It’s that time again. Parents across the world are doling out $15 to after , the latest update for its hit game Fortnite that’s particularly popular among kids and young adults. , and thanks to sales of seasonal Battle Passes, skins and virtual items for avatars. That’s very much for the focus for Season 9, which dropped today and is really about the cosmetics with the latest Battle Pass unlocking over 100 rewards, including a range of new skins and characters. Season 9 is an upgrade that’ll keep existing gamers locked into Fortnite through evolution — there are no radical changes to excite new or less active players. In terms of gameplay, Fortnite has added two new locations. Neo Tilted replaces Tilted Towers, which was destroyed by a volcano eruption last week, then there’s Mega Mall which is an upgrade on Retail Row. Epic has added ‘Slipstreams’ which are turbines that power a wind-based transport system for getting across the map quickly, and potentially adding an interesting new combat angle. There’s also a new ‘Fortbytes,’ which is essentially a hidden item challenge. Gamers who bought a Battle Pass can collect a series of 100 collectible computer chips which are scattered across the map. There are an initial 18 released, with a new arrival each day — those who collect them all can unlock rewards and “secrets.” There’s just one new gun on offer, the combat shotgun which doesn’t seem particularly impressive, while grenades have returned. A large number of weapons have been removed — or “vaulted” in Epic parlance — and they include clingers, pump shotgun, poison dart trap, scoped revolver, suppressed assault rifle, thermal assault rifle, and balloons. That’s about the sum of the new update, although Fortnite does now include three new limited time games: three-person squad ‘trios,’ a ‘solid gold’ mode that uses legendary weapons and ‘one shot,’ a sniper-only battle set in a low gravity environment.
Ray tracing has been a major topic of conversation at both GDC and GTC so it seems fitting that that the overlapping conventions would both kick off with an announcement that touches both industries. Today at GTC, Nvidia announced that it has built-out a number of major partnerships with 3D software makers including some apparent names like Adobe and Autodesk to integrate access with Nvidia’s RTX ray-tracing platform in their future software releases. The partnerships with Unity is perhaps the most interesting, given the excitement amongst game developers to bring real-time ray tracing to interactive works. Epic Games had already announced Unreal Engine 4.22 support for Nvidia RTX ray-tracing, and it was only a matter of time before Unity made the plunge as well, but now the tech is officially coming to Unity’s High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) today in preview. The technology is all focused on how games render lighting more realistically, showing how light interacts with the atmosphere and the objects it strikes. This technique has already been in use elsewhere but rendering all of this can be pretty resource-intensive which has made the advancements of the past few years to cement this as a real-time system such an entrancing prospect. Nvidia has certainly been tooting the horn of this technology, but there have been some doubts whether this is just another technology that’s still a few years out from popular adoption amongst game developers. “Real-time ray tracing moves real-time graphics significantly closer to realism, opening the gates to global rendering effects never before possible in the real-time domain,” a Unity exec said in a statement. In their announcement, Nvidia boasted that their system enabled “ray traced images that can be indistinguishable from photographs” that “blur the line between real-time and reality.” While the prospect of added realism in gaming is certainly something consumers will be psyched about, engine-makers will undoubtedly also be promoting their early access to the Nvidia tech to customers in other industries including enterprise.
Twitch is getting into the karaoke world with what it calls a new category of game by the name of Twitch Sings. The game-streaming service owned by Amazon announced it is developing a new game concept with Harmonix — developer of the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises — at its TwitchCon event in San Jose today. Twitch is testing the karaoke concept at the event and through a closed beta. Players will be able to share their songs across the Twitch platform and perform duets with community members. Audience members will be able to request songs, create challengers and shower the crowd with Bits, the currency used to support streamers on Twitch. , Twitch said that karaoke and Twitch Sings is just the beginning for an entirely new type of game, focused on heavy interaction. We’re just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible when everyone wants to play together. There are many games and genres that are made better on Twitch, and we believe there’s an opportunity for a new category of game to emerge that’s made to be streamed, where the audience isn’t a ‘nice to have’ — they’re a crucial part of the game experience. We knew karaoke would be the perfect place to start. It’s live. It’s always entertaining. And when it really gets going, the line between the crowd and the stage disappears completely. In addition to Twitch Sings, the company announced it will expand its e-sports program, Twitch Rivals, from 55 events so far this year to 128 in 2019. Twitch also announced a series of new features on the platform that make it easier for streamers to be discovered, monetize their efforts and connect with fans. Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for $970 million. Amazon went on to create a series of Amazon Prime goodies for gamers called . This year it started on Twitch. At the conference, the company announced that at any given time, there at least 1 million people on Twitch.
(Microsoft Photo) Microsoft is for Xbox One, adding a new way for gamers to play and more tools for developers. Keyboard and mouse support will roll out to select Xbox Insiders in the next few weeks. Most games will see little change, as the support is added on a title-by-title basis and it is up to the developers to do so. In addition to the new capabilities, Microsoft is teaming up with gaming hardware manufacturer Razer to create the “best possible mouse and keyboard experience for this new functionality.” Microsoft didn’t give further details, but the company pushed eager fans to its’ and Razer’s social media pages for a sneak peak. will be one of the first titles testing mouse and keyboard input, and in November Microsoft will share more details about which games will get those capabilities next.
It’s been a strange summer for Steam. Since the implementation of the last year, the service has seen a tidal wave of new, largely unfiltered content, much of which has proved to be controversial,, or in a couple of cases, . Steam’s moves to curate its new releases have been unfocused, inconsistent, and/or simply nonexistent, finally settling on the principle, as they stated in a blog post in June, that they “.” In the same blog post, Steam’s representatives promised that new tools were in the works to help users filter their experience in the storefront, and to help cut down on trolls, scammers, and other bad-faith users of the Steam publication process. This included a rework to how the system worked, where games would no longer automatically receive card sets until they This addressed an exploit where players would generate “fake” games in order to farm them for trading cards with bot accounts, which could then be redeemed for , coupons, and other items, many of which could be traded for real money on the Steam Marketplace. On Wednesday, Valve provided a to the community. The company has introduced a number of methods to make it easier for users to explore Steam, such as , a rework (in July) to how its worked, and provided more and better options for you to filter the types of content you can see when randomly browsing the store. One big change here is that you can now tick a series of boxes in your account settings that determines what you are and are not willing to see on Steam, based upon not only the general age rating, but the type of content involved. For example, I unchecked the box on my personal Steam account for nudity and sexual content, so now, when I go to search for Funcom’s survival game Conan Exiles, which is notorious in certain circles for not only frequent but intensely customizable nudity, I simply can’t see its store page at all. A screenshot from the author’s personal Steam account. Steam now also requires publishers of games that feature mature content to go into detail about the type and context of that content (i.e. Left 4 Dead 2 being listed as featuring not just explicit violence, but “decapitation and dismemberment of zombie-like creatures”), in order to assist players in determining whether or not a game is suitable for them. Previously, a game’s Steam page would typically only hint at whatever the game might actually contain, through marketing copy and a handful of keywords; now, a consumer should know exactly what they’re in for before they purchase a game. What’s likely going to be the most controversial part of these changes, however, is Steam’s ongoing attempts to remove “bad actors” from its storefront. They describe a relatively small population of would-be developers that are simply out to release titles with which to troll Steam’s userbase, but then remain vague on what precisely fits their internal definition of trolling. “Our review of something that may be ‘a troll game’ is a deep assessment that actually begins with the developer,” Valve wrote on its blog. “We investigate who this developer is, what they’ve done in the past, their behavior on Steam as a developer, as a customer, their banking information, developers they associate with, and more. All of this is done to answer the question ‘who are we partnering with and why do they want to sell this game?’ We get as much context around the creation and creator of the game and then make an assessment. A trend we’re seeing is that we often ban these people from Steam altogether instead of cherry-picking through their individual game submissions. In the words of someone here in the office: ‘it really does seem like bad games are made by bad people.'” In other words, they know trolls when they see them. It’s an open-ended declaration that seems guaranteed to cause some problems, just as soon as a given issue comes down to a matter of interpretation. As for the issue of sales bloat and a lack of curation on Steam, Valve currently remains quiet. The new systems they announced are in place on Steam accounts as of this writing, but the store is still flooded with new games every week, and Valve still considers it, for the time being, the community’s job to police their storefront.