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Half-Life: Alyx is Going on Sale for 40% Off For the First Time Since Being Released

Jesse Hoyt

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In 2020, Valve released a game that changed virtual reality forever. Half-Life: Alyx was the next step in the evolutionary lineup for VR gaming. This was also the first major Half-Life game that was released since 2007 with Half-Life 2: Episode 2. The release of Half-Life: Alyx was a major hallmark since Valve is known for making games that serve as pioneers for new technology. The studio apparently saw virtual reality in the next step of gaming, so they began work on Half-Life: Alyx. It was first announced on November 21st, 2019 and the gaming community went absolutely wild. Gamers were going crazy with speculation and anticipation. Finally, we could have a polished, story-driven, Triple-A, VR game. The upcoming release became all the more precious to gamers as the Coronavirus pandemic swept the nation with lockdowns, social isolation, and quarantines. Everyone needed something to take their minds off of the scary things happening around them and Half-Life: Alyx was one of the ways the VR community coped. 

The short story is that Valve delivered, on a whole new level in fact. Alyx became the undisputed most popular VR title of all time with a concurrent player count of 16,500 at its peak. Alyx was a system seller too. All modes of VR that could run it were completely sold out on the day of release.  It wasn’t just a good game by nature of its name either. The dev team managed to take storytelling VR to unprecedented heights with engaging characters and incredibly immersive environments. The dread and fear of City 17 were brought to life with stunning graphics and optimization as well as horrifying creatures like headcrabs that jump on your face. VR just brings another player of depth to the gameplay. Reaching out to physically swat away enemies or using the gravity gloves to flick items up to you isn’t really something you can capture on a flat screen. Valve set the industry standard with Alyx with a story that is emotionally gripping, horrifying, and heartfelt all in one package. It had a profound impact on the VR industry and gamers as a whole. It proved that VR isn’t dead and it’s not going anywhere in the coming future, it’s just going through some growing pains right now. Other VR titles have been hot on the heels and look extremely promising like VAIL and Sniper Elite VR.

Now for the first time in its time on the Steam store, Half-Life: Alyx is receiving quite a 40% off sale. On its release, Alyx cost the industry standard of $59.99, but until March 31st, 2021, you can pick it up at 40% off for only $35.99. This is an exceptional deal for such a high-quality and polished game. We’re not likely to see this type of deal again for a while, so grab it up if you can and enjoy the incredible story and boatloads of community content.

After turning away from professional cooking, I refocused my efforts on something I love: writing. I can’t get enough of it. Copywriting, content writing, novels? Count me in. I have quite an array of writing interests, but right now I’m loving gaming and virtual reality, and I can’t wait to do more.

AR/VR

Everything You Need to Know About the New Vive Focus 3

Jesse Hoyt

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Virtual reality superstar Vive has returned once again with some brand new headsets to show off to the world, but they weren’t exactly what everyone was expecting. Both of the full headset kits were revealed to be more than $1000 dollars with the exception of the Vive Pro 2 costing $799 by itself. These headsets don’t seem to broaden accessibility for most people and are more tailored to enterprises and businesses like VR arcades, but I’m here to give the Vive Focus 3 a fair shake. Let’s break this headset down.

The All-in-One Big Dog: Vive Focus 3

The Focus 3 seems to be the star of the show for HTC. It’s nothing to scoff at either. It’s an all-in-one VR headset with upgraded graphics capabilities, comfort options, and new spatial audio, but it does come with a rather hefty price tag of $1,300.

Comfort

Vive has a seemingly heavy focus on comfort that includes an “ultra-wide range IPD adjustment.”  These adjustments will be between 57mm and 72mm and will be done manually (thankfully) with a dial located on the bottom side of the headset.

The Focus 3 includes a very welcomed internal cooling system you can fog up your screens while you sweat it out in Beat Saber or Until You Fall. From the pictures on Vive’s website, it looks to be a small fan right in the front panel. There’s also a “thermal-optimized battery” to assist in keeping things cool for particularly long sessions.

Since it’s made for high-volume showrooms and VR arcades they’ve added in a quick-release button that looks like kind of like any other button we’ve seen on different headsets. As we move a little further forward on the headset, we’ll reach magnetically attached cushions on the back and front of the system. They’re extremely easy to remove and are likely to play a big part in keeping VR sanitary among multiple players. Vive says the new face cushioning is extremely accommodating with different face shapes and even designed to be easily wearable for people with glasses! 

They also claim the headset is well balanced by making use of a counterweight in the back of the headset to increase comfort for extended periods of use.

The controllers have also been upgraded from the wand-style many are used to from the original HTC Vive. They look similar to PlayStation’s new VR controllers and the Oculus touch controllers (which are pretty comfortable to me). They will indeed have touch features as well as a 15-hour battery life and USB charging support.

The best part? It’s a self-contained all-in-one VR headset meaning no wires or sensors to tangle you up anymore.

Graphics and Sound

Graphics are going to pretty sharp with 5k resolution screens. They’ve also made the FOV wider to simulate the real world better. It’ll be up to 120 degrees wide, the same as the human eye. 

The Focus 3 will be coming with a 90hz refresh rate similar to other headsets that Vive has done.

The Focus 3 is coming equipped with new 3D spatial sound which can only enhance the user’s immersion. 

Is the Focus 3 Designed for the Average Consumer?

The short answer is: not really. It’s very obviously a commercial product designed with business and practical application in mind. It’s certainly seeming like it’s still going to be excellent although out of reach for most consumers. Hopefully, Vive has something more consumer-friendly on the horizon.

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AR/VR

Facebook Purchases Onward Developer Downpour Interactive

Jesse Hoyt

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Facebook is once again expanding its empire by purchasing Downpour Interactive, the developer of fan-favorite virtual reality shooter Onward. This isn’t a new move for Facebook either. They’ve rapidly been expanding their brand starting with Instagram in 2012 for a whopping $1,000,000,000. Most recently they acquired one of the biggest brands in virtual reality, Oculus. They’ve been dominating the VR market ever since, especially with huge steps with all-in-one VR headsets like the Quest and wildly popular Quest 2.

What Does This Mean for Onward?

Fans don’t need to worry just yet. Facebook will be continuing support for the game across all platforms, Steam included. Onward has become one of the most popular titles on Quest since its port and release. It doesn’t seem likely that Facebook will be abandoning the game anytime soon seeing as it’s a big moneymaker for their platform.  They’ve promised to continue support and development for the realistic military shooter. Whether or not the oversight is going to be overbearing is still uncertain. Apparently, there are some “exciting plans for future Onward updates and future projects,” which is certainly likely seeing the success the company has had with its vast resources. They’ve even managed to get some big shot names on their platform like the upcoming Resident Evil 4 port for Quest 2. According to Downpour Interactive’s CEO, Dante Buckley, this acquisition will allow the studio to dump resources into the game for a number of improvements that will create an all-around better game for the player.

Who Else Has Facebook Bought?

Downpour Interactive isn’t the first major studio to be bought by Facebook either. They’ve purchased three other studios with massively popular games. They bought Beat Games, the developers of the wildly popular rhythm game Beat Saber. Facebook also acquired Ready at Dawn, creators of Lone Echo, and Sanzaru Games, the minds behind Asgard’s Wrath. It’s almost certain that Facebook is buying these developers to control the VR market and expand its influence in the community. It’s very possible that we’ll see Facebook be one of the biggest competitors not only in headsets but in VR games too. They’re already a massive force when it comes to social media and now they’re making their way into gaming too.

What Does This Mean For Virtual Reality

The purchase of Downpour Interactive is only a small piece of the puzzle but is still vitally important. With the purchase of Oculus and the three other gaming studios, we can see that Facebook is here to stay, and not just to be in the game, but to dominate it. It’s already seen a ton of success with the launch of the Quest 2, despite the privacy issues consumers were concerned about. They’ve made VR accessible and affordable. We’re only going to see Facebook grow as one of the biggest names in VR. The only question is whether or not the privacy tradeoff is worth it.

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AR/VR

Bandai Namco and HTC to Bring Anime Experiences to Virtual Reality

Jesse Hoyt

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Anime has become a wildly popular medium all across the world in the past 20 years. We’ve had hundreds of series, a ton of movies, and quite a few anime video games. Its popularity isn’t going anywhere soon either, especially with phenomenal series like Demon Slayer, My Hero Academia, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The world has also seen some top-notch video games as well like Persona 5 and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, even cult classics like Doki-Doki Literature Club. Anime is ever-growing in popularity, so it makes sense that one of the next steps is to take anime to virtual reality. HTC Vive and Bandai Namco are the ones taking that next step. They’re working together to bring anime experiences to VR. 

This partnership will bring traditional anime experiences and single-player games to consumers everywhere. Bandai Namco Pictures will be bringing its anime collection to Viveport, HTC’s digital storefront. It’s not clear which specific series will be making the jump, but fans are hoping for VR adaptations like Gin Tama and Battle Spirits. Ports won’t be the only thing coming to VR though. We’re sure to receive some new anime experiences tailored for virtual reality. 

This content is said to be hitting Viveport in the next few months according to Joseph Lin, Viveport’s President who said: “The future of virtual reality is about delivering experiences and exploring infinite possibilities to be realized. We are honored to become BN Pictures’ first VR partner. Through this collaboration, we can bring animation content to a higher level and push the frontiers to unlock the full potential of virtual reality. In the next few months, anime content will be available on Viveport and more virtual experiences will be delivered to our audience. Please stay tuned – more exciting things are on the way!”

It’s looking like these won’t necessarily be solo experiences either. Bandai Namco Pictures is looking to make it so you can join your friends and take in the scenery together. The extent of interactivity is still unknown, but it sounds like we’ll be able to dive into these worlds and actually be a part of them rather than being in a virtual movie theater watching. Bandai Namco and HTC are both getting a pretty sweet deal out of the partnership with HTC drawing more attention to Viveport and BN diversifying its content. Fans, of course, are getting the best part of the deal: new content and a new way to experience anime in VR. 

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