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Minecraft on Oculus Rift is the best VR game to date

Minecraft on HoloLens may be cool, but with Minecraft on Oculus Rift, you feel more like you stepped into the world.

Minecraft is a delightful and hugely successful game, but no one would say its success hinges upon realism. It’s blocky graphics, full of sharp right angles and huge “pixels” are far from realistic, but it gives the game a signature visual style and plenty of charm. However, it turns out that Minecraft‘s massive open-world nature makes it a great game for virtual reality. Microsoft already showed the game running in HoloLens, and now the company is announcing that it’ll work with Oculus Rift, as well. I got a chance to see how the game works with the Rift at Microsoft’s spring showcase last week — and despite the game’s blocky style, it could be one of the best overall VR experiences out there.

For starters, it’s worth noting that this isn’t a new version of Minecraft; it has just been updated to work with the Oculus Rift. You can play in survival mode as well as join one of the many multiplayer servers out there. Once you start playing, you’re presented with two different view modes. The first puts you in a virtual castle with the game running on what amounts to a TV screen in front of you. It’s pretty meta and rather funny to be playing a game inside of a virtual reality game, but it’s not a bad way to view things if you need a break from the full VR experience.

When you jump in to that full experience, the game shifts and you’re completely immersed by what your character sees. Because of the massive scope of Minecraft‘s vast 3D landscapes, it really does feel like you’ve been transported away from reality, despite the humongous pixels and lack of fine detail. It’s one of the best and more immersive VR experiences I’ve had thus far. In fact, that lack of fine detail actually helps Minecraft be so successful — the game doesn’t try to mimic reality. Instead, it felt more like I stepped into a cartoon.

Minecraft on Oculus Rift is the best VR game to date

Minecraft on Oculus Rift is the best VR game to date

The demo experience Microsoft was showing off goes through a few of the games signature moments — I did some mining, fought some creeps, lit up some caves with torches, pressed a bunch of buttons to interact with the environment and eventually rode a mine cart way up the side of a huge building. That was probably the best part of the demo, as there was a real sense of speed and height as I rocketed skyward. A later mine cart ride let me look around in 360 degrees at the vast landscape from way on high as it headed towards a new area, and there was all sorts of activity and eye candy to take in on the trip.

As with most things VR, it’s hard to do the experience justice in words, but I’ll just say that the experience really highlighted the vastness of the world and did a great job of immersing me in Minecraft. It’s a less radically different version of the game than the HoloLens experience, mostly because the Oculus version doesn’t have gesture and voice commands, but it still seems like a great place to go exploring. Unfortunately, there’s no word on exactly when Minecraft will be publicly available in VR, but hopefully it won’t come terribly long after the Rift’s release later this month — “killer app” is a played-out term, but Minecraft has the potential to be one for the nascent VR scene.

Quantum Break Coming To PC April 5th

Remedy Entertainment’s Quantum Break is coming to PC April 5th. Telling the tale of time travel gone wrong, Quantum Break features a mix of high-fidelity third-person shooting, cinematic in-game cutscenes, and live action cutscenes that star Shawn Ashmore (X-Men‘s Iceman), Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings‘ Meriadoc Brandybuck), Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones‘ Petyr Baelish), and other top talent.

Having previously raised the bar for graphics and cutscenes with Alan Wake and Max Payne, Remedy’s latest endeavor is poised to once again advance graphical fidelity and immersion with a raft of advanced effects and features, courtesy of their new in-house Northlight Engine.

Quantum Break PC Announcement ScreenshotTo experience the stunning scenes that Northlight and Quantum Break will produce, at a high level of fidelity, Remedy is recommending that gamers equip their systems with GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards. And for an “Ultra” experience, a GeForce GTX 980 Ti is recommended.

MINIMUM
RECOMMENDED
ULTRA
OS
Windows 10 (64-bit)
Windows 10 (64-bit)
Windows 10 (64-bit)
DirectX
DirectX 12
DirectX 12
DirectX 12
CPU
Intel Core i5-4460, 2.70GHz or
AMD FX-6300
Intel Core i5 4690, 3.9GHz or
AMD equivalent
Intel Core i7 4790, 4GHz or
AMD equivalent
GPU
VRAM
2 GB
4 GB
6 GB
RAM
8 GB
16 GB
16 GB

If you’re itching to buy Quantum Break but can’t decide between the Xbox One and Windows 10 versions, don’t fret – Quantum Break is kick-starting Microsoft’s Cross-Buy initiative. Simply put, if you buy Quantum Break for Xbox One at a participating retailer you’ll also receive a free copy of the game for PC. Furthermore, any progress make in the game is automatically shared between your PC and Xbox One, enabling you to continue the story from where you left off on either platform.

Quantum Break PC Announcement ScreenshotFor further details about the PC edition of Quantum Break stay tuned to GeForce.com. In the meantime, check out a batch of new screenshots below.

Quantum Break PC Announcement Screenshot Quantum Break PC Announcement Screenshot Quantum Break PC Announcement Screenshot Quantum Break PC Announcement Screenshot Quantum Break PC Announcement Screenshot Quantum Break PC Announcement Screenshot

Those classic Atari games were harder than you think

The Atari 2600 console – the games looked simple, but they weren’t

The Atari 2600 console – the games looked simple, but they weren’t

So a computer program has learned how to play classic Atari games. Big deal. I mean, they’re just big blocks of pixels pushing smaller blocks of pixels around a screen, right?

Yet somehow, the UK artificial intelligence specialist Deep Mind, bought last year by Google for £240m, is extremely excited about the fact that it has developed an AI agent capable of learning how to play Space Invaders. I learned how to play Space Invaders in a cafe in Blackpool when I was six. But Google hasn’t acquired me. What’s going on?

The thing is, classic Atari games such as Space Invaders, Pong and Breakout were, despite their visual limitations, much more complex than our modern minds give them credit for. Indeed, many of these games set in place the fundamental mechanics that modern titles are still utilising – and they are deceptively deep, even for a Deep Mind AI gamer.

It turns out the Deep Mind program fared very well against titles that allowed it to learn systems through simple trial and error such as Video Pinball and Breakout. However, it failed spectacularly at games that required the participants to build a mental map of the level and develop long-term strategies, or that required the mastery of different skillsets, such as the more complex shooters Zaxxon and Gravitar.

However, learning to play and master any of these games is a significant feat, despite their chunky aesthetics. Here are four classic Atari titles and why they’re not quite as basic as they appear.

Pong

Designed by electrical engineer Al Alcorn and launched as an arcade machine in 1972, Atari’s legendary bat and ball simulation, is widely considered the most basic interactive electronic game possible. Indeed, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell once said to Alcorn: “I want to make a game that any drunk in any bar can play.”

But Pong is actually a very important early example of game physics – the ball reacting to surfaces in different ways. When it hits a wall, it simply rebounds at a mirror-opposite angle.

However, each of the bats is actually divided into eight sections, each providing a slighting different angle of return. Therefore players are able to develop strategies, planning the return gradient so that the opponent is unable to quickly guess where the ball will return to, leaving them stranded in the wrong part of the screen. Consequently, players – or indeed computer programs – with a knowledge of projectile displacement physics have a distinct advantage.

Breakout

Created as a single-player version of Pong, Atari’s wall-breaking classic was designed by Bushnell, with help from Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs who would, of course, later go on to found Apple. Players simply use a bat at the bottom of the screen to knock a ball into rows of coloured bricks, smashing anything it hits. Once again, the bat has different impact zones that affect the angle of the bounce.

Extra depth comes from the fact that the ball speeds up when the player reaches the upper layers of the walls, and then the bat shrinks to half its size when the ball finally hits the top wall. This is an early example of gameplay balance, with a system that increases the level of challenge as the player begins to excel. The fiendishly compulsive “tidying up” format of the game would later become a staple of the puzzle genre (see Tetris).

Space Invaders

Originally devised by Tomohiro Nishikado, a designer at Japanese arcade company Taito, Space Invaders is – alongside Pac-Man – one of the best-known video games of all time. Players shoot at waves of aliens as they descend to Earth, occasionally blasting a UFO as it whizzes across the top of the display.

Seemingly simple, the game was one of the first to introduce a smooth difficulty curve, the invaders speeding up as they get closer. Incredibly, this was actually a bug: the archaic processor was able to handle the movement more efficiently when there were fewer objects on screen. But Nishikado kept it.

Alongside the cowboy shoot-’em-up Gun Fight, Space Invaders (which was later ported to the Atari 2600 console) also popularised the “cover” mechanic, providing a row of destructible barriers for the player to hide behind. It is a feature that would later be brought to more complex action adventures such as Grand Theft Auto and Gears of War.

Indeed, Hideo Kojima, the creator of the multimillion-selling Metal Gear Solid series credited Space Invaders with inventing the “stealth” game genre, as players could sneak from barrier to barrier evading the attention – and bullets – of the extraterrestrial enemies.

Asteroids

Created using monochrome “vector” graphics by Atari coders Ed Logg and Lyle Rains, Asteroids has players controlling a tiny ship as it blasts passing space rocks. Once again, however, the basic set-up hides a complex challenge. The ship itself is piloted using thrust and inertia, an intricate physics system, that adds a significant skill factor to the multi-directional movement.

The game also exhibits a clever difficulty curve: when larger asteroids are blasted they split up into faster moving rocks, considerably increasing the challenge. And it experiments with contrasting AI enemies. Two different flying saucers can appear on screen – a large one that fires inaccurately, and a smaller one that is much more deadly.

Released in 1979, Asteroids was a smash hit, selling more than 70,000 arcade machines. Players were so addicted to its merging of simple visuals with intense action that they began to work out and exploit its systemic features. A good Asteroids player knows that leaving a single slow moving rock on screen and using it as a barrier from which to blast saucers is the way to huge high scores. It’s a technique known as “lurking” and its one of the earliest example of players gaming the system for tactical advantage.

New trailer introduces the historical figures of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

Last month we got a look at the gang of seven nogoodniks who will cause the Brotherhood of Assassins so much trouble during the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Today it’s time to learn about the guys on the other side, which is to say your side: Six of the greatest minds of the Victorian Era, who don’t seem to have any problem at all with dedicating their energies and efforts to support a group whose raison d’être is doing relentless, but quiet, murders.

It’s a pretty heavy lineup, and unlike the bad guy roster, each of these characters is a real historical figure—although probably not historically accurate. There’s Alexander Graham Bell, whose greatest invention is apparently not the telephone but a wide-range stun bomb and what appears to be some kind of ray gun; Karl Marx, the revolutionary socialist; the naturalist and evolutionist Charles Darwin; novelist Charles Dickens; Florence Nightingale, who modernized the concept of nursing; and of course Queen Victoria, for whom the Victorian Era is named.

I still haven’t quite got a grip on how the Assassin Brotherhood went from being a shadowy clan of… well, assassins, to an in-the-open gang of freedom fighters. I’m not sure what good Darwin’s complaints of, “Oh, they’re saying nasty things about me” does for the cause, either. In fact, when you get right down to it, the leaders of the bad guys seem like the sort of folks who get things done; the ones on your team look a lot more like they hope someone else will step up to the plate.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate comes out on November 19.



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My name is Sayed Ahmadreza Razian and I am a graduate of the master degree in Artificial intelligence .
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Related topics such as image processing, machine vision, virtual reality, machine learning, data mining, and monitoring systems are my research interests, and I intend to pursue a PhD in one of these fields.

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  • Data mining - Big Data
  • CUDA Programming
  • Game and Virtual reality

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