I did not get motion sickness when I demoed Sony's new and improved Project Morpheus VR headset at GDC this week in San Francisco. And that's saying a lot considering my sweaty outcome at a private E3 demo last year. But I did get somewhat hurt while using it. Blame it on the shark. I banged my head into a wall while whimpering and trying to avoid the jaws of a menacing virtual version of, well, Jaws. It's proof that compelling VR is powerful; powerful enough to send you slamming into nearby walls with a smile plastered on your face.
The HTC Vive might've stolen some of Samsung's thunder, but it bears reminding that the latter did announce a new VR headset earlier this week. Sure, the Gear VR for the Galaxy S6 is only slightly different from the original Note 4 edition, but even minor tweaks can spell big improvement. It's smaller, lighter, has a wider focus margin and there's a new strap design that promises to make the headset much more comfortable than before. I had a chance to give it a spin earlier this week and I also talked to Max Cohen, VP of mobile at Oculus, to get his take on the new hardware, possible future updates and, of course, his opinion on the HTC Vive.
Greg Zeschuk, the man that co-founded BioWare and shepherded the development of now classic franchises like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, left the gaming industry for good more than two years ago. Yet, despite that apparent retirement, he was back on the show floor at GDC in San Francisco to show off Biba, one of his many part-time side projects. Don't worry. Zeschuk's main passion remains beer, beer and more beer. But he's also committed to using his influence and financial resources for more altruistic endeavors.
Rare Ltd., the storied game developer Microsoft bought off Nintendo for a hefty sum at the beginning of the century, has started to stir again. After years of developing poorly received motion-control games like Kinect Sports, all while members of the original staff left for other studios, rumors were swirling that the team will return to its classic series from the '90s. Conker, the foul-mouthed star of Conker's Bad Fur Day on Nintendo 64, actually popped up as a guest star in Xbox One game creator Project Spark. Just today a Reddit poster, verified as a former Microsoft employee, said that the company has been trying to get a new Conker game off the ground for some time. No time like the present to dig into Conker: Live & Reloaded for the original Xbox on JxE Streams.
Nobuo Uematsu is distinguished amongst game soundtrack composers not just because of his work for Squaresoft in the '80s and '90s or his lustrous mustache. He's one of the few songwriters responsible for the way video games sound across the board, influencing other creators over 30 years. Square's Final Fantasy series, on which Uematsu was sole or primary composer for the first 10 games, molded how storytelling in games should sound. The synthesized minor key melody of series theme "Prelude," the ambient wash of Final Fantasy VII's "Opening/Bombing Mission," and hundreds of other songs are landmarks in gaming's aural landscape.
When donning a VR headset, it's easy to be awestruck by whatever 3D world you find yourself in. It's a whole new medium that simply can't be replicated on a TV. Still, there are reasons the likes of Oculus and Sony aren't selling headsets to the masses just yet. While Samsung's Gear VR and other smartphone-powered headwear are filling the void, headsets that tap into the processing might of PCs and consoles will ultimately deliver the most immersive experiences. But, the technology isn't quite there yet. Stereoscopic 3D can be jarring, with complicated worlds often appearing slightly out of focus. Then there are issues like nausea that can strike when moving through virtual surroundings. Also, how we interact with virtual spaces will continue to evolve, moving beyond the gamepad and keyboard to more natural and hopefully intuitive methods of control.
Remember way back in 2009? Times were simpler then: Pittsburgh's Steelers were Super Bowl champions; Tiger Woods was caught having an affair; and I was playing a lot of Rock Band. You probably were too. Many millions of you were, anyway, and the plastic peripheral market was booming. In a few short years, the world went from zero to dozens of plastic guitars, keyboards, mics and drums per household, all in the name of games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. House parties quickly turned into Rock Band parties with surprising frequency. It was only another few short years before those games, and the peripherals they required, fell off a cliff. That was 2010, when Rock Band 3 launched.
It's been five years, and the world is apparently ready for more Rock Band. The folks behind the original Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises are back in the development seat and bringing Rock Band 4 to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year.
Have you wondered how Minecraft can produce massive worlds that are still chock-full of little details, like elaborate cliff faces and waterfalls? PBS' Game/Show is more than happy to explain in a new video. As you'll see below, Mojang's game relies on procedural generation, which automatically creates environments and objects that are at once random, but guided by rules that maintain a consistent logic. Mountains are always rocky and sprinkled with snow, for example, while the low lands are typically full of grass and trees.
It's been a long road from where Valve started with VR. It was only a few shorts years ago that the company was letting select industry folk demo prototype VR hardware in its QR code-laden "Room." And now, Valve has its own consumer-facing VR headset, the HTC Vive; its own controller that looks like the space opera version of Sony's Move wand; and a positional-based tracking solution in Lighthouse VR. None of this has exactly caught us off guard -- Valve was always cagey when it came to questions of commercial hardware. But we weren't prepared for just how impressive the combination of all the VR tech truly is. In fact, our own Ben Gilbert called it the "best VR" he's experienced to date.
It's only fair, then, that Valve would want to look back on its own journey pioneering VR. And look back it did with a timeline of prototypes and R&D breakthroughs it had on display here at GDC. Care to take that walk down Valve's memory lane? Then treat yourself to the gallery below and be sure to head past the break for a video tour.