Posts by Chris Morris

  • Could 2015 be the year the Xbox One strikes back?

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 14 hrs ago

    Fans and critics savaged the system when the initial feature set was announced. Microsoft reversed course so many times, it gave gamers whiplash. By the time the company had settled on a steady course, Sony's PlayStation 4 had developed a commanding lead in the U.S.

    Microsoft has clawed its way back, though, and thanks to a few timely delays, competitive pricing, and some smart maneuvering, 2015 could well be the year that the Xbox One becomes the industry's top-selling console.

    The 2015 holiday season was initially setting up to be a doozie. Sony's PS4 exclusive Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has looked fantastic in previews, and the Nintendo faithful can't wait to get their hands on the long-promised high-definition The Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U.

    But on March 11, Sony revealed that Uncharted wouldn't be coming out this year. Two weeks later, Zelda was delayed into 2016 as well.

  • PlayStation bests Xbox once more in March

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 4 days ago

    Sony refuses to vacate the top of the video game mountain.

    The PS4 remained the industry's best selling video game hardware in March, though, as usual, by exactly how much remains a bit of a mystery. The number watchers at The NPD Group does not report specific sales numbers.

    Never one to let the numbers get in the way of a good press release, Microsoft said in a statement it remains pleased with the Xbox One's performance to date, noting that sales for its current system continue to outpace those of the Xbox 360 at this point in its life cycle and that the amount of time Xbox One owners have spent on their systems was up 45 percent compared to a year ago. So, at the very least, people who own Xbox Ones aren't letting them gather dust.

    Nintendo, similiarly, accentuated the positive, pointing out that overall sales of its hardware systems were up 60 percent in the first three months of 2015 versus a year ago. 3DS sales are up 80 percent, while Wii U sales are up 20 percent.

    So what helped the PS4 rule in March? One word: Bloodborne. The PS4 exclusive was the month's second best selling title, trailing EA's Battlefield Hardline, which was released for five systems.

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  • Study: Story-based games may help people with autism

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 7 days ago

    While the debate surrounding the impact of violent video games roars on, evidence is piling up that nonviolent games can be incredibly beneficial.

    The latest research comes from the University of Freiburg in Germany, which found that story-based games could be beneficial for people with autism by satisfying their need for socialization.

    Published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Science , the study had austistic players spend 20 minutes playing one of two games: Against the Wall (best described as an endless climber game) or Gone Home, an award-winning interactive adventure game with a story that unfolds as players explore its world.

    Once finished, they took a test to identify the emotions behind facial expressions and completed a survey describing their level of immersion and need-satisfaction.

    The benefits were short-term - and, as with a lot of video game research, it's still early in the process - but researchers were excited by the results.

  • Lego takes on 'Skylanders' with new collectible toys-to-life game

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 11 days ago

    Add Lego to the list of companies hoping to get a piece of the 'toys-to-life' pie made famous by Skylanders and Disney Infinity .

    Lego and Warner Bros. Interactive have teamed up to create Lego Dimensions , a video game that lets players ‘warp’ real Lego toys into game worlds.

    Due out Sept. 27, the game will take advantage of a wealth of franchises, including The Lord of the Rings, DC Comics, Back to the Future and The Wizard of Oz. It will be playable on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3.

    The Starter pack will cost $100 and ships with a limited number of characters - specifically Gandalf, Batman and Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie - along with the Lego Toy Pad and a Lego Batmobile. Others characters will be available for purchase individually. Unlike other toys-to-life games, Dimensions will support up to seven characters, vehicles, or items on the portal at once. Fans can buy three different kinds of expansion sets: level packs ($29.99), team packs ($24.99) and fun packs ($14.99).

    Lego’s move into the lucractive toys-to-life space had been rumored for a while. Given the company’s success in both the toy and video game markets, it certainly makes sense.

  • Sony buys OnLive cloud gaming service and shuts it down

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 17 days ago

    For a brief, shining moment, OnLive was the leader in cloud-based game streaming. At the end of this month, the service will be but a distant memory.

    Sony has officially purchased the company that effectively put game streaming on the map, taking control of all assets and shutting it down. OnLive will cease operations on April 30.

    Any existing OnLive subscriptions renewed or purchased after March 28 will be refunded. Subscribers who bought games through OnLive will still have access to those titles on Steam.

    This is effectively the second time OnLive has shut down. In 2012, the company underwent a major restructuring, where it abruptly terminated most of its employees after company founder Steve Perlman failed to raise much-needed capital. (Perlman would soon leave the company.) Stories soon emerged that the company had just 1,600 concurrent users.

    OnLive's 2012 problems came right after Sony had bought its chief rival, Gakai, whose technology went on to power Sony's own cloud-based game streaming service, PlayStation Now.

  • Check out the insane techology powering some of the biggest shows in Vegas

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 17 days ago

    As operations production manager of Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson ONE show at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, Dovell oversees 28 different projectors with resolutions ranging from 20K to 35K. They're so crystal sharp, they can convince you you're seeing a ghost dance, sing, and morph.

    Down the Strip at the Wynn hotel, the crew at Le Reve is similarly unimpressed with that new pool you're bragging about to your friends.

    Theirs is 26 feet and six inches deep. It cycles 1.1 million gallons of water four times a day at a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute. In the course of five minutes, the filters at Le Reve could cleanse, heat, and fill your home pool.

    Las Vegas shows are mostly about sizzle: Dancers, divers, and acrobats perform seemingly impossible feats in tune with thumping music. They're mesmerizing affairs that can make you forget about the hum of slot machines and roulette tables just a dozen yards away.

    But at shows like Michael Jackson ONE and Le Reve , what's happening behind the scenes is nearly as exciting.

    With so many elements, the show relies on a highly automated system rather than the manual directions of a production crew.

  • Fooled ya! Some of this year's most notable online pranks

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 19 days ago

    The gaming world can't resist a good joke. Unfortunately, it can't resist a bad one, either.

    April Fool's Day is once again upon us, blurring the lines between what's real and what's not -- and sometimes just ignoring the lines altogether. So while some people will try to fool you into believing Half-Life 3 has just been announced or that Nintendo is getting out of the console business, it's best to take everything with a grain of salt as you bee-bop around the Internet today.

    Rounding up all of the pranks is an impossible task (and, let's face it, some are so terrible that they don't deserve the attention), but here are a few of the most high profile for 2015.

    Starcraft's Legacy of the Void Keepsake - When a small model from your favorite game isn't enough, Blizzard Entertainment is willing to step up - with this full-scale replica of the vessel found in Starcraft II's Legacy of the Void. The company promises it will have everything from the probability drive to the motorized cup holders. Blizzard estimates it will be available in 2315.

  • Crossword champ Dan Feyer beats rival by a half-second to win sixth straight title

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 21 days ago

    Forget Wrestlemania - the real battle of titans this weekend was held at a Marriott in Stamford, CT.

    The event: The 38th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The combatants: Tyler Hinman and Dan Feyer, the reigning kings of crosswords for the past 10 years.

    As most expected, the three-day tournament came down to the two men. Each has won five consecutive titles at the event. This year was the tie-breaker.

    They donned sound-dampening headphones and began working on the giant white-board puzzles in front of a packed crowd. In the end, Feyer completed his puzzle an astonishing half-second ahead of Hinman to pick up his sixth win in a row, along with a $5,000 check and a commemerative silver bowl.

    Before going head to head with Hinman, Feyer had to outperform more than 565 other competitors at the event, which returned to its original home in Connecticut this year after a seven-year stint in Brooklyn, New York.

  • The cure for VR sickness? A virtual nose

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 26 days ago

    Concerned that VR gaming will make you queasy or lightheaded? Researchers at Purdue University may have sniffed out the solution.

    David Whittinghill, an assistant professor in Purdue’s Department of Computer Graphics Technology, says 'simulation sickness' could be nipped in the bud by simply sticking a giant fake nose on the screen.

    Yep, virtual Groucho glasses provide a fixed visual reference, which you brain can latch onto to prevent you from experiencing vertigo or motion sickness. It's the same reason you're less likely to experience sickening sensations in a flight simulator, since the game's cockpit gives you a similar reference point.

    "The problem is your perceptual system does not like it when the motion of your body and your visual system are out of synch," says Whittinghill. "So if you see motion in your field of view you expect to be moving, and if you have motion in your eyes without motion in your vestibular system [a liquid-filled part of your inner ear that helps you balance] you get sick."

  • Playing 'Space Invaders' with real lasers is scary and awesome

    Chris Morris at Plugged In 28 days ago

    Thirty-seven years after its debut, it's still a lot of fun to watch the iconic Space Invaders aliens blink out of existence when your shot lands on screen.

    But watching them catch fire? That’s better. Way better.

    Using a laser cutter, an Arduino mini-computer, and a terrific sense of imagination, a hobbyist in the U.K. has created a real-world version of the arcade classic that literally burns the aliens up when your aim is true.

    "It’s got aliens, lasers and general destruction so what’s not to love, especially if you could replicate most of that functionality in the real world," said creator Martin Raynsford.

    The project took about four months to conceptualize, but once Raynsford knew what he had to do, it took him just a few nights to put together, he says.

    The bug-like creatures are made out of paper in this version, and when hit by the laser, they burst into satisfying flame. The ‘shields’ are made of foam, and just like the game, they block the first shot by the player. That initial volley burns a hole through the shield, though, making subsequent blasts through it possible.