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Science

Oculus Rift goes to Mars photo
Oculus Rift goes to Mars

Oculus Rift and Virtuix Omni used in virtual walk on Mars


Where do I sign up?
Aug 06
// Darren Nakamura
If the slew of recent and upcoming games on the red planet are any indication, there is a significant amount of interest in exploring Earth's second-closest neighbor. Nobody knows this better than the engineers at NASA's Jet...
Take On Mars photo
Take On Mars

Take On Mars lands on Steam Early Access


Take Mars on! I'll be gone, in 1.026 daaaaaays!
Aug 01
// Darren Nakamura
Last month, we heard that Bohemia Interactive's Mars exploration simulation Take On Mars would be coming to Steam Early Access today. They were not lying; it is now available to purchase for $12.99 on Steam. The player acts ...
Hadron's Forge photo
Hadron's Forge

Hadron's Forge features asteroid mining, real elements


Check for updates Periodically
Jul 31
// Darren Nakamura
Minecraft in space isn't exactly an original idea. StarForge showed up last year with impressive technology to back up that basic conceit and a greater focus on combat. Hadron's Forge starts with some of the same ideas: coll...
Used games photo
By eliminating the used market AND dropping prices, publishers could profit
With all this hubbub over used games and whether eliminating them would be good or bad for the overall industry, it was only a matter of time before SCIENCE was brought in to drop some truth bombs. Professors Masakazu Ishihar...

TUG: About my Kickstarter & the need for science in games

May 30 // inoritewtf
First, what experience do we have actually making games? As it turns out, tons. It is not a well-known fact, but many of those world-changing bits of tech -- or amazing AI systems, or data systems, or networking system -- were built for the industry by contracting a member of the academic community, and built upon by teams working under the publishers. Of course, no credit is ever given; it's in the best interests of the publishers to assume full credit for their next big thing, and that is good and fine. In many cases, the publishers ask for things they can rarely even figure out how to use, and things are left behind or years later turned into some third party software touted about by another group who bought the rights as the "next big thing." We rarely have the chance to continue the work on some of our creations, and it is even more rare that we are ever able to share/publish what we have found from the development and research of those topics. OK, that covers the technology side, but what about design? We are speaking of an open-world sandbox game, with elements of role-playing, so let's deconstruct what that is. It is an open environment where the ultimate variables are the environment and the other players. This is our "hood" as it were. Academics and areas of science have been tearing apart these things for generations, literally. Human interactions for conflict on an individual scale, or motivations of group interactions, religion, culture -- you name it, there is a field that obsesses over it. But what's more, we obsess over it for the sake of knowing it, not for the sake of capitalizing on it. Sounds stuffy, right? How do you make any of that fun, or avoid making some simulation of life out of it? This comes down to perspective. It's not just some big "proximity marketing ploy" that we are all gamers; we really are. We raged with the lot of you when we got shafted on conclusions to trilogies being cut short of what was expected. We get all kinds of raged when they nerf our classes, or weapons are lacking proper balance. We get all kinds of sour grapes when publishers claim variety, but we get the same dungeon over and over again with artificial walls. We play games: not just for research, but because we grew up with all of this. Before anything else, fun is a priority. Things need to "feel" good, and this is why we are releasing the game in such an early phase. We do not do well guessing at things; we act on data/information. [embed]254708:48869:0[/embed] So how can science and data in games make things better? Take a step back and think of all those "what ifs" or "I wish" things we thought of in games, before we just started accepting that things were this way in games. What if the monsters actually had some kind of sense to their behavior? What if combat was not based on some arbitrary number solely reliant on a grind? What if the economy in a game actually was a working economy and responded a certain way? What if the actions I took in a world really made a difference? OK, admittedly there are a lot more in the role-playing areas of what ifs. But look at some of these and some of your own scenarios. From tens of thousands of players we have interacted with over the course of the past several years, the overwhelming majority of these "what ifs" were all asking for human systems in games. Things that we know of from our own real life. And why not? We are looking to act out a different role in another world -- these are the logistics that are important, not the presentation. These systems are what we are great at. It is almost comical how often these fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, cognition, etc. have been looked at as "pointless" for the world, aside from academic bantering over semantics. And yet, these fields all revolve around understanding the world and human interactions within it, and can easily be translated into creation of worlds as well. We have seen many micro systems work effectively in the past, and we have an opportunity to converge our fields with other gamers, modders, developers, and artists to make something genuinely special. We've got an experienced and talented creative team of veteran designers, writers, and artists who are dedicated to making TUG an aesthetically coherent and unique creative vision, with a deep thematic drive guiding its creation. [embed]254708:48870:0[/embed] Will it suck? Perhaps! But we have built the technology and the system to be "data driven and modular," which may sound like more catchy buzz vomit, but this is hugely significant. It means that systems are swapped in and out with ease, that we can make the tech available to others to test and create their own worlds, that hugely complex algorithms emulating world economies, or AI systems, or even weather cycles can be plugged in and taken out with ease, allowing us to constantly change and refine in the spirit of not suck. And given that we are not trying to be the next big sexy thing -- we just want to make something fun we want to play, and gain better understandings of who we are, and how we do things -- we will keep at this until it's done right. But we cannot do it without your support, even if it's just sharing what we are doing with others. Backing, or even sharing this project with others, can make a world of difference to videogames, technology and with a little luck, maybe even the way we see the world.
TUG Kickstarter photo
Promoted from our Community Blogs!
[Peter Salinas -- one of the social scientists working at Nerd Kingdom -- hit up our Community Blogs recently to share a bit about the thought process behind their new game TUG. Pretty neat stuff! For more information on the...

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Study claims piracy isn't as bad as publishers tell you


Shocker, the ESA cannot be trusted!
May 16
// Jim Sterling
The Electronic Software Association will tell you piracy is so bad, 10 million nefarious downloads of 200 games can happen in a single month. According to an independent study, the ESA might be overestimating by a c...
TUG Kickstarter photo
TUG Kickstarter

Kickstarter game TUG wants to create worlds


Exploration, discovery, crafting, survival, role-playing, adventure, and science
May 02
// Darren Nakamura
We've covered a lot of Kickstarter projects recently on Destructoid, but none in recent memory have been quite as ambitious as Nerd Kingdom's TUG. The single sentence description that has been bandied about is "it's like Min...
Science photo
Science

First-person shooters linked with better working memory


"Did he fire six shots or only five?"
Apr 27
// Darren Nakamura
Dr. Lorenza Colzato at the Leiden University has headed up a study on working memory among gamers and non-gamers. The results were published Psychological Research, and the team put together the video above to spread the wor...
Tetris photo
Tetris

Tetris could fix your lazy eye


Hey, I'm over here
Apr 23
// Dale North
BBC News says that 1 in 50 children have a lazy eye, and that Tetris could help to fix their weak eyes. Doctors at McGill University has research that shows that playing the greatest block dropping game of all time ...
STEM Video Game Challenge photo
STEM Video Game Challenge

STEM Video Game Challenge at the White House Science Fair


Leaders acknowledge the good that videogame development can do
Apr 22
// Darren Nakamura
For the second year now, the White House Science Fair has invited National STEM Video Game Challenge participants in its effort to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among American youth....
Videogame camp photo
Videogame camp

Summer game design programs increase in popularity


When did camp become so cool?
Apr 16
// Taylor Stein
New data put forth by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shows a promising increase in the availability and popularity of videogame design programs within U.S. summer camps. With more than 100 camps and 690 programs...
Science of BioShock photo
Science of BioShock

BioShock Infinite vs. quantum mechanics


Schrödinger's cat: dies, died, will die
Apr 15
// Darren Nakamura
First off, there are major BioShock Infinite spoilers in the above video. Don't watch it if you haven't finished the game. While playing through BioShock Infinite, I wondered how well researched the science was behind some o...
Planet Explorers  photo
Planet Explorers

Open-world sandbox Planet Explorers gets a Kickstarter


And it continues to be my dream game
Mar 24
// Fraser Brown
I'm an explorer at heart. I derive a vast amount of pleasure from wandering around game-spaces, experimenting with mechanics, and generally seeing what trouble I can get into and hopefully get out of. Some of my fondest memo...
Science and gaming photo
Science and gaming

Study: Playing videogames improves visual skills


So they don't rot your brain after all
Mar 20
// Taylor Stein
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto has found another positive effect that videogames have on players, an improvement of visual searching skills. Based on a set of experiments led by Sijing Wu, a PhD...
Brain training photo
Brain training

Play videogames for an hour a day to enhance cognition


Train your brain with games
Mar 20
// Taylor Stein
According to Adam Chie-Ming Oei and Michael Donald Patterson of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, playing videogames for just an hour each day can improve performance on subsequent cognitive tasks. Good news cons...
Torment setting photo
Torment setting

Torment: Tides of Numenera: A billion years in the making


It certainly feels like I've been waiting this long
Mar 06
// Fraser Brown
With the ridiculously speedy success of inXile's Kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera, it's only a matter of time until we'll be diving into the role of the Last Cast-off, the title's protagonist. I got up to speed on w...
Science photo
Science

Study shows videogames can help create better surgeons


Trauma Center, eat your heart out
Mar 01
// Darren Nakamura
This isn't the first time that a scientific study has come up demonstrating the benefits that videogames can have on budding surgeons, and it surely won't be the last. It makes sense: spend time developing hand-eye coordinati...
Dreams photo
Dreams

Study: Gamers have more control over their dreams


Eat, sleep, game
Feb 20
// Taylor Stein
Why do we dream? Amongst the foggy midst of hearsay, medical expertise, and decades of research, the simple answer is, we have no idea. One thing we can all agree on is that dreams are weird. Why my brain transported me to...
Muscle-zapping controller photo
Muscle-zapping controller

Goodbye rumble controller, hello electric shock


No pain, no gain
Feb 18
// Taylor Stein
The next stage of videogame evolution might take place where you least expect it: within your body. A team of German researchers have deviated from the traditional rumble-controller formula, instead embracing an entirely new ...
Sexism photo
Sexism

Another study shows that gaming has a sexist problem


We're still reporting it because you're still denying it
Feb 15
// Stephen Beirne
Slowly but surely the academic evidence is building up. A new study conducted by researchers at Ohio University has found that women playing multiplayer on Halo 3 receive three times as much abuse as men. Confirming what i...
Mega64 photo
Mega64

Does Missingno exist!? Mega64 will solve this mystery!


The VG Fact Checkerz are on the case!
Feb 08
// Tony Ponce
Pokémon's elusive Missingno! Where is it? What is it? Is it based on a real-life animal? Are there any other undiscovered creatures in the wild as mysterious and incredible as Missingno? The VG Fact Checkerz take to t...
IRL Mario Kart photo
IRL Mario Kart

Real-life Mario Kart with REAL WORKING ITEMS OH SNAP


Thanks, science!
Jan 23
// Tony Ponce
Yeah, we've all seen so-called "real-life Mario Kart" before, but always as a parody rather than a legitimate adaptation of the game mechanics in a physical setting. But wait around long enough and the magic of SCIENCE will ...
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Famitsu poll: PS Vita is Japan's most desired console


People want, they just ain't buyin'
Jan 22
// Jim Sterling
According to a poll by videogame magazine Famitsu, Sony's ailing PlayStation Vita is the most desired console in Japan.  The survey found that 64% of respondents wanted a PlayStation Vita. The second most desired system ...

Review: A New Beginning: Final Cut

Jan 04 // Fraser Brown
A New Beginning: Final Cut (Mac, PC)Developer: Daedalic Entertainment Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, Lace MambaReleased: December 11, 2012MSRP: $9.99 The future is bleak. Isn't it always? Mankind is on the brink of extinction and a solar flare is about to wipe out the few remaining humans. Living underground, the residents of this apocalyptic world have come up with a zany scheme to save the world. It's time they took the "final step. The step back... to the past!" And with that cringe-worthy line the game chugs along, spewing out atrocious dialogue like it was going out of style. The plan, known as the Phoenix Plan (subtle), is to stop climate change and to get people to use algae instead of oil and nuclear power. A scientist from the '80s, Bent Svensson -- rocking a groovy porno mustache -- is roped into helping, and players are treated to ten or so hours of terrible pacing, energy mogul caricatures, and a lot of moaning. Oh yes, and they will have to hear the word algae repeated over, and over, and over again. Algae can bugger right off, at this point.   Characters generally fall into two camps -- detestable, or just plain stupid. There's some exceedingly forced character development, but it's quite hard to spot amid the dozens of schizophrenic, inconsistent buffoons that litter the game. These inconsistencies are noticeable almost straight away. During the prologue, Bent Svensson -- who has dedicated his entire life to developing a clean source of renewable energy -- laments the rise of pollution. He doesn't even like to kill fish, yet kills a bird with a machine that essentially poisons the avian bystander. His reaction is to not care at all, and he even mocks someone for feeling bad for the wee, dead fella. What a guy! He's the hero of the tale, by the way.      Honestly, I'm the sort of lazy "idiot" the game criticizes frequently. I don't bother to recycle, and I moan a lot about expensive energy-saving light bulbs, but I am interested in intelligent adventure games and hard science-fiction, which A New Beginning purports to be. It is neither of those things. The game's message is utterly inane and deals with the complex issue of climate change with the sophistication of an infant. It is very clear that the developers think that their message is important, and they go so far as to break the fourth wall and point out that a science-fiction thriller can make a difference. Maybe it can, but not this one. There certainly isn't a requirement to be environmentally minded to play the game, though, since even environmentalists will find the experience to be incredibly oversimplified.  When I think of time travel and adventure games I get all flustered. It's a combination ripe with possibilities and creative solutions to puzzles, thus I couldn't wait to see what Daedalic had in store for us. Not bloody much, apparently. It's employed twice in the whole game, but mentioned a hell of a lot, usually by Fay, one of the game's two protagonists, as she tries to tell everyone that she's from the future, so she knows stuff. World shattering stuff. There are no Day of the Tentacle-style puzzles here, that's for sure. In fact, there are no puzzles at all which involve the use of time travel. Baffling. Utterly baffling. Compared to the dialogue, the terrible story is award worthy. Daedalic needs to fire their translation team and their QA testers, because anyone with even a basic understanding of English would have been able to spot countless errors just within the first fifteen minutes. Sometimes it seemed like there was a mistake every time someone uttered a word. More often than not, the same mistakes reappear constantly, and the text frequently fails to match the audio.  In a genre unfortunately known for poor voice acting, A New Beginning takes the cake. Without fail, every single character proves to be incapable of sounding like an actual human being, or even a believable facsimile. I don't know if it was due to the poor writing, bad direction, or just doing it all in one take, but the whole thing just ends up being an auditory crime.  Fay is one of the worst offenders, in great part due to her being the most vocal character. In a ruined archive in the middle of a decaying San Francisco of the future, Fay manages to sound like she's having an orgasm not once, but two times. This would have been fine if the game had turned into a more blue adventure, but sadly this was not the case. In one instance it is the voice actor's interpretation of someone falling down mid-sentence, the other is just her trying to say "umm" when she's confused by an irritating computer program. Call me childish, but I found it hysterical. I suspect that this was not the reaction the developers had hoped for. In the puzzles there is some respite to be found, thankfully. Some verge on convoluted, but overall I found them to be organic, logical, and sometimes even quite clever. I must confess that a few stumped me, and I was really forced to wrack my brain for a solution. That doesn't happen very often in modern adventures. Lamentably, they do become somewhat repetitive, often devolving into twisting something and sticking it somewhere; the result is they aren't as satisfying or imaginative as they could have been. Regardless, they are a breath of fresh air at a time when puzzles often get far less attention than the narrative among A New Beginning's contemporaries.  The biggest issue with the puzzles is that I didn't really feel motivated to figure them out. I didn't care about progressing through the story, and I dreaded having to listen to any more offensively bad dialogue. If I hadn't been reviewing it, I'm sure I would have either skipped some of them (the trickier ones have this option) or tried to find a walkthrough. Actually, if I hadn't been reviewing it, I would have stopped playing after an hour. If I'd given up, I would have missed a lot of the absolutely gorgeous artwork, though. The hand-painted backgrounds and pleasing character art are by far and wide the best thing about A New Beginning. Detailed, striking, and full of color -- it's hard to believe that the rest of the game appears to be such a half-arsed effort. I'm afraid to say that this highlight is marred by extremely poor animation that makes the stop motion animation of The Lost World or King Kong look completely fluid and seamless. The cutscenes also compare very unfavorably to the regular art work, attempting to mimic a confused comic strip. These comic-style scenes are also rife with hilariously awful lip syncing that leads to most characters doing curious impressions of fish.  The German-language version -- which was the original -- is meant to be better, but alas I know about ten words in German so I really cannot confirm or deny this. It does strike me that the worst aspects of the game are due to the terrible effort made by the translation team and English-speaking voice actors, though.  If you are truly desperate for good puzzles and sumptuous art, then you could do worse than play A New Beginning, but I found it impossible to look past the many issues and really enjoy the few things it manages to do right. There are too many superior adventure games to count, and it's not even one of the better games with an environmental message.  
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Let it end, please
I've just saved the planet, and I couldn't be less enthused about it. A New Beginning is a self-styled eco-thriller with a spot of time travel and science fiction thrown in for good measure. It launched in Europe a couple of ...

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LA Game Space to unite art and research under one roof


A one-stop center for videogame culture and education
Nov 08
// Tony Ponce
The goal of the Attract Mode gaming collective is to spread videogame culture and awareness by selling handmade gear, hosting art galleries / festivals, and other such events. Two key members of the group -- Attract Mode co-...
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Not a baby's toy! NES Zapper turned into a lethal laser


Sep 25
// Tony Ponce
Do you know why science is awesome? Because there's always gotta be that one cat who looks at something that's already pretty pimp and declares, "No, not pimp enough." So he goes into his lab -- undoubtedly stocked with beak...
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Study names GameStop the 10th worst workplace in America


Aug 13
// Jim Sterling
Glassdoor, an analyst firm that lets employees rate their employers, has published study results labeling GameStop the tenth worst place to work in America. Of course, anybody who has ever been in one can report on the dead, ...
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Kid keels over after four-day Call of Duty marathon


Aug 09
// Jim Sterling
In science news, did you know that if you play Call of Duty for four days straight without drinking, you're ten times more likely to be hospitalized with dehydration? A teenager in Columbus, Ohio found that out just this week...
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What has science done!? The Portal turret is real!


May 10
// Tony Ponce
I'd like to think that Cave Johnson is a professor at Penn State University, culling the student body for the next great Aperture Science minds. That would most likely explain why YouTuber kss5095 decided to build a fully fu...

Review: Waking Mars

Mar 01 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]222884:42858[/embed] Waking Mars (iOS)Developer: Tiger StylePublisher: Tiger StyleReleased: March 1, 2012MSRP: $4.99 Waking Mars is best described as Dead Space, except the protagonist has seeds instead of guns and there are passive, spore-like alien creatures instead of Necromorphs. Also, there is no Scientology-esque cult. Or boss fights. Or ... okay, it's really nothing like Dead Space, or any other game for that matter. Waking Mars is an action-adventure that presents players with a large, mostly linear planet to explore. It is filled with lush alien flora, fauna, and other elements that make each locale feel alive -- as alive as a big, dry rock can feel, in any case. You play as American astronaut Liang, who makes first contact on Mars in 2097. After discovering basic lifeforms on the planet, his mission is jeopardized by a cave-in. He is left with only some seeds, an A.I. computer that speaks broken English, and a human guide who can only occasionally be reached by transmission. Liang's goal is now to survive, find a way back to base camp, and learn about the sentient beings who may occupy the lowest reaches of the planet. Instead of shooting your way out of this problem, Waking Mars supplies the player with seeds to help grow a lively ecosystem that will open passageways and direct water to dry areas. Each area of the game has a Biomass rating which you must raise to at least three stars, five if you want the superior ending. Knowing the best methods of growing the ecosystem of the planet is essential to steady progress. Your journey begins easily enough with one or two seed types, but by the end, you have access to a number of options. Despite this, there isn't much strategy involved. Once you discover the best method -- the one that grants you the most Biomass -- you'll just stick to that. The game would be a lot more interesting if it presented various routes with equal benefits. It would help sidestep the redundancy of performing the same task over and over again. It also doesn't help that most areas present similar, if not identical, obstacles for the player. While this may sound like "Gardening Mama in Space," Waking Mars' locales are populated by creatures that will throw a wrench in your plans and attack if provoked. Once you get to the later, denser areas, you'll be dealing with an intricate, convincing ecosystem. Seeing a swarm of the spider-like Phyta creatures fight over a seed for the first time is a memorable moment. For the most part, however, you'll ignore the denizens of Mars. The real threat in this game is yourself. Each area of Mars has its own starting conditions and there is no way of resetting them. So, if you make a mistake that triggers a chain reaction of even worse mistakes, you'll have to fix them all yourself, and that takes time. Things can go south really fast once you start dealing with the plants that shoot out explosive seeds and spores that convert other plants into different types. I found myself spending an extra 30 minutes in some areas to fix my mistakes, and while these are a result of my own actions, Waking Mars could have been a little more helpful in providing a number of plants fixed to an area and area-specific tips. I'm always up for a challenge but when that challenge revolves entirely around a player's time commitment, I just don't see the point. The bigger problem with Waking Mars is that it just isn't very fun. The touch controls, fantastic soundtrack (dare I say better than Sword & Sworcery's music?!), distinct setting, sleek UI, and pacing of the first two-thirds of the game made me feel immersed in a refreshing environment. Planting seeds was kind of simple and jetpacking around the environment was decent enough -- awkward on an iPad, obscured by my finger on an iPhone. Despite the simplicity of the game, I enjoyed exploring its world and buying into its convincing fiction (a lot of which is based on scientific theory). Traveling and planting seeds soon becomes second hand and the game switches up scenarios (sometimes you are escaping a hostile area, for instance) often enough to keep things interesting, but then it just gives up. It's the final third of the game that drags Waking Mars down. All of a sudden, the path forward isn't so clear. You are given various objectives without thorough descriptions. Your map is sometimes difficult to read -- I'd often think I explored every area only to notice I misread the map due to the color scheme (question icons in place of undiscovered areas would have fixed this). The simple mechanics soon give way to a painful, thoughtless grind. Since the later areas have high Biomass requirements and more complex layouts, you'll need to acquire specific seeds to progress. This results in the player needing to make near endless trips back and forth between areas, acquiring seeds in one and planting in the other. It's like running a bucket between your kitchen and the burning house down the street, but at least that would entail tension and challenge. Instead of feeling like a scientist in an alien world, I began to feel like Mars' janitor. Waking Mars is the sophomore effort from Tiger Style, whose debut Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor turned some heads during the early days of the App Store. Waking Mars is an ambitious game filled with elaborate systems, layouts, and ideas that aren't fully fleshed out but are novel, nonetheless. Creative designer Randy Smith has a love for science, which is more than apparent through the game's rich encyclopedic index and plausible sci-fi story and setting, and programmer David Kalina manages to make the world feel alive with creatures that react to each other in realistic ways. Still, that's not enough to keep the game engaging once the mechanics and systems fight against the player's curiosity to explore and experience this unique world. If you are looking for a relaxing adventure title with a distinct mood, Waking Mars will scratch that itch you've had since finishing Ghost Trick and Sword & Sorcery. Just take my advice and shut the game off once you start getting frustrated, because things don't get any better after that point (including the uneventful endgame).
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Mars is a pretty cool place to explore, especially when you don't need to blow stuff up. Over the past couple years, film directors such as Mike Cahill and Duncan Jones have offered a much softer take on the sci-fi genre, one...


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