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Facebook acquires Oculus VR for $2 billion

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Facebook acquires Oculus VR for $2 billion

Only a week after displaying its newest tech on the GDC expo floor, Oculus VR has reached a “definitive” agreement with Facebook. The social giant will acquire the VR manufacturer for apprximately $2 billion in combined cash and Facebook stocks.

Both Facebook and Oculus VR have commented on the deal, Facebook in their official press release and Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey on Reddit. Luckey was optimistic in his post, reassuring fans:

In the end, I kept coming back to a question we always ask ourselves every day at Oculus: what’s best for the future of virtual reality? Partnering with Mark and the Facebook team is a unique and powerful opportunity. The partnership accelerates our vision, allows us to execute on some of our most creative ideas and take risks that were otherwise impossible. Most importantly, it means a better Oculus Rift with fewer compromises even faster than we anticipated.

Very little changes day-to-day at Oculus, although we’ll have substantially more resources to build the right team. If you want to come work on these hard problems in computer vision, graphics, input, and audio, please apply!

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[GDC 2014] Occulus Rift DevKit 2 Impressions

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[GDC 2014] Occulus Rift DevKit 2 Impressions

It was a fairly quiet year for new hardware at the Game Developers’ Convention – except for one little piece of gear. That platform is, of course, the Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headpiece that makes you look like you belong in a Daft Punk act and shoves you face-first into the game.

My colleague Andrew and I got a little bit of time to do some hands-on gaming with the Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2, and although we only got a few minutes of play time, it was undoubtedly one of the most memorable pieces of tech on the floor. Oculus VR’s latest debut looks almost identical to prior models, and neither of us have ever experienced gaming through VR, so we came at it unbaptized and unspoilt.

Want to know what we thought? Well, just look below.

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Lords of Shadow 2 is style over substance

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Lords of Shadow 2 is style over substance

I’m probably way too charitable when it comes to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. It’s a disappointment not because it isn’t engaging but because it so often is, right up until it suddenly falters.

Konami and Mercury Storm’s latest collaboration has met with…mixed reviews. It currently holds a critical metascore of 63 on Metacritic, with some particularly savage scores in the 50s and 40s. Common complaints include the game’s uneven pacing, its baffling mandatory-stealth sections, and its sizable borrowed arsenal of copycat mechanics.

Despite all that, I enjoyed my time with LoS2. Maybe it’s the game’s unabashedly bombastic tone; ham-handed melodrama goes down easy when mated to baroque aesthetics and a basically competent combat system. Maybe it’s lingering fondness for Mercury Storm’s previous entry, a stash of goodwill regularly renewed by the occasional clever callback or stirring moment. Maybe it’s the game’s expansive sense of scope; not that much actually happens in LoS2, but it’s a lot of very dramatic nothing.

Or maybe it’s just gratitude for another (relatively) big-budget action-adventure title on the console market that doesn’t star the Batman. I had begun to fear they were going extinct.

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“Discover the Dragon Age” trailer released, with commentary

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“Discover the Dragon Age” trailer released, with commentary

Bioware’s newly-released “Discover the Dragon Age” trailer may as well be a travel brochure for the world of Thedas in the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition.

“Discover the Dragon Age” pans through grandiose, lushly-detailed landscapes, showing off various features of Bioware’s new Frostbite engine. Certainly Thedas looks like a nice place to vacation, if not for the horrors of dragons, demons, and various other monsters players will confront in Inquisition.

Watch the official trailer after the break, included alongside the text of the Bioware Blog post.

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Fears of FCC Overreach Overblown and Misleading

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Fears of FCC Overreach Overblown and Misleading

This Tuesday, A District of Columbia court of appeals ruled against certain key elements of “net neutrality.” The court opinion takes a bit of reading, but can be summed up thusly:

That said, even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.

Free speech and net neutrality advocates have criticized the decision as a concession to ISPs, and rightfully so. But Wired’s recent article on the subject by think-tank advocates Berin Szoka and Geoffrey Manne argues the real danger lies not in corporate restriction but a more sinister force yet: the tyrannical authority the decision grants to the FCC to regulate the contents of the Internet.

It shouldn’t be surprising, since both Szoka and Manne are leaders for think-tanks (TechFreedom and the International Center for Law and Economics, respectively) fiercely opposed to “inefficient” government regulation. While anyone who’s kept up with recent news knows concerns over government invasion of privacy and freedom of speech are real and pertinent, Manne and Szoka’s arguments rely on questionable, misleading anti-government fear-mongering and free-market evangelism.

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Razer premieres high-concept modular computer at CES 2014

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Razer premieres high-concept modular computer at CES 2014

News of Razer’s ambitious Project Christine, a high-concept modular PC described as “a PC for everyone,” has been sweeping the web for the past few days.

It’s certainly a distinctive-looking chassis, less a tower than a rack with slots for components. The potential user doesn’t need to know anything about putting together a conventional system or even open up a case. Specially-designed modules allow the user to plug in a variety of PC components, from GPUs and CPUs to memory, hard drives, or power supply units.  Each component is contained within its sealed module, alongside active liquid cooling systems and noise cancellation. Razer’s official site boasts that this interchangeable design will allow on-the-fly swapping and automatic syncing between components.

It’s no surprise Project Christine earned “Best PC” from official CES awards partner Endgadget. Certainly a Lego-style swapping approach between standardized components offers a highly intuitive upgrade and construction model for average users. According to an enthusiastic but skeptical ExtremeTech article covering the subject in great detail, Razer hopes to have a finalized version ready for CES 2015.

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Giving Violence Weight

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Giving Violence Weight

If I was so pretentious as to try and ascribe themes to my random musings – and believe me, I am– then I’d have to say a growing theme in 2013 for me has been giving game violence weight.

No, wait! Come back! I’m not going to go all Jack Thompson on you!

Let’s be clear: this isn’t some moral objection to violent content. For the storyteller – and any game designer is a storyteller, whether or not plot becomes a strong element of the game – violence is a tool like any other. (Fictional) violence can be thrilling, harrowing, righteous, cruel, vicious, traumatic, self-destructive or futile, and all of these are well and good.

The one thing it shouldn’t be is filler.

And yet in many cases, that’s precisely what it is: rote, something included for the sake of genre or market appeal, detached from the story being told. Violence should engage the player with the narrative, but all too often all it does is occupy them between significant intervals.

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Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones teaser trailer

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Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones teaser trailer

Well, I’m surprised it took Telltale Games this long to announce a Game of Thrones property.

Details on the ground are scarce so far, little more than a single twitter post:

It’s TRUE! We’re working with @HBO to create an all-new episodic game series based on GAME OF THRONES in 2014! #VGX pic.twitter.com/d5GkhS2MOw

It’s an understandable choice to adapt HBO’s dark-fantasy juggernaut, but one does wonder how they’ll be treading new ground. Will this be a narrative in the gray spaces of the map, or a retread of the series’ Big Events? It’s a peculiar choice to adapt the most-familiar Game of Thrones era when the Dunk and Egg prequels lie untapped.

Nonetheless, this is definitely one property to watch, especially after the much-acclaimed success of The Walking Dead. If anyone can pull off the bleak, cut-throat atmosphere of Westeros, Telltale can.

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Tomb Raider Definitive Edition announced for next-gen systems

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Tomb Raider Definitive Edition announced for next-gen systems

The critically-acclaimed reboot of Tomb Raider is coming to next-generation systems as Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition on January 28th, 2014 for $59.99.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition has been “fully re-built” for the XBox One and Playstation 4. “This was a continued labor of love,” said Crystal Dynamics Executive Producer Scot Amos.  We pulled the game apart and rebuilt it with painstaking detail to add enhanced visual storytelling but without changing the award winning tale. The end result is a cinematic living world.”

A remake may seem a little earlier, but it isn’t terribly surprising considering the game’s release date at the tail end of the PS3/360 era. The remake features revolutionary new graphics, a brand-new redesigned model for Lara with even more detailed effects, and all currently released downloadable content.

Want a hint of what’s to come?

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Setting sail is more compelling than stabbing in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

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Setting sail is more compelling than stabbing in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

I’d guess I got halfway through Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, and I still couldn’t give you a succinct plot summary.

It’s not that Black Flag is lacking in interesting characters or topics. If anything, the game is crammed over-full with features and potential plot arcs, many maddeningly under-explored. Black Flag is overflowing with things that would, in a more restrained title, be enough to carry it on their own – naval battles! Stealthy assassinations! The story of the short-lived Pirate Republic of Nassau! The exploitation of the New World by imperial powers!

And let’s not forget the modern-day conspiracy drama, just in case there wasn’t already enough material in the historical narrative. Better still, let’s – it’s not bad by any means, but it’s mostly a cheeky tweak at the gaming industry itself.

Protagonist Edward Kenway is a layabout on a rambling mission: get rich quickly. Whenever you’re at the helm of his stolen Jackdaw, Black Flag picks up the pace. But whenever he gets dragged back into the hoary old conflict between smug Assassins and sneering Templars – usually after some bizarrely self-righteous criticism about following a higher purpose by carrying on an endless and to all appearances pointless clandestine war – Black Flag, well, flags behind.

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