Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag gets a new 10 minute video walkthrough

Experience the new open-world activities in the largest Assassin’s Creed world ever. Includes gameplay footage of new features and locations such as underwater treasure diving, smugglers caves, harpooning for sharks, and enhanced naval combat.

American Express: “League Of Legends” offers real sports opportunities

As important a partnership as the “US Open or LA Kings,” says first blue chip company to enter the eSports arena.

American Express: League Of Legends

Electronic Sports, or eSports, has been riding the success of Riot Games’ League of Legends over the past few years. Thanks in part to the explosion of livestreaming through Twitch and the global appetite to watch pro gamers compete, and even practice, playing the world’s number one game; Riot has attracted its first blue chip sponsor with American Express. And more are sure to follow as the company has over 32 million active players.

“From an engagement perspective, Riot Games is a great partner because League of Legends isn’t just about these huge live events, it’s also about the time spent playing the game and watching others playing the game for research and strategies,” said Ian Swanson, vice president of Enterprise Growth at American Express. “We want to reach the male millennial audience on a consistent basis. These millions of gamers aren’t just watching things live on Twitch, but many times afterward to learn from the pros. And they’re also actively talking about it.”

American Express is a sponsor of LCS and the upcoming World Championship at Staples Center. “American Express is also a US Open sponsor, what this means for eSports is that we’re stepping up and saying this is no longer niche,” explained Swanson. “This is a large audience that’s strategic to our goals as a company to reach. Just as you see American Express at the US Open or LA Kings hockey games at the Staples Center, you’ll see us at LCS.”

“We told them that Riot would sell out Staples Center in a day, and then we were able to go back and tell them they sold out in an hour, so it was clear we made the right choice”

Ian Swanson

“We showed a video from the LCS Season 2 championship game at USC Galen Center to a bunch of execs at American Express and they were shocked at the fans and how excited they were and how proud the athletes were when they won,” said Swanson. “We told them that Riot would sell out Staples Center in a day, and then we were able to go back and tell them they sold out in an hour, so it was clear we made the right choice.”

“Our participation will hopefully help legitimize eSports and help bring in other brands and other sponsors,” said Swanson. “The real testament goes to the players and quality of the game Riot has produced. We’re almost on the ground floor of eSports. In the next two to five years this thing is going to be much bigger than it is. And it’s already tens of millions of people watching around the world.”

Dustin Beck, vice president of eSports at Riot, adss that the company is leaps and bounds ahead of where they thought they’d be in the eSports arena.

“All we can do is guarantee fans we have a focus on delivering high-quality, engaging experiences and that’s our first and foremost attribute,” said Beck. “We’re going to start doing more global experiences with fans. We have five distinct leagues in China, Korea, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America and we just launched in countries like Brazil, Russia and Turkey. It’s a unique situation where we have a global sport that is tough to benchmark outside of any sport except maybe FIFA or the Olympics.”

And it’s also unique in that most mainstream companies, which are struggling to connect with millennials, have yet to capitalize on this gaming audience. American Express is the first, but certainly won’t be the last.



Can the Virtual Reality dream go mainstream?

As Sony jumps on the Oculus bandwagon, is the dream of mass-market VR about to come true?

VR gaming reality

In a sense, a whole generation has already grown up with virtual reality. The technology was a staple of science fiction films of the 1980s and 1990s, from the neon dreamscapes of Tron via the squishy organic ickiness of Cronenberg’s eXistenZ to the slick totalitarian nightmare of The Matrix. Even in films where it wasn’t a core story element, VR headsets or virtual worlds were movie shorthand for “hey, we’re in the future”.

Hey – we’re in the future. It’s now clear that Sony is working seriously on a VR headset for PlayStation 4, which will compete with the Kickstarter sensation that is Oculus Rift – the HD version of which has been wowing almost everyone who tries it out. After countless abortive attempts at VR tech, laid low by poor framerates, awful resolution, glitchy head tracking and, in many cases, the sheer discomfort of wearing the heavy headsets themselves, the message from both Oculus and Sony seems to be “this time it actually works” – a message borne out from personal brief experience, and more usefully from acres of positive coverage of more long-term testing.

In the midst of the warranted enthusiasm about these strides forward in a technology many of us have dreamed about since childhood, there’s a question nobody seems particularly keen to ask. Is this a mainstream technology, or simply a sideshow for a dedicated band of early adopters? VR unquestionably has applications in a host of serious fields – medical treatment, military training, search and rescue and many others – but does it have a future as a well-supported entertainment device? Can anyone really picture a time when a couple of VR headsets snuggle on charging cradles below the living room TV?

“Is this a mainstream technology, or simply a sideshow for a dedicated band of early adopters?”

We don’t want to ask those questions, I suspect because we fear that we already know what the answers are. A world that has heavily adopted VR in the home genuinely is quite hard to envisage. The technology is, by its nature, antisocial – as long as you assume that “social” is confined to real rather than virtual environments, of course. It’s designed from first principles to exclude the world around you in favour of a constructed virtual world. Where something like Google Glass augments reality (and plenty of people find that creepy enough in itself), Oculus Rift and its ilk replace reality outright. That’s an intriguing prospect but one which seems, at least to most people, like one with a very limited set of usage scenarios.

After all, think about how the “dream” of VR was presented in all of those movies of the 80s and 90s. We may have watched them as children and thought about how cool it would be to step into a virtual environment – but even if you leave aside the scary hand-waving “dangers of the virtual world” storylines (seriously, if you’ve written the line “if we die in the game, we die in reality!” in a story or script, go out, get some fresh air, and consider a career change), the depiction of VR was never all that positive. Science fiction is generally a moral tale about today dressed in the speculative clothing of tomorrow – within those parables, VR mostly served as a warning about how isolated and confined technology could make us. VR users were at best, drooling vegetables whose minds were engaged far away from the people around them; at worst, withered tube-fed husks who didn’t even know the real world existed.

“I’m not convinced that VR has a place as a mainstream entertainment device – it’s simply a step too far in disconnection from your surroundings”

These depictions were contemporary comment more than anything else – a statement about fears that we were becoming more and more absorbed in technology and media to the exclusion of the real world and those around us. VR was the ultimate expression of that fear – a technology which would entirely replace the real world. To those of us who view games as escapist fantasy, that’s beguiling, but it’s easy to see how such complete escapism can be no different to isolation or disconnection. For exactly the same reason that film makers of previous decades used VR to express their fears about technology, I’m not convinced that VR has a place as a mainstream entertainment device – it’s simply a step too far in disconnection from your surroundings. It will undoubtedly find a great niche market among a specific class of core gamer (and I’ll be happy to be among them), but ultimately, it is a class of device that belongs in the den or the bedroom, not the living room, and it will concern and disturb enough people to keep it locked out of many homes for years to come.

There is a counter-argument to this, if I may be permitted to play my own Devil’s Advocate – smartphones. If you had made a film in the 1980s in which everyone on a train carriage stared and tapped on panes of glass, unspeaking, for the duration of their journeys, or in which a family sat around a television engaging with the black slabs in their hands rather than in conversation with one another, it would have looked like a dystopian nightmare. “Nobody will ever permit that to happen to society,” you might have thought – yet here we are, a nation of people who decry those who can’t stop checking their phones while out for a dinner date, yet secretly can’t wait for our date to take a bathroom break so we can reach into our pockets.

It’s not a dystopian nightmare, unless you’re a utterly miserable luddite – the kind of person who sniffs at smartphones and honks out “well mine makes phonecalls just fine!”, as if a completely bone-headed misunderstanding of technological progress makes you into the smartest guy in the room and not just an earth-shattering bore. It’s just a bit socially annoying. We got used to this new reality in small steps – it’s the new normal. Who is to say, then, that VR headsets won’t also become the New Normal?

“We got used to this new reality in small steps – it’s the new normal. Who is to say, then, that VR headsets won’t also become the New Normal?”

In the very long term, I think that reasoning is probably sound. I buy it with regards to Google Glass style HUD systems, a product I don’t like very much right now but which I fully expect will become normal for us all within the coming decade, just as smartphones did this decade. As VR headsets become smaller, lighter and less intrusive – ultimately, a few decades down the line, probably being built into contact lenses or something of that sort – they will indeed become the new normal, at least for some people. In the medium term, though, VR seems destined to be an exciting niche, at best. I personally can’t wait to see what kind of experiences we can have on future versions of Oculus Rift and Sony’s headset, but I have no expectation that this will break out of the core gamer market (a few tens of millions of consumers, which is admittedly not to be sniffed at) for years to come.

One of the most sensible rules that anyone talking about the future – be it serious speculation or pure science fiction – ought to follow is “never say never”; the best way to look like a fool down the line is to proclaim anything to be impossible. With regard to mainstream adoption of VR, then, I’m certainly not prepared to say “never” – but with a slightly heavy heart, I’m definitely prepared to say “not yet”.



How gang members helped make Grand Theft Auto 5


Rockstar’s desire to create a fictional criminal underworld that’s as authentic as possible persuaded the company to eschew voice actors, where possible, and hire “actual, real gang members” for Grand Theft Auto 5.

Speaking to Chicago radio station WGN, the game’s contributing writer and producer “Lazlow” Jones said that thousands of hours of audio had been collected by going into people’s houses and recording them speaking as they would in real life.

“When we record all these ambient characters we go towards authenticity,” he said. “In the game there’s these rival gangs. There’s Black gangs, Latino gangs … we recruited a guy who gets gang members, actual real gang members, like El Salvadoran gang dudes with amazing tattoos, one of which had literally gotten out of prison the day before.

“We get these guys in to record the gang characters because we don’t want a goofy L.A actor who went to a fancy school trying to be a hard gang member. There’s nothing worse than that, so just go find the terrifying people and say ‘can you come in here please?'”

The voice actors are often ready to contribute their own take on the scripts, said Lazlow. “They look at the lines and say, ‘I wouldn’t say that,’ so we say, ‘OK, say what you would say.’ Authenticity.

“There’s a lot of sessions where we would just throw the script on the floor. ‘This is  irrelevant, let’s just work on something real.'”

When recording rural voice-overs, Lazlow, who has voiced and produced the radio sequences on the series since GTA 3, worked with popular Southern entertainer Jesco White.

“I flew into Memphis and drove an hour and a half south, near the Alabama border, and we burned furniture and drank moonshine and every few hours we’d go record some more. I bought fireworks, liquor and slabs of things to barbecue. It was all expensed,” he said.



Rayman Legends on PS Vita reportedly missing levels from other platforms

The PS Vita release of Rayman Legends is reportedly missing content found in other version of the game, according to a post on NeoGAF.

Rayman_ Legends_PS_Vita

Missing levels are said to include all 28 “Invasion Levels,” high-difficulty speed runs that challenge players to finish the section as quickly as possible. As the PS Vita version is being delayed in Europe, it’s suggested that a patch may be underway.

In an earlier statement from Ubisoft, a representative told Polygon the Vita version has been delayed in Europe “in order to apply the final level of polish gamers expect from a Rayman game.”

We have contacted Ubisoft; however the publisher has declined to comment until later today.