Wil Wheaton Not A Fan of Facebook’s Oculus Acquisition

It used to be the magic of Hollywood special effects that transported actors like Wil Wheaton to other lands when they entered the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation. But video game technology is catching up to science fiction. Wheaton, who’s a big video game — and tabletop game — fan, talks about the near future of holodecks in your home and explains why he’s not a fan of Oculus Rift’s decision to join Facebook in this exclusive [a]list daily interview.

The big theme at the Game Developers Conference was virtual reality. One company even touted a holodeck for your home. Having worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation, what are your thoughts on yet another science fiction technology becoming a reality?

It’s something that everyone has wanted as far back as the Golden Age of science fiction in the early 20th Century — the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a virtual world that brings our imagination quite literally to life. It doesn’t surprise me at all that as computing power has increased and hardware costs have decreased, that more and more people have gone to develop those things and make those dreams a reality. I’m not surprised that there are comparisons to the holodeck. Star Trek is very forward-thinking and has actually inspired a ton of technology from the MRI to the flip phone, so those comparisons are really natural. Even though I didn’t have anything to do with creating the holodeck that’s part of the Star Trek canon, it’s pretty cool to know that this imagined thing is potentially finding its way into reality.

What impact do you feel Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift will have on the future of VR?

For what it’s worth, I’m super disappointed that Oculus sold to Facebook. I really liked that the Oculus devs were making on a passion project and they were making something that a lot of people were really excited about and really believed in and the opportunity for them was limitless. The reality is Facebook is not that. Facebook is not a bunch of passionate idealists working to create something really great. Facebook’s an advertising and data mining company. It’s looking more and more like this was a defensive acquisition, which is a super bummer. But maybe we could all be proved wrong. Maybe Facebook’s going to completely get out of the way and let these guys do what they were already doing, and just let them be independent developers under that big Facebook umbrella. But if you look at all of Facebook’s acquisitions and the things that they’ve done, that probably isn’t the way it’s going to go.

When you look at Sony’s Project Morpheus and the Virtuix Omni and what Seebright and Sulon Technologies are doing with virtual reality, it looks like we’re getting closer to the Oasis from the book, Ready Player One, which you did the audio book reading for.

It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when something like the Oasis is real. You have seen people working really hard to build virtual worlds like Second Life and all of the dozens that have come and gone over the last decade or so. When you can put people in them, it creates a really fantastic opportunity to have an entire new world exist. It’s going to be great for people with disabilities and it’s going to be really wonderful for creating an environment where people can really feel like they are together, regardless of where they are in the physical world. It’s going to be fun to go in there and participate in a version of Tabletop gaming, but maybe we’re actually dropping ourselves into virtual power armor and becoming Space Marines or we’re playing Battle Lore and we’re becoming spellcasters and actually seeing those things that have really only existed in our imagination, existing in a way that feels much more real. For so long, so much of science fiction has been dystopian, and with good reason, but I do think it is cool that there is the possibility for a world to exist — even if it’s only virtual — where there’s these limitless opportunities for all kinds of people.

At the same time, as more and more people broadcast on YouTube, it becomes more challenging to find content through that. What role has your success in Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory played in finding an audience out there for TableTop?

I’m not really sure what the correlation is between the work I do on big mainstream programs like Big Bang Theory and the audience that comes to TableTop. Even before I was doing this recurring role on Big Bang Theory people were really coming to see the things that we did on Geek & Sundry. Those audiences kind of parallel each other and occasionally overlap. Maybe somebody sees me on Big Bang Theory or they see me on Leverage or Eureka and then look me up on the Internet and see links to my blog and TableTop stuff, but that’s honestly not something I spend a lot of time thinking about.

How easy is it to get celebrities to come and play board games with you?

We have some unique challenges. We’re a little show and for the number of episodes we make and the quality of our production we’re actually a pretty low budget show. So we have a lot of shooting constraints. Primarily, we shoot 10 episodes in five days and because of that we have to build this really complicated logic puzzle, where we match up players with games that are appropriate to their experience level and then we have to get three players for that game plus me. Then we have to figure out a time when all three of those players can play, whether they’re going to be in the morning episode or the afternoon episode. And then we have to be prepared for them to be maybe they have to drop out at the last minute because an acting job comes up. But even with all of those constraints and all of those challenges, it has always been pretty easy to get people to come and play on the show. They think it’s a really cool idea.

Welcome To The New Chicago

While some have complained about the graphical fidelity of Watch_Dogs in the most recent trailers, Ubisoft is here to push back against those impressions. Starting out with scenes of the city that look like a virtual recreation of The Wire, it moves to high tech portions of Chicago and show how alive Chicago is in Watch_Dogs.


Turtles Come Out Of Their Shells


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a cultural force that have remained popular for decades, thanks in part to continued revisions of the core characters in different media. This movie is the latest incarnation of the turtles, and it appears to have all the freewheeling action and humor that the series is generally known for.


‘Plants Vs. Zombies’ In The Future!

The latest update for Plants vs. Zombies 2 has new stuff like a futuristic world map, wacky sci-fi zombie types and plants like the Laser Bean. This is all part of PopCap’s plan to regularly release content for the game, not unlike what Rovio has done with Angry Birds.


Aussie Builders Yell Empowering Statements

This amusing ad involved actors and not actual construction workers, but the women on the street were members of the public that took a shine to the experiment. While one could question of the underlying implications of the ad (do men have to be hungry to be polite ) the message is clearly intended to be lighthearted and the intentions are clearly good.

Source: AdWeek.com


Japan’s Smartphone Gaming Booms

The Japanese smartphone market has managed to eclipse sales expectations.

CyberZ, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Internet team CyberAgent, has reported that the Japanese market for smartphones has increased quite a bit, and is showing even more signs of growth in 2014.

The report states that the market is worth an estimated 546.8 billion yen, or $5.4 billion in U.S. dollars. That’s a growth of over 178 percent since 2012, when smartphone games represented about 30 percent of game revenues in Japan.

As a result, the industry has now reached roughly 50 percent of the Japanese gaming industry overall, equalling the revenue from all console games combined. That’s a stunning achievement in the home country of the game console, and it’s easy to see why investors are pressing Nintendo to enter that market somehow.

This growth is not done yet either, as CyberZ believes that the market will grow even larger this year, to an estimated $6.5 billion.

Source: Serkan Toto

Nvidia Shield Price Cut

In an attempt to draw in even more players to its Android-powered handheld console, Nvidia has dropped the price on its Shield gaming system to make it more affordable. The system is currently being offered at $199 through Nvidia’s store, though no time frame was given on how long this deal will last.

Initially released last year for $299, the system has added GameStream functionality and several UI improvements since that introduction. Now, at $199, it seems too good to pass up. Nvidia has not released any sales figures for the handheld device. A lower price will certainly help convince buyers to give it a try, though.

The system is also $199 at other retailers, including Best Buy, GameStop and Newegg.

Source: VentureBeat

Philips Unveils Android-Powered 4K TVs

Google TV is being phased out as a brand by Google, but beginning to fade out, another competitor is about to step up — prepare for Android-based TV. Philips has recently announced a new Ultra HD (4K) model television that will use Google’s Android operating system when it launches in the second quarter of this year, as well as standard HD models that are Android-powered.

Available in 48 and 55-inch 1080p HD TVs as well as 44 inch 4K TV, these televisions will have access to the Google Play store, where apps like Netflix, YouTube and others can be installed with ease. For good measure, widgets will also offer live update information, and game controller support will be added as well.

Perhaps most important of all, games are seen as a key part of the experience. Philips has built in support for Bluetooth controllers, and the service filters out games that aren’t playable without a touchscreen. The Philips controller includes a full QWERTY keyboard and a microphone for voice commands, and the system also handles gestures as the video illustrates.

There’s no word yet on how much the TV’s will run, but more information should be unveiled soon. We’ll probaby be seeing more Android-powered TVs from other manufacturers, too, and games will certainly be a key part of everyone’s strategy.

Source: TechCrunch

Newegg Launches GameCrate Site

Those looking for an authoritative voice in the video game industry now have a new place to turn – Newegg. The tech retailer must think that its retail efforts and customer community will be enhanced by some news, reviews and more info about games.

Newegg recently launched a new site called GameCrate, which serves as home to news, reviews and features related around the industry. The site is now live and can be found here. And yes, those are crates the site is using as its image, since crates “have a long and proud history in gaming” according to GameCrate.

A representative for GameCrate stated that the site is run by Newegg staff, but more freelance writers would be added to the team to build a “balanced, objective editorial staff.”

We certainly wish the team the best of luck with the new site.

Source: Game Politics

Microsoft Discounting Xbox One Games

In an effort to increase Xbox One sales – and show just how diverse the system’s game library is – Microsoft has initiated a special sale for some different games for the system at its Microsoft Store locations.

The titles vary, and are priced anywhere from $25 to $50. These include such popular favorites as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, among others. Perhaps the best deal of the bunch is Ghosts, which goes for $25 – a phenomenal deal for a popular shooter.

The sale is only going on for a limited time, so interested buyers may want to head over and clean up.

Source: Dualshockers