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Oculus shows off 12 VR games at its gaming showcase

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Oculus shows off 12 VR games at its gaming showcase

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Facebook’s Oculus division showed off 12 virtual reality games at its first branded Oculus Gaming Showcase event.

With strong sales for the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset, VR is enjoying a resurgence. Back in February, Oculus said that 60 games had crossed $1 million in sales, and three games had topped $10 million.

In 2020, VR had some hit releases like the Population: One shooter battle royale, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond..

The Oculus Gaming Showcase included new trailers, information on upcoming titles, and a look at updates coming to community-favorite games. The event was hosted by Oculus executive producer Ruth Bram. Here’s a rundown of the games.

Resident Evil 4

Capcom announced last week it is bringing Resident Evil 4 to the Quest platform, 16 years after the game debuted on the Nintendo GameCube. The game world is being reworked for VR from the ground up for a first-person view of the main character, though the game itself will stay the same, Bram said.

You can wield separate weapons in each hand, or use two-handed weapons like shotguns. About 4,500 images have been re-textured or up-rezzed. It can run at a much higher frame rate than the originals. Bram said spatial audio and immersion makes the game scarier in VR. The VR game has been in the works for a couple of years.

Cloudhead Games had a big hit with in November 2019 with Pistol Whip, and now it’s back with a new five-scene, narrative-driven, campaign expansion for Pistol Whip. Smoke & Thunder tells the tale of two sisters set in the Wild West where trains, tech, and explosions set the scene. You can play on two new maps.

This update will release alongside The Concierge, which will unlock more customization for Pistol Whip players. It will offer equipment like bottomless burst pistols or dodging through levels as a no-ammo pacifist. It has new weapons combos and modifiers and multiplatform leaderboards. It’s coming this summer to the Quest and Rift.

After the Fall

Above: From the makers of Arizona Sunshine comes After the Fall.

Image Credit: Oculus

Vertigo Games entertained VR gamers with Arizona Sunshine for years. Now, the company is preparing its four-player co-op first-person shooter After the Fall. It is set after the apocalypse in Los Angeles, with human survivors dealing with the freezing cold and all sorts of monsters. It has some nice visuals and audio. This title is coming to both Quest and the Rift platforms this summer.

Following up on last month’s Last Bastion update, which brought horde mode to Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister, Pixel Toys made a few more updates. The team has added co-op play to the Last Bastion game mode. Also, starting today, it’s available on Rift. On top of that the game has two new maps to enjoy with cross-play and cross-buy support for the Quest and Rift platforms.

This summer, the characters Jack and Liv return in Lone Echo II on the Rift Platform and for those playing on the Quest platform with Oculus Link (which links to a PC). Ready At Dawn’s sequel returns you to the rings of Saturn to explore an expansive zero-gravity world, use high-tech tools to overcome challenges, and uncover the mysteries of the far future.

ILMxLAB is working on the next installment of Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge, which expands the core adventure and will feature two more legendary tales for fans to enjoy. The team revealed one of the characters you’ll get to meet in Part II: Dok-Ondar, a visitor from the Den of Antiquities. The studio also shared a piece of concept art featuring the mysterious Ithorian (the Hammerhead-looking fella) and his translation droid, set in Seezelslak’s Cantina. The sequel will launch later this year.

Star Wars Pinball VR launches on the Quest platform, PSVR, and SteamVR next week, and today Oculus shared some behind-the-scenes footage to show how the experience came to life in VR. The game debuts April 29. You can choose the Light or the Dark side of the Force. And there’s a fan cave for you to customize your Star Wars memorabilia.

Schell Games is returning with a sequel to their popular, spy-themed VR puzzler, I Expect You To Die. The Spy and the Liar takes you deep undercover to investigate Zoraxis’s next play for world domination. And it’s coming to the Quest and Rift Platforms later this year. You’ll get to be an elite secret agent in VR again.

Carve Snowboarding 1080°

Snowboarding defined a genre of extreme sports games. Now, creator Giles Goddard returns with Chuhai Labs to bring you a modern take on this Nintendo 64 classic: Carve Snowboarding. The sounds feels pretty realistic on the mountain, and you’ll have plenty of music to hear on the slopes, based on the trailer. More details are coming later.

Wraith — The Oblivion: Afterlife is a horror and exploration game launching tomorrow on the Quest and Rift platforms. The game from Fast Travel Games will get you to solve the mystery of Barclay Mansion. This one looks quite scary, with lots of blood, spooky voices, and dark corridors.

Crytek’s recent follow-up to VR classic The Climb, The Climb 2 features free solo climbing in breathtaking landscapes and with the thrill of leaderboard competition. And tomorrow, they’re launching a new Freestyle Expansion Pack. The Freestyle Expansion Pack will be released in two parts with 12 levels total.

Tomorrow’s update will introduce six new levels to challenge you in both casual and professional modes. You won’t have any checkpoints, and completing levels without chalk will get you bonus points. Crytek is also introducing rhythm-based climbing where you’ll see disappearing grips along your route, requiring you to learn the grip patterns to the beat of a background track to progress through. It’s a free update launching tomorrow.

Skydance Interactive also shared what’s coming next for its hit action-horror experience.

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Colonial Pipeline resumes operations after ransomware prompted closure

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A paper sign reading no gas in both English and Spanish has been taped to a gasoline pump.

Colonial Pipeline said it restarted operations on Wednesday afternoon after a five-day outage brought on by a ransomware attack caused gasoline shortages and panic buying in East Coast states.

colonial pipeline

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the operator of the 5,500-mile pipeline said on its website. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.”

Colonial temporarily halted operations on Saturday, after determining that it was the victim of a ransomware attack. The pipeline runs through 11 states, from New Jersey to Texas.

The closure of a major fuel artery sent businesses and consumers scrambling. American Airlines added temporary refueling stops to two long-haul flights out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Southwest Airlines flew planes with extra fuel into airports including Nashville International Airport.

Filling stations in some states, meanwhile, were selling up to three times their normal amount of gasoline, leading to price hikes of 8 to 10 cents a gallon. Some stations have run out of fuel, and others have limited purchases to 10 gallons or less.

While all indications are that the attack hit the IT portion of the company’s network and didn’t extend to the operational technology portion that controls pipeline operations, Colonial said on Saturday that it initiated the shutdown as a precautionary measure.

Colonial Pipeline has said it’s working with third-party cybersecurity experts, law enforcement, and other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and FBI. Company representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

An outside audit of Colonial Pipeline in 2018 found “atrocious” information management practices and “a patchwork of poorly connected and secured systems,” The Associated Press reported, citing an author of the report. Meanwhile, Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said that Colonial Pipeline had no plans to pay the ransom.

Post updated to add, then remove, YouTube clip.

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Former Blizzard and Epic veterans raise $5M for Lightforge Games

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Former Blizzard and Epic veterans raise $5M for Lightforge Games

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When game companies become successful, they tend to breed offspring. That’s the case with veterans of Blizzard Entertainment and Epic Games, who have raised $5 million to open a new studio called Lightforge Games.

The new studio is based near Epic Games in Raleigh, North Carolina, and its quest is to change how role-playing games are made. The team is developing a new cross-platform, social video game where players have the power to create worlds and tell stories with freedom.

CEO Matt Schembari said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company is hiring people for remote jobs.

“Our blended DNA from both Blizzard and Epic extends to the entire studio at this point,” Schembari said. “About a year ago, a bunch of us got together and have been operating quietly, building up the company and our early game prototypes. We’re testing and validating crazy game ideas that we have been coming up with.”

While he isn’t talking about the game yet, Schembari said the game will be highly social and creative and it will run across multiple platforms.

“We love experiences where players can come together and build worlds together, create stories together, tell stories together, where they’re able to have this kind of emergent gameplay. Telling stories together is really the part that we’re most focused on,” he said. “We really believe that there’s no barrier between creation and play. It’s not user-generated content in the classic sense of you create something and then you publish it and people can download it. It’s a different kind of model than just UGC.”

The funding came from Galaxy Interactive, NetEase Games, Dreamhaven, Maveron, 1UP Ventures, and angel investors from the gaming and tech industries.

One of the surprises is that Dreamhaven is another game startup itself, started by former Blizzard president Mike Morhaime and Amy Morhaime. In a statement, Mike Morhaime said that Lightforge is creating a game in a space with a lot of potential and he is excited about the team’s vision.

Above: Lightforge’s team

Image Credit: Lightforge

Schembari has 20 years of experience and he shipped games played by millions as former lead engineer at Blizzard and director of user interface at Epic Games, where he led the Fortnite platform team.

Other founders include Dan Hertzka, Nathan Fairbanks, Glenn Rane, and Marc Hutcheson. Hertzka is engineering director and he led a team at Fortnite that added the client social layer to the battle royale game. Fairbanks has been games for 13 years and has worked on titles such as Fortnite, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Elder Scrolls Online. He is serving as studio director. Rane is art director and he has worked on World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Diablo Immortal. Hutcheson is product director and he has 18 years of experience in marketing and publishing games such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Overwatch, Diablo III, Fortnite, and Hearthstone.

Lightforge has a total of 11 people and is on the verge of hiring three more. The team brings decades of experience from Epic, Blizzard, Riot, Bioware, and Zenimax Online and have shipped top games such as Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hearthstone, the StarCraft 2 trilogy, Overwatch, Elder Scrolls Online, and more.

Lightforge is an all-remote studio where employees can work and live nearly anywhere. Schembari said that his startup received multiple offers and went with Galaxy Interactive as the lead investor because of their understanding about games and online communities.

“We are all remote and have been since the very beginning and this is something that was really important to us,” Schembari said. “One of our values is to really think about embracing empathy with everything we do. And, in particular, in the case of being all remote. We’ve all lived the experience that one of the most disruptive things you can do to someone’s life is to ask them to relocate for a job. And that was something that we really just strongly didn’t want to do. We are now at a point both technologically and culturally where you can totally work remotely.”

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GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

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Amazon’s SaaS Boost tool addresses dev challenges

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AWS SaaS Boost

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Amazon today open-sourced Amazon Web Services (AWS) SaaS Boost, an open source tool that helps software developers migrate their existing solutions to software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery models. Amazon says that SaaS Boost — which launched in preview at AWS Re:Invent 2020 — has the potential to offload development efforts by supporting app transformations to SaaS, freeing up developers to focus on other aspects.

SaaS apps are constantly evolving. Many of them use industry-standard protocols and interface with other products, but they all need certain foundational capabilities to onboard users, provision infrastructure, and surface key metrics. These functions are critical for enabling SaaS providers to scale. However, if every company invested in building these capabilities, it’d take resources — slowing down the time to market.

To address this challenge, AWS SaaS Boost provides functionality including tenant isolation, data partitioning, monitoring, metering, and billing. According to Amazon, the focus is on creating an environment that brings together all the elements of a ready-to-use SaaS architecture, removing much of the heavy lifting commonly associated with migrating a solution to a SaaS model.

Unifying data across disparate sources is one key feature in AWS SaaS Boost. Between 60% and 73% of all data within corporations is never analyzed for insights or larger trends, a Forrester survey found. The opportunity cost of this unused data is substantial, with a Veritas report pegging it at $3.3 trillion by 2020. That’s perhaps why organizations have taken an interest in technologies like AWS SaaS Boost that help to ingest, understand, organize, share, and act on data from multiple environments.

Data challenges

According to Gartner, creating a‌n architecture‌ ‌that helps‌ ‌operationalize data‌ ‌pipelines‌ ‌is one‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌major‌ ‌trends‌ ‌for‌ ‌2021. Organizations want to make better use of their data, but most lack a mature strategy. Indeed, surveys show that data’s business impact is limited by challenges in lifecycle management.

Recognizing this, Amazon designed AWS SaaS Boost to be adaptable to the needs of individual projects and organizations. The management and core services of SaaS Boost were built using a serverless application model, with a dashboard where users can configure the ports, domains, compute settings, databases, file systems, and billing options unique to their apps.

New tenants are introduced to the AWS SaaS Boost environment through an onboarding process that collects a tenant’s configuration options and launches an automation. From there, AWS SaaS Boost provisions tenants with separate subdomains that are used to route them to their architectures. The specific resources that apps will need are set up automatically, so that when new versions of the apps are uploaded, SaaS Boost can deploy the updates to all tenants.

Above: A portion of the SaaS Boost onboarding process.

Image Credit: Amazon

On the analytics side, SaaS Boost includes a collection of tenant-focused graphs that can be used to analyze trends. Beyond this, the tool enables integration with preprovisioned infrastructure that can aggregate and surface custom metrics views.

In a blog post, AWS worldwide partner solution architecture Adrian De Luca said that the goal is to “build a vibrant community of developers using AWS SaaS Boost” for production workloads. “We’d like to [encourage] contributors [to donate] code to enhance and optimize … features. As the project matures, we plan to invite other maintainers to take active roles in determining the project’s direction,” he wrote. “Throughout the preview period with developers all over the world, we received interest from large industry-leading software companies who want to offer their traditional products in an easier way, startups who want to build new products with it, and systems integrators modernizing enterprise software on behalf of customers.”

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