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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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Microsoft's getting aggressive this holiday season by temporarily cutting the price of Xbox One to $349. The deal begins on November 2 and runs through January 3, when the price will return to $399.
The company is also offering a number of special edition bundles benefiting from the price drop, which the company outlined on its blog. There's a Sunset Overdrive bundle featuring a white console and a copy of the game for $349. Assassin's Creed fans can grab a separate bundle with Assassin's Creed: Unity and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for $349 (or $449 with Kinect). Finally, a Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare bundle sports a customized Xbox One console, a copy of the game, and a 1TB hard drive for $449.
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Eight chapters down, six chapters to go. There's much to say about The Evil Within, points I'll elaborate on at another time, but I can't stop thinking about the game's big ol' black bars.
Though Bethesdahas talked about The Evil Within as having an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (super widescreen), Digital Foundry found it's actually 2.50:1. Either way, it means The Evil Within features prominent black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Most games today are 16:9 (widescreen), and since we've largely transitioned to widescreen TVs, games fill the whole screen. Of course, lots of games introduce modified aspect ratios during cutscenes for a "cinematic" look to differentiate from gameplay.
But games with alternative aspect ratios during gameplay aren't new, either. Lots of bullet hell shooters, such as Ikaruga, require monitors to be flipped horizontally in order to be played properly. The Evil Within director Shinji Mikamiwas also responsible for Resident Evil 4 on GameCube, which sported black bars, albeit smaller ones. Both Dragon's Dogma and Beyond: Two Souls recently went similar routes.
So while games playing with aspect ratios isn't new, our involvement with them, as players, is.
Here's what The Evil Within game looks like, captured from one of my saved games:
The letterboxing has occasionally bugged me. A few hours in, during the game's third chapter, the gameplay starts to click. The game reveals a setup not dissimilar to Resident Evil 4's intro. The player approaches a quiet village, one that quickly becomes overrun with messed up villagers bent on killing you. It's a big, experimental space that provides the player ample chances to encounter enemies, make mistakes, and adopt a playstyle that feels right. One way to avoid an enemy is by scrambling up a ladder that puts you far away from the enemies. It's a moment to catch your breath in a game that doesn't often let up.
Since you don't have access to much weaponry at this point, it's not possible to hide and carefully pick off the enemies. You must, eventually, venture back down. It's common for creatures to linger in your last known position, and due to The Evil Within's aspect ratio, the bars prevented me from seeing what's below.
Brad actually illustrated what I'm talking about during our Quick Look for the game:
It's possible to argue The Evil Within utilizes forced perspective to teach the player a lesson about tactics. Running away and hoping the AI is going to eventually walk around in the ideal pattern isn't often a viable path to success. Preventing you from seeing what's below while cowering and hiding is a punishment enforced through camera design. That could be true, but I haven't encountered many other situations like that in The Evil Within. It feels like an anomaly.
By and large, I've been able to ignore the bars because I'm playing the game on an enormous 60" screen. At that scale, my eyes are on the constant action occurring at the very center. The Evil Within's camera is oppressively close, too, meaning I'm exclusively focused on what's immediately in front of me. To that end, the framing does regularly impact the game, as it serves to push your attention in a certain direction.
In film, the viewer is passive. The director has control over what's relayed to your eyes. That's not true in games, as most allow the player agency over the camera. Barring non-interactive cutscenes, a game cannot reliably predict the player will frame the environment in a specific way, suggesting the aspect ratio is purely for cinematic "feel," a decision that rings stranger and stranger as games define their own forms.
This all assumes The Evil Within adopted 2.35:1 for artistic purposes. I've been looking through Mikami interviews from the last few years, and haven't come up with much. A NowGamer interview with Bethesda's VP of PR and marketing Pete Hines and The Evil Within senior producer Jason Bergman touched on it:
"NowGamer: I was quite struck by the artistic direction in The Evil Within, this sort of grim realism and washed-out filters – what are your influences in that regard?
Bergman: Well it’s meant to look like a horror movie, obviously. There’s a film grain effect to it, but you’ll notice the darks are very dark, very solid shadows, the art direction at Tango is fantastic.
The lighting, in particular – they’re very, very precise about where lights are placed and where shadows are cast. Next-gen allows us to do things that are really cool -
Hines: The aspect ratio.
Bergman: Yeah, [it] prevents you from seeing the floor. Any time you take something away from the player they’re very used to, it makes them uncomfortable and so, bringing in the camera just that little bit…I don’t know if you noticed, but when you open doors, he opens them really slowly."When Bethesda announced the PC version's hardware specifications, it released this statement:
"Shinji Mikami and the team at Tango designed The Evil Within to be played at 30fps and to utilize an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 for all platforms. The team has worked the last four years perfecting the game experience with these settings in mind. For PC players, we’ll provide debug commands on how you can alter the framerate and aspect ratio, but these commands and changes are not recommended or supported and we suggest everyone play the game as it was designed and intended for the best experience."Between the two, the game's publisher has, at least, clearly declared the 2.35:1 aspect ratio was artistic intent. In the second statement, it's giving PC players the chance to circumvent that decision, likely because Betheda's PC roots have convinced it players will tinker in that direction anyway.
We're used to games taking up every pixel because that's how it's always been. When a game subverts that, even if unsuccessfully, do players have responsibility to respect intent? You can change the aspect ratio of The Evil Within, but it's possible to change lots of things in games, especially on the PC. There's a console command to make the player invincible, but nobody would argue it's the way to play. Do we extend that same courtesy to the game's aesthetic, even if we have the power to employ preferences?
It's a complicated question made more nuanced by wondering if artistic intent is being used as a convenient excuse for the game to try and overcome technical shortcomings. We'll never know.
For the sake of argument, let's say that's not true, and Mikami chose 2.35:1 because it's part of his vision. Given he's deployed similar aesthetic choices in the past, it's not unreasonable. The man enjoys blending Hollywood and games. If Mikami wants The Evil Within to be played with this aspect ratio, which frames the game through a particular lens, perhaps players should show that decision respect, despite other options.
Or maybe not! By being interactive, perhaps games invite players to subvert the designer's will and aspect ratios are merely an act of interpretation. World builders can set up an experience a certain way, but the free will of a player means the creator gives up the right to be upset over what they do with the game, even when it comes to tinkering with technical specifications.
The truth, of course, is probably somewhere in-between.
This argument will return when The Order: 1886 ships early next year with an even wider aspect ratio of 2.40:1, a decision the developers have attributed to both aesthetic and technical choices.
As for me, I'm going to stick with The Evil Within at 2.35:1. Whatever the reason for its existence, there's nothing else like it. If that's what the creator wanted, too? All the better.
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