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Telltale Games was teasing an unexpected announcement yesterday, and while I'd hoped for an X-Files revival, the company, instead, announced a partnership with Mojang to produce Minecraft: Story Mode.
Coming to unspecified consoles and other devices in 2015, Minecraft: Story Mode is "set in the world of Minecraft, the series will feature an original story, driven by player choice."
Of course, Minecraft doesn't have any real characters or plot to speak of, but none of that's stopping Mojang from investigating a Minecraft movie, too. Minecraft's community should prove good inspiration.
Minecraft: Story Mode joins Tales From the Borderlands and Game of Thrones as part of Telltale's lineup in 2015. We already know Telltale intends to continue The Walking Dead, but it's unclear when season three will begin, and there's no word yet on a second season of The Wolf Among Us.
Until we learn more, I leave you with this:
how many tales could a telltale tell if a telltale could tell tales— Michaelavoj Lutzižek (@WarrenIsDead) December 18, 2014
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Gaming Pioneer Ralph Baer Passes Away
Ralph Baer, creator of the first home console video game system, passed away over the weekend, according to various media reports. He was 92-years-old.
In 2006, Baer received the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush.
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After quite a few testing builds and only a few weeks of development, Minecraft Pocket Edition 0.10.0 is now available for download on all platforms. The update has gone live on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon Market. The only one missing from the party appears to be Samsung Apps, who only has 0.9.5 (but who uses Samsung Apps anyways?).
Minecraft PE 0.10.0 isn’t the next big release that many were hoping for, but it brings dozens of worthwhile improvements to the game. Here’s the full changelog:
- Upgraded the rendering system to use OpenGL ES 2.0 (coming from 1.1), using OpenGL 3.0 where available.
- Ported tinted lighting from the PC edition.
- Ported the round fog from PC.
- Some performance increase on most devices.
- Mesa biome have gold at every height and can spawn mine shafts on the surface.
- Added dust particles falling from unstable Dirt and Sand.
- Added more wood types for fences and gates.
- Added a tweak-able brightness (gamma) setting to adjust the darkness of dark terrain.
- iOS Added a 64-bit build for compatible iOS devices.
- New double-sided lighting on entities and clouds that’s more coherent with the terrain.
- Enabled mipmaps on Android devices supporting GLES 3.0.
- New water shader.
- Water is now brownish in swamps.
- Faster rebuilding of chunks.
- Added smooth lighting on water and smooth color transitions.
- Huge mushrooms now spawn in swamps.
- Ignore swipes from outside the screen so exiting fullscreen/activating Command Center doesn’t turn the view.
- The selection overlay on vines/tall grass now has the correct shape.
- Added a selection overlay on Chests and Signs.
- The error messages when a World can’t be opened are now more informative about what happened.
- Enabled Day/night cycle in Creative.
- Fixed a crash when rendering Mob Spawners.
- iOS Fixed freezing when receiving a notification/showing the Command Center.
- iOS Fixed a crash/memory leak happening when showing the system keyboard – signs and the chat.
- Android fixed a corruption and possible crash when switching apps.
- Fixed the “spawning in the air” bug.
- Fixed a crash when creating lava during world generation.
- Water now pushes things!
- Fixed a white artifact on torches held in hand.
- Fixed holes appearing in the clouds.
- Fixed a brown artifact appearing on the bottom of Minecarts.
- Fixed a random crash in multiplayer.
- Fixed a possible crash when selecting double chests.
- The time of day is now more accurately synced in multiplayer.
The fluid nature of game development means plans might change. Communicating those changes becomes really important with crowdfunded games, and Elite: Dangerous just messed that part up. The game's dropping its promised offline mode at the very last second.
Elite: Dangerous ships on December 16, but less than a month before launch, designer David Braben revealed offline play's been axed. When the game raised more than $2 million on Kickstarter, it said players would explore "online with your friends, or other 'Elite' pilots like yourself, or even alone."
The change was mentioned in the game's latest newsletter, which tries to spin the move as critical to maintaining the game's core focus on a connected online experience. Elite: Dangerous might very well benefit from an online-only experience, but that's not what the developers promised.
Here's what Braben wrote, related to the offline mode:
"We will continue to fully and openly engage with you.
Continuing to grow the game past the launch date as we plan would just not be possible at all with the constraints of physical disc manufacture and distribution, and is made possible only by the online nature of Elite: Dangerous.
When we set out on this journey, our ambition was to make Elite: Dangerous as large a technical step forward today as Elite and Frontier were in their time. The way the game embraces and pushes forward the online aspects of technology has been a particularly exciting aspect of that for me.
The basic fact of being able to interact online with our community during development has been tremendous. Just as in a film, based on feedback some of the things we originally thought would work have been left ‘on the cutting room floor’. We have also added unplanned features which I think are fundamentally key to the experience, and have made the game all the better. For example shifting design emphasis towards fantastic major new features such as supercruise, outposts and multiple ship ownership, to name just a few.
We have also been able to create a connected experience which lets you play your own story whilst in a dynamic, ever unfolding galaxy that is constantly reacting to what you and every other player is doing, be that trading, combat, exploration or missions. This has become fundamental to the whole experience.
Going forwards, being online lets us constantly both curate and evolve the galaxy, with stories unfolding according to the actions of commanders. Exploration is also a key factor, too, and it is important that what a single player explores matches what other players explore whether single or multiplayer – a complex, coherent world – something we have achieved. Galaxy, story, missions, have to match, and it does mean the single player has to connect to the server from time to time, but this has the added advantage that everyone can participate in the activities that can happen in the galaxy. A fully offline experience would be unacceptably limited and static compared to the dynamic, ever unfolding experience we are delivering."A thread on the game's official message boards is not filled with some especially happy fans.
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We don't know much about the new Mass Effect, but we do know the lead writer is Chris Schlerf. The name might not be familiar, but you probably know his last project, Halo 4.
Schlerf has been working on Mass Effect since November 2013, but an obsession with secrecy means it's only news now. He transitioned from screenwriting for TV and film with Halo 4, making Mass Effect is second major video game project.
“As a writer, I write for characters,” he said as part of the announcement. “To me, it’s always about what makes my characters tick and what stories I can tell through those characters that will actually engage people about their own lives. It provides a mirror to that player’s experience [so that they are] not just sitting back in an armchair."
Perhaps the weakest element of Halo 4 was its story, but it's impossible to know how much fell to Schlerf.
The new Mass Effect remains, generally speaking, a mystery. It's unclear where it takes place during Mass Effect's timeline, when it's coming out, and what players will be up to. But it's coming in the next few years.
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Everyone has an opinion on the Call of Duty games, even if the opinion is not having an opinion. As gaming's biggest annualized franchise, the release of a new Call of Duty prompts plenty of chatter, snark, and thinkpieces. While some are talking about how Sledgehammer Games appears to have breathed new life into the aging franchise, others can't get over a screen shot that made the rounds on Sunday.
Not exactly subtle, you know?
This moment takes place in the first hour of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, as Sledgehammer sets the stage for yet another bombastic single-player campaign. Some mild plot spoilers follow.
Privates Jack Mitchell (the player) and Will Irons are sent to Seoul, South Korea to push back on a North Korean invasion. The two are friends, and have been fighting alongside one another for years. At the end of the mission, their objective in sight, Irons gets his arm trapped in an aircraft that's about to take off. Worse, Irons had just placed a bomb inside it. They're unable to dislodge Irons' arm, prompting Irons to push Mitchell into safety. The aircraft explodes.
The next scene opens at a military funeral for Irons. After a short speech, several people approach the casket, including Kevin Spacey's character, Jonathan Irons. Eventually, you're given control over Mitchell, but there's only one option to move the game along. Mitchell needs to approach the casket and, as the game instructs, "pay his respects." It's an incredibly clumsy handling of an early emotional beat.
Or is it?
OK, it is. But I don't know if it deserves the dogpiling that's surrounded it. Call of Duty is an easy target, so everyone wants to get a punch in. Call of Duty has never tugged at our heartstrings, and Advanced Warfare isn't setting the series bar much higher. But a Call of Duty game giving players an opportunity to pay their respects to a fallen comrade, even if it's placed within this pseudo-futuristic interpretation of America, is interesting. It suggests the storytelling happening in smaller games might be rubbing off.
It's also not the first game to command eyerolls for a contextual action. It was only a few years ago Homefront bizarrely asked players to "press x to hide in mass grave." It's true. That was probably way worse. There's also the "press X to Jason" meme from Heavy Rain. Players could press the X button over and over, prompting the main character to endlessly and awkwardly yell for his lost son.
Contextual actions are tricky. More games are trying to ditch traditional cutscenes, sections where players might be tempted to put down the controller. Now, more games are giving agency during quieter moments focused on storytelling. That's what Sledgehammer was trying (and failing) to do here. It's easy to imagine a scenario where the player is never asked to do anything. It's pretty common for "interactive" cutscenes to be little more than a guided walkthrough where the player can move the camera to look around them.
Advanced Warfare's mistake was calling a spade a spade. "Press X to pay respects" reads like developer lingo. It describes the action in such a literal manner, it's impossible to take seriously, so it falls flat.
But as players, we've been trained to interact with the world around us.
When I play a new game, the first question I want answered is whether the toilets can be flushed. It's weird, but it answers a bunch of questions about the game's design goals. Is this the kind of game where the designers expect me to explore everything around me, or should I stick to the path and see what lies ahead? The toilet question gets right to the heart of it, albeit it doesn't work every time. You're supposed to explore in Alien: Isolation, but the toilets are static. (Why else do you think it didn't get five stars?)
Duke Nukem 3D, the game that inspired my quest to interact with all video game toilets.
Call of Duty has never been this type of game. It's straightforward. Hide in cover, shoot the guys, keep moving. You might look around to search for hidden intel to unlock some bonuses, but it's largely about progression. There is no lingering and taking in the scene around you. Keep shooting. It's a perfectly valid approach, but one that runs into problems when the tone changes, and the action needs to slow down. Call of Duty's design ethos probably explains why "press X to pay respects" even exists. The game's afraid you'll turn around and leave before paying your respects. The player may not want to, but the designers want you to. The big, floating symbol is the carrot. Who can resist pushing it? Anybody would.
With "press x to pay respects," players have only been given a tiny window into the relationship between these two soldiers. It's hard to build an emotional bond when the minutes spent building said bond can be measured on one hand, and most of the time is spent learning the game's fancy new features. What if the moment had been completely optional? What if it was one of several private moments Mitchell could have experienced during this scene, a way of emotionally contextualizing the character's response?
There are ways to imagine the slightly different, more effective scene, especially since the rest is excellent. I've only played a few hours of Advanced Warfare, so I have no idea whether the story's worth caring about, But as the video above shows, how it transitions to the next mission is wonderfully jarring.
Advanced Warfare employs the most blunt tool possible to achieve its goal, but in doing so, undermined its emotional arc by being tone-deaf. It probably won't be the last game to fumble a contextual action, but maybe it'll prompt games to device better ways to incentivize players to participate.
Of course, maybe Alex Navarro had the right idea all along:
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When Grand Theft Auto Vships on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, it's also getting a long-requested first-person mode.
IGN and CVG revealed this new feature, which Rockstar Games claims is an idea that's been kicking around for a while. Modders have implemented first-person modes into Grand Theft Auto games in the past, but GTA V's re-release marks the first time it's become official.
Here's a screen shot of GTA V in first-person, courtesy of IGN:
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Nintendo promised a "quality of life" initiative would be a new area of interest for the company, and we now know about its first project: a device monitoring your sleep.
You don't have to wear Nintendo's device, however, separating it from the "wearable" category that's become increasingly popular in technology lately. Instead, the monitor hangs out on a bedside table.
Nintendo is developing the device in conjunction with ResMed Inc, a company known for treating sleep disorders.
The device will, in theory, seamlessly upload data to the cloud, and provide users information on the quality of the previous night's sleep and fatigue levels. Nintendo has not outlined how the software-side will work just yet.
It's possible a subscription will be sold alongside the device, but details on pricing and release date are coming later. Nintendo only promised the device would show up by March 2016. That's a ways away.
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