Falcon Age

Falcon Age looks very different, it’s a first-person falconeering and falcon-friendshipper where you and your falcon pal (palcon?) fight off the robo-nvaders seeking to exploit your planet. You can also dress up your falcon buddy,

Outerloop Games’ website says they’ve developed Falcon Age for virtual reality first, but it is playable on regular televisions as well. They’ve even gone to the trouble of adding a non-combat option to just spend time with your falcon friend.

Reviewers for IGN and Gamespot enjoyed Falcon Age. Vice’s (Waypoint, before Vice decided to destroy the good will that Waypoint had created) reviewer enjoyed Falcon Age less from the perspective of someone who wasn’t playing in VR.

Falcon Age is $20 and only available on the PS4 (and PSVR, optionally) for now.

Bethesda E3 2018 Showcase Press Event Notes

We’re onto our third event at E3 2018, Bethesda’s E3 Showcase. Here are my notes from their press event.

Continue reading “Bethesda E3 2018 Showcase Press Event Notes”

Ultra Expensive HTC Vive Pro Out Soon

It’s $1100 for a complete set with the lighthouses, controllers, and all, or $800 if you want to reuse an original Vive setup. You get higher resolution screens, a better headstrap, headphones. Kyle Orland and Sam Machkovech reviewed it for Ars:

Despite the improvements, though, the Vive Pro still includes some of the same basic design problems of the original. The eyepiece housing (which now allows for additional room for eyeglasses, toggled by an easy button press and slider) still ends up pressed up tightly against the front of your face, creating a thick seal that traps heat and puts significant pressure on the sinuses. Any decently long VR session threatens to turn your face into a sweaty, red mess that can lead to significant steam buildup on the lenses. Worse, the front-of-face foam padding feels decidedly non-Pro. HTC has been showing this off at press events with a custom leather face cushion, and for this price, we wish they’d offered the same option as a consumer default.

There’s nothing that sounds more appealing than turning into a sweaty red mess. The resolution bump is the best part of the Vive Pro, but is it really worth paying over twice the price of the base Vive if you’re starting from scratch? Read the rest of their review.

Vive Pro Announced at CES Without a Price & A Disgraceful Anniversary for Valve

HTC announced a Vive Pro with higher resolution goggles than their original SteamVR virtual reality headset, built-in headphones (they were previously available separately), a more comfortable strap, a second camera and microphone are now built into the headset, and an official wireless module that is sold separately.

The resolution is the biggest thing here. The first Vive was only 1080×1200 pixels for the display going to each eye. The Pro is 1440×1600 per-eye. This should help to eliminate some of the issues the original had with text and other details. HTC also promises that it’ll be easier to adjust the headset to suit your eyes.

I still feel like it’s wrong to announce a thing without a price or any dates for when it’ll be available, but there you go. Maybe they’re trying to get out ahead of an upcoming Oculus announcement. I’m glad that the Vive is still a going concern because I don’t want anything to do with Oculus after the Palmer Luckey debacle. It would be even better if this means that HTC will lower the price of the original Vive but they might just put the Pro at a higher one and be done with it for now.

HTC also has their own store for software called Viveport available with or without a subscription. It’s available inside the headset now, and the gimmick is that there may be previews available of the different experiences it offers.

I kind of get why HTC might want a separate storefront from Steam, developers aren’t always going to be eager to go through Valve’s process for every kind of software and Valve might not want a billion short VR experiences crapping up their money hog. As it is, HTC claims over 1000 pieces of software in their store. I don’t think anybody wants to visit it, but maybe the interactive demos in VR will be useful.

It’d be better if Valve lowered the barrier for software to get onto Steam while increasing the level of moderation for absolutely disgraceful shit like Dating Lessons, the VR software from some MRA shitbags who want to turn normal men into people who “won’t take no for an answer.” That garbage is still available for sale a year after I wrote about it.

The 2017 iMac Pro

Lost during my recent travel was Apple’s release of the iMac Pro, the “pro” version of the iMac that was announced at WWDC. The iMac Pro gets you higher performance and what may be many features of the promised-but-yet-to-be-updated-since-2013 Mac Pro, but with a glued-on high-resolution (5120×2880 P3 color gamut) screen and absolutely zero upgradability of internal components.

For an iPad or iPhone, that’s fine, glue whatever you need together to make the device as thin and light as it can get. It’d be great if you could upgrade the storage in those, and if sometimes they would optimize for battery life over thinness, but here we are looking at a different beast. Despite the Xeon-based workstation hardware you get inside an iMac Pro, with modern desktops you really must be able to, at a minimum, upgrade the graphics processor in order to maintain performance for the lifespan of these devices

I don’t doubt that there are some people or businesses that would appreciate this design of high-performance in a completely sealed design computer, but I find some serious flaws in one of Apple’s proposed use-cases: the idea that this is for virtual reality developers.

Why would anyone deploy a VR app on a platform where the $5,000 iMac Pro is the only device that can support the final product? Sure you could do your work on the iMac Pro and cross-compile for Windows, but that seems like a bad idea if your main development computer isn’t also a device you can test for your primary distribution platform. This is the worst example of the inaccessibility of virtual reality today. Here’s a $5,000 computer and then you have to buy a $600 VR HMD to get started with using or playing VR. When a future VR headset is released any iMac Pro VR developers and users will either have to buy an external GPU or replace the entire computer. Anyone on a desktop tower using Windows can just upgrade their graphics card.

Of course if you’re working in video or audio production, or another field that requires high-end computation, this could be a good workstation for that. However, you have to also believe that Apple will continue to support the “pro” desktop platform that they have neglected for almost a decade with infrequent (Mac Pro) or half-assed (Mac Mini) updates.

This computer has so many caveats and despite the fact that the starting price is actually competitive with other similarly outfitted workstation computers that price is chief among the reasons why I don’t find it very appealing. Maybe the Mac Pro will actually ship next year and be truly modular to replace the Mac Mini as well as the 2013 “trash can” Mac Pro. 

I still dream of a modular desktop Mac that can do all these things and span a wider range of prices to include regular desktop parts (and prices) in addition to scaling up to workstation performance and price, without the glued-on screen. It’ll never happen, and that’s why even though I’m still writing this on my late 2013 MacBook Pro, I built a Windows desktop machine last year.