Electronic Entertainment Expo

Creative’s Sonic Carrier megasoundbar was the most impressive tech at E3

Above: This is so much more than a soundbar. Image Credit: Creative

Gaming is reaching a point where its most bleeding edge technologies are challenging to demonstrate to a remote audience. At last week’s E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo gaming trade event) in Los Angeles, PlayStation VR and the Xbox One X’s 4K HDR gaming struggled to translate to gamers watching livestreams at homes. But that’s the kind of problem that has frustrated audio companies for years.

That’s why I was glad that I checked in on Creative (the Sound BlasterX gaming-audio company) at E3, because its new X-Fi Sonic Carrier audio system was by far the most impressive new technology I experienced at the show. And it’s something I wouldn’t have understood without seeing it live. This new device is an all-in-one entertainment system with mind-blowing audio and a built-in Android media browser. It looks like a soundbar that is hooked on growth hormones, but it is so much more than anything else in that category. And it should be because Creative is selling it for $5,800.

So what kind of audio system is worth the price of a used Toyota Corolla? Well, the whole system is the primary box and then a single wireless subwoofer. In the main unit, you get multiple inputs and outputs along with an Android TV processor for streaming media like Netflix or for hosting your own content. It even…

AR/VR Weekly: Virtual reality takes a bigger stage at E3

You can get a good sense of the role virtual reality plays in the video game industry by comparing two of the biggest industry events in North America: the Game Developers Conference and the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

VR plays a crucial role at GDC, and this year’s event made a case that it’s not going anywhere. And while last year’s E3 showed off VR from Ubisoft and Sony, the platform didn’t feel like it was a big deal.

But that’s changing. Leading up to E3, we saw the momentum continue. Ubisoft released Star Trek: Bridge Crew a couple of weeks before the show, and the startup Experiment 9 added Dungeon Chess, the Dungeons & Dragons chess app for Oculus Rift, to Gear VR as it prepares to add more to its VR tabletop platform.

And then the big boys weighed in. Bethesda’s bringing Doom and Fallout 4 to VR, and Sony made announcements as well for the PlayStation VR platform. This includes a Final Fantasy XV experience and our Unreal Engine VR game of the show, Polyarc’s Moss.

E3 is becoming a bigger stage for VR. And it’s developing the same relationship with GDC that traditional gaming has: One show teaches you how to make cool games, and the other gives you one of the world’s biggest platforms to show them off.

Now, if only more of those 15,000 fans who came to E3 this year wiped their faces before donning a VR headset, not after, while enjoying the show.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our AR/VR Channel.

P.S. This Ubisoft game lets you “fly like an eagle.”

From GamesBeat

Those who are waiting for the upcoming The Bard’s Tale IV will have something to tide them over in the meantime: InXile Entertainment just released The Mage’s Tale, a virtual reality role-playing game that takes place between The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate (1988) and The Bard’s Tale IV. The Mage’s Tale is available […]

Augmented Pixels has created a new way to navigate using computer vision, and LG Electronics is announcing today it has built a 3D camera module that uses that technology to assist autonomous robots. Palo Alto, California-based Augmented Pixels, a computer vision research and development company, calls the technology SLAM, or simultaneous location and mapping. It is […]

AR/VR Weekly: Virtual reality takes a bigger stage at E3

You can get a good sense of the role virtual reality plays in the video game industry by comparing two of the biggest industry events in North America: the Game Developers Conference and the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

VR plays a crucial role at GDC, and this year’s event made a case that it’s not going anywhere. And while last year’s E3 showed off VR from Ubisoft and Sony, the platform didn’t feel like it was a big deal.

But that’s changing. Leading up to E3, we saw the momentum continue. Ubisoft released Star Trek: Bridge Crew a couple of weeks before the show, and the startup Experiment 9 added Dungeon Chess, the Dungeons & Dragons chess app for Oculus Rift, to Gear VR as it prepares to add more to its VR tabletop platform.

And then the big boys weighed in. Bethesda’s bringing Doom and Fallout 4 to VR, and Sony made announcements as well for the PlayStation VR platform. This includes a Final Fantasy XV experience and our Unreal Engine VR game of the show, Polyarc’s Moss.

E3 is becoming a bigger stage for VR. And it’s developing the same relationship with GDC that traditional gaming has: One show teaches you how to make cool games, and the other gives you one of the world’s biggest platforms to show them off.

Now, if only more of those 15,000 fans who came to E3 this year wiped their faces before donning a VR headset, not after, while enjoying the show.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our AR/VR Channel.

P.S. This Ubisoft game lets you “fly like an eagle.”

From GamesBeat

Those who are waiting for the upcoming The Bard’s Tale IV will have something to tide them over in the meantime: InXile Entertainment just released The Mage’s Tale, a virtual reality role-playing game that takes place between The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate (1988) and The Bard’s Tale IV. The Mage’s Tale is available […]

Augmented Pixels has created a new way to navigate using computer vision, and LG Electronics is announcing today it has built a 3D camera module that uses that technology to assist autonomous robots. Palo Alto, California-based Augmented Pixels, a computer vision research and development company, calls the technology SLAM, or simultaneous location and mapping. It is […]

Cory Barlog paints a picture of a kinder, gentler God of War

With two riveting trailers, Sony has held us spellbound with the story for God of War. It introduced the first trailer last year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2016), the big game trade show in Los Angeles. It didn’t ship that game yet, so it showed another trailer at E3 2017 last week.

In these trailers, we see a lot of violent action typical of the series. But we also see a lot of storytelling. Kratos, the angry god, has moved to Norse lands to escape the cycle of violence in his life. He has a son, and the mother is no longer around. The boy is clearly not a god, and Kratos appears contemptuous of him. But he is trying to exercise patience and hold back his anger to train the boy.

Last year’s trailer was an example of amazing storytelling. In the new trailer, the boy proves his worth in another way, by being able to communicate with the Norse beasts in their own language, while the Greek Kratos cannot. That changes the relationship of power between the boy and Kratos, and it makes for an amazing coming-of-age story that could very well widen the audience for God of War games.

Cory Barlog, creative director of the game, helped us parse the trailers and what Sony is willing to share about the story so far. The game comes out as a PlayStation 4 exclusive in the first quarter of 2018.

I joined a small group session where Barlog answered questions about the game. Then I interviewed him one-on-one. I’ve combined the answers in this edited transcript of our interview. (And here’s a link to our interview from last year.)

Above: Cory Barlog, creative director at Sony Santa Monica studio on God of War.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Question: How open is this game?

Cory Barlog: The open world is a huge part of this game. It’s not an open world in the traditional sense where it has all these side missions and other sorts of things. It’s more that we have a very large world, and they have a goal that takes them all over the world, but always off in the distance there’s something that catches your eye. It’s this idea that we’ll reward people for being curious, for looking around. We’ll never put them in a position outside that core experience where we force them to do something. It’s more like, “I’m intrigued. What is that over there?” The idea of seeing this little cave entrance off in the distance, going inside the cave, and coming out the other end to see an entire level that you never knew was there.

That feeling of being rewarded for your curiosity is huge. It’s why I play games, this idea of truly existing in a world. I want to create something that feels like it embraces that idea. It doesn’t become a checklist. It’s not, “Oh my gosh, I gotta do these 20 things.” It’s, “Oh, this is so cool, did you find this place?” “No, I didn’t even know that was there!” We do that throughout the entire game.

The main narrative continues to open the world up more and more. We’ve gone with this methodology of guiding the player in the beginning, then opening it up, then opening it up even further. There are always these layers. Each time you reach a milestone in the narrative, there’s more to explore, more to the world than you knew. That, I think, is incredibly rewarding.

Question: Can you talk about the progression formula? Do Kratos and his son have similar progressions?

Barlog: We don’t have a lot we can talk about at this time, but we’re leaning a lot more into the idea that Kratos and his son having separate progression allows you to make choices not only with what you might do with Kratos — oh, I’ll spend this over here, make a bit of that Sophie’s choice — but also letting you play the way you want to play.

It’s this idea that I’m trying to hand power back over to the player. In previous games, everybody was familiar with the circle button that pops up over an enemy’s head when they reached a certain point. That was a very heavy-handed design element, the designer telling you, “You are allowed to do this now.” Which is cool, but as a player, I always think, “What if I don’t want to do that now?” I don’t want to always follow the same pattern. If you do want to follow that, great, but I want to put that decision into the hands of the player.

The circle button is always available for you as long as you have enough of your sort of Spartan rage. Now you can spend it. I give you the money and say, “Spend it wherever you want, but you have to earn it back once it’s gone.” Any time you want to do it — if you want to enter into a boss right and spend it right away, you can do that. You don’t have to wait. As I’ve seen games develop, I’ve seen play styles change, and that’s where people are leaning now. “Give me the tools and let me do what I want. Let me solve the problem the way I want to solve it, experience the combat the way I want to experience it.”

Question: What is the personality of Kratos’s child like?

Barlog: There’s a little bit of Rudy in him, that concept of always pushing and pushing and getting back up. This idea of my own childhood, feeling like my world was very small. Then, as I got older, the world seemed to expand a little, as I got to see more things and go farther away from home. This idea of a kid growing up in a tiny little forest and never being able to leave, and then suddenly getting thrown out onto the road with his dad, who he doesn’t know very well, to experience the world. You may see it as hostile and dangerous, but he looks at it like, “This is the greatest thing ever! What else am I going to do?” He hasn’t had anything to do until now, so this is truly the greatest adventure of his life.

Question: It seems like they’re both helping each other out.

Barlog: Yeah. The son is a the humanity that Kratos has lost. He’s that mirror reminding him that there is a different way, even if he forgot that way so long ago. Kratos is doing the best he can to help the kid understand what it is to be a god. There’s this internal struggle for him, because he doesn’t really want to tell the kid that. To him, that’s the worst thing in his life: being a god. When he found out…

Microsoft creative director on reviving Age of Empires and making PC-only games

More companies at the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow are targeting a PC gaming audience. Alienware had a booth on the E3 show floor to reveal new prebuilt rigs with AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper CPU. Razer was showing its new Razer Blade Stealth with a smaller bezel and Intel’s Kaby Lake Core i7. And Creative was demoing its first new PCIe Sound BlasterX sound card in four years.

Even Microsoft, which debuted a new iteration of its Xbox One hardware with the Xbox One X, took time to specifically appeal to the PC gaming audience at E3. It did so by bringing its big first-party games like Sea of Thieves and Forza Motorsport 7 to The PC Gaming Show, but the company also delivered the highlight announcement of that presentation when Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Isgreen took the stage to reveal Age of Empires: Definitive Edition.

The publisher is rebuilding that 1997 strategy classic with updated visuals, improved mechanics, and a streamlined interface. It will support 4K resolutions, and Microsoft is inviting players to sign up for a beta test right now. Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is due out later this year, and the publisher is promising a big announcement related to the series when it shows up at the Gamescom fan even in Germany this August.

But instead of waiting a couple of months for more info, I caught up with Isgreen after The PC Gaming Show in L.A., and I asked him all about Age of Empires as well as Microsoft’s current feelings on Windows gaming.

Here the edited transcript of our interview:

GamesBeat: What was it like to finally get that game in front of people?

Adam Isgreen: Oh, my gosh. We’ve been trying to hold our tongues and not let this go. Age has such a wonderful history to it, this wonderful lineage. People love the series so much. We were racking our brains. What’s the best way to do this? This is really—Age has always been a PC series. It’s always been focused on PC gaming. We thought we should put it—should it be in the briefing? But really it all came down to, what’s the best place to show this? We’re here with a PC game for PC gamers. It’s here at the PC gaming show.

GamesBeat: Was Age of Empire: Definitive Edition going to happen no matter what — or is this something that came about due to Microsoft’s PC gaming focus?

Adam Isgreen: The response to Age of Empires we’ve seen, with the expansions we’ve done for Age II and everything like that — we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary. We thought, we’ve gotta do something great with Age. Like I said on stage, no one’s been able to play this thing outside of the CD-ROM for 20 years. A lot of people don’t know where the series started from. We thought, what a great time to put this together and bring it back. Age is this wonderful 20-year franchise. It’s still going. It’s great. It was a great opportunity, a merger—a perfect storm.

GamesBeat: Was it nice to reveal Definitive Edition at a PC gaming-focused E3 show?

Adam Isgreen: Personally, I think Age of Empires is strong enough to stand up…

Super Mario Odyssey is a Sonic the Hedgehog clone

The 16-bit console war may have ended in the ’90s, but Sega will rise again! And at this year’s influential Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in Los Angeles, we saw that Mario finally admit that he should just “borrow” from Sonic the Hedgehog instead of trying to beat him.

Super Mario Odyssey is the next blockbuster game from Nintendo, and the publisher dedicated much of its E3 booth and its livestream from the show floor to this bizarre Switch platformer due out October 27. GamesBeat reporters Mike Minotti and Jeffrey Grubb also got their hands on Odyssey, and it didn’t take them long to notice that Nintendo’s squat Italian plumber has taken some notes from Sega’s speedy blue hedgehog.

Here’s all the confirmation you need that Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto is secretly a chili-dog-eating Sonic fan who posts his OCs (original characters) on DeviantArt under the pseudonym Shiggy-The-Porcupine:

Mario has a spin dash

Above: Mario has to pay Sonic royalties every time he does this.

Image Credit: Nintendo

One of Sonic’s most iconic moves is the spin dash. This enables the Sega mascot to begin rolling through levels at high speeds, and now Mario can do the same.

And just like in Sonic, this is Mario’s fastest move. Because, as scientists proved decades ago, curling up into a ball makes for optimal aerodynamics and unleashes the true speed potential of all living things. If you want to get through stages as quickly as possible, you’ll be depending on this move.

To be fair, Samus was turning into a ball in Metroid before the first Sonic the Hedgehog came out. Really, Nintendo is just reclaiming the body roll. There…

Harvest Moon farm-life sim celebrates 20th anniversary with its first-ever PC game

It’s the 20th anniversary of Natsume, Inc.’s Harvest Moon, and for the first time, the iconic farming simulator will be coming to PC with Harvest Moon: Light of Hope.

In its long history, Harvest Moon has been available on a variety of platforms, starting with Super Nintendo and releasing on all Nintendo and Sony consoles thereafter. Though Light of Hope is the first time Harvest Moon is for the PC, developer and publisher Natsume’s first PC launch will be Wild Guns Reloaded later this year.

Much like Sega’s strategy to bring its IPs to PC, Natsume is increasing the number of platforms its games are on in order to reach a bigger market, though it’s still absent from Microsoft’s Xbox consoles. This could be because the PC market is comparable to the console games market; in 2016, console games generated $35 billion in revenue counting games, services, and hardware, while PC games generated $34 billion without being bolstered by hardware sales. The mobile games market is the largest, generating $41 billion in sales in 2016, up from previous years.

“We’re focusing on expanding our frontiers: Harvest Moon for Switch, Harvest Moon for Steam, Harvest Moon for PS4, Harvest Moon for Mac, and Harvest Moon for mobile, and any platforms yet to come,” said CEO Hiro Maekawa in an interview with GamesBeat at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last week. “That’s what we’re heading for. Reel Fishing is the project we’re…

Harvest Moon farm-life sim celebrates 20th anniversary with its first-ever PC game

It’s the 20th anniversary of Natsume, Inc.’s Harvest Moon, and for the first time, the iconic farming simulator will be coming to PC with Harvest Moon: Light of Hope.

In its long history, Harvest Moon has been available on a variety of platforms, starting with Super Nintendo and releasing on all Nintendo and Sony consoles thereafter. Though Light of Hope is the first time Harvest Moon is for the PC, developer and publisher Natsume’s first PC launch will be Wild Guns Reloaded later this year.

Much like Sega’s strategy to bring its IPs to PC, Natsume is increasing the number of platforms its games are on in order to reach a bigger market, though it’s still absent from Microsoft’s Xbox consoles. This could be because the PC market is comparable to the console games market; in 2016, console games generated $35 billion in revenue counting games, services, and hardware, while PC games generated $34 billion without being bolstered by hardware sales. The mobile games market is the largest, generating $41 billion in sales in 2016, up from previous years.

“We’re focusing on expanding our frontiers: Harvest Moon for Switch, Harvest Moon for Steam, Harvest Moon for PS4, Harvest Moon for Mac, and Harvest Moon for mobile, and any platforms yet to come,” said CEO Hiro Maekawa in an interview with GamesBeat at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last week. “That’s what we’re heading for. Reel Fishing is the project we’re…

Hands-on with 3 missions of Call of Duty: WWII multiplayer

About three years ago, Sledgehammer Games and Activision decided to go back to the roots of Call of Duty in a setting in World War II. And with the revelation of Call of Duty: WWII’s multiplayer combat last week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), we finally have a good idea of what the decision means for “boots on the ground” combat.

At the big game trade show in Los Angeles. I played a few rounds of multiplayer on some close-combat maps, and then I interviewed Michael Condrey, co-CEO of Sledgehammer Games. Here are my impressions of the different matches we played.

Team deathmatch on Pointe Du Hoc

Above: Pointe Du Hoc

Image Credit: Activision

We started with a battle in the bunkers at Pointe Du Hoc, where the U.S. Army Rangers scaled cliffs and fought hand-to-hand. During the invasion of Normandy, the cliffs were considered a high-priority target because they reportedly had artillery guns that could have cut into the invasion fleet. The Rangers landed on boats and then climbed the 100-feet cliffs.

The battle began at the top, after the Rangers were already in the German trenches. I could choose from single-shot rifles such as M1 Garands, but I chose to start with a Thompson machine gun. It wasn’t really accurate at long distances, but this was a close combat map, which mostly consisted of bunkers connected by trenches. You could run above the trenches and move into a middle area too in hopes of outflanking the enemy. But this map was mostly about getting the drop on the enemy. There wasn’t much point in being a sniper on this map.

Above: Pointe Du Hoc action in Call of Duty: WWII.

Image Credit: Activisoin

The bunker complex was a big circle of bunkers and gun batteries, connected by trenches that were as tall as a man. There was one two-story bunker overlooking the complex. The graphics of the map look realistic, with the flaming ruins of a downed bomber giving off flames and smoke. There are no artillery guns there since, in the historical battle, the Germans had withdrawn them inland before the invasion.

I tried to stay alive and pull the trigger as fast as I could. But it was pretty fierce competition in the small room where we battled. A kid was in our group, and he was clearly doing much better than I was. The guns felt good and realistic, with some rumble. But there wasn’t so much kick that you couldn’t control the aiming. The sound was excellent, as you could hear every echo in the bunkers and the crackle of gunfire everywhere.

Every now and then I got lucky with a double kill. But I was getting hit by people who were better shots, and I got roasted by a flamethrower once. I closed out the match with seven kills and 14 deaths. That was a pretty sad performance, but…

Watch us play Super Mario Odyssey — the best game at E3

Super Mario Odyssey was the best reason to spend the last week in Los Angeles for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), and we spent some significant time with Nintendo’s big Switch game for this holiday during our adventures at E3. We were also able to capture some footage that we want to share with you.

This new Mario is bigger and more open than any previous entry in the series, and…