A lot of time and effort will be spent discussing Middle Earth: Shadow of War’s improved Nemesis System between now and probably about a month after release. And for good reason—the Nemesis System was the only thing that elevated predecessor Shadow of Mordor from another me-too Assassin’s Creed clone into a technical wunderkind.
Leaning into that aspect for the sequel is probably a good call, especially since we’ve failed to see similar tech make its way through the industry. The dynamic characters that made Shadow of Mordor such a joy are still, three years on, a novelty.
But I had 20 to 30 minutes of hands-on time with Shadow of War during E3 and to be honest, the Nemesis System was the least of my concerns. There was a bit of been-here-done-that to the proceedings, sure—but more problematic is the time investment required to see the Nemesis System in action. The entire concept only flourishes when it’s your cast of characters, when it’s your army of orcs following you into battle against another army of orcs you’ve come to systematically despise.
That’s the whole premise, right?
So I captured the fortress Monolith had prepared for the demo. I scaled walls, rode the backs of various beasts, hurled poison at foes, leapt hundreds of feet through the air to assassinate an unwary foe. I captured the courtyard, then the outer keep. Lost a few commanders along the way. Killed more than a few of the enemy’s commanders. I made it to the center of the fortress, fought a monstrous troll-enemy while poison spurted from the floor.
It was very similar to the Shadow of War demo we saw back at GDC. The impression I get is still just “Nemesis System, but expanded.” And that’s fine, and I’m sure it’ll be an interesting bit of tech to watch in action when the game releases in October.
Let’s talk about the story, though. Or, rather, the risks Monolith gets to take with the story this time around. That’s what got me really interested last week.
The original Shadow of Mordor’s story wasn’t anything to write home about—it seemed like a barebones scaffolding for an extensive Nemesis System tech demo, as if Monolith came up with this amazing idea and then slapped a license on it. Shadow of Mordor could’ve been an Arkham game, a Suicide Squad game, a Justice League game, another interminable Lego adventure, or any other WB license.
But it wasn’t. It was Lord of the Rings, sort of.
And so Gollum popped up at one point, there were various bits of fan service hidden in scraps of lore around the world, and what have you. It was ever-so-carefully crafted. Almost too carefully, as is the case with many “Extended Universe”-type stories. Like Tron: Legacy or Star Trek: Into Darkness, an insistence on too-obvious callbacks mixed with hesitance to deface what came before left Shadow of Mordor feeling like a very extensive fan-fiction.
This awkward reverence was everywhere, from our hero Talion acting as poor man’s Aragorn to Marwen’s life force being sucked away by Saruman the same as Theodin’s. Predictable, at best. Boring, most of the time.
Shadow of Mordor spent so long lulling the player into a sense of complacency that when its story finally did go to some weird places—right at the end—it came as a sharp left turn. For 20-odd hours you’d been fed a generic tale of revenge, and then suddenly Monolith decided to upend Tolkien’s whole universe and create a (paradoxical) second One Ring.
Then the game ends.
The sequel sees Monolith picking up and fleshing out that story, as Talion and his ghost-elf buddy Celebrimbor struggle to take over Mordor as the “Bright Lord.” This plays into the whole Nemesis System of course, with Talion dominating orcs and forcing them to swear fealty to the Bright Lord, conquering entire regions in the name of the Bright Lord, and the like.
But it’s also indicative of a freer hand for Monolith’s writers, an impression that was reinforced when I played one of Shadow of War’s story missions. We followed some orcs into a swamp reminiscent of the book’s Dead Marshes, an eerie fog-filled nightmare full of brackish water. Normal enough for Mordor, and a typical set-up for Shadow of Mordor—take something familiar, then reskin it.
Some orcs imprisoned in elaborate vine growths came as a surprise though, as did the relative calm of the nearby wildlife—creatures that usually attacked Talion on sight simply watched us walk deeper into the swamp.
That’s when the forest spirit approached. Dryad, nymph, or some other Lord of the Rings-centric term I don’t know, what came out of the woods was a 20-foot tall woman made from vines. She then transformed into a warg made from cast-off bark, then into a wooden troll, and finally into a massive wooden dragon, each of which we had to defeat in battle.
It’s far more audacious than pretty much anything I saw in Shadow of Mordor. This isn’t just some retread of the films. This is an entirely new creation, a whole new force at play in Middle Earth. Sure, you could draw some loose parallels to the Ents, but the correlation isn’t nearly as 1-to-1 as the various creatures and beings in Shadow of Mordor were.
And for good reason. A Monolith developer was observing as I went through the demo, and I asked about this forest entity, why she seemed so much more creative than what we saw in Shadow of Mordor. His answer was pretty simple—with the success of the first game, the writers were given considerably more freedom this time around. Expect a more daring story, or at least more daring moments as Monolith experiments more within the Lord of the Rings lore.
That’s an interesting prospect, at least to me. If it’s bad? Well, just write it off like the first game, or like any other fan-fiction.
I’d much rather Monolith try something new though. I want a reason to play Shadow of War that isn’t just “Well, the underlying technology is cool.” Especially with the game reportedly many times the size of Shadow of Mordor, the story hook needs to actually hook this time.
We haven’t seen much yet, and I doubt we’ll see much more before the game releases in October, but I came away from the E3 demo feeling more charitable than I did at GDC. Sure, the core of the game is still just “The Nemesis System, but bigger,” but maybe this time the surrounding framework won’t feel quite so skeletal.
That’s the hope, anyway.
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Two weeks ago, Apple introduced ARKit, its solution for placing 3D objects realistically into a ‘real’ place. Basically, augmented reality.
And it just so happens that the Holy Grail of the home decor and architecture game has been, for years, being able to place decor and furniture inside a customer’s actual space. Over the past decade, as mobile has taken off, that dream has been transferred from the desktop web browser to phones and tablets.
A couple of factors have lined up to allow this category to explode and become, I believe, one of the first big breakout uses of AR in the App Store.
- First, these kinds of apps need a huge library of 3D models of furniture and accessories. Whole companies were born in the early days that just offered to scan and import these for big companies.
- The tech that allowed them to accurately perform SLAM (Simultaneous Location And Mapping) calculations in real time is far from trivial. Placing objects into a world required people to build the tech from the ground up by creating models of the rooms as well as the objects themselves.
Both of these points are now moot.
I can’t tell you how many of these kinds of companies I’ve seen over the years. Some of them were not bad at all, some were terrible, all were pretty much held back by the technology it took to map a room and place objects. I’ve written extensively about how Apple’s purchases over the last few years have gotten them to a place where they’re able to pack this into a phone — you can read that here.
The best recent stab I’ve seen at this model is called Modsy. It’s a pretty impressive process that has you take a few smartphone pictures that it stitches together and dresses up on its side, delivering you a fully decorated room a couple of days later. But that’s still far from real-time. ARKit is.
So now here we are, with the ability for just about anyone to spin up an AR window inside their app. I predict that we’re going to see some real crap over the next few weeks and months as people just “put an AR on it.” But aside from that, we’re going to see a plug unstoppered on industries that needed a reliable version of this kind of AR portal in order to execute on a vision.
IKEA has announced that it is going to be allowing people to see their particular brand of lasts-just-long-enough furniture set into place in their own homes. IKEA won’t be the last though, by far.
It was even pointed out to me on Twitter that Apple probably just sherlocked the Pair app (a 500 Startups alum that we covered last August, incidentally) that was part of its inaugural Planet of the Apps episode.
The years and years of attempts at this, along with the technical pipeline of the modern online retail experience, has led most big furniture and accessory (and fashion btw) distributors to have all of their products modeled. Either from the original designs (all done in 3D now anyway) or scanned afterwards. Most catalog shots and online images are snapshots of what is technically, at the least, a 360 degree model of an object.
This means that there is a big pent up demand and a reservoir of available material to populate AR worlds. Thousands, hundreds of thousands — probably millions of 3D models of real stuff.
And we’ve now removed what was the biggest technical hurdle by divorcing the “room model” from the “object model.” Apple democratized AR to the tune of hundreds of millions of available portals — but it also did it to the tune of billions of points of interest. Every physical “node” of the world is now a potential layering aspect for AR.
This is just a curiosity when it comes to individual experiences, but the potential is ridiculous when you start thinking about it in a persistent way.
So if everyone can do it then the value is diminished, right? Not really. This should just allow designers and developers to move up the stack. Now they’re no longer burdened with adapting an existing AR system to their needs or (shudder) manufacturing them from scratch. The focus can be purely on big idea thinking about how to apply AR, the experience of doing so, and how best to conjoin it with other systems like voice, mapping and photography.
Apple just built the AR industry’s shovel. Now all you have to do is decide where to dig.
The initial wave of AR stuff will be right along the lines of what I discussed above. Furniture placed in the real world to see how it looks; filter; fun tricks; games. After that, we’re going to see some really insane stuff as people see what it means
Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, expresses his desire for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 to join the list of Xbox One’s backward compatible games.
According to information found on the Xbox Feedback site, Activision and Treyarch’s 2012 shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is currently the most highly requested game by fans for the Xbox One’s backward compatibility program, with more than 207,000 community votes, which is far more than gamers’ second choice of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, which presently holds upwards of 170,000 votes. Although Skyrim is an incredibly coveted candidate to become backward compatible on Xbox One, not only do the fans want Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 to show up on the program’s list more, but also the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, Phil Spencer, has expressed his interest in the shooter making its way onto the company’s current generation platform.
In response to a fan on Twitter, Spencer revealed his desire for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 coming to backward compatibility by initially apologizing for his lack of response by not addressing the community’s sheer craving for the title to show up on the program’s catalog of games. The Xbox boss followed up his apology by saying, “I really want to see this come to BC.”
Nintendo’s first commercial for the Nintendo Switch highlights both the portability of the console and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of its launch titles.
Nintendo has just released the first television commercial for the Nintendo Switch, and the 30 second video unsurprisingly focuses on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, its strongest launch day title. The video also features a healthy split of focus between both showing off the console’s portability, and displaying some snazzy gameplay footage courtesy of Breath of the Wild.
It’s no surprise that Nintendo would choose to focus on one of their most exciting Nintendo Switch titles of 2017 for the company’s first foray into Nintendo Switch television advertisements, as other more high profile titles like Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe won’t be arriving till further after the console’s launch. As it currently stands, Breath of the Wild is the de facto launch day attraction, sharing the launch day roster with just 4 other titles.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a good choice to give the masses for their first look at the Nintendo Switch, though the title itself isn’t exclusive to the console. Nintendo has promised that the game will arrive for the Wii U on the same day, and failure to deliver on that would upset a lot of Wii U-based fans. While the gameplay will be completely the same for both consoles, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma stated that the Nintendo Switch would feature faster load times and a higher resolution. However, when stored locally the game will take up half the space of the Nintendo Switch’s entire HDD, which means many Nintendo gamers will likely be expanding this storage with SDXC cards.
Nintendo revealed in a recent Switch Presentation that the console would sport between a 2.5 to 6 hours of battery life depending on what is being run on the console, so whether gamers could feasibly take the device from home, onto a public bus, and then onto a flight in one go remains to be tested. That being said, the guy in the commercial didn’t take any luggage with him, so it was probably a short trip.
In any event, the Nintendo Switch is certainly more portable than its rival consoles, although the facts revealed at the presentation weren’t enough to prevent Nintendo’s stocks from falling after the event concluded.
What do you think about the Nintendo Switch, Ranters? Does the commercial do a good job in showing off both the console and Breath of the Wild?
The Nintendo Switch will release on March 3, 2017, alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Mobile payments have been around for a pretty long time now, but they didn’t start catching on until the release of Apple Pay and Android Pay a few years ago.
While Google, of course, wants all Android users to use Android Pay, Samsung wants its users to use Samsung Pay, and the same goes for Apple with Apple Pay. And if for some reason you aren’t fully satisfied with those three options, we have access to plenty more mobile payment services to round out the already crowded landscape. Chase Bank and even Walmart have their own proprietary services, for example.
Whichever service you decide to use, though, mobile payments are designed to make your life easier and save you time.
So tell us – do you use mobile payments, or are you still not convinced they save time and effort? Be sure to cast your vote in the poll attached below, and speak up in the comments if you have anything else to add. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!
Microsoft has been awarded a patent for a foldable mobile devices and other components that could point to something beyond a mere prototype.
I should preface this by saying that patents don’t mean products. This could simply be Microsoft’s way of protecting future ideas or prototypes that are simply too costly or problematic to ever see production. Still, it offers a tantalizing glimpse of what could be on the horizon.
A new patent granted to Microsoft last week shows dual and triple-hinged devices that support multiple configurations. They can be folded into something small and phone-like, placed in a “tent” mode, and even folded out to create a larger tablet. If this is Microsoft’s vision for the Surface Phone, it will have very few comparable devices on the market, and certainly fits the Surface modus operandi of bringing something totally unique to existing form factors.
The patent’s various configurations reveal double, and even triple-screened phones, that the patent describes as both a mini-tablet and a phone. The devices, which also include slide-out models that appear to include different types of housings, are described as supporting several use cases given the varied configurations possible as a result of their hinges.
It’s particularly interesting, as Microsoft was also recently awarded a patent for an electrical hinge that would naturally be essential in any and, perhaps even all of these designs.
Patent filings don’t always translate into products for market, but these recent developments are especially intriguing. Microsoft has long been teasing spiritually Surface-like mobile devices, and those devices, hopefully, are just around the corner.
Steam reveals its best selling games of 2016, with No Man’s Sky reaching the highest tier and beating out many of the year’s other top titles, despite its challenges.
As we enter the New Year, it’s fun to look back and think about our favorite games of the past year, and reminisce on the entertainment and enjoyment that accompanied those games. It’s also useful to consider the games that were most disappointing, especially those that garnered massive hype, only to let players down in a big way.
Interestingly, games from both ends of the spectrum in terms of quality and reception can find massive financial success. This is perfectly displayed in Steam’s best selling games list of 2016. Over on Steam’s Top 100 Best Sellers of 2016, players will see some of the year’s biggest titles, including Rocket League, Tom Clancy’s The Division, No Man’s Sky, DOOM, and many others.
One game that stands out due to its placement on the list is No Man’s Sky. The space exploration title was one of the most highly-anticipated titles for years while gamers anxiously awaited the game’s release. Unfortunately, No Man’s Sky became one of the most disappointing games in recent history, sparking a massive rush for refund requests and leading the game to receive an “Overwhelmingly Negative” status on Steam.
Yet despite its failings, it seems No Man’s Sky is still a commercial success for developer Hello Games, at least according to Steam’s list of best sellers. That said, many gamers will look to No Man’s Sky as a clear example for an argument against pre-ordering video games. All the hype and excitement around the game helped drive incredible pre-order and first-day sales, which is likely how the game made the “Platinum” level of best sellers on Steam.
Once players got a chance to try the game and discover it was severely lacking many features that were touted for the space sim, sales plummeted, and haven’t recovered. So while No Man’s Skymade strong initial sales, its shortcomings will undoubtedly affect any future sales, as well as upcoming titles from Hello Games.
Interestingly, many of the year’s hottest titles don’t rank very high on Steam’s best sellers list. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare barely scraped its way into the Bronze class, despite its position as a top selling game in November and December. Watch Dogs 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Skyrim all made the Silver class, while DOOM and Stardew Valley both achieved Gold. Rocket League broke into the Platinum tier alongside No Man’s Sky.
The Division also reached the Platinum tier, despite its own challenges after launch. While the Ubisoft title experienced a boost toward the end of the year thanks to some much-needed updates and the release of a well-received expansion, it suffered months of player hemorrhaging over the summer, and currently sits at a “Mixed” position with player reviews on Steam.
It’ll be interesting to see how well this year’s lineup of games perform, especially 2017’s most highly-anticipated titles. Will players continue to pre-order, instead of wait to receive game reviews, or will they blindly move forward based on hype and marketing?
Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.
The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.
These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.
So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.
Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…
Whatever size of website you have, this article will help you find the best web hosting services for you as well as the best hosting deals to go for.
The first step is to identify what your needs are – with one eye on future growth of your website – then choose an appropriate plan at the right price. Value for money is not just going for the cheapest. Web hosting companies usually offer three main paid-for tiers of hosting packages.
Shared hosting means youshare a server with other sites and web hosting accounts. The site can often be slower and these plans are for sites that don’t use a lot of bandwidth.
With a dedicated server, you have the entire web server for your own use. Faster performance is pretty much guaranteed.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or Cloud Servers enable you to scale resource as and when you need it rather than being restricted by the limitations of a physical server. They draw from a pool of processing power, memory and storage depending on your requirement.
Finally co-located hosting enables you to purchase your own server and, while it will be kept in the vendor’s data centre, you’ll have complete control over it so you can install anything you need onto it.
Some providers arrange their web hosting deals according to business segments (small businesses, e-commerce, artists, resellers), features (WordPress compatibility, email hosting, cloud computing, managed service providers) or platforms (Linux or Windows).
Many packages include a wealth of features that you may or may not place value upon, including control panel, the ability to create online stores easily, easy site builder tools and varying levels of support (either on the phone or live chat).
Our list is made up of UK providers (those with a UK storefront with a UK phone number) as well as some foreign web hosts that comply with several ground rules like having EU data centres, a right to cancel, a cooling period, a full refund policy and/or a free trial period.
So first, we’ve picked out a bunch of deals that are ‘best for WordPress or other features’ followed by a run-down of our favourite deals from the best web hosts.