At virtual reality expo, VR comes in many forms

At the third annual VRLA, the immersive technology transported more than 2,000 attendees beyond the walls of the Los Angeles Convention Center to other countries.
LOS ANGELES: A few inches above the floor, a man is suspended from a swing-like apparatus pretending he’s flying over a mountain. Around the corner, a woman is defending herself against a horde of zombies with a make-believe gun. Several feet away, two guys are seemingly racing in cars over 100 mph while both sit still.They’re each, in their own way, experiencing virtual reality.

At the third annual VRLA, a gathering of VR creators and enthusiasts in Southern California, the immersive technology transported more than 2,000 attendees beyond the walls of the Los Angeles Convention Center to other countries, worlds and dimensions.

A few lines to try some of the VR experiences at the one-day event required wait times of over an hour inside the laser-and-smoke-filled concourse hall.

“It really feels like the momentum has shifted,” VRLA co-founder Cosmo Scharf told the sold-out crowd at the beginning of the day. “More people care about VR today than ever before.”

Scharf said there are currently 733 VR companies in the US and VR startups have raised more than $800 million in funding since 2010.

While VR on smartphones is now available with headsets like Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR and Noon VR, regular folks interested in higher fidelity and more interactive experiences must experiment with them in person at events such as VRLA _ that is, until higher-powered systems are released to consumers over the course of the next year.

Sony and Oculus VR, which is owned by Facebook, plan to launch retail editions of their VR headsets in early 2016, while Valve and HTC are expected to release their Vive system later this year.

“I really wanted to see what all the companies are coming up with,” said Seyed Mousavi, a University of Southern California student who attended VRLA. “I heard the HTC Vive is amazing. I haven’t had a chance to try it.”

The irony of gathering potential consumers in the real world to experience virtual ones isn’t lost on those in the VR business.

“The biggest marketing challenge facing the whole virtual reality industry is that you can’t experience VR until you experience VR,” said Ivan Blaustein, director of product integration at VRcade. “That’s why an event like this is important for us.”

VRcade, a wireless multiplayer VR system not intended for home use, was the most popular exhibitor at Saturday’s event. VRLA attendees tried out the system in a 30-by-30 foot space. The company is currently testing VRcade at a Dave and Buster’s location in Milpitas, California.

“I think there’s room for all types of VR,” said Blaustein. “There are compelling experiences you can have at home, but there’s always going to be limitations. With our system, there’s a dedicated space and no wire. You won’t have to move your couch or kick your cat out of the way.”

Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup gets a second edition

The DOTA 2 tournament gives gamers a chance to battle for the revered cup, winners take home a cumulative cash prize of Rs 4,00,000.
NEW DELHI: Taiwan Excellence in India announced the second edition of the Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup (TEGC) after its debut last year. The DOTA 2 tournament gives gamers a chance to battle for the revered cup, winners take home a cumulative cash prize of Rs 4,00,000.

After an overwhelming response to the event last year, when Oblique gaming beat all competition to win Rs 2,00,000, this year, the TEGC hosted the elimination rounds in Delhi. The tournament is divided into two rounds for each city — Eliminations and Grand Finale. The Elimination rounds were in Delhi between August 14 and 16 and August 21 and 23, and will be held in Mumbai between September 4 and 6 and September 11 and 13.

Speaking about the cup, Michael Lin, director of the Taipei World Trade Centre Liaison Office in Mumbai, said, “With professional gaming becoming one of the most lucrative careers in recent history, some of the world’s best players are known to have made up to $365,000 playing in tournaments. The Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup, a one-of-its-kind tournament too, has become a Mecca for gamers to prove their mettle with significant cash prizes, a championship title and other goodies at stake.”

There will be a hi-tech exhibit of some of the latest lifestyle products from Taiwan Excellence, including sleek tablets, smartphones, gaming technology, leisure related products and travel products. The event has attracted ten of the most popular brands from the digital world as sponsors.

The gala challenge will see gamers compete in DOTA 2 (Steam version), Competition method: 5 versus 5 (team play, 5 players per team); Game Mode: Captains Mode (CM) being played.

After the eliminations, eight teams will qualify to play in the Grand Finale, a day-long ‘League of Excellence’ festival that will be open to gaming buffs and audiences at a central venue. The event will also be streamed live on Twitch TV.

Nvidia hits gaming milestone True desktop performance in a laptop with GeForce GTX 980

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Fer real? Looks like it

If you still can’t believe Nvidia has all the performance of a GeForce GTX 980 in a laptop you’ll have to peep this. To prove it’s real, Nvidia showed off a Clevo laptop outfitted with a laptop GeForce GTX 980 and a desktop—yes desktop—Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K CPU running next to small-form-factor desktop PC with a desktop GeForce GTX 980 and Core i7-4770K. Here’s the screenshot I snagged of the score from the desktop PC here after it finished:

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And it’s true. Although there is a difference in CPUs, the GPU score between desktop and laptop GeForce GTX 980 (that’s not confusing) is equal.

Here’s proof of the GeForce GTX 980 in a laptop’s performance right here, boom:

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Proof: This is a screenshot of the results from a 3DMark on a Cleveo laptop with Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 980 that promises desktop performance.

Of course, we’ll withhold judgement until we actually see a machine in our hands but it’s highly unlikely the company is making this up to fall flat on its nose. Stranger things have happened in tech but for now, we take it at its face value.

Besides 3DMark Extreme, we were also allowed to run Tomb Raider at 1920×1080 on both GeForce GTX 980 parts. I also threw in the results from our reference desktop with a Core i7-4770K.

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Nvidia’s new laptop GeForce GTX 980 compared with two desktops with the, umm, desktop GeForce GTX 980.

Before you go off one-third cocked about the CPUs being different among the tested systems, keep in mind that again, this is not the final verdict, this is just the results of the demo to whet your appetite. You can also look at the GPU score in 3DMark Extreme above which isolates just graphics performance. The two parts, according to 3DMark, perform the same.

Conclusion

Nvidia has actually been working up to this day for some time. With the original launch of the GeForce GTX 980m in Oct. 2014, the company said it had gotten mobile to within 75 percent the performance of its desktop counterpart. This was seen as quite an accomplishment when compared to the 2012-era GeForce GTX 680, which was about 60 percent the performance of its desktop counterpart, and the 2010-era GeForce GTX 480 which was 40 percent of the desktop GPU. Today we have the laptop GPU hitting true 1:1 parity with its equivalent desktop part—albeit almost a year after the introduction of the desktop part.

Of course, cynical nerds will point out the GeForce GTX 980 is also far from top dog in the kennel. That goes to the GeForce Titan X and the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Both of which support up to four GPUs in a desktop configuration.

So no, anyone who thinks this milestone is another nail in the desktop’s coffin needs to check themselves. This doesn’t threaten the gaming desktop in the least. But let’s at least sit back and take a moment to mark the event on our calendar.

2K Games BioShock for iOS is having compatibility issues

bioshockWhen 2K Games launched a port of the original BioShock for iOS last year, fans of the franchise were thrilled. Well, they aren’t feeling so great now. To the surprise of people who had already purchased the mobile title, 2K Games has pulled it from the App store.

So if you deleted it from your device, there’s no way to get it back. The company had recently cited compatibility issues with versions of iOS 8.4 or higher. It said a fix was in the works. Then a 2K Games customer service rep told a fan the removal was “a developer decision.” So is it gone for good?

Rest easy Bioshock fans. 2K Games plans to bring back BioShock to iOS. A company spokesperson told GameInformer:

BioShock is currently incompatible with iOS versions 8.4 and higher, and as such, is temporarily removed for purchase from the App Store. 2K is fixing the compatibility issue, and when resolved, will place BioShock back on the App Store for purchase. Customers who already own BioShock may continue playing the game with iOS version 8.3 or earlier. 2K regrets the initial customer service error and looks forward to delivering an updated version of BioShock for iOS in the near future.

So no it is not gone for good. We just have to wait a bit.

PlayStation Underground Play Disney Infinity 3.0

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Earlier this month the new Disney Infinity 3.0 game system launched on all major consoles, but if you haven’t already taken the plunge and purchased the latest range of Infinity games and accessories you may find the video created by the PlayStation Underground as they playtest the latest Star Wars Disney Infinity 3.0 game of interest.

During the 20 minute playtest the member of the gaming panel that include John Vignocchi and Sean Patton from the Disney Infinity. Fight Stormtroopers on Tatooine and AT-AT Walkers on Hoth as they explore Disney Infinity 3.0 further.

Disney Infinity 3.0 is already available to purchase but the new Star Wars Rise Against the Empire playset will be available to purchase later this month from September 29th onwards.

Disney Infinity 3.0 will cover the Clone Wars, original trilogy, and eventually the upcoming Star Wars Episode 7 movie that is set to launch towards the end of this year. Disney Infinity 3.0 is available to play on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One & Wii U in 2015.

Rock Band 4 Xbox Adapter Will Cost You $25

rb4Harmonix has given us some details about how Amazon customers will be on the receiving end of a discount when picking up the Rock Band 4 Xbox adapter. This adapter is required if you want to use your old Rock Band instruments to play on the upcoming Xbox One title. Not everyone has new equipment after all.

The Xbox 360 instrument adapter will be priced at $25 if you were to purchase it as a standalone device, but Harmonix has revealed that if you place a pre-order with the code “RB4ADAPTER” on Amazon, you will be able to get a $15 discount.

So this adapter will cost you just $10. I wonder how much they are making with each sale that they can discount it that heavily. Microsoft has done away with native support for Xbox 360 peripherals on the Xbox One, that’s why you need this adapter. With this adapter, you will be able to use your guitars and drums from the previous game series.

It definitely pays to get the adapter rather than buying more expensive new gear, so good on Harmonix for offering this adapter when they could have just made people buy all brand new stuff. You have to respect them for that.

Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4 Competition Starts

Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4

Those of you hoping to have a chance at winning the limited edition Gold PlayStation 4 that was unveiled last week. Will be pleased to know that the competition has now started and Sony says that there will be a winner every 10 minutes.

To take part in the competition to win a Gold PS4 simply purchase a BIG Box from your nearest Taco Bell and text the unique code to see if you’ve won, with instant results.

The Gold PlayStation 4 competition is running from today until November 4th, 2015. Guy Longworth Senior Vice President, PlayStation Brand Marketing, SCEA explains a little more :

So what’s in the bundle? Well, for starters — one Gold PS4, alongside a matching Gold DualShock 4, a copy of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, and a voucher for a one year PlayStation Plus Membership.

Yes, you could be one Big Box away from the globe-trotting, treasure-hunting adventures of our own Nathan Drake. If you’re still not convinced, feast your eyes on some of these photos of the Gold PS4 Bundle. It’s limited, folks!

Good Luck!

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Oculus Connect 2 Dell, Alienware, Asus Announce VR-Ready PCs for Rift

During Oculus Connect 2, the Facebook-owned VR company’s second annual conference, Dell, Alienware, and Asus announced Oculus-branded PCs. They will be able to run the consumer grade Oculus Rift Virtual Reality (VR) headset when it launches in the first quarter of 2016.

The bare minimum specifications of these machines include an Intel Core i5-4590 processor, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or an AMD Radeon R9 290, in line with what Oculus announced as the minimum requirement back in May. They will start at less than $1,000 (around Rs. 65,000). Of course these would be a lot more expensive for India when you factor BIS, customs, and weight, which is why we won’t be surprised if local assemblers manage to make VR ready machines at a similar price.

Also on display were a host of games coming to Oculus Rift. These include Gravity-inspired Adr1ft, supernatural mystery The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Bullet Train, a new action game from Gears of War and Unreal Tournament maker Epic Games.

These aside, the big announcement was Minecraft. The Windows 10 edition of the game will launch with Oculus Rift support next year and you can use a combination of VR and the Xbox One controller to explore this blocky world.

On the topic of controllers, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe confirmed that the Oculus Touch handheld controller will be available from the second quarter of next year. Furthermore, the firm announced that over 200,000 developers are registered with it to create new games.

With PC sales taking a tumble, VR just might be the shot in the arm computer companies need to revive a business that’s well past its prime. But it won’t be easy. The challenge in bringing VR to the masses is easy to understand hardware and a low price barrier and though that’s been somewhat managed with Samsung’s new Gear VR, it doesn’t seem to be the case with Oculus Rift for PC.

Activision Expanding Call of Duty E-Sports Competition

Activision is widening the scope of e-sports competition for “Call of Duty” players.

The publisher of the hugely popular military shooter franchise is expanding its e-sports program next year from an annual tournament to year-round international leagues, as well as increasing the prize pool from $1 million to $3 million (roughly Rs. 19 crores). The international leagues will be comprised of professional and amateur divisions, culminating in a championship at the end of the year.

“This is going to mark a new era of e-sports for ‘Call of Duty,'” said Rob Kostich, senior vice president and general manager for “Call of Duty” at Activision. “It signals Activision stepping up our commitment to what we’ve been doing with e-sports. We’re expanding our season to make it a fun, competitive year leading into the ‘Call of Duty’ Championship.”

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based publisher is calling the revamped e-sports offering the “Call of Duty” World League. The competition will launch in early 2016 with leagues in North America, Europe and Australia and New Zealand. The three territories will each feature independent seasons concluding with 32 teams at the “Call of Duty” Championship in fall 2016.

“It felt like the right time to do it,” said Kostich. “We’ve learned a lot over the past few years and talked a lot to our community. We think we have an agenda that’s going to be really attractive to them, and we have a new game coming out, ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops III,’ that we couldn’t be more excited about to lead us into this new era of e-sports.”

Activision first hosted a $1 million (roughly Rs. 6 crores) “Call of Duty” tournament in 2011 during an official “Call of Duty” fan convention and has organized the “Call of Duty” Championship since 2013. Kostich said next year’s expanded e-sports program was devised to offer a deeper level of engagement with pro gamers while also encouraging casual fans and aspiring competitors.

“The pro division is really the cream of the crop, the top 150 guys who are actually going to make money from playing this game,” said Sam Cooper, senior director of product management for “Call of Duty” at Activision. “One of the big things we wanted to do with the league was make it much more financially viable to be a pro player in our ecosystem.”

Cooper noted that players from regions outside the three pro leagues could compete for a spot in the “Call of Duty” Championship through the amateur division, which will feature both online and in-person competitions. He said that each match in the pro division would be broadcast but declined to specify how, outside of the “Blacks Ops III” live event viewer.

Kostich also refused to comment if Activision would drug-test players at its e-sports events. TheElectronic Sports League began working with the World Anti-Doping Agency to administer e-sports’ first random drug tests during its ESL One Cologne tournament in August. ESL said all players tested negative but did not specify how many players were tested.

ESL began the drug testing after a player said in a YouTube video posted in July that he and his team used the drug Adderall during an ESL tournament in March where players competed for $250,000. Previously, ESL and several other e-sports organizations prohibited the use of drugs, alcohol and other performance enhancers but did not test for doping.

Over the past 10 years, e-sports has evolved from a niche genre of gaming to a lucrative sport that draws tens of millions of spectators online and in person. Activision said earlier this year during the “Call of Duty” Championship that more than 175 million copies of “Call of Duty” have been sold across all platforms since the series debuted over a decade ago.

Microsoft India Launches FIFA 16, Forza 6, and Gears of War Xbox One Bundles

The Xbox One has been available in India for a year. And to celebrate this, Microsoft will be making three new bundles available for India that can be pre-ordered Friday on Amazon India and will be available from October 2.

First up is the Forza 6 Limited Edition console. It sports a 1TB hard drive, wireless controller, a digital copy of Forza 6 – which we found to be a rather compelling game despite some minor niggles – and most importantly, a slick blue paint job.

(Also see: Forza Motorsport 6 Review: Taking Pole Position)

Second is the 1TB EA Sports FIFA 16 Bundle. It comes with the obvious 1TB hard drive, and a FIFA 16 download code along with three FIFA Ultimate Team Loan Legends, and a year’s worth of EA Access – EA’s game subscription program. Both the Forza 6 and 1TB EA Sports Xbox Ones will cost Rs. 39,990. Not bad at all considering the value thrown in.

And if you’re looking for something cheaper, Microsoft also announced the Xbox One Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Bundle for Rs. 34,990. It consists of a 500GB console, digital download for Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, early access to the 2016 Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta, and a cosmetic downloadable skin for multiplayer use in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition known as the Superstar Cole multiplayer skin.

“Games and gamers are at the centre of everything we do and we’re always looking to offer the best ways to play on Xbox. With the launch of these bundles, we have taken into account the feedback that we received from our fans in India and added more storage to their consoles. This year, we’re delivering the greatest games lineup in Xbox history and we’re committed to delivering gamers the experiences and value they can’t find on any other platform.” said Anshu Mor, Director Interactive Entertainment Business, Microsoft India, in a prepared statement.

(Also see: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Review – Worth Playing Again?)

Microsoft has not confirmed if the consoles will see their way to offline channels. The move may entice users away from Sony’s rival platform, but with Sony dropping price on the PlayStation 4 (PS4) next month and bringing in the 1TB PS4 as well, those looking to upgrade from a PS3 or Xbox 360 have a lot to choose from, keeping in mind that some of Microsoft’s exclusives are the most expensive of the bunch.