Hello again NAGyrks, and thanks for taking ten precious minutes off from weekend catatonia to join me for This Week In Gaming. It’s been all about the VR this week, much to my disdain, and we’ll be hearing from Microsoft on what their plans are, we’ll hear from Sony about how this was their plan all along, and we’ll hear from a game developer who thinks the hardware has to reach some tough milestones before he’ll consider using it. Then we have an exciting reveal for Hearthstone enthusiasts, more details on Epic’s Fortnite than you can read in one sitting, some more attempts by EA to get into gamers’ good graces, a frankly ridiculous new Kickstarted product and some exciting new game trailers. So then, don your oversized goggles and hit the jump.
It’s all virtual reality news this week, and we all know how I feel about that. But, of course, I am duty bound to report current gaming affairs with honesty and integrity. Or something like that, Dane wrote it down for me somewhere.
Anyways, not wanting to be left behind by Sony Microsoft is trying to get into the VR game. So says Larry Hryb, director of programming for Xbox Live and hater of vowels.
Speaking to Syracuse, Hryb said, “We’ve looked at [virtual reality] and we continue to look at that and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “That’s a hard problem to solve. You’re using technology to trick the human brain to do things it’s not supposed to do. That’s why people get headaches. We have to find the right way to do it.”
They’re hedging their bets in the meantime, applying for an impressive 80 patents related to VR paraphernalia (sorry, “augmented reality”) – and spending $150 million in the process. But that’s like 2,3 percent of what Ballmer lost for the company by himself, so really it’s lunch money.
Not to be outdone, Sony said this week that they’ve been on the VR train for years, we just didn’t know it.
In fact, remember the Playstation Move? Well, that’s actually just a “VR wand in disguise as a motion controller”! Ha, they sure tricked us. In fact, they tricked us so effectively none of us bought it.
So says R&D Engineer Anton Mikhailov, gloating, “We specced it and built it to be a VR controller, even though VR wasn’t a commodity. As engineers, we just said it was the right thing to do… At the time, we didn’t have a consumer-grade project that we could work on, but it was definitely designed with that vision in mind.”
Don’t understand what the hell they’re on about? Nope, neither do I.
The last person to weigh in on the VR craze this week was Victor Kislyi, chief executive of Wargaming, the people who made all the money in Russia with World of Tanks.
The big boss says he’s impressed with the tech, but it’s going to take some hard sales numbers for it to be worthwhile for the free-to-play crowd.
“If it’s big, if it’s global, we’re going to be there,” he said in the video interview below.
“We are free-to-play, and now even further down the road, we are free-to-win. Seventy-five per cent of our players never pay a penny, and we love those players,” he added.
“For free-to-play, five to ten million is a good user-base. So if Xbox One or Oculus reach those numbers, we’re there.”
Some of you Hearthstone enthusiasts may remember a while back Blizzard promised “single player adventures”, a campaign kind of mode akin to the tutorial.
If you’re a hardcore player who doesn’t have time for this noobery, you should probably know that defeating each level unlocks new cards. Do I have your attention?
You’ll have to conquer Naxxramas’ bosses, which is some World of Warcraft thing I wouldn’t understand. Regardless, you’ll have to clear each of Naxxramas’ five wings, with a new card for each boss defeated and a legendary for clearing a whole wing.
The first wing, Arachnid Quarter, will be free for everyone – after that you’ll have to buy entry with either in-game gold or real monies. I like that they’re still essentially keeping the game free-to-play, good move Blizzard.
The challenge will be coming with a new wing released every week, so watch out for it. You want to know when? Do you really have to ask? This is Blizzard’s response: “soon”.
GTA V is a roaring success, but publisher Take Two broke the traditional model with the introduction of micro-transaction powered GTA Online, which CEO Strauss Zelnick described this week as “the gift that keeps on giving”.
Zelnick says that one of the major goals he set when taking over at Take Two in 2007 was to create recurrent consumer spending among players, something he says now “is nice to see coming true”.
Since I’m a master race member with no access to the game, I haven’t had to empty my wallet for a swag new apartment. Do you?
Epic Games’ Fortnite has been generating quite a lot of buzz since its reveal in 2011, but the “co-op sandbox survival game” has now gotten a whole lot of new juicy details courtesy of Game Informer magazine.
Some of the highlights include procedurally generated, highly destructible stages, customisation and building, resource gathering, weapon crafting, traps and a free-to-play model. You can find the full list of details here.
Gaming industry supervillain Electronic Arts is hoping to expand their domain to the eSports industry. This comes straight from the mouth of new CEO Andrew Wilson, who thinks that the company’s involvement in the scene will continue to grow.
“When we’ve just come off franchise reviews I looked at a number of properties that we’re doing that certainly have an eSports focus to it. As a company, we believe this is something that’s going to continue to grow.
“We have some ready-made franchises for this in our sports properties, but we also have a number of other franchises that people may not typically think about as eSports opportunities, but we think there might be an opportunity in the future, so it’s something that you’re going to see more of from us.”
More EA news – the publisher is hoping to save several old multiplayer titles who are facing their demise in the wake of news that the GameSpy network is shutting down.
Some old EA classics like Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142 still have a fairly active online community, and good guy EA is working on a way to move their server support elsewhere so that those people still using a Pentium II have a place to go at night.
There’s a whole slew of survival horror games flooding the market right now (because game developers are more prone to trends than teenage girls), but one game which has set itself apart with that AAA feel is Bethesda’s The Evil Within. And just in case you’d forgotten about it, they’ve released a new trailer this week.
Sigh. Virtual reality. People are really trying hard to make this the next big thing, so much so that before we even have retail access to the Oculus Rift, we have the Virtuix Omni – a virtual reality treadmill. Seriously. See it in action below:
Titanfall for the Xbox 360 dropped just yesterday, and has promised to have all the same features and smooth gameplay its next-gen counterpart. CVG has done a comparison video between the 360 and the One so you can see how it shapes up.
Last up we have Trials Fusion, the addictive racer that has gotten some pretty damned positive preview comments so far. A new PS4 trailer shows off a game that looks every bit as good, if not better, than its predecessors.
Best of NAG
The very slick looking Infamous Second Son is out, and this week Matthew Vice took it for a spin. Find out what he thought about it (and, for the lazy, how he scored it), right here.
Free-to-play titles have often been criticised for ludicrous micro-transactions, but what happens when this insidious payment model makes it way into our retail games as well? It’s a troubling trend which seems to be fully underway, with the announcement this week that racing title The Crew will be coming with content you can pay for. Wesley Fick wrote a column this week about the whole issue, which you should go read.
More reviews! Delano took a break from indie grinding this week to check out the second part of Bioshock Infinite‘s Burial At Sea DLC. Keep in mind this is an expansion of sorts, so if you haven’t played the original yet you may find a few spoilers in there. You can find that review over here.
Last, and most certainly least, there’s me. I dedicated my column space this week to discussing my concerns with the Oculus Rift, and virtual reality technology in general. It got a somewhat mixed response from all of you, with two very distinct sides. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do so, and tell me what you think.