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This year’s E3 showed off a myriad of new technology intended to enhance our gaming experiences. The impending release of two powerful next generation gaming consoles this holiday season means games are going to become more advanced.

These advancements will not only improve the quality of the games’ looks onscreen, but also allow them to interact with the players unlike ever before. From motion controls to second-screen gaming, E3 offered a glimpse of the bright, innovative future to come in gaming.

Of all the technology on display, we’ve highlighted the five trends we expect to change gaming in the next few years or so. See something we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

1. Motion Controls Get Smarter

While Nintendo’s Wii pioneered motion controls for gaming and Microsoft’s Kinect brought a whole body sensor to the Xbox 360, the current offerings on the market are far from perfect. Motion controls are often gimmicky or added in unnecessarily. Additionally, Kinect’s camera often requires exaggerated movements to follow the player’s action.

Microsoft’s new Kinect for the Xbox One is much more precise than the demos shown at E3. Microsoft’s tech demo showed how it could detect more precise movements. In order to raise your shields and deflect bullets during a first-person shooter style match, you would simply tilt the controller upward. To activate your night vision goggles, you would tap the side of your head, and simply tilt your body left or right to literally lean around corners.

“We tried to make the motions more natural to what a gamer would do,” Yusef Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of marketing and strategy for Interactive Entertainment Business branch, told Mashable.

This may include any natural moves by intense gamers. For example, in a racing game, a player might lean his body into the turns, which this upgraded Kinect would detect.

Harmonix, a company adept at working with the Kinect for its Dance Central games, showed how motion controls could operate in a more abstract way during the demonstration of its upcoming title Fantasia: Music Evolved. In the game, players conduct music with motions, enhancing the world around them. It’s a unique game, and we haven’t seen a control scheme quite like it before.

2. The Evolved Second Screen

At this year’s E3, we saw more second-screen integration from not only console makers, but also from game publishers.

Microsoft revealed much more information on the interaction between tablets running SmartGlass and Xbox One games. In Roman action-adventure game Ryse, for example, players can use tablets to watch friends’ concurrent progress through different levels, along with videos of their conquests. In Xbox One’s Project Spark, a game-creation game, players can use tablets in concert with the controller to create your game world.

Publisher Ubisoft released two titles with their own apps designed for tablets, both which added value for players. In Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, an Android and iOS app functions like a GPS device, allowing players to use it as a map in-game for their quests. When the game isn’t running, the app allows players to send their fleet to quests while they’re not playing.

Tom Clancy’s The Division is a multiplayer, third-person action game that challenges players to control a pandemic in New York. The drop-in/drop-out co-op allows for players to quickly join one another’s games, and also allows for players to join via tablet. That tablet player operates a drone in the game, which can aid its team by marking enemies for takedown, healing allies and surveying the area well. It’s impressive because the player on the tablet is actually taking part in a real-time game session.

Of course, the Wii U tried to bring this idea to fruition last year with its touchscreen GamePad controller. While third-party games take full advantage of the screen’s ability to convey extra information to the player, the screen hasn’t been very widely adopted. Some of Nintendo’s newer first-party titles use the feature frequently, such as in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker Wii U remake, which uses the GamePad screen to swap items rather than forcing the user to pause the game to access a menu.

3. Virtual Reality

Developers have only been working on Oculus Rift for a few months, but already the virtual reality headset shows promise in creativity. Virtual reality often feeks like a gaming pipe dream hallmarked by goofy accessories and poorly functioning technology — but that’s about to change.

Oculus Rift creator Palmer Lucky said his company has come a long way since last year’s E3, when the headset was only being shown off by former id Software co-founder John Carmack. With 10,000 developer kits in the wild (and more shipping), creators from all backgrounds have been working on virtual reality games, and now, Oculus Rift is working with some of the most commonly used engines such as Unreal 4 and Unity.

We played five or six Oculus Rift games at E3. The biggest of note was EVR, created by CCP Games, the makers of EVE Online. This space fighting game was only a tech demo, according to CCP developers, but it still demonstrated the awesome, immersive power of virtual reality.

Other indie titles featuring the Oculus Rift were playable at the IndieCade booth, and each provided a different take on the benefits of virtual reality. Soundself, a game created by Robin Arnott, focused on meditative chanting; the player’s tonal hums made the dizzying spirals in front of his eyes spin and pulse along with the sounds he made.

Oculus Rift continues to expand. The company announced Monday that it received $16 million in venture funding to continue hardware development, and OculusVR showed off its new HD Rift at E3 — a first for the platform.

4. Game DVR and Streaming

It’s hard to ignore the growing trend of gaming as a spectator sport, with the rise of Major League Gaming and Twitch as places for fans to watch live streams of games.

Both Sony and Microsoft have recognized that gamers want to share their content, so they integrated methods in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to simplify a previously complicated process. Both consoles feature the ability to broadcast gameplay live with minimal work; the Xbox One streams to Twitch, while the PS4 sends live video to Ustream. Both consoles also capture gameplay continuously via game DVR, and both allow players to edit and share key moments with friends.

5. Cloud Computing

Console makers have turned to cloud computing as a way to extend the life of gaming consoles and ensure players get more out of the hardware in their living rooms. Instead of the console acting as the entire workhorse for processing, some will be handled by remote servers.

This isn’t a new idea to gaming. The now-defunct OnLive started a few years ago on the premise that players could harness server power to play a wide variety of games that weren’t on their home computers — and it wasn’t the only company working on that idea. In 2010, Sony purchased streaming company GaiKai, and its technology is now helping power the PlayStation 4’s cloud services.

Sony detailed streaming in its February press conference, sharing that it would be used to eventually bring older PlayStation games to the next-generation console (which are currently incompatible due to radical architecture changes from previous generations). Sony also plans to use cloud computing to allow PlayStation 4 games to stream on the handheld PlayStation Vita.

In an Xbox One demo, Microsoft software engineers harnessed the console’s internal processor to render 40,000 of the asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, displaying their movement in real time. Then, they showed that with help from Microsoft’s 300,000 servers, the Xbox One could render 330,000 asteroids in that same belt. The engineer explained that this technology could make games look better, increase the map size and decrease load times.

These technologies are the biggest examples of trends found at this year’s E3, but they aren’t the only ones. Gaming is evolving rapidly with the launch of new consoles, new players getting involved in the field and the rise of mobile gaming. I’m sure we’ll see great things in the future, even as soon as next year’s conference.

Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/19/gaming-tech-trends/

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Image: PopCap

Last summer, PopCap shocked the gaming community with the announcement of a console game for its wildly popular Plants vs. Zombies franchise. The surprise was that the beloved tower defense strategy game would be reimagined as a shooter. The game, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, has been available on both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 for about a month and the reactions among most gamers have been confused at best.

Some of the gaming press questioned why PopCap would take such a drastic turn from its successful mobile roots. Some serious gamers asked why the game, with its goofy attitude, needed to be made in the first place. Despite the skepticism, reviews have been mostly positive, and rightly so; it’s a well-executed game that’s loads of fun to play. So why all the questions?

What makes Garden Warfare such a unique game is how it combines a familiar casual title with one of the most hardcore genres, making a pitch to convert mobile gamers into console gamers. Pursuing this crossover might be a gamble for PopCap, but Garden Warfare’s existence shows just how much the audience for video games is changing and it points to where the gaming industry needs to go.

The Untapped Mobile Market

Back in 2011, PopCap conducted a survey that found one out of four respondents played mobile games weekly. Those figures are only going up as more and more studios test the boundaries of what mobile can do. Plants vs Zombies was just one of the successful franchises that turned average Joes and Janes into addicts. For the past few years, mobile devices put video games of all types into the hands of people who never would have labeled themselves as “gamers.” The trend’s continued success is just hinting at how popular video games can be as a form of entertainment.

One of the hurdles for developers in the mobile gaming world is finding a business model that works for both players and the company. Plants vs Zombies 2 is a free-to-play game, and it was downloaded more than 16 million times during its first five days on the market. With that type of huge, undeniable interest in the specific franchise, why not translate the casual-friendly world of Plants vs Zombies into a new platform where games retail for at least $40 a pop? If those players could be convinced that the world of mobile gaming is just a small sliver of the entire video game experience, it would be a win for everybody. The studios make more money and create better games, and the players get hours upon hours of fun and entertainment.

An Intro to Shooters

Shooter example

Studios making shooters have mostly come to an artistic consensus about what the games will look and feel like. The settings are usually contemporary or futuristic war zones and the player characters are usually gruff, muscle-bound men of few words. The games might have a short single-player campaign, but the bulk of the appeal in both first-person and third-person shooters is multiplayer matches. These bouts are great tests of skill, requiring players to demonstrate precise hand-eye coordination as well as good strategy.

Rather than the intense military trappings of most shooters, Garden Warfare is colorful, high-energy and funny. But don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Success with the game requires learning the same strategic elements as any match in Call of Duty. You need to manage your ammo. You need to be smart about when and how to use your class’s special skills. You need to shoot from cover. It plays like Team Fortress or any other traditional multiplayer shooter: good handling, creative map layouts, and an impressive balance across the classes.

In addition to the less intimidating visual style, everything about this title is designed to be accommodating to new players. The weapons don’t require the same finesse of, say, the Battlefield franchise, where players need to counter realistic recoil and adjust for bullet trajectory. There’s an introductory arena where players cannot use the more advanced unlocks and customized weapons, and you get a health boost if you die several times in a row. The mode is a great equalizer that lets new people try out the different classes and build their skills without being constantly slaughtered by more advanced players.

The experience of leveling up is also designed to teach gamers how to better play their characters. Rather than simply scoring experience points by killing enemies, players level up by completing challenges using the class’ special skills. As the player gets to higher levels, the challenges get more specific and ensure that you will get to know everything you are capable of with a given character. This gradual learning curve makes the game feel more like Mario Kart, where the last place player gets the best boosts, than like a match of Call of Duty, where you repeatedly get gunned down before you can line up your first shot.

All these details make playing Garden Warfare less intimidating for a new console gamer, while providing a good example of this well-known style of multiplayer genre. Removing the high barriers to entry is the first step in bringing casual players into the fold.

Xbox for Families

It’s also telling that PopCap has made its console move with Microsoft. The Xbox One has positioned itself as the console for families, devoting large amounts of its hardware power to set-top box services. Many of Microsoft’s choices with the console development quickly alienated the hardcore set, but despite the media firestorm and a higher price, the company announced that the Xbox One’s global sales surpassed 3 million units before the end of 2013. That’s not too shabby for less than two months on the market.

The multiplayer experience of Garden Warfare bears out that the people buying the console (and playing the game) are families. Chat frequently includes children’s voices rather than the cursing teenagers and twentysomethings of most multiplayer shooters. That all-ages audience is another big positive for Garden Warfare. The notoriously crude and competitive community of shooter fans, where “noob” is a major insult, is not one that welcomes beginners. By presenting the game as one that’s friendly to kids and parents on the console best suited to families, PopCap has largely protected its players from that negativity.

Garden Warfare also isn’t an isolated experiment. PopCap’s other smash hit, Peggle, has a sequel exclusively on the Xbox. The company seems to have figured out that the niche audience Microsoft is targeting is the same audience that will most likely see the appeal of a crossover between mobile gaming and console gaming. And that’s why so many people who spend their free time in the gaming space seem unsure about how to respond to the console version of the franchise: Garden Warfare isn’t meant for them.

The Garden Warfare Audience

PvZ Xbox trailer

Garden Warfare is the natural next step for casual gamers. For anyone who has been intrigued by triple A console games but is put off by the steep learning curve and unwelcoming scene, this is your gateway drug. It has a high level of polish, it’s easy to play and it’s welcoming of all ages and skill levels. There’s no restriction that only casual gamers can enjoy it, but they are the intended players. In fact, the unique tone and look could be very appealing to long-time gamers who are bored with seeing the top franchises imitate each other. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that could use some surprises.

Since this crossover world is uncharted territory, it’s possible that Garden Warfare will be a sales flop. However, it seems likely that this niche — an approachable take on a classic game style — will not remain a niche forever. The population of gamers is on the rise, and it’s only a matter of time before the ranks of mobile players get curious about their options on other platforms and begin to make the transition to consoles and PCs.

The rise of this new type of shooter doesn’t mean that the military simulations or power fantasies will go away. There is a long history of excellence in those genres and many developers are pushing the tried and true formulas in exciting ways. But it is a sign that shooters, and video games as a whole, are opening up to a bigger audience. The success of mobile gaming shows that this audience has a wide range of interests and is willing to devote huge amounts of time and money to the industry. The studios that figure out how to encourage crossover with games that offer technical and artistic excellence will most likely be the big success stories of this and future console generations.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/03/31/platns-vs-zombies-fps/

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Image: Microsoft

The Xbox One is getting a white edition this holiday, which Microsoft announced at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, on Tuesday.

The white Xbox One is part of the Sunset Overdrive bundle, which comes with a code for a digital copy of the game, the white console and a white controller.

The Xbox One bundle is going to retail for $399 in the United States (€399.99 in Europe). It will hit shelves on Oct. 28 in the U.S. and Oct. 31 in Europe.

During Gamescom, Microsoft also announced two other bundles for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and FIFA ’15; the latter will only be available in Europe. None of the Xbox One console bundles included the Kinect motion sensor, which Microsoft disconnected from the Xbox One in May.

Sunset Overdrive is a post-apocalyptic game set in a vibrant, weird world. It’s exclusive to Xbox One and developed by Insomniac Games.

Originally, only Microsoft employees received a white Xbox One, which they were given as a launch gift last November.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/08/12/white-xbox-one-bundle/

The Xbox One’s entertainment control features are coming to its second screen Smartglass app, and some users will get the update Tuesday, Microsoft announced in a blog post.

The Xbox One’s OneGuide, which allows users to pick shows and movies from both live television and their subscribed video-on-demand apps while on the console, is rolling out through SmartGlass on tablets and phones. After users launch SmartGlass on an iOS, Android or Windows device, they can pick from selections on television imported by their cable provider, browse their Hulu Plus queue or see the most recent channels they’ve watched.

The SmartGlass version of OneGuide can also mimic some functions of a universal remote, controlling the television, cable or satellite set-top box and the Xbox One.

Xbox Director of Programming Larry Hryb and head of Xbox TV Ben Smith previewed some of the features in a video released Tuesday, playable above. Some Xbox Live users will start seeing the features on Tuesday, and it will slowly roll out across the United States, Canada and Europe as the Xbox team collects feedback, Smith said.

This update will also deliver OneGuide to the Xbox One in countries where it was not previously available, such as the UK, Canada, France and Germany.

There are a few other SmartGlass features rolled in to the update, like the ability to see which Xbox Live friends are online and send them messages from the app.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/04/01/smartglass-remote-xbox-one/

Xbox One Unveil Video

It’s taken almost nine years, but the new XBox has just been unveiled, not as the 1080 as many fans speculated, but simply as the XBox One. 

Besides for a new Kinect sensor and controller, gamers can expect Microsoft’s fourth generation console to be a truly all-in-one entertainment machine, with live TV, Skype, social networking, and more. 

The unveiling video of the new console has instantly gone viral, amassing over 1.5 million views in one day. 

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/05/22/xbox-one-unveil-video/