Red Dead Redemption 2 sees Rockstar raising the bar for realism in open world games

Red Dead Redemption 2 sees Rockstar raising the bar for realism in open world games

1:32pm, 9th August, 2018
Open worlds have been a staple of gaming for a long time, but recent titles like Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn have significantly pushed the boundaries of what players expect from their environments. Rockstar, of Grand Theft Auto fame, is looking to make them all look like toys with Red Dead Redemption 2 and its wild west frontier that looks to be not just huge, but refreshingly real. Rockstar is certainly best known for the immensely popular GTA series; but it’s arguable its most beloved game is actually 2010’s Red Dead Redemption, which, though a sequel, so spectacularly transplanted the run-and-gun outlaw freedom of GTA to the American West that gamers have been clamoring for a sequel for years. RDR2 was teased back in late 2016, but only recently have we seen hints of what it will actually look like. And today brings the first of a series of videos from the developer detailing the world, character, and gameplay systems. The natural beauty of the frontier is, of course, simply amazing to see rendered in such fidelity, and Rockstar’s artists are to be commended. And it is realism that seems to be defining the project as a whole — which makes it a departure from other games whose creators bruit a living breathing open world to explore. Take Far Cry 5, which came out last year to mixed reviews: the natural landscape of fictional Hope County in Montana was roundly agreed to be breathtaking, but the gameplay and story were criticized as artificially and (strange juxtaposition) monotonously intense. It’s clear that Far Cry 5, like other Ubisoft games, was a sandbox in which interesting but unrealistic situations were bred by the developers — a helicopter crashing on the person you’re rescuing from bandits, and then a cougar mauling the pilot. Horizon: Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild were both praised for the depth and extent of their worlds and gameplay, but they both had the significant advantage of being fantasies. A mechanical dinosaur or ancient killing machine (same thing?) arrests the eye and imagination but because one can’t really compare them to reality, they can stay definitively unrealistic. Creating a compelling sci-fi or fantasy world has its own significant challenges, but on the whole it’s considerably easier than creating a convincing replica of the real world. RDR2 seems to be attempting real realism in its game, to the extent that it’s possible. Take for example the fact that your items and cargo actually take up space on your horse. Your horse isn’t 20 more grid spaces of inventory — you can tie a deer you hunted on top, but then it can’t run. There are loops for two long guns but not three, and you can’t carry an arsenal yourself. The flora and fauna are real frontier flora and fauna; they’ll react realistically. Encounters can be approached in multiple ways, peaceful or violent. Your fabulous hide coat gets dirty when you fall in the mud. You get new things to do by getting to know people in your gang. Many of these have been seen before in various games but what Rockstar is going for appears — and for now only appears — to be taking them to a new level. It will of course have the expected cartoonish violence and occasionally eye-roll-worthy dialogue of any game, but the attempt to realistically, and at this level of fidelity, represent such a major and well-known portion of history is an undertaking of gargantuan proportions. Will the game be as good as the amount of work that has clearly been put into it? We’ll find out later this year when it comes out.
Fornite for Android launches as a Samsung Galaxy exclusive today

Fornite for Android launches as a Samsung Galaxy exclusive today

11:23am, 9th August, 2018
It’s true, Fortnite is coming to Android this summer. We’ve known that for sure . There is, however, one key caveat (aside from that whole ): The obscenely popular sandbox survival game will launch on Google’s mobile OS as a Samsung exclusive. The Epic title will be available for Galaxy users with an S7 or higher (Note 9, S9, Note 8, S8, S7,S7 Edge). Those with a and S3 will get a crack it it, as well). That, naturally, includes the new Note 9, which the company is positioning as something of a mobile gaming powerhouse. The specs are certainly impressive, and the 6.4-inch screen should lend itself well to portable gaming. There’s also a new Water Carbon Cooling system on board, to help keep the handset from overheating from more resource-intensive tasks. The new tech improves the liquid cooling system the company has had on-board its Galaxy devices since the S7. Starting today, the title will appear on Galaxy devices’ game launcher, remaining an Android exclusive until the 12th — at which point, one imagines, it will become more widely available for the rest of Android users. As with the rest of the versions of the title (the PS4’s issues aside), the game will support multi-platform crossplay. To celebrate the deal, those who pre-order the Note 9 will be able to choose between free AKG noise cancelling headphones or a device with a 15,000 V-bucks — the in-game equivalent to to $150 of our regular people dollars. All Note 9 and Tab S4 users will also get access to a Fortnite Galaxy skin (see: above), which is unique to those devices.
Fallout 76 Won't Be On Steam

Fallout 76 Won't Be On Steam

6:36pm, 8th August, 2018
Bethesda recently announced that Fallout 76 will not be coming to Steam. That's right, the game will be skipping out on appearing on Valve's popular digital storefront and will instead only release on PC through Bethesda's own proprietary launcher.
Nintendo announces more fighters and a new mystery for ‘Smash Brothers Ultimate’

Nintendo announces more fighters and a new mystery for ‘Smash Brothers Ultimate’

4:55pm, 8th August, 2018
The latest Nintendo Direct update hit at a strange time for those of us on the West Coast, at 7 a.m. It was a short conference this time around, because much , Nintendo is all about hyping up the forthcoming Smash Brothers Ultimate. It isn’t all they’ve got going for them right now — the long-delayed Japanese RPG just came out, for one thing, and the Switch is still a thriving marketplace for indie games — but Ultimate can be reliably expected to be a system seller and tournament regular for at least the next few years. It’s not surprising that Nintendo would choose to focus on it to the exclusion of just about everything else. The Direct opened with an announcement that almost wasn’t a surprise: , the protagonist of the original 1986 Castlevania, is joining the fray in Ultimate, complete with his trademark axe, holy water, cross-shaped boomerang, and health-restoring pot roasts. He can twirl his whip in front of him, as he could in Super Castlevania IV, to deflect projectiles. This got sort of leaked late last night, as that one of the songs on the had changed from a Galaga remix to a track named “Bloody Tears,” which is the name of one of the in the Castlevania franchise. That and a couple of extant rumors led a lot of fans to theorize that Simon might be the next guest fighter. Simon’s joined in Smash by his descendant Richter — the protagonist of Castlevania: Dracula X on the SNES, which was a sort of simplified remake of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the Turbo Duo–as an “echo fighter.” Richter will share many of Simon’s moves, but has a few of his own–he shows off a couple of his acrobatic moves from Rondo in the trailer — and his trademark stilted voice acting from 1998’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Alucard from Symphony will also be available in Smash Ultimate as an assist trophy, and there’s a new, spooky stage based on Dracula’s Castle. Other newly-announced echo fighters include , from Fire Emblem: Awakening, who will be Roy’s echo, and , the corrupted Phazon duplicate of Samus Aran from Metroid Prime 3. The series’s producer, Masahiro Sakurai, promised during the Direct that all of the game’s fighters would be announced well before Smash Ultimate‘s release. A lot of characters have also been added to the game as assist trophies, which are considered as a sort of special guest appearance. This includes Sonic’s pal Knuckles the Echidna, Zero from Mega Man X, Metal Gear Solid‘s Gray Fox, Shovel Knight, Krystal the fox from Star Fox Adventures, and most notably, the dragon Rathalos from the Monster Hunter series. Rathalos is the first character in Smash history that can show up as both an assist trophy and a boss character in single-player modes. The Direct also went into several new game modes that will be available for Smash Ultimate, such as Smashdown, a series of battles where each character selected by a player becomes unavailable for the next match; Squad Strike, 3v3 or 5v5 single-elimination battles; Classic Mode, a single-player “arcade” experience where each fighter goes up against a different assortment of CPU opponents; a Tourney mode, where the game automatically sets up a 32-player tournament bracket for you and your friends; and Sudden Death, where all players begin the round at critical damage levels and the camera slowly zooms in on them as the fight progresses. Smash Brothers Ultimate will ship with 103 stages in total, each one of which is available from the moment you start the game, can be scaled up to 8 players at once, and can be transformed via various options. You can disable all stage hazards if you like, or select two stages before a match that will unpredictably “morph” into each other. If you consider all the options, Sakurai claimed, there are actually more than 300 stages in Ultimate, ranging from old classics (he says they’ve “prioritized nostalgia” when going back to polish up old stages from the earlier games) to a couple of brand-new backgrounds. One is based on New Donk City from Super Mario Odyssey, complete with Mayor Pauline performing background music with her four-man band. The Direct ended for the day with a final trailer, announcing the arrival of Donkey Kong’s arch-rival, King K. Rool. With his appearance, and counting echo fighters, this brings the for Smash Brothers Ultimate to well over 70 characters. The biggest mystery of the trailer, however, came from a brief glimpse of the game’s main menu, where a game mode was present, but carefully blurred out. The big question for the rest of the year, for Smash fans, is now going to be what that mode could possibly be. A story mode? A sequel to Subspace Emissary? Nobody knows, but a lot of ink will be spilled on speculation.
RIP EmuParadise, a haven for retro gamers for almost two decades

RIP EmuParadise, a haven for retro gamers for almost two decades

4:04pm, 8th August, 2018
If you’re a fan of retro games, chances are you have a few emulators installed to let you play Mega Drive or Atari 800 titles. And if you have a few emulators installed, you probably have some ROMs. And if you have some ROMs, it’s likely that sometime since the year 2000 you visited EmuParadise, a stalwart provider of these ambiguously legal files. Well, EmuParadise is no more — at least the site we knew and loved. , acknowledging the reality that the world of retro gaming has changed irrevocably and a site like EmuParadise simply can’t continue to exist even semi-legally. So they’re removing all ROM downloads. For those not familiar with this scene, emulators let you play games from classic consoles that might otherwise be difficult, expensive or even impossible to find in the wild. ROMs, which contain the actual game data (and are often remarkably small — NES games are smaller than the image above), are questionably legal and have existed in a sort of grey area for years. But there’s no question that this software has been invaluable to gamers. “I started EmuParadise 18 years ago because I never got to play many of these amazing retro games while growing up in India and I wanted other people to be able to experience them,” wrote the site’s founder, MasJ. “Through the years I’ve worked tirelessly with the rest of the EmuParadise team to ensure that everyone could get their fix of retro gaming. We’ve received thousands of emails from people telling us how happy they’ve been to rediscover and even share their childhood with the next generations in their families.” But the games industry is changing; official re-releases of old games and the consequent legal attention that brings to sites hosting original ROMs has created an unambiguously hostile environment for them. Nintendo, it must be said, has been particularly zealous in its efforts to clear the web of ROMs, especially for its first-party games. EmuParadise and other sites have been the constant target of legal actions, from simple takedown requests to more serious allegations and lawsuits. “It’s not worth it for us to risk potentially disastrous consequences. I cannot in good conscience risk the futures of our team members who have contributed to the site through the years,” MasJ continued. “We run EmuParadise for the love of retro games and for you to be able to revisit those good times. Unfortunately, it’s not possible right now to do so in a way that makes everyone happy and keeps us out of trouble. “This is an extremely emotional decision for me after running this site for so many years. But I believe it is the right thing for us at this point of time.” Alas, they will be unavailable forever now. I can remember EmuParadise being one of the most reliable sites to get ROMs from back in the day; and in the early 2000s, when emulators were essentially the only way to play many old games — and the web was a bit more wild — it was also one of the few that didn’t attempt to load some kind of virus onto your computer at the same time. It’s always sad when a homegrown site that single-mindedly pursues a single goal, and in this case one that is arguably a public service, legal or no, is forced to bow out. It’s sad, but they can at least retire knowing that retro gaming is alive and well and finally being embraced by game distributors and makers the way it ought to have been for the last couple decades. Consoles like the NES Classic are outselling modern ones, and love for old games has not abated. Not only that, but websites like this, while they provide other services, are no longer necessary for the distribution of ROMs. What was practical in 2002 no longer makes sense, and the advent of both legal game stores on PCs and consoles, and of course torrents, mean that even rare games like Radiant Silvergun are just a click or button press away. And lastly, EmuParadise isn’t just plain dying. They plan to maintain and update their emulator database and keep the community going, and MasJ says there are plans to launch some new things as well. So, out with the old, in with the new. Thanks to EmuParadise and those running it for all their hard work, and best of luck in the future!
H1Z1 officially comes to the PS4

H1Z1 officially comes to the PS4

11:46am, 8th August, 2018
has spent a couple months on PS4 in an open beta. But today, the Battle Royale game is officially making its debut on the PlayStation platform. Much like , which has swept the gaming world unlike almost any title before it, H1Z1 drops 100 players into a map where they must loot up and survive. Unlike Battle Royale, H1Z1 is relatively more realistic, with a much larger map, more drab colors, and a handful of drivable vehicles. Interestingly, H1Z1 was one of the earlier Battle Royale games during the game type’s wave of popularity, catching the attention of pro gamers back in 2015. Back then, the game was only available via Steam. Since, games like PUBG and Fortnite have grown wildly, forcing H1Z1 makers Daybreak to play a bit of catch up. But today, H1Z1 goes officially live on the PS4, giving gamers who are sick of Fortnite’s bubbly world a chance to get into the Battle Royale world in a different way. Plus, Daybreak has added in a Fortnite-style Battle Pass for the season, letting PS4 players unlock reward levels for $5.49. H1Z1 is also getting a couple new weapons, including a Sniper Rifle and an RPG, as well as an ARV that can fit a full team of five. You can check out the launch trailer below:
Facebook builds its own AR games for Messenger video chat

Facebook builds its own AR games for Messenger video chat

9:37am, 8th August, 2018
is diving deeper into in-house game development with the launch of its own version of Snapchat’s multiplayer augmented reality video chat games. Today, Facebook Messenger its first two AR video chat games that you can play with up to six people. “Don’t Smile” is like a staring contest that detects if you grin, and then users AR to contort your it’s an exaggerated Joker’s smirk while awarding your opponent the win. “Asteroids Attack” sees you move your face around the navigate a space ship, avoiding rocks and grabbing laser beam powerups. Soon, Facebook also plans to launch “Beach Bump” for passing an AR ball back and forth, and a “Kitten Craze” cat matching game. To play the games, you start a video chat, hit the Star button to open the filter menu, and then select one of the games. You can snap and share screenshots to your chat thread while you play. The games are effectively a way to pass the time while you video chat, rather than something you’d ever play on your own. They could be a hit with parents and grandparents who are away and want to spend time with a kid…who isn’t exactly the best conversationalist. Facebook tells me it built these games itself using the it launched last year to let developers create their own AR face filters. When asked if game development would be available to everyone through AR studio, a spokesperson told me “Not today, but we’ve seen sucessful short-session AR games developed by the creator community and are always looking out for ways to bring the best AR content to the FB family of apps.” For now, there will be no ads, sponsored branding, or in-app purchases in Messenger’s video chat games. But those all offer opportunities for Facebook and potentially outside developers to earn money. Facebook could easily show an ad interstitial between game rounds, let brands build games to promote movie releases or product launches, or let you buy powerups to beat friends or cosmetically upgrade your in-game face. Snapchat’s Snappables games launched in April The games feel less polished than the launch titles for gaming platform that launched in April. Snapchat focused on taking over your whole screen with augmented reality, transporting you into space or a disco dance hall. Facebook’s games merely overlay a few graphics on the world around you. But Facebook’s games are more purposefully designed for split-screen multiplayer. Snapchat is reportedly building its own third-party game development platform, but it seems Facebook wanted to get the drop on it. The AR video chat games live separately from the the company launched last year. These include arcade classics and new mobile titles that users can play by themselves and challenge friends over high-scores. Facebook now allows developers of with in-app purchases and ads, foreshadowing what could come to AR video chat games. Facebook has rarely developed its own games. It did build a few mini-games like an arcade pop-a-shot style basketball game and a soccer game to show off what the Messenger Instant Games platform could become. But typically it’s stuck to letting outside developers lead. Here, it may be trying to set examples of what developers should build before actually spawning a platform around video chat games. Now with over 1.3 billion users, Facebook Messenger is seeking more ways to keep people engaged. Having already devoured many people’s one-on-one utility chats, it’s fun group chats, video calling, and gaming that could get people spending more time in the app.