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Microsoft, Sony, and Others Announce New Video Games at Portland’s E3

Thursday, June 18, 2015

 

Monday was the start of a big week for video gamers. The Electronics Entertainment Expo also known, as E3 is the biggest video game event of the year, and it is when all the big names in the industry announce all the biggest games coming out, and announce updates to games that they have previously announced over the past year.

E3 began back in 1995 after splitting off from the Consumer Electronics Show. It featured the release of the Sega Saturn, and announcements for the Playstation, Virtual Boy, and the Neo-Geo CD.

Since then E3 has grown to be one of the biggest video game trade shows in the world. This year there are 275 exhibitors and thousands of visitors to the L.A. Convention Center. Naturally all the big names are there like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo: each with press events at the beginning of the show.

Photo via videogamer.com.

Opening up the festivities this year was Microsoft who seemed to have had one of the most impressive showings with their demo of their HoloLens technology and the video game Minecraft. The video, that you can see here, is pretty amazing showing Saxs Persson of Microsoft Studios manipulating a full 3D “hologram” of a Minecraft world sitting on a table in the middle of the stage. They have placed a HoloLens on the camera showing the audience a similar view to that of Mr. Persson.  It really shows the potential for augmented and virtual reality hardware and software not just for gaming but design, and education, and a whole list of things.

Sony had a decent showing as well, though nothing as spectacular as the HoloLens demo. They focused mainly on sequels and one big remake. The biggest announcement really was something that nerds across the world have been salivating over for years, an HD remake of the 1997 hit Final Fantasy 7.  Another big sequel that was announced was The Last Guardian. This is the successor of Shadow of the Colossus one of the most critically acclaimed games on the Playstation 2.  They also had announcements for a new Ratchet and Clank, New Call of Duty: Black Ops, Uncharted 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, and several others. Of course most of these games, with the exception of Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank, will be out on the Xbox One as well, and possibly on the Wii U.

Nintendo’s press event was definitely the weakest of the big three. No Mario, no Zelda, and no Metroid. What we did get was Star Fox: Zero, which still looks like it could still be at home on the Nintendo 64. They also showed off a few DS games, but otherwise this was one lackluster showing from the big N.

Two other huge announcements came from two of the biggest studios, Bethesda, the company behind the spectacular Elder Scrolls series announced a new entry into their other big franchise Fallout, with Fallout 4. This series has a huge following and thus this news is one of the most talked about of the show.

Of course Fallout 4 wasn’t the only big game teased at the show. Electronic Arts (EA) released gameplay footage of the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront. There were explosions and pew pew, and zroom zroom, and heavy breathing, and the whole bit. Still one of the big things missing from this game, at least so far, is space battles. It’s all well and good to have awesome ground fighting like Hoth and Endor, but the last time I checked this franchise was called “Star” Wars not futuristic ground wars.

Each year E3 is filled with excitement, disappointment, and most of all the sickening feeling in your wallet, and this year was no exception. There is some great stuff coming down the road, and this is the year that “Next Gen” becomes “current gen.” Got anything you were particularly excited about? Sound off in the comments and we’ll be back with some thoughts when some of these games release.

 

Related Slideshow: The Best Virtual Reality Gadgets and Games

Big names are now making VR a viable and desirable “new” technology. Google, Facebook, HTC, and Samsung are all in the game and the results make the 75-year-old View Master look like a child’s…well you get the idea. 

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ViewMaster

In fact the View Master has gotten a serious upgrade thanks to Google and it’s Google Cardboard project. The new View Master is now a fully immersive experience with 360-degree worlds, photosphere, and interactive “field-trips.” The $30 plastic viewer requires a smartphone to function, and can be replaced with a standard cardboard setup since most of the work is done inside the app, but the View Master is a much more durable version and will come with the classic reels. These reels, however are no longer inserted into the top of the device, but laid on a table and viewed through the smartphone app triggering the experience. 

Of course since the View Master is just a sturdier version of the standard Google Cardboard so it can be used for the variety of apps now available for the platform. Some of the best apps include Orbulus, VR Cosmic Rollercoaster, and Village. The View Master will be available in October, and will eventually support both Android and iOS.

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Samsung Gear VR

Similar to the Google Cardboard, Samsung has developed it’s own VR headset designed to use the Galaxy Note 4 as the display. The Gear VR is actually a very good-looking full-on headset that only cost $200. The drawback, and it is a very big very expensive drawback, is that it requires the $700 Galaxy Note 4 in order to function. Another drawback is the limited software. It can of course use all the VR apps and features available for Google Cardboard, but those are still very limited both in visual quality and variety. If you already have a Note 4 and $200 to blow this could certainly be a fun toy, but at this point I would probably just go for the View Master or straight cardboard box.

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HTC Vive

Like Samsung HTC is best known for it’s outstanding smartphones, particularly the outstanding One series. They were also the first to develop an Android phone so you would think they would be content with the Cardboard project or something similar to the Gear VR. This is not the case; HTC, with the help of Valve, has developed the HTC Vive a high end VR headset aimed at PC gamers. Basically HTC is handling the manufacturing of the device while Valve/Steam handle the software. With a Fall 2015 release date the Vive is the first of the big VR headsets to launch, and could set the stage for the others.

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Project Morpheus

Project Morpheus is Sony’s go at VR technology. This headset will connect directly to the Playstation 4 and provide a similar experience to the HTC Vive but in a console/living room setting as opposed to Vive’s PC/desk setting. Demos of the Morpheus have people on a luge, swimming with sharks, and robbing banks. If successful this could breathe new life into Sony’s lackluster attempt to copy the Nintendo Wii; the Playstation Move. Some of the issues gamers may have here are with the headset being wired to the PS4 and the potential amount of movement required of some games. Now movement and wires aren’t by themselves a bad thing, but pair them with a living room full of furniture, maybe a child/dog or two, and what amounts to a blindfold strapped to your head and you can see the potential for issues.

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Oculus Rift

The device that re-started it all; Oculus Rift was a project that began back in 2012 with Oculus VR founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe. Palmer envisioned a lightweight head mounted display (HMD) that was both functional and inexpensive. The first prototype was little more than a couple of LCD panels duct taped to the head and running Doom 3. In August of 2012 the company began its Kickstarter campaign that introduced the first “dev-kit” for $300 allowing many the chance to develop for this new and exciting platform. In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2.2 billion. The Oculus Rift is set to launch sometime next year and will likely have a price tag of around two or three hundred dollars. 

The development of this next generation of VR looks like a promising one. Not only are these devices being developed for gaming and looking at pictures, but virtual tourism, medical uses, and virtual art shows are just the tip of the iceberg. Companies are developing VR arcades that merge real world environments and virtual ones to create even more realistic experiences.

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As exciting as all this sounds it is all still in it’s…we’ll say…toddler stage. Things are looking good, but we won’t know how good for another two to three years at the least. If you want to try VR out for yourself Google Cardboard is your best bet currently as most of the more advanced options don’t launch until later this year or next. You can find a list of Cardboard sellers here, and perhaps I’ll see you in a virtual space down the road.

 
 

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