#56: Next-Gen Steps To ‘Photorealism’

TODAY: Developers have fun at pirates’ expense — Sony gets fashionable with new range of DualShock 4 colors — Would you trust an app with your innermost thoughts, fears and feelings?

Top Story

Next consoles edge us closer to “photorealism,” says Take-Two CEO

Squint, and 2K Sports’ NBA 2K almost looks like an actual basketball match, according to Take-Two head honcho Strauss Zelnick – and he thinks the next generation consoles will bring us close to photorealism.

Of course, that doesn’t mean every game will suddenly look real, he says, since not every game strives for realism. He gave Borderlands as an example of stylized art direction. But he thinks Take-Two’s sports titles will definitely benefit from looking as close to the real thing as possible: “… that’s really exciting, and that gives our creative folks a new canvas on which to paint,” Zelnick told CNBC, reports GamingBolt.

Photorealistic Pokémon? That’d be terrifying! Unless voiced by Ryan Reynolds, of course

This kind of talk is hardly new: Every time a new batch of consoles is announced, someone claims that this time we’re definitely closing in on photorealism – but this time, we’re actually seeing techniques from high-end offline rendering such as that employed in high-end cinematic visual effects.

Both AMD and Nvidia are betting big on ray-tracing, and while not a lot of games support the technology yet, the next console generation will change that. Maybe we should be grateful there’s no photorealistic Grand Theft Auto on the horizon, considering the outrage it would no doubt generate. But it certainly looks like one day, in the not all that distant future, we’ll be able to strap on our head-mounted displays and take a step into a totally realistic virtual world.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

What other game did Ion Fury heroine Shelly Harrison appear in?

  • Duke Nukem: Critical Mass
  • Bombshell
  • Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast
  • Rise of the Triad (remake)

The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!

News Bits

Session ollies onto Early Access

Crea-ture Studios collected no less than 163,716 Canadabucks from Kickstarter to make their dream game: A crazy skateboarding sim called Session. Now Session is almost ready to heelflip, nosegrind and hang ten to Steam Early Access on September 17th, and it’ll …

(Looks up more rad skater lingo)

… alley oop, roast beef grab and plasma spin over to Xbox Game Preview later before launching in 2020.

New Switch box houses latest model

If you’re in the market for a Nintendo Switch, then make sure to keep an eye out for the new box design to make sure you buy the latest and greatest model. The new, revised Switch hardware features longer battery life for its handheld mode, adding hours of portable playtime. The new console model ‘HAC-001(-01)’ is recognizable by its solid red box, missing the hand reaching to snatch the device from its cradle.

Daily Fact

You can’t stop pirates, but you can make them the butt of your jokes

There’s a strong argument to be made that game piracy is all but inevitable, and that heavy-handed DRM schemes only end up hurting your legitimate customers. So how do you discourage piracy? Well, you could try booby-trapping your game!

For example, Serious Sam 3 would unleash a gigantic, immortal, super-fast space scorpion to hound you relentlessly through the game. Skullgirls would show pirates a cryptic message after its ending: “What is the square root of a fish? Now I’m sad.” Pirates would go online and ask what this meant, and reveal their dastardly ways to the whole world-wide web. Garry’s Mod was even more devious, presenting pirates with an error code that included the user’s Steam account ID.

Game Dev Tycoon offered an opportunity for introspection by making your in-game creations subject to staggering amounts of piracy and resultant lost sales. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 would let you get settled into the game for a little while and then, BOOM! Blow up all your units. Alan Wake would present you with an eye patch featuring a skull and crossbones. The Sims 4 would gradually expand the pixellation used to hide nudity until it covered the entire screen. Crysis: Warhead replaced your bullets with chickens, while Mirror’s Edge would slow you down just before big jumps so you’d come short and plummet to your doom instead. Ouch.

Daily News

New “Fall Colors” for PlayStation’s DualShock 4 controllers

You probably think you’re pretty fashionable, right? Well, not anymore! If you wanna stay cool, you need Sony’s new range of DualShock 4 controllers sporting four “New Fall Colors”.

In addition to the 15 existing colors and patterns, you’ll now be able to mix and match Rose Gold, Titanium Blue, Electric Purple and Red Camouflage. A new announcement trailer gives the four new styles the runway fashion treatment, and certainly look like they’ll become this autumn’s hot accessories.

Your pad says a lot about you – it’s got a speaker!

The DualShock 4 introduced the new touch pad, a light bar and even a built-in speaker that occasionally scares the crap out of you because you forgot all about it. Progress! Some games actually took advantage of the new features, such as inFamous: Second Son’s grafitti mechanic that saw you hold the controller sideways like a can, while Until Dawn would decide how scared you are by how steadily you hold the controller.

These fashionable new pads may also attract PC gamers, since Sony has finally released official drivers for Windows. Microsoft’s Xbox controllers have been the de-facto standard for a long time now, but they better get their groove on if they want to stay cool!

NPD: Hardware sales down, software sales up, Nintendo dominates

How are the Americans spending their increasingly hard-earned Ameribucks these days? Business intelligence agency NPD Group has been collecting data on the spending habits of the elusive Gamerus Northamericanus, and boy do they have some stats for us!

Their numbers for July 2019 reveals that hardware sales have dropped 22% since the same period last year, hauling in a still-respectable $169 million. Accessories and in-game currency cards slipped 12% as well, down to $254 million – but on the plus side, software sales on PC and consoles are up a whopping 34% to $340 million. “Gains in software spending due to the shift of Madden NFL into the July tracking month offset declines across hardware, accessories, and game cards,” according to an NPD analyst.

Shut up and take my money, Nintendo

So far this year, overall spending is down about 4%, to $6.4 billion spread across hardware, software, accessories and cards, according to NPD: “Declines in hardware spending have offset growth in software sales,” explained the analyst. The game sales chart for July 2019 shows “Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 have experienced software sales growth year to date.”

Nintendo has been on fire recently, and 6 of the 10 best-selling titles in July were exclusives: Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Maker 2, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have all done good numbers this summer, but it was EA Sports’ Madden NFL 20 that stole the top spot: “Madden NFL 20 immediately becomes the eighth best-selling game of 2019 year to date. Madden Football remains the best-selling sports property in U.S. history.”

Under The Radar - Eliza

Can a computer be a therapist?

(Zachtronics – Windows, Mac, Linux)

Release: August 12th 2019

The visual novel Eliza explores how people interact with AI counselling. Can you imagine talking to an app for your therapy sessions? In Zachtronics new title, Eliza is a digital counselor that’s revolutionizing both technology and mental health. While the new technology is impressive, the question remains – is it actually helping those in need, or does it serve another, more sinister purpose?

Players are introduced to Evelyn Ishino-Aubrey, a successful tech-worker just returning to work after a three-year sabbatical. Evelyn lands a job as a mechanical turk for Eliza, and finds herself reflecting on her own life while taking in the experiences of the app’s users – and forced to make some tough choices.

Is Eliza lacking that human touch?

Judging by Eliza’s trailer, the game takes great care to create believable characters with everyday struggles most of us can relate to, and through them come to know and understand Evelyn. You can also replay each of the game’s chapters, make different decisions and discover different paths that have a significant impact on Evelyn’s personal journey.

Zachtronics is using Eliza to ask interesting questions about AI, technology, business and mental health, presenting a thought-provoking story through beautifully painted art and high-quality voice acting. Eliza hit Steam on August 12th for £11.39/€12.49/$14.99 and so far 94% of its Steam reviews are positive.

News Bits

DreadOut 2 gameplay teaser for third-person action horror sequel

Remember Fatal Frame (known as Project Zero in Europe), Koei-Tecmo’s horror series about cute girls trapping ghosts with their cameras? DreadOut 2 offers a modernized, Indonesian take where you explore a city and capture ghosts using a mobile app. Explore a sleepy little town filled with ghosts, secrets and supernatural terror. DreadOut 2 will be showcased at GamesCom in Cologne next week.

Little Town Hero trademarked by Game Freak in Japan

It seems Pokémon game creator Game Freak has finally settled on a name for the ‘Town’ project they announced last year for Switch. It will be called Little Town Hero judging by this Japanese trademark filing. Little else is known about the game, except that it’s “set in a small village” that used to be nice and peaceful until pesky monsters appeared and laid siege to it. It’s up to you to lead the villagers into battle and fend them off!

Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

What other game did Ion Fury heroine Shelly Harrison appear in?

Answer: Bombshell!

Ion Fury is actually a prequel to Bombshell, a 2016 top-down shooter by 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Ion Fury seems to be doing a lot better, but it’s interesting that it’s a follow-up to a game no one remembers! Interceptor’s last game was the Rise of the Triad remake, which featured a bunch of playable characters – though not Shelly ‘Bombshell’ Harrison.

Duke Nukem: Critical Mass was a meh title for the Nintendo DS and definitely did not feature Shelly, but Interceptor had a Duke Nukem game called Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction in development where she was meant to appear as a supporting character. Unfortunately, Gearbox shut that down, and it turned into Bombshell instead. As for that Iron Maiden game: Ion Fury was actually called Ion Maiden until the fussy band’s lawyers stepped in.

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