Kingdom Hearts 3 is still a long way off. In the meantime, fans of the Disney and Final Fantasy mashup are being treated to another remaster-compilation called Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (yep, that’s the official name.) The games comes with a HD version of Dream Drop Distance, originally released for the 3DS, and two new experiences called Back Cover and A Fragmentary Passage. Confused yet? Don’t worry, Kingdom Hearts is known for its convoluted storyline. Today, Square Enix announced that the PS4 game — already confirmed for Japan — will also be coming to the West. It’ll be out “globally” sometime this December.
To whet your appetite, the publisher has released a new trailer. It starts with Dream Drop Distance before switching to Fragmentary Passage, a new playable chapter following Aqua in the realm of darkness. The latter half teases Back Cover, a new movie exploring a mysterious group called the “Foretellers” and “the earliest parts of the series’ history.” It’s tied to Unchained X, a smartphone game that recently launched in the US.
Source: PlayStation (YouTube)
If you enjoyed watching your favorite DC superheroes and villains duke it out in NetherRealm Studios’ Injustice: Gods Among Us, get ready to do it all over again. A sequel, simply titled Injustice 2, is ready to swoop in and deliver a swift beatdown.
Fresh off the momentum of the superbly gory Mortal Kombat X, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NetherRealm have teamed up to deliver another dose of the fighter with a set of new characters, features and other additions that should please DC Comics fans. Taking place in a world shattered by Superman’s actions in the previous game, players will take up the mantle of heroes like Batman and Superman to rally against newly-included villains like Atrocitus and Gorilla Grodd.
The newly-unveiled Gear System should be a step up from the previous game as well. The new mechanic utilizes RPG-lite mechanics that offer loot drops each time you play so you can customize the hero of your choice with the equipment you see fit. This way, you’re able to create a wholly different Aquaman or Supergirl than your opponent. You know, if there ever happened to be two versions of Aquaman in battle for some reason.
Injustice 2 is scheduled to drop for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2017.
Years ago, clothing manufacturers started moving production to developing nations where the labor costs were cheap and employees were plentiful. Proponents of globalization said that jobs going to poorer regions was a great thing, but sportswear firms paying workers pennies to make $100 shirts certainly isn’t. But now, the robot revolution is likely to cause a retreat from the days of fashion houses opening sweatshops in far-flung lands. And Adidas, which has often come under fire for its use of unethical labor practices, is leading the charge.
The Financial Times is reporting that Adidas is going to bring back production to its native Germany for the first time in 30 years. It’s spent the last six months testing a robotic factory with automated production lines creating soles and uppers separately before stitching them together. Spurred on by the results, the company is working on a large facility near Ansbach which will begin making sneakers for sale at some point next year. Another facility will be built in the US, although both are expected to produce just a tiny fraction of the 301 million pairs the firm made last year.
The paper explains that a robot production line takes about five hours to create each pair of sneakers from scratch. By comparison, it apparently takes “several weeks” to do the same job in an Asian factory with human workers. Efficiency and cost savings may be the name of the game, but there are other perks for companies toying with robot production. Adidas will become more nimble when it comes to creating new sneakers, and can cut costs by only manufacturing a shoe when demand is high enough. That will end the days of unwanted stock being sold off on the cheap at the end of the season, reducing waste and boosting profits.
Of course, the end goal is surely to end the days of buying a sneaker off the shelf and simply have a custom-made kick sent to your home days after ordering. It’s another benefit of localization, since Adidas will be able to get product into the hands of consumers far faster if factories are located nearer to its audience. With advances in 3D printing likely to come in the future, the idea of things you want to buy being made in a far-flung land may be a thing of the past in three or four decades time.
But there’s a dark side to all of this, which is what’s going to happen to those communities when the sweatshops eventually close. In 1992, US Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation that would block imports of goods produced by children under the age of 15. A year later, the Bangladesh garment industry dismissed 50,000 children in anticipation of the bill, which was never passed. A 1997 report by UNICEF tracked those children, and found that their situation had gotten worse, not better. As the report explains, the children wound up in “hazardous situations” where they were “paid less, or in prostitution.”
Source: Financial Times
Remember that Metal Gear-inspired prosthetic arm that Konami developed? Well, it’s not the only publisher keen to recreate artificial limbs from video games. Square Enix and Eidos-Montréal have teamed up with Open Bionics, a specialist in low-cost prosthetics, to develop new designs based on the world of Deus Ex. The franchise delves deep into a possible future where human augmentation is commonplace, changing society and warfare in equal measure. Two arms — one based on Adam Jensen, the hero of Mankind Divided, another on the wider Deus Ex universe — will be released next year as royalty-free designs that anyone can use.
Open Bionics has already made prosthetic arms inspired by Iron Man, Frozen and Star Wars. The new designs look more impressive, however; the Adam Jensen arm (below) is full of detail, from its flexing fingers to the rotating wrist. The Titan arm (above), meanwhile, is more stylized with sharp, geometric shapes and angles. Both are colored in gunmetal grey and gold, reflecting the series and its augmented superhero.
Eidos-Montreal and Open Bionics will be showing the arms at multiple game shows including E3 and Gamescom, with a little help from Razer. The company, most known for its gaming keyboards and mice, will be using its Stargazer webcam to track people’s movements and show them what it would be like to control an artificial limb. They might not be as lethal as those used by Adam Jensen, but they look the part — if they perform half as well, they could be attractive to amputees with a passion for the franchise.
Square Enix Montréal is back with another touch-friendly “Go” puzzler for mobile devices. After tackling Hitman and Tomb Raider, the studio is taking on the futuristic augmentations of Deus Ex. Unsurprisingly, it’s called Deus Ex Go, and will be launching sometime this summer to coincide (roughly) with Mankind Divided, the next core entry in the franchise. It keeps the premise of the previous Go games — simple, stylized graphics and node-based stages that you have to traverse — but mixes up the formula with some new power-ups and enemy types. Success is dependent on understanding and manipulating every element on the board.
I was able to try an early build containing the first six levels. Swiping around with Adam Jensen, the hero of Mankind Divided, I could trigger items that granted invisibility for a couple of spaces. A terminal allowed me to disable a turret or tap into a node which was previously inaccessible or didn’t offer a safe path forward. Drawing a line with my finger meant I could activate the space, raise a platform and create new paths.
These basic mechanics were easy to grasp but quickly produced a few head-scratching problems. How do I trigger my invisibility in a way that will get me past the next turret? Can I change the map to the hack the turret, thereby saving the power-up for another hurdle up ahead?
“We create complexity in a simple way,” Etienne Giroux, a game designer at Square Enix Montréal explains. “You’re not constantly learning new rules, it’s just that you realise these rules talk to each other. That they work together. And that’s really the complexity that we go for in these games, because they have to be simple, they have to be graspable, and we like that anyone can think that it’s easy for them to get into it.”
“We want to make the best experience possible in a level editor. One that people are going to remember.”
Deus Ex Go will be a larger game than its Hitman and Tomb Raider predecessors. Square Enix Montréal is designing more levels this time around and is also working on a level editor — a first for the Go franchise. It won’t be ready in time for launch though, as the team is still working on the “metagame,” or mechanics — such as those found in Little Big Planet and Super Mario Maker — that will drive players to make new stages.
“One of the reasons why it’s coming later is that we don’t just want to put a button there that says ‘you can also make stuff.’ We want to make the best experience possible in a level editor. One that people are going to remember, that will be the best editor you see on the App Store, and that will be actually usable,” Giroux says.
The editor will also help the team to speed up its own level production. Before, creating a new level pack meant pulling developers away from other projects. Now, with the tools it’s developed for the community, the same work should require fewer people and less time.
“The idea was to make the decision easy for us,” Giroux says. “It’s easy to take a decision to create more levels when 30 puzzles takes a couple of weeks with two guys. That’s an easier decision for the studio than it is thinking about five or six guys working for three months.”
In the future, that could include not just new levels, but also mechanics. Giroux says he’s confident the community will find new, creative ways to use these elements, far beyond what the developers originally intended. “We know for sure that it’s not going to be a long time before someone finds a way to use something in a way that we didn’t, but that’s cool!”
The Go games are designed for mobile devices, but their success has led to wider platform support. Hitman Go started on iOS and Android but has since come to PS4, Vita, PC and VR. Lara Croft Go has remained on phones and tablets, but that’s not due to lack of demand elsewhere. The team says countless people have asked for a Vita version — but similar to the new content conundrum, it has to decide when to move on and prioritize new projects. Similarly Deus Ex Go, at least at launch, will be mobile only.
As for the future? The studio is staying tight-lipped. With Hitman, Tomb Raider and Deus Ex, the Go franchise has covered all of the main Western properties owned by Square Enix. The developer’s pedigree is attracting fresh talent too — last month it picked up Teddy Dief, who developed Hyper Light Drifter, and Renaud Bédard, one of the programmers behind Fez. If the team wants to try something new, now would seem the perfect time to do it. Or rather, as soon as Deus Ex Go is out of the door.
I enjoy stationary bikes because they offer the exercise benefits of cycling without annoyances like bad weather and dangerous traffic. But there are times when I miss some of the benefits of being outside, like a cool breeze and changing scenery. While a gym’s AC unit can never really capture the magic scent of flowers and pine as you pass through a peaceful glade, workout designer company Les Mills has come up with a way to at least restore the sense of excursion with its new program, “The Trip.”
Instead of staring at a mirror for the duration of each spin class, riders sit on bikes in front of a giant screen and are enveloped in visuals that help create the illusion of motion. You may not physically leave the studio during the half-hour spin session, but thanks to some inventive imagery, you’ll mentally travel farther than a standard bike ride could ever take you.
The Trip made its debut in Santa Monica, California, last November and in March arrived at David Barton’s new gym in Midtown Manhattan, TMPL. That puts it in competition with ImaxShift, the immersive spin class introduced by the eponymous film company in May. Both classes feature a curved screen, booming sound system and an (overly) enthusiastic instructor. When I tried ImaxShift I found some positive aspects to the experience, but the sensory overload left me overwhelmed. On the surface it would seem that the Trip might induce the same feelings, but a series of small differences make it a more uplifting experience.
Though Imax is known for delivering larger-than-life cinematic experiences that can really draw you into the story and setting of your favorite films, Les Mills actually delivered a better narrative for an immersive exercise program. You start in a simulacrum of San Francisco, biking up and down the steep hills of the city until you cross the Golden Gate Bridge and enter a lush green forest. From there the scenery on the 30-foot screen gets increasingly whimsical, from a strange Wonderland-esque backdrop filled with rainbow mushrooms to a series of glossy neon-lined pathways reminiscent of Tron. Eventually you end up back where you started, gazing upon a sunset-tinged cityscape. It’s no wonder this particular program is called “The Rabbit Hole.”
Each ride has a specific playlist, making it possible to explicitly tie the visuals to the beat of the music. “The Rabbit Hole” starts with a cover of “Who Are You?” by the Travellers and closes with Nas’ “The World Is Yours” — perhaps an indication of how you should feel when you finish the 30-minute program. It’s an intense workout, requiring you to bike up steep hills for periods of between 15 and 60 seconds. Of course, these are merely virtual hills that you create by adjusting the resistance lever just below the handlebars on your cycle. The lever was a lot easier than the dials I’ve used on other bikes, which is just one part of why the Trip is as intuitive as it is. You see, when I tried ImaxShift I had an issue with following the instructor’s directions. The music would often drown out his voice, making it impossible for me to keep up and get the full workout. The Trip has the music at a more reasonable level. But even when I couldn’t hear the spin director, the screen provided plenty of visual cues as to my next action. A gentle slope? Increase the resistance slightly. A steep hill? Crank it up. Now we’re going back down the hill, so lower that resistance all the way down and enjoy the glide.
The computer-generated scenery wasn’t even close to Academy Award-winning graphics, but the aesthetic cheesiness of it didn’t really matter — the need to react to the images I was seeing made me feel more involved. It became more immersive as a result, and I was able to imagine myself going up those hills because I felt it both physically and emotionally.
As the class biked back through the forest to end up back in the city where we started, I also experienced an acute feeling of satisfaction. Sure, I was riding high on the thrill of a good workout, but there was also that completion you get out of a good narrative. And, in a way, that’s what a bike ride is: It’s a simple story, in which you travel some distance and eventually return where you started, a little better for the experience. And isn’t exercise in its own way about making us better people?
If the the Trip is a journey of self-improvement you’d like to take, the program is currently available at 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport in Santa Monica and TMPL in New York City. Unlike ImaxShift, individual spin classes aren’t available for purchase; instead, you’ll have to sign up for a club membership, which runs $165 a month at TMPL. This gives you access to all of the gym’s facilities, not just the virtual reality studio. But why would you confine yourself to a stuffy weight room when you could be gliding through futuristic cities and sunset-lit canyons instead?
Watch Dogs 2 takes place in the heart of the tech world, San Francisco, and it’s heading to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on November 15th. Information about the game’s release date and setting leaked prior to Ubisoft’s big livestream this morning, but the reveal offered a few more details about the sequel’s main character and new tricks.
Watch Dogs 2 stars Marcus, a gifted hacker who hails from Oakland. He was once profiled and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, which led him to work with the anti-establishment hacking group Dedsec. Marcus isn’t just a hacker; he’s also skilled at parkour and fighting. He favors a DIY melee weapon that’s basically a billiard ball attached to a thin, strong rope. Players will be able to complete Watch Dogs 2 without killing anyone, using items like a taser to knock out foes.
Ubisoft promises Watch Dogs 2 offers more control and flexibility in hacking. Players can hack every character, every vehicle and most of the electronics in the city. Later in the game, Marcus will be able to hack groups of people, too. Plus, he can drive most vehicles.
Marcus has a few special hacking tools, including an RC car with an extendable arm and a quadcopter used mainly for scouting. Players can use the drone to fly over the Bay Area in a first-person view. Eventually, Marcus will get his hands on 3D-printed weapons, as well.
Players in single-player mode will occasionally run into other actual, live players running around the city — they’re all members of Dedsec, meaning they’re your friends. Ubisoft developers say hacking is a lifestyle and they want to respect that culture in Watch Dogs 2.
Source: Watch Dogs
Microsoft is getting closer to releasing its big Windows 10 update this summer, but Windows Insider beta testers with the latest build have a new element to try out today. That’s because LastPass has officially released its first browser extension for Edge (after it leaked out temporarily a week ago), saying it’s the first password manager extension on the platform. Support for extensions is necessary if Edge will try to snag users from the Chrome or Firefox browsers they’re used to, and after AdBlock, password management is a big one.
Using a password manager makes it easy to create and access unique passwords for all of your accounts and avoid a Zuckerberg-type situation or password reset emails from Netflix. According to LastPass, the Edge extension should have all the usual features users expect, with the ability to autofill login information, generate random passwords, and check their vault for duplicates. If you’re not in the test program, you’ll have to wait a little longer for extensions to arrive on Edge, but password managers like LastPass, 1Password and more are widely available across other browsers and mobile platforms if you want to try them out now.
Source: LastPass Blog
If you were planning a real-world promo for Mr. Robot, a TV show that’s all about hacking and the culture that goes with it, what would you do? Invite fans to do some hacking of their own, apparently. As part of the run-up to the series’ second season, New York City retailer Story has remade its store with a hacking-inspired game as its centerpiece. Clues littered around the store offer codes that let you ‘hack’ an Evil Corp ATM for real cash — if you’re astute, you can get as much as $50. It’s not the same as a real ATM hack (thankfully), but it’s very much in the spirit of Mr. Robot’s stick-it-to-authority ethos.
There’s more. You’ll also find an interactive version of Elliot’s desk that shows videos whenever you touch real-world objects, and there are nods to Fsociety’s home base that include real arcade cabinets and a Skee-Ball machine. Yes, it’s all there to convince you to watch the show and buy related merch. However, this may be one of the few physical promos that’s worth checking out for its own sake — especially since you might walk out of the store with more money than you had going in.
Airbnb is hosting its annual OpenAir conference today, and CEO Brian Chesky kicked off the conference by addressing recent reports surrounding the phenomenon of racist hosts cancelling travelers’ trips. “First, let me make it clear that we have zero tolerance for any amount of racism or discrimination on our platform,” Chesky said.”Over the next couple months, we’re revisiting the design of our platform end to end and look at how we can revisit decisions we’ve made.”
He didn’t have any specifics about what sort of things the company would look for on the Airbnb platform, but it sounds like the company will be soliciting feedback from its users — including those who may have been victims of racism or discrimination. “I myself have personally engaged with a number of people who have been discriminated against on our platforms, and I want everyone to know that we’re working on this,” Chesky said. His remarks were fairly brief, but it sounds like building a more inclusive community is a topic that’ll come up more than once in today’s event.
These comments come a week after Airbnb removed a host from its service for sending racist remarks to a black woman who tried to book the host’s property. At the time, Chesky tweeted that “racism and discrimination have no place on Airbnb.” But this incident was just the most recent example of the company’s problems with racism — a study last year showed that guests with “African-American sounding” names were significantly less likely to find a rental on Airbnb.