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Hyper Scape – Battle Like Everyone's Watching

The battle royale arena always has new contenders entering, taking shots at the big players in the genre. Today, Ubisoft showed off its latest first-person foray into the battle royale ring, Hyper Scape. With 100 players, three-person squads, and some mechanics that change things up for longtime fans of the “where we dropping?” genre, Ubisoft is betting heavily on another element to power its boisterous bash: the viewers. Tapping into the world of streaming integration, Hyper Scape allows viewers to engage with the players in important ways, like voting on in-game events to change the shape of the game. Hyper Scape is free-to-play and coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The game begins in a familiar fashion. In a waiting room, players wander around and size each other up as the player count ticks up. Then, it’s drop time! Pods fly down from the sky (no fall damage) and allow you to pick and prioritize your landing zone. The major landmarks contain significantly more loot than the smaller ones, but as is the standard, you’ll probably have to blast your way out of an early conflict to walk away with the gear.

Gear in Hyper Scape works a bit differently than other battle royales. Your weapons and abilities have different tiers that can be upgraded by collecting multiple copies, making those extra guns a boon when you find them. So if you have a shotgun and find another shotgun, it might upgrade the magazine size, and the next copy might upgrade the damage. Upgrade enough times, and you max out a weapon or ability, turning it golden. If you’re really lucky, you can find golden items out in the wild without having to do any upgrading at all. If you’re looking to score some fully-upgraded loot right away, the hot spots often contain them.

Hyper Scape keeps it simple with two weapons and two abilities. That’s your kit. Some of the abilities are familiar fare – healing, teleporting, invisibility – but I had a ton of fun with the bouncy ball. Yes, one of the skills you can pick up is an armored ball that you can bounce around in to giant heights, and then jump out of your ball midair and let loose a salvo at the enemy. The ball is a great way to dive into combat or escape a dangerous encounter, plus it looks really cool and plays up the game’s vertical focus.

One mechanic that battle royales are tackling today is how to handle death. What happens if your teammate dies? Well, in Hyper Scape you can bring them back with a little effort, but the journey to make that happen is the most interesting angle. When a player dies in a squad scenario, they become a ghost. They’re still in the game, but they can’t interact with anything, meaning they still have sight and can feed you information regarding enemy movements with zero risks. If you defeat an enemy, a beacon appears where they’ve been slain, and your fallen teammate can head to this beacon and sit on it. At the beacon, you can revive your dead ally. They come back without their loot, but ready to get back in the action. This means theoretically a player could come back in a match many times, assuming they have savvy teammates willing to take risks and communicate to bring them back.

As with other battle royales, the field of play whittles down as areas of the cityscape collapse in stylish fashion over the course of a game, which feels less like a strict circle closing in and more about closing off the field chunk by chunk. With all the death involved in a final-zone scenario, you may be wondering how things get resolved when teams can potentially bring their allies back to life many times. That’s where the crown comes in. In the late game, when players are corralled into the final district, a crown will spawn. If a player on your team can hold the crown for a short period of time, you win and the game is over. Of course, you are highlighted on the map while holding the hot potato, so everyone remaining is gunning for you. If you go down holding the crown, someone else can grab it, and the action continues until one team is left or a player holds the crown long enough.

It’s 2020 and visibility and watchability are key factors for some games. Hyper Scape is one of those titles. With a robust Twitch extension, viewers can alter the game state in real-time by voting on alterations. Want to see some low-gravity action? Vote! Unlimited ammo? Vote! Health for everyone? Vote it up! As a viewer, you can have a direct impact on the game by slinging votes and then watching how your favorite players and teams handle the new rules. There are other ways that viewers can interact with Hyper Scape and streamers, like integration that allows you to play with your favorite streamer without any laborious friend invites; it’s all handled by the extension. It’s stream-centered gameplay from the ground up, so we’ll see if Ubisoft’s bid to win the viewers via integration pays off.

You can score an invite to Hyper Scape right now via drops by watching your favorite streamers, with more information on a wide release coming in the future.

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Dreams to Add PlayStation VR Support This Month

It’s been on the cards for awhile and now Media Molecule has confirmed that its super creative PlayStation 4 title Dreams will be coming to PlayStation VR later this month.

Dreams will finally support the virtual reality (VR) headset on 22nd July 2020, as a free update for those that own the videogame. The update will see the addition of new tutorials and how-to guides, as well as kits to help get creators started designing their own content in VR. Plus, there will be new content to play from Media Molecule.

Players will be able to use PlayStation Move controllers to bring their ideas to life, “you’ll find sculpting in VR is a very one-to-one experience and lets you fully immerse in the creation process,” says the studio on PlayStation Blog. Creators will be able to then specify if their projects are VR compatible and Dreams will ask players for a comfort rating.

The update isn’t purely focused on PlayStation VR owners, non-VR owners can still create immersive content. “We’re introducing a handful of new gadgets to Create Mode, and a full slate of accessibility features including comfort mode, vignette strength, static sky, and more to make the experience of playing and creating as great as possible,” the studio adds.

In development for quite a few years, Dreams became one of the most coveted titles for PlayStation 4; eventually launching back in February. It allows you to play a story campaign by Media Molecule, or delve into the vast array of games created by the community. At its core though is the Create Mode, providing a wealth of options to realise your own digital world.

Media Molecule will launch PlayStation VR support for Dreams in four weeks, for any further updates in that time, keep reading VRFocus.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Q_FHZl8dSUs%3Fwmode%3Dtransparent%26rel%3D0%26feature%3Doembed
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Onward Aims for July Launch on Oculus Quest

Still in Early Access, Downpour Interactive’s military first-person shooter (FPS) Onward has been one of the most successful for virtual reality (VR) headsets. Currently a PC VR-only experience, the studio has been working with Coatsink (Shadow Point, Esper) to bring the title to Oculus Quest, confirming a launch will take place in July.

Downpour Interactive revealed development of the Oculus Quest version just over a year ago, not long after the standalone headset launched. The last 12 months have proven the device is important to support, not only because of the revenue some developers have earned but especially when it comes to multiplayer gameplay and keeping an active, diverse community of players.

Just like the PC version, the Oculus Quest edition of Onward removes common FPS features like crosshairs and mini maps for a more realistic, simulator-style experience. Players have to rely on coordination and communication with their squad to succeed, whether they’re playing on Quest, Oculus Rift or any other SteamVR compatible headset, crossplay support is fully included.

There are solo and co-op, and multiplayer gameplay modes, providing AI opponents to hone those skills before trying a 10-person battle with three objectives to chose from; safe a VIP, control an Uplink station or secure an area to upload a code.

You’ll have a range of realistic weaponry to play with; the modern MARSOC faction has the AUG, M16, M1014 P90 and the M249 light machine gun. While the insurgent Volk forces use an arsenal which includes the AKS74U, the Makarov, and an RPG launcher.

“I’m incredibly excited for Onward to come to the Oculus Quest: to have players be inspired by the freedom of the platform while at the same time experiencing the realism and immersion that Onward brings to the table,” said Dante Buckley Founder, Downpour Interactive in a statement. “And I think I speak for my whole team when I say we’re excited to see our players get their hands on the game after almost a year of development.”

The studios will release Onward for Oculus Quest on 30th July 2020, retailing for $24.99 USD through the Oculus Store. As further details are released, VRFocus will keep you informed.

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Paper Mario: The Origami King Folds Familiar Elements Into An All-New Adventure

It all starts in a familiar way, with an invitation from Princess Peach. Toad Town is hosting a special origami festival, and Mario and Luigi are among the requested guests. Say no more! The brothers head out to the event, only to find that the ordinarily thriving town is ­virtually abandoned. Worse, Peach has been transformed: Her body has been reconfigured into an origami form, and her normally friendly personality replaced with a detached automaton.

Peach is among the latest victims of King Olly, the ­diabolical ruler of the Origami Kingdom. After she drops Mario into a dungeon, Olly wraps Peach’s castle in five massive streamers and places it atop a far-away mountain. Fortunately, all is not lost. Mario meets Olivia, one of the few origami creations who isn’t his enemy. Together, Mario and Olivia need to figure out how to unravel this plot and restore Toad Town and the rest of the land to its normal, flattened format – even helping a ­partially origami’d Bowser along the way.

That’s the elevator pitch for Paper Mario: The Origami King, the latest entry in Nintendo’s RPG series. It may be hard to believe, but Paper Mario is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Over the course of that journey, players have become comfortable with a “Mario, but flat” conceit that, if you step back, is about as weird as it gets. The tone is often as strange as the paper-thin setup, too, with plenty of humor and silliness scattered throughout. The Origami King is building on the past, but is also taking the series in some new directions, including an interesting ring-battle system and the introduction of open-world levels you can traverse seamlessly.

Ring Fight Adventure

“When continuing a game series, it’s much easier to carry over the basics from an existing game system rather than building new systems for each new installment,” says Kensuke Tanabe, producer at Nintendo. “But that’s not how you create new experiences or unexpected surprises. As a game designer, I want to deliver new experiences and surprises to our fans, so I always challenge myself to create something new. To be sure, I will sometimes use the same system in a subsequent game to further develop that system until I feel it has reached its full potential. But my goal is to continue to tackle new challenges as much as possible.”

This is a subject Tanabe knows a thing or two about. He worked on Super Mario RPG back in the Super Nintendo days, and has been involved with every game in the Paper Mario series since Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door released on GameCube in 2004. For the most part, combat has been consistent over the years, with turn-based battles that incorporate a little bit of timing. If you manage to hit your attack at the right moment, your attack will squeeze out some extra damage. It’s fun, but Tanabe and the developers at Intelligent Systems wanted to push themselves further with this entry.

“Mr. Naohiko Aoyama, who is a member of the staff at Intelligent Systems and the director of the previous entry in the series, Paper Mario: Color Splash, asked for a battle system in which the enemies surround Mario to attack from all sides,” Tanabe says. “That became our starting point when thinking about how the battles would work.” 

The designers thought about how best to reflect this feeling of being surrounded, and came up with an unusual take on a battle grid. Rather than setting the action on a traditional checkerboard, they arrived at something similar to the concentric rings and segments of a dartboard. Then players could rotate each of the concentric circles to line up attacks. But something was missing.

“We kept thinking about what to do, until one day an idea suddenly popped into my head while I was in the shower,” Tanabe says. “The idea was based on a Rubik’s Cube. It inspired me to add vertical rotations to the horizontal rotations, so we got the slide mechanic added to the program, and it worked well. That is the moment I was convinced we’d be able to build our battle system.”

When combat begins, players have a set number of turns in the planning phase to optimize their positioning. The goal is to line enemies up in groups so that Mario can take them out efficiently. His stomp attack hits enemies lined up in a row, and his hammer deals more concentrated damage to groups of enemies that are standing side-by-side and one row deep. It’s almost like a puzzle, with each combat scenario having an optimal solution. You can spend coins to purchase more time to think if you’re running low on time, or your Toad friends can give you hints – provided you pay them. Even if you blow it on your first attempt, you can still rearrange the stragglers once both you and the enemies have taken turns.

Each of the five streamers encasing Peach’s castle is guarded by a member of the Legion of Stationary, which are realistic depictions of familiar art supplies such as colored pencils, rubber bands, and tape. Tanabe says the team initially wanted to use the same basic battle system in these boss encounters, but they ran into a problem: Since you fight these bosses one at a time, you didn’t have anything to line up.

“It occurred to us that one way to avoid introducing a different system would be for the boss battles to be the opposite of regular battles, with the boss in the center and Mario creating a route to the boss from the outside,” Tanabe says. “I drew concentric circles on a whiteboard, put mock-ups of some panels using magnets with arrows and other things drawn on them so Ms. Risa Tabata [the assistant producer] and I could simulate how a battle would play out multiple times. We felt that we had gotten something pretty good out of that process, so I proposed it to Intelligent Systems.”

A New Crease On Life

These bosses aren’t just waiting in one location for Mario to find them. Instead, they’re scattered around the world. That creates a striking visual, as players can see the streamers far in the distance, while also giving them a hint as to where their next challenge lies. One of the biggest departures with The Origami King is that the story isn’t chapter-focused as past games have been. Instead, players can travel from region to region seamlessly in an open-world setup.
“One major feature that makes the world where this adventure takes place special is that there are huge maps to explore at every turn,” says Masahiko Magaya, director at Intelligent Systems. “Because the game is laid out this way, we were careful during the design phase to make sure there is always something in the player’s field of vision to catch their attention.”

Players can watch the scenery unfold through several modes of traversal. Mario can run around, but crossing major distances might get tiring. Fortunately for his feet, he can drive a boot-shaped car around (a nod to Super Mario Bros. 3’s shoe power-up?) and pilot a boat. I also saw him aboard an airship, where he takes command of the ship’s defenses to fire rockets at incoming paper planes.

That variety extends throughout the game. Players can expect to encounter lots of one-off activities and miscellaneous diversions. During his travels, Mario encounters a host of Toads who have been folded into different origami forms. Hitting them with his hammer reverts them back to their normal form, then several things can happen. They might return to Toad Town, restoring valuable services to the location, like selling items or opening the dock. The Toads may also join Mario in battle, watching from the sidelines and helping when asked (and paid). You can also go fishing, if you’re looking for some downtime.

Mario doesn’t do any of this alone. Olivia is a constant companion throughout the adventure, and other characters join and leave along the way. The shuffling cast is a function of the story, so players aren’t deciding which allies to bring along.

“We never considered whether or not we should implement a party-based system like some other games,” Tanabe says. “As we worked on Paper Mario: The Origami King, we decided we could create more memorable moments if Olivia and the other characters team up with Mario along the way. In other words, we first determine what elements are needed in a game and then figure out how to implement and program them. Bobby, the Bob-omb, was the first character we decided to include, and from there we chose the characters that would be the best fit for the events in each stage of the game. Bowser Jr. was an exception. The director, Mr. Masahiko Nagaya, personally had strong feelings about including a storyline where a son sets out to save his father, so in this case, we decided to include the character before deciding exactly what we would have him do.”

With an interesting combat system and a larger world to explore, Paper Mario: The Origami King looks like a nice evolution for the series. There are certainly some elements that are foundational to Paper Mario, but it’s great to see that Nintendo and Intelligent Systems are willing and able to color outside of the lines.

Paper Mario: The Origami King comes to the Nintendo Switch on July 17.

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From Gaming to Theatre – Haptic Feedback Delivers For Surgical Training

Next-generation haptic technologies have recently appeared in a growing number of consumer devices, including gaming peripherals, digital music instruments, wellness wearables and beyond. Powered by ‘wideband’ haptics, this new kind of miniature vibrating motors are capable of delivering natural, realistic tactile sensations. Whilst these were initially developed with gaming in mind, they have now found their place in surgical training. 

Surgeons have been using VR simulators to learn minimally invasive surgical skills for well over 20 years, gradually benefiting from the improvements in graphics gained from gaming engines and GPUs. This approach to learning manual surgical skills is now set for a huge upgrade, as Swiss medical simulation company, VirtaMed, teams up with Lofelt, a German technology company that develops advanced haptics for natural, realistic tactile experiences.

In 1976, Sega‘s motorbike game Moto-Cross, was the first game to use haptic feedback, causing the handlebars to vibrate during a collision with another vehicle. Other racing games added force feedback and rumble haptics to steering devices in the mid-to-late ’80s. In 1997, early haptic implementations within joysticks and controllers were provided through optional components, such as the Nintendo 64 controller’s Rumble Pak or the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro with built-in feedback. Over the past 20 years, simple haptic devices have become commonplace in the likes of game controllers, joysticks and steering wheels. It is fair to say that these devices have not evolved with the precision needed for sensitive industrial environments, such as medical training.

The partnership ushers in a new era of active haptics – where new technologies such as the Lofelt L5 haptic actuator are used to deliver lifelike sensations for surgical simulation. This leap forward removes the dependency on having anatomically correct physical structures, while still providing the surgeon with a realistic tactile experience.

Harry Houdini once said: “what the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.” Today’s simulators include very realistic visuals, with both an anatomical mannequin and the latest in VR graphics showing the laparoscopic view. To boost the realism further, simulators also provide an immersive audioscape that include sounds of patient monitoring equipment captured in the operating room. In other words, haptic feedback adds another layer of sensory input that allows the surgeon to suspend their disbelief that the simulation is any different from reality.

VirtaMed has even been able to design virtual organs that possess their own physical characteristics – such as the liver being much denser than the gallbladder that is next to it. This allows surgeons to clearly distinguish between different organs in a simulated case, and therefore perform operations such as removing the gallbladder much more realistically. And because these virtual organs respond to gravity, when surgeons position their patient via the abdominal model, the virtual organs settle into place as they would in real life. Using such advanced haptics, it is now possible to simulate lifting these organs up, cutting them, or even stopping them bleeding.

The progression of VR (Virtual Reality) and Haptics from gaming rooms to training rooms is quite literally a lifesaver, especially during a pandemic. Training healthcare professionals is vital for all societies, providing us with the nurses, doctors and surgeons of the future. COVID has meant that the global healthcare community has shifted its focus on emergency care rather than education – for painfully obvious reasons. As the world gets to grip with this pandemic we have seen many elective procedures cancelled and the contact between healthcare professionals and patients has been restricted. Under normal circumstances, medical procedures are taught in an apprenticeship model – currently, therefore, many trainees have been left without the ability to train. When we finally return to some kind of ‘normal’ and COVID restrictions have been relaxed, there will surely be a backlog of exams and elective procedures – further reducing available training opportunities. 

The simulators of today, with all of their advanced technology, can certainly provide relief here. And whilst no single element makes a simulator, the haptics, the visuals, the training cases, the metrics and curriculum, can all work together to enable a trainee to progress.

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Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia Review

Brigandine debuted over two decades ago on the original PlayStation, and only now is it getting a sequel. It may seem like an unlikely candidate for revival, but Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia comes at a time when the strategy/RPG genre is getting renewed attention – partially thanks to Fire Emblem’s success. For those who want something in that vein, this certainly scratches a similar itch. Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia personalizes the strategy/RPG experience by letting you recruit and get to know your combatants in side stories. Watching your team grow in strength and invading new areas makes you feel powerful, even if it lacks variety and gets repetitive. 

The gameplay offers a lot of customization and freedom in how you build an army for world conquest. You begin your journey by selecting from one of six nations, each with its own leader, storyline, and strategic slant. I picked the Republic of Guimoule, where my leader has been performing under a secret identity as a ballerina, but must step up into a leadership role once her country is endangered. The game positions you well to think and feel for your nation, since each one has hopes and expectations riding on success, such as the Mana Saleesia Theocracy who is fighting a holy war in an attempt to convert everyone to his religion. As you pursue power, you see it reflected back in a satisfying way in the size of your army and occupied bases across a vast map. 

Your goal is to occupy opposing bases, recruit allies, gather new weaponry, and train your combatants – all in the name of total domination. The action is split into organization and action phases for each turn. In the organization phase, you decide where to move your army, who to send on quests for experience or items, and how you want to manage your troops, upgrading their classes and summoning monsters for assistance. These decisions are a balancing act, and I enjoyed deciding when to be aggressive or defensive before even stepping on the battlefield. Positioning is key, as you need to be adjacent to an area to invade it, but you also can’t leave your bases undefended. If you send troops off to do quests, they are unavailable to fight if the base becomes besieged. The challenge comes in needing to do all things, and the push-and-pull is handled well; you can’t advance your power without trying to aggressively take over enemy forts, nor can you ignore quests due to their wondrous rewards. 

When you reach the attack phase, you can invade rival nations’ bases, each with their own power level to consider. You can still win if you’re under-leveled, but you’re likely to lose monsters that you’d rather keep alive for future encounters. Battles play out on hexagonal grids, where you position your troops and select their actions. You can pick up to three leaders for each invasion, accompanied by a corresponding party of dragons, fairies, and ghouls with their own unique abilities. To finish your engagement, you can dole out enough damage and force an enemy to retreat, completely annihilate the leader and get any of their leftover monsters, or retreat yourself to save face.

Watching your units grow and building parties to fit different strategic needs is a fun gameplay layer. Sometimes I had my leader was a mage surrounded by tanky golems or dragons for protection. I assembled groups entirely focused on healing, relying on my two other factions to do the dirty work. Your approach to combat has a lot of flexibility, and once you start leveling up your units, you really see the fruits of your labor as their skills grow in number and power. That’s especially true as you upgrade their classes, which often branch and have elemental variants. It’s a lot to tinker with, but also the most fun part of the game, since you have an expansive roster of different classes and unit types with distinct abilities to pursue. I had everything including sea serpents, high centaurs, pegasi, and more in my ranks.

Unfortunately, the battles themselves don’t play out in exciting ways. Every invasion feels similar, and the action unfolds slowly, so combat feels lethargic instead of energized. In fact, it usually takes a few turns before you even reach the enemy to fight. Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia boasts about the different terrain being a difference-maker on the battlefield and shaking things up, as certain classes get bonuses or penalties based on their preference, but it didn’t do much for me. I factored it into my strategy when I could, but battles don’t play out that dramatically, nor did it feel like such a great tool I could exploit to my advantage.

Enemies are rarely pushovers, and completing a battle with your full team intact is rare. A lot of your success comes down to positioning, whether that’s keeping some units together or spaced apart – but which approach is correct often depends on pure luck. This is frustrating, and I can’t tell you how many battles I started over due to an unfortunate turn rather than any flaw in my strategy. The presence of permadeath makes this all the more annoying. You can revive monsters with their levels intact if you have a special item, but these are pretty scarce. When you consider all the time it takes to grind and upgrade these units into something satisfying, losing them can feel downright punishing, and I wish these items weren’t so hard to come to by. 

Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia does everything pretty adequately, but there’s also nothing all that remarkable about the experience. I felt like I was going through the motions without anything meaningful to keep bringing me back for these tedious takeovers. The repetition just dulls the adventure, and everything plays out predictably. The game is decent and functional, but it doesn’t have any surprises, big innovations, or memorable moments. 













Watching your team grow in strength and invading new areas makes you feel powerful, even if the game lacks variety and gets repetitive. 

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The Last of Us Part 2 guide: Seattle Day 3 – The Flooded City collectibles walkthrough

Polygon’s The Last of Us Part 2 Seattle Day 3 – The Flooded City collectibles guide begins when Ellie arrives in the section of the river with the ice cream truck. It ends when Ellie reaches shore outside the aquarium. There are 6 Artifacts, 2 Trading Cards, 1 Journal Entry, 2 Workbenches, and 1 Safe to find in The Flooded City.

Seff-L’Ho’Phad Trading Card location

The Flooded City Trading Card 1 of 2

Pilot the boat through the rapids until you reach the first gate blocking forward progress. Get out of the boat and double back. There’s a room right next to the spot where the rapids break. Go in and walk to the desk at the far right end of the room. Open the right hand drawer to find a trading card for Seff-L’Ho’Phad, a neutral, interdimensional giant squid.

  • Seff-L’Ho’Phad Trading Card location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Seff-L’Ho’Phad Trading Card location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Seff-L’Ho’Phad Trading Card location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Ferris Wheel Journal Entry location

    The Flooded City Journal Entry 1 of 1

    Exit the room where you found the Seff-L’Ho’Phad trading card and double back toward the gate. Turn left to find the stairs and take them to the second floor. Approach the window which faces the Ferris wheel to get a new journal entry, revealing some of Ellie’s thoughts as she gets closer to Abby.

  • Ferris Wheel Journal Entry location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Ferris Wheel Journal Entry location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Stash Note Artifact location

    The Flooded City Artifact 1 of 6

    From the Ferris Wheel Journal Entry location, turn left to find a dead man, Randall, and his letter to someone named Beth. The note includes a combination 70-12-64.

  • Stash Note Artifact location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Stash Note Artifact location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Safe location

    The Flooded City Safe 1 of 1

    With the safe combination in hand, walk to the other end of the room, and roll the box out of the way. Go prone and crawl through until you’re above the fenced-in area to the right of the gate. Drop down and use the code 70-12-64 on the safe to grab some ammo.

  • Safe 1 of 1 location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Safe 1 of 1 location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Safe 1 of 1 location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Safe 1 of 1 location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Workbench 1 location

    The Flooded City Workbench 1 of 2

    As you progress through the flooded city, look for a building whose opening is surrounded by blue tarps. It’s on the left side of the river, opposite Seattle Sleep Warehouse. Inside, you’ll find a workbench.

  • Workbench 1 of 2 location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Workbench 1 of 2 location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Shambler Note Artifact location

    The Flooded City Artifact 2 of 6

    After passing through the Seattle Sleep Warehouse area, look out for the flooded Carthy Hotel on your right. In the non-flooded corner, look for a skeleton near a wrecked ship. Next to the corpse, there’s a letter with a drawing of a Shambler warning any Wolves that come across it that this new infected variant is real and awful.

  • Shambler Note Artifact location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Shambler Note Artifact location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Encampment Note Artifact location

    The Flooded City Artifact 4 of 6

    From the Scar Prophet’s portrait in the building where you fought the Scars, turn left and back toward the windows. On a light blue pillar with cracked paint, you’ll find a letter from Gray, who the Scars have now renamed Emmett, to Jules.

  • Encampment Note Artifact location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Encampment Note Artifact location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Arcade Flyer Artifact location

    The Flooded City Artifact 5 of 6

    When you arrive in W&B Arcade, park your boat near the gate and turn back. On one of the booths on the right, you’ll find a flyer advertising !!Fright Nites!!

    Arcade Flyer Artifact location.
    Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon

    Workbench 2 location

    The Flooded City Workbench 2 of 2

    Head up the stairs to the second floor. On the opposite wall, next to Moto Flare and air hockey, you’ll find a workbench.

    Workbench 2 of 2 location.
    Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon

    Khazakh Bright Trading Card location

    The Flooded City Trading Card 2 of 2

    After taking down the Bloater in the W&B Arcade basement, open the rolling window into the Prize Zone. Hop the counter and turn right to find a trading card, for neutral villain Khazakh Bright, under the glass.

  • Khazakh Bright Trading Card location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Khazakh Bright Trading Card location. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Arcade Note Artifact location

    The Flooded City Artifact 6 of 6

    From the Prize Zone, take the stairs up a floor, and then turn right and walk until you reach PC Cafe, a room with a bunch of computers. Look to your immediate left as you enter to find the last letter from Emmett to Jules, in which he describes encountering the Bloater in the basement.

  • Arcade Note Artifact location Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
  • Arcade Note Artifact location Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America via Polygon
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    The Last of Us 2 epitomizes one of gaming’s longest debates

    The Last of Us Part 2 punctuates one the longest, strangest debates in video games: the 13-year discussion of ludonarrative dissonance.

    The term references the disconnect between what players do in a video game (ludo is Latin for play) and the story that the game tells (narrative). People were discussing this idea under different terms long before the phrase exploded in 2007, in part due to an oft-cited blog post by game designer Clint Hocking that made use of the term. After that, big-budget video games collectively calcified around its central dilemma. This was the year BioShock and Uncharted debuted. Critics cited games like these as evidence that the medium was “growing up,” while also acknowledging that ludonarrative dissonance was the messy side-effect of this flat-footed quest for maturity.

    The phrase became a buzzword, appearing in game developer panels and debated in video game writer listservs. Like so many academic terms, it spiraled onto social media, losing its context, becoming a quick insult for violent games that aspired to be high art but fell short. But the core dilemma — How do game makers marry story and play? Should they even try? — never went away.

    Big-budget video game studios of the late ’00s wanted to tell serious, adult, and human stories. You know, the types of stories that appear in award-winning films and books. But they were still making games with the dominant “verb” of that generation and this one: shoot.

    Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

    In video games, shooting stuff has been a beloved dopamine hit for nearly four decades. Point at something, pull the trigger, and watch that something explode, dematerialize, or ragdoll down a flight of stairs. Shoot and kill. Cause and effect reduced to its simplest form.

    Early 3D first-person shooters, from Doom and Rise of the Triad to Unreal and GoldenEye, found tremendous success. Because the majority of the best game designers made shooters, the genre rapidly improved, getting AAA video games stuck into a self-fulfilling loop. Shooters became the most polished games, so they sold better, thus publishers greenlit more and better shooters, which sold better.

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    In the 1990s and 2000s, game publishers built all sorts of shooters. First-person. Third-person. Shoot-’em-ups. Shooters with campaigns and multiplayer. Hell, even puzzle games got guns. But by 2007, critics began to express something like shooter fatigue. A majority of video game publications in that year awarded game of the year not to BioShock, Portal, Modern Warfare, or Mass Effect. They gave the honor to Super Mario Galaxy.

    Despite the unprecedented success of the shooter genre, the creators of shooters seemed similarly burnt out. They started telling serious stories about complicated heroes and heroines, stories that ignored the fact that the protagonist had slaughtered hundreds of people along the way.

    And that’s why, in 2007, game critics could not stop talking about ludonarrative dissonance.

    Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

    The Last of Us Part 2’s studio helped launch the debate

    Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, created by Naughty Dog, the same studio that went on to develop The Last of Us Part 2, became one of the poster children of this bizarre moment, in which games aspired for bigger things while still bearing violent albatrosses of the genre. Its protagonist, Nathan Drake, is a lovable, goofy treasure hunter. Except, the very first moment we meet him, he reveals his other talent: cold-blooded killing.

    Drake and his companion, journalist Elena Fisher, uncover a treasure in the middle of the ocean, only to be immediately surrounded by a fleet of pirate boats. Elena suggests they contact the authorities. Drake explains they’re searching for treasure illegally. So he pulls out his old friend: a big-ass handgun. He hands a bonus gun to Elena, who has never handled a gun but, coincidentally, is a great shot.

    The first time we control Drake, it’s to slaughter a couple dozen humans, setting the tone for the entire series. We encounter a dissonance between the story (fun treasure hunters) and the gameplay (white guy who travels to foreign lands and wholesale slaughter dozens, if not hundreds, of humans who stand in your way). (This actually aligns with the real history of treasure hunting, but the game never digs into that.)

    The contrast between Drake the treasure hunter and Drake the serial killer was so stark that it became something more than a punchline. It was a word of warning. For a beat, game creators across the spectrum, from indie to AAA, appeared to have correctly diagnosed the problem. To tell adult stories, they’d need more and better verbs. The action would need to better align with the story.

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    After hundreds of blogs, Twitter threads, and essays published in what remained of game magazines at the time, critics tacitly agreed to never mention the words “ludonarrative dissonance” again, but here I am, breaking the blood oath. The challenge of ludonarrative dissonance never went away, it just shifted from something critics discussed into a riddle many developers are still attempting to solve.

    Some indie game makers cut violent actions from their games altogether, leading to a spate of “walking simulators” like Dear Esther and Proteus, first-person games more interested in the space around the player rather than what they do inside that space. Designers who had worked on the BioShock series left to create Gone Home and The Blackout Club, a pair of games that retained the tension and mystery of their AAA predecessors, while showing what stories could bloom when guns got cut from the equation.

    But for AAA studios, the allure of violence and its financial security was irresistible. Because at the end of the day, publishers decide what games get greenlit, and they answer to a board that expects profits. Guns make money.

    Image: Yager Development/2K Games

    Should violent video games narratively justify their obsession with violence?

    In the early ’10s, big-budget games, unable to move the action closer to the story, moved the story closer to the action. In other words, game designers made “mature” games about violence. Games like Spec Ops: The Line forced us to commit battlefield atrocities, like dropping white phosphorus on civilians, and then wagged their finger at us for… playing the game they designed? After the credits rolled, we could play a multiplayer mode that let us commit all the murder we wanted with none of the cutscene-induced guilt. Indie games took their shot at this too, most notably the Hotline Miami series.

    Some of these games did a fine job highlighting the medium’s fetishization of violence. Plenty of others mistook moral ambiguity for profundity. Big-budget video game storytelling was largely treading water by this point, being produced, in part, by designers who wanted to create art but were paid to make hyper-realistic weapons of machine guns — and also in part by people who just wanted to make badass kill animations and not worry about a big message. As games grew, so did teams, and suddenly squads of hundreds (even thousands) of people were creating games, many of them with conflicting ideas of what those games should be.

    As a result, these self-aware violent video games still never fully aligned the action with the narrative. Which is to say, despite all the hand-wringing, these games were first and foremost “fun,” the gameplay still emphasizing the pleasure of pointing at a target and spewing hot lead.

    Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

    The Last of Us Part 2 is the culmination of this decade of big-budget games interrogating dissonance. Naughty Dog, the creators of Uncharted, have finally bridged the gap between story and action, dragging the story kicking and screaming and gurgling on its own blood to align with what you actually do in their games: kill people. The result is surreal, an expensive narrative experiment depicting what would actually happen if a real human being behaved like a video game character.

    You play as Ellie, a young woman on a quest for revenge in a post-apocalyptic Seattle. The creators imagine a dystopian America, in which survivors have divided into warring factions, each convinced it’s good, each willing to commit horrendous acts of violence to protect itself. As Ellie eviscerates dozens of humans who cry for the help of a friend or beg for mercy, the story reveals these people aren’t as bad as Ellie once thought — that their motives are just as valid and complicated as her own.

    Ellie can’t change. Not because this is Greek tragedy. It really isn’t. I say that as a compliment! Storytelling has dramatically improved since Aristotle scribbled down the Poetics, and the writers begin the game with a handful of appealing threads about generational divides (made literal by the gap between those who lived for decades before the apocalypse and those who were just kids when the world changed) and the choice to build a family in a time of unknowable danger. These stories are the stories we need right now, and for a moment, it seems Ellie might just grow up and live a life that isn’t centered around heavy weaponry. But whenever The Last of Us Part 2 starts to be about something bigger, that thread is flatted by its relentless, suffocating violence.

    So no, Ellie can’t change. She can’t change because AAA games can’t change. Let’s say Ellie learns her lesson, that violence begets violence. That to save the world and herself, she must put down the gun. What would she even do? Literally, what would a AAA game even allow for her to do? AAA game design is built and marketed around killing. So I suppose Ellie would shift from killing humans to something more morally simple, like the zombie-like baddies that lurch about her world, which while less morally mucky, is no less predictable.

    Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

    Thirteen years ago, critics and designers imagined games would no longer have ludonarrative dissonance, that the stories video games want to tell would align with the actions they demand we commit. But if this is the result, then you know what, I’m cool with dissonance. I’ll take violent games that strive for fun and don’t pitch any greater meaning, rather than violent games that seek to justify their violence. I don’t need more stories asking me why I love to kill things in video games, because the answer is simple: It’s what publishers sell me. What I want most, and what The Last of Us Part 2 attempts to be in brief moments, are games without violence. Do the creators truly believe their story captures how people would behave, that we’re all a catastrophe away from forming tribal murder squads? Or do we keep getting stories like this because it’s what the video games, as we understand them, allow? Until we have an abundance of AAA games that don’t hinge on violence, we can’t know for certain.

    The Last of Us Part 2 suggests violence is inevitable. Sadly, that appears to be true in AAA video games.

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    The VR Game Launch Roundup: Super Retro Puzzle Adventures

    Welcome to another Friday roundup of the best virtual reality (VR) titles due for release over the next seven days. There’s quite an assortment in store especially if you’re a PlayStation VR owner who loves collecting physical editions of their games.

    WalkinVR – 2MW

    Ok so this isn’t technically a videogame rather an add-on for PC VR titles but VRFocus thought it was worth including this week. WalkinVR is a piece of software designed to help those with physical disabilities play VR experiences.

    • Supported platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality
    • Release date: 29th June

    Shooty Skies Overdrive – Mighty Games

    Some retro-inspired goodness from Australian studio Mighty Games, Shooty Skies Overdrive takes the original mobile title and gives it a VR makeover. With one hand control a plane to shoot down waves of enemies and with the other grab power-ups to cause even more destruction.

    • Supported platforms: Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift
    • Release date: 2nd July

    Iron Man VR – Camouflag

    The big VR launch of the week is one PlayStation VR fans have been awaiting for a little while now. Having suffered a number of delays, Camoflaj’s Iron Man VR needs minimal introduction. Jump in the famous armour of the Marvel character and fly around shooting down enemies; what more could you want?

    • Supported platforms: PlayStation VR
    • Release date: 3rd July

    Gun Club VR – The Binary Mill

    Part of Perp Games’ Summer Spectacular of physical PlayStation VR releases, Gun Club VR is a first-person shooter (FPS) focused on highly realistic weapons and gameplay mechanics, set in a shooting range.

    • Supported platforms: PlayStation VR (Physical copy)
    • Release date: 3rd July

    Down the Rabbit Hole – Cortopia Studio

    Previously released for PlayStation VR digitally at the beginning of May, Perp Games once again brings another title to retail locations, this time Cortopia Studios’ Down the Rabbit Hole. This magical adventure puts you as an unnamed girl who’s searching for her pet, stumbling upon Wonderland in the process.

    • Supported platforms: PlayStation VR (Physical copy)
    • Release date: 3rd July

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    Bigscreen’s Next Update Adds a Built-in Videoplayer

    Over the years Bigscreen has become one of the go-to virtual reality (VR) apps if you want to watch 2D or 3D film content. Today, the app will release a new update adding a free feature, a built-in videoplayer.

    Now, from the very outset, you’ve been able to watch videos on Bigscreen, originally by desktop screen sharing web browsers, YouTube, or Windows Media Player for example. Most recently that was expanded via Bigscreen movie offerings, with rentals or live film events.

    The new videoplayer adds a third option for users. The community has been asking for this as it provides a range of benefits thanks to native integration. Because the videoplayer allows you to watch content directly off a device it’s great for mobile VR users needing a quick way of viewing content.

    The videoplayer has a UI designed for easy VR navigation and features social elements like being able to sync a video with everyone in a room so long as they all have the video file on their device – Bigscreen doesn’t include any filesharing features. This works cross-platform across all supported headsets.

    The videoplayer supports multiple file formats and codecs as well as 3D movies, works offline – great when taking the Oculus Quest out and about – and can be used alongside Bigscreen’s other features like desktop screen sharing and multi-monitor capabilities.

    The Bigscreen VR is free to download, supporting a wide range of devices like HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go and Oculus Quest. As Bigscreen continues to enhance its feature set VRFocus will keep you updated on all the latest announcements.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=ub7loQ5sV7Q%3Fwmode%3Dtransparent%26rel%3D0%26feature%3Doembed
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