 3DS and PC in 2014. Yacht Club Games created a marvelously assured debut, giving the little blue warrior and his righteous spade an adventure that felt classical in the tradition of Mega Man and Castlevania while also smartly modern. Wandering intricately detailed stages full of enemies and pits to jump over recalled the NES’ best but never felt cloying, never retro for retro’s sake. Now Shovel Knight‘s made the leap to PlayStation 4, PS4, and PS Vita so we’re checking back in with the game on today’s stream with Yacht Club Games.
We’ll be streaming a piping hot plate of Shovel Knight on PS4 starting at 3:30PM ET right here in this post, at the top of Engadget.com/gaming and over on Twitch.tv/Joystiq. Come hang out with us and ask questions of the Yacht Club Games crew as they talk about how Shovel Knight‘s changed since it first came out.
[We’re playing Shovel Knight on PlayStation 4, streamed through an Elgato Capture HD via OBS at 720p.]