Snapchat’s new Camera desktop camera app brings AR masks to Twitch, Skype…

Snapchat’s new Camera desktop camera app brings AR masks to Twitch, Skype…

2:12pm, 26th October, 2018
Snapchat is its first Mac and Windows software that takes over your webcam and brings its augmented reality effects to other video streaming and calling services. Snap Camera can be selected as a camera output in OBS Skype, YouTube, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, and more plus browser-based apps like Facebook Live so you can browse through Snapchat’s Lens Explorer to try on AR face filters. And through its easily-equipped new Twitch extension. streamers can trigger different masks with hotkeys. You can of now. Users can us Lens Explorer to preview effects and see who made them, Star their favorites for easy access, and access a tab of your recently used Lenses. Despite Snap Inc’s troubles following yesterday’s Q3 earnings announcement that revealed it’d lost 2 million users causing its share price to hit a new low, Snapchat Camera isn’t about stoking growth. You won’t even have to login to Snapchat to use it. Instead the goal is to drive more attention to its community AR Lens platform so more developers and creators will make their own effects. “We’re going down the path of providing more distribution channels [for Community Lens creators] and surfacing their work” Snap’s head of AR Eitan Pilipski tells me. The desktop camera could win Lens creators more attention, and Snapchat connects top the most talented ones to brands for sponsorship deals. Snapchat first came to the desktop in January with its first embeddable content, designed for newsrooms that wanted to show off citizen journalism on their sites. But now Snapchat content creation is escaping the mobile medium. Strangely, Snap Camera has no interface of its own. Really, it should have a Photo Booth-style app so you can record photos and videos of yourself with your webcam and share them wherever. “We don’t want to compete in that space. We just want to bring Community Lenses to whatever apps people are using” Pilipski explains. One major app that won’t support Snap Camera is Apple’s FaceTime. Why? “I don’t know. Apple didn’t comment on that. Believe me we tried” says Pilipski. Since there’s “not even a facility to collect the impressions” and users don’t have to login, Snap won’t be able to add Camera users to its daily active user count. With that number falling from 191 million in Q1 to 188 million in Q2 to 186 million in Q3 as it announced yesterday, Snap really does need more ways to keep people straying to Instagram Stories. It will have to hope that when video chat users see their friends or family using Snap Camera’s lenses, it will remind them to fire up Snapchat more often. And Lenses could go viral if they show in a Twitch celebrity’s stream. The Twitch extension comes amidst more event including the reveal of Squad Streaming and a karaoke Twitch Sings game for the service’s average of 1 million concurrent viewers and half-million daily streamers. The Snap camera equips Twitch broadcasters with extra features. They’ll have access to game-themed lenses for League of Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch. Viewers will see the QR Snapcode for the Lens on the screen which they can scan with Snapchat to try the mask on themselves for virality. Streamers get a button that lets viewers subscribe to them, and can set up a “bonus” lens that shows up as a thank you when someone follows them. And with hotkeys, streamers can trigger different lenses, like an angry one for when they lose a game or victory lenses for if they manage to beat all the other Fortnite addicts. Over 250,000 Community Lenses have been submitted through in December, and they’ve been viewed over 1 billion times. Snapchat realized it couldn’t dream up every crazy way people could use AR just in-house. Out-Lensing Instagram is critical to Snapchat’s business strategy. The more people that use Snapchat’s AR features, the more the company can charge businesses to promote Sponsored Lenses. With the user count shrinking, Snap needs to show its business is growing to salvage its share price and pull in the outside investment or acquisition it will likely need to make it to profitability. A desktop presence could not only make Snapchat more ubiquitious, but get it in front of older users and advertisers who might be a little scared of its mobile app.
Fortnite Weapons Are Being Made By Nerf

Fortnite Weapons Are Being Made By Nerf

11:56pm, 25th October, 2018
It seems like everywhere you go there's some news about Fortnite. If it's not in the news feeds it's people with their head down in their phones chatting about the game, or people on the couch playing it with their friends. Well, soon you'll start to see people out in the real world...
This is the Fortnite Nerf gun

This is the Fortnite Nerf gun

12:26pm, 25th October, 2018
Short of an actual apocalypse (which should be coming any day now), this Nerf-branded gun from Hasbro is (thankfully) probably the closest you’re going to come to any real life Fortnite action in the near future. The dart-firing gun was , alongside a Fortnite version of Monopoly (which launched earlier this month), and now we’ve got some pictures and a June 1 release date. The AR-L Blaster was inspired by the firearm in the wildly popular sandbox survival game and has the giant Fortnite branding across its body to provide it. The gun has a 10-dart clip, flip-up sight and runs on 4 AA batteries. It’s priced at $50 USD — V-Bucks not accepted, apparently. It’s set to be the first of a series of Nerf blasters inspired by the game, according to Hasbro.
Red Dead Redemption 2 sets the bar high for the next generation of open world games

Red Dead Redemption 2 sets the bar high for the next generation of open world games

8:09am, 25th October, 2018
It’s been nearly a decade since Rockstar Games introduced Red Dead Redemption, a massive open world game with a story about as reflective of American culture as the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Tomorrow, Red Dead Redemption II goes live after months of breathless speculation. And yes, it’s as good as you dreamed it. That’s not to say that the layers of interactivity, which are a huge step forward for the next generation of open world games, are not without their faults. But the level of attention to detail, the way that the various components of the game work in conjunction, and the intricacy of even the most mundane activities makes playing Red Dead Redemption 2 feel as authentic as being Arthur Morgan yourself. But before we dive into the review, it’s worth noting that Devin and I each spent less than a dozen hours playing this game before sitting down to write. In fact, according to the progress bar in my game, I’m less than 20 percent of the way through the story, with even less completed of the challenges and the Compendium (index of items discovered/found). This game is so massive, it would be impossible to bring you thoughtful analysis of the story. We haven’t finished it yet. We do, however, have some early impressions of the game below. For those looking to avoid spoilers, don’t worry — everything we talk about takes place in the first couple hours of the game and we’ve shied away from naming places, characters, and missions. A world of details For a game this big, it kind of makes sense to start with the details. It’s evident that this is an environment not just crafted with care, but presented with directorial intent. That’s important to say right off the bat — this isn’t just a big chunk of land for you to wander, but the stage for a story, and a stage that has been dressed with more care than perhaps any game to date. It’s easy to talk about square mileage, about how many buildings can be entered, about the hours of dialogue you may encounter. But those are quantitative measures when what matter are the qualitative ones. The details are what set RDR2 apart. Everywhere you look there are details, from the seams and rips on the dozens of coats you’ll see and wear, to the fact that you have to clean and oil your gun regularly, to how the items you buy are actually on the walls of the general store you visit. The dialogue too is remarkably consistent and well acted, and largely free from anachronism while retaining personality and a sense of humor. Look at that SNOW. Although it’s difficult to forget that you’re playing a game, these details make it very easy to fool yourself that the world in which you’re playing is a real place. Nearly everything you do, and how you do it, retains the conceit of the Old West. I can’t even begin to wonder how much work it took to put this together. I had similar thoughts when I was playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, but while the scale and visual grandeur of that game impressed me, RDR2 hits those same notes while also hitting home in the much more difficult areas of authenticity, believability, and consistent direction. From RDR to L2 One of the loveliest characteristics of RDR2 is how reminiscent it is of the original Red Dead. Riding my horse along a beaten path, normally near a railway, takes me back to 2010. All the things players have done before — shooting, riding, walking through the world — feel similar to the last game, albeit slightly smoother. The cinematic camera (a page out of the GTA playbook) is particularly delightful, especially in autopilot alongside NPCs leading the way. The world itself is far more alive and full of detail, and this time around, there is something deeper behind each item, NPC, and animal in the game. Red Dead Redemption taught us that our left trigger button was about aim, and aim only. In the next iteration of the game, L2 opens the door to everything else that this immersive world has to offer. And it’s this untethering of every single object and character in the game that pushes RDR2 steps toward reality, and leaps forward for gaming. During Story missions, Arthur can use L2 to make real-time decisions about how to ambush a camp. If he focuses on an item on a shelf in the store, the player can open up a menu through L2 to buy or inspect that item. Focus on an NPC walking around camp, and L2 opens up the options to greet or antagonize them. Approach Arthur’s horse, and L2 opens up a larger menu to feed the horse, brush the horse, or pat the horse. But these aren’t just empty actions. Feeding and cleaning the horse fill her health and stamina cores, and patting the horse increases her bond with Arthur, all of which affect the quality of the horse as a tool. It’s important to note that, if Arthur gun is equipped, L2 defaults to aiming down sights, which sure can frighten a horse or an innocent NPC. Like a crow bar, L2 cracked open the whole world of Red Dead Redemption. If you can inspect a letter on a nightstand, flip it over and read the back, and put it down again, what should stop you from inspecting a live animal to see if it’s worth hunting. L2 brings up information about the animal like its name, its quality, and what you can get from it. Intuitive until it isn’t You can look up from a treasure map (handy) but have to dig through menus to pull it out in the first place. Not all of the game’s interfaces are so fluid and convenient. Trotting along through town in my horse, I tap L2 to see if I can sketch a bird flying by, or study a farm dog, or hail a passerby (“hey, pardner!”). But then I see my horse is tired and I want to feed it an apple. To do this I have to hold L1 to open the radial menu, then simultaneously hit R1 twice to get to the horse menu. Then I hold the right stick down in the direction of the item category I want to use, then (while holding L1 and the stick direction) pull the right and left triggers to find the item I want, and let go of L1 (but still hold the stick!) to use it (X and other normal “OK” buttons don’t do it). Are you kidding me? Meanwhile time continues to pass in the background, albeit slowly, so you’re doing all this under pressure. Hell, someone might even be shooting at you and you’re trying to quaff a health tonic before returning to the weapon menu to pull out the rifle from your horse storage before you get gunned down. It seems to me that although much of the world and your interactions with it are smoothed and interpreted from context, whenever that wasn’t possible the developers crammed it into this overworked radial menu system. I’ve gotten more used to it as I’ve played, but it still feels like something that started simple and quickly lost its elegance as it turned into a catch-all bucket for “video game stuff.” There are also systems that are inadequately explained even when there’s opportunity for it. An early mission has you traveling with one of your bandit companions to hunt a big bear he saw a day’s ride away. I happened to succeed in killing the bear, and loaded my ‘legendary bear pelt’ on the back of my horse. What was I supposed to do with it? Make a rug? I’d heard a little about pelts but precious little. Then I saw on my map that there was a trapper nearby — surely he would provide the tutorial I needed! But although the item’s description specifically said a trapper could turn it into a talisman, the trapper seemed to be able to do no such thing Did I need to park my horse closer and hail him with it nearby? Did I “have” the pelt, or did it need to be there? Did I need to sell it to him first? Did I have to craft something on my own? Did I need to talk to my mission guy, or the cook who handles pelts in the camp? I had no clue and the game gave me no indication either. I couldn’t just keep it, since it took up valuable space on my horse — I had to turn down giving a lady a ride home because I’d have had to leave the pelt behind. Ultimately I brought it back to camp, but couldn’t make anything out of it there either. Carts and boxes were everywhere but I couldn’t store the pelt in any of them. I dropped it on the ground and found myself and it teleported to the edge of camp; a message told me that “items dropped in camp will appear in a convenient place” or something. Oh, so the whole camp is a storage area! Nope. As soon as I rode away I was told I’d “abandoned” the pelt and some of its parts would go to the nearest trapper. What? I don’t envy the developers and the info dumps they have to place like mines throughout this enormous world and story, but it felt like this was just one stumble after another, with relatively core gameplay elements that were almost completely unexplained. It’s an unexpected and forgivable failure given how much goes right, but the contrast is all the more jarring when it happens. Nothing mundane about it Eating stew with a beautiful view RDR2 sets the bar high in a number of ways, but the overarching achievement is how closely this game tries to mimic reality. In some ways, this opens the world up, and in others, it limits you. Arthur can’t carry around seven guns at once, so his horse stores the guns he can’t carry. If he forgets to equip his guns before running into a shootout on foot, he’s probably in trouble. Likewise, if Arthur goes hunting and loads a bear skin on the back of his horse, there isn’t any room to bring back a bounty target. But Arthur isn’t just hunting for sport, or even for food. Whereas the last Red Dead focused on hunting as a way to make money, eat, or simply collect animals in the index, hunting now comes with its own system similar to Dead Eye and is paired together with crafting (which I’ll get to shortly). The hunting system is called Eagle Eye, and it’s slightly reminiscent of the Instinct mode in Hitman. This system lets Arthur track animal trails, paw prints, animal dung, etc. to find his desired prey. Clicking L3 and R3 simultaneously activates Eagle Eye, and then pressing R1 lets you follow the track without remaining in the slow-mo world of Eagle Eye. Tracking doesn’t work so well for aquatic animals like fish and alligators, but fishing is an easy, laid-back way to gather food or turn a small profit. Inspecting animals, via L2, ensures Arthur is targeting the right size and quality of animal, and the method by which Arthur hunts affects the quality of the skins. This seems unimportant, but in the exotic world of crafting, you might find yourself caring a lot. Crafting allows Arthur or other NPCs (like the Trapper, or the camp cook Pearson) to create new items from stuff they’ve gathered in the wilderness. That could mean mixing up some meat with an herb to create a specific dish, which would have its own specific effect on health and stamina, or bringing back a few pelts to have more comfortable and colorful accommodations around camp. Again, this method of hunting and crafting is more in line with how an outlaw might actually live off of the land in 1899. And in adding Eagle Eye and the ability to craft, the more mundane parts of Red Dead Redemption have come alive. In the last game, hunting was something you stumbled upon. The most interactive piece of it was buying and setting bait. In RDR2, hunting big game like bears and buffalo is nearly as enjoyable an activity as the story missions. Stone cold or heart of gold? The honor system from Red Dead Redemption is alive and well in RDR2, but with some added flare. Because the game tries to mimic real life, with all its opportunities and limitations, the honor system is even more consequential now. Deeper interactivity through L2 allows you to interact with almost every NPC, even those that aren’t involved in challenges or side missions or story missions. What’s more, those NPCs remember you. In one instance, a man had been bit by a snake and was screaming out nearby a road. I stopped to help him, sucked the poison out, and went on my way. Later, when I rode into town, he was sitting on a bench outside the gunsmith and he called out to me. He said thanks and offered to pay for any gun I’d like to buy inside the gunsmith. My decision to save him, instead of killing him and looting his body, not only gave me honor points but resulted in a reward. In another instance, I accidentally pulled out my knife when I got in a bar fight. Instead of innocently beating a dude up, I killed him. The townspeople mentioned the murder the next time I came into town, and the only way to get rid of the bounty on my head was to pay it off at the Post Office. These decisions and their respective results are pretty straight forward. More nuanced, however, is the effect that Arthur’s honor has on the atmosphere of the game. Honor level changes the way that the story plays out, affects the kill cams, alters the music in the game, and changes the way Arthur dreams and writes in his journal. In the short time we’ve been able to play the game, it’s hard to tell how extremely this affects the game. I did notice, however, when my honor was at its highest level that one of the shootouts was accompanied by up-tempo (almost celebratory) banjo music, and that kill cams had a goldish tint to them. It’s unclear if that was directly related to my honor or not, but it felt like a subtle dynamic change. This game offers no shortage of customization options, from your horse to your gun to your clothes to your camp. But there is perhaps no more influential factor that separates one player’s experience of the game from another than Honor. Dear diary I want to give an especial callout to the detail lavished on the catalogs and books in the game, as well as Arthur’s journal. The tongue-in-cheek period-style descriptions of equipment and clothing items sometimes run to multiple paragraphs, and as there’s no particular hurry for much of the game, why not take the time to read them? Arthur’s journal is a treat as well. Although it is in some ways just a way to recap the story for you, it’s a pleasure to read the hand-written entries and the main character’s thoughts on events as they played out; missions will be described differently depending on how they ended or choices you made. And meanwhile every place you visit, and every critter you “study” will be sketched in the book in the order you see them. [gallery ids="1737189,1737190,1737207,1737201"] This isn’t explained or anything, and I was tickled when I figured it out. I had made a long trek back from a mission and stopped by a few places, scoped out a squirrel, some chickens, a deer and some other things in passing. When I went to my journal a few game days later, there they all were in order, as if (as is the intent) Arthur had in fact been jotting them down while I wasn’t looking. It’s a shame the journal and books aren’t more prominently presented — the journal is in your horse’s pack, or that’s where it ended up for me. Take the time to read it and anything else you come across; as much effort was put into the writing here as it was everywhere else in the game. Not-so-final word Needless to say RDR2 gets a hearty recommendation from us despite some nitpicks and even a couple serious cracks in the carefully-constructed facade. It’s a landmark game in the open world genre and an artistic achievement in its own right. It’s worth your money. That said, our limited time with the game, and choice to play it as though we were regular players and not blast through to the end, means we’re unable to evaluate the entirety of the game. I find it exceedingly unlikely that the game gets worse — if anything, it likely gets better as the story and gameplay concepts progress. Still, there are a few specifics we should mention that we plan to look at over the next few weeks. Online isn’t live yet and won’t be for a while. This isn’t core to the main game but will surely be a huge draw as the game ages and its quality will affect whether it’s worth picking up again or recommending to a friend a year or two from now. The honor system, though we touched on it, is pretty hard to test thoroughly even with two people playing in parallel. We haven’t been able to experience how the game changes significantly to accommodate your choice of amorality or virtue. The story is in many ways just beginning, not to mention the side stories of your camp members and other figures you encounter. Did Rockstar frontload all the good acting and setpieces? Does it fizzle out at the end? Doubtful but we can’t say one way or the other. Once we’ve both finished the game or gotten far enough to feel confident in our opinions we’ll issue a followup review and link it here.
Another Game Studio Was Just Hit With Major Layoffs

Another Game Studio Was Just Hit With Major Layoffs

10:39pm, 24th October, 2018
It's been a rough season in the video game industry. First, it was Telltale Games which saw major layoffs throughout the fall, following a deal with AMC and Smilegate falling apart, and now another studio has been hit with major layoffs as well, just ahead of the holiday season getting into full...
Red Dead Redemption 2 will let you use your tablet as a map, no pausing required

Red Dead Redemption 2 will let you use your tablet as a map, no pausing required

7:15pm, 24th October, 2018
The bigger these massive GTA-style sandbox games get, the harder it becomes to remember where the hell everything is. Even with Spider-Man, a game set in a loose recreation of a city I’ve been to a bunch of times, I found myself pausing to see the map and reorient myself every other mission. Rockstar doesn’t want you having to pause Red Dead Redemption 2, its massively awaited title that’ll finally land later this week. Hell, they’re happy to let you turn the on-screen map and HUD off entirely, if you think it’s killing the immersion. That’s why the company just announced the aptly named “Red Dead Redemption 2 Companion App.” Download the app to your iOS or Android device, link up your PS4/Xbox, and your smartphone/tablet becomes your map. It’ll let you view your current in-game position, swipe/zoom around to see what’s nearby and set waypoints that’ll show up back in the game to lead the way. Now, RDR2 isn’t the first game to chart out the companion app territory. EA released companion apps for a few recent titles (Mirrors Edge, FIFA, etc), and Bethesda built a super in-depth Pip-Boy companion app back in 2015 for Fallout 4. Rockstar itself was tinkering with companion apps with Grand Theft Auto 5 way back in 2013. But as an obsessive map checker, I’m loving this one all the same. In addition to the map, the RDR companion app will also show you your character’s running stats and vitals, and let you view his in-game journal to recap the story so far. The app will ship on October 26th, the same day the game itself goes live.