Listen to some amazing high school kids perform excerpts from the Guild Wars 2 soundtrack

It's no secret for anyone who knows me that I happen to be a long-time MMORPG player, but no game has grabbed my attention as completely as Guild Wars 2 has, due in no small part to the beautiful visuals and the incredible soundtrack. I'm a huge fan of video game music, having been to my share of Zelda and Final Fantasy concerts when they've been in the area.

Today, the ArenaNet folks have shared this amazing performance of excerpts from their Heart of Thorns expansion, performed by the Evergreen Philharmonic, in Issaquah, WA.

What makes this performance extra special is the composition of the orchestra itself: It's composed primarily of high-school students from the Issaquah area.

The Evergreen Philharmonic has been active since 1988 and has been an audition-only orchestra since 1991. Evergreen Philharmonic functions as an honors youth orchestra within the Issaquah School District, and has students from all three Issaquah High Schools. Evergreen has performed in a variety of venues, such as the Washington State Ferries, the University of Washington, the University of British Columbia, Disneyland, and the University of Southern California. The orchestra has also travelled to perform in Paris, London, Quebec and Boston. In May of 2011 Evergreen Philharmonic played at Carnegie Hall, New York.

Read more about the Orchestra, this performance, or Heart of Thorns. Long live high school music programs! Read the rest

How the inventor of Mario designs a game

Shigeru Miyamoto is the creator of Donkey Kong, Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, Pikmin, and Wii. In this video, he explains the elements necessary in a good video game. Read the rest

How Shigero Miyamoto, legendary creator of Zelda and Mario Bros., designs a game

"I think that it was in my generation that people who made video games really became designers rather than technologists," Shigero Miyamoto says.

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Original development art from The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda turned 30 this year and in celebration, Nintendo posted development artwork from the game hand-drawn by legendary designers Takashi Tezuka and Shigeru Miyamoto! More at Nintendo.co.uk.

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The food in "Final Fantasy XV" looks amazing

Whitney Reynolds of Eater interviewed the director of FinalFantasy XV to find out why the food in the game looks so mouth-wateringly delicious.

"Recipes were just one element of the camping scenes, but the catalyst for our obsession was the high quality of the food graphics that the camp team was able to create in the pre-production phase," [Final Fantasy XV director Hajime] Tabata says. "In Japan, we have a term called 'meshi-tero' (an abbreviation of the Japanese-English combo phrase 'Meshi (food) Terror' and similar to the English term 'food porn'), but that pretty much summed it up. We have to create truly delicious-looking food scenes similar to those that appear in movies and anime."

One of the Prince's guards, Ignis, also serves as the chef of your party, and he can learn 103 different recipes to cook up for his friends at the camp site. He can be inspired by everything from finding a new kind of mushroom in the woods to taking down a giant frog that has an interesting cut of meat to reading a bit of poem on a sign. Even more dishes can be consumed at restaurants in other countries and cities that the party visits on their voyage. Eat an expensive seafood risotto at a bistro and it will fill Ignis with the inspiration to create a homemade version, with fish you catch yourself and ingredients you forage. Every dish is painstakingly, realistically rendered, and you, the poor player, only get to look, not taste.

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The story of the world's worst videogame

For better or worse, video game designer/programmer Howard Scott Warshaw is perhaps best known for the Atari 2600 game "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982). That game is considered by many to be the worst video game in history and blamed for driving the video game industry crash of 1983. (To be fair, it wasn't entirely Warshaw's fault. He was also the talented developer behind the classic Yars' Revenge and other fine titles.) Above is the Big Story of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Warshaw, now a psychotherapist in Silicon Valley.

And in case you missed it, the film Atari: Game Over is a wonderful documentary about E.T. and the mass burial of unsold copies of the game.

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The launch trailer for 'Titanfall 2: Become One' looks amazing

Just a pilot and his pal, a deadly Titan.

I'm looking forward to Titanfall 2 as a welcome break from Destiny. It launches on October 28th. Read the rest

Why video game eyes are creepy

When it comes to the uncanny valley of video game characters, the eyes have it. Even as digital characters become increasingly (hyper)realistic, the eyes lag behind. At FastCo Design, Mark Wilson looks at the technological and perceptual challenges of designing eyes with personality:

The initial problem with rendering eyes is simply that of light and structure. While the eye looks simple to, um, the naked eye, when you actually examine its structures, you realize it’s actually a mostly clear object. All of these clear layers manipulate light differently, and in reaction to one another, through a spherical structure (but notably, not a perfect sphere!). On top is the cornea. It’s not just a transparent lens. It’s a transparent lens that bulges out from the eyeball. It might reflect light like a mirror, or refract light, warping it like a water droplet on a windshield. Indeed, every structure you see within someone’s eye—like the colorful iris—has been distorted by their cornea.

"The transitions of each of these things, from one to the next, needs to be handled properly," says (Brian Karis, senior graphics programmer at Epic Games). "How light interacts with all those things has to be handled."

The white of the eye is particularly tricky. Known as the sclera, it’s actually the layer that wraps around most of your eye like an orange skin. Light "scatters" from the sclera through the clear gel that comprises most your eye—which is the same phenomenon that gives a glass of milk its particular glow.

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Stop-motion master PES recreates classic video game death sequences

The wonderful stop-motion filmmaker PES is back, this time with five retro arcade game death sequences. Read the rest

Watch a brief history of video game controllers

"A Brief History of Video Game Controllers," starting with Tennis for Two (1958). My favorite is the pioneering Nintendo Power Glove (1989). (Super Deluxe)

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Stunning cyberpunky short film shows off Unity engine

This absolutely gorgeous under-six-minutes short film, called Adam, was rendered by the Unity team, in real-time, to show off the capabilities of the current Unity game engine. Here's what Unity Technologies has to say about the film.

The Unity Demo Team built Adam with beta versions of Unity 5.4 and our upcoming cinematic sequencer tool.

Adam also utilizes an experimental implementation of real-time area lights and makes extensive use of high fidelity physics simulation tool CaronteFX, which you can get from the Unity Asset Store right now.

To make Adam, the Demo Team developed custom tools and features on top of Unity including volumetric fog, a transparency shader and motion blur to cover specific production needs. We’ll make these freely available soon!

Adam runs at 1440p on a GeForce GTX980. Attendees at Unite Europe were able to play with it in real time, and we’ll make a playable available soon so everyone can check it out.

Open it to full-screen, HD, for maximum impact. It is quite impressive. Read the rest

Pong beautifully remade as a physical, analog arcade game

The Pong Project brings one of the first arcade video games back into the physical world through ingenious DIY engineering.

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Recursive video gaming: Destiny in Minecraft

A minecrafter, infered5, has decided to recreate all of Bungie's Destiny, inside of Minecraft. It is pretty amazing!

Kotaku shares the story:

Some Minecraft players like to build houses, or castles, or mazes full of monsters. Others prefer to recreate the entirety of Destiny.

Player infered5's pet project is to remake all of Bungie’s space dress-up sim in the blocky world of Minecraft, and he’s done a pretty good job so far. Check out this footage for a quick tour through Minecraft’s version of the Tower and even some of the Cosmodrome:

“We have the Cosmodrome built from the Steppes to the Divide, through the breach and through the Devils Lair, nothing Mothyards and beyond is made,” infered5 told me. “The Moon was made with worldpainter as a proof of concept, but has no underground areas. Very bland. The Cosmodrome was built by hand and has much more detail. The Tower and Reef are built in their entireties.”

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$49 gaming console for PICO-8 games

PICO-8 is a virtual game platform with 128×128 pixels and a palette of sixteen colors. Because its memory and processing demands are so meager, it can easily run on the $9 C.H.I.P. computer. Even better, the makers of the C.H.I.P. are taking pre-orders for a $49 gaming console called the PocketCHIP that comes with a color display. Read the rest

Women outnumber men by nearly 2-to-1 in USC's video game design graduate program

The top-ranked University of Southern California's graduate video game design program has 12 women and seven men, indicative of a rising trend in the ratio of men to women in the graduate and undergraduate programs at USC. Watch the video here.

From the LA Times:

"I will make a crazy prediction," says Martzi Campos, a master's student in the USC program. "There are the same issues in the film industry, but I would argue that games will grow faster and games will change faster. We're newer. Because film has a long history, it's a bigger boat to steer. Right now, with the indie game explosion, games have the chance to lead the way and be like, 'Hey, films, check us out. Look how diverse and widespread we are.' This is our chance for our medium to really shine."
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Kontrol Freek Grips help old hands play console games

Kontrol Freek Grips help make the Xbox One control comfortable, and keep my hands from cramping up.

Lately, we've been playing Star Wars Battlefront. There is nothing quite like watching my daughter force choke some other player. Thing is, I can't play much of anything for very long, before my hands ache. I've previously written about how Kontrol Freek's button extensions help my hands, and now I find their Grips pretty amazing.

These thin foam pads simply peel and stick to your controller. They are moderately reposition-able and maintain their stick for a few peels and move-arounds. It is fairly simple to get them right the first time, however. Once in place they add some much needed cushion and thickness to the controller.

We've been using one for several weeks. Over time the cloth layer that covers the foam will start to separate, but it really isn't a big deal and doesn't impact the effectiveness of these pads. I've found Control Freek Grips, matched with the button extensions, change my video game experience from one of needing some anti-inflammatories to relatively pain-free play!

KontrolFreek Grips - Xbox One via Amazon Read the rest

Rumors of "Left 4 Dead 3" arise after long silence

After a 7 year hiatus, perhaps the greatest horror video game series of all time may be picking up where it left off! Rumors have it that Valve has delayed work on Half-Life 3 to work on Left 4 Dead 3.

Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 were wonderful zombie smashing, cooperative first person shooters. The game play was fantastic, the characters, levels, and script hilariously endearing. We all wept when Bill sacrificed himself for the team. I'm hopeful!

Via Express:

The last game in the series came out back in 2009, but it is believed that the latest title has been given a 2017 release date.

Reports also claim that the four characters have already been given names, with the sole female said to be known as Katherine.

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