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Todd Howard Explains How Skyrim’s Bugs Should Improve Fallout 4’s Wasteland

When you build a giant open world filled with hundreds of missions, miles of terrain, and dynamically scripted civilian populations, your chances of shipping with bugs are significant. No open-world game seems to escape this reality – even the thought leaders in the space like Rockstar and Bethesda have faced their share of problems.

With The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in particular, Bethesda Studios faced the daunting task of trying to put out technical problems like crippling framerate issues on the PlayStation 3. We broached the topic of lessons learned and how the development team has evolved its practices for Fallout 4 with game director Todd Howard. He explained that Skyrim's popularity and the sheer volume of player data in the game created challenges to troubleshooting bugs in the open world.

“It probably took us a month or two before we really had a handle on it,” he says. The team had to decide how it was going to identify problems before it could figure out how they happened or why they surfaced at particular times.

“All of the updates we did on Skyrim, and all of the DLC – once we sorted [the bugs out] we had a different process for how we checked the content out,” he says. “There will always be some problems.” Howard says that figuring out how to deal with those issues is the trick.

“I think we’ve gotten way better there,” he says. “For us, [the player’s] saved game is the number one thing. If the game crashes that’s bad, but it is nowhere near as bad as someone’s saved game being hosed. That’s our scenario that we will do anything and everything to avoid. We made a lot of progress given how Skyrim went, but we did it during Skyrim. This just builds on that."

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Oculus CEO More Fully Explains Pricing, Talks Rift Life Cycle

At E3, we had a chance to catch up with Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe to discuss what it’s going to take to bring the first consumer Rift home. Iribe had previously been quoted as saying that consumers can expect to spend about $ 1,500 for a PC and the Rift kit. We asked him some more specifics about how the company arrived at that number. 

“That’s the general range. I want to see, and hope to see, full package Rift plus PC for even less, for down to $ 1,300 or $ 1,200.,” Iribe says. “The $ 1,500 statement was around what people can expect to spend for a full package at retail. You’ll buy parts a lot cheaper. If you do it yourself and you’re putting together your own PC, you’ll be able to do it for a lot less than $ 1,500. This is something we’re really pushing on our retail partners and our OEM PC partners, we’re going to be out there heavily promoting it at $ 1,500 or less for the full package. Rift is only a small fraction of that. Most of that cost is the PC.”

Since Iribe mentioned that the company is in communication with PC makers, we inquired about a licensing or certification program. With so many manufacturers out there, less educated PC consumers will likely benefit from some kind of guidepost about which systems will work with the Rift.

“It definitely makes a lot of sense to have partners that we’re certifying and we pre-test and approve,” Iribe tells me. “We’ve been engaging with a lot of the different PC makers out there to get them Rift kits so they can go and start testing. We’re working with them on what kind of benchmarks we need to give them that they can run to make sure their PC is Rift-compatible. We really want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to know that if they buy a PC, it’s guaranteed to work. Ultimately, that’s up to the PC makers.”


Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe

For those that don’t want to jump aboard right at the start, the wait for the next version of the hardware won’t be a full console cycle away. It will likely come much more quickly, though not as rapidly as some other consumer tech categories.

“This isn’t going to be the console five, six, seven year life cycle. VR is going to move too fast. It’s going to innovate and evolve really rapidly,” Iribe says. “We’ve already seen with the Rift from inception to shipping a product, we’ll have gone through two developer kits, many prototypes leading to a consumer Rift at high quality. We’re going to come out with another prototype some amount of time after we ship the Rift, and then we’re going to come out with another consumer product. We want to move quickly here, but we also want to give developers time to create content and ship against an install base. If we move too quickly, we need to always ensure absolute backward compatibility, so that everybody’s content works on the next generation as we’re updating.”

There’s no set schedule in place at this point. Iribe says that Rift version two won’t be locked in until the company better understands what major new features will be integrated.

“There’s that happy medium between the console life cycle, which is far too long, and the smart-phone cycle, which is every six months or so. That’s a little too short for where VR is going to begin. It’s somewhere in between,” he explains. “We’re still trying to figure when our version two would come together and what features will land in it. If there’s a feature that would take an extra three to five months, we might push out the schedule if it’s that compelling of a feature. It’s too early to tell now. At this point, it’s all sights focused on shipping Rift and Touch.”

Oculus’ first consumer Rift virtual reality display will be out in the first quarter of 2016. The Oculus Touch controllers will be made available shortly thereafter, some time in the first half of 2016.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

CD Projekt Explains The Witcher 3′s Ever-Changing Weather With Exclusive Screenshots

Today our review went live for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and one of its main attractions is its vast world, which contains new discoveries around every corner. CD Projekt RED wanted the world to feel as real as possible, bringing back its day/night system and creating a dynamic weather system. Both of these elements impact your journey in different ways. For instance, a storm might make for choppy waters when sailing and taverns get much more lively at night. We nabbed some exclusive screens to show just how much detail goes into creating the ever-changing atmosphere. For more context, we also chatted with art producer, Michał Stec.

Note: Click images to enlarge.

What went into creating the weather and environments for The
Witcher 3?

Hundreds if not thousands of hours of browsing through references:
paintings, pictures, films, photos – everything, really. I remember this one
time, Lucjan (one of the leads) and I were on our way to some party and he
suddenly stopped the car, pulled a camera out of the glove box and started
taking pictures of the setting sun to use as a reference. We drew a lot on
photographs and movies. Sometimes we'd
pull up a visual reference on our second monitor and not quit until the game
looked exactly like the image.

It was the same with rain and other weather conditions. We
often scrutinized even the little details, like how fast a storm should roll
in, how clouds should move. I personally am a big fan of snowboarding, so I had
plenty of inspiration and references to draw on for the peaks in Skellige
[laughs].

On top of all that, we of course drew on the extraordinary
talent and hard work of one of the best art teams ever. For the icing on the
cake, we added special effects: lovely little cloud details, wood dust
particles, fog, smoke plumes, etc. Add it all together, and you get amazingly
believable locations.

 How often will the weather change as you play?

All the time – the weather is constantly changing. This is a
randomized mechanism; working it out took us quite a while, since it required a
lot of testing, checking if how it felt in the game was okay, or if it was too
much. The weights given to particular weather conditions change depending on
the region – in the swamps of No Man's Land it's practically always foggy and
rains a lot, whereas in Skellige you can expect more thunderstorms near the
coasts and sunshine up in the mountains.

 What do you think the changing weather and day/night shifts
add to the experience?

I think it's really important – it adds a lot to the
believability of the world. We were able to create moments in the game like you
get in life: You look at the sky and think, "Damn, it's gonna rain, I need to
find shelter and meditate till morning." There are places in the game where you
don't want to go after dark – dark alleys in the city, for example. Personally,
I love playing at night, particularly when the moon's shining brightly.
Monsters act differently at different times of day, and so do Geralt's skills –
noonwraiths famously are tougher around noon, and Geralt can acquire Abilities
that, for example, speed up his Vitality regeneration during the day.

What has the advanced tech allowed you to do that you
weren't able to in The Witcher 2?
 

I think the guys from our amazing Technical Arts team are
better positioned to answer this question. In general I can say we were
definitely able to pimp out the clouds and fog. Given how passionate fans are
about these technical issues, I think it's best to leave the details to our
experts.

How will the weather affect your adventures? Are there any
events that are related to the weather? Do NPCs characters react to the
changing time/weather?

NPCs definitely react to the weather, just like animals and
monsters do. Inns will become crowded in the evening and at night, for example.
Thieves, thugs, and other dangerous elements come out at night as well. Some quests
can only be triggered at certain times of day.

What are you most excited for with this feature? Anything
you think fans will be surprised to know about it?

The most interesting part was the creation process. It was
an enormous challenge to make locations that are always accessible (open
world), that can be examined from all angles with a torch in hand (we don't
block the player from exploring) and that in addition also have to look good
during the day, at night, in the morning, in the evening, in the morning when
it's raining, in the evening when it's foggy, during a storm, etc., etc.
There's an amazing number of combinations. Plus we had to give the player total
freedom to screw with the lighting. You can light and extinguish candles,
torches, etc. This took a massive amount of testing, tweaking…and time
[laughs].

Be sure to compare all the different screens of the same place with different weather and time of day effects in the gallery below! 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Rocksteady Explains Batman: Arkham Knight Dual Play And Riddler’s New Robots

With Batman: Arkham Knight just over one month away, Rocksteady has launched a new weekly show to give a deeper look at the game. In the first episode of Batman: Arkham Insider, the team breaks down the most recent trailer and talks about the heroes’ motivations and conflicts among them.

Batman and Barbara Gordon have kept the secret that they are working together, but that deception will come to a head in Arkham Knight. We also learn a bit more about the Dual Play feature that brings Robin, Nightwing, and Catwoman into the fight.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

In the trailer, you might have also noticed Catwoman taking apart some robots. Those belong to The Riddler, who is more aggressive in his quarrel with the Bat this time out.

At the end of the video, Rocksteady answers five gameplay questions. These address new uses for batarangs and the grapnel gun, and whether we'll be able to use skins right from the beginning.

Batman: Arkham Knight will be out on June 23 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Update: Besthesda Explains Why It’s NOT Allowing Paid Skyrim Mods

Update: Bethesda has updated its blog to state that it will no longer support paid mods in Skyrim.

Hot on the heels of Valve's announcement that it is abandoning its paid-mod initiative, Bethesda has amended its blog post with a straightforward update:

"After discussion with Valve, and listening to our community, paid mods are being removed from Steam Workshop. Even though we had the best intentions, the feedback has been clear – this is not a feature you want. Your support means everything to us, and we hear you."

Original Story: Last week, Valve announced
a new update
to Steam Workshop that allows mod creators to charge money for
their content, starting with Bethesda's open-world RPG, Skyrim. The news was
met with criticism by some gamers, leading Valve's Gabe Newell to hold an impromptu
AMA on Reddit
to answer questions and concerns. Today Bethesda has written
up its own explanation of why it has chosen to participate in the program.

The post on Bethesda's
blog explains
that its participation in paid mods comes from a desire to
expand modding and support those making the content, and that it won't be
forcing mod creators to charge money. "We believe most mods should be free,"
the post states. "But we also believe our community wants to reward the very
best creators, and that they deserve to be rewarded. We believe the best should
be paid for their work and treated like the game developers they are. But
again, we don't think it's right for us to decide who those creators are or
what they create."

The post also breaks down how profit sharing will work.
Bethesda says it's up to the mod creator to decide how much to charge, citing Oblivion's
infamous Horse Armor DLC as the company's own personal growing pains for
figuring out what to charge. Whatever price is chosen, 30-percent of the
revenue goes to Valve and 40-percent goes to Bethesda, leaving 25-percent for the
mod creator. Think that's unfair? Bethesda explains its logic:

"The percentage conversation is about assigning value in a
business relationship. How do we value an open IP license? The active player
base and built-in audience? The extra years making the game open and developing
tools? The original game that gets modded? Even now, at 25% and early sales
data, we're looking at some modders making more money than the studio members
whose content is being edited."

Bethesda goes on to say that it considers this an
in-progress experiment, and that it's open to reassessing its decisions based
on feedback from mod creators and the community. You can read the whole post at
the link below.

[Source: Bethblog]

 

Our Take
It's great that Bethesda is outlining its decision to allow paid mods, but there are still tons of unanswered questions surrounding the initiative. While I think that mod creators should ultimately have the right to charge for their creations if they want to, we can only guess at the long-lasting impact that paid mods could have on the modding community. Will the availability of free, wacky mods dry up if everyone is inclined to charge a couple bucks for them? Will other publishers take bigger cuts or dictate what content creators can (or must) charge for their mods? And what will happen to all the websites and communities devoted to hosting and sharing mods? Only time will tell, but gamers have a right to be apprehensive about Valve's newest initiative.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Gearbox Explains How To Transfer Saves To The Handsome Colleciton

Gearbox has laid out the necessary steps for players to bring their old saves forward to current consoles for The Handsome Collection. Though the official Gearbox explanation digs into the nitty-gritty details of transferring the save data, the overall process shouldn’t be terribly hard for most players.

In order to transfer old saves forward, all that’s needed is the patches which enable cross-save functionality in Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel – as well as the day-one patch for The Handsome Collection. After that, it should be a fairly simple process of uploading and downloading saves using the in-game menus.

There are, however, a few caveats to keep in mind. Gearbox only supports one save upload at a time, which means players will have to go back and forth between versions if they want to transfer all their characters. Unlike Sony systems, for which saves can be universally transferred, the Xbox versions of the games can only transfer forward to Xbox One. Uploading a save also doesn’t remove it from the original system.

Not everything will transfer along with the saves though. Character level, mission progress, Badass Points, current inventory, weapon slot, money, eridium, moonstones, unlocked character customizations, and items store in the bank in Sanctuary will all transfer. However, items stored in Claptrap’s stash from Borderlands 2 will not transfer, nor will trophies and achievements.

The transfer also leaves behind golden keys, which act as a currency for the game's variable-level random loot generator. Gearbox is hoping to make up for that by handing out 75 golden keys, “a healthy chuck of Badass Rank,” and bonus customization items for people who played previous versions of the games.

For an idea of what to expect from the games in The Handsome Collection, check out our review of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. For more information on the collection itself, check out our in-depth preview. If you're confused or curious about the transfer process, Gearbox's official explanation has more detailed information.  

 

Our Take
It's likely no small annoyance for fans that Gearbox couldn't work out a way to transfer more than one save at a time, but they also didn't have to do it at all. It would have been easy to cite technological difficulty as a reason for making players start over again, and not doing so shows they're still committed to the series' longevity.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Super Smash Bros.’s Announcer Explains How The 8-Player Mode Almost Made It Into Melee

The latest episode of Did You Know Gaming enlists the help of Super Smash Bros. announcer Xander Mobus to share some facts about Nintendo's fighting series.

Some highlights include details about creator Masahiro Sakurai's difficulty in developing the latest entry in the series, why Shigeru Miyamoto's early suggestion of including Pac-Man took so long to see fruition, and how 8-player Smash was an idea that has been around well before the release of the Wii U version of the game.

For our review of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, head here.

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You can check out other videos from the Did You Know Gaming channel covering Halo, The Last of Us, Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, Mario, Jet Set Radio, Mega Man, Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong, Killer Instinct, Rayman, Mass Effect, Dragon Quest, Castlevania, Zelda, more Zelda, Final Fight, Doom, Dragon Ball Z, Super Smash Bros., Team Fortress 2, Harvest Moon, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, the history of the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Nintendo 64, the DS, the PlayStation, and two covering the Game Boy by hitting the links.

[Source: Did You Know Gaming on YouTube]

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Bungie Explains Destiny’s Heavy Ammo Glitch, Fix Coming February

Cockroaches are hard to kill, and some game bugs can be nearly as hearty. A glitch in Destiny that has been stealing your precious heavy ammo will soon be getting squashed, so you won't have to be afraid to use your favorite rocket launcher any longer.

Destiny players tend to lose their heavy ammo when they die, return to orbit or encounter a cutscene, but come February that won't be the case. In a recent Blog post, Destiny detailed the reason why players encounter that bug.

"The basic flaw here is an ordering problem," says sandbox engineer Jon Cable. "Our inventory system creates your weapons when your characters spawn. When that happens, it tries to restore the same fraction of ammo that you had when you died. The bug occurred because the weapon is created before capacity modifiers from armor perks are applied, so the persisted fraction yields fewer rounds."

Later on, in the post, Jon explained how the developer would be fixing the problem, "In the end, I came up with a surgical change that fixes the main issue and minimizes the chances that a new problem would be introduced. I do not think I can overstate the complexity of these systems – it took me several tries to come up with a fix that did not cause other problems."

This all sounds pretty technical, but it's good to know that heavy ammo won't be quite as much of a limited resources in the near future.

[Source: Bungie.net]

 

Our Take
This is a little inside baseball, but it's an interesting peek into the development process for those of us who don't make games for a living.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

2K Explains Why Evolve’s Beta Follows The Game ‘Going Gold’

Yesterday, 2K announced that Evolve has gone gold. The beta test, typically an event that precedes a game’s completion, won’t be happening until next week. We reached out to the publisher to get some clarification about the decision.

“The team is still tweaking balance of the characters and progression system,” a 2K representative told us via email. “In this wonderful digital age we live in, all of those values can still be adjusted via hot fixes on launch day, making a beta still very much worthwhile.”

Next week’s open play period will also serve as a stress test for the online functionality. “The beta is to test our server infrastructure again so that everything runs smoothly on launch day and the servers remain up and stable,” we were told. “To put it another way, we had a ton of learnings a from the Big Alpha that are being applied to the beta to create an even better and more stable experience. When potentially millions of players bang on the servers during open beta, we'll no doubt have even more learnings to apply to the games final launch.”

2K also mentioned this morning that the third monster, Wraith, and the third group of hunters will be available in the beta. You can only unlock them for the test period by digitally pre-purchasing the title on Xbox One. The first two sets of hunters, Goliath, and Kraken will all be playable during the beta without the need for a pre-purchase. The beta will start players with tier one hunters and Goliath, with tier two and Kraken becoming available through play.

For the retail version, you’ll be able to instantly access the tier three characters and Wraith if you have pre-purchased the game digitally on Xbox One. These will be unlockable for all players in the full game regardless of when and how you purchase. The instant unlock offer is exclusive to digital and Xbox One right now, though. 

Characters will take approximately three to five hours per class (including the monster) to unlock. The title launches with three in each category and one is available from the get-go.  

Evolve will be out on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on February 10. For more, check out our cover story from February 2014.

 

Our Take
Making some content unlockable in games is a normal occurrence across genres. This pre-order bonus will certainly give some players more flexibility at launch, but it isn’t additional content. It’s a time savings. Given that the beta on Xbox One is open, you can decide during and after if putting your money down in advance is worth it to you.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Nintendo Fully Explains Hyrule Warriors Amiibo Support

We’ve known that you’ll be able to tap that Amiibo in Hyrule Warriors, but the details have been a little fuzzy. Thankfully, Nintendo has cleared things up in an update on the Amiibo website.

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, tapping the Link Amiibo on the Gamepad unlocks the Spinner weapon for use. Zelda also has a special function, unlocking a weapon rated three or more stars once per day.

Every other Amiibo can get you rupees or crafting material, but you might also get a weapon. Unfortunately, it will only be rated at a maximum of three stars. You can tap each Amiibo once per day.

The update that activates this functionality will be released some time in November. The first wave of 12 Amiibo figures will be out on November 21, alongside Super Smash Bros. Additional figures will be out in December and February.

[Source: Nintendo via Joystiq]

 

Our Take
As far as I can tell, the hook for Amiibos is Super Smash Bros., with every other title being a little bonus. I haven’t seen the toys working in concert with Smash, but as the functions have been detailed, I’m unclear on the value.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed