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)
Ubisoft is facing the same problem with The Division that Bungie encountered with Destiny: how do you keep people playing after they’ve hit the level cap, especially when extra content only goes so far? Its solution: dangle the promise of more loot. The developer has released that promised patch to overhaul the game’s mechanics, and its centerpiece is a new World Tiers feature that increases the difficulty of enemy characters in return for greater rewards. The higher the tier, the greater the chance you’ll get items you’d want to keep. You can also accrue experience beyond the regular and Underground level caps, and Ubisoft has tweaked loot drops across the board — you’re more likely to get equipment appropriate to your level, and any enemy has a chance of dropping advanced gear.
As for those overhauled mechanics? A lot has changed, and it’s mainly for the better. There have been “many improvements” to enemy AI, and it takes less time overall to kill them. Scavenging has been removed from the game entirely, for that matter, and you now progressively heal when you’re outside of combat. Weapons and armor have seen significant rebalancing as well. To top it off, skills behave very differently — there’s no longer a cap, but you face diminishing returns the higher your skill levels get.
It’s hard to say if the update will inject new life into The Division, although it at least clears the way for the DLC that Ubisoft had delayed for the sake of the new patch. From a cursory glance, though, the update appears to tackle some of the biggest complaints with online role-playing games of all kinds, especially shooter RPGs. You not only have more reason to play past the usual endgame, but should spend less time grinding or licking your wounds.
Does something look slightly off with picture you see above? Don’t worry, that’s on purpose. Adult Swim Games and Fire Face are launching the surreal puzzler Small Radios Big Televisions on November 8th for PC and PS4, and its hook is a time-traveling cassette deck that lets you “reconstruct the past” of abandoned factories through tapes. Only here, reality is just as fragile as the tapes in question — expect plenty of distortion, discoloration and other glitches that could play havoc with your head. Complete them and you’ll find retrowave tunes from Owen Deery (also available on Bandcamp) as a reward. Given Adult Swim’s solid track record with releasing off-kilter titles like Headlander and Westerado, it could be worth a try just to see how well this analog-meets-digital premise turns out.
Source: Steam, Bandcamp
Hold tight Fumito Ueda fans, your wait is almost over. Despite that long quiet period and even a recent six-week delay, tonight Sony Interactive exec Shuhei Yoshida tweeted that The Last Guardian has gone gold. That should put it on track for release December 6th, when everyone can adventure with a giant pet companion of their own. Not counting a Tokyo Game Show near-miss, we last experienced the successor to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus during E3 2016, and found it an “incomplete opus.” Here’s hoping the extra development time was enough to make everything just right.
I’ve waited a very long time to say this… The Last Guardian has gone gold! I’m so excited for you all to finally experience it ˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖
— Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp) October 22, 2016
— Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp) October 22, 2016
Source: Shuhei Yoshida (Twitter)
Sony really wants to clarify a few things about the PlayStation 4 Pro:
First, the Pro doesn’t signal the end of video game console generations, even though its specs and launch window fit a pattern that resembles PC or smartphone upgrade cycles more than traditional console releases. Second, the Pro is valuable even if you don’t have a 4K TV. Third, though most games on the Pro won’t actually be rendered in true 4K, they’re still much improved over the standard PS4.
Sony probably feels the need to clarify these points because after it revealed the PS4 Pro in September, there was some confusion over the capabilities and identity of the new console. It was pitched as a mid-generation upgrade that would usher in an era of 4K gaming, but after the scripted presentation, it became obvious that 4K was still out of reach for most developers. At the launch event, we found just one game on the demo floor that actually ran in 4K (that would be Elder Scrolls Online) while others took advantage of the Pro’s upgraded guts in other ways. Impressive ways, but not 4K.
After the reveal, it was unclear who the PS4 Pro was built for and what it signaled for the future of gaming consoles. It joined Microsoft’s Project Scorpio in blurring the generational divide, and with all of this talk about 4K, its benefits for HDTV owners were uncertain.
That’s when Mark Cerny stepped in.
Cerny is the architect of the PS4 and a highly respected veteran of the gaming industry. He introduced the Pro at Sony’s September event, and he followed that presentation with a behind-closed-doors meeting this week, diving deep into the console’s technical aspects. In other words, Cerny is Sony’s cleanup crew.
“PS4 Pro is not the start of a new generation and that is a very good thing,” he said. “We don’t believe that generations are going away. They are truly healthy for the industry and for the gaming community. It’s just that the objectives for PS4 Pro are going to be different.”
Cerny is adamant that console generations are a useful, necessary aspect of the video game industry. He repeated the line “generations are a good thing” throughout the meeting, reciting it like a mantra.
However, the definition of a console generation is changing, and right now the PS4 Pro is leading the charge. It isn’t a traditional, expected slim model with slightly upgraded specs and a fresh look — in fact, Sony just released one of those consoles as well. The Pro is bulkier and significantly more powerful than the standard PS4 or the new and improved slim version. Plus, the Pro costs $400 compared with the slim’s launch price of $300.
The Pro is a dividing line. The PS4 is not Sony’s latest and greatest piece of gaming hardware anymore: That distinction belongs to the PS4 Pro. When the console hits store shelves on Nov. 10th, there will be haves and have-nots, just as there are people who got the iPhone 6S Plus the day it came out, if only to show off to anyone who owned the suddenly outdated iPhone 6 Plus.
Cerny doesn’t see the PS4 Pro as a new generation for two reasons: It doesn’t have significantly more memory or a new CPU.
“For me, one of the hallmarks of a new console generation is the use of significantly more memory,” he said. “By contrast, the PS4 Pro is definitely part of the PS4 generation, so we took a different direction with the console. We felt games needed a little more memory, about 10 percent more, so we added about a gigabyte of slow, conventional DRAM to the console.”
The PS4 Pro uses this memory differently than the standard PS4. On the PS4, if you open Netflix and then swap to a game, Netflix remains resident in system memory, allowing for fast swapping between the two apps: Nothing needs to be loaded. The Pro, however, allocates background tasks to the 1GB of slow, conventional DRAM, freeing up more memory for the active apps (and allowing the home screen to resolve in 4K rather than the standard model’s 1080p).
Additionally, the PS4 Pro features an 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, just like the standard model. This means it doesn’t use a brand-new CPU — another aspect that would herald an entirely new console generation, in Cerny’s eyes.
“With PS4 Pro, one of the primary targets is flawless interoperability between two consoles,” Cerny said. “We chose a different path [than a new CPU], keeping Jaguar as the CPU and boosting the frequency as much as possible.”
So there’s the technical definition of a new generation and then there’s the social distinction. Regardless of whether players view the Pro as a more powerful, generation-skipping console, Cerny is adamant that the hardware itself is not upgraded enough to be a new generation.
But that’s just hardware. Games on the PS4 Pro will also use new software tricks to beef up their graphics and gameplay across SD, HD and 4K TVs. The newest, most game-changing technique is called checkerboard rendering, a process that was first used in Rainbow Six Siege.
Checkerboard rendering changes the shape of pixels; they’re no longer square. Instead, this process relies on delineated horizontal rectangles that each include one color, one Z value and one ID buffer (the building blocks of game graphics). Using data from previous frames to fill in information gaps, checkerboard rendering enables developers to build a more complete, crisp image that, according to Cerny, is nearly identical to native 4K.
He’s not exaggerating here either. In a demo this week, he pulled up a scene in Days Gone on two separate Pros and 4K televisions, one of them natively rendered and the other checkerboard upscaled. The images were nearly indistinguishable: The native game was slightly more saturated and the textures in the grass were clearly resolved while the checkerboard grass shimmered slightly in the breeze. However, from three or four feet away, it was nigh impossible to see a difference.
Of course, not all games on the PS4 Pro will use checkerboard rendering or even attempt to hit 2160p. Even games that do support 4K won’t always reach their full potential, considering not all players own a 4K TV. For those without a 4K set, Pro games will automatically scale down to the TV’s maximum display settings.
“Requiring all titles to run at 2160p on PS4 Pro makes no more sense than requiring all titles to run at 1080p on the standard PS4,” Cerny said. “The titles are going to use the increased graphical power in a number of ways. Some developers will favor quality over resolution, some will favor resolution over quality. We don’t want to have any sort of rules that have to be followed.”
Cerny listed a handful of AAA games that prepared for the Pro via various techniques, though nine of the 13 titles on display used some form of checkerboard rendering. Days Gone, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Horizon Zero Dawn all use 2160p checkerboard upscaling, and most of these titles rely on 1080p super-sampling for HDTVs. Meanwhile Watch Dogs 2, Killing Floor 2, Infamous First Light and Mass Effect: Andromeda use 1800p checkerboard rendering. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided takes advantage of checkerboard rendering to hit variable 1800p and 2160p resolutions while Spider-Man hits 2160p via a post-checkerboard process called temporal injection and For Honor gets there via a similar version of temporal anti-aliasing.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Paragon are special cases too. Shadow of Mordor uses native rendering at dynamic resolution, meaning the resolution “can vary broadly,” Cerny said, “but typically it’s at 80 percent to 90 percent of 4K.” Paragon features a mode for HDTVs with 1080p native rendering and enhanced visuals, and there’s no direct 4K version of the game: On 4K TVs, the upgraded graphics will simply be enhanced even further.
“We know that when game creators are making the decisions on how to best use the technology we provide, the result is almost invariably better for the gaming community,” Cerny said.
Near the end of the meeting, Cerny pulled up Knack, his PS4 launch title, side by side on two HDTVs. One game was running on a PS4 Pro and the other on a standard PS4. The differences were obvious: The PS4 Pro resolved cleaner lines and animations while the standard PS4 scene had more noise, particularly in detailed areas and backgrounds.
Cerny started with the Pro, picking up the controller and saying, “So if we look at the scene, again, it’s very clean, smooth. But if I were to do this on — ” he switched to the PS4 TV and sighed. “Look at all the moiré, or all of the shimmery noise in the distance. And this is what we see when we play games on an HDTV and we’ve learned to ignore it.”
Noticeably improved graphics and new standards for developing games certainly sound like hallmarks of a new generation — at least from the player’s perspective. Technically, Cerny might be right that the Pro is a mid-generational upgrade, but it is clearly a significant improvement over the standard console (even for people without 4K TVs). Significant enough to cost $100 more than the new and improved slim PS4, at least.
Horror fans on the lookout for bone-chilling titles on the PS4 have something to look forward to in November. The whole Amnesia collection developed by Swedish studio Frictional Games and British developer The Chinese Room is finally arriving on the console on November 22nd. It consists of the same PC games that became Let’s Play favorites among streamers a few years ago, namely Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010), its expansion Amnesia: Justine (2011), as well as their sequel Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (2013).
The games stood out for being subtle survival horrors that don’t rely on jump scares — the kind best played in a dark room on your own. While it’s unfortunate that you can’t get them before Halloween, you can pre-order the collection right now on the PlayStation Store for $30.
Did you pre-order Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare with multiplayer gaming in mind? If so, you now have a way to find out whether or not your faith (and your cash) is well-placed. As promised, the Infinite Warfare beta is live for PlayStation 4 customers who pre-ordered from participating stores. You’ll get access to three maps, a rotation of three game modes (Team Deathmatch, Domination and Kill Confirmed) and half of the full game’s ability-modifying Combat Rigs.
This first weekend is PS4-only and lasts until October 17th at 1PM Eastern. Xbox One owners will have to wait until the second weekend, which runs from October 21st through the 24th, to join in. This isn’t a long time to play, and you won’t get a taste of the single-player game (nothing new for CoD betas). However, it might make all the difference if you’re at all concerned that Infinite Warfare might be more of the same.
Source: PlayStation Blog, Call of Duty
AbleGamers program director Craig Kaufman knows he’s done his job when a kid comes running up to him on a busy convention show floor and screams, “I can stab people now!”
“And I’m like, you shouldn’t yell that in public — but it’s exciting,” Kaufman says. “All the kid wanted to do was stab people and we helped him.”
Kaufman is talking about stabbing people in Call of Duty, not real life. AbleGamers’ core mission is to open up gaming to people with disabilities, which often means giving away specialized controllers that respond to breathing, can be mounted on wheelchairs, or offer single-click solutions for more complicated actions like using analog sticks. However, AbleGamers is always looking for simpler and more accessible options, and this year they found one: The $150 Xbox Elite controller.
The Elite is widely marketed as a top-of-the-line controller for serious players — it’s customizable on a physical and software level, and it features extra buttons on the back of the hand grip, allowing for more mapping options. This is good news for hardcore players, but it’s also a remarkable breakthrough for people with disabilities. AbleGamers gives away Elite controllers whenever they can; the organization buys the controllers and sends them out to people in need.
“There’s a social isolation that happens for people with disabilities when you’re inside all the time,” Kaufman says. “And it’s — bam, you can play games. It’s awesome.”
Kaufman offers one example of a man who recently had a stroke and lost the use of one of his hands. He loved games and needed a way to play, so Kaufman sent him an Elite and explained that he could use his mouth to move the analog stick. The man wasn’t immediately convinced.
“That’s a concept that not everyone adapts to,” Kaufman says. So, Kaufman filmed a video of himself controlling the Elite with his mouth and just one hand, using the rear-grip buttons as triggers. It worked.
“And this is a $150 solution that you can go buy at Wal-Mart, and it helped that dude with a stroke play games,” Kaufman says. “That’s huge. That’s amazing.”
“There’s a social isolation that happens for people with disabilities when you’re inside all the time.”
Specialized controllers can cost upwards of $400, placing them out of reach for many people living on disability, which offers a fixed income. Plus, many custom solutions come directly from the manufacturer, which sometimes means long order times and shipping them from far-away countries. This is why AbleGamers is so excited about the Elite; it’s relatively cheap and Kaufman can simply send it to someone via Amazon Prime. It’s accessible on a level that other options aren’t.
Plus, the Elite has removable parts, including the analog sticks. For people who play with their mouths, this is a key feature, since it allows them to keep the gamepad clean. People can even 3D print custom parts to make playing easier.
Microsoft isn’t alone in trying to open up the gaming ecosystem. Both Sony and Microsoft recently launched system-wide button mapping options for their consoles, meaning players can customize their controllers on a software level across Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Microsoft also took things a step further with Gears of War 4.
“I actually sent them a layout that I thought would be helpful and they added it,” Kaufman says. “It’s so you don’t have to use the triggers — you can just use the face buttons.” And that’s not just for the Elite, either.
Opening up games to people with disabilities isn’t solely a philanthropic effort, Kaufman argues: It’s also good for business. “You can sell more games,” he says. “Widen the market, include more people.”
Essentially, the more people playing games, the better the industry is for everyone, Kaufman says.
“Microsoft has been very interested in some of the feedback and things we’ve been doing with it,” Kaufman says. “The fact that we give these out is huge for them, and they’re always looking at how to include more players.”
Now that the PSVR has finally been released to the public, Sony can now bring new PS4 features online that take advantage of the new peripheral. A few of these come in an update to the console’s Media Player, which now lets users watch 360-degree video and photos when they don the headset. They’ve also added support for audio played in the high-definition FLAC format as well as boosting the quality of lossy music.
Any content on media servers or plugged in via USB can be accessed by switching on “VR Mode” in the Media Player’s menu, but you can’t just load up any old YouTube video and see it in glorious virtual reality. Only media that was “captured in equirectangular format by a 360-degree omnidirectional camera” and saved in a supported format can be viewed in VR. (For reference, that includes video files in MKV, AVI, MP4, MPEG2 PS, MPEG2 TS or AVCHD, as well as photos saved as JPEG, BMP or PNG.)
Sony also enhanced the Media Player’s music capabilities, introducing support for FLAC audio and automatically upscaling lower-resolution files. Compressed MP3 or AAC files will get boosted to a quality approaching that of lossless FLAC or WAV formats thanks to the company’s DSEE HX tech, previously available only in a handful of Sony’s high-resolution audio products.
Source: PlayStation blog
While it’s been possible to link a DualShock 4 to a PC to play Steam games, the functionality has been provided by third-party apps, not the companies themselves. Luckily, that will soon change, after Valve’s Jeff Bellinghausen confirmed to Gamasutra that the game company is working to include native support for other gamepads, starting with the PlayStation 4 controller.
“Believe it or not, when you use the PS4 Controller through the Steam API, it’s exactly the same as a Steam Controller. Not only is it a really nice, high quality controller, but it’s also got a gyro and a touchpad.” says Bellinghausen. “Existing native support for the PS4 controller on the PC is a bit weak; in this case Steam itself is communicating directly with the device so everything that’s nice and reliable.”
In the past, Steam users have relied on apps like DS4Windows to connect DualShock controllers to their PC. However, with native Steam support and the new DualShock 4 USB Wireless Adaptor, which already helps PC users play PlayStation Now games on their desktop, it won’t be long before Sony’s gamepad can be fully utilized — touchpad and all — without any additional customization.