Shacknews - Greg Burke

This week we gotta go fast!

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is a kart racing video game in the Sega Superstars series produced for Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, featuring characters from many Sega franchises. It also made its way to the arcade along the way. Please take a look.

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If you have a suggestion for a future episode of Shack's Arcade Corner, please let us know in the comments section or tweet @shacknews & @GregBurke85 with #ArcadeCorner.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

This week was a busy one on Modojo, your dojo for everything mobile. The big topic on everyone's mind in mobile gaming is Super Mario Run. We finally got some hands-on with the game, and we were impressed. Make sure you check in with us next week for even more on that.

Every week is a Pokémon week these days, and we had plenty going on in that arena. There were Pokémon giveaways, and Pokémon GO owners got a chance to catch Ditto for the first time. We even had a little bit of scandal in the world of mobile gaming this week. Oh my!

Watch Mario Build, Watch Mario Run

We've been waiting for some solid time with Super Mario Run for months now, and Shacknews CEO Asif Khan got us the goods with a hands-on impression of the game and screenshots from the first six worlds. The rest of the world got in on the fun when Reggie Fils-Aime revealed that Super Mario Run would be available to play at Apple Stores while on The Tonight Show, and we all got a look at the fun new ad for the game. Super Mario series creator Shigeru Miyamoto even got in on the fun! The Mario news didn't stop with Super Mario Run, though. Steve Watts reviewed Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS.

Pokémon, Closer to Catching 'em All

Pokémon has two giveaways going on right now. The first is the wrap-up giveaway from the Pokémon 20th Anniversary. Meloetta is available now, and you can get this Poké from now until December 24. A new Pokémon Sun and Moon legendary is available too. Magearna is available for Pokémon Sun and Moon indefinitely; you just have to beat the game before you can get it.

Pokémon GO got an update too which added Ditto. Catching Ditto is a little tricky, but we put a guide together to help you out.

Scandal in the Mobile Gaming Industry!

Topping off the week was something a little scandalous. Apparently, you don't want to mess with Zynga as two former employees are finding out. Zynga is filing suit on these neer-do-wells who went to work at a rival and took some of Zynga's secrets, and their employees, with them!

That's it for this Modojo Rewind. We'll be bringing you more of the best and most important mobile gaming and technology news soon!

Shacknews - David Craddock

Heroes of the Storm's annual Winter Veil Christmas event returns on December 14, and playing 25 games between then and its conclusion on January 9 will earn you two free gifts.

The first is the Festive Treasure Goblin Mount. The other is a snowflake portrait that goes great with the candy canes poking out of the Festive goblin's Santa sack.

One note, though: playing Heroes Brawls won't count toward your 25-game total. On the bright side, you'll get 25 percent extra XP from every other game mode, one of which is the "frosty" Brawl that Blizzard hasn't detailed yet.

And since it's the season for giving, Blizzard will also offer up the following shop items during Winter Veil:

Winter Veil 2016 Bundle

  • Special Snowflake Mount
  • Lunara
  • Winter Veil Lunara Skin
  • Nazeebo
  • Gingerdread Nazeebo Skin

Winter Veil Classic Bundle

  • Stitches
  • Greatfather Winter Stitches Skin
  • Sylvanas
  • Sugar Plum Sylvanas Skin
  • Jaina
  • Winter Veil Jaina Skin
  • Rehgar
  • Great-father Winter Rehgar Skin
  • Reign-Deer Mount 
Shacknews - Cassidee Moser

Steep is a GoPro filmmaker fantasy. It allows you to visit some of the highest reaches on Earth to challenge the slopes of mountains in the Swiss Alps via snowboard, ski, wingsuit, or parachute, all with the option of viewing it in an impressively accurate first-person perspective. And to its credit, it's pretty effective. The wind rushes through your ears, the field of view is shaky and tossed about by the slightest change in movement pattern, the snow caves beneath your snowboard and skis, and there's a rush to it that I imagine is a decent re-creation of what it feels like to take on nature in this defiant manner. 

But the more I play, the more I'm suspecting a majority of Steep's development was poured into beefing up this aspect of it and not necessarily making it into the best game it could be. 

There are neat aspects of Steep. The environments are beautifully rendered, made up of striking vistas and comfortable mountainside villages. The character animations are elaborate and complex, changing as they trudge through varying depths of snow and alternate between walking, running, and crawling along steeper inclines. Gliding along and cutting through the powder on a snowboard or skis has a smooth, natural feel, and flying through the air in the wingsuit or parachute feels strangely peaceful, yet chaotic. Everything about it visually is extremely well-executed and evocative. 

But peel away impressive visuals, and you're left with a game that seemingly holds itself together with haphazardly-placed thin threads. Being that it's an open world extreme sports game, you're encouraged to explore around the mountains, detecting drop zones and finding new challenges to participate in. This starts off encouraging; you can race, perform freestyle stunt rides, and attempt to control your trajectory on a number of different paths made specifically for the sports available. But Steep's attempt to be a multi-faceted game dilutes its actual gameplay to the point where it's not a test of skill or reflexes; it eventually devolves into running through the motions, navigating the slopes and air wthout having to worry about any drastic consequences as a result of failure. 

There's even a quick reset button that will transport you instantly to the start of a challenge should you make any grave mistakes, making it one of the more forgiving extreme sports games I've played. It's mechanically simple to the point of not being challenging or fun; complex tricks are pulled off by single button presses, in-air courses are really just a challenge to get your elevation gauged correctly, and it feels like something that wants to be a game to all people, but doesn't nail the approachable-but-complex intersection it needs in order to be successful in that pursuit. 

The visual design also gives it a sense of homogenity that eventually becomes downright boring. Once you've seen one slope, you've more or less seen them all. Characters don't have much of a sense of personality, and the entire thing feels more like a surface-level experimental photo mode than a fully-formed video game. But, I plan to invest a few more hours into it for the sake of attempting to get a better sense of it before issuing a final verdict. 

Shacknews - David Craddock

Ubisoft had planned to release Watch Dogs 2's T-Bone Content Bundle DLC on December 13, but opted to delay it.

T-Bone might have launched on time, but issues like the game's seamless multiplayer failing to work upon release required the team to put DLC on the backburner.

"This and previous patches were an important step towards stabilizing Watch Dogs 2’s seamless multiplayer functionality, and other core online features, before releasing any new multiplayer content," a Ubisoft spokesperson explained in a blog. "Since these updates required additional development resources, we’ve made the decision to adjust our release schedule for that new content."

PS4 players will get T-Bone on December 22 (December 26 in Japan). Xbox One and PC players will get caught up on January 24.

The T-Bone Content bundle centers on Raymond "T-Bone" Kenney. Players will get his attire, a modified school bus complete with a bulldozer blade, and Mayhem challenge for co-op featuring the Grenadier enemy.

There will also be a Chaos event starting the week of December 19. "This free event will run for four weeks, with each week bringing a new themed challenge through Ubisoft Club that gives players a chance to earn in-game currency and unique event rewards, like new car skins or a new bag for Marcus," said Ubisoft.

Shacknews - Jason Faulkner

One of the big blocks to a fully immersive virtual reality experience with PSVR, Oculus, or Vive is that they have to be tethered by cables to work. As impressive and breathtaking as today's VR games and experiences can be, there's always a copper umbilical cord firmly connecting you to real life.

MIT is working on a solution that will untether your VR experience and finally let you walk around virtual worlds unimpeded by wires. MIT's prototype, called MoVR, isn't revolutionary in principal. In fact, it uses technology that has been known about for quite some time; this is just one of the few instances that technology can actually be utilized.

MoVR uses mm-wave technology, which has a very fast transmission speed, and a huge amount of bandwidth. This means that the multiple Gbps that needs to be relayed between your VR headset and your computer via wires can be replaced by MoVR's mm-wave wireless set-up. The catch with mm-wave tech is that it has a very narrow wavelength, which means that objects that wouldn't impede your wi-fi or cellular signals can stop mm waves in their tracks. Even high humidity levels can obstruct a mm-wave signal.

It's these drawbacks that have kept mm-wave from being adopted for any wide-spread consumer products. However, with VR, these issues become less glaring. Wired VR already requires a relatively clear area near your computer, so that takes care of range and blockage. The only problem you have then is your body blocking the signal, which is where the second task for the MoVR comes into play.

In addition to feeding your VR headset the multiple Gbps of data in real-time, it also detects blockages that might impede the flow of that data. The MoVR box knows where you PC and VR headset are in relation to the mm-wave transmitter at all times. If it detects that a blockage is occurring, it can use a mirror system to wave the beam clean of any blockage in microseconds.

This technology isn't something that has to be Kickstarted, or that is years down the road either. The prototype MoVR is fully functional and working at full speed with the HTC Vive, no cord at all. The prototype is currently the size of one or two smartphones, so it's still a bit large for full production. However, the team is working on making the unit smaller and flatter, as well as reducing power consumption so that the headset can last on a battery longer.

With this much progress made already, expect to see MoVR, and solutions like it coming as add-ons to current VR platforms. Who knows, by the time the next generation of VR devices is announced this might be a standard feature.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Imagine receiving a mysterious package, only to find that it contains the key to a completely different world. That's the general story behind Divide, an isometric science-fiction dungeon crawler and the debut effort from Exploding Tuba Studios. But while the story focuses on the sci-fi future, the game appears to be an homage to the top-down isometric adventures of the past. Shacknews went hands-on at this year's PlayStation Experience.

Divide focuses on a man named David, who mistakenly receives a strange package from an organization called Vestige. The package contains an orb that sends him into a completely different augmented reality. And while David has no idea what's happening, Vestige wants that orb so much that they've abducted his daughter in an effort to get it back.

The demo from PlayStation Experience took place across a scientific facility, with Vestige guards on patrol. While Divide isn't exactly a stealth game, it's definitely beneficial to approach it like one. That's because David isn't a soldier or hardened tough guy, but rather an average man. He does have ways to defend himself, mainly a futuristic stun taser (the E-Laser) as his sidearm. Divide plays like a twin-stick shooter, with players able to aim with the right stick and pull the right trigger to attack. The problem is that David can only take a couple of hits before going down. Since it doesn't help that attacks feel slightly delayed and weapon fire attracts unwanted attention, the stealth route quickly proved itself to be the best one.

There's another key element to Divide and that's hacking. David can hack into terminals to open up new paths forward, which include both main and secret paths. He can also utilize certain terminals to set traps for guards or send them off in a completely different direction, allowing him to escape unseen. While combat is an option, Divide seems to be a more rewarding experience when played nonviolently.

There's far more to the Divide narrative than what I got to check out at PlayStation Experience, with dialogue, lore, and choice-driven conversations strewen throughout the game. It moves the story forward, but also challenges the player to think about what the "truth" behind the narrative really is.

It won't take long for the Divide story to unfold. The game is set to hit PlayStation 4 on January 31 before coming to PC.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Capcom EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) marketing director Antoine Molant revealed that the publisher is setting a high bar for Resident Evil 7.

"Ideally, we'd love to sell four million on day one globally," Molant said in an interview with MCV.

"That would be great. Looking at what we see in the preorders and trends these days, we're pretty confident we are going to get there. All the signs that we have seen across the market, whether it's from the UK or from other territories, are very positive so far. We're not sitting back and relaxing at all because we want to push that. The confidence is there."

GameSpot pulled up lifetime sales for Capcom's best-selling games and pointed out that the publisher has a steep, if not sheer hill to climb if it wants RE7 to hit those day-one numbers. Resident Evil 5 takes the cake at 7.1 million across Xbox 360, PS3, and downloads. Resident Evil 4, a fan-favorite entry along with RE2, has sold 5.9 million across numerous systems factoring in re-releases.

Street Fighter II on SNES, published in June 1992, sits at number three with 6.3 million units sold—an astronomically high figure for that era, when most games were lucky to crack one million.

Like RE4 in 2005, Resident Evil 7 will usher in a radical departure from the series' status quo: from static camera angles and tank controls, to over-the-shoulder shooting, to a first-person horror crawl reminiscent of Konami's P.T., a prototype of the now-cancelled Silent Hills.

MCV asked Molant how RE7's pre-orders were shaping up. "To be frank, they're very good," he answered.

Resident Evil 7 will release on January 24, 2017, for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Sony locked down timed exclusivity for RE7's VR mode, which emeritus Shacknews editor Ozzie Mejia got to experience at PSX.

"While there will be some combat in the main game, it's important to note that Capcom is serious about the survival horror atmosphere for this installment of the series," he wrote in his hands-on preview.

"Players won't step into the shoes of accomplished agents like Chris Redfield, but rather into the far more average shoes of a new character. This character won't be armed to the teeth, harkening back to the old days of scarce resources and learning to escape without killing everything in sight. It's more about surviving through logic and instinct than through sheer firepower."

Shacknews - David Craddock

NPD Group published data showing that physical sales of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare dropped 50 percent in November relative to physical sales of last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops III from the same time period.

That steep decline in the United States falls in line with data gather from UK analyst firm Gfk Chart-Track, which reported last month that the Call of Duty franchise experienced a 48 percent year-over-year decrease in first-week sales.

An anonymous source on Wall Street told CNBC that Call of Duty unit sales were down 51 percent year-over-year.

Competitor Electronic Arts, which published Respawn's Titanfall 2 and DICE's Battlefield 1 in close proximity to Call of Duty this year in order to entice consumers to its side of the fence, noted in November that digital sales account for 30 percent of total sales.

However, a 50 percent drop in disc sales spells bad news for Activision from any angle. Shares of Activision Blizzard fell 20 percent from highs in mid-October. Brian Nowak, an analyst for Morgan Stanley, predicted a 10 percent sale decline for the Call of Duty franchise.

Depending on how digital sales of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare shake out, Activision could join the rising chorus of publishers hand-waving away concerns over low week-one sales.

"We remind people we're building a franchise with Titanfall, so it's not about the first day of sales or the first week of sales, it's about the long run," EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said following reports that early sales of Titanfall 2 would fall way under expectations. "We'll do a lot of things with Titanfall to continue to build engagement."

[Source: CNBC

Shacknews - Jason Faulkner

Unity has hired Uber's former head of machine learning, Dr. Danny Lange, to take on the problems of augmented reality and virtual reality gaming AI. Unity's explosive growth is allowing it to focus on making its engine more friendly and capable when it comes to AR/VR gameplay and Dr. Lange will help develop machine learning and AI algorithms needed for computer-controlled enemies and allies in a truly three-dimensional setting.

Unity is now powering 34% of top mobile games and an enormous amount of console and handheld titles as well. Unity hopes that by expanding its engine to make VR/AR development easier and more efficient that it can nail down an early lead as the game engine of choice for VR/AR developers.

Dr. Lange's history developing machine learning solutions for Microsoft, Amazon and Uber make him a perfect fit for Unity's needs according to Unity Technologies CEO John Riccitiello. As gaming grows into the new frontiers of VR and AR, we can expect to see a larger and larger amount of personnel from all across the tech industry migrating to these new forms of entertainment.


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