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Halo 5 Announced

By Jeff Buckland, 5/16/2014 5:45 AM

343 Industries' general manager Bonnie Ross has announced Halo 5: Guardians, which will be coming to the Xbox One this fall. More info will be at E3 next month, but for now, I'm excited to hear that it'll be only a year between the launch of the XB1 and a new Halo game. In the past I've gone in-depth as to why these console manufacturers don't launch a console with a huge flagship game immediately, so one year is a welcome change from when the Xbox 360 launched and we got a new Halo two years later.

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Dragon Age III Trailer Shows BioWare Still Lacking

By Jeff Buckland, 4/22/2014 1:24 PM

I'm a huge BioWare fan even through some of the dark days they've been through, but this latest Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer shows glaring issues that I wish RPGs could get figured out. One is that I see attacks hitting enemy monsters and them reeling back in ways that make no sense considering the attack that came in. (We're still dealing with an age-old action game problem of hitboxes and that needs to end very soon.) But the bigger one to me is that BioWare games focus so much on characters and story, but they still do old-school animations where a math algorithm, not acting performance capture, is at the heart of the look of every character's face. Sure, BioWare figured out how to put emotion on their characters' faces a while ago, but as budgets grow well past 9 digits for games and players demand larger and more expansive and detailed worlds, can't we get characters that actually mouth the words that are supposed to be coming from their faces properly? See for yourself:

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Michael Abrash Leaves Valve, Joins Oculus, and explains

By Jeff Buckland, 3/28/2014 2:12 PM

Two things happened today to help boost the Oculus project, the company that Facebook will be buying for $2 billion - a move that gamers the world over decried as the end of the fun of Oculus. (And I was a part of those millions of manchildren crying out as if suddenly something nice was destroyed instantly.) What are those two things? Well, since we do things old-school here at AtomicGamer with raw HTML in some places, I'm happy to say that both are contained in the Kotaku story. Michael Abrash, a force behind the scenes of PC gaming for two decades, has left Valve to join Oculus. But more importantly, he actually explained why Facebook buying Oculus is good. As he puts it, the reason that VR has never taken off is because no one invested significant amounts of money in it. With Facebook's purchase of Oculus, that just happened for the first time in the history of VR technology:

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place on Tuesday. A lot of what it will take to make VR great is well understood at this point, so it's engineering, not research; hard engineering, to be sure, but clearly within reach. For example, there are half a dozen things that could be done to display panels that would make them better for VR, none of them pie in the sky. However, it's expensive engineering. And, of course, there's also a huge amount of research to do once we reach the limits of current technology, and that's not only expensive, it also requires time and patience fully tapping the potential of VR will take decades. That's why I've written before that VR wouldn't become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware and that it wouldn't be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.

That worry is now gone. Facebook's acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.
The thing I'm taking away from this is the notion that even if Oculus Rift crashes and burns, even if Facebook squanders what they've built, even if hardcore neckbearded PC gamers like many of us don't get what we were hoping for, we're still more likely to get it than before Oculus. Hell, it might even be better than if Oculus stayed indie and brought their first product, the Rift, to full market and retail, because it was never guaranteed to sell enough to keep the company afloat. Facebook will take VR mainstream, and after that we PC gamers will likely have many choices to pick from.

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Someone's Mom Reviews Dark Souls II

By Jeff Buckland, 3/25/2014 6:50 AM

I think that this "review" of Dark Souls II shows the rather wide gulf between casual gaming and core games quite well. To play and enjoy a game like this, you have to have played games like it in the past to understand even the simplest things about what's going on. These games come with expectations made of the player - some might call it baggage - and they expect us to have some knowledge of what's going on.

Even if Dark Souls II had a classic tutorial where one couldn't die, I doubt it would have helped someone like this writer's mom.

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Jim Sterling Takes on Adblock

By Jeff Buckland, 3/7/2014 11:12 PM

Jim Sterling and his Jimquisition show have taken on the topic of Adblock (with relation to games media). Long time coming, I'd say, and I do like Jim's conclusion, which is basically threefold: 1) Advertisers can do some very scummy things and a good chunk of blame goes to them, 2) Getting mad at those who use Adblock solely because they use it is silly, and 3) Anyone who goes out of their way to directly tell a content creator that they're blocking the way they make money deserve nothing but contempt. (There's a vast gulf of difference between the people in 2 and 3, that's for sure.) But I've got some more thoughts on it that I'll humbly put forth:

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Tropico 5 Beta Signups Begin

By Jeff Buckland, 2/26/2014 6:49 AM

Kalypso Media has announced that a beta test for their upcoming city-management game Tropico 5 will begin soon, and you can sign up now.

Or, well, you will once Kalypso's poor site comes back online. Everyone's hammering it as of this writing.

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Let's Not Be Mad About Pillars of Eternity's Delay

By Jeff Buckland, 2/9/2014 7:20 AM

Obsidian's Josh Sawyer told Eurogamer this week that their upcoming Kickstarter-funded RPG Pillars of Eternity isn't going to make it out in April-ish as originally planned, and instead will come in the last half of this year (as an estimation, at least) - and it's mostly because of all the money that rolled in and all the features that the developers added as stretch goals. Those who know Obsidian Entertainment's history and how the video game business should know, however, that rushing Obsidian does not go well... for anyone.

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Thief Preview Video with Actual Critical Commentary

By Jeff Buckland, 1/24/2014 12:50 PM

Maybe it's because the guy doing the preview isn't the guy that was playing, but this Thief preview wound up being refreshingly critical of the game, pointing out both good and bad things about it. With all of this said, I do believe that most of the complaints that the speaker has are related to the Medium difficulty, which is not remotely intended to reproduce the feel of the original games. Whether higher difficulty modes actually succeed at that or not is up to question, but I believe that was the intent. Nevertheless, check out the footage:

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4K Monitors for $700, But Are we Ready?

By Jeff Buckland, 1/9/2014 6:35 AM

Are you a hardcore PC gamer? If so, you might have heard that monitors are coming within the next month or two that support 4K resolution (that's 3840x2160, or the pixels of four 1920x1080 monitors in a 2x2 grid) at relatively reasonable prices. Dell's going to be offering a 28" 4K monitor for $699, and Lenovo will have a similar offering. But are PC gamers ready for 4K?

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Next-Gen Console Progress Report: December 2013

By Jeff Buckland, 12/2/2013 6:22 AM

Video game news is relatively quiet for what seems to be the first time in a year. Steam's got their autumn sale going on, both new consoles are now out in as many countries as Sony and MS are able to get to this year, and all of those games are now on shelves. The news is quiet as these companies simply now produce hardware and release software... and just wait for people to buy. The buzz is there for all of this new stuff, so the buying is definitely happening, but is gaming healthy right now?

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