The Xbox One has the Elite gamepad to satisfy the platform’s pro gamers or people who just want a really nice gamepad. But Sony fans are stuck with a controller that’s barely changed since the Playstation 4 launched in 2013. Rather than crafting one itself, Sony has announced it’s working with the folks at Razer and Nacon to develop a pair of tournament-ready sticks.
Like the Elite pad, these sport features like extra triggers and customization, but each handles the new bits differently. The Raiju (“thunder beast”) offers trigger stops for quicker firing; extra bumper buttons; two extra, detachable triggers; custom button mapping with two onboard custom profiles, removable analog stick caps and wired connectivity via a detachable USB cable. Oh, there’s a control panel built into the controller too. Honestly, in terms of design it looks quite a bit like an Xbox One controller with the headset adapter attached.
Then there’s the Revolution from Nacon. Perhaps the biggest difference here aside from customizable weight; four button profiles and a quartet of shortcut buttons is the stick placement. The left analog stick and d-pad swap positions, so instead of the two sticks being next to each other they’re offset — like an Xbox controller. Another difference is that the sticks have 46 degrees of amplitude and are “enhanced with innovative firmware for advanced eSports accuracy and reach.” Like the Raiju, this one is wired as well.
Why? Because too many wireless signals in a given room — like at a tournament — can play havoc in the heat of the moment. Plus, running wireless adds a tiny bit of lag between your fingers and the console. With how much both of these resemble Xbox One controller, it’s kind of telling that the eSports community doesn’t particularly care for the DualShock 4’s design. The downside is that despite how good these look, they’re probably won’t fix the DualShock 4’s biggest weakness: battery life.
Price wasn’t given, but considering how much other custom controllers cost, don’t expect these to be cheap when they come out later this year in Europe.
Source: PlayStation Blog (Europe)
Blizzard’s Hearthstone has been a darling on the pro gaming circuit for awhile, and the card game’s next season should cement its eSports focus even further. A big part of that is how its developer is organizing competitions, rankings and how tournament points are doled out. The company is also changing the types of tournaments offered.
Hearthstone Global Games are weekly team-based competitions comprised as follows: “Each team in the HGG will consist of the top Hearthstone Competitive Point earner from their country and three of their fellow community-voted countrypersons.”
Meanwhile, the Hearthstone Inn-vitationals are more of a pick-up competition featuring streamers, tournament victors and “celebrities” who play.
In terms of payout, Hearthstone Championship Tour grand prize will be over $2 million next year while the World Championship has $1 million up for grabs, $250,000 for season championships. Playoffs for seasons will have “at least” $20,000 in prizes.
For the nitty gritty of how each style of tournament will change, head over to the source post.
Nintendo has gone on record saying that last week’s tease of the Switch was the last we’d hear of the new console this year. Well, the gaming juggernaut isn’t holding additional details hostage for too long after 2017 starts. Come January 12th, the company will host a livestream offering further details ahead of the system’s release in March. Smart money (and Wall Street Journal’s Takashi Mochizuki) says we’ll hear price, software lineup and launch date. There are a few more details too, with Nintendo saying (Japanese) that the event, dubbed Nintendo Switch Event 2017, will take place at Tokyo’s Big Site, with two days of public demos to follow.
Learn more about Nintendo’s new home gaming system at the Nintendo Switch Presentation, streamed LIVE on Jan. 12 https://t.co/0c7gOJasA2 pic.twitter.com/5aR7MBH2C5
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) October 27, 2016
Nintendo: To hold Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017 on Jan 12. It includes 1) price, 2) software lineup and 3) launch date https://t.co/TtZbz5hs0g
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) October 27, 2016
Source: Nintendo (Twitter), Takashi Mochizuki (Twitter), Nintendo (Japanese)
Adorable independent adventure game Night in the Woods has been in development for just shy of three years, following a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign in October 2013 that asked for $50,000 and ended up earning $209,000. In an update to that very same Kickstarter page on Wednesday, developers Alec Holowka, Scott Benson and Bethany Hockenberry announced that Night in the Woods will land on PC, Mac, Linux and PlayStation 4 on January 10th, 2017.
Night in the Woods follows Mae, a 20-year-old college dropout who returns to her small, Rust Belt hometown of Possum Springs only to find that things have changed while she was away. And, there’s something strange lurking in the woods. The game is filled with post-teenage cynicism and coming-of-age overtones, complete with snappy dialogue that was actually inspired by Twitter. Also, donuts.
Along with the release date, Holowka, Benson and Hockenberry offered a note about Night in the Woods’ production timeline, noting that some fans and critics think the game has been in development for upwards of five years, which simply isn’t true. Three years, the developers argue, is a standard amount of time for an independent game to be made. They blame the perception gap on Night in the Woods’ “big coming out party” in 2014.
“The E3 demo hit way bigger than we expected and got a lot of press,” the developers write. “We also just did a lot of shows that year. And for solistice 2013 and 2014 we released supplemental games. In reality we are just pretty productive and got very lucky with people caring about the stuff we were making early on after the Kickstarter. Making things in public is weird, huh?”
About as weird as a creepy coming-of-age story starring an aimless cat, we guess.
While Nintendo’s earnings didn’t look so good this quarter, President and CEO Tatsumi Kimishima apparently has a rosy outlook for the launch of his company’s next-gen Switch portable console. According to the Wall Street Journal Tokyo correspondent Takashi Mochizuki, Nintendo plans to ship 2 million Switch consoles when it goes on sale in March 2017.
Nintendo CEO says current FY financial guidance assumes 2 million units of Switch to be shipped this fiscal year ending in March
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) October 26, 2016
Although we don’t have a firm March release date yet, the bulk of that 2 million figure will likely be made up of pre-order sales. For comparison’s sake, Sony had 1 million pre-orders for the PS4 and shipped another 1 million units at launch in the US alone. The original Wii was likewise a hot seller off the bat and even the Wii U moved over two million units in the US and Japan during its first six weeks in late 2012 — although Nintendo eventually fell way short of its plan to sell 100 million.
Source: Takashi Mochizuki/Twitter
When Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, it shocked the humanitarian world. What’s more, Dylan himself hasn’t behaved like a traditional Nobel winner: he hasn’t commented on the honor and has yet to give an acceptance speech. At least one member of the Nobel panel has called Dylan’s silence “rude and arrogant,” and the public has been reminded that if he doesn’t give a lecture within six months, he won’t receive the $900,000 prize money. It’s a new kind of strange, in-fighting scandal for the Nobel community.
However, it’s not surprising. Selecting Dylan as a Nobel laureate may be contentious, but it’s mostly a sign of growth for intellectual society — at least in Literature, no one is off-limits, not even mumbling masters of wordplay and songwriting. Growing pains are expected as the world of mainstream politics, activism and academia is suddenly forced to consider the potential of new industries, and vice versa.
And songwriting might just be the beginning. With the growing accessibility of high-end living-room consoles and virtual reality headsets, it’s easy to imagine a video game on a list of Nobel nominees in the near future. Nowhere was that more apparent than at IndieCade 2016, an annual festival celebrating independent video games held in Los Angeles, California.
“Bob Dylan is an iconic cultural hero because he’s transcended his language — he’s actually in a more unique situation than, let’s say, a video game, because the video game has the ability to immediately be on your computer, be pretty quickly localized and then become your personal experience,” said Navid Khonsari, creator of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, a powerful narrative-driven adventure game that puts players in the shoes of a photojournalist during the Iranian Revolution. “So I think that there’s great, great potential and possibility [for a game to win a Nobel].”
In the middle of a bustling demo room at IndieCade, Khonsari discussed how 1979 Revolution was his story, even though he was a child during the actual political upheaval. Khonsari lived in Iran until he was 11 and in between motion-capture sessions and coding marathons, he sprinkled the game with grainy home movies of his family in the country. As much as 1979 Revolution is an attempt to humanize an uprising that forever changed Iranian society, its story remains near to Khonsari’s heart, almost as if he’s still trying to explain the revolution to his 10-year-old self.
It’s a personally relevant tale with an eye on broader social impact, much like celebrated books 100 Years of Solitude or The Grapes of Wrath (both Gabriel García Márquez and John Steinbeck were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature).
Khonsari spent years working for big-budget AAA studios, including six years at Rockstar Games where he crafted experiences including Grand Theft Auto III, San Andreas and Vice City, Red Dead Revolver and the Max Payne games. After finishing work on one of the Grand Theft Auto titles, Khonsari returned to Iran and spoke with people living there about their perspective of life in the United States. Their responses shocked him.
One woman based her views of life in the US on one of his titles, Vice City — a game where players can drive around, go shopping and listen to the music they choose, whenever they want. There’s an inherent freedom in the game’s sandbox design. It excited and enraptured this woman.
This conversation was a turning point for Khonsari and his view of video games’ role in social change.
“I was like, shit,” he said. “This has some serious impact. Far greater than films, far greater than books. This is the most powerful tool that we actually have out there and we’re not engaging with it in the [best] way that we could.”
One way that Khonsari believes video games can infiltrate mainstream social change is via virtual reality. VR can create a more immediate, intimate and powerful experience, he said.
“With a combination of virtual reality, which I think is really interesting, augmented reality — the ability to have influences in a collection of work that manifests itself to actually provide change is very, very strong, and more importantly, can have an appeal and an impact on an international audience,” Khonsari said.
We Are Chicago, Culture Shock Games
He’s not alone in this belief that VR and AR can change the public perception of video games. Cynthia Miller is the designer of We Are Chicago, a narrative-driven adventure game about real life on the south side of Chicago — gang violence, economic insecurity and all.
“Because of the way our brains are wired, being put in the virtual reality environment I think has a lot of impact on people,” Miller said. “I think that’s helping our case with social games, empathy games. And as more games come out talking about immigration or issues with abusive relationships and stuff like that — I’ve heard people talking about working on these games — and as these games come out, I think more people will understand it as an art form that can be entertaining, but also can change the world.”
We Are Chicago was part of the Gaming for Everyone exhibit at IndieCade 2016, where it was surrounded by other titles and organizations focused on influencing social change or supporting equality in the gaming industry.
Another title in the Gaming for Everyone exhibit was Blue Cat, a student project that puts players in the paws of a house cat named Blue who lives with Rose, an older woman suffering through a dark time of depression. It’s based on Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period, which was followed by his more influential and famous Rose Period, creator Simone Castagna said.
“Those two people seem so different; it’s completely different art styles, but they’re part of the same person,” she explained.
Blue Cat, Simone Castagna
Blue Cat isn’t only influenced by Picasso and classic art. It’s a personal story for Castagna — a way of working through real, tragic things that happened in her life. Just as We Are Chicago is based on interviews with people in the city and 1979 Revolution puts a human face on a massive upheaval, Blue Cat tells a deeper, honest and vulnerable story about the limits of human strength.
“My mother was suffering from schizophrenia and she seemed to regret a lot of her life,” Castagna said. “We had a very difficult time, we were very, very poor. And when the schizophrenia hit – the main character in this, she behaved very similarly. Repetitive actions. I guess she already thought of herself as dead. And unfortunately, she did end up committing suicide.”
Blue Cat is personal to Castagna but it offers a clear message for anyone who picks up the controller. The game manufactures empathy for someone who is giving up on life, live on the screen — for some players, it’s the first time they encounter mental illness in such a direct way. It can be an eye-opening experience.
It’s also soothing for Castagna herself. She and a small team made Blue Cat while they were finishing up school, but she’s now just left a job at Disney as a technical game designer and she’s considering whether to take a chance on developing Blue Cat full-time. She doesn’t want to re-enter corporate life, but there are drastic challenges in securing funding for full-time independent development.
“This game was me dealing with how I wish she could have forgiven herself, but also how I need to forgive myself for what I couldn’t change about her,” Castagna said. “Basically, the greatest gift that I could give myself and her legacy, is by trying to keep pushing forward and really living the best way that I can as a human, what I consider a human to be. And I think she would be proud of that.”
Blue Cat, Simone Castagna
IndieCade was packed with games tackling social issues or attempting to establish empathy with players, even outside of the Gaming for Everyone exhibit. Joining 1979 Revolution as a nominee in the IndieCade Festival Awards was Killbox, a simple yet poignant game about the dehumanizing aspects of drone warfare.
“People are starting to realize that you can use games for more than entertainment,” Killbox programmer Albert Elwin said.
Elwin didn’t think much about UAV warfare before starting work on Killbox, but its development and the research involved revealed to him “the horrific things that have gone on and are going on today,” he said. After this experience, he believes that video games will absolutely reach a point of serious consideration in mainstream conversations — and even win a Nobel prize — some time soon.
“They’ll definitely reach that point,” Elwin said. “I’m not entirely sure when — it’s going to be, I’d say, at least 10 years, but it could be a lot more than that. It takes a long time for people to kind of — you need to get through all the generations of people, to get to the point where people have actually grown up with games and know what they are and be critical about them.”
In terms of approach, not much separates the creators of video games like 1979 Revolution, Blue Cat, Killbox or We Are Chicago and the author of a celebrated novel, book of poetry or portfolio of songs. The tools are different, but the message is clear.
Killbox, Biome Collective
“I’m not saying games can provide world peace because there’s a lot of other parts that need to move, but they can actually start a conversation that goes beyond the single dimension of how countries, regions, people, politics and conflicts are being portrayed in single, five-minute news pieces that generalize an entire nation or group of people,” Khonsari said.
In fact, 1979 Revolution is already getting attention from at least one major, traditional humanitarian organization: the United Nations. On top of being adopted in schools in the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway, 1979 Revolution will feature in a UN-commissioned paper as a case study on conflict resolution in digital experiences, written by teacher Paul Darvasi. Darvasi will present the paper to UNESCO, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural organization, in the near future.
For Castagna, the creator of Blue Cat, nothing separates video games from any other art form. They’re created with the wider world — or even deeply personal experiences — in mind.
“I think that art is vulnerability,” she said. “In my opinion, one of the things that’s keeping us from growing faster is that we aren’t vulnerable with each other. I think somebody has to take that risk.”
One of the gripes audiophiles have had with the Xbox One S is that despite the console’s Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, it doesn’t support next-gen audio standards. That changes sometime in the future with a free update adding Dolby Atmos playback (via bitstream). It’s not nearly as dramatic as Sony adding 3D Blu-ray playback to the PlayStation 3 via an update in 2010, but for audio geeks this is pretty big news. And this is why buying a game console is a better idea than a standalone Blu-ray player: constant updates adding new features, rather than something with a fixed feature set that may never be updated. Now it’s time to drop $1,500 on a soundbar that can help you make the most of that improved sound.
Click here to catch all the latest news from Microsoft’s big Surface event.
Broadcasting live gameplay to Twitch or Facebook isn’t easy. It means setting up special capture software and navigating a mire of complicated bandwidth settings. Microsoft is trying to fix that: The next version of Windows 10 is going to integrate game broadcasting directly into the Xbox App. The streaming experience promises not only to be easy, but also to almost eliminate the communication lag between viewers and broadcasters — but don’t expect to use it on Twitch. Microsoft’s game broadcasting tools seem to be designed specifically for Beam, the livestreaming service it acquired back in August.
If you’re not familiar, Beam was a start-up streaming service that let viewers more directly interact with a broadcaster’s game — allowing them to choose what weapon they might use next or select what weapon the player will have next. Microsoft bought the company earlier this year, and seems to be positioning it as the default streaming platform for Windows.
Starting with the Windows 10 creators update, gamers will be able to start a broadcast to Beam by pressing the Windows button and the ‘G’ key, giving them an instant streaming overlay with a preview of their stream and a community chat window. That’s great on its own, but the real selling point is Beam’s low-latency streams, which let players watch gameplay in near-realtime and gives broadcasters the ability to respond to chat messages almost instantly. Beam users are also be able to send audio commands that ask the broadcaster to pay attention to the chat window, or take a specific action in the game.
Microsoft hasn’t said if the Xbox App’s streaming tools will work with other streaming services, but it definitely seems like a simpler way to broadcast gameplay. Unfortunately, if you’re not a member of the Windows Insider program you’ll have to wait a while before trying it out — the streaming update doesn’t officially arrive until Windows 10’s Creators Update launches early next year.
Click here to catch all the latest news from Microsoft’s big Surface event.
Few games are as difficult to categorise as Oh…Sir! Part beat-em-up, part smack talk generator, this weird indie title has you insulting your opponents into submission. Each match offers a central column with useful words and phrases — clothes, smells, relatives and more — which players take turns to pick from. String together a half-sensical slight and you’ll damage your opponent, whittling down their health and resetting the word repository. Each character has a weakness too — a trait or topic that they take particular offence to — which you can utilize for critical hits.
The game is now available on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android for $1.99. I played an early build with my colleague Aaron Souppouris at Gamescom (see video below). It’s hilariously addictive, especially once you start eyeing your opponent’s argument-in-process. Instead of perfecting your own insult, it’s often better to “block” your rival by selecting the words they most badly need. If you’re a Twitch streamer, there’s also a mode that allows spectators to vote on their favorite put-downs and increase their damage. Sometimes, it would seem, the slur is mightier than the sword.
Source: Oh…Sir! (Steam)
While you weren’t checking email, or sleeping and all that, Apple said its services are making bank despite decreased hardware sales this quarter. Then, the company’s new Macbook leaked ahead of the big Apple event later today. Oh, and Silicon Valley held a ridiculous fashion show, as seen above. Today, Microsoft’s big Surface event starts 10 AM Eastern time, while Apple’s show starts at 1 PM ET. Best bookmark those links: it’s going to be a busy day.
So that’s the new MacBook.Apple announces slower profits, then its new device leaks early
The headline might sound disastrous, but Apple’s recent financial result follows years and years of tremendous growth and profit. CEO Tim Cook pointed to its services arm (iCloud, iTunes Music, etc.) to demonstrate recent successes, but the company sold fewer iPhones, iPads and Macs again this quarter. Then its new MacBook model appeared to leak ahead of its grand event tomorrow, replete with port swap-arounds, an OLED task strip and (gasp!) no escape button. There is no escape.
Making shooting things sound like it shouldMicrosoft’s research arm helped make Gears of War 4 sound incredible
For ‘Gears of War 4’, Microsoft-owned game makers the Coalition created a sound production tool called Triton … with some help from Microsoft Research. Triton creates realistic reverb sounds based on objects inside the game. In fact, the system takes in an entire video game level (spatially and material-wise) and calculates the reverb properties of every material. From there, it applies realistic echo/reflection effects to explosions, bullets and (hopefully) dying alien scum. It sounds pretty good. Literally.
Heads up.Upgrade your car’s dash with Navdy’s HUD
Heads-up displays are usually the domain of new cars. But after finding crowdfunding success, Navdy lets you add a HUD to any darn car you’d like. The $800 device pairs with Android and iOS devices to offer a floating substitute for your smartphone: turn-by-turn navigation, music controls and notifications for messages and calls are all available, but the peripheral’s behaviour with mapping apps still needs a bit of work. Roberto took one for a drive and explains more.
Engage.The occasionally dull sensation of helming a ‘Star Trek’ starship in VR
While Trekkies can’t wait for ‘Star Trek Bridge Crew’ to land on VR headsets, some may realize they weren’t cut out to be the captain of a starship. Devout fan (and Senior Editor) Dan Cooper led a crew of Engadget writers on the virtual rescue mission.
A $15 million ad campaign only does so much.Amazon’s fashion fight
Clothing is one of the online retailer’s fastest-growing categories, but the haute couture old guard aren’t cutting Amazon any slack. Many luxury brands say having full control of the retail experience is paramount. And then there’s those counterfeit concerns.
So hot right now.When Silicon Valley does a Fashion Week…
.. of course there’s drones.
But wait, there’s more…
- Ubisoft’s next ‘The Division’ update tries to keep players past the endgame
- AT&T’s online-only TV service will cost $35 a month for 100 channels
- Netflix CEO hammers final nail into the “Netflix and chill” coffin.