Uncharted and 3D Audio

PS5 3D audio is a game-changer in Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection by Adam Vjestica for TechRadar

When you’re clambering across the face of a cliff, hundreds of meters above the ground, you can distinctly hear the sea thrashing violently below you. Move through the lush flora of India’s Western Ghats, and bugs will buzz past your ears, almost making you instinctually swat them away. Fire a gun, and you’ll hear the shots reverberating from the other side of the canyon.

But it’s not just firefights and the games’ death-defying moments that benefit from 3D audio. It can also be surprisingly subtle. For example, the auction scene in Uncharted 4 sounds noticeably different from how I remember it. The auctioneer’s voice echoes around the marble halls, which makes it feel as though you’re standing directly alongside Nate, Sully, and Sam as the bidding begins.

The games’ stealth sections, which tend to be the weakest parts of any Uncharted game, are far easier to navigate, too, as 3D audio helps you determine where an enemy is before you accidentally expose your position.

Speaking of Uncharted and immersion, it sounds like the implementation of the PS5’s 3D audio in the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection is top notch. The 3D audio on PS5 can go beyond immersion and become a gameplay feature. While the PS4 Uncharted games may have been designed with that console’s own 3D audio capabilities in mind, the future of PlayStation Studios games designed from the ground up for PS5 is extremely bright.

The Haptics of Uncharted

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection and the art of the remaster with Naughty Dog’s experts by Rachel Weber for GamesRadar

“The boat in the opening of the game was the very first thing people experienced so we were like, ‘OK is a big deal, we want to make sure that this feels good,'” says [Kurt] Margenau.

“We know where the body of the boat is scraping against the water, so we’re actually modeling that in stereo. When the boat turns to the right, you’ll not only feel that on the right side of the controller but also through two other layers of feedback. There’s a g-force meter, so any impact to the boat is being reflected on a pulse, which is based on the physics of what’s happening. And there’s a ‘propeller chop value’ in the simulation of the boat, which is like the propeller getting out of the water and skipping; we have a special haptic just for that. All these layers of those things are all running at once.”

I haven’t bought the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection yet, but man oh man, the stuff I am reading that they did for the remaster has me beyond jazzed to replay these games on PS5. They modeled the boat’s propeller movement for Nate’s sake! The DualSense is a real selling point for me. I can only imagine the impact the haptics will have in PS VR2.

“We had to build a new pipeline to author them because it’s such a higher fidelity haptic experience than the old controller rumble. So we had to think about it in a different way and involve audio programmers, because the fidelity of the haptics is so high that it’s an audio signal that we’re sending to the controller,” says Margenau, with the saintly patience of a man explaining a very technical system to a total layperson. “So when you get shot, you can feel it only on the side of the controller where you got shot.

It’s fascinating to think of haptic feedback being sent as an audio signal to the controller. You could think of it like the vibration creating different frequencies, like a song, but the sensation creates texture instead of a tune. Neat to see this applied to remastering a PS4 game.

This implementation actually reminded me of a Twitter thread that Kurt Margenau wrote back when The Last of Us Part II received a PS5 patch. I found the thread and wouldn’t you know, sound was mentioned.

As many of you are jumping back into TLOU2 on PS5, you may notice the haptics feel better. This is actually thanks to a firmware update to the DualSense controller back in April. THREAD:

A few months ago, I got to give feedback to the Sony DualSense team to help improve certain timing, intensity, and “texture” of haptics when in backwards compatibility (BC) mode to closer achieve the feeling we authored for the original DualShock 4 for our games.

Which is pretty wild considering the physical mechanisms for achieving the haptics in the two controllers is quite different. How can a backwards compatibility mode even work in the first place?

The DS4 has two different-sized rotating weights inside, and the DualSense has two weights that move forward and back and can express frequency and amplitude at extremely high fidelity and low latency (almost like a speaker).

So the controller firmware in the DualSense has to receive the “old” signals that are meant to spin up a motor (which has much higher latency), and emulate the resulting FEELING in the controller using a completely different mechanical method.

This includes accounting for all the timing differences in the authored rumble that’s built-in when designing for the DS4, and emulating the inherent variation and “rumbly” feeling that comes with a rotating motor.

This is all done inside the controller without the game code changing at all.

So hat’s off to @toshimasa_aoki and the entire DualSense team for making this incredible controller in the first place, and to the firmware team that works so hard to create and improve features like BC mode!

The DualSense controller’s weights moving forward and back and frequency and amplitude must be a part of the secret sauce that creates the texture PS5 games can create. According to iFixIt, the DualSense uses a voice coil actuator to make the haptic magic happen. The power of magnets moving forward and back inside of a coil.

Imagine what Naughty Dog and the rest of PlayStation Studios will do with PS5 games developed from the ground up.

Inside Google’s Plan to Salvage Its Stadia Gaming Service – Business Insider

Inside Google’s Plan to Salvage Its Stadia Gaming Service by Hugh Langley for Business Insider (subscription required); Apple News+ link

When Google announced last year that it was shutting down its internal gaming studios, it was seen as a blow to the company’s big bet on video games. Google, whose Stadia cloud service was barely more than a year old, said it would instead focus on publishing games from existing developers on the platform and explore other ways to bring Stadia’s technology to partners.

Since then, the company has shifted the focus of its Stadia division largely to securing white-label deals with partners that include Peloton, Capcom, and Bungie, according to people familiar with the plans.

Google is trying to salvage the underlying technology, which is capable of broadcasting high-definition games over the cloud with low latency, shopping the technology to partners under a new name: Google Stream.

Yours truly, last year:

Google’s own studio didn’t even last two years.

Google hired former Head of Sony Santa Monica, Shannon Studstill, not even one year ago.

This is, unfortunately, not surprising. The clock is ticking for Stadia on the whole. Real glad I got a controller and Chromecast for free late last year. When Google is practically handing out hardware, you know the end is near.

None of these rumors are surprising in the least. The technology powering Stadia is good. I was impressed when I got a Stadia set-up in late 2020 for free.

On a wired connection, they all felt rock solid. It’s no secret that I have been skeptical of game streaming’s ability to perform soundly. Color me impressed.

In a precision platformer like Celeste I didn’t notice any perceptible latency when using a wired connection. Over Wi-Fi on my iPhone, Celeste just off enough that I’d have to adapt to its off kilter timing…

Stadia is better than I thought. Game streaming impresses me just as much as it did when I played Just Cause 3 on my Vita for guide work while at my girlfriend’s (now wife) house. The technology is cool, convenient, and additive. It’s nowhere near replacing dedicated hardware for myself, but I am curious to see where it goes from here.

In all honesty, the Stadia controller has sat in a drawer since then. All the games I play are on other platforms and it’s one less subscription for me.

Google is trying to extract as much value from it as it can. Internally, some employees have floated the idea of using Google’s technology for nongaming purposes, such as 3D modeling and other high-intensity tasks that could be performed over the cloud.

Shopping the tech around outside of gaming is the right move to salvage any value out of Stadia’s corpse. Google spent who knows how much money building the technology behind Stadia. While they may kill off the gaming subscription and service someday, it does not mean that the servers and programming that make it all possible have to be shut down. Streaming is going to become table stakes for game companies, just like it has become for music, TV and film. Each company will have their own subscription and library—heck, EA, Ubisoft, Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, and Netflix already do! It makes sense for Google to shop their own system around.

Last year, Google entered conversations with Peloton to be a back-end provider for games running on the fitness company’s bikes, three people familiar with the situation said. Peloton unveiled the first of those games, titled “Lanebreak,” in summer and ran a closed demo late last year that was supported by Google’s technology.

This is an interesting example outside of traditional gaming. Peloton can diversify their workout offerings and their own subscription service with these games. The quality of gameplay isn’t the point. The workout mechanics are the essentials. I don’t own a Peloton device, but I assume they have to connect to the Internet anyway for their workout courses. Having this library of games be streamed to the bike or treadmill makes sense. The hardware doesn’t need to process anymore than a video feed and “controller” feedback. This could allow hardware play these games without requiring new bikes.

Google last year also pitched its technology to Bungie, the developer behind the “Destiny” franchise, which was exploring a streaming platform of its own, according to three people familiar with the discussions. Under the proposal, Bungie would own the content and control the front-end experience, but Google would power the technology that beamed the games to users’ screens.

Talks between Google and Bungie made “considerable” headway, according to a person familiar with the plans. Sony, which owns PlayStation, announced this week that it would acquire Bungie for $3.6 billion. While Bungie said it would continue to support Stadia, insiders did not know if the merger would affect plans between Google and Bungie…

Sounds like Sony came in with a much better offer. The rumors surrounding Sony’s own Game Pass-like competitor named “Spartacus” seem inevitable. Remember, streaming and subscriptions are becoming table stakes.

Sony already has their own game streaming service though with PS Now. They bought the cloud gaming service Gaikai for $380 million back in 2012. And Sony knows gaming far better than Google does. I’d wager the Google deal is dead.

After Google closed Stadia’s internal game studios, known as Stadia Games & Entertainment, insiders said the directive was to build out what was internally dubbed a “content flywheel” — a steady flow of independent titles and content from existing publishing deals that would be much more affordable than securing AAA blockbusters, two former employees familiar with the conversations said.

“The key thing was that they would not be spending the millions on the big titles,” one said. “And exclusives would be out of the question.”

Sounds like executives said “Minimize the bleeding.”

Google also struggled to hold on to users. Harrison and other executives set a goal to reach 1 million monthly active users by the end of 2020, which they missed by about 25%, according to a person familiar with the conversations. “Retention was a real problem,” this person said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Game Pass just announced 25 million subscribers since the service’s launch in 2017.

Despite Google’s ability to throw its financial weight around, Stadia (the service) continues to be on a clock. Stadia (the technology) does not need to be on the same timer. The idea that Stadia could be the heartbeat behind other more appealing game streaming platforms doesn’t seem likely. Most other major players in the industry have the streaming tech, the subscription service, and the know-how to thrive with consumers. It feels like there’s little room left on the grid of the game streaming tech arms race. Outside of traditional gaming, there is plenty more room and that’s where it sounds like Google is headed.

A glimpse at Horizon Forbidden West PS4 gameplay – PlayStation.Blog

A glimpse at Horizon Forbidden West PS4 gameplay by Angie Smets for the PlayStation.Blog

Nice to see some PS4 Pro gameplay in these three short silent clips. Horizon Forbidden West looks stunning, even though I’ve been avoiding the trailers. Why look when I know I am going to play in just three weeks? It does help that this game started development as a PS4 game. I wish they had some side-by-side screenshots or footage with PS5. I guess we’ll just have to wait for Digital Foundry’s analysis at launch for that and some base PS4 console gameplay.

I’m Done Being a Content Creator – insaneintherainmusic

I’m Done Being a Content Creator. by Carlos Eiene (insaneintherainmusic) for YouTube

What a transparent and honest way to kickstart 2022. Carlos’ words ring true with my own story of realizing I didn’t want to play the game of chasing games journalism. I have a passion for writing and video games, not the game of making it my job (as that game currently stands). Carlos has worked extremely hard and is fortunate enough to have actually make producing these covers his job. He’s made a big move to start 2022, which sounds like the right one after listening to him.

The Ethics of Revenge – Tony Zhou

The Ethics of Revenge by Tony Zhou for Voir, S1E2 on Netflix

Forever changed after seeing Park Chan-wook’s “Lady Vengeance,” Tony Zhou breaks down the uneasy perils and pleasures of revenge.

If you’re like me and have missed Every Frame a Painting by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos since its end five years ago, you need to watch Voir on Netflix. This show is a collection of six video essays, three of which were written and directed by the duo

I plan on watching the whole season, but you know I started with the episode narrated by Tony himself.

120+ Nintendo Switch Games Tested with Nintendo Switch Online Controllers – My Life in Gaming

120+ Nintendo Switch Games Tested with Nintendo Switch Online Controllers by My Life in Gaming on YouTube

I may have 57 controllers of my own, including all the “Nintendo” Nintendo Switch Online controllers (sorry Sega), but My Life in Gaming knows how to use those controllers. This was a fun watch to explore controller compatibility.

My brain also focused on how the duo shot the video. Coury and Try are inspirations of mine, so I always find myself studying their camera work and edits. This video is mostly controllers and gameplay: When considering the sheer quantity of games tested, that could get visually dull. These guys nail it though and keep the variety fresh. Look at this dope shot of Coury looking at custom button mapping. I assume the camera is on a automated slider and he is haunched over it, but the end result is so cool and slick., even for just some menu navigation. Plenty of mental notes and lessons to take from this video.

The Panda Controller by Panda Hardware — Kickstarter

The Panda Controller by Panda Hardware — Kickstarter

If you had told me back in 2007 that Samurai Panda of Show Me Your News! would make a pro GameCube controller some day, my 13-year-old mind would have been blown. I still remember him talking about removing the springs in the triggers for faster shields/dodge rolls.

This new GameCube controller is smashing through its Kickstarter goals. The customization on display here reminds me of the Xbox Elite Series controller or the SCUF pro controllers. The GameCube controller is one of the longest lasting form-factors and supported controllers ever. Stoked to see this kind of controller entering the market.

Also, the Panda Controller has height-adjustable triggers.

Update (12/29/21): The Panda controller Kickstarter has been cancelled due to supply chain constraints. Panda did not want to take folks’ money without being able to provide a launch window.

GMTK is Making a Game

What’s next for GMTK? by Game Maker’s Toolkit on YouTube

Mark Brown of Game Maker’s Toolkit has launched a new series where he shows the educational and creative process of making a game. And he is the one making said game.

I enjoy the idea and am excited to see how the series (and the game) shake out. The first proper episode is out where Mark explains which game engine he choose and the initial learning process he experienced. His lessons already learned are insightful and, frankly, applicable to learning anything for the first time (or the second or the hundredth time).

iPhone 13 Pro Camera Review: Tanzania — Austin Mann

iPhone 13 Pro Camera Review: Tanzania by Austin Mann

We’ve spent the last week in southern Tanzania, exploring this vast natural habitat and capturing all its beauty with the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera. As I watched Apple’s keynote about this year’s iPhone release, I was most excited about the new macro capability, increased telephoto zoom, and Cinematic mode.

Boarding my flight, I reminded myself of the answers I’m looking for:

How will this new tech make our pictures and videos better?

I learned about Austin and his iPhone reviews two years ago with the iPhone 11 and its low-light photography capabilities. These reviews immediately entered the echelon of what I consider essential reading/viewing when new iPhones come out. I cannot believe these were shot on an iPhone. Simply incredible.