The future’s coming, and – like it or not – it’s bringing an extra dimension along for the ride. Well, for most of us, anyway. See, as it turns out, you don’t have to be legally blind or Cyclops from X-Men to be part of the unlucky minority that’ll view future games, movies, and TV shows not in 3D, but as a blurred mess of reds, blues, and disappointment. In fact, according to a study by UK charity The Eyecare Trust, slightly more than one out of every ten of you are SOL when it comes to 3D.
“For these six million people it’s like taking the 3D glasses off, making everything all blurry. You can’t see the image and that causes headaches, eye-strain and blurred vision,” Chairman Dharmesh Patel said of the British population that can’t see 3D. “There will be people who have not attended an eye examination in years and are probably unaware they have a lazy eye or something like that.”
“About 12 percent have 3D vision problems and you’ll find a similar percentage worldwide,” he added. “Some people won’t even know why they can’t see it. Sometimes something can be done, but it depends on the individual case.”
As PC Gamer points out, that means approximately 670 million people lack the focal faculties needed to avoid seeing right through the smoke and mirrors that make up modern 3D effects. That’s even more than the number of people who can’t tell why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch! (It's the cinnamon sugar swirls in every bite, damn it! Now where's our commercial?)
Which, of course, raises the question: if roughly ten percent of humanity can’t even see it, is 3D really the future of media consumption? And even if 3D tech wizards find a way to clear this hurdle, will people still care when/if they finally do? Who knows? All we can say for sure is this: we’re hungry for some Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Profound, we know.
First off, the two point out that the study paid next-to-no attention to studies that have found videogames beneficial to attention and cognition. Apparently, it also overlooks "a number of recent studies that contradict their views on the relationship between videogames and aggression." Convenient, no?
Worse still, the study’s measurement system is fatally skewed, only using reports from teachers and completely ignoring outside factors that could contribute to a lacking attention span like home environment, poverty, and parental education.
"All standardized regression coefficients for children in the study are less than .10. This indicates that the overlap in variance between media use and attention is less than 1%. Even taking these findings a face value (setting aside concerns about measures and control variables), these are weak effect sizes without practical significance, effectively no different from zero," Ferguson and Ceranoglu explained.
"In sum, these findings are unable to support the weight that Swing et al. (2010) attempt to place on them, and give no cause for concern to clinicians, educators or parents."
So basically, it sounds like a few researchers wanted to make a splash, but ended up belly-flopping instead. Turns out, the scientific method isn’t composed of a single step that says “tailor your study to give you whatever results you’re looking for,” and the scientific community isn’t composed of blind idiots. So yeah, don’t expect any “This is your brain. This is your brain on videogames” PSAs any time soon.
Not that we’re too surprised, mind you. Any community that can count grinding for experience points/boar tusks for hours on end as one of its main hobbies has to have developed a pretty serious attention span – probably out of necessity, if nothing else.
Hey, rest of the videogame industry, you might as well pack it in -- or at least stop making passes at the fantasy genre buffet and loading your plates up with clichés. Why? Because Dragon Age is officially a franchise now, and unless BioWare suffers a huge sophomore slump, your efforts are going to look silly by comparison. So, what’s on the table for Dragon Age 2? Well, here’s what we know so far:
First up, BioWare’s ready to unfurl one of its trademark 60-hour yarns, but this time, the role-playing powerhouse is breaking free from its usual mold. Dragon Age 2 tells the decade-spanning story of Hawke, “a penniless refugee who rises to power to become the single most important character in the world of Dragon Age.” Obviously, rags-to-riches has been done before, but we’re more interested in what BioWare’s going to do with a game world that’s actually affected by the passage of time.
On top of that, Dragon Age’s roughest edge, its graphical style – which was actually so rough that its nearest living genetic relative is a piece of sandpaper – is getting a complete overhaul. Or at least, that’s what we’re expecting from BioWare’s proclamation of a “new visual style.” Combat, meanwhile, is seemingly taking a turn for the visceral, with “dynamic new combat mechanics that put you right in the heart of battle.”
For now, we’re gonna have to take BioWare’s Executive VP of Press Release Writing’s word for it, but with a big blowout scheduled for next month’s Gamescom gaming convention, we won’t have to wait too long to judge for ourselves.
The game’s slated for a March 2011 release date. Odds are, after we’re done playing it, we’ll be able to identify with Hawke quite well, seeing as – if it’s anything like Origins -- we’ll probably lose our jobs, friends, and social lives to it and become penniless. That “most important character in the world” bit, though? Not so much.
We don’t usually bat an eyelash when a game’s official forum undergoes a policy change, but we’re making a special exception and batting harder than a mafia hitman against someone’s kneecaps at Blizzard’s decision to switch its forum over to a real ID system. In a nutshell, this means that in order to post on, say, the official World of Warcraft or StarCraft II forums, you’ll soon have to display your real name for all 11.5-million some-odd players to see.
“The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild,” said Blizzard’s announcement of the change.
“Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.”
Makes enough sense at first glance, right? Look closer, though, and you’ll realize that Blizzard’s missing so many points that anyone not hiding behind a giant, red bull’s-eye probably oughta duck. Foremost, there’s the issue of potential identity theft or other forms of harassment. In this day and age, odds are, if you've got someone's name, you'll find a treasure trove of personal information waiting for you on Google. Also, in these games, you are your handle. You are your character. Why play an MMO if not to become part of another reality – live another life? Worst case scenario, having your real name attached to your character could even change how you act in-game.
On top of that, has Blizzard taken a look at its own game lately? Of course there’s conflict on your forums. It’s called World of Warcraft for Pete’s sake! The trolling, flaming, smack-talking, etc is symptomatic of WoW’s intrinsic, PvP-based design, and forcing players to display their real names isn’t going to change that.
Is general hostility and confrontation an issue in many gaming communities? Certainly. “Issue” is probably understating it, in fact. But this definitely won’t fix it. It will, however, in all likelihood turn Blizzard’s forum into a ghost town. Please, other developers, learn from Blizzard’s potentially community-destroying attempt to unify its community. Think about the consequences of such a huge change before you make it. Look before you leap.
E3’s been put to bed and tucked in tight, and we’ve given you a pretty good taste of what we saw while we were there. Here’s the thing, though: we only previewed games. Handy, sure, but isn’t there, like, an entire industry surrounding this stuff? So consider this your preview of everything else. Trends, technologies, when we’ll finally catch a glimpse of Half-Life 3 (answer: the day after Duke Nukem Forever comes out), and more!
1. Modern Warfare – I never thought I’d say this, but I sort of miss World War II. Actually, no I don’t, but after realizing that, by now, the number of fictional Middle Eastern countries invented to house fictional videogame terrorist groups probably outnumbers the actual Middle East, I’ve definitely started feeling some fatigue from constantly playing as the boys in fatigues. That, however, didn’t stop E3 from proudly displaying Call of Duty: Black Ops, Spec Ops: The Line, Medal of Honor, and plenty of others cut from the same cloth as Infinity Ward’s opus.
The Forecast: Modern Warfare’s influence has already spread to the most disparate corners of the gaming universe and will continue to do so. Some games won’t even try to dress up their influences (Medal of Honor, I’m looking at you. Oh, wait, is that you Modern Warfare 2? Sorry. Easy Mistake). Others, meanwhile, might try putting a personal spin on the proceedings – like Spec Ops with its choice-based storyline. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Every multiplayer game under the sun – war-based or not – is taking cues from Modern Warfare’s addictive level-up system. Don’t believe me? Try the latest Transformers game. Yeah.
If you live in the fast lane of bleeding-edge tech, you probably believe physical media’s on its deathbed – just a couple coughs and a close-eyed “ahhh” away from casting off its mortal coil. That impassioned eulogy you’ve been working on, however, might be a little premature, according to a survey from Ipsos MediaCT. The survey, which fell into the hands of over a thousand people, found that a whopping 64 percent of gamers still like their media the way we like our women: tangible.
“I believe the preference for physical discs amongst next gen gamers reflects the potential value they derive from the pre-owned market, which is holding up the preference for physical – this is unlike the music and film markets,” said Ipsos MediaCT director Ian Bramley.
The same survey found that music and film’s digital rejection rates were at 45 and 51 percent, respectively.
“Physical games discs have a long and well-established history, which is a deep mindset to change – particularly when gamers build a physical collection as they fear losing digital versions. And in-store browsing is also important to buyers,” Bramley added.
Gamers’ fears, we might add, aren’t unjustified. Multiplayer server shutdowns have become commonplace on consoles, and PC DRM has – in some cases – turned “ownership” of a game into a total farce. The digital revolution is one of convenience, no doubt, but at some point, we’re forced to ask: how much are we willing to give up for convenience’s sake?
Boutique system builder iBuyPower on Thursday announced a interesting piece of proprietary software called "MAGIC," or "Multi-touch Advanced Gaming Interface and Control." The software was developed in-house, and according to iBuyPower, it allows users to play any game under the sun with multi-touch controls.
"Mutli-touch is one of the fastest growing PC gaming interfaces," said Darren Su, Executive Vice President of iBuyPower. "Our motivation behind creating the Multi-touch Advanced Gaming Interface and Control -- MAGIC -- is to instantly expand compatibility of multi-touch interfaces to nearly every application you can imagine."
So how does MAGIC work its, er, magic? As iBuyPower explains, MAGIC links multi-touch gestures to pre-existing in-game commands, and is really a fancy way of emulating commands by mapping mouse clicks or keystrokes. MAGIC supports the use of profiles, as well as Tap, Pan (Drag), Rotate, and 2 Finger Tap actions.
Ready for the best part? iBuyPower is giving MAGIC away as a free download.
“The money’s on console,” according to Epic president Mike Capps, but the Unreal Engine developer’s heart is still on the PC, says vice president Mark Rein.
“But I think that’s a myth that we’ve abandoned the PC, it’s just not true. I mean, Bulletstorm is coming out on three platforms; we’ve just been in this situation where our biggest franchise [Gears of War] has been published by a console-holder, and was a very console designed-IP,” Rein told Rock Paper Shotgun.
“I wouldn’t want people to mistake that for our intentions or our interests, because we’re very much into the PC game business… Don’t confuse Gears of War with everything we do. There’s a tendency to think that because we wanna do one thing really, really well and not a hundred things really poorly or just okay that we’re less committed. Bulletstorm is PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and you’ll see when it comes out, it will be a full-blown, oh-my-god amazing PC game. I wouldn’t draw the comparisons there.”
Epic, of course, used to be a PC kingpin, using the ever-evolving platform to show off its flashiest tech. Despite Rein’s reassuring words, however, recent years have seen a definite shift in Epic’s priorities, with games like Gears of War 2 and low-priced, incredibly high-quality sidescroller Shadow Complex conspicuously absent from the PC.
The reality of the situation, of course, is that between rising development costs and a rapid upsurge in piracy that makes Mount Vesuvius blowing its top look slow and entirely avoidable, triple-A developers cannot live on PC alone. Epic didn’t sell out, so much as it decided not to commit financial suicide. Rein’s definitely right about one thing, though: Bulletstorm looks fantastic. Could it be a bit prettier if it was a PC exclusive? Sure. But we’re not too broken up over the whole thing. Meanwhile, some of the best , most creative indie devs and modders in the business carry the PC-exclusive torch that Epic once bore, so we win no matter how you look at it.
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. And there ain’t no such thing as a free MMO, either. But there is such a thing as an MMO that doesn’t slowly-but-surely siphon a small fortune from your bank account, and it seems to be all the rage these days. Dungeons & Dragons Online rolled a last-minute, tide-turning 20 by giving the boot to its subscription fee, and Lord of the Rings Online seems poised for a similar resurgence. But what about the perennial king of the subscription-based MMO hill?
“At some point, it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee,” World of Warcraft lead designer Tom Chilton told PC Gamer.
Of course, at this particular moment, 11.5 million subscribers say it still makes plenty of sense. In fact, many have speculated that subscriptions are going the way of the Dodo precisely because Blizzard’s hogging all the potential subscribers. Chilton, however, doesn’t buy it.
“I feel like they’re doing that to compete with other games that are on a similar subscriber level to what they were at. I imagine that when one of them went free to play it cannibalized some of the other subscribers. I can definitely imagine that being the case with World of Warcraft. If another game comes along and blows us away it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee. Or even further down the line, when we have another MMO out.”
For now, though, keep on pinching those pennies. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, after all, and WoW’s the most well-oiled machine on the block. And besides, we all know where that money’s really going. Yep: Warcraft IV. Please, Blizzard? Pretty please with a reactivated WoW account on top?
Videogames have come a long way over the past decade. Nowadays, they can evoke all kinds of subtle, nuanced emotions and convey powerful experiences that have the potential to change the ways we think and feel. They can reveal shocking truths about the world around us, and maybe – just maybe – teach us a little something about ourselves along the way.
Or they can shoot a bunch of burly dudes in slow-mo before coming to the aid of a nearby, nearly dead ally and screaming, “You nearly scared the dick off me!” right in his face. They can definitely do that too.
Yes, Bulletstorm is loud, rude, and proud of it. Everything’s best in moderation, you say? Try telling that to Bulletstorm. It’ll yank you 20 feet into the air and then proceed to juggle you with a series of shotgun blasts, kicks, and unnecessary profanities before letting its good ol’ pal gravity impale you on a nearby cactus. It’s over-the-top. It’s gruesome. It’s ridiculous. It’s far and away one of the best things we saw at E3.