We're just barely a month removed from Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix's release of Shadow of the Tomb Raider for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, but the game is already set to receive its first major DLC add-on that adds something a little extra special to the overall...
Quill is the starring mouse in the VR game Moss, developed by Polyarc. (Polyarc Photo) More than a week after my almost-10-year-old daughter met Quill, she’s still talking about her. They spent only about an hour together, but she misses the tiny, sword-wielding mouse that stars in ‘s virtual reality game, Moss. Quill, the starring mouse in the VR game Moss by Polyarc. (GeekWire Photo / Lisa Stiffler) It’s just the effect that the game designers at this Seattle startup were hoping for. Because while some games are focused on shooting or sports or solving puzzles, the aim for Moss is to have players feel something deeper, making connections with a character like you do when watching a movie or reading a book. “VR is going to help accelerate the notion that games can be emotional as well,” said , CEO and engineer at Polyarc. Moss players can form a relationship with Quill, working alongside her, immersed via VR in her world’s damp Northwest forests and “Lord of the Rings”-worthy ruins and cottages. The big-eared mouse looks at you, can be startled if you sneak up on her and allows you to pat her on the head. “That’s a pretty exciting way to broaden the emotional depth of the games that we make,” said Armstrong. And it’s a definite change from the sci-fi, first-person shooter games that Armstrong used to build as an engineer at Bungie, developing the popular games Destiny and Halo: Reach. In 2015, he launched Polyarc with fellow Bungie veterans and The year after, they landed a and haven’t taken any additional funding since. The trio set out to do something different with their venture, “to push the boundaries of our craft at the intersection of art and science,” Armstrong said. “We want to use this advanced technology to create, play and tell stories in exciting new ways.” Polyarc team photo. (P.S. Boldt Photography) That meant creating small characters that players could physically interact with using VR controls. The Polyarc team considered populating their world with aliens, robots or toys, ultimately settling on tiny animals. And why make Quill a girl mouse? “We saw these other studios paving the way, featuring female lead characters,” Armstrong said. They decided to follow suit. When playing the game, you rarely get to see your own character navigating the mystical world. But catching a glimpse in a pool of water, you’ll see that it looks something like the masked spirits with wide-set eyes in the Miyazaki movie “Spirited Away.” While Quill is meant to tug at a player’s heartstrings — my daughter was considerably troubled when she let the mouse drown multiple times after missing a tricky jump over a waterwheel — the game includes plenty of excitement, problem-solving and adventure, battling with beetles and other foes. But what if Quill does her job too well, is too irresistible? Already there are many people who struggle with gaming addictions, and a lovable rodent will make it even harder for parents to wrest VR controls from their kids. “We do think about those kinds of things,” Armstrong said. He didn’t offer a solution to this problem, but emphasized that they’re working to create an experience that is fun and “honest,” suggesting that it’s not intentionally manipulative. Moss is available for $30 on Vive, Oculus, Windows Mixed Reality and PlayStation VR. This month, Sony released a PlayStation VR hardware bundle that includes Moss. The Quill figurine is not for sale, but you can buy a mug or an enamel pin with her likeness for $15 each through Amazon. Armstrong predicts there could be three or more adventures to come for the heroic mouse, adding, “Quill’s story has just started.” Tam Armstrong, co-founder and CEO of Polyarc. (P.S. Boldt Photography) Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: Polyarc builds games for technologies that bring its characters to life. We want you to directly play with and relate to them. Inspiration hit us when: Our first inspiration hit us when seeing prototype VR hardware at Valve. The possibility of immersing ourselves in the games we loved was very exciting. New input methods meant new exciting possibilities for interaction. The notion that we could build on the fundamental experience of physically playing with our toys was too compelling to miss. Our second inspiration hit us when we saw the first player cry meeting Quill during an early prototype of Moss. The experience of meeting Quill produced an immediate emotional response and it became clear just how much closer players could feel to our characters in this new medium. The combination of being in the same physical space as another living thing that can also acknowledge you directly and look you in the eye changes everything. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Polyarc has gone from bootstrapped to VC over the course of its existence. We chose this path so that we would have the resources we need to execute on our vision, as well as the flexibility to adjust our plans as we go based on what we see happening around us. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Polyarc is intensely focused on the experience the player has while playing our games. We are making games, worlds and characters because that is what we love to do. We are making these games FOR our players. With this laid out as our foundation we try to establish clear pillars for our work. The most fundamental pillars we follow for our development in XR are that physical interaction and emotional connection are two of the things that the medium can do better than any other. Everything we do here is built on top of these ideas. The smartest move we’ve made so far: The smartest move we’ve made so far is trusting our gut on people and relationships. We’ve been fortunate to work with amazing people both here at the studio and externally as business partners. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Early on we were consistently underestimating the time it takes to do most things on the business side. We tried to be conservative but were still off the mark. Recently we’ve become a bit more realistic about this. Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner? I feel like I have to say that we’d be lucky to have any of them in our corner with their incredible business minds! Along which axis would we differentiate them? If Gates represents productive technology, Zuckerberg represents social connectivity, and Bezos represents customer experience… I would say Bezos, as the one of the three who most closely relates to our focus on player experience. Our favorite team-building activity is: So far it has been cooking! Occasionally folks on the team make food for the whole company. We’ve had breakfasts a few times, and most recently a home-made hot wing sauce tasting event. Cooking together and sharing the food has been a wonderful bonding experience. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Cultural contribution. Accepting a requisite combination of skill and experience, the way we select from the remaining candidates is how we perceive their ability to bring something unique and positive to our collaborative work. It is important to have unique contributions to challenge existing ideas and generate new ones. If we are not testing and iterating on all our work — including fundamental ideas — then we will inevitably become stagnant. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Build genuine relationships. Running a company is a long commitment and you will depend on other people to see it be successful. Self-interested networking and deals can only get you so far, but truly seeking opportunities where everyone feels good about the outcome is holistically the best way in the long run.
The latest update for Mario Tennis Aces will see a familiar face make a return to the series, and make her debut for the first time in this particular outing. It's none other than the pink-skinned, red-bow wearing Birdo, sporting a giant diamond ring and a whole lot of sass.
One of the brands being tapped to indulge our senses beyond the television screen and the computer monitors is Showtime's Twin Peaks. Collider Games has teamed up with the cable outlet to work on a Twin Peaks VR experience that will change the way you've viewed David Lynch's...
Today’s featured stories [Editor’s Note: TLDR is GeekWire’s tech news rundown show, hosted by . Watch today’s update above, , and check back weekday afternoons for more.]
Nintendo’s been known to upgrade consoles with some regularity. It’s an easy way to keep audiences engaged over the long life of a system. Released in March 2017, the Switch certainly seems due for an update. Sure, the hybrid console has been a runaway success for Nintendo, but after a year and a half, sales plateau, and some revamped hardware could be exactly the shot in the arm the device needs. According to a new report for citing suppliers and other anonymous sources, Nintendo has a new version of the console in the works for later next year. Details are still pretty thin — apparently Nintendo itself hasn’t figured out precisely what such an update would entail. A new screen is understandably pretty high up on the wish of upgrades to the console. After all, the current display was something of an afterthought for a console primarily designed to be plugged into a home entertainment system. Price is still an important factor here, however. As such, a high-end OLED is probably out of the question. That said, there are still plenty of affordable options that can be pilfered from the smartphone space. Timing-wise, the new Switch is expected to arrive “as soon as summer.” Nintendo, naturally, isn’t commenting.
Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan gave gamers a small taste of what's to come by showing off the new LEGO Tracer figurine, featuring the speedster zipping around the screen in a short promotional video advertising the upcoming line of LEGO toys.
It turns out that an NHL team just banned its players from playing Fortnite. How could such an innocent and colorful game cause such a ruckus to get hit with the ban-hammer from an official sports team? Well, the reason for the ban isn't because of what you might be thinking.
is nearing its 130th birthday, and the company is once again in the midst of major changes as it embraces mobile platforms and online services. But Nintendo of America’s president Reggie Fils-Aime says that should come as no surprise: “We reinvent ourselves every 5 or 10 years. We have to. It’s in our DNA.” In an interview at the , Fils-Aime talked, in his immaculately Nintendo-promotional manner, about the company’s ups and downs over the last decade and what it took to get the Switch out the door. “We focus on giving consumers experiences that they haven’t even thought of,” he explained. Anyone who has followed Nintendo for a few years certainly wouldn’t disagree — remember the vitality sensor? “By going down this path you create doubters. And we’ll be the first to admit that there will always be stumbles along the way.” “The Wii had sold a hundred million units globally; the Wii U did not have that same level of success,” he admitted. That’s something of an understatement; the Wii U is widely considered something of a boondoggle, interesting but confusing and hugely outgunned by the competition when it came to what was valued by the rapidly growing mainstream gaming world. “But in the words of one of our presidents — this is [Hiroshi] Yamauchi — when you’re doing well, don’t be excited by that high-flying performance, and when you’re doing poorly, don’t be said. Always have an even keel,” he said. Not exactly catchy, but it is good business advice. The focus should be on the horizon. And that’s where it was, despite the painfully low sales numbers and lack of third party support. As he tells it, they just plowed ahead with new lessons under their belt. “If we had not had the Wii U, we would not have the Switch,” he said seriously. “What we heard from customers was that the proposition of a tablet on which they could experience gameplay, coupled with the ability to play games on the TV, is really compelling. Users were telling us, I want to play with this tablet, but when I get 30 feet away from the TV, it disconnects. The one point gamers all hate is the point where they have to put the controller down. So it was an important step for us to be able to deliver on this proposition.” “When I first saw the embodiment of that system,” he recalled, “the hairs on the back of my neck raised up.” It was the same feeling, he said, that he had with the Wii Remote and the DS — both featuring technologies that people were highly skeptical of at first but proved versatile and compelling. Touchscreens weren’t common when the DS came out, and motion controls weren’t common when the Wii came out, he noted. Both have since become mainstream — not entirely due to Nintendo’s success with them, of course, but it would be disingenuous to say that had nothing to do with it. But while the company can rightly be said to be taking risks in some ways, in other ways it is uniquely stuck in the past. Its most successful franchises are well past a quarter of a century old. As Fils-Aime sees it, however, this is exactly how it should be. Mario and Link are characters the way Mickey Mouse or even someone like Robin Hood are characters. New franchises like Splatoon can be established and cared for, but the traditional ones (though no one mentioned Metroid, predictably and unfortunately) should be recycled and brought to new platforms and generations. Nowadays that includes mobile games, where Nintendo has been taking tentative steps in recent years. Nintendo’s latest has been criticized for its unvarnished quest for players’ money. “We see our mobile initiatives as a way to bring our intellectual properties and our gameplay experiences to a larger population than the tens or hundred million consumers that own a dedicated gaming system,” he said. “With Super Mario Run, we literally have hundreds of millions of consumers experiencing Mario, consumers in places where we don’t even distribute our gaming systems. Then maybe they buy that Super Mario t-shirt, they may eat that Super Mario cereal, they may buy a Nintendo Switch.” (Presumably imported.) Here Fils-Aime’s comments rang a bit hollow, however. Nintendo’s mobile strategy has leaned hard on the “gacha” style game that massively incentivizes in-app purchases of virtual currencies and grinding levels to unlock new characters randomly in loot box style. This seems so far from Nintendo’s core mission of entertainment and so close to the current industry method of cash extraction that it’s hard to believe it’s what the company really wanted to create. It does, as Fils-Aime said was the goal, allow them to be “effective” on platforms and marketplaces they don’t themselves own, and it does drive their “overall business agenda.” But it seems as though the company is still trying to figure out how to truly bring its games to mobile. Perhaps the upcoming Mario Kart game will be a better option, but it could very easily go the other way as well.
Bungie is keeping plenty busy these days with Destiny 2, but it looks like they may have also been working on a secret project. The developer recently filed a trademark application for what appears to be a game called Matter.