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Who told you that Adult Swim cartoon characters, ditzy cyberpunk robots, and a cuddly rabbit-and-dog detective team couldn't live together in harmony? Because if today's Poker Night 2 release is anything to go by, they totally can. Well, as harmoniously as a bunch of wisecracking jerks can get on while competing ruthlessly for assorted unlockable items, anyway. Check out the new cast of players in the trailer - and we've got a list of the prizes up for grabs, too.
Brock Samson from the Venture Bros squares off against Borderlands' plucky Claptrap, while Ash Williams from Army of Darkness and the notorious Sam and Max are all plotting your defeat. Oh, and just to make your "Omaha Hold 'em" losses against these fictional smartasses all the more devastating, your dealer is the soul-crushing GLaDOS.
The prizes are based on your platform of choice, so us PC gamers will be aiming to outfit ourselves in these stylish Borderlands 2 and Team Fortress 2 items. Because look: you're nowhere near striking fear in your foes' chests unless your Mechromancer is wearing a perpetually grinning Max Mask. There are also numerous in-game unlocks to be had, such as themed poker tables and chips. I hope Max's face is slapped on everything.
For just a fiver, Telltale's Poker Night 2 is available today on Steam.
Apr 25, 2013
We already know what Team Fortress 2 looks like when teamed up with the Oculus Rift, but it turns out that was only half the story. Thanks to an enterprising individual with access to both a Rift and a prototype Virtuix Omni VR Treadmill, TF2 is now immersive for the lower half of your body, rather than just the top. Is this the future of games? All I know is that I want to try this expensive-looking kit for myself - does anyone want to buy one of my livers? (I can get by with just one, right?)
The Oculus Rift, you'll recall, is in the wild now, while the Virtuix VR Treadmill - which reads the movement of your feet and feeds that information into the game - will be heading to Kickstarter soon. Together, they look like this:
(Thanks to Road to VR and Eurogamer)
Those who’ve tried playing Team Fortress 2 with the Oculus Rift largely agree that it's a game changer - albeit with resolution and focus problems. Yet Valve's tech-brain in chief, Michael Abrash, talked at GDC extensively about the challenges of developing working VR and especially AR systems, and what exactly technical advances we'll need to get a more satisfactory VR system. Though the Oculus Rift has impressed nearly everyone who’s worn it, Abrash suggests that it’ll take some time before we escape the technology’s compromises.
First, we'd better clarify our terms. Virtual Reality (VR) is a closed, totally immersive 3D system that appears in the frame of reference of the real world – so turning your head turns it in Virtual Reality. Alternate Reality (AR) is virtual reality images that appear to coexist with the real world, distinct from the simple overlays that, say, Google Glass does. And, Regular Reality, as Abrash has it, is the real world.
“Many years ago I read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and I realised that much of it was drawing on virtual reality, and really wanted to be involved in making it happen,” says Abrash, which motivated him to move to Dallas and work on Quake with John Carmack. Since then the prospect of the Metaverse (Stephenson's immersive 3D world) has advanced rather slowly, until very recently. Abrash points to improvements in flat-panel displays, batteries, mobile CPUs and GPUs, wireless tech, miniaturised cameras, gyroscopes, accelerometers, compasses, projectors, waveguides, computer vision and tracking hardware as key technologies for modern virtual reality. And, of course, the true 3D games that he started with Quake, are there to supply the content (though the game I really want to try is Dear Esther).
We have now have a working VR, in the form of the cheap, light and ergonomic Oculus Rift, which Abrash is relatively positive about. “When a rocket goes past you in Team Fortress 2 on the Oculus Rift, it's like God on steroids.” That sounds _relatively_ positive to us. However, the Rift is only a start, because there are many problems it ignores or dodges. For example, “The math for resolution at wide fields of view is brutal. If you take the (best available display for the next year) and apply it across a hundred degree field of view, you end up with a pixel density that's less than 1/50th of a phone held at normal viewing distance.” Ouch. “The bottom line is that, as with 3D, it will take years, if not decades, to fully refine VR – and AR is even harder.”
So, with a series of spacetime diagrams that befuddled the less-technical brains in the audience, Abrash showed that there are fundamental disadvantages to all commonly available display technologies. Tracking in VR, and especially AR, is extremely difficult because of problems like colour fringing and blurring caused by body, head and extremely-rapid eyeball movements. Similarly, the combined latency of the device can be no more than 20ms total for tracking, rendering, transmitting to the display, and getting photons to come out of the display – and to stop coming out. The Rift in particular doesn't track sideways motion, such as strafing – and a failing correspondence with the real world is one of the things that makes players nauseous.
VR may well be the future, and the Oculus Rift offers a thrilling glimpse of it, but it seems there’s a lot of work to be done before that future arrives.
For more information, go check out Abrash's blog on the technology.
Oculus Rift developer kits started shipping out earlier this week, but a few games already offer a user-level taste of THE FUTURE. The most notable playground is Team Fortress 2, mystical land of hat fanatics and now disorienting camera movement. Tech site Tested, hosted by PC Gamer alumnus Norman Chan and former Maximum PC editor-in-chief Will Smith, stepped into the Rift and played a few Payload rounds while discussing the 3D effects, the ease of acclimatizing oneself, and calibration.
Tested's video is pretty long and comprehensive, so skip forward to around 5:50 for a direct feed of Oculurized TF2 play. Notice that TF2 uses third-person gun and player models from a first-person perspective and the independence of mouse and keyboard controls from head tracking. It's unknown what an observed Scout will look like with his head cranked to the right, but in first-person the head movement may lend a feeling of realism to the cartoonish FPS. Plus, you'll finally get to feel what it's like to wear your exclusive in-game goggles.
Some more highlights:
Try not to hurl when Smith zooms in the Sniper's scope at 22:10
Double-jumping as a Scout looks exhiliratingly vertiginous at 25:35 (coughMirror's Edgecough)
Yes, you can actually kill other players. Smith does so at around 31:00
Do you see an advantageous benefit to six-axis viewing angles, or does the Oculus come off as a lame gimmick? Also, why is the Heavy so fat?
Telltale has dusted off its green, felt battlefield of chips and difficult-to-remember card combinations for Poker Night 2, and it's calling up another quirky cast hailing from games and TV/film to humorously overreact whenever you're dealt a superior hand. You'll practice your poker face against Borderlands' Clatrap, Brock Samson from The Venture Bros. show, the beady-eyed Sam from Sam & Max, and the always-groovy Ash Williams from Army of Darkness.
Telltale explains the stakes: "Poker Night 2 will offer the chance to win Bounty Unlocks: rewards for use within other games when special goals are achieved. With cunning and skill, players will unlock prizes, including exclusive skins and heads for use within Borderlands 2 and character accessories for Team Fortress 2."
I'd also advise against any shady movements, because Portal's very own GLaDOS is Poker Night 2's dealer, and she has a tendency to fire up a flamethrower or two for dishonesty. And for possessing flesh. In any case, you'll be able to grab the game near the end of this month.
Apr 1, 2013
It's April 1st, meaning there's a good chance that everything you read today will be a lie. Even that last sentence? Well, it's April 1st, so best be safe and assume so. Luckily, the news that Oculus Rift development kits are now being shipped out comes from the tail end of last week, back when people weren't arbitrarily required to make stuff up.
"We actually started shipping on Wednesday, but we haven’t shared tracking information yet because the team is still tied up at GDC in San Francisco," writes Oculus VR's Palmer Luckey. This is the first batch to be dispatched, and Luckey notes that, with over 10,000 dev kits pre-ordered, it will take some time to complete the full order: "Hold fast — they’re coming."
With the first round of dev kits now out, Oculus have also opened their Developer Centre, an online resource containing documents, videos and forums, as well as the SDK and previously promised Unity and Unreal Engine integrations.
For owners who just want to see what's already possible with the device, Oculus Rift support has already been added to TF2 and Hawken. In addition, there are mods that add Oculus support to both Half-Life 2 and Crysis. Alternatively, if you're waiting for the consumer version of the kit, you can watch Owen get a taste of VR in our hands-on video.
I can finally look forward to the best chance I have for merging my consciousness with the Heavy as he bellows his way across Gold Rush. Valve put out a notice yesterday announcing the Oculus Rift's VR sorcery will soon work for Team Fortress 2 in a free update later this week, marking the first Valve game to take advantage of the Kickstarted, consumer-priced goggles.
Rifters, as I'm calling them from now on, can switch on a new "VR mode" in the free multiplayer shooter's options to make use of the hardware's low-latency head-tracking and high FOV. Speaking to Engadget, Valve programmer Joe Ludwig says Team Fortress 2 was "sort of the obvious choice" for the Oculus' shakedown because of the community's willingness in the past to serve as guinea pigs for trying out new major features from the developer. Well, guinea pigs who stab, immolate, and blow up each other, but you get the idea.
As with anything even remotely involving Team Fortress 2, Rifters will bag an exclusive hat modeled after the goggles, seen in the crazily grainy screenshot below. (In other words, wave goodbye to your "decline trade" key.) The Oculus team hopes for a consumer version of its VR headset sometime this year, and other big-name games are already under the modder's anvil to include support for it.
Valve boss Gabe Newell stepped up to the stage during last week's BAFTA awards to receive the prestigious Academy Fellowship for his contributions to gaming. Presumably momentarily distracted by accepting a trophy modeled after a smirking face, a bewhiskered Newell fielded some interview questions over the normally airtight subject of Valve's business performance that hinted at the monumental scale of the studio's prosperity.
Newell chalked up Valve's successes largely to user-generated content on open platforms such as Steam Workshop before sharing some jaw-dropping numbers. "There's sort of an insatiable demand for gaming right now," Newell said. "I think our business has grown by about 50 percent on the back of opportunities created by having these open platforms.
"And just so people understand how big this sort of scale is getting, we were generating 3.5 terabits per second during the last Dota 2 update," he added. "That's about 2 percent of all the mobile- and land-based Internet activity."
Wait, what? We're not exactly sure what Newell meant when he dropped that bombshell of data info, apart from maybe claiming responsibility for all those times my connection speeds chugged while browsing these past few months. Still, it seems entirely plausible—Dota 2 has a lot of players, and the MOBA recently took the crown for the highest concurrent user amount of any Steam game ever. If any Steam game can feasibly take a bite out of the entire Internet, Dota 2 holds the best chance.
Garry's Mod, that wonderful physics sandbox of posable characters doing very silly things, has done rather well since attaching a $10 price for its tomfoolery back in 2006. Last December, GMod passed the milestone of 2 million copies sold, an accomplishment made possible by word-of-mouth and creator Garry Newman's regular feature updates. Responding to a fan's question in a blofg post, Newman reveals the mod accrued an astounding $22 million over seven years, but he also says taxes took large bites out of the monstrous moneydollar amount.
"Over seven years, GMod has made about $22 million dollars," he writes. "We get less than half of that though. The tax man gets a bunch of that. Then when we take money out of the company, the tax man gets a bunch of that too."
A Google Image search for "Garry's Mod tax man" sadly doesn't provide an appropriate response image for Newman's achievement, instead showing a balloon chair, ponies, and a Teletubby mugging a Companion Cube. Wait, what am I saying? They're all appropriate.
As for the future of Garry's Mod and what's next for Newman and the rest of his team at developer Facepunch Studios, Newman lines up a few upcoming features in the works.
"Hopefully, we’re gonna get the Linux version out," he says. "Then hopefully we’ll move to SteamPipe, and I’ll get the NextBot stuff hooked up. Then I want to do another Gamemode Contest. But I want to knock out a bunch of gamemode creating tutorials first to help people get their foot in the door."
By the way, if you're leery of plopping down a Hamilton for a constantly updated playground of imagination ("Garry's Mod what are you thinking" in Google), you can grab the old-but-free Garry's Mod 9 from Mod DB.