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Upgraded Project Morpheus, PlayStation's VR headset, debuts at GDC 2015 with 2016 launch plans

4 comments Rory Young - 3:04am (PST) Like Share

Sony has no intention of letting PC gamers have all the VR fun

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Sony showed up to GDC 2015 in style, wearing the latest version of Project Morpheus replete with upgraded specifications across the board. More than that, Sony showed up with a release window. Their PlayStation 4 headset is tentatively scheduled for release in the first half of 2016. That's not to say that Sony won't continue to iterate on the headset between now and then -- Sony still refers to Project Morpheus as a prototype. 

A prototype it may be, but its specifications are growing increasingly impressive. Here are the areas Sony specifically noted they'd made improvements in:

  • OLED Display - Sony has upgraded from a standard LCD to an OLED, which features brighter colors and more distinct blacks. The size of the screen has also been 5 inches to 5.7 inches. However, the resolution remains at 1920 x 1080, which when split will be 960 x 1080 per eye. This resolution may prove to be Project Morpheus' weakness, as HTC's Vive will feature 1200 x 1080 per eye and Oculus is rumored to be a step even above that. The PlayStation 4 hardware can only take so much. Still, the OLED display upgrade is significant, as there's discussion related to motion blur on other screens which is a major VR no-no.
  • 120hz Refresh Rate - Sony has double the refresh rate of Project Morpheus from its previous 60hz up to 120. This allows for games to run at 120 frames per second. Note that VR games will almost certainly not run at 120 traditional frames per second, rather using new techniques to improve lesser frame rates so they're smoother and provide a more comfortable experience for users. Note that the Vive is offering a refresh rate of 90hz and the current Oculus developer kit runs at 75hz. 120hz is outstanding.
  • Latency Below 18ms - Latency is perhaps the most significant aspect of a VR headset. Movements of the head need to be replicated on-screen as fast as possible. The slower the latency, the worse the experience is and the more likely people get sick. Less than 20 latency has been a goal for many VR headsets, as it's the line where it's difficult for humans to perceive the lag. Anything higher immediately becomes a dramatic problem. Less than 20 isn't just great -- it's the bar minimum.
  • Three Additional Tracking LEDs - What good is excellent latency if the headset can't tell how it's moving? Three more LEDs, one in the front and one on each side, have been added to the headset to bring the grand total to nine. These LEDs will help the headset with positional tracking in order to enable full 360 degree movement.
  • Improved Design - It's an aspect that some don't realize is significant -- how comfortable the headset fits on a person's head. Sony has worked on a design with a single strap that goes behind the head, along with a quick release button. Project Morpheus differs from other headsets by placing the weight of the headset on the forehead, where other headsets have a strap going over the top of the head to hold the bulk of the weight from the device on the user's eyes. Early reports are saying that Project Morpheus is definitely the most comfortable headset worn yet.

At least one specification has remaining the same from prototype to prototype, however. That is a 100 degree field of view. That means that users will have a viewing range of 100 degrees straight forward and anything beyond that 100 will require the user to turn their head. Standard human field of view when looking straight forward is around 180 degrees. That means that up to 80 degrees of horizontal vision with this Project Morpheus prototype will be dark.

I note this because the field of view has become one of the largest complaints surrounding this first generation of headsets is the field of view. Many describe their early experiences with the first Oculus developer kit as similar to looking through scuba goggles. The first Oculus kit had a field of view of 110 degrees, by the way. However, there are significant barriers in providing a wider FoV, including Sony's issue of using only one flat screen and PS4 hardware limitations that prevent a greater resolution.

Nevertheless, it's exciting to see Sony come to similar conclusions as Oculus with the upgrade to an OLED screen, as well as impressive decisions like the boost to 120hz refresh rate. More than anything, however, Sony is persuasively declaring they have a product intended for market. To be frank, both Oculus and HTC's Vive look more prepared for further developer kits than a complete retail product.

All that's left is the games. GDC though is not the location Sony plans to use to showcase their game line-up. Instead, they once again point to the future. "Look to E3," they whisper. And so we shall.

 
 

Mad Max arrives this September on PC, PS4 and X1, plans canceled for 360 and PS3 versions

0 comments Rory Young - 12:05am (PST) Like Share

Mad Max arrives precisely when he intends to

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Game Informer is currently running some partnered content with Avalanche Studios regarding their upcoming title Mad Max. Mostly the content has to do with pre-order bonuses and some standard casual developer interviews, unfortunately. Avalanche was kind enough to reveal the planned release window for their game. Put a note down in your calendar that Mad Max will be arriving on PC, PS4 and X1 starting in September.

Wait a second, did I forget to mention Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 there? No sir, I did not forget! One thing that Game Informer did confirm with Avalanche during their interviews was that their plans to release the game on the older platforms has been canned. Hopefully the decision means a bit more freedom with design choices and graphical fidelity, but these days most developers just pass on their ports to third parties to handle after-the-face anyway. At worst it's nice to see a developer not want to deliver an inferior product just to get those larger install base sales.

As for those pre-order bonus details, it doesn't looks like Avalanche is resorting to any 2K levels of extortion. Pre-orderers will gain access to The Ripper vehicle, a versatile vehicle with a V8 engine and plenty of spikes which I'm sure are just for aesthetic value. It's a cool bit of DLC to reward folk interested in a bit of extra support for the game. Pretty rare for a piece of pre-order DLC to not make me want to burn a house down.

Mad Max will arrive on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One starting this September. An exact date is not yet hammered down, and who can blame them with big titles like Metal Gear Solid V also arriving in September, but they'll likely fix that in the next few months.

 
 

Leaked Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain announcement video confirms September 1 launch

8 comments Rory Young - 11:19pm (PST) Like Share

Is it ironic that a Metal Gear game has so many online leaks? It's the Patriots

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Kojima won't be happy about this. A Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain announcement video planned for release tomorrow at GDC 2015 was leaked by the friendly faces at a large site that shall remain nameless (you know the one). In the video Hideo Kojima gives a lengthy interview on various details from the upcoming Metal Gear Solid sequel. I'll leave that for the official release of the video. There's one bit that I don't think is worth waiting on, however.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is planned for release on September 1, 2015. Of course! A previous trailer for the game had said "Coming 1984" at the end. 1/9 stands for September first almost everywhere outside of the United States, plus the game takes place in 1984. That is to say, enough with the speculation nonsense, because we've got an official release date.

This is Kojima's last Metal Gear game. He built an entirely new engine to bring it to life. I don't think there's another game in 2015 with higher expectations than Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It arrives on September 1.

 
 

Microsoft drops list of over 40 ID@Xbox games coming to Xbox One, many previously unconfirmed

5 comments Rory Young - 10:36pm (PST) Like (1) Share

It's all about the indie devs

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Microsoft's excited to showcase their ID@Xbox indie games currently in development at Game Developers Conference 2015. Today the publisher released a list of over thirty games which will be playable in some form at the event, later expanding the list to over 40 titles simply planned to come out on Xbox One in the future. The best part is that many of the titles were previously uncomfirmed for the Xbox One -- many we never even knew existed. 

Here's the the full list of titles playable in San Francisco which Microsoft provided, as well as their descriptions for each title. Apparently this is not the full list of ID@Xbox games available to play at GDC 2015, though why some might be missing is unclear. Oh, and I'll try to add a link on each title to trailers which Microsoft has also put together for the occasion. There are so many!

  • Bedlam (RedBedlam): Based on the novel by award-winning British author Christopher Brookmyre, this is a shooter for everyone who remembers gaming in the ‘80s and ‘90s!
  • Beyond Eyes (Team17): How does a blind person navigate the world? This unique title might give you some sense of what it’s like to live in a world without sight, as you control a young girl in search of her lost cat.
  • ClusterPuck 99 (PHL Collective): This competitive sports game features eight-player local competitive action.
  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR): A run-and-gun adventure, with plenty of 1930s style animation to keep things interesting! It will make its console debut on Xbox One!
  • Earthlock: Festival of Magic (Snowcastle Games): An exciting, nonlinear role-playing game.
  • The Flame in the Flood (The Molasses Flood): A rogue-lite river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America. It will make its console debut on Xbox One.
  • Fortified (Clapfoot Games): An exciting new take on action-strategy games that combines shooter, real-time strategy, and base defense mechanics.
  • Game 4 (The Behemoth): One of the weirdest turn-based strategy games you’ll ever play, with plenty of The Behemoth’s unmistakable style.
  • Goat Simulator (Double Eleven): You are a goat, and you are on a rampage. What more do you need to know? More goat to the people!
  • LA Cops (Team 17): This top-down strategy shooter celebrates everything awesome about ‘70s cop fiction.
  • Magic Duels Origins (Wizards of the Coast): The world’s most beloved collectible card game goes free-to-play! It will make its console debut first on Xbox one
  • Mighty No. 9 (Comcept): This Kickstarter darling is the brainchild of acclaimed developer Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man. True side-scrolling perfection!
  • Pixel Galaxy (Serenity Forge): It’s one heck of a hectic shoot-’em-up, inspired by Katamari Damacy. Grow, make friends, and survive together!
  • R.B.I. Baseball 15 (MLB.com): The legendary Major League Baseball franchise returns with fresh game modes, authentic ballparks, improved animations, and deep stat-tracking.
  • Rivals of Aether (Dan Fornace): This fighting game challenges you to uncover the elemental mysteries of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.
  • Shadow Blade: Reload (Dead Mage): Guide a young ninja on his journey to seek the teachings of the last remaining ninja master as he embarks on a quest for revenge.
  • Shovel Knight (Yacht Club Games): Steel thy shovel! The amazing retro sidescrolling adventure is coming to Xbox One!
  • SMITE (Hi-Rez Studios): The next evolution in multiplayer online battle arena space. Assemble your team, choose your hero, and destroy your opponents. Stay tuned for details on the Xbox One beta, coming very soon!
  • Submerged (Uppercut Games): You’re trapped in an ancient, half-submerged city, with next to nothing. Explore the flooded cityscape and scale its buildings in a fight to survive!
  • Super Dungeon Bros (React! Games): A multiplayer dungeon-crawling extravaganza with a rock music theme. Get your bros together and get ready to rock out!
  • SWORDY (Frogshark): In this multiplayer physics brawler, you will hit your friends until they explode. You really have to see this one to wrap your head around this craziness. We’re pleased to say Swordy will debut first on Xbox One.
  • The Sun and Moon (Digerati Distribution and Marketing): It’s a platformer with a twist: You can dive into the ground, reversing your gravity while conserving your momentum. Winner of the Ludum Dare 29 competition!
  • ZHEROS (Rimlight Studios): This 3D action brawler – set in an alternative future universe – is rife with engaging combat and outrageous characters.

Finally, here's another list of ID@Xbox titles which either Microsoft listed as not being at GDC 2015 or had trailers uploaded by Microsoft but were otherwise unlisted. I'm  just assuming that Microsoft has so many ID@Xbox titles spilling out of their pockets that it's hard to keep track of them all. Kind of like that limes meme. Why can't I hold all these indies?

I don't doubt that there are GDC trailer for almost all of the above games, but I've only linked those that were uploaded on Xbox's official Youtube. If you see any others that would be appropriate to include here, share the link and poke me @bluexy in the comments. If I can share a little indie love with a trailer link then I'm all over that, but there's almost fifty of these things! Too much awesome.

In summary, Microsoft isn't letting Sony just run wild with all of the indies anymore. Xbox One has a ton of great titles coming down the pipeline and GDC 2015 proves it.

Image sourced from the Xbox Wire.

 
 

March's PlayStation Plus titles arrive a bit late, adds four titles playable on PlayStation 4

5 comments Rory Young - 9:25pm (PST) Like Share

The world has not ended, PlayStation Plus is back on schedule

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It may be late, and just saying "late," is probably a generous way to describe it, but Sony has finally revealed their March line-up of games provided through the PlayStation Plus service. While the exact reasons for the delay aren't clear, an initial publication from Sony listed Dishonored in the URL which implies that March's games may have been shuffled around at the last second. Nevertheless, Sony's put together a great list of games.

Technically PlayStation Plus is only delivering two games for each of its platforms: the PlayStation 4, the PlayStation 3 and the PS Vita. It just happens to have worked out that both of the PS Vita titles will be cross-buy with PlayStation 4 and one of them with PlayStation 3. That means that this month will have four games available on PlayStation 4, three on PlayStation 3 and two on PS Vita. Very nice.

PlayStation 4

  • Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee - New 'n' Tasty!
  • Valiant Hearts: The Great War

PlayStation 3

  • Papo & Yo
  • Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment

PS Vita

  • OlliOlli 2 (PS4, PS Vita)
  • CounterSpy (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)

As a result, while normally a PlayStation 4 title would be the "headliner" of the group, this month it's actually a PS Vita title. OlliOlli 2 is launching a free PlayStation Plus title. If anyone hasn't had the privilege of playing the original OlliOlli, it's a beautifully simple skating game that strips the game down to a scant few button presses. Yet as divine as it is in its simplicity, the game is painfully difficult to master. OlliOlli 2 is certain to have refined this experience. Expect to laugh and cry.

That's not to knock down any of the other games. In fact, they're all rather outstanding.  All of the titles are above average and released quite recently. The oldest title, Papo & Yo, was released in 2012 but is by far the most critically acclaimed of the line-up. If there's a criticism to be found, it's that there are no bigger titles from major publishers here -- the loudest criticism of the service in recent months. Hopefully Sony's working on that, on top of making up for the delay of the service this month.

Let's hope Sony's got something extra special lined up for April.

 
 

Battlefield Hardline Premium membership program adds 'Super Features,' four expansions, more

0 comments Rory Young - 1:50am (PST) Like Share

Unfortunately the "Cops, Robbers and Cannibal Aliens" expansion was just a rumor

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We all knew this was coming. It shouldn't be a surprise. Today Electronic Arts and Visceral Games announced their plans for the upcoming Premium membership service for Battlefield Hardline. Battlefield Hardline Premium does not currently have a price point, but if comparable to the Battlefield 4 Premium package should run for $40 or $50. This can be bought with the game at launch or can be upgraded to later. To justify the extra cost Battlefield Hardline has quite a few perks lined up to provide tons of value for dedicated fans.

What kind of extra value? How a bout four "Super Features" previously never included in a Battlefield title, access to all four digital expansion packs including two weeks of early access for each one, priority position in server queues, personalization options, exclusive event access and randomized loot. It's enough to make any Battlefield player drool a little bit. This probably deserves to be gone over in a little more detail.

Super Features

  • Masks - "New player masks with unique gameplay benefits tied to the theme of each mask."
  • Gun Bench - "Provides players with the ability to visually customize their weapons and track their kills per weapon."
  • Competitive Play - "Support for competitive play through Battlefield Hardline Premium-access only tournaments and ladders."
  • Legendary Status - "Provides replayability of the entire progression system."

Digital Expansion Packs

  • Battlefield Hardline: Criminal Activity - "Players have to make a name for themselves in fast-paced, highly-destructible new maps littered with small-time crime jobs. Available summer 2015."
  • Battlefield Hardline: Robbery - "Take down the opposition head on and progress through key locations with major cinematic action. Available summer 2015."
  • Battlefield Hardline: Getaway - "This is frantic, high-speed chases that immerse players deeper in the heist. Available fall 2015."
  • Battlefield Hardline: Betrayal - "There is a rat in every operation and players will have to find out who to trust. Available winter early 2016."
  • Two weeks early access to all expansion pack.

More

  • 12 Gold Battlepacks
  • Personalization Options - "... including gun camos, ammo skins, and more Battlefield Hardline Premium exclusive in-game items."
  • Exclusive Events - "Access to double-XP, in-game missions, and more."
  • Priority Position in Server Queues

It's a lot of money extra for what's already going to full price game, but at least those who are unwilling to upgrade can rest easy in knowing the content largely does not effect gameplay. Don't get me wrong, standard edition purchasers, you're still a second class gamer in the eyes of the industry, but at least you can still prove your worth. At least, you can do that until the first expansion comes out and the community is divided. Then, whelp... hmm.

Battlefield Hardline is scheduled for release on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 starting March 17. More information on Battlefield Hardline Premium is expected in the weeks ahead.

 
 

Amplitude reboot shares first gameplay trailer, Team Play mode announced

2 comments Rory Young - 11:51pm (PST) Like Share

You ain't never seen a Beat Blaster like this before

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Harmonix, in case you missed their $844,000 Kickstarter project, is working on a reboot of the classic PlayStation 2 title Amplitude. In an era where rhythm games were dominated by odd Japanese localizations featuring dance competitions, rapping dogs and jamming lambs, Amplitude and its predecessor Frequency put the west on the map. The Harmonix that created Guitar Hero would never have existed without Amplitude.

Which is why it's so exciting to see Harmonix going back to its roots and rebooting the game. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Today the all-things-music-and-video-games developer released the first gameplay trailer for their hardcore rhythm title. We get to see the ship-shaped Beat Blaster in motion, hammering out rhythms on tracks representing individual instruments as bouncing between as each one completes.

It's not just a blast to the past, however. The trailer, and a corresponding developer blog, go into detail on an all-new game mode in Amplitude. Introducing the Team Play mode, where multiple players can operate their own Beat Blasters and hammer out tracks cooperatively or competitively. It looks like four players will be the maximum, though that's not official, but it can be played either 3v1 or 2v2... or hopefully 4v0, for casuals like myself.

Amplitude is planned for release on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. No release window has yet been revealed, but the end of the trailer sports the text, "Coming Soon." Hopefully that means Harmonix will drop it on us via PlayStation Plus like, tomorrow or something.

 
 

Shovel Knight's free Plague of Shadows DLC detailed, play as Plague Knight in an all new story

0 comments Rory Young - 9:03pm (PST) Like (1) Share

Plague Knight is kindly providing Shovel Knight with a well-needed vacation

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Yacht Club Games may be hard at work on porting Shovel Knight to PlayStation platforms (PS4, PS3 and Vita on April 21), but they've also got something special up their aft's. Yacht pun there. Ahem. Introducing the "Plague of Shadows" DLC! For the grand price of free, Shovel Knight's DLC will provide a new story as Plague Knight looks to take on the Order of No Quarter and maybe pursues romance at the same time.

Yes, Plague of Shadows will be played entirely with Plague Knight. No longer will players be in control of the gallant Shovel Knight, instead pushing the misunderstood and likely malevolent Plague Knight into the spotlight. Using explosives, bomb jumps and alchemy, Plague Knight will fight through "brand new areas," "new paths through classic areas," and it wouldn't be great DLC without "new bosses" as well.

Plague Knight will also feature his own unique system of upgrades through crafting recipes. It wouldn't make sense to have him just buy armor like Shovel Knight could do. Plague Knight trusts his mask and cowl, along with his various potions. This Alchemy System will require a variety of recipes and reagents to utilize, but I'm sure Yacht Club will make the power-ups as plentiful as in the base game.

Shovel Knight is currently available on PC, Wii U and 3DS, with plans to launch on PS4, PS3 and PS Vita on April 21. The Plague of Shadows DLC has no current release date, but keep in mind that it will be absolutely free to all players when it does launch. A playable demo of the DLC will be available at PAX East, and hopefully a release date too!

 
 

3D Realms debuts isometric Bombshell gameplay, Shelly Harrison fights the Kyrr to save the President

1 comments Rory Young - 2:28pm (PST) Like Share

Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison has received a 2.0 upgrade since we last saw her

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When last we saw Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison she had half of a shaved head and a metallic tube top to match her random leather straps and short shorts. Not exactly the outfit you'd expect from a bomb technician turned mercenary. Today 3D Realms, a branch of Interceptor Entertainment, debuted an upgraded and updated version of Bombshell via gameplay trailer. I mean that as both Bombshell the game and Shelly are much different than last we saw.

The isometric action game, which is also apparently an RPG now, has quite clearly come a long way since its announcement. The action and gunplay is much more polished, seeing our protagonist dash and smash enemies with her bionic arm, bursting them into bloody pulp. Shelly herself is sporting quite a bit more armor, as well as a three-barrel revolver she's apparently nicknamed "Loverboy."

Shelly also received a bit of back-story going into the the Bombshell game itself. Following Shelly being reconstructed by alien technology following a bomb disarming gone wrong, she join a private mercenary group and is given a mission. Her mission? To save the president from aliens. Praise Duke, it couldn't be any more 3D Realms if it tried. Shelly will go face to face with the evil Kyrr alien race and Jadus Heskel, a psychotic scientist evolving the Kyrr into an even more destructive force.

Bombshell's gameplay, beyond looking sharper in every way, still looks about as expected. It's an isometric action game. There's omni-directional shooting and enemies pouring out of the woodwork. 3D Realms seems to know what they're doing in terms of using the camera to create highly cinematic framing of each environment. Plus, there's just plenty of cinematics in general as well. 

It's ridiculous, it's over the top, it's a bit exasperating -- it's 3D Realms. Bombshell's looking better than ever and it's planned for release on PC and consoles later this year.

 
 

Fable Legends is free-to-play, content like Heroes unlocked with premium and in-game currencies

15 comments Rory Young - 4:25am (PST) Like Share

It's for everyone, so long as you upgrade your PC to Windows 10

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Fables Legends has gone through a transition carried out by many multiplayer-only titles these days. Fables Legends is now a free-to-play title, as in free-to-download and likely more expensive than a normal to get the full experience. Lionhead insists the change is in order to make their game accessible to a larger amount of players. They also insist that they want to ensure all gameplay content is accessible to all players. On paper it appears true, though folk will have to work for it.

Let's first take a look at what's free in the strictest sense of the word. Players will be able to download Fable Legends on both PC and Xbox One for no cost. From there, Lionhead says that all story, including quests added at launch and post, will be free for all players. That's it for completely free. Everything else is either bought with either premium or in-game currency, or strictly premium.

Content can then split into two different categories -- Hero and Villain content. No Heroes will be "free," though there will be a selection of them available on rotation so players can have something to play until they're able to pick one up for themselves. All progress unlocked on a Hero while they freely available will carry over until they're next available, or until they've been unlocked. Heroes will be purchasable with both the in-game currency and the premium currency. 

Villain content is still a big ambiguously detailed. I believe Lionhead is saying in their press release that Villains will have access to a quest's wildlife for free and by content I mean minions and traps. If a Villain wants to use content as they please, they'll have to unlock it with either in-game or premium currency. That goes for both creatures and traps.

The only wholly premium content announced so far are outfit customizations for Heroes. Think of them as League of Legends skins. Alternatively, Lionhead says that other customizations, from outfits to different face variations, can be unlocked through in-game currency as well.

Was Fable Legends intended to be a free-to-play game from the very start? It's difficult to tell at this point, though I think going forward it's safe to say that any game claiming to be a multiplayer-focused title is either free-to-play or has some eye-gouging microtransactions. Unless you're Nintendo, that is, and DLC and free-to-play is a strange new future that seems different and uncomfortable.

Fable Legends is planned for release in 2015 for Windows 10 PCs and the Xbox One -- for free. Details on how the in-game currency will be earned will be coming at a later date. Scientists expect it to be just slow enough that you'll be pushed towards buying the premium currency out of frustration. Science.

 
 
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