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Wednesday, Mar 20, 2019

More Epic Games Store Exclusives Include PC Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human

A bunch of additional Epic Games Store exclusives were unveiled at GDC today, along with word that Epic Games Store titles, including exclusives, are headed to Humble Store. On a related note, Ars Technica conversed with Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, who tells them he expects trickle-down economics will eventually benefit players with lower prices on their store, since Epic takes a lower cut than most competitors. He says, "after you go through several cycles of game developers making decisions, you're going to see lower prices as developers pass on the savings to customers, realizing they can sell more copies if they have a better price." This press release covers the new exclusives, which include the PC debuts of Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human from Quantic Dream, and this trailer shows some of them off. Here's word:
Today’s announcements include:

  • Following the successful launch of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 on the Epic Games store, Ubisoft and the Epic Games store announced an extension to their agreement that will bring several major PC releases to the store in partnership with their Uplay division. Details will be revealed in the future by Ubisoft.
  • Additional back catalog titles from Ubisoft are confirmed for Epic’s free games program.
  • Take-Two Interactive’s Private Division will bring highly anticipated titles The Outer Worlds from Obsidian Entertainment and Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey from Panache Digital Games to the Epic Games store.
  • Award-winning studio Quantic Dream will bring its critically acclaimed portfolio -- Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human -- to PC for the first time, exclusively to the store.

Additional games coming exclusively to the Epic Games store include:

  • Afterparty from Night School Studios
  • Control from Remedy Entertainment and 505 Games
  • The Cycle from YAGER
  • Dauntless from Phoenix Labs
  • Industries of Titan from Brace Yourself Games
  • Journey to the Savage Planet from Typhoon Studios and 505 Games
  • Kine from Chump Squad
  • Phoenix Point from Snapshot Games
  • The Sinking City from Frogwares and Bigben
  • Spellbreak from Proletariat Inc.
  • Solar Ash from Heart Machine and Annapurna Interactive

Continue here to read the full story.

The Cycle Alpha/Beta Signups Underway

Besides the above news that The Cycle will be an Epic Games Store exclusive, launching later this year, YAGER now offers testing signups. They say a three day alpha test for the competitive first-person shooter will kick off on March 28th with support for three languages, English, German and Russian. Interested players can sign up for the chance at being selected for the alpha and the upcoming closed beta through The Epic Games Store or The Cycle Website. A new GDC trailer accompanies the news with a look at gameplay and people holding guns. Continue here to read the full story.

Oculus Rift S Announced

The Oculus Blog announces the Oculus Rift S, an updated version of their VR headset they will release soon (they say spring 2019). This will improve upon and replace the current Rift, while selling at the same $399 price point, and will be compatible with all current Rift software. Co-designed by Lenovo, the Rift S will feature improved graphics with greater pixel density, support for external headphones, improved room-scale tracking without the need for external sensors, and a pass-through mode that uses external cameras to allow you to switch your view from virtual reality back to your real surroundings. This sounds like it's all good, though this article on TechCrunch is an example of some of the negative impressions this news has generated, as they say "the 'S' stands for subpar." Here's a trailer introducing the new HMD, and here are the details:
Oculus Rift S Announced
Today at GDC, we unveiled Oculus Rift S—a new VR headset that combines the convenience of built-in Oculus Insight tracking technology with the full power of your PC. Built on the Rift platform, Rift S gives gamers and tech enthusiasts access to the most immersive content that VR has to offer, and it’s launching in Spring 2019 for $399 USD.

Higher Resolution on the Best PC VR Gaming Platform
Rift S works with the Rift platform, giving you access to the top-selling and most immersive VR titles on Day 1—and even more groundbreaking games like Asgard’s Wrath, Defector, and Stormland on the horizon. Improved optics and display technology deliver a sharper picture with higher pixel density for an even more immersive gaming experience. Games on Rift have never looked better.

Increased Comfort and Integrated Audio
We partnered with Lenovo™ to design Rift S, drawing on their experience in the VR and AR space and feedback from the Lenovo Legion™ gaming community. Lenovo co-designed the Rift S for increased comfort, better weight distribution, and improved light blocking, as well as a simple, single-cable system for a clutter-free experience. Rift S features the same integrated audio system as Oculus Quest and Oculus Go, with a headphone jack that lets you use your own favorite headphones.
Continue here to read the full story.

Space Junkies Open Beta Tomorrow

Ubisoft announces open beta testing for Space Junkies will get underway tomorrow, offering the chance to check out this VR first-person shooter. This post has the news, and offers this open beta trailer with a look at what to expect. Word is the game and the beta support cross-platform play between PC virtual reality and PSVR:
Space Junkies launches on March 26, but you can strap on a VR headset and rocket around its microgravity arenas for free starting March 21, when the open beta kicks off on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality. Running until March 25 and featuring full cross-play support, the open beta will be a chance to jump into four fast-paced PvP modes, in which you'll team with and hunt down other players, with full freedom of movement across several zero-G maps.

Space Junkies' huge arenas and free-flying traversal create opportunities for blistering shootouts, letting you do things like chase an enemy through tunnels in an asteroid, or turn the tables on a pursuer by grabbing a floating weapon and blasting away until its ammo runs dry. You can even whip out a shield and beam sword for an intense close-quarters duel – if you don't get shot down first, that is.

After its launch on March 26, Space Junkies will receive regular content updates, with new modes, maps, weapons, and customization items coming soon. For more on Space Junkies, check out our previous coverage.
Continue here to read the full story.

S.W.I.N.E. HD Remaster Announced

Assemble Entertainment announces plans to Cry 'Havoc!,' and let slip the hogs of war once again with the release of S.W.I.N.E. HD Remaster on Steam this spring. This trailer shows off this pig in its new lipstick, and here are some details on this RTS remake in which we can wallow:
This funny strategy war game, which was first released in 2001, allows you to fight leading the aggressive pigs or the peace-loving rabbits to victory in several battles. As most strategy games, S.W.I.N.E. focuses on the strategic aspect of the battles. You don’t have to construct buildings or collect resources. Instead, the player needs to capitalize on the strategy points and use them to expand and develop their army.

18 years later, we can relive the iconic slogans and the legendary fights. The remastered version of the game brings a new appearance and new content as well. Camera movements were modified (extended zoom range) and a more detailed battlefield was developed. Units also received a better texture and the vehicles’ undercarriages also move.

The official online multi-player mode will become available again, and you can also enjoy the LAN parties soon.
Continue here to read the full story.

Guardians of Ember Returns

Open beta testing of Guardians of Ember is now underway through GameForge, offering free access to this hack-and-slash MMORPG (thanks PC Gamer). This game was delisted from Steam early last year after developer Insel Games was found to be manipulating review scores, and in January Insel announced plans to relaunch as a free-to-play game. Here's a description of the game:
Guardians of Ember is a free-to-play hybrid of hack and slash and MMO action RPG.

In a fantasy world threatened by evil forces, you must prove your courage and fighting abilities in thrilling dungeons and brutal combat.
Join the army of humans, neia, elves and dwarves, choosing from one of six classes to enter battle as a Guardian against the evil invading forces.
Weapons and gear can be upgraded and leveled up, leaving you free to slaughter hordes of enemies and complete epic adventures either with your friends or on your own.

Epic Announces $100M MegaGrants Initiative

Epic Games announces the Epic MegaGrants Initiative, saying this will hand out an epic $100 million to game developers, media and entertainment creators, enterprise professionals, students, educators, tools developers, and more. Here's more:
Today during the “State of Unreal” GDC opening session, Epic Games launched Epic MegaGrants, committing $100,000,000 to assist game developers, media and entertainment creators, enterprise professionals, students, educators, and tools developers doing outstanding work with Unreal Engine or enhancing open-source capabilities for the 3D graphics community. Epic MegaGrants marks an evolution from Epic’s Unreal Dev Grants program, a $5,000,000 fund initially launched in 2015, which awarded its final grants earlier this week.

Epic MegaGrants awards range from $5,000 to $500,000 and cover a variety of endeavors to further ignite creativity and technological advancement within the 3D graphics community. All grant recipients will continue to own their IP and will be free to publish however they wish. Submissions will be evaluated, and grants awarded, on a continual rolling basis as funds allow, with no firm deadlines to submit.

“At Epic we succeed when developers succeed,” said Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games. “With Epic MegaGrants we’re reinvesting in all areas of the Unreal Engine development community and also committing to accelerate the open sourcing of content, tools, and knowledge.”

Satisfactory Early Access

Satisfactory is now in Early Access on the Epic Games Store (thanks Jeremy), offering the chance to check out this construction and automation simulation, as Coffee Stain Studios continues to develop it (despite the fact that it's already satisfactory). An Early Access launch trailer offers a look at what to expect, and here's the game's description:
Satisfactory is a first-person open-world factory building game with a dash of exploration and combat. Pioneering for FICSIT Incorporated means charting and exploiting an alien planet, battling alien lifeforms, creating multi-story factories, entering conveyor belt heaven, automating vehicles, and researching new technologies.

At FICSIT inc. you will take part in the Save the Day program, providing short-term solutions for long-term problems, possibly with the help of your friends.
Continue here to read the full story.

System Shock Video

A post on Reddit offers a new gameplay video from System Shock showing a full run through of the medical level in Nightdive Studios' upcoming remake of the original version of this action/RPG (thanks Ant). This seems pretty polished as it is, though the description warns that some enemies, weapons, effects, and sounds are still missing. They also note that the inclusion of a few different musical themes is to allow for feedback on what people prefer. Finally, they also remind us that there's still a chance to back this project on BackerKit for those who missed the original Kickstarter. Continue here to read the full story.

Party Hard 2 Gets a Level Editor and New DLC

A post on Steam announces the release of the Alien Butt Form DLC for Party Hard 2, the Windows killjoy simulator sequel. This includes five new levels for the game in addition to the titular butt. Here's a DLC launch trailer showing the new levels along with some butts. In a separate post they announce the launch of a level editor, saying this is free for all who own the game, which now includes Steam Workshop support. They also reveal that the game and the DLC are both now on sale. Here's more on the new DLC:
Can't get enough of Party Hard 2? Keep on going mad with this fresh massive add-on:

  • 5 new levels to play havoc on: a cheap local eatery, a cheap local eatery surrounded by SWAT, a parking lot, a hellish place that looks like... hell, and a giant spacecraft
  • 3 new playable characters to wreak havoc as:
    - Party Hard Killer's girlfriend Marena is back
    - Irritate your owner and electrocute people as the psycho dog Mango
    - Change the look of the entire game playing as uncanny Froger
  • Brand new items, weapons, traps including lawn mowers and deadly TV sets
  • Party Hard 2 story continued. Participate in the events that take place in parallel with the main plot and find the answer: who's been behind party crashing all this time?
  • Giant butt from the first game is back! And it's butter than ever! Seriously, no buttering up

Continue here to read the full story.

Morning Previews

  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice on Kotaku.

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

In a recent forum post I mentioned a little work is going on behind-the-scenes here. I'll stay vague for now to build suspense, so feel free to suspend yourself. But I do want to note that we're retiring a couple of really old-school features that have been part of the site for a couple of decades now. First is the .plan tracker. At one point this was an amazing source of game news, as many developers used their .plans to directly communicate with their audience. This has obviously been superseded by Twitter and other social media, and the use of .plan files has fallen by the wayside (for the record, the last three posts the tracker recorded were in August 2013, February 2007, and December 2005). The other obsolete function that's departing is the LAN Parties tracker. At one point LAN parties were major happenings, but once again the internet has taken its toll, and it's now so easy to play with others online that lugging computers from place to place has ceased to be a thing (ironic, since said lugging is 1000% easier in these days of LCD/LED monitors). For those with a remaining interest in such face-to-face gaming, the LAN Party List Website is still online, though this helps illustrate the point, since it lists fewer than a dozen events still to come in 2019.

Retiring Links: Thanks Ant.
Links: Man returns to his car to find a koala chilling in air-conditioned comfort.
These Are the World’s Most Expensive Cities. Thanks LinkedIn.
Stories: Politician who opposed mandatory chickenpox vaccine has been hospitalized after getting chickenpox.
"Terminator" Sequel Is Officially "Dark Fate." In case you were hoping for a happy ending.
Science: Sugary drinks linked to 31 percent higher risk of early death, study finds.
The war on ‘prediabetes’ could be a boon for pharma—but is it good medicine? Thanks Max.
Media: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD - Official Teaser Trailer (HD).
M249 Reload - PUBG Logic (ridiculously long reload times).
Pringles - Rice Fusion on Vimeo. Thanks C W.
Follow-up: Scientists explain why we're just now learning about a giant meteor that exploded over Earth last year.
The Funnies: Dog Debate Club Cartoon - Savage Chickens.