Shacknews - Steven Wong

With the recent reveal of the Microsoft HoloLens, we're entering into an era of head mounted displays that pit virtual reality against augmented reality. Which devices show the most potential to win the battle over your headspace? We run down what some of the options are, how they differ, and which ones best fit into the reality of your choosing.

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft made a huge impact with the announcement and reveal of the HoloLens. Instead of being a virtual reality headset, HoloLens promises to merge virtual reality with actual reality by overlaying data on top of objects. Not only is the augmented reality headset completely self contained (it doesn't need a PC or smart phone connection) and wireless, but it also has a gesture sensor built into it in addition to gaze and voice recognition. That way, users can interact with virtual objects without the use of special gloves or secondary devices, making it ideal for general use and gaming. Having a custom Windows 10 experience accompany it might also go a long way towards helping people adopt the technology.

Despite a lengthy demonstration, there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding the HoloLens. There's no way to tell home much a head-mounted computer system will cost, or how long the battery will last. The prototype attendees went hands-on with at the Windows press briefing was hooked to an external power source. Although early impressions have been largely positive, there's still a long road between its announcement and release.

Oculus Rift

Although the Oculus Rift headset was a favorite among virtual reality enthusiasts before the company's purchase by Facebook last year, but now it's seen as leading the way for VR technology. The fully enclosed headset provides a totally immersive experience for games like EVE Valkyrie. Unlike the augmented reality approach that the HoloLens proposes to use, there is no real world blending. You are completely transported to a different space when wearing the headset. However, as impressive development kits have been so far, the device still has a lot to prove. Most notably weight, long-term usability, and a means of haptic feedback are still factors, along with how it needs to be hooked into an expensive high-powered PC to provide a decent experience. Still, it could be the stepping stone towards a new era in gaming and computer interface.

Sony Project Morpheus

If any device has a shot at making virtual reality headset a part of mainstream gaming, it might be Sony's Project Morpheus. The VR headset is being developed specifically for the PlayStation 4 hardware and relies on the PlayStation Camera and sensors for head tracking and the Move controller for interface. Unlike the Oculus, which puts its emphasis on virtual world experiences, Morpheus is being developed specifically for gaming. Although there will probably be other applications, the emphasis is on creating the best possible PlayStation VR experience. However, it remains to be seen how well the Morpheus, which is completely reliant on PlayStation hardware, matches up against the open Oculus platform or the completely self-contained HoloLens augmented reality hardware for games and entertainment.

Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR has two things going for it. 1. It's available now, and 2. at a suggested retail price of $200, it's affordable compared to other virtual reality dev kits. However, that's matched by a few significant downsides. Firstly, you can only use it with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Secondly, there's limited availability, and lastly, it can't be connect to a PC for a deeper experience. Based on the Oculus Rift design, the Gear VR headset requires you to insert your Galaxy Note 4 into the case, and the phone becomes the VR screen and processor while the headset's lenses bend the stereoscopic images. The software uses the phone's gyroscope for motion tracking and there's a small touch pad on the side for interaction. Additionally, users can use a Bluetooth controller for games. Although you don't full head tracking, like leaning in to examine something closely, and the graphical fidelity isn't as good as the Oculus headset, the setup still provides an impressive virtual experience. Furthermore, even though the VR apps are free, there aren't a lot of them, and they're mainly comprised of demos and little mini-games. On the other hand, this could be a nice, relatively inexpensive, introduction to VR technology.

Google Cardboard

If you're looking for something cheap and easy, it doesn't get much better than a cardboard box. Similar to how the Samsung Gear VR works, Google Cardboard is a free app that uses a pair of magnifying lenses inserted into a cardboard box that bears a vague semblance to a toy View-Master. Free DIY instructions are available online, or you can buy a pre-made kit, but either way, this is the cheapest way to get a VR experience. Run the Google Cardboard app on your Android phone, then insert the phone into the cardboard adapter. It might not be as cool or refined as an Oculus headset, but what do you expect? It's a cardboard box! The software and apps are also free.

Google Glass

Although Google Glass isn't a VR experience, and it just barely qualifies as an augmented reality experience, we would be remiss in not mentioning it among the group of potential head-mounted displays. The device, which is essentially a head-mounted equivalent to a smart watch, has stirred up a fair amount of controversy and privacy concerns during its development. Glass has a small touch sensor on its side and responds to both voice commands and small head gestures, but it relies on an Android phone to handle its processing web searching, and calling capabilities. Although it has the potential for gaming applications, it is by no means designed for it, and it wouldn't match the experience that the Microsoft HoloLens promises. Things aren't looking great for Glass, especially since the pricey $1,500 prototype was withdrawn from the market earlier this month (January 19th), perhaps for a redesign so that the "Glasshole" effect can somehow be reduced or eliminated.

Some speculate that the entire project may be shelved indefinitely, marking an end to a supposed wearable technology revolution that fizzled before it started. However, a new version of Glass is expected to be revealed later this year. It remains to be seen whether or not that will actually happen, but given the positive reaction to the HoloLens so far, perhaps the project will be steered more toward an augmented reality experience than an unappealing smart phone accessory.

Razer OSVR

The gaming hardware and accessory company, Razer, recently threw its hat into the VR ring with the announcement of OSVR. At this early stage, the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit is for developers and hobbyists to toy around with using open source hardware and software. With a price of $200, the headset makes for an appealing starter for anyone interested in getting into VR development. It's a bet on the future, because using the community to help tinker with the hardware and software may lead to consumer product somewhere down the road that will give devices like the Oculus Rift a run for its money.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered appeared on Amazon’s website over the weekend, but as of this point, has been removed considering neither Quantic Dream nor Sony has made any formal announcement in regards to the return of the psychological thriller.

Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered was listed to be released on January 29th, according to Amazon. The game would feature improved in-game textures to offer HD visuals for both mobile and desktop, although fans of the game will be able to switch from the old and new graphics on the fly.

Aside from improved graphics, the Amazon listing says the game will feature all of the game’s original scenes, all of them being uncensored and uncut, unlike the North American version which was censored. Steam is also mentioned as a requirement, although the listing notes full controller support for both Sony and Microsoft controllers.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Nintendo's handheld hardware revisions have become so commonplace that I almost feel silly not to have expected another 3DS model. In my defense it had already undergone an XL revamp, along with the bizarre choice to remove its own name-defining feature with the 2DS. The New 3DS is the perfect example of Nintendo's iteration, making plenty of minor, smart improvements in what I can only assume will be the last version of this generation.

In fact, it really has to be, given the name. For all its improvements, "The New 3DS" remains a pretty awful name, but it's the closest thing we can have to assurance that it will be the last one. You can't have a product called "The New" anything and then come out with a newer one. I wish it weren't branded on the system itself, but at least it's on the underside of the clamshell design where it won't likely be noticed.

3D That Actually Works

So what makes it new with a capital "N"? Nintendo has rolled out a whole host of improvements, from major revisions that have been sorely needed to more incremental ones. The box splashily promises the four headline revisions on the box, but it actually has more going on under the hood.

The one feature Nintendo seems to tout the most is the new "Super-Stable 3D," and with good reason. The 3D functionality in the 3DS was so hit-or-miss that I barely ever used it, only turning it on occasionally to see how it felt and then quickly turning it back off. I used it more in a few games like Super Mario 3D World or A Link Between Worlds, but for the most part the namesake of the system had become an atrophied appendage that was just as well forgotten. 

Super-Stable 3D actually changed all that. By using its front-facing camera to track eye movements, the system actually delivers a perfectly crisp 3D image flawlessly at almost all times. It stutters slightly if you turn your head, or hold it too far away, but I've already found it much more enjoyable to play games in 3D. I still turn it off after my eyes get tired of it, but not out of irritation due to the feature not working as promised. It works beautifully, and makes the 3DS finally live up to its name in practice instead of only in theory.

A Fresh Face

Another noticeable change comes to the face and button layout. The Start and Select buttons have been moved to the side, rather than in their sticky placement below the bottom screen. The Power button is now located on the bottom, where there's much less chance of grazing it during the course of play. The stylus has been moved to the underside, for ease of use. Two more shoulder buttons join the top, and feel easy enough to reach, but I haven't played a game that actually uses them yet. On the whole these changes make sense and improve the experience.

An added C-stick nub is slightly clunky, though. It works well enough for shifting the camera in some games like Monster Hunter, but it's a far cry from a second analog stick. It just isn't responsive enough to be used in gameplay, so it should probably remain relegated to camera work.

Two more features are simply nice to have. An updated processor makes loading the Home menu and getting into games significantly faster, a good perk for those who choose to upgrade. It also includes Amiibo support, though Nintendo already plans to release some kind of base for older 3DS users. Plus, at least one game (Xenoblade Chronicles) will only work on the New 3DS, so fans who want to play it will definitely want to look into this model.

What's in the Box?

It is clearly targeted toward older users upgrading the system, too. The surest sign is that the New 3DS doesn't include an A/C adapter, so your only hope to charge the system is to use your old one or order one separately. Despite a small warning on both the front and back of the box, this is bound to confuse hapless consumers who didn't realize. It's baffling that Nintendo chose to leave out such a crucial component of its hardware.

This is especially evident while going through the transfer process. Unless you have a micro-SD card in your old 3DS, your best option is to do a wireless transfer of all your old game data. This means leaving both systems on and running for an extended period of time, depending on how much data you had, and babysitting them both to make sure neither runs out of power if you only have one AC cable. 

The issue of SD memory brings up another strange choice. The system comes equipped with a 4GB Micro SD card, but to insert a larger one you need to perform minor hardware surgery. It's just a matter of unfastening two screws with a #0 screwdriver, but the back cover panel feels fragile and I was afraid of cracking it as I took it off. I didn't, fortunately, but an average user shouldn't have to worry about such a possibility just to upgrade the memory.

To Upgrade or Not

All of this leads to the big question: is the New 3DS worth the upgrade? It really depends on which of the 3DS family you're upgrading from. The New 3DS is ultimately the best version of the handheld, but its improvements are incremental over the XL model. If you already have an XL, and can live without improved 3D, you can probably safely pass on this revision. Your interest in 3D is really the defining factor in that case, since it really is the most dramatic improvement. If you own an original 3DS model and have been looking to upgrade, this is the best version you can get, so you might as well spring for it. You'll enjoy all the perks of the XL you've been missing out on, along with a few extra bells and whistles for good measure.

This review is based on New 3DS hardware provided by Nintendo. The New 3DS will be available in retail stores on February 13, 2015, for $199.99. An AC Adapter is available separately for approximately $10.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford took to Twitter last night to announce the development studio is recruiting for the next Borderlands project, whatever that may be.

“We are recruiting for the next Borderlands,” Pitchford writes on his Twitter account. “This is the big one.” He follows up by saying Gearbox wants to meet great artists, designers, coders, producers and other developers to help create the next Borderlands game.

Gearbox already had quite the interesting weekend at PAX South as they announced Homeworld Remastered Collection is releasing on PC on February 25 as well as Lady Hammerlock’s inclusion in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

Many would probably assume this game would be a sequel to Borderlands 2, although 2K Games had other plans when they had 2K Australia develop Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. With Gearbox Software back at the helm, I think it’s safe to say we could expect Borderlands 3 to be in development, but again, who knows?

Shacknews - John Gaudiosi

BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remains one of the most acclaimed role-playing games of all time. It also stands out as an excellent Star Wars game. Thanks to the power of new mobile devices, that epic Xbox game is now available for your tablet. Aspyr Media has worked with Nvidia to enhance the RPG using Tegra K1 technology, allowing Shield gamers to get the full console experience complete with controllers. Michael Blair, senior product and sales manager at Aspyr Media, explains how Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic went mobile in this exclusive interview.

What were your goals heading into this game?

Quite simple really: To bring one of the greatest RPG’s ever made to Android with no compromises, and with a control interface that felt native.

What were the challenges of taking this massive console and PC game and bringing it mobile?

App size is always of concern when taking large AAA titles to mobile, but we had that ironed out with our iOS effort of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. For Android, our main challenge was the learning curve involved with the sheer volume of devices available to run the platform, and the Android OS versions that accompany them.

Can you talk about this gaming experience and how it was redesigned for tablets like Nvidia Shield Tablet and smartphone functionality?

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was originally designed for Xbox using a controller. We knew in order for the game to be well received on mobile, we had to nail touch controls. We think we’ve accomplished that with an intuitive system that isn’t overly complicated. One feature of control I particularly like is how we dealt with character movement. The user is not limited to a virtual joystick on screen, but rather can touch the screen anywhere to move the character, thereby eliminating situations where your hand would annoyingly be in the way.

How does this game compare to the console original?

It is the full Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic experience and is identical in every way, with the exception of touch input optimization.

For those who haven't played the original, can you talk about the Star Wars universe gamers will explore in this RPG?

For those who haven’t played the original but are a Star Wars fan, it doesn’t get much better than Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Set thousands of years before the movies, KOTOR is a drama told in the heyday of both the Jedi and the Sith. It’s riveting, and frankly set the standard for many role-playing games that followed.

What excites you about what you can accomplish in mobile gaming today?

The fact that this project was even possible is unbelievably exciting to me as a gamer. There are certain gaming experiences that (in some ways) are even better on mobile. I had a good friend say to me that playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on their tablet was like curling up with a good book. There is an intimacy there that can’t be had on any other platform.

How do you feel you're pushing things forward with this game?

Even as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic shows it’s age, its still pushing the processing and GPU limits of current mainstream mobile tech. Not to mention that fitting a game of this size into a 2GB file was quite the feat. We are working on a number of Android titles at the moment that will share similar goals.

How have you worked with Nvidia on your game?

Nvidia has been a stellar partner from day 1. They’ve provided us with an incredible amount of support in terms of hardware, tech knowledge, and more importantly expertise on a platform that we haven’t had much experience with (Android).

How does your game make use of the latest Tegra K1 technology?

The Tegra K1 tech was one of the only chipsets we were able to allow for settings to be turned on “high” as a default. In essence, if you are on a K1 device, you are getting everything we have to offer in terms of performance and graphical perks. That said, there is more power in the K1 for us to harness so we have plans to expand what Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic can do on devices that use the K1. We are specifically hoping for higher resolution support, which will make the most difference with how the game looks on a small screen.

What are your thoughts on Nvidia Tegra X1 technology?

As a gamer, Nvidia’s latest tech makes me feel like we are living in the “future” with the possibility of full console-like experiences in the palm of my hand. It’s awesome!

What do you see that opening up for game developers moving forward?

I know for us, it gives us the confidence to drive forward and push the envelope in terms of what the platform can handle. I can’t think of a better partner than Nvidia in that regard.

What are your thoughts on the Nvidia Shield and Shield Tablet?

Both are fantastic pieces of hardware. From even the early days of development, the Shield and Shield Tablet outperformed all other devices handily. From a developer perspective, its nice to know you don’t have to “worry” about a specific hardware set.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Warning: The following interview contains light spoilers for Guild Wars 2's The Living World: Season 2.

Guild Wars 2 recently wrapped up the second season of its Living World story arc, leaving off on somewhat of a cliffhanger. When Arenanet returns with the next chapter, it'll do so with a major bang, announcing at PAX South that the game's first expansion, Heart of Thorns, was in the works.

Heart of Thorns promises to add a slew of new features to the game and further flesh out the lore, as well as add some new content to PvP and its acclaimed World v. World (WvW) modes. To learn more, Shacknews quickly got on the phone with Guild Wars 2 game director Colin Johanson to learn more about what players can expect to see in GW2's upcoming expansion.

Shacknews: How did the end of the Living World's most recent arc set up the reveal for Heart of Thorns?

Colin Johanson, Guild Wars 2 game director: This has been a long time coming for us and a relatively secret plan that we've been hiding for a long time to build up to all the events leading to the announcement. About 12 days ago, we released the final episode of The Living World, Season 2 and the end of that episode, I won't spoil too much, but at the very end of that episode, the combined armed forces of the world boarded all the airships and sailed into the jungle to find and destroy the Elder Dragon, Mordremoth. And as they fly into the jungle, the jungle comes alive, rips them all apart from the sky, and in a matter of minutes, destroys the entire army. As that moment came to a close, it looks like the season ended on that point. Players completed it and were dropped back into the world, they left the end of the season, and as they loaded back in, a new trailer kicked in. The new cinematic teased the experience in the jungle and ended with a myserious image called "The Heart of Thorns." That opened up about 10 days of rampant speculation about what that meant, whether that was The Living World: Season 3 or remasters of The Living World: Seasons 1 and 2, all kinds of crazy speculation about what it could mean.

We went on stage at PAX South, live on Twitch, for the largest audience we've ever seen on Twitch, we told the world that it was an expansion. That's the exciting couple of weeks that we've had around here at Guild Wars, just a little piece of the puzzle of an entire story that played out over the course of two years to set up this expansion.

Shacknews: The expansion is set to introduce some new mechanics. Can you explain more about Mastery and Specializations?

Johanson: Specializations is a new system that allows you to take each of the professions we have in the game and grow them almost into a new sub-profession or secondary profession. An example of this is, a Ranger can become a Druid. Once a Ranger becomes a Druid, they have the ability to use the powers of the jungle and that gives them new skills, new traits, they can use a new weapon that a Ranger could never use before, and they get new profession mechanics that fundamentally change the way a Ranger plays when they become a Druid. Each of the professions will be getting one of these Specializations and this also is a framework that we'll use to grow the professions in the future. This will be the way we add more skills, traits, and abilities to the game moving forward. That's how we're growing our existing professions.

There's also the Mastery system. The Mastery system is really our answer to our players' feedback from the launch of the game that they wanted more meaningful challenges and more meaningful progression in Guild Wars 2. They wanted things they could do when their characters got to Level 80 that gave them new abilities that could overcome new challenges that we regularly add to the game. What we realized over the course of our development was that we didn't really have a system that allowed us to do that and we didn't want to take the easy way out by just adding more tiers and gear and invalidating all your hard work that you put into your character by having you start over again. So we picked a system that would take longer for us to build, but in the long run, a system that's perfect for what Guild Wars 2 is a game and that's a system that's based on making the journey more fun and more exciting by regularly expanding your abilities.

As you complete challenges, complete stories, and discovery hard-to-reach places, you'll unlock Mastery points. You can spend those points to purchase abilities that you can use to master different parts of our game, from exploration, to lore, to combat, to crafting, and building. And each of those open up new abilities to all of the characters on your account. It's an account-based system that we'll use to continually grow out and expand the game in the future.

Shacknews: What can you tell us about the brand new profession coming to the game? How would you describe the Revenant?

Johanson: Rytlock Brimstone is the first Revenant. He is the famous hero of the Charr and during the Living World's second season, he disappeared into the mists, chasing after an incredibly powerful magical sword. Through his journeys in the mists, he has mastered the power of the mists and he is returning to teach everyone how to be a Revenant. The Revenant effectively is a heavy armor profession that can channel the power of the mists. What that means is that you can channel the power of great legends from Guild Wars history to define the skills that they have available to them. So you can channel the great Dwarf king, King Jalis Ironhammer, and it makes your character much of a front line, tank-y character with abilities to help him survive fighting face-to-face with your enemies. Or you can channel the demon Malik and get the abilities to control the conditions in combat and become much stronger in DPS, supporting your party by removing conditions from them to protect them. Those are the examples of the types of things that a Revenant can do when channeling a legend and each legend that's going to be available to a Revenant really defines a different play style that's available for that profession. I think the Revenant is going to be one of the most diverse professions that we've ever made in Guild Wars history and it'll allow for a lot of different, fun, and unique play styles as you master each of the legends.

Shacknews: You've added a new profession, however you did hold off on adding a new race. What led to this decision?

Johanson: For this one, we looked at what we would get out of adding a new race and what benefit it actually brings to the players from a gameplay standpoint. It's very limited in Guild Wars 2. A new race adds a racial skill or two and a little bit of story, but it doesn't give that much meaningful gameplay in the grand scheme of things. The race is more context for the early story that you experience. So we wanted to focus things that would provide a lot more gameplay and address parts of Guild Wars 2 that we felt like we really wanted to be able to make a better experience and grow. So right now, we didn't feel that a new race was a key need for the game, whereas the other things that we're adding really provide fundamental building blocks for the future.

Shacknews: What can we expect to see in the Heart of Maguuma and will we be introduced to more of Mordremoth's minions?

Johanson: We are going into the very heart of Modremoth's land and we are going to encounter interesting creatures that live there naturally and those that our friend Mordry has created. From an environment standpoint, this is the largest amount of vertical space we have ever built in the game. Our map spans huge distances up in the air. We are actually able to climb to the very top of the jungle and look down on everyone below. We're adding hang gliding, so you won't have to fall to your death every time. We're adding a lot of abilities that will take advantage of the amount of 3D space that we'll make use of as part of these adventures in the jungle.

Shacknews: Let's turn to PvP. What can you tell us about Stronghold?

Johanson: Stronghold is our brand new game mode. It takes inspiration from the GvG game mode and from the Fort Aspenwood game mode from the original Guild Wars. It draws a little bit of inspiration from MOBAs and from what make Guild Wars 2 such a great PvP game.

The fundamental concept behind the game is to find and kill the enemy's Guild Lord in their stronghold and, along the way, your team will fight for and gather supplies. You can spend supplies to hire troops that march towards your enemy's stronghold, you can man a trebuchet to defend your own stronghold, and occasionally Heroes will appear on the battlefield that you can fight for control over. Whichever team wins them over, the Hero joins their side and joins the assault on the enemy stronghold. Within the stronghold, there are gates you need to bash your way down to fight your way inside and when you're all the way in the heart of the stronghold, you can kill their lord and win.

Shacknews: I've spoken to some of our readers and they're concerned that interest in World v. World is starting to wane, but you are adding new content to it. What can you tell us about the Borderland map and how do you plan to build further interest in WvW?

Johanson: World v. World is one of the most unique experiences we have in Guild Wars 2, with hundreds of players fighting these epic sieges. It really is like being a troop inside an RTS game. There are amazing moments when you have battles to control towers or when you have armies facing off and we want to ensure that that's the bread and butter of the World v. World experience. So we're doing a lot of work to ensure that holding objectives through all of World v. World is a more important part of the experience. We're going to make that a bigger part of victory, a bigger part of the strategic decisions that you and your army makes, and you really need to defend and hold your objectives. That leads to great battles between two sides when they're strong and struggling to hold them.

The new Borderland map certainly has a lot of that built into it. Al of the key, strategic locations provide strategic benefits to your world. Everything from providing abilities when you're near your keep to preventing players from getting through chokepoints. The towers are the chokepoints of the map that prevent enemy army movement if they're not able to break through. We're really trying to place more strategic emphasis on that and, as part of that, we'll be dealing with a lot of things that World v. World players are excited about seeing. That includes truly awesome battles and more strategic decision-making, the kind you would make in an RTS game, where you're splitting your troops to attack different places, you're bringing the army together, you're scouting to determine where to go next, and we want to make that rewarding. The new Borderland map will feed into that, as well as the fundamental changes we're making to the World v. World experience.

Shacknews: What does Guild Halls add to the game?

Johanson: We're not going to talk too much about Guilds today. We're going to come back and reveal more details on Guilds when we get to that point. What I can say, from a philosophical standpoint, is that we want to put the "Guild" back in Guild Wars. We feel like that's an area of the game that we can really grow the experience for our Guilds and your Guild Hall will be a base for us to do that.

It's a place where we'll add Guild progression, the ability to grow your Guild out, grow out your Guild Hall, progress your Guild as a community, and a place for you to gather and host events. You can launch missions for you and your Guild to do together or you can organize to jump into World v. World together. It's a place for you to form your teams before you compete on our new ladders and PvP with your Guild members or go into the jungle to face all of these brand new challenges that we've built. These Guild Halls will become something that we're regularly updating going forward after the expansion releases, as well, and will become a core pillar of the Guild Wars experience.

Following the interview, I asked Johanson about nailing down a potential release window. However, the team at Arenanet was not exaggerating when they said there is no release date on the horizon. For Guild Wars 2 players, the first opportunity to go hands-on with the new Heart of Thorns content will be at PAX East in Boston and EGX Rezzed in London. From there, the development team will determine plans for a beta to gather player feedback, at which point they'll piece together a release window. Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is coming soon to PC and Mac.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Super Bowl weekend is nearly upon us, which means we’ll soon be sitting around our extremely large television sets with a ton of snacks to munch on during the game. But if you’re the type who would prefer to let video games dictate what the outcome of major sporting events will be, then this is the story for you as EA has released its Madden NFL 15 Super Bowl prediction between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Madden NFL 15 calls for a pretty close game between both teams, but it all comes down to one heroic play in the final drive that results in the New England Patriots defeating the Seattle Seahawks with a score of 28 - 24. As a result of this big win, Tom Brady was named MVP of the game thanks to a combination of his 335-year, 4-touchdown performance, making this the third time he’s received the award.

While most would probably scoff at Madden's predictions, but the game has actually been pretty accurate over the years. Although, it was inaccurate last year as Seahawks beat the Broncos, when Madden predicted it to be the other way around.

In addition to this prediction, EA has also released a montage video of some of the big plays that they anticipate to occur in this weekend’s big game.

What do you guys think of this prediction? Do you feel it to be accurate or will the Seahawks show their tenacity and end up being the victors of this year’s Super Bowl?

Shacknews - Steven Wong

Mythbusters, the TV show that puts popular stories to the test, is stepping into the world of video games this weekend. On January 31st, the Adam and Jamie will find out if it's really possible to carry everything that the player has in Doom, including armor, guns, and a chainsaw. They'll even play through a level recreated in real life using the Doom 3 BFG Edition for reference. It's unclear how they'll reproduce the weight of items like the Plasma Gun or the legendary BFG, but we're dying to find out. Tim Willits, creative director at id Software, will help the Mythbusters team with the details as Hell is let loose on earth... in a perfectly controlled testing environment, of course. 

The episode of Mythbusters will air on the Discovery Channel this Saturday, January 31st, at 9/8c.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

We spoke with Oculus’ Brendan Iribe about the company’s recent acquisitions and some of the headset’s UI, and today, we’ve got another video interview with Iribe. This time, he chats with us about the latest Crescent Bay demo for Oculus as well as the inclusion of VR Audio.

With VR Audio, Oculus is able to provide full 3D audio, in addition to 360 audio. This means you’ll not only be able to hear stuff that’s going on around you, but above and below you as well. Iribe goes into detail as to what kind of experience Oculus can provide with VR Audio, so check out the video for more details.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

The tale of Geralt of Rivia is finally set to continue this coming May. Last week, Shacknews had the opportunity to go hands-on with the third chapter of the Witcher series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. After trying out the first three hours of the game, it certainly appears that CD Projekt Red isn't taking any chances with what's deemed to be their opus. Everything that's come to be expected from this line of games appears to be intact and the world looks to be just as ripe for exploration as it ever has.

It doesn't take long for The Witcher 3 to show off its recognized propensity for gorgeous art and amazingly lifelike character models. The game opens with Geralt bathing in a wooden tub, while Yennefer of Vengerberg sits nearby and prepares for the day ahead. Each character is stunningly detailed, right down to minor skin blemishes and freckles, something that's even evident in the Xbox One version that I was using for the demo. Geralt meets up with Vesemir to help train a young Ciri, which doubles as the game's tutorial, before the Nilfgaardians appear to abduct her. That's when it's revealed that the whole thing was a dream sequence, with Geralt and Vesemir out in the open world.

The first part of the game sees Geralt out in search of Yennefer, as he and Vesemir immediately rescue a merchant on the receiving end of a griffin attack. After sending the griffin running, they take refuge in a village tavern, as Geralt looks for aid in his search. Of course, the villagers all consider the Witchers to be freaks and often greet them with hostility. This gives Geralt the opportunity to try out his conversational skills, as well as his mind control skills, should any louts get out of line.

Part of the time in the tavern is spent learning one of The Witcher 3's side games, a card game called Gwent. It's a bit of a complicated game, with each side laying down separate battlefield units and spell cards that affect the field conditions. Winning Gwent hands will yield greater rewards down the line, but the game's rules can become needlessly complicated that I'll be very tempted to skip the whole thing.

Following the excursion to the village, it was time to further explore the open world. A bulletin board near the edge of the village contained several side quests and tasks for those looking for a diversion. I grabbed the side quest from a gentleman that was looking for an exorcism near a well. He was hoping to treat his daughter's illness with purified well water, but the well was haunted.

The world is vast and objectives aren't all that close to one another. So horse riding is an important component to The Witcher 3, with Geralt able to call his trusty horse, Roach, at any time. Roach can move quickly, with enough stamina to get him across fields in seconds. The only obstacle is the occasional wild animal attack. At one point, a trio of wild wolves launched an unprovoked attack, which frightened Roach and sent him scurrying away, leaving Geralt to fight them off. The world is filled with wildlife, some of which are hostile like the wolves, and others that can simply be wiped out for the heck of it. At one point, a group of deer wouldn't get out of my path, so I fileted them with fire magic and scooped the raw meat up for my inventory.

After dispatching the wolves, I headed over to the well to see another of The Witcher 3's main draws in action. Because Geralt is a knowledgeable Witcher, he fully scans the area with his Witcher senses and makes keen observations, not unlike forensics investigations. Geralt will make note of anything that seems out of place, while also making note of any strange behaviors. His investigation eventually leads him to the conclusion that a Noonwraith (a ghostly bride murdered on her wedding day) was haunting the area, which leaves instructions for how to prepare for the eventual battle. One of the best ways to do so is to scan The Witcher 3's Bestiary menu, which will offer lore on any creature (living or dead) that Geralt encounters. It'll also outline any creature weaknesses, indicating which magic spell Geralt should have equipped. In the case of the Noonwraith, Yrden magic is required to even expose the creature, otherwise it remains intangible.

Following this encounter, it was time to get back to killing the griffin. This main mission featured several stages that saw Geralt bounce back and forth across the world. Before facing the griffin, he had to investigate the nest, create a concoction to lure it out, and question any witnesses to its rampage. Once that was all finished, Geralt received the crossbow from Vesemir and it was time to fight.

The griffin fight was brutally difficult. The first thing to note was that there were a couple of bugs to compete with. First off, the crossbow did minimal damage to the point that the devs acknowledged that it was underpowered for this fight. The other issue at-hand was that eating food after the griffin inflicted bleeding resulted in my health meter actually going down further, meaning I had to pick when I ate.

The griffin hits extremely hard, taking to the skies and swooping down. Again, the Bestiary comes in handy here and will prove to be one of your best friends throughout this games. The Bestiary noted that the griffin was vulnerable to Aard telekinesis magic, which would take the beast down in mid-flight and leave it momentarily stunned. Even with this knowledge at hand, the battle took roughly a half-hour and a lot of trial and error. Vesemir proved a strong ally in this fight, but knowing when to hang back and fight smartly was the only way to prevail. Finally taking the beast down proved to be more of a rush than I expected and will hopefully prove to be a mere sample of what's available to fight. It should be noted that after all the wild animal attacks, the completed quests, the run-in with the Noonwraith, and the all-out war with the Griffin, Geralt had only leveled up to Level 2. Leveling up in this game is going to take an ample amount of side quests and a hefty time investment.

Those looking for lore will find plenty of that throughout their time with The Witcher 3. It'll come through more than simply the main plot line. Many of the game's side quests will feature characters that have their own individual stories to tell. There was the aforementioned villager whose daughter fell ill, due to the water that's been poisoned by soldier corpses. Geralt also bumped into several characters along his path to the griffin, including an herbalist who found herself living away from the war-torn area and a hunter that was exiled after his gay tryst with a lord's son was exposed. CD Projekt RED is putting a lot of care into each individual character's tale, as well as how their stories are potentially affected by their interactions with Geralt. What remains to be seen is how dialogue options will affect these stories, as I didn't notice too much of a difference with different dialogue choices.

It's easy to see why The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is among the most anticipated games of the year. With an intuitive control scheme, a fully fleshed-out world, strong characters, and some of the best visuals I've seen out of an RPG in quite some time, CD Projekt RED are doing their best to outdo the previous Witcher game. And though it'll take quite a lot to surpass the quality of the 2011 Shacknews Game of the Year, I left my time with the game feeling encouraged that they could do so.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is set to release on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on May 19.

This Witcher 3: Wild Hunt preview was based on a pre-release Xbox One version of the game at an event where transportation and accommodations were provided by CD Projekt RED.


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