Virtual Reality, a tech geek dream for decades, was long hobbled by high latency, clunky hardware, and perennially absurd reports on network news. That all changed in 2011, when Palmer Luckey, then 18, built the first Oculus Rift prototype in his parents' garage with iPhone repair money. Awed by its powerful sense of presence, developer John Carmack became a fan and demoed it at E3. The ensuing Kickstarter campaign shattered all fundraising goals, and Facebook controversially bought the rights for a whopping $2 billion -- alienating erstwhile partner Valve Software, the iconic creators of Half-Life/Portal/Steam. A Cambrian explosion of headsets followed: Morpheus, HoloLens, Google Cardboard, Gear VR. But perhaps most interesting is Valve's own counter-project: a breathtaking "room scale" VR set-up with Tron-like "Chaperone" and tracked motion controls called the HTC Vive. With this week's commercial launch of Rift and Vive bringing us to the threshold of a new interactive medium, look inside for guides, notes, and killer apps for this, the stunning arrival of consumer VR. [more inside]
Remember when Valve founder Gabe Newell called Windows 8 and its Windows Store a "catastophe" for the industry? Now another founder of a hugely important PC software company has come out against the Windows Store in a Guardian op-ed. [more inside]
For PC gamers, the launch of a new AAA game is always occasion to wonder whether the port will be wonderful or agonizing. Some games have needed end-user modding to fix issues that developers ignored, with some games seeing truly heroic efforts from the community. But just as thing seemed to be getting a bit better, Warner Brothers and Rocksteady released Arkham Knight, a game with such serious technical issues (and harsh user reviews) that they have been forced to take the almost unprecedented step of suspending sales on Steam after launch.
"Last April, I began working on a game. In October, I released it. This is the story of Eldritch." David Pitman tells the story of developing and selling the roguelike/FPS Eldritch, described as equal parts Lovecraft and Minecraft. Includes lots of lovely sales figures.
Phil Fish, the volatile and sometimes controversial developer of indie game Fez, has abruptly announced its cancellation: "this is as much as i can stomach. this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. you win." Though this follows in the wake of a popular podcast's host calling him a "tosspot", a "wanker", and a "fucking asshole", Fish has been the subject of massive Internet antagonism ever since his appearance in Indie Game: The Movie; he's been hounded for saying that Japanese games suck, though he claimed the comment was taken out of context, for Tweeting that "PCs are for spreadsheets" prior to Fez's PC release, and for not patching a save-corrupting bug that he claims Microsoft was charging him "tens of thousands of dollars". Fish has often responded poorly to critics in public, but Jonathan Blow (The Witness, Braid) and C418 (Minecraft) each claim that Fish has been at the receiving end of far worse, and far more frequent, vitriol.
Viscera Cleanup Detail is a free PC game that casts as a space station janitor mopping up after a hero who left the station encrusted with gore. Via Gamers With Jobs' podcast on 'mundane games'. It's actually the third game about a space janitor, after Space Quest and Space Station 13.
2x0ng (and its predecessor, Xong) is a hybrid roguelikes that has the appearance, sound and mechanics of Atari age games. Levels are randomly generated, and the rules are up to you to discover. Here is a video review for your elucidation. Available for PC, Mac and Linux.
Flash Friday: Intrusion is a 2008 run'n'gun side-scrolling flash game by Russian developer Aleksey Abramenko. Try the demo of Intrusion 2, his 2012 follow-up, finally out after three years of development.
For about three years, the A.V. Club ran Sawbuck Gamer, a regular column reviewing the week's most notable free and cheap games across all platforms, from web games to handhelds to console downloadables. It's a treasure trove of content, especially since more literary sister site The Gameological Society took the helm, and it's publicized great desktop projects like the luscious platformer Frogatto (previously), feature-rich Super Mario Bros. X (previously), the evocative faux-web Digital: A Love Story (previously), interactive fiction gem Rover's Day Off, and the hyperkinetic RunMan: Race Around the World (previously). But if you're in the mood for something more immediate, why not start with a list of all the original column's free A-rated online titles? [more inside]
Derek Smart has been making games for over 20 years. He sold his first games in plastic baggies at hobby stores. Yet his longevity is somewhat of an anachronism. Many gamers today don't even know who is is, in spite of the fact that his games have sold well enough to keep his company in business since 1992. And the games themselves, well they're mostly terrible. Especially his first, Battlecruiser 3000AD. The Verge takes an in-depth look at the hotheaded perfectionist millionaire game developer whose impenetrable, terminally overhyped games sparked one of the most legendary flamewars in internet history.
Got a few hours to kill and want to spend a little time in gaming history? Don't have anything else to do until 2013? Check out Anacreon: Reconstruction 4021 (wiki) (previously), one of the earliest 4X games ever made, dating to 1987-88. The original version was DOS-based, but the creator, George Moromisato, released a Windows version in 2004 which has significant updates. [more inside]
What do today's kids make of the Commodore 64? BBC News invited Commodore enthusiast Mat Allen to show schoolchildren his carefully preserved computer, at a primary school and secondary school in London.
You may have heard that evil is returning to Sanctuary tonight. Your Diablo 3 launch day preparation guide includes opening cinematics, a cartoon, the story so far, a primer on the new Auction House (now with real money), and build guides for the Demon Hunter, Barbarian, Monk, and Witch Doctor. Since no one at Blizzard beat Diablo 3's Inferno difficulty, death is guaranteed.
Wasteland 2 has become a certainty due to the massive outpouring of fan support. At this moment on Reddit, two of the big names in the project - Brian Fargo and Chris Avellone - are having a live QA session about the upcoming project, as well as the state of the game publishing industry in the Kickstarter era and similar subjects.
16-bit color schemes, in a classic retro VGA interface! New soundtracks and voiceovers! No typing required! Infamous Adventures resurrects and lovingly remakes Sierra Games from the 1980's: Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge and Kings Quest III. SQ2 was released yesterday after more than five years in production, and comes complete with a cheesy trailer. Available for download for PC and Mac, but be forewarned, the game is a total memory hog, and uses up a whole meg of RAM.
Will Wright, of Sims and Simcity fame, now wants to have users use their personal data to shape the game playing experience in his new game, Hivemind.
How to Ruin Your PC Port in 5 Easy Steps by Ben Kuchera explains the lengths video game publishers will go to to ensure that the PC version of their game is worse than the console version. Blizzard demonstrates how to follow these guidelines for Diablo III even if you don't have a console version.
Twenty years ago today, the gaming world saw the launch of a truly landmark title: Sonic the Hedgehog. Developed as a vehicle for a new Sega mascot, the fluid, vibrant, cheery-tuned wonderland swiftly became the company's flagship product, inspiring over the ensuing decades an increasingly convoluted universe of TV shows, comic books, and dozens of games on a variety of systems (all documented in this frighteningly comprehensive TVTropes portal). And while in recent years the series has turned out more and more mediocre 3D and RPG efforts, the original games remain crown jewels of the 16-bit era. So why not kick off this anniversary by replaying the titles that started it all for free in your browser: Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994), Sonic & Knuckles (1994). Or click inside for music, remakes, and other fun stuff! [more inside]
Portal 2 has finally hit the streets, and despite a somewhat rocky start with their controversial promotional ARG (previously), it looks to be a huge success. Interestingly for such a critically-acclaimed blockbuster, the title's core ideas steam from a pair of concept projects from student design school DigiPen: the original portal system from Narbacular Drop (video - download - previously) and the sequel's physics-altering gels from Tag: The Power of Paint (video - download - previously - previouslier). Combine these innovative ideas with some Lost-meets-Life After People level design, excellent voice acting, and top-notch writing, and it's easy to see why so many people called in sick this past week. But playing the game is just the beginning -- look inside for a collection of easter eggs, story theories, videos, and other goodies from the post-mortem. [more inside]
A video has leaked online showing Microsoft's vision for their next generation gaming platform. The video comes from the WGX (Windows Gaming eXperience) team, and as ZDNet reports, the video shows "[the] team’s ambitions for next-generation gaming between Windows, Xbox Live, and mobile platform[s]." [more inside]
Minecraft mastermind Markus "Notch" Persson has officially announced his company's next project: a hybrid online board game/trading card system called Scrolls. Spearheaded by Mojang co-founder Jakob Porser (interview) and with backstory penned by Penny Arcade wordsmith Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, the game will consist of turn-based battles between collectible "scrolls," illustrated character cards strategically deployed on an abstract gaming grid. In an interesting inversion of the Minecraft model, the game itself will be free, while updates in the form of additional scroll packs will cost a nominal fee -- a business model gaming analyst Sean Maelstrom decries as "snake oil." Mojang, for their part, is unafraid and even eager to target an untested slice of the gaming market, and is angling to get their playable prototype of Scrolls ready for a possible Alpha release this summer.
In their day, Trilobyte was at the height of the computer gaming world. Their first title, 7th Guest, made them an instant success, and their follow-ups, 11th Hour and Clandestiny, were equally well-received. But as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Haunted Glory, from the GameSpot archives, documents the rise and fall of Trilobyte.
Relive all your favorites from the demoscene. This project, headed up by nearly all of the team that maintained the old hornet.org demoscene archive, is committed to bringing those old classic demos ... to a DVD player near you. Now you no longer have to fret because you gave up your Gravis Ultrasound and DOS! Can I get a w00t from ya? I knew I could.