Upcoming Films Perfect For VR Games

We may still be in the early stages of in-home virtual reality gaming, but it’s becoming pretty apparent that developers are keeping an eye on major films for inspiration. Pretty early on we saw The Martian used as the foundation for a VR experience (though it wasn’t exactly a game). And since, we’ve seen more collaboration between VR developers and popular film. There was an Independence Day: Resurgence trailer for VR devices, a Jurassic World game, and a few more examples.

Given this information, it’s only natural to expect that as VR developers create more and more games in the coming years, they’ll occasionally look to major films for subject matter. And with that in mind, here are some upcoming films that are ideal for VR adaptation.

Fast 8

The Fast & Furious films have become about far more than street racing. Years ago, the actual street races comprised the bulk of the action. But somewhere along the line, our favourite street racers turned into all-around action heroes, and now these films look more like Mission Impossible than the original The Fast And The Furious. That said, the racing can still make for a complete game. Fast & Furious: Legacy, one of several franchise-based mobile games from Kabam, proved that an experience built on the drivers, cars, and memorable racing moments from the series could work well. And a similar concept in VR would be spectacular, given that racing games tend to be among the most impressive on VR already. Don’t be too surprised if there’s a tie-in with the upcoming Fast 8.

John Wick: Chapter 2

Most any action or shoot-em-up film would be interesting on VR, but if you happened to catch the first John Wick, you might share our belief that this one could be particularly intriguing. It’s hard to explain, but John Wick had a very unique brand of shooting action that would enable a VR developer to focus mostly on the shooting, and less on the movement or the full plot of a film. Essentially, a developer could make a stationary shooter with progression through different stages and still accurately incorporate the visuals and general style of John Wick. The sequel is expected in 2017, and could well inspire a VR game. And according to RoadToVR, Starbreeze Studios has already been working on a game based on the first film!

Top Gun 2

There’s still no definite release date for Top Gun 2, but we do know it’s coming, and we also know that while the original produced a number of video games, none were particularly noteworthy. And now, the last lingering vestige of Top Gun gaming is a selection among the licensed slots and similar games at Betfair’s casino, which, admittedly, is good fun. In that game, you spend the bulk of your time spinning a slot wheel while listening to music from the film. But you’ll also enjoy a bonus game that allows you to shoot down enemy ships. Now just imagine a similar experience designed as a first person VR flight simulator. It could have music and even characters from the film (in this case, probably the sequel) while allowing you to feel like you’re in a cockpit engaging in aerial dogfighting.

King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword

It’s hard to know what to make of Guy Ritchie’s forthcoming King Arthur film based on a crazy first trailer. Frankly, it looks like it could be a fascinating and unique thrill or a total and complete disaster. But if it does end up being a success, and people get interested in the King Arthur narrative, you can bet there will be interest in stepping into the legend’s shoes to wield Excalibur in VR!

Avatar 2

If it’s hard to know what to make of the King Arthur film, it’s even harder to predict what James Cameron will be presenting when his Avatar sequel finally reaches the cinema. But given that the original Avatar more or less represented the pinnacle of 3D film (and probably still does), it’s a decent bet that a VR adaptation will be attempted. From a plot and performance standpoint, there was never anything particularly special about Avatar. But the way the film immersed viewers in a gorgeous alien environment made for an unparalleled experience, and one that could be made even greater on VR.

PS3 Flower’s grass impossible on other systems

ThatGameCompany describes their dependence on the PlayStation 3’s SPU processors in rendering Flower’s multitude of grass blades.

I was incredibly impressed by the graphics of ThatGameCompany’s Flower when I reviewed the game in February. There are thousands of grass blades that all interact with you (the wind) during gameplay.

In an interview with Kellee Santiago, co-founder and president of ThatGameCompany, we spoke on the technology and techniques used in rendering the PlayStation Network game. After complementing the game’s graphics, I asked how the developer used the PlayStation 3 in ways they couldn’t with their first game flOw:

“We learned so much on flOw, especially about SPUs! The grass system really leverages the PS3 to render 200,000 blades of grass simultaneously, and gives the player this sense of blowing wind through them,” said Kellee.

When asking for more detail on intensively using the Cell’s SPUs, she responded:

“An artist friend of ours came to us, really hoping that we could tell him some clever trick that we used to make it look like we had so many blades of grass. He was reluctant to believe that really John Edwards just made it happen on the SPUs.

“It really would be impossible to make it look the same on any other system. But, it’s one of the pros with knowing your game is exclusive to a specific system – you can really design everything towards that one platform.”

The full ThatGameCompany interview will be posted soon, and will cover everything from the inspirations behind the game, whether the company might branch out into full retail games and how many flowers are actually in Flower.

[UPDATE] – The full ThatGameCompany interview has now been published and can be found by following this link.

Image credit http://venturebeat.com/2009/02/09/review-flower-for-the-playstation-3-breathes-live-into-stale-games/

An Interview with ThatGameCompany: Flower

In our interview with ThatGameCompany we look into their latest release Flower, covering everything from the inspirations behind the game, whether they might branch out into full retail games and how many flowers are actually in Flower.

We caught up with ThatGameCompany’s co-founder and president Kellee Santiago to talk everything Flower, including questions provided by the ever gracious posters of the Beyond3D technical forums.

Patrick asks: Where did you get the inspiration for Flower?

Kellee: The idea for “Flower” grew organically (no pun intended) from a number of inspirations. One was to try and capture the feeling of being in a large flower field; to capture both the sense of beauty when you see them all, but also the visceral feeling of being up close to an individual flower. If you do a Google image search for “flower” you discover photographs from people all over the world, all fascinated with this aspect of nature.

Technically, it was an exciting challenge. What would happen if we took this aspect of video games that is normally an afterthought on the edge of the world – the bushes and grass – and put it right in front, and make the entire game about it?

What I really like about “Flower,” though, is that it feels like a very personal expression of Jenova’s. The story and the themes that are expressed in the game really evolved from what I see as his current interpretation of the world around him, and the game invites the player to participate in that space. It has an intimate feel to it.

Deep asks: If the floating petals idea came from a glitch, what kind of game were you creating before that glitch occurred?

Kellee: When we first thought of lying in a field of flowers, we went to daydreaming. This line of thinking led to prototypes involving moving around a field by just focusing on objects. Like how you focus on an object far away in real life, and it’s like your consciousness is on that object, not on anything right around you. I think it’s still a pretty interesting idea, but we weren’t able to figure out a “Flower” game based on that.

Patsu asks: Vasco Road in Northern California features wind turbines in a similar setting to Flower. Was that an inspiration for the third level’s design?

Kellee: Ah, so you know of it! Actually, the inspiration was from driving up the 5 from LA to San Francisco. Also, you can find huge wind farms on your way out to Joshua Tree from Los Angeles. There’s something about the California landscape, with rolling hills, huge mountains, and these farms with windmills as far as you can see. We never get over it

Patrick asks: We were very impressed with the game’s graphics. How have you
used the PlayStation 3 in ways you couldn’t with your first game flOw?

Kellee: Definitely! We learned SO much on flOw, especially about SPUs! The grass system really leverages the PS3 to render 200,000 blades of grass simultaneously, and give the player this sense of blowing wind through them. Thank you for the kudos!

Patrick asks: Tell us more about rendering the blades of grass using the Cell’s SPUs.

Kellee: An artist friend of ours came to us, really hoping that we could tell him some clever trick that we used to make it look like we had so many blades of grass. He was reluctant to believe that really, John Edwards just made it happen on the SPU’s.

And it really would be impossible to make it look the same on any other system. But, it’s one of the pros with knowing your game is exclusive to a specific system – you can really design everything towards that one platform.

Arwin asks: The game looks like a poster-child for SPU usage, especially when considering one of the earliest presentations for the PlayStation 3 included leaves blowing in the wind. Is there a direct link between the two?

Kellee: Wow, thank you! Currently, we here at TGC are really being blown away by Killzone 2, so that’s great to hear! There isn’t a direct link between those PS3 tech demos, although we definitely used them when we were pitching the concept to Sony. =)

Patrick asks: What was the biggest problem in developing Flower? The technology, the concept, or refining the controls? How did you solve the problem?

Kellee: Hm…this is a tough one. It definitely took a while to finalize the gameplay experience. Developing Flower was not a straight forward experience. We initially began with an extremely vague and difficult subject. It took us more than a dozen prototypes to settle on the gameplay.

We went through so many different versions of stories and characters, and we ended up not using any of them. Because we are innovating on the experience, the process is very much like walking in the mist. Our destination is very exciting; however, the path leading to it is not clear. Nobody’s left any foot prints for us to follow. There is quite a bit of trial and error. But once someone sees the light-tower in the distance, we hack through bushes and jump over ditches to reach there. It’s hard and painful, but the final view is worth the effort.


Patrick asks: What’s changed since flOw? This is your first PlayStation 3 title from concept to product, so has this resulted in more freedom?

Kellee: This is our first PS3 game developed from concept to final game on the PS3. There’s not much difference in freedom, though, between the two games. Sony really is amazingly supportive of their developers. When we first pitched “flOw” to them, we actually opened our presentation with a lengthy section on the kind of games we wanted to make, and why we thought they were important to make.

When I look back, it seems so funny! But because of that, Sony knew what they were getting into. And they wanted to. They’ve been great partners.

Patsu asks: Why is the last second flower so sad? Is there an Easter Egg or a hidden item to make it look more happy?

Kellee: Unfortunately, that flower will always look somewhat sadder than the rest. But the level itself is too.

Deep asks: Is it tough to develop a game that uses SIXAXIS exclusively?

Kellee: One of our main goals at ThatGameCompany is to create games that are accessible to a wide variety of people, both in content and in playability. For Flower, using the SIXAXIS controller to fly around and having every button do the same thing so players could choose for themselves (or switch it up) was an easy choice for us.

People who wouldn’t normally get near a PS3 controller suddenly relax when you tell them all you have to do is tilt it to move. Again, we learned a lot from flOw, and the use of the motion control in Flower is really fantastic and much more natural than even flOw was.

Patrick asks: Can you see ThatGameCompany creating a game that uses more button actions?

Kellee: Yes, but again, it would still have to be easy to understand.

Patrick asks: Might ThatGameCompany branch out to full retail titles? Or is the team exclusively developing downloadable games?

Kellee: I think the audiences are all moving towards downloading their games anyway. As we grow, we might want to make a game that is on the same scale as a retail title, but probably by then they won’t be selling them in stores any more. So it will still be downloadable =)

Patrick asks: If you could create a £40 game, what kind of game would it be?

Kellee: Hmm, that’s not really how we think. We start from an emotion, or an idea we want to communicate, and then we design a game that does that. That really wouldn’t change depending on the price point.

Patrick asks: Are you pleased with Flower’s critical reception?

Kellee: Yes! Very. It’s been so great. We really couldn’t ask for more. Some people have been extremely moved by it, others have found it very entertaining, and other have found it somewhat controversial. The fact that people are talking about it is fantastic.

Patrick asks: Do you think you’ve finally made critics and gamers understand what ThatGameCompany is about?

Kellee: You’ll have to tell me after our next couple of games! I am glad that we’re not “the flOw team” any more. I think audiences are definitely getting a better sense of who we are as a studio, and the kinds of games they can expect from us. We hope to make “ThatGameCompany” a very reliable name in games.

Patrick asks: What’s it like working so closely to Sony?

Kellee: It’s fantastic. Sony has really committed to this idea of making PSN a place for unique downloadable content you just couldn’t find anywhere else. PixelJunk Eden, Linger In Shadows, and Everyday Shooter are just a few examples of how Sony has really gone above and beyond in publishing some pretty awesomely unique titles.

They really support the developer’s vision, not just in the game itself, but in what we say about it, and how it’s promoted. I would say that we are spoiled, but really, it’s just how it should be! And they get this.

Patsu asks: When will Jenova Chen be talking to Hayao Miyazaki about making a Studio Ghibli game? ThatGameCompany’s creations are very similar in essence to Miyazaki’s work. Camp outside his office if they have to, ThatGameCompany might be one of the few teams Miyazaki would allow to touch his work.

Kellee: Jenova says he will have to learn Japanese first. =)

Scott asks: How many flowers are in flower?

Kellee: Around 4,000.

Deep asks: Do you think you’ve succeeded in creating an emotional game?

It’s funny question. I know what you mean, and yes, I think we have. But the truth is, ALL games are emotional. I hope that through our games we get players to pay attention to the emotions they are getting from games. I really like violent games, but it worries me when people are playing them and not realising what it is they are getting from that experience.

Patrick asks: Finally, can you describe Flower in five words.

Kellee: Private garden in your PS3.

Our thanks go to Kellee, Jenovah, the entire ThatGameCompany team and Sony Computer Entertainment UK.

You can read my review of Flower after this link.

Indecent exposure common in Xbox Live’s UNO

Apparently UNO’s camera capability harbours sexual deviants.

Yesterday’s story, about a three-year-old being subjected to pornography whilst her father played UNO on Xbox Live, struck a cord with many of you. Some blamed the parent, claiming that they should know better: don’t play UNO online in an open game. Others were disgusted that such an offence should ever happen in a family game.

The NeoGAF poster who experienced the offence has further commented that he will not contact the police, but urges others to report violations to Microsoft:

“I have not reported the guy to the police nor will I. I don’t want a lynch mob formed either. However, if other people played games (or play games in the future) with him and encounter other such ToS violations, I’d certainly like it if those people reported the violations so Microsoft gets enough complaints to ban his account.”

“I just want people to enforce some reasonable degree of civility. I don’t care if people swear like sailors on ‘M’ rated shooters. But joining an open E-rated children’s card game and putting up porn when you full well know there are children playing? That is just not acceptable behavior.”

A couple of Gamezine commenters bring their experiences of Xbox Live’s UNO to the table. Rob from Tanpa Bay said:

“I have had this disgusting garbage happen to me while playing UNO a few years back. When I joined an online game where one of the players (I will assume an adult male) was naked from the waist down with everything in plain view. I am by no means a prude, but this was uncalled for!”

There’s a time and a place people… Apophis1989 from Knoxville says he’s completely given up on playing the game due to another incident of indecent exposure:

“I used to play UNO on Xbox Live until I saw two people in the act of fornication on their camera with no regard to anyone else. The gamertag owner had apparently set up a never-ending game that was open to anyone and did not even play the game. I stopped playing the game shortly after that incident.”

Why is this funny? Why should Xbox Live gamers of all ages have to suffer this kind of experience? Should UNO warn all those under 18-years-old to only join closed games and make sure the camera capability is turned off? Who’s to blame?

GT5: Proof Top Gear’s greatest driving road is in

Top Gear’s greatest driving road in the world looks like it will be making an appearance in Gran Turismo 5.

So not only will Top Gear’s test track be included in Polyphony Digital’s eventual Gran Turismo 5 release, the show’s greatest driving road in the world, the Stelvio Pass, may also be making an appearance.

Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond went on a search for their fantasy driving road at the beginning of the 10th series, arriving at the glorious Stelvio Pass.

This road, located in Italy, is the highest mountain pass in the Eastern Alps at almost 2800 meters.

So what makes us think that the Stelvio Pass will be featured as one of Gran Turismo 5’s seventy tracks? In Polyphony Digital’s latest promotional video for Toyota’s FT-86 Concept, you should be able to spot the similarities between the real-life Stelvio Pass and what is shown in this GT5 video. For example, NeoGaf user SolidSnakex has created the following image comparison.

We’ve included the Toyota FT-86 concept trailer below, with an adjoining real-life drive through the Stelvio Pass (by MyWildBerries) for you to compare. Also enjoy the Gran Turismo 5 screenshot galleries below (click to enlarge).

Gran Turismo 5 is set for a March 2010 release in Japan, and will be coming to the US and Europe a little later.

Top Gear to be in Gran Turismo 5

Sony, the makers of Playstation 3, and Polyphony Digital, responsible for the wildly popular Gran Turismo franchise, today announced a partnership with BBC Worldwide to include Top Gear footage in the fifth version of the game.

Top Gear will be available on the Gran Turismo TV, a dedicated online channel, which will launch on the Playstation Network in 2008.

The deal will see about forty episodes of the programme go online.

“We at Polyphony are great fans of the world’s best motoring programme, Top Gear, so we’re delighted to be collaborating with BBC Worldwide to deliver Top Gear content via Gran Turismo,” said Kazunori Yamauchi, president, Polyphony Digital.

“We are sure players will be as thrilled as we are when they get the chance to put their own driving skills to the test on the Top Gear test track in Gran Turismo 5, as well as enjoying classic episodes of Top Gear via GT TV.”

The Top Gear test track will be included in the game, allowing drivers to pit their wits against the twists and turns more usually enjoyed by the Top Gear team and their stars in a reasonably-priced car.

The positive view of the partnership was echoed by the BBC.

“BBC Top Gear is the world’s number one motoring media brand and we’re thrilled to make it accessible to Gran Turismo gamers,” said Simon Danker, director digital media BBC Worldwide.

“We continue to explore different avenues to share our content with an expanding audience, and are delighted to participate with Polyphony in the launch of this exciting new opportunity.”

BBFC considers Manhunt 2 legal action

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is considering legal action to prevent Manhunt 2 from securing a release in the UK.

Following yesterday’s announcement by the Video Appeals Committee (VAC) forcing the BBFC to reconsider its effective ban on the title, the organisation has now warned it may take action against the game.

“We need to see the judgement papers from the VAC case before we even consider giving Manhunt 2 a rating,” said BBFC spokesperson, Sue Clark.

“If we spot anything problematic, we may decide to take our case to the High Court as a judicial review, which would lead to Manhunt 2’s release being frozen in the UK.

“Our main concern is to ensure a lawful outcome. It needs to be the right decision within the UK’s legal framework – which will be the right decision in the public interest.”

Rockstar Games – the producers of the title – secured a victory at the VAC forcing the BBFC to classify the game, and allowing it to be released.

Without this the game cannot hit the shelves.

Microsoft extends warranty to cover E74

Microsoft has extended their three year warranty to E74 errors, further refunding those who have previously had to pay for a repair related to the error.

The Red Rings of Death (RRoD), which represents a general hardware failure, was rumoured to affect 30% of Xbox 360’s sold. The controversy led to Microsoft announcing an extended three year warranty in 2006 that would see the company repairing all Xbox 360’s affected by RRoD free of charge.

However, the E74 error has been gaining as much attention this year, being called “the new RRoD.” Instead of displaying three red lights, the console would display an E74 error on-screen, which is also said to relate to some kind of system failure.

Reportedly the error is either related to the AV cable, or the more fatal occurrence of a burnt out scaler chip or even the death of the console’s GPU.

The increased reports of the E74 error has resulted in Microsoft issuing an extended warranty to include the fault:

“While the majority of Xbox 360 owners continue to have a great experience with their console, we are aware that a very small percentage of our customers have reported receiving an error that displays “E74″ on their screen,” Microsoft’s release reads.

“After investigating the issue, we have determined that the E74 error message can indicate the general hardware failure that is associated with three flashing red lights error on the console. As a result, we have decided to cover repairs related to the E74 error message under our three-year warranty program for certain general hardware failures that was announced in July 2007.”

As well as an extended three year warranty, within the next 4-12 weeks Microsoft will refund those who have already paid for an E74 repair:

“Microsoft will refund to customers the amount paid for an out of warranty repair due to a general hardware failure associated with the e74 error message. Those customers should automatically receive the refund within 4-12 weeks, and no additional action by customers should be necessary.

If you don’t receive a refund by July 1st you must visit www.xbox.com/support before November to find out more information on how to place a claim. Make sure you receive your refund before November 1st, otherwise you just won’t get one.

At this moment the announcement only covers Xbox 360’s in the US, but we expect the warranty and refund to be rolled out around the world and to the UK specifically.

Have you been plagued by E74 or RRoD? Tell us in the comments section.

TellTale: iPhone more powerful than Wii

According to TellTale Games, a mobile phone is more powerful than the Nintendo Wii. (Posted July 2009)

That’s not something you hear every day, but with the iPhone it doesn’t seem too surprising: the thing is a trojan gaming beast, with over 13,000 games.

Complaints over framerate issues in TellTale Game’s Wii-ware version of Tales of Monkey Island resulted in the following reply from a TellTale programmer, named Yare, on their forums:

“Frame rate issues will probably get sorted out eventually, but keep in mind that the Wii is just not a powerful console. An iPhone is much more powerful than a Wii, even.”

And he wasn’t going to back out of this statement, later posting about his comments:

“I stand by them. The Wii and DS are extremely underpowered and their popularity doesn’t remove the hardware limitations.”

This must be why LucasArt’s The Secret of Monkey Island is coming to the PC, Xbox 360 and iPhone and not the Wii.

As for Tales of Monkey Island, it was reportedly TellTale’s most successful launch, with TellTale founder Dan Connors telling VideoGamer:

“It’s been pretty shocking how much love there is still out there for the Monkey Island series. It seems like a generational thing as well.

“Unfortunately I can’t get into the specific numbers,” he added. “But I would definitely say it’s our strongest performing franchise to date. We’re pretty excited. It was number one on Steam for a few days. It did really well. It’s been our best performing title from our side as well.”

Beyond Good and Evil 2 in jeopardy

In an odd turn of events, it appears that the release of beyond Good and Evil 2 is now in jeopardy.

We’ve been talking about Beyond Good and Evil 2 for well over a year now, with Michael Ancel, creative lead on the project, revealing in May of last year that the sequel was being worked on by a small team. The reason for the small team was that Ubisoft had yet to give the game the red light.

Later that month, Ubisoft confirmed that the game was in development at UbiDays in Paris. A red light for the project was therefore presumed.

We again heard from Ancel in April 2009, where we heard that Beyond Good and Evil 2 would be bigger and more immersive than the first game; surely confirming that the sequel would be released. The only doubt was that full production had yet to have begun, since the team was still head deep in working on the technical side. However, that didn’t stop them from releasing a teaser trailer.

Now Laurent Detoc, Ubisoft’s North American president, has come out to say that the game might not even be released due to the risks around new IPs, citing Assassin’s Creed as the exception:

“Yes, that [Assassin’s Creed] worked out, but it doesn’t work out every time, and sometimes you come back to an IP that didn’t work because you still think it could have – like Beyond Good and Evil, which was leaked, so now people know we’re working on a new one,” Detoc told IndustryGamers.

“Whether or not it comes out remains to be seen anyway, but we didn’t want to abandon that IP because it has a cache and authenticity about it. There’s something very pure about that game and it’s too bad that we were not able to build it as an IP at the time.”

When asked specifically about Beyond Good and Evil 2, Detoc denied that the game had even been confirmed:

“Well, I didn’t say there’s definitely going to be another game. I said something had leaked, which means we’ve been working on some Beyond Good and Evil stuff, but whether there’s going to be another game or not, that’s something for the future.

“But getting to your question as to why there’s work on the IP again, it’s a creative people business; the creative talent is interested in it and possibly exploring how to do it from a new angle,” he added.

Hopefully this is a bluff and Ubisoft is continuing to move forward with Beyond Good and Evil 2. You can watch the game’s teaser trailer here, with presumed internal test footage here.