Apple’s WWDC 2016 Keynote Notes

Here’s what Apple announced at their WWDC 2016 Keynote, or you can just watch the video.

WatchOS 3

Kevin Lynch spoke about the changes coming in WatchOS 3.

Apps, that you pick, update in the background and launch faster as a result.

The long button below the crown will no-longer launch your VIP contact list. It’ll now launch the dock app switcher. The dock displays a live view of the applications so that you can see updated information even without entering one.

Glances are gone, replaced by control center when you swipe up on the watch face.

Messages immediately give you options to reply, instead of having to choose that you want to reply first.

When a message comes in you can scroll down to get a list of suggested replies.

WatchOS 3 will have a new input interface called Scribble. You draw out letters one at a time with the whole word appearing above the input interface. This supports both English and Chinese characters.

In addition to the Micky Mouse watch face you can now choose Minnie Mouse with different outfit color options.

There is a new watch face called Activity that more prominently features the activity rings which monitor your steps and other exercises throughout your day. They’ll be larger and displayed behind an analog style of watch hands if you choose this face, or in chronograph and digital variations.

Kevin Lynch isn’t done with new watch faces yet, Numerals is another. This one displays only analog watch hands and a prominent digit or digits in many different fonts for the current hour.

Another change to the watch face. You can now swipe to switch between them and choose which you would like available.

More complications are available on more watch faces.

Stacy Lysik gave a demo of WatchOS 3. She shows the audience how Apple’s watch apps have been updated for quicker interactions. The timer gives you a few preset timing options to launch, for example. This should allow my son to more quickly set timers that confuse me when they go off because he loves to grab my watch and mess with it while I am holding him.

Kevin Lynch returned to tell us about the SOS feature that can call your regional version of 911 and alert your emergency contacts with your location after the call. It’ll be activated in WatchOS 3 by holding down the side button and it’ll display a countdown before calling emergency services. Interestingly, Lynch mentioned that it’ll work either via bluetooth to your phone or over wifi if your Apple Watch is on a known network.

I wonder about the usefulness of an emergency call where your watch is broadcasting that call publicly on a speaker instead of through your phone’s earpiece.

Jay Blahnik appeared on stage to introduce a new fitness related improvements, starting with activity sharing as a competitive feature. With it you’ll be able to see your friends and family member’s activity rings and data like steps and calories burned. If your friends use third party apps and devices, it sounds like those will work with this feature as well as long as they use Apple’s HealthKit as a data intermediary.

When you view a friend’s activity information you’ll be able to send them suggested encouraging or competitive messages about their progress.

Jay Blahnik continued on to introduce new technology to recognize activity information for wheelchair users. He talked about how they have adjusted different notifications and other information if the wheelchair setting is enabled. For example, the Apple Watch can optionally remind you to stand for a minute once an hour. For wheelchair users the watch will remind you to take a break and push around a little. Some of the workouts will be specifically for wheelchair users.

Finally, Blahnik introduced an app called Breathe to remind people to take stress reducing breaks. It’ll have different kinds of optional reminders and will be able to guide you through a session with visuals or haptic feedback.

Lynch returned to the stage to discuss how WatchOS 3 will be improved for developers to enable integration with those new features and improvements.

Apps on the watch will be able to use Apple Pay. Fitness apps will be able to run in the background during workouts and have access to more data that will enable new kinds of workout apps on the watch according to Lynch.

There are many more improvements and new APIs to the SDK for the watch including SpriteKit and more. Games should be much better though it’ll still be a tough sell to keep your wrist raised up for a while. I’d still expect it to be really only for quicker interactions.

Eddie Cue came on stage to talk about tvOS for the 4th generation Apple TV. He spoke about new apps like Sling, Fox Sports Go, the French TV service Molotov and a few games like NBA 2k, Minecraft Story Mode, and Sketch Party.

Cue then introduced improvements to the Remote app for iPhone which has all of the features of the physical 4th generation Apple TV Remote.

Siri for the Apple TV will be able to find shows and movies by topic. Cue searched for high school comedy movies from the 80’s and got Ferris Bueller’s day off and other options.

Siri will be able to load into live channels. MLB was notably absent.

Logins with cable providers will be reduced to a single sign-on. The App Store will let you know what apps/channels you have access to once you sign in.

The Apple TV will have a dark mode, and will automatically download available apps if you download them to another device.

Cue finished the tvOS talk by briefly mentioning some of the improvements for the developer kit and mentioned that the new version will be released publicly this Fall.

Craig Federighi was introduced to discuss the improvements to OS X, now renamed to macOS. The new version will be macOS Sierra.

Sierra will introduce new features cribbed from third parties such as unlocking your Mac when you have your Apple Watch close to it.

Another new feature borrowed from a third party, Tapbot’s Pastebot in this case, is Universal Clipboard. You’ll be able to copy and paste text, images, video and more between Macs and iOS devices.

iCloud Drive will now include your files in the desktop folder and sync those between Macs as well as making them available via the iCloud Drive app on iOS.

If you are running out of space on your Mac’s hard drive, Sierra can attempt to offload older files to iCloud and remove other kinds of files that users don’t typically need like old application caches. There will be a new GUI specifically for doing all of these functions.

Apple Pay will now work on macOS Sierra through websites that support it. You’ll authenticate it on your iPhone with the Touch ID finger print reader or Apple Watch.

Craig announced another Sierra improvement, tabbing application windows like web browser tabs. Developers won’t need to do anything to support this functionality.

Videos will be able to go into a picture-in-picture mode from websites. You can drag to move or resize this always-on-top window which also persists across full screen application virtual desktops.

Finally, Siri will be available in macOS Sierra. She made a few jokes with Craig during a demo. Siri will be able to understand new questions that are more appropriate for a Mac. For example, Craig asked about files from a specific time period and location, and then did a follow up question to further refine the search. It is unusual for Siri to understand context.

Results from Siri can be pinned to the macOS Notification Center. Image results can be dragged directly into applications from Siri, or copied and pasted from an iOS device.

Sierra will be supported on these models of Mac:
Late 2009 & later
MacBook
iMac

2010 & later
MacBook Air
MacBook Pro
Mac mini
Mac Pro

Craig moved on to iOS 10 and discussed 10 new features.

First off the bat, user experience improvements.

The lock screen has been redesigned. You’ll be able to raise your phone and it’ll wake up, bypassing the issue with newer Touch ID sensors that are so fast you never see the lock screen if you press a finger to the home button.

Notifications on the lock screen are more interactive and designed for 3D Touch to display more contextual information. Craig demoed 3D touching a calendar invite and seeing more details about it, before accepting it.

The next example that Craig demonstrated was a more interactive iMessage conversation where he could see more of the context of the conversation and also get images in it without leaving the lock screen notification.

If you use the illegal taxi service, Uber, their updated notifications showed you the location of your incoming car with an unvetted driver that is probably making less than minimum wage after all is said and done.

Notification Center now lets you clear all of your notification with a 3D Touch gesture that reveals a clear all button.

Control Center was simplified in its initial display, but it also has another page you can swipe to with more bigger buttons for music control and an album art display.

It’ll be easier to get to the camera from the lock screen, you can now slide from right to left to open the camera application.

Sliding from left to right displays a new widget view. The demo broke when Craig tapped on his calendar widget to “show more” of his day. An engineer was immediately brought on stage to answer for this failure.

There are more 3D Touch improvements to apps on the home screen. The email application can now display a widgetized list of contacts and a count of unread messages from them. The activity application on the iPhone can also display your activity rings in a widget that appears when you 3D Touch on that from the home screen.

These widgets can also display live video through third party applications like ESPN.

Craig moved on to iOS 10’s improvements in Siri.

Developers will have access to Siri in IOS 10. Though it appears to be limited to certain categories of apps like messaging apps. Craig mentioned Slack, Whatsapp, and WeChat.

Siri will hail illegal taxi cabs through third party apps Uber, Lyft, and Didi. Search photos in Pinterest, IM and Shutterfly. Start and stop workouts with MapMyRun, Runtastic, and Runkeeper. Send payments with Number 26, Square Cash, and Alipay. Set up VoIP calls with Cisco Spark, Vonage, and Skype.

CarPlay will also work with third-party apps for messaging and VoIP.

The keyboard suggestions, QuickType, will be improved and understand the context of the conversation. Craig’s example, is that it’ll understand the difference between playing in the park versus the Orioles playing in the playoffs. If you’re asked “where are you?” in iMessage, QuickType suggestions will give you a big suggestion to give your current location on a map. If you’re asked for contact information, QuickType will suggest sending the contact. The calendar event suggestions that you’d see if you tapped on text like “Sunday at 2PM” before will now be more context-aware and understand that you’ve been talking about a certain type of food and a street address that get included in the calendar event suggestion.

The keyboard will now support multilingual typing, I won’t have to switch between German and English anymore!

Photos will now display your photos pinned on a map, and will run facial recognition to understand who is in what pictures. I hope it works better than iPhoto did at that. Photos will also now detect objects and scenes in pictures so that you can search for these better. Craig displayed an example picture of someone riding a horse by a lake with a mountain, and said it would understand the mountain and horse and the scenery if you search for those. I wonder if we’ll see progress bars scanning all of our photos the first time we open the new Photos app in iOS 10 as this occurs. I suspect that this will be done offline due to privacy concerns.

Photos will also group together different trips, people, groups, and topics like “on the water” or “at the beach” into a new interface. Craig demonstrated the new “Memories” tab in Photos on iOS 10 that shows the product of this computer vision work. It’ll even create a short video of different events with Ken Burns style zooms of different photos and videos as well as music layered on top. Craig assures us this will pick the right music, but he demonstrates overriding the music choice and how Photos will re-edit the “memory movie” to match the music change. These changes will also come to macOS Sierra.

Craig takes a break as Eddie Cue returns to show us updates to maps. iOS 10 Maps will offer you some suggestions based on calendars and where you commonly go at different times of day. If you search for restaurants it’ll display a horizontal list of cuisines and restaurant styles you can pick from, and adjust its suggestions based on which you select. Navigtaion is also improved. Eddie shows us how the view is more dynamic, zooming in and out intelligently based on where your next turn is and other information. Maps will give you suggestions for things along the route, and tell you how long it’ll take to reach your destination if you stop at these suggestions. There’s also a Maps extensions API, Eddie’s example is booking a table at a restaurant with an OpenTable restaurant, hailing an illegal taxi cab with Uber, and paying for it all inside Maps. Cool.

Apple Music is also getting updated with an “all-new redesign.” I don’t see the connect tab anymore. Bozoma Saint John went on stage to give a demo. The Music app looks to be streamlined without that connect tab, and pretty different. Lyrics are displayed right below the controls for the music if you scroll down. Very nice. Bozoma tried to get the audience to rap along with Rapper’s Delight, the audience cam showed us various Apple folks attempting to do so, it was extremely embarrassing. The new Apple Music interface looks great, though.

Eddie Cue comes back to discuss Apple News improvements. You can already read this site on there so they’ve done a bit of extra cleanup to improve the rest of the app. For example, they’ve added subscriptions and breaking news notifications.

Craig is back to discuss Homekit improvements. New categories of supported IoT devices have been added. A dedicated Home app is going to be available to control all of your homes. I’m sure monocles are popping out everywhere. Preset scenes will be available to adjust several devices at once. Siri can control these scenes and devices. If you swipe over on Control Center you’ll be able to control devices from there. Notifications will be able to interact with HomeKit devices and display live video from a doorbell device, for example. Apple TV will act as the hub for your HomeKit devices so that you can access them remotely when you’re away from home.

The Phone app will be updated to transcribe voicemails, though this functionality is in beta. An extension API will let other applications interact with the Phone app, in an example slide an extension from Tencent identifies an incoming caller that isn’t in your contacts as a possible spam caller.

When VoIP calls ring through, they’ll integrate into the lockscreen and the phone app just like regular calls. Contacts will be updated to display the options you have to call someone through multiple services. They’ve worked with Cisco to let you get your work calls through your iPhone.

The Messages app has been updated to provide previews of links inline. Videos and photos will display right in Messages. The camera will display a minified camera app inside of messages when you tap that button. Emoji are now three times larger. If you tap the emoji button after typing up a message, but before sending it, it will highlight words that can be replaced with emoji. Message bubbles can now have effects like shrinking or growing to emphasize emotion behind words. Messages can be hidden for a recipient to reveal with a swipe over the text or an image. They’ve also added a short series of icons to send a thumbs up, or a laugh to someone. Apparently we don’t have enough time to select the appropriate emoji now. This demo slide broke and displayed the thumbs-up above the message that it was replying to. You can also send “handwritten messages,” it isn’t clear if these are keyboard input being turned into a generated font with some ink physics or brushed on with a touch, but you can also send “digital touch” messages like drawing a smiley face on the Apple Watch. You can also draw on video or photos with digital touch. There are also fullscreen effects that appear behind the messaging transcript. A slide shows us some fireworks behind the chat bubbles after you send “Happy New Year!”

Bethany and Emron are introduced for a demo. They’re engineering and human interface design team leads. Bethany demonstrated sending and receiving some diffferent message types, Emron received a link to some music that you could play right inside Messages.

iMessage will now support developer-created apps that are launched from an “app drawer” for things like stickers. Craig tells us that some types of apps won’t even require code. Artists can make them a sticker app without coding, but you could also integrate other iOS functionality like the camera. Square Cash will work inside of Messages as well.

Craig started a demo. He demonstrates sending a sticker, and then applying some animated stickers to a photo message. The next demonstration is a group ordering food together through DoorDash, right inside of Messages. Each person selects the food they want from the restaurant (or food truck in this demonstration).

The Mac and Apple Watch will be able to receive these conversations, so it sounds like they won’t be able to work with messaging apps to create messages using them, which makes sense.

Here’s a video they showed to feature the new features in Messages:

Craig finishes up by blitzing through some other improvements to iOS 10. Live editing collaboration in the Notes app. Conversation view in Mail displays messages in a better threaded format. Live photos can be edited and they have stabilization now. Safari on iPad finally lets you use split view to display two websites at the same time. Previously you had to use third-party apps to do that. He also reminds us that many of these new features work for third-party developers.

Finally he re-emphasizes how all of this information that involves computer learning, the memories functionality in Photos for example, will be run on the device. The information that is sent to Apple’s servers will also be kept private by them not building profiles of users. Obviously this is a dig at Google who mines all of your data with no regard for your privacy if it’ll enable their advertisers to have better targeting.

Tim Cook comes back on stage to close things out and emphasize Apple’s commitment to developers. He discusses how great Swift is. He’s talking about how it’s the #1 language project on Github since the source was released. Cook also reiterates how important Swift is as a first language by releasing a new app called Swift Playgrounds for iPad.

Tim invites Cheryl Thomas on stage to demonstrate Swift Playgrounds. The app’s front door screen has lessons and challenges. QuickType suggestions are offered inside of lessons with code suggestions. There’s a simple turtle-style demo of moving a character on the screen with code like moveForward() and collectGem(). Cheryl demonstrates wrapping a for loop around some pre-existing code. This looks like it could give Codeacademy a run for its money, though obviously it’ll be limited to Swift many of the lessons could apply to other languages. We need XCode for iPad.

Cheryl opens a more advanced playground with a new coding keyboard to add new code to the playground.

Tim returns again to announce that Swift Playgrounds will be free, of course. Another video:

That could have been incredibly hokey, but I think they did a great job.

Tim Cook goes back over everything we’ve seen, and closes out the keynote.

Where’s the HTC Vive support for SteamOS?

Liam Dawe is killing it. Here’s his list of what Valve needs to get done in order to get SteamOS back on track, One thing that has been really bothering me, where’s the support for Linux/SteamOS with the HTC Vive?:

Their own VR device is not yet Linux compatible. I don’t know what the issues are and I don’t care. I think it’s utterly ridiculous that Valve made a Linux push with SteamOS and Steam Machines but their flagship VR device doesn’t even support it. I’m not a fan of VR—yet—mainly because I haven’t used a proper one before to change my mind. I would have personally purchased a Vive, but Valve and HTC seem to be reminding me again how Linux is still a low priority for them.

Having Linux/SteamOS locked out of a major new platform for playing games has already hurt us and the longer it doesn’t support us the more people will switch over to their Windows installs (or re-install Windows) because “VR is not on Linux”.

The only communication I can see from Valve on this was a one liner:
We are working on it but it’s not ready yet.

That was back in March and no official update since then.

The Vive also listed SteamOS right up until launch, then suddenly, Windows only. What happened to communication?

One VR developer I spoke with was has been wondering the same thing.

Bethesda’s E3 2016 Press Briefing Notes

willits

Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb are back for the pre-show from the old Rev 3 and TechTV days to present the Bethesda pre-E3. It’s kind of refreshing to watch people who know how to act on camera as opposed to the awkward executives of other E3 presentations.

Glad to see Bethesda acknowledging the horrible massacre by wearing rainbow ribbons instead of pretending it didn’t happen. EA

They’re opening with a DOS screen booting and it’s launching… Quake!!! All pre-rendered, non-ingame footage but I am very happy to see characters returning from Quake 3. It’s called Quake Champions.

Here’s the trailer:

Tim Willits is coming out on stage to talk about how much he loves talking about Quake: Champions. Competitive, arena style first person shooter. Looks like per-character abilities. Undoubtly using the finest ioquake3 engine fork. More seriously Tim Willits is talking about the technical details in that it’ll support 120hz framerates and responsiveness.

Tim walks off stage after announcing that there will be more info at Quakecon. Haven’t been since 2008, wish I could go.

Pete Hines is onstage now to let us know about how successful Bethesda has been at making and publishing games.

Pete Hines is talking about The Elder Scrolls: Legends, a CCG. There’s a trailer Wake me up when it’s over.

It’ll be coming to iPad, Mac, iPhones, and shitty Android tablets.

A trailer demonstrates Fallout 4: Contraptions, which is going to add elevators and all of the components you need to build a rube goldberg machine.

The trailer moves on to Nuka World?! A theme park in Fallout 4?

Video continues on to Fallout: Shelter coming to Windows later on.

Skyrim is getting a big overhaul, graphically, and mods will be on the new console versions of Skyrim: Special Edition. As rumored.  Out October 28th 2016.

Here’s that long video:

Raphael Colantonio is here from Arkane to talk about another project they’re working on. He doesn’t get very far in before we’re watching a trailer for a game that looks to have a time travel component. Somebody named Morgan keeps waking up in a kind of short groundhog day scenario. Every time he looks in the mirror things change back and it’s actually Prey. Cool.

Raphael is back to tell us a few details and that the game will be out next year for Xbone, PS4, and Windows. More details at Quakecon.

Prey Trailer:

Marty Stratton from id is trapped in a pre-recorded blurry tan office world. He’s talking about Doom and thanking everyone for making Doom a success. Snapmap is done taking a snapnap and will receive a bunch of new upgrades, all will be free. He’s talking about two new multiplayer maps now. They’ll be free. He’s also talking about the first paid DLC coming to Doom multiplayer which will add new game modes, a weapon, and more.

 

Pete Hines is back to tell us that you can now download the first level of Doom for free on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. This week only.

Matt Firor is here to talk about The Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG. He’s talking about how the game sold, how the community is doing, and leads us into a trailer. If I don’t make it out tell my wife I love her. Tell my son I’m glad he can never kick me in the balls again.

On June 23rd ESO will launch into Japan. Some people in the crowd are way too loud. The Dark Brotherhood DLC will be out soon and a launch trailer plays. It looks fine, but this voice over is kinda bad? “Sweet mother” over and over again as gravely voiced dude narrates. Some guy gets stabbed in the nuts. A Hans Moleman production.

This is pretty cool. ESO gets this “One Tamriel,” players will be levelled to match the content they’re playing. So you can group with your friends once they get out of the tutorial and play together. Very, very smart move. I’ve long been frustrated by online RPG systems like in The Division where if you’re not at the same level you’re either dragging the team down or gliding through and trying to keep your buddies from dragging you down. I can’t praise this enough.

Pete Hines is here to tell us about refreshments and Blink-182.

Pete tells us about Bethesda VR. Holy shit he references Doom 3: BFG. The VR version of which never shipped due to Bethesda being butthurt over Carmack leaving for Oculus. Whatever happened with that lawsuit with Oculus? Anyway, you can take a “virtual tour of hell” or Fallout 4 in VR. Bet they won’t be using Oculus headsets! Ah Fallout 4 is coming to the HTC Vive in 2017. Exciting.

Harvey Smith is on stage to tell us about Dishonored 2. I loved the first one, not super excited for a sequel yet. We’ll see if Harvey can convince me. “Welcome back to the Empire of the Isles.” Harvey narrates the video. A camera pans through the streets. The engine has some big upgrades to audio and graphics. It looks more detailed. They’re calling it the Void engine. Name almost doesn’t matter since it won’t ever be released for others to use.

Harvey Smith is talking about who Emily Caldwin from the first Dishonored has become after she has grown up. Corvo is her father? Must have forgotten that from the first Dishonored. It looks like we’ll have the option of playing as Emily in Dishonored 2 and the in-game trailer is from her perspective. You could choose to play as Corvo, still.

More in-game footage and Emily is owning some fools. The weather changes, Emily comments on it and Harvey tells us that many machines are powered by wind. Emily turns off a turbine that was powering a field of light (forcefield to you and me) so that she can progress. The skill trees are new, as are many of the abilities for Emily.

More skillful murdering. There will be some time travel business in another level where you are inside a mansion that blocks your abilities. You can swap between two different timelines using a device that also allows you to view whats going on in the other timeline. So you could walk through an area, see enemies in the alternate version, and then step behind them so you can murder them.

Release date is November 11th, 2016, for Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbone.

Harvey Smith bids us goodnight after introducing a more traditional gameplay trailer. I like the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman  You can watch that here:

 

Pete Hines is back. A collector’s edition is announced with Corvo’s mask and Emily’s ring along with over items. Pre-orders will temporarily include a remastered version of Dishonored 1 including all of the DLC.

Pete gives us a live stream look in on the teams at various studios and thanks them for their work. Nice way to humanize the company.

Pete bides us adieu as the showcase ends and we’re returned to Adam Sessler who is interviewing Matt Firor for the post-show.

My major disappointment is that id software will probably never release source code again without John Carmack. I wish their split had been amicable. They’ve been surprising us lately with the quality of Doom but I don’t know if their parent company would let them release source or if anyone at id has the will to fight for it. We’ll never see a Brutal Doom 2016 or anything like that without code.

Notes from EA’s E3-Adjacent Press Conference 2016

Battlefield at EA
EA’s CEO Andrew Wilson steps out only about 7 minutes late and is excited about “content creators.”

He’s welcoming Peter Moore who is hosting in London via remote stream, so they’re co-hosting?

But then back to Andrew Wilson quickly in LA.

Respawn’s Vince Zampella is onstage to discuss Titanfall 2, and has a video of multiplayer gameplay which will be on Playstation 4 for the first time. Looks fun, I hope that it gets more players on Windows this time, Titanfall 1 was fun.

As was leaked, and Zampella joked about, he’s announcing that Titanfall 2 will have a single-player campaign. A single-player trailer ensues. Release-date October 28th 2016.

On to football with Madden 17 footage. It looks like Football, and Peter Moore is in London telling people who don’t care about American Football about American Football video games.

Peter Moore is now talking about eSports. EA will have three new kinds of events.

EA’s live streaming video interface is so awful I switched to the YouTube player where at least when you click “hide chat” it stays hidden and doesn’t pop out again. The gaming community is out in full force to demonstrate how awful they can be.

A video plays to tell us about how amazing the Madden 16 competition they’re going to have is. Nobody cares. Back on the LA stage an announcer talks to the competitors and makes jokes that nobody thinks are funny.

Back to Peter Moore and he’s talking about how much money they’re putting up ($1 million) for competitions.

Aaron Flynn is on stage from Bioware to talk about Mass Effect: Andromeda. He’s leading by talking about how different the Andromeda galaxy (the game) will be from the previous games. He promises more detail this fall and walks off stage so that a trailer can start. “To Andromeda, to build a new home for humanity” The trailer cuts between in-game footage and shots of animators and artists animating and artisting character models and environments. Protagonist appears to be a woman, get your pitchforks ready gators.

Here’s that trailer:

Back to LA stage, crowd shot where everyone looks bored and they show guy looking at his cell phone. The trailer wasn’t that boring.

Andrew Wilson is talking about how much they love their community. You still can’t gift games on EA’s Origin storefront. They really care about their community. Their community is currently tossing epithets around in their chat. Amazing community.

Now discussing charities. They’re going to add some baloney to various games and donate a million dollars to charity. Well, charity is equally important as eSports to EA in terms of dollars.

Back to Peter Moore in London and discussing FIFA 17, finally he’s talking about the correct football for his audience. A trailer shows how the game has changed over time. It’s now using the Frostbite engine as a logo with a bass drop confirms. Back on stage Alex Hunter (no idea who that is) is here in his Dr. Tracksuit cosplay talking about his dreams of playing football.

Apparently there was a real Alex Hunter who played for the Tottenham Hotspurs, according to Wikipedia. I assumed that team was a joke made up by A trailer demonstrates his career path in FIFA 17’s “The Journey” which is a single player campaign.

Peter Moore is back to tell us that for the first time Premier League managers are appearing in-game. A bunch of bizarre uncanny valley screenshots of faces that look like they’re made out of clay appear on the screen behind him. Moore introduces Manchester United’s manager onstage.

Peter Moore assures us that the manager’s model in-game looks great, it looks terrible.

They chat a bit. It is not entertaining.

Peter Moore introduces FIFA producer Aaron McHardy. He has another trailer to show us. The trailer has gameplay improvements to ball handling and lots of discussion of balls without any hint of irony. FIFA is serious business.

Patrick Soderlund is here to tell us about how they surprised us last year with Unravel. It was pretty surprising. He reintroduces EA Originals which I’m pretty sure was originally the name of something they had back when Mirror’s Edge came out. Well, it’s back, in pog form, to fund third party developers.

Klaus is here from a third party studio in Sweden under EA Originals to tell us about a game called Fe. Fe is apparently about our relationship with nature. It looks like a 3D platformer and very much reminds me of Ori and the Blind Forest. Klaus tells us that the game is going to be open-ended and won’t have much direction in-game telling you what to do. The trailer looks good and very stylized.

Jade Raymond is now on-stage to tell us about the Star Wars games EA is working on. Opened the chat for a second and saw a “Sieg Heil”. Closed the chat again.

Jade tells us about a new game coming from Visceral in 2018 with Amy Hennig but no footage so far. Respawn’s Star Wars game is mentioned.

A trailer plays to tell us about what braaaaand experiences EA is working on. DICE talks about updates coming to Battlefront. Respawn shows an embarassing mocap session with actors. Capital Games talks about their terrible free-to-play garbage game for mobile devices. Visceral is talking about grounding the familiar in the unfamiliar. We finally see some in-game footage from her game but it’s very short shot of a desert planet scene. I could really go for a dessert planet right now, haven’t had lunch yet.

Patrick Soderlund is back to tell us about Battlefield 1 and it’s unique take on World War 1. We get some footage of the game with a bird trying to escape a tank. Odd. Biplanes attacking an airship.

Patrick Bach from DICE is on stage now. He has a gameplay trailer. Here it is:

From the side of the stage we see Zac Efron and Jamie Foxx who will apparently be playing the game after the show.

Patrick is Bach to tell us about how the game has changed. Destruction is supposed to be much improved as well as weather effects. Vehicles get an upgrade with behemoths, airships, armored trains. The game comes out October 21st. I am psyched. Open beta this summer. Maybe the game won’t be so broken at launch? Unlikely.

We now see more of the same trailer we saw earlier. Bird flapping about tank, etc. See it embedded above. A burning zeppeline falls to the ground on a town, looking quite impressive. It’s not clear if this is multiplayer or single player. Horses with riders armed with swords stampede to attack an armored train.

Peter Moore is back to close things out. He quickly gets back to Andrew Wilson and that’s the show.

A bunch of obnoxious YouTube personalities are now broadcasting some Battlefield 1 gameplay. I’ve got to mute it because they’re really loud and really terrible. Gaming culture in 2016 is the worst.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review (PS4)

Again?

I can’t believe that Naughty Dog, the developers of The Last of Us and 3 prior Uncharted games came back to make another Uncharted again. Nevertheless, here we are for Uncharted 4. It’s almost like they’re running a business of making excellent games and then selling them for money but have locked onto this one idea of climbing and third person shootering and will keep going until it is no-longer making money. 

Like the final season of a favored television series, all of the beloved characters have reached their final form by the time this game is done.

Nathan Drake is still our protagonist, he’s been wedded with Elena, I must have missed that when I skipped out on Uncharted 3. Nate has a normal-ish job these days, you’ll see what it is if you play the game. Sully (Victor Sullivan) is still old as dirt and this time won’t participate much in the action but is happy to lend a hand or fly everyone around. New to Uncharted 4 is a surprise guest appearance by Nathan’s older brother, Sam. I can’t remember ever hearing about him before, but here he is complete with flashback sequences to Nate and Sam’s childhood together throughout the game.

Sam is reunited with Nate for one last adventure to save Sam’s bacon over a debt that could cost him his life if they don’t quickly recover Henry Avery’s pirate treasure to pay off a drug lord.

You and me

Early on I was incredibly bored with Uncharted 4’s gameplay. The style of the climbing and third person shooting is still good, but was so similar to previous games that I thought I might not make it very far in. This is one of the best looking games I have ever seen, but that alongside the exact same adventuring from the Playstation 3-era wasn’t going to be enough to keep going unless there was something more to it.

Thank goodness there are changes to the gameplay as well as the story.

Everyone knows that Nathan Drake is kind of an ass. He straight up murders hundreds of dudes in each game’s beautiful set pieces, usually in places that he doesn’t really have an excuse for being in. The witty remarks he makes about straight up murder seem to indicate that he doesn’t seem to be losing any sleep over it.

The most important thing upgraded in this sequel’s story is that while Nathan Drake is still a compete ass to everyone around him, finally, in Uncharted 4 the consequences for his behavior are found in his rapidly dissolving marriage and through witnessing his brother’s impulsiveness impacting the lives of those around him.

He isn’t constantly a jerk to his wife, Elena, but he certainly isn’t upfront and truthful about the work he needs to do in order to liberate his brother from the drug lord to whom he owes his life. Those moments with Elena and Nate upset with each other aren’t necessary fun, and it can be awkward to watch Nathan’s “real life” crumble, but watching their life unfold at home before he leaves for another adventure is very relatable to anyone who has been in a long term relationship. Not that normal people are going out to find pirate treasure, it just humanizes the characters in a way that isn’t typical for big action games.

This story is what carried me through the otherwise same-y climbing and terribly implemented one on one fist-fighting introduced early on in the game. That part of the game’s combat just isn’t fun, thankfully it isn’t something that you’ll be forced to play through much before going back to ducking behind cover and shooting in set piece areas that you can decide how you want to approach. Stealth options are present, and it is fun to kick a dude off a cliff, snap his neck and drag his corpse into the bushes, or pull him over a ledge that you’re hanging below, but you’re going to end up breaking out of it before long when a more distant enemy who has slightly better vision than Metal Gear Solid goons spots you grabbing one of the other guys.

There are gameplay improvements as well. Since this is an adventure about pirating Nate is now equipped with some magic grappling rope that can attach itself to any grapple point at a distance. This can be used to quickly get up over an obstacle or more often the rope is used for swinging around between chasms, buildings, and everything, like Tarzan. It is a fun as hell addition and you can use this in combat to move quickly between vantage points as well as shooting while swinging which works amazingly well. It’s completely ridiculously implemented, you’ll always attach to the appropriate point as long as it is on screen. After playing around with it I would love to see a Spider-Man game from Naughty Dog.

The new climbing piton, the spike that mountaineers drive into walls when there otherwise isn’t a handhold, allows Nate to climb along a little bit more organically into points that are specifically designated for it. It’s not as great an addition as the grappling rope, but any positive change to a climbing mechanic that has been brutally beaten into us in every Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed is an improvement. I wonder how different it would have been if you could have combined the piton with the grappling rope and attached one to the other, swinging across larger gaps between handholds in rock faces more easily.

Due to the success of Call of Duty 4’s laser-like focus on a critical path through a single player campaign, other action games tend to focus on a very limited path through the environment, to the detriment of exploration. The reasoning behind this decision has been “why spend a game’s budget on something the player might never see? Also, we don’t understand pacing at all.”

In a very few open-world games you do have a bit more freedom to explore but it’s usually not worth spending the time to do so. What’s the point of exploring if the world doesn’t have any detail to it outside of where the major story beats take place?

This is it

Uncharted 4 gives you a few open areas that are very detailed, a Jeep with your buddies in it, and says “have fun.”

Driving that Jeep and watching as it attacks the terrain is super fun. Attaching its winch in order to solve puzzles in the environment is fun. The chatter from your passengers and how they switch seats to help you out instead of the game making you backtrack to the jeep in order to artificially lengthen the experience is fun.

Your reward for exploring those open areas is more information about the quest you’re on as well as more quick sketches of what the characters are looking at and thinking about in Nate’s journal.

Those sketches feel like Nathan, and the designer’s, notes to the player. While playing I was unexpectedly excited every time I got the prompt for Nathan to write or draw in his journal. You can tell that Naughty Dog knew what a great thing they had made since you can access Nate’s journal directly from the main menu of the game.

There are still puzzles, just like previous Uncharted games, and they are fun. The way they integrate with the journal is nice and the puzzles are still best when you have an audience of friends or family locally to help you solve them. Not that they are any kind of serious challenge, it’s just fun to have the input.

Journal

Multiplayer is still included and is still incredibly well put together. It isn’t why you would buy an Uncharted, but it feels like something that could be packaged up on its own with a different name and compete for the multiplayer shooter players’ attention with Overwatch and other recent games. The multiplayer package is far more than you might expect to be bolted onto a series that is regarded only for its single player campaign just to keep people from trading the game in.

This time Naughty Dog have wisely decided to not lock the additional levels they’ll make to their multiplayer after the game is released behind a season pass or another additional charge. You can buy cosmetic items that change the look of your characters but the game isn’t going to be less fun when 10 identical Nathan Drakes are running around the map. That is sometimes pretty hilarious.

The only real fault with the game is that it waits until chapter 10 to give you access to the Jeep and open areas. It should be inexcusable to hide the best part of the game until then.

So many people have already spoiled some of the great parts of this game, and I’ve tried to avoid doing so here. it is a surprisingly great sequel to a series that could otherwise have stopped at the second game in it and been fine.

Before this game came out, I couldn’t name an exclusive for the PlayStation 4 that made the console worth recommending. If you have never played an Uncharted before, or if you have and gave up on the series’ repetitive nature, you should come play Uncharted 4. Those in the first group, well, I imagine that you’ll enjoy the first ten chapters even more.

Why stay

4 out of 5 Pyrate Adventures for Uncharted 4.

Here’s an extended snippet of gameplay, without commentary, I recorded while I’m putting my recording studio back together. This features almost everything I’ve talked about in this review that makes the game great but does contain some story spoilers if you’re concerned about plot details.

Beautiful Old Boxart

Computer Foosball

Liza Daly has this great collection of beautiful old boxart from 30 years ago, along with a little bit of the story behind each one. Here is Liza’s write-up for Computer Foosball, pictured above:

I don’t even know where to start about how much I love this. The art is credited to Janet Lopez. The game was written by Apple employee Keithen Hayenga and came free with the Sirius Joyport, an external game adaptor which was less titillating than it sounds.

I love that the brush strokes are clearly visible in the background, and that one of the foosball teams is composed of little matching robots. I guess the spheroid thing in the middle is supposed to be the foosball flying at us, but the composition is weirdly static.

The Westminster typeface was already a cliche in 1983 and was rarely used in actual game packaging. The flat design of the background and the minimalist byline are also pretty odd. The net result is that this cover art looks less like an actual artifact and more like a contemporary designer’s idea of 1983.

Sirius Software published dozens of games in the period between 1980 and 1983, many coded by Nasir Gebelli, who left to form his own company when the Sirius founders refused to give him equity. Steven Levy covered Sirius in his seminal book on the early computer age, Hackers. If this post were about videogame titles rather than covers, they would get prime placement for The Earth Dies Screaming and Copts and Robbers.

Both Gebelli Software and Sirius published a lot of turds, in terms of both games and cover art. But the best of them are the best this period has to offer, almost indistinguishable from a lot of modern design. Some are credited to Lopez but most have no credit at all. They are great.

It brought a smile to my face when the Sirius Joyport game controller adapter page on Wikipedia reminded me that the device was also designed by a legend, and my old pal, Steve Woita.

Even Thurrott Is Frustrated With The Windows 10 Upgrade Scheme

Paul Thurrott:

Last week, Microsoft silently changed Get Windows 10 yet again. And this time, it has gone beyond the social engineering scheme that has been fooling people into inadvertently upgrading to Windows 10 for months. This time, it actually changed the behavior of the window that appears so that if you click the “Close” window box, you are actually agreeing to the upgrade. Without you knowing what just happened.

Previously, closing this window would correctly signal that you do not want the upgrade. So Microsoft didn’t change the wording in the window. It didn’t make an “Upgrade now” button bigger, or a non-existent “don’t ever upgrade” button smaller. It pulled a switcheroonie. It’s like going out to your car in the morning and discovering that the gas pedal now applies the brakes, while the brake pedal washes the windshield. Have a fun commute!

The violation of trust here is almost indescribable. It’s bad enough that Microsoft has been training Windows 7 and 8.1 users—i.e. most Windows users—to not trust Windows 10 because of this horrible, unstoppable advertisement. But now they will not trust their own sanity because all they’ll remember is that they dismissed the advertisement by clicking the Close windows box. Why on earth did Windows 10 just install on my PC?!?

House of the Dying Sun in Early Access

Developed by one human, House of the Dying Sun is a tactical space shooter in the spirit of Freespace 2 and Tie Fighter mixed with a bit of Warhammer 40k styled lore. I love killing traitors to the emperor!

It’s only available for Windows, currently, but does support the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift in addition to regular monitors. You can buy it directly from the developer’s Humble widget or on Steam. Either way it’s 2 bucks off until the 14th of June.

Regular Human Basketball

Powerhoof, the creators of Crawl, put out Regular Human Basketball back at the end of May 2015 and I just found out about it:

It’s local multiplayer, for 2-10 players, and it really is an explosively ordinary game of basketball, with absolutely nothing weird going on and DEFINITELY no giant robotic death machines!

It looks very fun and regular humans can freely download it on itch.io for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Definitely don’t download it if you’re a giant robotic death machine.

Upgraded Playstation 4 Rumors Confirmed by Sony

Speaking with the Financial Times’ Tim Bradshaw, Sony’s Andrew House confirmed the rumors of an upcoming upgrade to the Playstation 4:

Andrew House, president and global chief executive of Sony Interactive Entertainment, told the Financial Times that the “high-end PS4” would be more expensive than the current $350 version.

“It is intended to sit alongside and complement the standard PS4,” he said. “We will be selling both [versions] through the life cycle.”

The new console, which is codenamed “Neo”, will target hardcore gamers, he said, as well as consumers with a 4K television set looking for more high-resolution content.

You should probably still hold off on buying one since pricing information (beyond that it will be more expensive) and other details were not revealed, and won’t be announced at E3 next week.

It’ll be very interesting if this is the final console generation for a long time and we end up with a more iPhone-like annual or bi-annual console upgrade cycle that maintains software compatibility.