The Gallery: Six Elements is a magical fantasy exploration game created by Vancouver Island studio Cloudhead Games for Valve and HTC's new virtual reality headset, the Vive. It includes motion controls and a soundtrack by Elder Scrolls composer Jeremy Soule, and at first glance it's a truly gorgeous 3D, puzzle-solving experience -- the game's first trailer, released today, shows that much. The Gallery was successfully Kickstarted back in April 2013, where it was pitched as an Oculus Rift game. Perhaps sensing a hit, Valve jumped on Cloudhead early on in Vive's development, Creative Director Denny Unger says.

"Valve has been stellar," Unger says. "They brought us into the process very early and genuinely listened to what we had learned about the VR space since its 2013 rebirth. Valve shared a common goal with Cloudhead Games in that they saw a vision for VR that was tantamount to the holodeck. This is the closest we've ever been to breaking down the boundaries and letting users physically step into virtual worlds. It is the fracture point all sci-fi geeks have been waiting for. It's here and its incredible."

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Last year, Epic Games Chief Technology Officer Kim Libreri and Unreal Engine 4 General Manager Ray Davis visited some friends at Lord of the Rings effects studio Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand. They only wanted a tour of the studio, but along the way they ran into Weta's head of R&D, Alasdair Coull. He mentioned that he was messing around with Unreal Engine 4, Epic's game development platform. Fast forward to March 2015: Epic Games and Weta are showing off a virtual reality demo featuring the greedy dragon, Smaug, swimming through mountains of gold in the second Hobbit film, voiced in all his baritone glory by actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Smaug speaks directly to the person in the headset -- Oculus Rift's Crescent Bay model -- and his daunting size is on full display. Five hundred feet of red-scaled, deep-speaking Smaug.

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"It's getting ridiculous."

Epic Games Chief Technology Officer Kim Libreri is tired of chairs -- and rocks, and grass, and trees -- in the games created in Unreal Engine 4, Epic's game development platform. It's not that he doesn't like everyday objects, he simply sees them as a collective issue to fix: They're standard, repeatable items that developers don't need to spend time making, since they already exist in a ton of other games. To that end, Epic is releasing on its UE4 Marketplace a set of detailed, photo-real assets and a system that places these items intelligently throughout game worlds, available for studios of all sizes.

"Once a chair's been made, there's no reason to make a custom version of that chair," Libreri says. "You might as well share it with the community.... It's mind-boggling when you think about how many games have made the equivalent of the Aeron chair."

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It's almost as if I'm in the Matrix. I'm in that same expanse of infinite white space that was also Neo's training grounds in the movie. A pattern of hexagonal tiles appears underneath me. They start to rise and fall randomly and rapidly. Hesitantly, I step forward, slowly walking across the field of unstable tiles, trying to get a feel for this strange, foreign environment. Suddenly, I encounter a gridded wall. It seems the space isn't so infinite after all. I was, of course, not in the Matrix. Instead, I was in a stark, windowless room inside the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona. On my head was the HTC Vive. And for the next 20 minutes, I was about to have a virtual reality experience unlike any I've ever had.

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We're only halfway through the decade, but it's already obvious that Minecraft is the biggest game of the '10s. Its creator, Markus "Notch" Persson has now been honored for his achievement with a cover story in Forbes. The piece reveals a few interesting tidbits about how he came to leave the game that made his name, including the fact that the $2.5 billion sale to Microsoft was prompted with a single tweet.

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Independent games are a cornerstone of Sony's PlayStation 4 messaging, and a contributing factor to the system's blockbuster success. They are not for Nintendo -- neither for the Wii U, nor the 3DS. An unsurprising strategy given the Japanese company's reliance on Mario and Zelda, its familiar, first-party franchises. And yet, independent games have had a presence on the company's digital software channel, the eShop, for almost a decade. Only now, they're more noticeable. "We've been supporting Indie content and self-publishing for a really long time," says Damon Baker, senior manager of licensing at Nintendo. "I mean, [going] back to the WiiWare, DSiWare days. But I think that it's just a more visible community because there's so much talent that's coming out of it; there's so much coverage for it that it just makes it naturally higher profile."

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the latest in Hideo Kojima's nearly 30-year-old series of melodramatic espionage games, finally has a release date. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of will arrive on September 1st for $60, and on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for $50. PC players have to wait just a bit longer to experience the next generation of hiding from armed soldiers in cardboard boxes. Metal Gear Solid V will be available on Windows via Steam for $60 on September 15th.

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If you thought the Steam Machine news would be limited to Valve's announcement, well you're not quite right. Maingear's back to give the the platform another go with the Drift. What's in the aluminum box? An Intel i7-4790K processor mated with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 or an AMD Radeon R9 290X -- both of which are 4K capable. What's more, Maingear boasts that its Steam OS machine can hold up to 16GB of DDR RAM, a pair of 1TB solid state drives and a single 6TB hard drive as well. Those options alone will almost assuredly drive the price a bit beyond the $849 (!!!) baseline Mainger's asking.

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'Vainglory' at Apple's iPhone 6 event

Psst: the games you play might not look as good (or run as smoothly) as they could. In many cases, the overhead from graphics standards gets in the way -- Apple went so far as to develop its own technology just to make sure that iPhones and iPads could live up to their potential. That bottleneck may not exist for much longer, however. The alliance behind the OpenGL video standard has given a sneak peek at Vulkan, an open standard that lets app writers take direct control of graphics chips and wring out extra performance on many devices, whether it's your phone or a hot rod gaming PC. The software isn't a magic bullet (developers still have to make good use of it), but it could easily lead to richer visuals and smoother frame rates without demanding beefier hardware.

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You already know what NVIDIA's latest Shield hardware is: an Android TV-powered set-top box that uses the latest chip from NVIDIA. It streams games over the company's "Netflix for gaming" platform known as GRID; it streams games from your local PC; it powers Twitch streaming at the same time of said streamed content; heck, it powers games like Crysis 3 locally, running on Android.

But is it any good? The only answer I've got is maybe.

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