Archive: Oct 2017

We play the scariest video games so you don’t have to!

Nothing gets you into the mood for Halloween like a creepy game. We asked the studio for their scariest and most enjoyable horror games to help get you into the spirit of Halloween.

ANATOMY

Niall contributed ANATOMY by Kitty Horror, an indie gem released this summer. The objective behind this horror game is to explore a suburban house, collect cassette tapes and enjoy a healthy dose of creepiness. ANATOMY offers multiple endings to your gameplay giving you endless outcomes to play through.

Scariness level – Finding a severed head in the oven. And when you scream, it winks at you.

ANATOMY by Kitty Horror

Alan Wake

Emily’s choice was the brilliant Alan Wake. Not only is this a creepy game, it is arguably the benchmark for narrative-driven games. With an episodic structure and frequent cliffhangers, Alan Wake feels akin to a TV thriller – the kind you end up binge-watching until the early hours. It’s a lesson in how to tell an interactive story, something that is especially important as major media organisations start to question the storytelling possibilities offered by virtual reality.

Scariness level – Peeling away wallpaper to find the word ‘Boo’ written on the bare wall.

Alan Wake

Fatal Frame

A PS2 gem that many of us had overlooked was Stephen Chan’s choice. Fatal Frame, a survival horror video game series that is considered by some to be the scariest game ever made was part of the rash of scary Japanese-made games from the early 2000s.

Scariness level – As perilous as sandpaper underpants.

Fatal Frame

Slender

Ah, Slender. We went through a phase of playing this, if only to laugh at one another’s reactions. If you don’t fancy playing it for yourself, and you can online, there are plenty of videos of others doing so. Phil is the sadist with the suggestion.

Scariness level – You open your curtains to find somebody standing behind them. They explode.

Slender

Alien Isolation

What could be more horrible than being dropped into an Alien-infested vessel with no weapons? Mike seems quite happy with that. As if the first-person sneaking around wasn’t scary enough, there are some folk who are determined to make the fear even more inescapable by porting it into virtual reality. Cripes.

Scariness level – A moth in your bathroom – and that moth is six feet tall peeking out from behind the shower curtain.

Alien Isolation

The Last of Us

Full of surprises and never expected, like a gripping film, Ben described it as a game that hooks you into the story, not just the gameplay. Classed as a horror adventure, it feels like even more and is a game you just have to finish.

Scariness level – A Victorian photograph that whispers “I’m going to kill you to bits” whenever you take a sip of your tea.

The Last of Us

OC4 – The fourth Oculus Connect event, held in Silicon Valley.

Two weeks ago saw the fourth edition of the Oculus Connect event for the Facebook-owned virtual reality company. It’s here that Oculus announces its latest products and developments that for 2017 included a stand-alone headset that required neither a PC to connect to or a phone to power it. Is this the biggest news to come from the world of virtual reality since the original Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign?

At the previous Oculus Connect event we were there to see the latest developments first hand. Held in San Jose, it attracts the cream of the VR development community and press to hear a series of keynotes and panels from the Oculus hierarchy and those using the platform. However, this time around we are back home in Liverpool rather than sunning it up in Silicon Valley. Ho hum.

The biggest news from OC4 (yes, Oculus Connect has spawned its own snappy acronym already) has to be the first standalone headset from Oculus. Launching in 2018 while sporting the very 2016-sounding name of Oculus Go, this is an Android-powered headset that allows the VR user to escape the clutches of the PC and to forget about slotting their phone into a fragile headset.

So what’s the Oculus Go like? Very much like a Samsung Gear VR. In fact, it’s so very much like a Samsung Gear VR that it features cross-compatibility with Gear VR content. Although there are only a handful of standout titles for Samsung’s mobile VR platform, it’s still a decent selection to start with.

As for the design, it’s so sleek and clean – it almost looks unfinished! There’s even speakers in there, but you will struggle to spot them. Like Google’s Daydream, it’s a breathable cotton material – it’s certainly a compelling piece of kit.

For developers it allows us an extra opportunity to publish a title to more than one platform with little or no extra effort required. There are already over five million Gear VR headsets out in the wild, putting the platform ahead of the Nintendo Switch in this regard. For now.

However, it still remains to be seen just how successful this mid-level VR will be – and there’s the chance that Oculus have already made the Go obsolete before the fourth Oculus Connect event had concluded. Why? Because they unveiled a new version of their Santa Cruz prototype – almost the same as the Oculus Go, but boasting built in cameras. This ‘inside-out’ tracking allows the users movements to be tracked relative to their environment. Think of the external sensors the Rift or HTC’s Vive uses except mounted to the headset. This will give the Santa Cruz a crucial advantage over the Go and may cause many users to hold fire on purchasing the latter when it goes on sale in 2018 for around $200.

Aside from that there were some nifty new UI developments and a new bundle price for the Oculus Rift. But come on, where are the innovative pricing strategies? If Volvo can let me subscribe instead of owning a car why can’t we offer the expensive PC and headset combination in a way that removes the scary large payments? If you could rent a £1000 VCR in 1982 then you should be able to do the same with VR kit today! Maybe that will come at OC5?

As far as content is concerned Facebook Spaces is one you can be excited to play, vivid virtual experiences with your friends from across the country – pre packed Google Earth like experiences on stunning beaches for you to be amazed at.

With the Go VR experience you’re not getting essentially a cardboard or plastic box smart phone holder, you are getting a dedicated VR device with built in speakers to fully immerse you into your virtual experience. Without needing a powerful VR ready PC the Oculus Go currently offers the best medium to high end VR that doesn’t cost over the odds.

It’s so sleek and clean – it almost looks unfinished! There’s even speakers in there, but you will struggle to spot them. Like Google’s Daydream, it’s a breathable cotton material – it’s certainly a compelling piece of kit.

The Oculus Go VR packs a powerful punch, boasting a resolution of 2560 x 1440 px which is equal to Quad High Definition (QHD) of super screens. These powerful vr headset lenses remove the common screen door effect, an eye effect that reveals small imperfections between separate pixels when viewing virtual content.

Overall I think Oculus Go VR is a great prospect for the VR industry, many consumers find that the headsets with the worthwhile gaming content are too expensive. At an affordable price point that offers more than Gear VR and close to the Oculus Rift for just $199. Impressively the VR kit is fitted with a new optical lense design and offers the same field of view as the higher end Oculus Rift headset – it’s also been quoted as having better definition than a OLED screen.

We’re hiring! Unity developer needed to help make AR and VR magic!

The team at Draw & Code are looking for a new recruit to help us create the next great AR/VR games and interactive experiences. This is your chance to work with an ambitious studio that is gaining a global reputation in the burgeoning immersive tech sector.

We are looking for a Unity Developer to join our team of visionaries, working on the latest tech in the heart of Liverpool. As one of fifteen creative problem solvers, you will need to be passionate, hardworking and fascinated by the potential of emerging technologies and the creation of cutting-edge immersive experiences.

With experience in the gaming industry, preferably on a commercial level, you will be both capable and excited to tackle cutting edge R&D work, using software platforms such as Unity and Vuforia, alongside being able to work as part of a team, in an efficient and productive way.

As a unity developer at Draw & Code, you will be able to work in a responsible and agile way, managing your workload effectively. You will be committed to keeping your skills, knowledge and understanding of the field up to date.

Required:
3-5 years commercial experience in developing games and interactive technology as part of a team.
Good experience utilising the Unity 3D game engine.
Experience designing and implementing a range of game styles (multiplayer, puzzle, strategy, etc).
Strong C#/.NET knowledge in an object-oriented environment.
Good level of education, equivalent to at least degree level in a relevant subject such as software development, game development or computer science.
Knowledge of Microsoft Visual Studio / MonoDevelop.
Experience with the application of software design patterns.
Awareness of software pipeline efficiencies.
Good understanding of the importance of source control practices and issue tracking systems.

Desirable:
Experience with Vuforia or other AR platforms.
Assist in a process of training other developers in the learning of the unity game engine.
Ability to follow a self-determined project plan to deliver software in a timely manner.
3D / 2D game asset design experience desirable but not a requirement.

If you think you have the relevant skills and experience for this role please email your CV to annie[email protected] No recruiters or recruitment agencies please. Read more about previous projects Draw & Code have worked on here.

Stop that iPhone X order – Google’s Pixel 2 takes AR to the next level

Another week, another new smartphone from a Silicon Valley giant – it’s the turn of Google to reveal new versions of their acclaimed Pixel phone. And, like Apple’s recent reveal of the iPhone X and its cheaper siblings, the Pixel 2 is designed with augmented reality in mind, which makes it a Draw & Code kinda phone.

It was around a year ago that three of the team here kicked their iPhone habit and shacked up with Google. The original Pixel was sold on the virtual reality ticket; Google’s Daydream headset and development suite formed part of the appeal of switching from Cupertino’s dependable silicon slabs to Mountain View’s ambitious new device. In reality, Daydream VR was good but not the best, it turned out that the big appeal of the Pixel was its sophisticated camera. For years Android had lagged behind Apple on the photography front, but the Pixel boasted some of the richest phone photos yet seen thanks to an intelligent system that layered multiple images into one shot.

Google-ARCore-App

For the Pixel 2 and its big brother the Pixel 2 XL, the camera is still part of the attraction. However, things have moved on considerably and the Pixel is now bolstered with the ability to 3D scan its environment from a single lens. This should enable far more compelling and accurate augmented reality experiences, drawing on Google’s experience with Project Tango – the mobile 3D scanning technology that was drip fed to a primarily developer-focused audience in recent years.

For a while it’s been clear where Google have been heading with AR. It was during the 2014 AWE (Augmented World Expo) in Santa Clara that the Draw & Code crew had their first sneak-peak of Google’s mobile AR efforts – and it was entirely by accident. Our eagle-eyed tech director spotted a chap on a phone that appeared to have a very peculiar camera set up that he suspected was a 3D scanner of sorts. After some persuading, the phone’s keeper revealed it was an early augmented reality prototype at a time when Google had yet to show their hand at either AR or, indeed, building smartphones. It was clear something was brewing and it would be big. Like other immersive tech studios, we got our hands on Google’s Project Tango prototypes when they were distributed to developers, but we never saw another phone like the one spotted in a bar in Silicon Valley – until Pixel 2 that is.

With the release of Apple’s ARKit development tools prompting Google to get a move on and release their repost – ARCore. Having worked with both, it looks like ARCore has more potential in its current version according to our dev team, so this bodes well for some exciting apps that are tailored to the Pixel 2’s unique camera set-up.

Google-Pixel-Buds-980x556

As with all top-of-the-line smartphones, there are multiple features that are worth talking about on the Pixel 2. We haven’t even touched upon the headline-grabbing Pixel Buds headphones that incorporate Google Translate, an innovation that could have world-changing potential. The fact that the Pixel 2 boasts an OLED screen on a phone that undercuts its immediate rivals on price is something to be delighted about too. And the limitless cloud backup feature for those who buy the phone before 2020 is a boon. The mildly updated Google Daydream VR headset looks like a logical evolution of last year’s kit with better cooling for the phone and a slightly wider field of view – two of the key issues that mobile VR needs to address.

All in all, it’s hard to justify an iPhone X until we get to try the Pixel 2. And, more importantly for a company like Draw & Code, this is another massive step for taking augmented reality into the mainstream. Bring it on!