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Virtual Reality

Virtual reality photo
Virtual reality

You'll need about $1,500 to go all in with Oculus Rift


Still no price for the actual unit
May 27
// Robert Summa
While we're still waiting for a final price on the retail version of the Oculus Rift, the company's CEO Brendan Iribe said that users will need to pony up about $1,500 for both a computer that will run the device and the actu...
Oculus photo
Oculus

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey accused of fraud


Allegedly
May 25
// Vikki Blake
Oculus VR founder, Palmer Luckey, is being sued for breach of contract. According to The Recorder, Hawaiian virtual reality company Total Recall Technologies “seeks compensatory and punitive damages” aga...
Arizona Sunshine photo
Arizona Sunshine

Arizona Sunshine: The (Steam) VR revolution will, unsurprisingly, have zombies


Virtual reality zombie shooter
May 21
// Steven Hansen
I sometimes feel like I'm less on board with VR than most. It's a fun novelty to show a family member for 20 minutes, not something I'd like to be cocooned in for hours . Maybe that's why there's expectation of it doing gang...
Oculus photo
Oculus

Oculus has something to show us in June


Step into the Rift
May 20
// Vikki Blake
Oculus is inviting selected press to a special event in San Francisco on June 11. The plain invites merely bear the words "Step into the Rift" and an image of an Oculus Rift headset. What exactly the event will cover remains ...
Free 2 porn photo
Free 2 porn

Oculus won't be blocking virtual porn


Ecosystem as open as your Friday night
May 19
// Steven Hansen
While I still haven't gotten my own anime mascot, one more surefire thing happened: the Oculus Rift bore a lot of porn experiments. There were fake boobs to grab, real-life sex toys to hump in calibration to the anime girls g...
Sony photo
Sony

Sony opens first-party VR-focused studio, names it after Kanye's baby


Probably, I think
May 18
// Brett Makedonski
Sony's sure taking virtual reality seriously. It wasn't long ago that we weren't completely positive if Project Morpheus was meant for a retail release, or if it were just a research and development project to show off emergi...
Oculus photo
Oculus

Oculus Rift's recommended specs aren't as bad as you'd think


They're not exactly low-level either
May 15
// Brett Makedonski
What kind of supercomputer is needed to transport a human from their realm of existence to some sort of virtual reality? Probably a ridiculously expensive one, right? Well, not quite. It isn't exactly cheap, but it's doable. ...
Horror photo
Horror

This new AR project wants to turn your house into a horror game


Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy?
May 04
// Vikki Blake
If just wandering down the corridor in P.T. was enough to send you screaming from the room, how would you cope if a Lisa-like entity came at you in the hallway of your own house?  Night Terrors -- a "highly immersive, ph...
HoloLens demo photo
HoloLens demo

Microsoft HoloLens looks like the future


Make your games follow you!?
Apr 29
// Jed Whitaker
Holy shit! Call me a nerd, but this makes me excited for the future. Picture this: yours truly walking around the house naked while my videogame follows me -- a virtual pet here, a leaderboard of my friends scores there, a l...

Narcosis explores the horrors of the deep ocean with intense VR gameplay

Apr 14 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]283983:56360:0[/embed] Narcosis (PC)Developer: Honor Code, IncPublisher: Honor Code, Inc  Release: Fall 2015 Set at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at an underwater research center, you play as an industrial diver who must fight for survival after a sudden and catastrophic accident leaves him stranded and alone. With the research center mostly destroyed and its crew killed, the lone survivor must retrace his steps and find a way to the surface. But with horrifying underwater predators roaming the surroundings, and a damaged diving suit with diminishing oxygen, the diver must keep a strong head -- or else nature or even his own wavering psychological state could overcome him. Referred to as a "slow-burn" experience by the creatives behind the game, this 'survivor-story' features a more atmospheric take on traditional horror titles, blending the show-don't-tell school of storytelling from Gone Home with the dread and somewhat other-worldly feel from Silent Hill. Humanity has only explored a small percentage of our planet's oceans, and with many aquatic environments and creatures left undiscovered, it's an incredibly interesting and captivating place to explore for a horror experience. On the surface it seems just like the film Gravity set underwater, and while that's not too far off, there's a strong focus on setting and interaction with the elements. We don't really get too many games set in the depths of the ocean, let alone a horror game taking place on the sea floor. And Narcosis definitely does a lot to play up the mystery and isolation to a very tense and anxious effect. Speaking with David Chen, the lead writer for Narcosis, he spoke at length about how they sought to convey their interpretation of survival horror. "We're kinda struggling to label the game, as it has many of the hallmarks of survival horror," said lead writer David Chen. "There are no zombies or a viral outbreak, it's really about seven or eight hours of this guy trapped at the bottom of the ocean. So we think it's a really, relatively unique premise for a game, as a lot of other titles have you saving the world, revenging your family, or bottling up some ancient evil -- but here, you're trapped alone in the dark on the bottom of the ocean." While underwater gameplay is almost notoriously awful in most games, Narcosis does the smart thing by keeping it simple. Movement is slow and hulking, which makes sense as you're wearing a heavy diving suit under large amounts of pressure from the ocean. Walking is your top-speed, but with the aid of charge pack, you can boost for short-distances. As you maneuver around the ocean floor and the ruins of the research center, you'll have to be mindful of your surroundings as there are many dangers ahead. With only your suit lights and some flares giving you clear vision, you'll often times find yourself in total darkness. Moreover, you'll have to monitor your oxygen and health levels, which can be restored by pickups found in the debris. By far the biggest threat is the presence of underwater predators. Resembling nightmarish squids and over-sized crabs, these creatures stalk for prey, and they see the diver as their next target. Some creatures are large in size, which may require you to evade their gaze. While you have a knife to defend yourself, attacking with it is slow and somewhat clunky -- which of course is by design, as the weight of the ocean and your suit makes movement slow. During one encounter, I came across a squid creature that nearly destroyed the diver's helmet with its powerful tentacles. Using a well-timed knife attack, I was able to strike it down as it charged at me. But of course, there's yet another issue to contend with. Given his perilous situation, and the fact that the diver only has his thoughts to keep him company, his psychological and emotional state can often become compromised. As you maneuver through the disturbing, alien landscape of the dark and claustrophobic ocean floor, and through the horrific aftermath of the destroyed research center, the diver's mental state will begin to decay, which gives rise to horrifying hallucinations. During my exploration of the research center, I had to trek through the remains of the station to look for clues to reach the surface -- all the while avoiding predators that have taken up residence, and finding the floating remains of the scientists and divers that died in the accident. With oxygen getting low, and finding many empty diving suits eerily standing up in hallways, as if they were looking at me, I finally came to a small room which housed four suits. Once I stepped in, I looked around for any clues, but I soon realized that the door had disappeared, and I was suddenly surrounded by diving suits, all staring back at me with their blank and empty helmets. As I kept turning, looking for a way out, I found that the room had suddenly given rise to a narrow hallway, with parallel rows of diving suits on each side. Each of them were facing each other in a somewhat ceremonial fashion, as if they were greeting me or welcoming me back home. Once I reached the end of the hallway, I finally found my destination: a small room housing computers with sensitive data. Once I turned around, the hallway and many diving suits weren't there; the lone survivor had just simply stepped into the room. Referred to as "Narcosis moments," there will be times when the diver's paranoia warps his perception, resulting in surreal moments that blur the line between reality and imagination. Bare in mind, I playing with the Oculus Rift during the demo, which made me so incredibly anxious. Moreover, this was all happening in real-time with no cutscenes or breaks. It was like witnessing some strange trip that wouldn't end. As I got more nervous, the sense of dread kicked up significantly, which made exploration all the more tense. While Narcosis is totally playable without the use of virtual reality, the developers found that the new technology helped to amplify a lot of the visual and atmospheric moments they created. "We describe it as a very understated use of VR, as in it's not flashy or flamboyant, but the core fiction of the game really lends itself to the use of VR as it accurately shows your limitations," said Chen while discussing their use of the tech. "It really lends itself to the sense of immersion, a sense of place, and the feeling of suspense." "It's a narrative-driven game, it's a story-based game, so we want to have appropriate emotional beats," Chen continued. "It's not intended to be a relentless freakout, but as the game has developed with VR, we discovered ways to try new things with it, as opposed to the more obvious 'aaaaaahhh' [motions jump-scare] moments. [...] While we definitely have some freaky stuff, we're trying to be more tasteful." Even during my fairly brief session with Narcosis, I was quite impressed with the VR. As opposed to relying on horror tropes and gimmicks, such as jump scares or stalking foes that appear all-knowing and invincible, this title lets the environments and its clever visual tricks do all the talking. I felt nervous during key sections, and knowing that only a few hits from predators could destroy my suit, simply hesitating and watching my oxygen meter sink was stressful. Set for release later this year, Narcosis is an intellectual and subdued take on survival horror. Which isn't all that common today, given that we're often using guns and other gadgets to overcome enemies. Going more for a general experience rather than a super 'gamey' affair, it seeks to show that the horrors of the deep ocean, and nature itself, are an uncaring and unwavering force that outmatch man on nearly every level. And there's certainly no greater foe than nature itself.
Narcosis preview photo
Deep deep down
Last year during Game Connection Europe, Steven had some special hands-on time with developer Honor Code, Inc's upcoming underwater survival horror title Narcosis. As a psychological-horror survival game, players find themsel...

Air Accident Experience photo
Air Accident Experience

Air Accident Experience released with the worst timing


So uncomfortable
Mar 27
// Jed Whitaker
[Update: Looks like the video was removed from YouTube as well as being removed from the front page of the Oculus VR Share site, but you can still see Air Accident Experience's page here.] In what has to be the worst ti...
Virtual nose in VR photo
Virtual nose in VR

Having trouble with VR nausea? Just follow your nose!


Snap, crackle, barf
Mar 26
// Darren Nakamura
With more people trying out virtual reality headsets these days, an increasingly common issue is motion sickness brought on when visual information and motion don't match up. For simulators that involve walking, it can confus...

EVE: Valkyrie wants to be the leader in VR eSports

Mar 20 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]289262:57848:0[/embed] Odds are decent that Valkyrie might hold that ambitious mantle because of the inherent nature of VR. One thing that O'Brien's CCP Newcastle team quickly found out is that VR works best when there's a minimal disconnect between the real and the immersive world. "For every bit of immersion that you're getting in this other world, there's less and less of the real world there. We're going for full immersion, because if you end up somewhere between the two, that can make simulation sickness worse and you'll feel weird. Like, we really avoid, for example, big hand movements or your character doing something that your brain tells you you’re not doing. Even our controller is positioned not in a joystick position, but in the position of the console controller. We very minimally move the pilot. I mean, the ship moves, but we don't do any touching other screens because that really jars you out of the experience. So, I actually think in our experience, the more immersed you are, the less likely you are to get simulation sickness." That's the kind of learning on-the-job that CCP (and, really, all VR developers) have had to deal with. As O'Brien says "It's becoming less and less true, but a year ago, there were no real VR experts. We're kind of learning, and talking to the manufacturers, there aren't any hard and fast rules. They have guidelines of what to try to do or what to try to avoid, but really, we're all still learning." And, it's that learning curve which hamstrings a current eSports favorite: first-person shooters. Developers are working on integrating FPS to virtual reality, but no one's done it particularly well yet. O'Brien thinks it'll eventually happen, but he's not sure when. "I'm sure at some point, someone will crack FPS, but they haven't yet. FPS in VR is very disorientating because your body is doing things that you're not doing. There are set ups that you can get where you're walking on a treadmill, but one of the disconnects that breaks immersion is when your body is doing something in the immersive world that you're not doing in the real world. It's little things, like in most first-person shooters, the gun is your hands, but in real life, you could be looking around. There are a lot of things to solve there. But, the main thing is locomotion. You're running and jumping in the virtual world, but you're really seated in a sofa. That's very disorientating for the body." For all the extra time that CCP has had to spend on Valkyrie, it legitimately seems like time well-spent. The game running on the new Crescent Bay headset is a significant upgrade over what we've seen in the past. Despite being a space dog-fighting game, the world is now filled with enough debris and objects to feel occupied. There's also a new emphasis on color that makes the world vibrant and enjoyable to cruise around in. Even dying is neat because the respawn screen puts you inside a pod that seems like it's ripped straight out of Alien's Nostromo. However, even if Oculus launched, say, six months ago, O'Brien is confident that Valkyrie would've eventually ended up where it is today (and, further, where it'll eventually go). "We would've shipped a smaller experience and built on it," he said. That building could go in any direction, but an obvious one is to connect it to the greater EVE universe. O'Brien would like to eventually do that, but it's not a priority now. "We have a small team, and I want to stay focused on making a great competitive multiplayer game," O'Brien stated. He continued, "I think you need to focus on one thing: the game, rather than what's the link to the EVE universe. I think once the game's up and running and working well, then we can look at longer term things. Ultimately, I don’t know how many years hence it'd be, but it'd be great if the battle you just saw was real capsuleers there, as well. But right now, I want to give that experience in the EVE universe without actually getting hamstrung by a direct connection." He's right; talking about melding Valkyrie into EVE Online is kind of putting the cart before the horse. For the time being, getting this game into people's hands is the main priority. O'Brien acknowledges that it won't be easy, but that road is getting less rocky. "There are more and more people coming into the arena, and that can only be good for VR in general. There are a lot of people that are starting to invest because the tech does work now," O'Brien commented. "I think the key to adoption is going to be facilitating easy trial, because I haven't met anybody yet who has tried one of these headsets and gone 'eh, it wasn't great.' Once people have done that, as long as it's at the right price point and not too hard of a tech setup – right now, I think it's more about making it easy for the consumer rather than the quality of the experience, because the quality of the experience is definitely there." But, virtual reality is nigh impossible to convey second-hand. It really is something that needs to be personally experienced. O'Brien concluded the interview by empathizing with anyone who's VR-wary, even if he's a believer. "There are two types of people in the world: There are people who have tried a VR headset and those who haven't. People who have tried are all converts, and people who haven't are all skeptics because VR has already been the next big thing so many times."
EVE: Valkyrie preview photo
Ambitious, for sure
It was almost a year ago (ten months, more accurately) when I sat down with EVE: Valkyrie's developers, and they told me "We're ready to ship when Oculus is ready to ship." At the time, Valkyrie was considered a flagship...

CCP's found the best use for Xbox One's Kinect so far

Mar 20 // Brett Makedonski
The Atlanta studio put together three demos, and used Rift DK2 and Microsoft's Kinect for all of them. While it's a suitable use of the VR peripheral, it's the integration of Kinect that pushes everything to the next level. Taking the controller out of your hands and replacing it with actual movement goes a long way toward achieving the ever-sought-after "immersion." I dare say that these three demos are the best use of Microsoft's Xbox One Kinect yet. Speaking with Atlanta's executive producer Morgan Godat, he shed some light on the developer's decision to make use of the Kinect. "We said 'What comes next?' Our assumption was that the Xbox controller was kind of the first generation of VR like you're seeing with Valkyrie. But, what might come after that?" he said. The result was what Godat described as a "Frankenstein setup." The team started with a PC, Oculus Rift, PlayStation Move controllers, and a Kinect. It just threw everything together to see what worked and what didn't. As Godat put it "Some of the hardware has fallen off, but Kinect has made the long haul. It's really impressive." It's the piece that, for now, is crucial in taking that next step in VR development. When standing in front of the Kinect with an Oculus strapped to your head, it's apparent how important that proverbial (and, in this case, literal) next step really is. Hands-down, the most impressive and enjoyable game was a player-versus-player contest named Disc Arena. The only way to paint a mental image of the aesthetic is to call it "overtly Tron." Standing across from another person in the futuristic corridor, you're tasked with flicking a disc toward your opponent. If you hit them, you get a point. The challenge comes from the fact that you're both "equipped" with a shield that can be held up with the left hand. Blocking will break the disc; swiping at the disc with the shield reflect it back. At first, it's easy to get caught up in the simple exchange of flick a disc, block a disc. It's boring, simple, and basic. But, then a disc goes astray and you learn that the walls can be used to bounce the disc and disorient your opponent. Suddenly you have to watch all directions for incoming projectiles, throw your shield everywhere, and still find time to shoot off your own discs. When you score a point, it feels like an actual accomplishment. It's just great. (And, I won six points to five, by the way.) Ship Spinner was the most experimental of the three titles. There wasn't an objective, but rather exploration was the focus. With a detailed spaceship hovering in front of you, you were asked to swipe it around to change the orientation. From there, leaning into the ship completely changed the view and offered insight as to what's actually happening aboard. All the rooms were detailed in their own special way. At one point I triggered lounge music. A colleague of mine found a dead guy. I raised the ship as high as I could, and explored the underbelly and furnace of the ship. There wasn't really any point, but that's what made it great. The last of Atlanta's demos, called The Workshop, let me grab fire and throw it. Putting elements on a literal pedestal, I just picked up fire or electricity and lobbed it about as I felt fit. Then, a stack of boxes appeared and I kicked them as far as I could. It was neat, but nothing on the level of Disc Arena or Ship Spinner. The Shanghai studio went in a very different direction and ended up developing an untethered VR experience. Using GearVR, it created an on-rails shooter named Project Nemesis. Originally codenamed Invaders, it's simple to grasp where it draws inspiration from. It's essentially a VR conceptualization of Space Invaders which requires tapping on the side of the headset to dispose of waves of ships circling in patterns. Admittedly, there's a good chance that none of these demos will ever see the light of day as some sort of consumer release. That's fine with CCP, though; that was never the intent. As Godat emphasized, the point of making these one-off experiences was to get creative and see what the developers could do with virtual reality. It's all a part of CCP's ultimate goal of "finding a future vision within the EVE universe with a laser focus on VR."
CCP does VR A-OK photo
CCP's VR Labs
It’s no secret that virtual reality is quickly making its mark on the videogame industry. If that weren't evident before, GDC 2015 kicked the door wide open. That's why, with numerous developers turning their attention ...

EVE Valkyrie trailer photo
EVE Valkyrie trailer

New EVE: Valkyrie trailer starts with a routine escort mission


'See you in the next life'
Mar 19
// Darren Nakamura
EVE Valkyrie has come a long way since the footage from last year's EVE Fanfest. The trailer above shows a more fleshed out mission, beginning with a mundane escort and ending with, well, something a little more exciting. Th...

Harmonix Music VR could supplant Audiosurf for me

Mar 12 // Darren Nakamura
Harmonix had two zones on display at PAX East. One was a serene beach scene and the other was an on-rails trip through a constantly changing techno landscape. I chose the latter, and loaded up The Foo Fighters' "Everlong" for my run through. It works a bit like those old school music visualizers in that it reads the characteristics of any song and generates visual content from it. The mini environments were designed; I saw birds flying, giant structures, and other recognizable elements. However, their behaviors and appearances are determined procedurally. I actually had to ask about that last bit, because some sections of the visual content synced up so well to the audio that I wasn't sure if the transitions were built specifically for the limited library on display. During the long snare roll build up near the end of "Everlong," it kept switching between various scenes. The switching increased in frequency until the crescendo when the guitar and vocals come back in, at which point it stuck with one scene that was more colorful and alive than it had been previously. It was incredible. When it was over, it was strange to take off the VR headset. By the end, I definitely felt like I had been in another place, and removing the headset transported me back to the show floor. As a way to enjoy music, I haven't ever experienced anything else like it.
Harmonix Music VR photo
A new way to experience music
Audiosurf is more than seven years old now (wow), but it still holds a place as a desktop icon on my computer. I still play it regularly. The thing is, I almost never play it on any setting other than Casual with Mono. It is ...

Skyworld takes unique advantage of Valve's new virtual reality tech

Mar 06 // Alessandro Fillari
For our demo, the developers led me into a closed-off room which housed Valve's virtual reality hardware. Around the room were two cameras that tracked movement and set the boundaries of the VR environment by scanning the dimensions of the room. They then handed me the headset, which still looked as if it was in the prototype phase. Wires to the headset were numerous, which required a belt around my waist to hold all of them down. Honestly, it felt like I was wearing something from '90s cyberpunk like Ghost in the Shell or Johnny Mnemonic. It was weighty, but had a number of devices working at once. I actually almost tripped over one of the wires before our demo even started. But any apprehension I had for the device soon faded once I tried out the interface and witnessed it in action. With the headset on, I was in a home menu showing a number of games and applications. The controllers they gave me, which were also connected with wires, were two wand-like devices that were somewhat like a mix between the Sony Move and Wii Remote. Similar to the headset, they were in early form. Using trackpads on the controllers allowed me to cycle through options. And just for fun, pressing down the trackpad caused a balloon to inflate from the controller in the digital space, which was amusing. It felt intuitive, and surprisingly accurate. I could look around to see the menu system with its grey, almost minimalistic background, but the Valve engineer instructed me to look towards the floor. On the floor was a box, which represented the center of the space. Once I started walking forward outside the box, I made it a few steps before a grid popped up in front of me. This grid represented the physical wall that I was about to walk into, which the camera picked up and visualized within the VR space. It was pretty cool stuff, and I felt that I could've spent plenty of time exploring the home menu, but of course, they had a game to show. [embed]288675:57632:0[/embed] Last year, the developers of World of Diving showed off an impressive demonstration for their underwater-exploration sim. The use of the Oculus Rift was well designed and featured impressive depth and range. With the success and buzz they generated with that title, they attracted the attention of Valve, leading to a partnership. But the new VR technology they were presented meant having to design something a bit different. "When they asked to work together with us to make a demo for the GDC announcement, the first thing that came to mind was that we should do something like World of Diving," said creative director Richard Stitselaar. "But that title was designed around the first Oculus, and then the DK2 came along, we had to ramp it up to seventy-five frames per second, then Valve came along and said 'guys, it needs 90 frames per second.' So we had to do a lot of optimization on the game, and we figured we should use our knowledge with VR and apply it to a new game instead." Skyworld is totally different from World of Diving. Set on a floating island that houses a small civilization, you play as an omnipotent ruler that must wage war on the opposing side. As a quasi tabletop turn-based strategy title, players use both Steam controllers as wands in game to conjure up creatures and interact with the world. Over time, you'll build your defenses and expand your resources, which will allow you to send infantry and even dragons to attack your enemies. With the left controller, I was able to pull up a magic book, which housed unit info and spells to cast. Using the right controller allowed me to interact with the elements on the table. Whether picking up units to reposition them or interacting with blacksmiths or dragons, each controller had its own separate uses that complemented the other. "First we had this interaction model where you would look at something as this dot in the middle and then select it," said Stitselaar. "It feels natural to have something in your hand that could enhance the world itself." When you think of VR, you're probably thinking of something that's a bit action-y or fast-paced, and likely not a turn-based strategy title. But Skyworld definitely makes great use of the technology. I was able to view all aspects of the environment with clarity, as zooming simply meant stepping closer. Of course, I had to let go of some very basic certainties when playing with the demo. For instance, we all know that if there's an object in front of you, then you'll likely have to move if you want to get around it. I spent much of the demo walking around the 'table,' never thinking to actually walk up to whatever object I wanted. Eventually, the engineers from Valve and Vertigo Games instructed me that it was okay to walk through the table -- it wasn't real. After attacking enemy installations and moving my infantry around, my time with the demo ended. It was fairly brief, and I felt I only scratched the surface of what I could do. Valve's technology was easily the most impressive use of virtual reality I've seen in a long time, though. Moreover, Vertigo Games' work impressed. I was pleasantly surprised to experience a title that used VR in an original way. While the technology has a ways to go before it will get in the hands of consumers, I'm excited about what the future of VR holds.
Valve VR photo
Vertigo Games talks the future of VR
We got a big shock at the beginning of the week when Valve announced its partnership with HTC to produce a new virtual reality headset. We all knew the company had ambitions to enter the console market with Steam Machines, bu...

Elite: Dangerous has bold plans for the future

Mar 05 // Alessandro Fillari
"It's always brilliant to see how many people were supportive of the game," said lead designer David Braben as he reflected on the initial debut of Elite. "So many people helped us do that, and one of the great things about Kickstarter is that it brings together a crowd of people who all have very similar goal. So it's worked overall very, very well for us -- I'm actually very proud of what we've done. And another thing, we've not only shipped the game, but we've continued support of the game." As one of the early Kickstarter success stories, Elite: Dangerous grabbed a lot of attention for its vision as a space-exploration title across a massive and ever-growing universe. As a sequel to the '90s space sim Frontier, many fans of the genre yearned for a return, which they got in Frontier Developments' crowdfunded title. Despite its scope and breadth of content so far, the creators already have much of the development mapped out for the next few years. [embed]288572:57606:0[/embed] "I see [the vision] for a very, very long time growing, and it'll keep us occupied. We said there would be paid updates, and some of the things we said you could do in those is going down to planet surfaces, get up out of your chair and explore the cockpit, boarding other ships, big-game hunting, driving other types of vehicles on the surface to explore cities; but designing each one is like a whole new type of game. We have to be careful, but to me those are the perfect types of game experiences." With the success of previous updates and expansions, such as patch 1.1, the developers fully plan continue support with new patches and paid content packs in the future. With the Wings update, which seeks to add more PvP content, co-op play, and other enhancements to matchmaking, there is a sizeable amount of content on the horizon. "We've had amazing dedication from a lot of players, many players have played a significant amount of time -- more than a thousand hours. We're listening to a lot of players and quite a few of the people who've played that length of time are saying 'oh, I've seen everything now,' and they actually haven't. The great thing with this model is that we can add content continually, such as the Wings update and the community events. We've only been out for around three months, and people are already sinking so much time into it." The most surprising announcement from this week was that Elite would be making its way to consoles. Though the space sim genre is somewhat notorious for its complexity and dense gameplay, the developers were adamant that the title would not only feature all the content released thus far, but also that it would not be watered down for consoles. "I don't want to dumb it down," said Braben rather bluntly. "I'm an Xbox gamer, and I love games on my Xbox, but there are some games I feel that have been dumbed down a bit [for console port]. I get sick of tutorials, that are giving you very obvious instructions. So overall, I'm very excited about the console. It'll offer a different feel for players where you're sitting back on a comfortable chair or siting up close to a desk." Of course, with the recent trends seeing virtual reality as the future of games, the developers wanted to get ahead of that by being among the first to officially support the device. Which certainly plaid off, as it's one of the most used games for the Oculus Rift headset. As more companies are announcing devices, Braben is optimistic about the potential VR has for gaming. "[Working with VR] has been a good experience," he said. "The great thing about being independent is when we first released [a beta] in 2013, there was Oculus Rift support five or six days later, which we added. We were always excited abut it, and we thought our game would make great use of it. What's good to see now is that the number of new head-mounted displays coming out, and I think that's exciting -- what's interesting is that I think there aren't any other triple-A titles like Elite: Dangerous that are officially supporting it right out of the box. We see lots of demos, but it's surprising to see there isn't a consumer release VR headset." It's great to see that a hardcore space sim has been so widely accepted by fans. And as the game grows every few months with its updates, players will have plenty of content to dive into. The future looks bright for Elite: Dangerous, and with the console releases on the horizon, the barrier for entry is much lower now for those looking to dive into interstellar exploration.
Elite: Dangerous photo
The developers talk content updates and VR
Things have been going well for Frontier Developments. With the success of Elite: Dangerous, which features a sizeable and passionate community of space explorers, and having won the prestigious Audience Award from the 2015 G...

GDC news photo
GDC news

Sony's virtual reality hat Morpheus coming to PlayStation 4 in 2016


Slick new GDC prototype
Mar 03
// Steven Hansen
In the last month or so, invitations to various virtual reality headset demonstrations have made up a huge chunk of my inbox. GDC is into virtual reality.  I worry someone will pull some garish box out of their bag this ...
HTC Vive photo
HTC Vive

HTC Vive VR headset announced in partnership with Valve


Consumer version this year
Mar 01
// Jed Whitaker
HTC is partnering with Valve on a VR headset, revealed today as the Vive. The Vive will be "powered by Steam VR," which seems to be a software solution created by Valve for VR headsets. It is unclear at this time if Stea...
Valve VR hardware photo
Valve VR hardware

Valve is showing its 'SteamVR hardware system' next week


New Steam Machines and the final Steam Controller, too
Feb 23
// Jordan Devore
Here I was expecting to find out about Steam Machines and the finished Steam Controller at next week's Game Developers Conference -- sure, that's fine -- but the company also has a surprise in store for the San Francisco show...
Jake Kaufman VR album photo
Jake Kaufman VR album

Jake Kaufman's VR music album Nuren is up on Kickstarter


The New Renaissance
Feb 14
// Darren Nakamura
Late last year, Jake "virt" Kaufman left WayForward to strike out on his own. Since then, he has hinted about a big project he envisions. It looks like Nuren: The New Renaissance is that project. A collaborative project betw...

You saw Microsoft's crazy hologram headset, right?

Jan 21 // Jordan Devore
[embed]286513:56976:0[/embed] It's unlikely that the end consumer product will exactly match the ambition of this concept video but, even if Microsoft gets partway there with HoloLens, we're one step closer to The Future as envisioned by Hollywood. One step closer to becoming Tony Stark. What a time to be alive. Other gaming-related announcements were made during the Windows 10 event: Microsoft is working on an Xbox app with Xbox Live-style social functionality and Achievements. Sure, why not? We'll be able to stream Xbox One games through our local network to a Windows 10 PC or tablet. "[M]any Xbox One accessories will work interchangeably on the console and PC (with more on the way)," says the company. Xbox One's recording/editing/sharing Game DVR software will be a part of Windows 10 "whether [you're] on Xbox Live, Steam, or other services." Fable Legends will release on Xbox One and Windows 10 simultaneously and the game supports cross-platform play. (Remember Shadowrun 2007?) This represents "just the first of the major game franchises from Microsoft Studios coming to Windows 10." DirectX 12 is a Windows 10 exclusive. My graphics card just got another wrinkle. Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users can upgrade to Windows 10 for free for the first year. And finally, Cortana -- she's here to stay as a personal assistant. Yay?
Holograms! photo
HoloLens, DirectX 12, and actual Microsoft Studios games on PC
Earlier today, Microsoft held a Windows 10 event. My stream kept dying, but I posted about the Battletoads shirt worn by head of Xbox Phil Spencer during his segment about gaming. Much of the event was uninteresting or irrele...

Adr1ft is a stunning VR space exploration, and it came from a 'f*ck it' mentality

Dec 05 // Brett Makedonski
Feeling like you've already lost everything is a powerful enabler. Orth learned this first-hand. "After my experience, I definitely had a 'fuck it' attitude, because how bad can it get at this point? I was no longer afraid of failure. I was just afraid of not doing things," he said. With his attention focused solely on his new project, Orth worked to make something that told his story, but also brings something unique to videogames. Adr1ft is that game. It's a tale of an astronaut floating in space with no idea how she got there. She's lost, confused (adrift, if you will). Her only goal is to get back home safely, a feat that will require plenty of exploration and puzzle-solving as she repairs mainframe computers around the space station in an effort to get the escape pod back online. While it's been designed from the ground-up as a traditional videogame (for PC, PS4, and Xbox One), Orth and his modest-sized team of developers know that Adr1ft lends itself best to a virtual-reality experience. "We knew what we had here is perfectly suited for VR," Orth exclaimed. "It's not fast, it's not twitchy, and it's not too complex, but it has that 'holy shit' element about it. Step out of the interior into the outside, and it affects you." He's right. In a brief, Oculus-driven demo of Adr1ft, we slowly transitioned from a small room inside the station to the vast nothingness. It's striking. Sure, the environment's littered with chaotically torn apart space debris, and the earth below is a terrifyingly large presence. But it's still impossible to not feel like a tiny ant marching onward against sheer hopelessness. If that realization was somehow lost on someone, the floating dead astronaut should have driven the point home. [embed]284619:56546:0[/embed] Our demo was devoid of the many puzzles that Orth promised would make up the majority of the gameplay. Instead, it was about exploration -- another core tenet of Adr1ft. There were oxygen capsules to bat around, but not to collect. That dead astronaut? Nothing to do but study his space-suited corpse from every angle. Even the barrel rolls I could perform needed to be done in considerable moderation, as they were surprisingly disorienting. Like No Man's Sky of last year, when Adr1ft's introduced to a wide-scale audience with a trailer during The Game Awards 2014, it'll likely spark significant interest. Games with such a strong exploration component and limitless potential tend to do that. No mistake about it -- it's a signal that players crave something new from their videogame experiences. Some might find it ironic that Orth's creating one of the more promising titles on the horizon for those that are weary of the triple-A franchises he spent most of his career designing. Still, is something as experimental as Adr1ft a business-savvy project? After all, it's best with the use of hardware that the public can't yet buy, and when it is released, no one knows how quickly it'll be adopted. Orth realizes the concerns, but doesn't care. "Business-wise, it's definitely a risk," he commented. But, Orth added, "If you make something so unique, your parameters for success have to change. Selling one million copies of a game isn’t necessarily successful to me. Successful to me is touching people with the experience and making them think about stuff. If our game fails, what is failure? I’ve already not failed because I’ve gotten the opportunity to make the game."
Adr1ft preview photo
Turning negatives into positives
Adam Orth is a recognizable figure in the videogame industry, but not necessarily for the reasons he should be. He played a creative role in several renowned triple-A titles -- God of War, Medal of Honor, and Twisted Met...

Virtual reality photo
Virtual reality

Shake your head 'yes' to this footage of the Tekken team's Project Morpheus game


Summer Lesson
Dec 02
// Jordan Devore
"What did you do this summer?" I always hated that first-day-back-at-school question. Perhaps the children of the future can answer, "Well, the heat outside made me fell all melty so I just stayed indoors all summer and hung...
Theatre mode photo
Theatre mode

I can think of about one good use for Samsung's Gear VR


Get robbed on the train
Nov 06
// Steven Hansen
The Crescent Bay model of the Oculus Rift is pretty neat. Going immediately after to try out the Samsung Gear VR, which lacks the positional tracking and cool set of demos, at Games Connection Europe was weird.  There wa...

Crescent Bay gives me hope for the consumer Oculus Rift

Nov 05 // Steven Hansen
Rather than being sat in a chair, the demo was is a closed off room, and I was stood on a roughly 4x4 black mat. The positional tracking meant that you could move around (within the mat's boundaries), rather than needing a controller for movement. The 360 degree view meant being able to look up, whip all the way around, and feel like you're properly in a virtual space. What began was a series of demos set in a variety of virtual worlds. One was set on an empty space ship and as I crouched down in real life to get a closer look at the grate I was standing on, I was imagining all of the potential survival horror opportunities, if something were to claw at the vent as I neared. It's basically what Until Dawn is trying to do, a bit clumsily, with fixed cameras, zoom ins on objects, and sixaxis rotation.  Or maybe we can finally have a decent detective game where you're actually tasked with examining a crime scene and drawing conclusions. It's just the input that needs to be worked out. There's something discordant about moving your head like normal as the camera, but still walking by pushing up on a controller. That's the real problem with Oculus, but there could be some cool, Oculus-tailored experiences. One of the demo worlds was a miniature, moving paper craft diorama of a town. I walked forward, leaning down, to get a better look at the little paper craft firemen that were trying to put out a fire. It was neat. If Oculus never catches on for games, it will still be neat as virtual tourism, or a cool way to explore virtual 3D objects. There was a crescent-headed alien talking at me in one demo and I instinctively waved, with my real-life hand, when he waved at me. Another was set on top of a rad skyscraper in some alternate future that still uses zeppelins. I stepped forward two steps, looked down, and got a bit of vertigo. Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge.  The most upsetting world was the Unity world, which just sent large blue things at you. It was like being in a space ship engine. And when you turn around and a giant electric blue stone is coming right at you, it's freaky. Now I know how new ghosts feel when something's coming right toward them and just phases through.  Last, most videogame-y, was the Unreal demo which dragged you in a straight line amidst slow-motion action on a New York-looking street. Looking right and left were assumed allies being shot at by a giant robot, a car blew up and spun in the air above you, frightened driver still inside. It mostly just made me want to watch Birdman because it reminded me of that wild action bit from the trailer, sans the existential crisis and surreal. 
Oculus eyes-on photo
Maybe far away from videogame applications, but cool for putting you in a virtual space
I've had some fun with the first and second iterations of the Oculus Rift, but it's mostly a novelty I don't want to spend extended time in, especially if it's not a genre suited to the Rift. Anything in a cockpit works well,...

Ustwo  photo
Ustwo

Monument Valley dev working on pretty VR game Land's End


Pirates of the Cari-VR
Oct 06
// Steven Hansen
Monument Valley was a chill little game and now the team is working on a new project for the Samsung Gear VR headset. Now that Samsung's involved (and Sony still toiling away with Morpheus), how long before VR is a...
Oculus Crescent Bay photo
Oculus Crescent Bay

Oculus VR unveils new headset called Crescent Bay


Shiny new prototype is new, shiny
Sep 21
// Kyle MacGregor
This weekend at the Oculus Connect virtual reality conference in Los Angeles, CA, Oculus VR announced Crescent Bay, the next prototype on the path to the consumer version of the Rift. The Crescent Bay is described as a massiv...






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