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.
If the news of Xbox games coming to HoloLens and Elite: Dangerous hitting Xbox One this summer wasn't nearly enough, Microsoft has a few other tidbits to share from this year's Game Developers Conference. First up: Redmond is bringing the Xbox Live SDK to Windows 10. It's part of the universal apps push that the outfit's making with its new operating system, and will give game developers of any size access to a "vast majority" of Xbox Live's services. It wouldn't be the first time Microsoft's done something like this, but let's hope it doesn't turn into another disaster like Games for Windows Live was. The post on Xbox Wire also mentions there will be a new tier of the company's online gaming service coming as well that specifically allows "any developer to engage with the Xbox Live community." We've reached out for clarification of exactly what that translates to.
Currently, the HTC Vive is the only virtual reality headset that's part of Valve's Steam VR push. That's not because it's the only one, but because it's the only one we know about thus far. "You should think of the Vive as the first in the same way there are multiple Steam Machines," Valve president Gabe Newell told me this morning. In other words, Steam VR is an open platform supported by Valve. "We're building tools and hopefully they're valuable to hardware partners who want to do it. In some cases, we'll take the leadership role in shipping stuff. But we're really just building tools for other people to continue. So you'll see more headsets."
The studio that created SimCity and The Sims is no more. Today, EA confirmed that it will shut down Maxis Emeryville, displacing the folks primarily responsible for the aforementioned titles. In a statement, EA said that it'll relocate Maxis' development to its other offices in Redwood Shores, California; Salt Lake City; Helsinki; and Melbourne, Australia. The company plans to move forward with projects already in the works, including an expansion pack for The Sims 4 and ongoing support for the existing The Sims and SimCity faithful. Those two are massively popular PC titles, and the latter finally arrived on Mac in 2013 with players everywhere encountering a truckload of launch issues.
NVIDIA just announced the Titan X, its latest powerhouse graphics card, at Epic Game's GDC session this morning. And boy, it sounds like a monster: According to NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, it's now the world's most powerful GPU with more than 8 billion transistors (a bit of a jump from the 7 billion in last year's Titan Z). Titan X is powered by the company's new Maxwell architecture, and it packs in 12 gigabytes of VRAM, just like the Titan Z. NVIDIA isn't revealing much else about the new GPU yet -- it has its own conference in a few weeks, after all -- but at this point it sounds like the video card we'll all be pining for this year.