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:
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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.
The wonderful stop-motion filmmaker PES is back, this time with five retro arcade game death sequences. Read the rest
"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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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.
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The Pong Project brings one of the first arcade video games back into the physical world through ingenious DIY engineering.
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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.
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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.”
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
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 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
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!
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.
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Reports also claim that the four characters have already been given names, with the sole female said to be known as Katherine.
Here’s some great music from David Bowie that I didn’t know about until today. Even though it was created over 15 years ago it would fit in perfectly alongside his newly released Blackstar.
Released around 2000 for PC and the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, Omikron was a strange hybrid game that let players do a bit of body snatching around the titular science fiction city…
Bowie is said to have had some input into the storyline, but his most memorable contributions are to the soundtrack and of course his in-game cameos. 'Hours...', the 1999 album Bowie released just prior to the debut of the game, featured a number of songs that had been written just for the game, but were slightly reworked so that they were not so specific to the sci-fi world. They would appear on the Omikron soundtrack in more tribal, remixed forms alongside original instrumentals Bowie also composed for the game.
Read more on Atlas Obscura. Read the rest
Undertale is a new 8bit RPG that's much different from the rest. In most games, you have to kill bosses and monsters to survive. In this game, it’s up to you whether you want to kill anyone, and depending on your choices, you can make friends that you would have lost, engage in secret fights, and much more. You have so many choices in the game that you can replay it over and over to achieve all the endings. But be careful, because even if you reset the game, some characters might have a vague memory of you.
The fighting style of Undertale is also unique. When an enemy attacks you, instead of automatically losing your health, you can dodge their attack by moving your “soul” across the screen to avoid being hit. Because of this, you don’t have to lose any damage throughout the battle.
Undertale starts by your character falling down a giant hole at the top of a mountain and waking up in a world full of monsters. They were all banished to live apart from society for the rest of their lives by humans who sealed them underground with a magic spell. The monsters have figured out that the only way to undo the spell is to have the power of seven souls, but since monsters’ souls disappear after they die, they’ve spent years killing the humans who fall into the underground to gain their souls. Because of this, most of them want to kill you so they can leave, but it’s up to you if you want to hurt them back, or show them that you both can find peace. Read the rest
Last night at midnight, Halo 5 launched. Will this be the last epic adventure for video gaming's mightiest champion? The Master Chief is back, but all the cockamamie advertising colors our hero as the bad guy.
I wish I could tell you if this game is any good! I've certainly been waiting a long time to play it! I purchased my Xbox One at launch, anticipating that Halo 5 would shortly follow. My Xbox has been around for two years now, with nary a Chief sighting. I could have played the Master Chief collection, but I heard poor reviews of its translation to the Xbox One.
The only game I've really enjoyed in the interim has been Destiny, which was developed by Halo creators Bungie. There is no small amount of question, in my online Destiny circles, around Halo killing Destiny. Destiny has also felt like Halo, without the amazing backstory and hero. Bungie is creating a backstory, and thus far it is pretty much a dud. The game play, and its mesh of FPS with MMO queues, like farming (sigh) are addictive but it is not Halo. I miss stickies. I long to gloriously dual wield the needler, or have a hell bent for leather Warthog chase! Will Halo 5 kill Destiny?
Large online teams of 12 players, mashed with an insane gameplay frame rate, and 4 player campaign mode all sound wonderful! I'm far more interested in the story, however. I have not read any Halo fiction, I have simply played the games, and the Master Chief is my ultimate video game hero. Read the rest
In part one of a series, the limitations of color on eighties-era computers and early game consoles like NES and Commodore 64.
CNN Money investigates the crazed market for the video games of yore, fueled by the likes of RetroLiberty, a YouTube channel about finding vintage video games at swap meets or parking lot deals, and Videogamesnewyork, a shop specializing in vintage game gear from the last century. Read the rest
Interrogate video footage of an aging game developer owl and solve the mystery of whatever it is he's trying to say. Try the search terms "cocaine", "murder" and "ubisoft."
From The Museum of Classic Chicago Television: "Here's a commercial for the videogame Pitfall! by Activision and featuring at the beginning a very young-looking appearance of the actor Jack Black - rockin' the pith helmet."
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