Shacknews - Asif Khan

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Shacknews - Cassidee Moser

Phil Tippett is no stranger to innovation within the film industry. As a veteran in the film industry, he’s used many modes of filming and photography to animate and shoot the many creatures and monsters he’s had appeared in films over the years, including films like Starship Troopers, Jurassic Park, and the original Star Wars trilogy.

But recently, he’s found a brand new creative avenue that he considers to be a new frontier in filmmaking: virtual reality.

Phil Tippett at Tippett Studios.
Phil Tippett at Tippett Studios. 

Those who are familiar with VR are undoubtedly aware of its current gaming applications. In some cases, it’s a fascinating new feature that adds a heightened sense of immersion to first-person games in particular, while in others, it’s a more expensive version of the VR we used to play in arcades in the ‘00s.

But VR is more than just a gaming peripheral; it’s a new piece of technology, bringing with it an entirely new creative outlet for many different fields, not the least of which is filmmaking.

Tippett’s company Tippett Studios has recently acquired several headsets, including the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Samsung Gear VR. While touring their offices in Berkeley, CA, I saw the bay they had set up to allow for the use of each headset, nestled in between work stations and sculptures of various creatures the studio has created over the years. They’ve been toying with the tech, creating short films and other experiences who uniquely use the 360 degree angles of a VR headset.

Several sculptures and major awards on display at Tippett Studios. 

“You’re never going to tell a story with a three-act structure better than a movie or a book. But what the VR stuff gives you is like a 360 degree dance field surrounding you,” Tippett says of the tech. “And all the stuff you can do in a world as opposed to a two dimensional thing is hugely exciting.”

In addition to making short films, Phil’s company has also been working with Happy Giant studios on a game called HoloGrid, which utilizes augmented reality and takes heavy inspiration from the Star Wars holo chess game seen in A New Hope. A scene Phil knows all too well, since he was the one who made it.

Using old creatures from Phil’s storage as the main characters, HoloGrid engages the AR capabilities of smartphones and tablets using cards that can be scanned in and seen as three-dimensional models existing in the real world through the device’s camera. It is also being developed for the Microsoft HoloLens, which projects the game into a room and allows one to play it on any surface. It is essentially creating a way for people to re-live that iconic scene in A New Hope, decades after first seeing it in theaters.

Original Tauntaun concept sculture and the skeletons of the creatures seen in the Dejarik game in A New Hope. 

Filmmaking in VR is still very much in its primitive, formative years, having had very little produced for it when compared to the massive number of traditional films released over the past few years. To Phil, this is only a good thing; because nobody has really figured it out yet, there’s a veritable arms race between creators to make something different and unique, something that harnesses VR’s unique capabilities to create something nobody has experienced before.

“The whole AR and VR experience thing is such a great place for creative entities to tromp around in, because nobody knows nothin’,” he says coyly. “It’s the Wild West. So creatively, you could make a whole bunch of stuff, and nobody can tell you that you've done anything wrong or other kinds of things.”

It’s the freedom VR presents with telling wholly unique stories that Tippett finds most encouraging.

“In cinema, what you totally rely on is the editorial process to advance your narrative. And that--in a 360 environment--can be very jarring. If you orchestrate that to a particular effect, it can be cool. But just in general, as like an experience, it can be really difficult.”

HoloGrid, the AR game inspired by Star Wars' Dejarik. 

Aside from a surrounding camera view, Tippett is also excited about some of the other audiovisual aspects of VR and AR. While discussing it, he specifically mentions the way audio could potentially be used for interesting results.

“I didn’t know anything about this binaural sound,” he remembers. “Once we started to get into this stuff, I was like ‘Holy sh*t...I totally get it.’ Now, I know to use sound as an editorial device and use the 360 degree field.”

During out chat, one of Phil’s employees commented on the fact that with VR, you can’t cheat like you could in 2D.

“Of course you can,” Phil says coyly. “You can always cheat.”

“Yeah, but you can’t count on hiding equipment and things in the background like you could with 2D,” he says.

Shrugging, Phil smiles. “That just makes it more fun.”

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Oculus VR isn’t having the best day as we learned overnight its co-founder Palmer Luckey had been funding a group that creates anti-Hillary Clinton memes, and then spread them online. As a result, a number of indie and AAA developers have announced are dropping support for the Oculus Rift in either upcoming games or already-released ones.

One such indie development studio is Polytron, who revealed it was dropping Oculus support for its upcoming game, SUPERHYPERCUBE. In a statement published on Pastebin, the studio says it will no longer be pursuing Oculus support for SUPERHYPERCUBE as a result of Luckey’s actions. “In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one,” the company writes, “we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform.”

Polytron is not alone as a number of additional studios, like Tomorrow Today Labs, Scruta Games, and even Insomniac Games, have all voiced their displeasure with Luckey’s actions and have vowed to no longer support the Oculus platform until he steps down.

"Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech," Insomniac Games tells Motherboard. "While everyone has a right to express his or her political opinion, the behavior and sentiments reported do not reflect the values of our company. We are also confident that this behavior and sentiment does not reflect the values of the many Oculus employees we work with on a daily basis."

This isn't the first time Oculus' co-founder Palmer Luckey has been wrapped up in controversy as our interview with him earlier this year spread like wildfire after saying he'd consider supporting Apple if it "ever releases a good computer."

As of now, neither Oculus nor Palmer Luckey have addressed the actions of these studios dropping support for the Rift. We’ve reached out to both Oculus and Luckey for comment and will update our story accordingly.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Update:

Palmer Luckey has issued a statement on Facebook denying the original report that led to the developers' reaction. However the Senior News Editor for The Daily Beast has stood behind the reporting, and produced a screenshot purportedly contradicting Luckey's statement.

"I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views.

"Here’s more background: I contributed $10,000 to Nimble America because I thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards. I am a libertarian who has publicly supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the past, and I plan on voting for Gary in this election as well.

"I am committed to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. I did not write the "NimbleRichMan" posts, nor did I delete the account. Reports that I am a founder or employee of Nimble America are false. I don’t have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America.

"Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I’m sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community."

Original Story:

Oculus VR isn’t having the best day as we learned overnight its co-founder Palmer Luckey had been funding a group that creates anti-Hillary Clinton memes, and then spread them online. As a result, a number of indie and AAA developers have announced are dropping support for the Oculus Rift in either upcoming games or already-released ones.

One such indie development studio is Polytron, who revealed it was dropping Oculus support for its upcoming game, SUPERHYPERCUBE. In a statement published on Pastebin, the studio says it will no longer be pursuing Oculus support for SUPERHYPERCUBE as a result of Luckey’s actions. “In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one,” the company writes, “we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform.”

Polytron is not alone as a number of additional studios, like Tomorrow Today Labs, Scruta Games, and even Insomniac Games, have all voiced their displeasure with Luckey’s actions and have vowed to no longer support the Oculus platform until he steps down.

"Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech," Insomniac Games tells Motherboard. "While everyone has a right to express his or her political opinion, the behavior and sentiments reported do not reflect the values of our company. We are also confident that this behavior and sentiment does not reflect the values of the many Oculus employees we work with on a daily basis."

This isn't the first time Oculus' co-founder Palmer Luckey has been wrapped up in controversy as our interview with him earlier this year spread like wildfire after saying he'd consider supporting Apple if it "ever releases a good computer."

As of now, neither Oculus nor Palmer Luckey have addressed the actions of these studios dropping support for the Rift. We’ve reached out to both Oculus and Luckey for comment and will update our story accordingly.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

Welcome to another Shack Ten, our bi-weekly breakdown of the best, worst, weirdest, or other-est of video games. This week is all about the okay-est! As always, we shoved the Shacknews staff into a room with the Hamster Dance on loop, and wouldn't let them out until they made a list of ten games that may or may not be great, but at least aren't as bad as the community seems to think. This time, though, we enlisted the help of the Chatty, so check out their thoughts for these and many more Games That Got a Bad Rap.

10. Super Mario Sunshine

Super Mario Sunshine certainly isn't looked down upon critically. Like just about every Mario game, it was pretty praised as of the time of release. But in the intervening years the collective fan opinion on it has turned sour, and nowadays it's regarded as "lesser Mario." That may be because of its water accessory gimmick, FLUD, but Mario Sunshine had a lot to like. The acapela Shadow Mario stages were impeccably designed platforming challenges that led philosophically to Super Mario Galaxy. It lent some much-needed personality to Bowser Jr. The island was crackling with secret nooks and crannies. And even the widely derided FLUD itself was just a clever way to introduce some new mechanics to the tried and true wah!-whoohoo! Mario jumping action.

9. Alpha Protocol

Let's be clear: Alpha Protocol was a buggy mess of a game at launch, and as a result it passed by largely unnoticed into the dustbin of gaming history. Those who tolerated the bugs, or waited for its patches, were rewarded with a rich near-future spy setting, a dialogue system that emphasized different pop culture spy archtypes--nicknamed Bond, Bauer, and Borne--and snappy stealth combat mechanics. It was an RPG that eschewed the hard science-fiction or fantasy settings, and that alone made it unique in the space.

"Playing stealth and pistol made the game much more fun. When I played it, I didn't run into too many bugs, and it was such a great game that it was easy to overlook the flaws." - Matt Burris

8. Syndicate

The fact that it shares a name with a classic PC strategy game probably didn't do this plucky shooter any favors. Which is a shame, because it's a pretty solid game. Fun gunplay, bosses with varied abilities and attacks, a bizarre future world, and cool hacking mechanics used to take over a person's mind all made Syndicate a smash-and-grab shooter with some very undervalued features.

7. Binary Domain

Binary Domain is the best '80s action movie that was never made. A game about evil corporations and a robot takeover, it includes a great sequence where a man who doesn't realize he's a robot begins peels his own face off in a moment of horror, like something out of a bizarre Terminator sequel. From there, it's non-stop shooting with a great variety of level design and modes ranging from third-person cover action to on-rails sequences and awesome boss fights. It's silly, it's cheesy, and it's more fun than anyone truly gives it credit for. 

6. God Hand

It's easy to write off Shinji Mikami's PS2 beat-'em-up God Hand because of its lower production value and hilarious interludes, but it's actually quite entertaining and full of the silliness that pervades the genre. As a matter of fact, it released to pretty decent scores across the board from critics, whose main complaints were related to its production values. Grit, hilarity, and engaging gameplay are all you really need, however, especially when Clover Studio is involved. 

5. BioShock 2

BioShock was hailed as a masterpiece of interactive storytelling, setting nearly impossible expectations for its sequel. The word that original creative director Ken Levine wasn't involved made it seem like a B-team cash-grab. It was met with a ho-hum reception from the community, but removed from its predecessor's long shadow, it's a solid shooter in its own right. It expanded and refined on the combat mechanics, presented another thoughtful story, and gave us more of the creepy underwater dystopia of Rapture. Plus, it was the catalyst for the Minerva's Den DLC, which remains one of the best BioShock stories ever told.

"This game got Bioshock combat right for the first time. Yeah, the environment wasn't quite as fun to explore because you knew what to expect, but the visuals and environmental quality was still there. While collectivism did not make for as nearly an interesting philosophy antagonist as objectivisim did in the first game, the voice work, the father/daughter dynamic, and the importance of choices in the game were solid and deserve a lot more credit." - TraptNSuit

4. Mass Effect 3

The epic conclusion to a sci-fi drama three games in the making continually receives bad press for the narrative decisions made by BioWare and the lack of player choice or input to arrive there. Player outrage led to BioWare implementing brand new content to cater to those with complaints, but the game as a whole was an engaging, if not dreamlike romp that acted as a fitting end for the series. And saying goodbye to one of the game's fan favorite characters wasn't an easy task at all. 

3. The Order 1886

We may have been one of the few outlets to give The Order: 1886 a positive review, and that’s with good reason. The game featured a unique story with an equally interesting backstory and successfully blurred the line between in-game action and cut-scene footage. We were also very impressed with how it resembled an Uncharted game as its cover-based shooting mechanics were done very well. We appreciated the lack of unnecessary fluff, such as side missions and collectibles that don’t further the narrative, and encourage developers to offer more unique experiences like this.

2. No Man’s Sky

The controversy surrounding No Man’s Sky is bound to be one of the top news stories of 2016. On one hand, the developers can reasonably be accused of making certain implications about the game that didn't turn up in the final product. On the other hand, it is still an incredibly ambitious project, and impressive for such a small team. It was a victim of its own hype, partially brought on by the developers themselves, but the game as it actually exists is still a great science-fiction exploration game.

"People have a hard time accepting it for what it is (which is quite good) because they're so caught up in what they thought it would be (which is largely Hello Games' fault for miscommunicating). You have to separate the game from the drama, then you can enjoy it." - Rehevkor

1. Too Human 

Too Human’s spotty development history did it no favors, ambitious as it was, with its striking combination of Norse mythology and science-fiction. What made it shine in the eyes of the players who appreciated it was its use of cinematic theory to tell its story, making it one of the first games to take on game design with the seriousness that had been reserved for movies and television shows to that point. Unfortunately, after lackluster reviews and the closing of Silicon Knights in 2014, it’s unlikely the trilogy will ever continue. But it's still very much going back and revisiting, and doesn't deserve the negativity heaped upon it. 

"I think a big part of why it got dumped on was because of people expecting a conventional ARPG combat system or, at most, brawler combat like in God of War. In actuality, the combat system had a lot in common with tournament fighters, with extensive and complex move lists, combos, and super attacks. Once you wrapped your head around that, the game became vastly more interesting. Unfortunately, it takes a while for that to click, and the death sequences still sucked regardless." - Arcanum

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Activision has revealed when exactly players can expect to participate in the multiplayer beta for its upcoming shooter, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

PlayStation 4 owners who have pre-ordered Infinite Warfare will be able to jump into the multiplayer beta starting on Friday, October 14 at 10am PT. Then both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners can participate in the beta starting on Friday, October 21 at 10am PT, which will conclude on October 24th at 10am PT.

Sorry, PC players. It appears you won't be getting your shot at Infinite Warfare's multiplayer beta as Activision has only announced its availability on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

As of now, Activision has yet to announce what will be included in the multiplayer beta for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, although it says it will reveal that information in the coming weeks.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is scheduled to release November 4th on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Picross 3D Round 2 came and went quickly. It had been released in Japan for quite some time, and eager picross fans who had been anticipating a sequel (hello!) were sure it would make the trip stateside. When Nintendo announced and released it on the same day, I was elated. Having spent dozens of hours chipping away at these newly insidious puzzles, I'm thrilled at the result, but slightly disappointed that it was treated with so little fanfare. The release gave me little opportunity to advocate for it, and this gem deserves advocacy.

Squared Up

Nintendo systems have become intrinsically tied to picross, both as a matter of branding and a category of puzzle game. Stylus-based systems like the DS and 3DS just a natural fit for the precise puzzling of marking blocks. While two-dimensional picross will always have a special place in my heart, I always felt the 3D concept introduced by Picross 3D in 2009 had more juice than that original release squeezed out of it. 

In short, picross as translated to a 3D plane is less filling in an image and more chipping away a form. It's the difference between painting and sculpture, as you use the numerical logic rules to break away all that's unnecessary, leaving the object itself. There's something uniquely satisfying about marking and breaking down blocks, flipping the object, cutting to another area, and repeating the process--over and over, bit by little bit, until the image is revealed. It captures the feeling of creation out of clay, even as represented by blocky bits.

Another entry could have easily produced more puzzles and cashed in its chips, and I would've been pretty satisfied. More puzzles is always what I wanted out of that series anyway. Picross 3D 2, however, iterates with a more complex ruleset. Instead of a binary state of blocks that either belong or don't, this splits the finished work into two kinds of blocks: blue ones that are solid cubes, and yellow that are revealed as curved or complex shapes once its row is finished. 

So, rather than seeing a number and simply intuiting how many filled blocks are in a given row, you'll see a yellow number or a blue number, or both, which informs you of each type of block. Then you mix circles, which signify that the color is split into two sets, or squares, which signify three sets, and it all gets wonderfully complex. This may not be the best introductory game for someone new to 3D picross, much less picross altogether, but it's a brain-teasing treat for fans like myself. Plus, it allows the finished shapes to be much more complex and interesting to see.

Tools of the Trade

The increased complexity comes at a cost, though. You're given one hammer to break blocks, two colors of paint to mark blocks, and two "highlighter" colors to mark blocks as possibilities without committing to them. That makes for five tools, which is one more than the 3DS' d-pad (or face buttons, for lefties) can handle. It clumsily places one tool on the triggers, but the separation felt awkward. It lets you remap buttons at will, or use the circle pad with equal pie-chart slices for the different tools, but none of the solutions are perfect. I stuck with the circle pad ultimately, but I still occasionally get a strike against me for having selected the wrong tool by accident.

The difficulty curve is also modeled differently in this iteration. While Picross 3D was a fairly straightforward ramp upwards to more and more difficult puzzles, Picross 3D 2 separates its puzzles into themed "books" like athletes and colors. I actually found I prefer this renewed form of pacing, because it lets me complete a handful of puzzles with their own difficulty ramp, and then start anew with an easier one again for the next theme.

This pacing method allows for a few other specialty types as well. "Tips and Tricks" sections help illustrate how to make inferences about a puzzle with practical lessons that are much more engaging than the molasses slog of the actual tutorial. Special "No Strike" and time trials make for tougher challenges, and large-scale puzzle books have you build several pieces of a shape, only to see it come together to form a much bigger object once you've finished them all. Amiibo puzzles provide a nice bonus for those like me who have collected the baubles. The progress gating of unlocking books leaves you unable to jump as freely as you may like, but the unlocking was generous enough that I always had plenty of options.

Hammered Home

Picross 3D 2 is what a sequel should be, especially for puzzle games. I would've been happy with more puzzles, but it went further. It iterated and engaged my brain in new and clever ways that I hadn't even considered, it revised its progression ramp in a way that I found more satisfying, and it gave and continues to give me dozens of hours of enjoyment. If you have any interest in logic puzzles and brain-teasers, this is a can't-miss.


This review is based on a download code provided by the publisher. Picross 3D Round 2 is available now on the eShop, for $29.99. The game is rated E.

Shacknews - John Keefer

The Call of Duty franchise is slowly making its way to Xbox One via backward compatibility, with Call of Duty 3 the latest to join the ranks.

Microsoft's Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb made the announcement via Twitter, with the game joining Call of Duty 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops on the backward compatible list. The title was the last set in WW2, and marked Treyarch's first game in the franchise. Call of Duty 2 was added last month, with Black Ops being the first in the franchise added in May.

Five of the top six most requested games for porting to Xbox One are from the CoD franchise, with Black Ops 2 now topping the list. Other requested titles include Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 3 and World at War. It is unlikely that Modern Warfare will the BC treatment, given the game is getting a remaster by Raven Software as part of the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare package

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Forza Horizon 3 officially launches on PC and Xbox One on September 27th, but those who picked up Forza Horizon 3: Ultimate Edition can start playing the game starting today, prior to its official release.

Forza Horizon 3: Ultimate Edition includes early access to the game as well as receiving a Forza Horizon 3 Car Pass, VIP membership and cars, and the Motorsport All-Stars Car Pack, which allows players to get behind the wheel of 10 of the most popular race cars currently available.

In addition to announcing the Ultimate Edition of Forza Horizon 3 being available to play, Microsoft also has announced the Forza Horizon 3 Expansion Pass will include two expansions, one of which will be available in time for Holiday 2016. The Expansion Pass will retail for $34.99, but Ultimate Edition owners will receive a $10 discount if they purchase it prior to the end of 2016.

Our review of Forza Horizon 3 was published this week and we considered it to be the "Best Forza Ever." We also had some fun with the game by capturing its first hour of gameplay, showing all cars included in the Ultimate Edition, and driving around in Halo's Warthog. We're still having fun in Forza Horizon 3 and we hope you join us this weekend!

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

2K and Hangar 13 have released a gameplay demo for Mafia 3 that you’re going to want to watch during a break because it clocks in at over 16 minutes long.

The Mafia 3 Gameplay Demo was shown during both Gamescom and Tokyo Games Show and offers an extended look at Lincoln Clay fighting to take out one of Sal Marcano’s underbosses, Tony Derazio.

The video’s gameplay segments start with Lincoln driving a boat while listening to some classic tunes, to which we’re then introduced to New Orleans’ diverse criminal ecologies, which apparently plays a large role in Lincoln’s ability to take down the mob. There’s a total of ten districts Lincoln can travel to, each with their own distinct flavor.

We won’t ruin the rest of the video for you, but we recommend taking some time out of your day to watch it, especially if you’re the least bit interested in Mafia 3. You’ll see a number of cut-scenes, action, and more.

Mafia 3 is scheduled to release on October 7 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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