Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is Up for Pre-Order on OnLive

Publisher Warner Bros. and developer Snowblind Studios are bringing The Lord of the Rings: War in the North to OnLive.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is now up for Pre-Order on OnLive. You can buy the game for $49.99 or $34.99 for PlayPack subscribers. If you purchase a Full PlayPass for The Lord of the Rings: War in the North by September 30, 2011 (2:59AM EDT), you can choose to receive either a free OnLive Game System or a free Full PlayPass to one game. If you elect to receive the free Full PlayPass, the promo code must be redeemed by October 1, 2011 (2:59 AM EDT).

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an action RPG game in which players can become the heroes in the great battle of the North as part of the epic War of the Ring. Exploring unseen lands, story elements and characters from Middle-earth as well as elements familiar from past feature films, gamers will experience extensive character customization and development, expansive co-op gameplay options and upgradeable weapons, skills and special abilities.

ACTION MEETS RPG -- Intense, visceral, and satisfying combat. Rich, layered, and impactful character progression. In The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, you get both. Find and equip the best loot, upgrade your hero using a wide range of skills and items, and feel the intense satisfaction of rushing into real-time battles with friends by your side. Fight through the brutal realities of the war on all fronts that were brought to life in the lore. Immerse yourself and make your own mark on Middle-earth.

CO-OP AT ITS CORE -- Build your own fellowship of three heroes to confront the growing army in the North. The survival of your group and all of Middle-earth depends upon your uniquely skilled heroes working together. You must fight together or you will die alone, and these high stakes make the experience of playing together both socially engaging and incredibly satisfying. The first time you rescue a friend who has been grabbed by a troll and is desperately yelling for help, you will understand what we mean.

AN UNTOLD STORY -- While much attention and focus has been placed on the journey of the One Ring, the assault on Middle-earth hits all corners of the map. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North turns our attention towards an integral part of the storyline that is grounded in details within the books and various appendices. This is not someone else’s fight. This is your own effort to forage a way through the dark, dangerous, and unknown landscape, defending all that is yours. This is your war.

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North will release on OnLive day-and-date with other platforms on November 1, 2011.

Trine 2 Planned to Be Coming to OnLive Around Same Time as Other Platforms

Trine 2, a game that is scheduled to be released for PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 would certainly be one that OnLive members would like to see on the service. It was supposed to be released in September of 2011 for these other platforms, but because of some delays, it has been pushed back a bit.

The game’s developer Frozenbyte has previously brought the prequel of this game, Trine to OnLive. We asked Joel Kinnunen, the Vice President of Frozenbyte if we can expect to see Trine 2 released for OnLive as well.

“We do indeed plan to bring Trine 2 to OnLive around the same time as the other channels,” said Joel Kinnunen.

While there is no official date for the release of the game, after some delays, they do expect to have it out sometime in the 4th quarter of 2011. The original Trine, is currently in the OnLive PlayPack, and has a user rating of 4/5 stars. It also has a metascore of 80, which is unusually high for PlayPack titles. Kinnunen did not say if Trine 2 would be in the PlayPack or if it would be a standalone PlayPass game, but it’s our guess that it will be sold individually.

Trine 2 is a side-scrolling action and puzzle game which will include a multiplayer option. It will allow for three players to play the roles of thief, knight and wizard in a cooperative game mode. The game is filled with vibrant colors and great animations.

SOURCE: OnLiveFans.

OnLive Let's You Launch the Games You Own Directly from a Web Link

For some time now OnLive allowed the start-up of game demos directly from a web link. In addition you are also able to get into an user account on OnLive directly from a web link. One thing that many OnLive gamers wished for, the ability to get into a game they own on OnLive directly with a web link, wasn't present till now.

As it looks like OnLive is not only partnering with GameSpot to include OnLive game demos, but has also enabled the possibility that you can launch directly into the games you own on the OnLive game service from a web link.

The process for creating such a web link is exactly the same as for the game demos, but the OnLive client now detects if you own that game and launches you directly into it.

Let's say you wanted to get directly to your Homefront game on OnLive, the link would look like this: or if you wanted to get into a game that has whitespace characters like Just Cause 2, replace the whitespace characters with dashes, the link would look like this:

Basically you just have to add the name of the game after this web address:

This brings in the possibility that you create desktop icons for your games on OnLive just like they were installed on your computer. Simply type in the web link of the game, name the icon and if you want, find an icon of the game on the net or create an icon from a picture of the game. More info here.

You can of course link to your games on a web page or if you find an advertising link for the OnLive demo version of the game on a web page click on it and if you own the game, the full game will start up powered by OnLive.

The other new thing is, that when you launch the OnLive client from a web link, the sign in process skips the sign in button and automatically proceeds with the sign in process. You only have the option to cancel. The annoying thing is, that when you click cancel it deletes your account information and you have to retype it regardles if you start up the OnLive client anew. I think, OnLive could handle this a little better.

Looks like OnLive is streamlining the demo launch process in light of the GameSpot demo partnership and a push to include OnLive demos on other pages.

GameSpot Teams with OnLive to Bring On-Demand Game Demos to Their Reviews

GameSpot has announced that they are changing the way that gamers can find, play and evaluate games by directly including the ability to play instant demos, powered by OnLive, from GameSpot game information pages.

While browsing through the various game pages, for example Homefront, readers will notice a familiar logo.

Clicking “Play it now!” will open an OnLive page embedded into GameSpot where readers can quickly get into a game. These special links allow opening the game demo directly without the need of browsing through OnLive’s marketplace.

Some of the games included are:

  • Homefront 

  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction 

  • FEAR 3

  • Duke Nukem Forever 

  • Borderlands 

  • Just Cause 2 

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum 

  • Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

  • Plenty more games will be added. OnLive allows gamers to try games for free. Gamers then have the option to purchase the game from OnLive, rent it, or do whatever they like. They can demo the game for OnLive and then purchase it for another platform if they prefer.

    This is certainly a huge announcement for OnLive, a company looking to establish themselves in the video game industry. GameSpot is one of the most popular video game review websites on the internet. This partnership will certainly provide OnLive with much needed support, and publicity.

    “For as long as video games have existed, consumers have sought out information that helps them make smart purchases and get the most out of their gaming experience,” said Simon Whitcombe, Vice President, Games, CBS Interactive which is the owner of GameSpot. “Now, the next big innovation is here: merging the editorial with the experiential. By making demos available from our game pages, GameSpot is now the ultimate one-stop destination for gamers to read reviews, news, watch videos, and actually try out the latest games.”

    “By integrating OnLive-powered instant game demos, GameSpot has deepened its user experience and further distinguished itself as a premiere gaming destination,” said OnLive Vice President of Games John Spinale. “We streamline the process of sampling a game, making it an integral part of discovery and evaluation by the GameSpot reader—not a disjointed one that forces the customer to go down to the store or wait several hours for something to download to their hard drive.”

    In addition, GameSpot video content such as game reviews and in-depth interviews will be included in the OnLive platform, providing OnLive users with a trusted point of view as they go through their own discovery process. The enhancements are part of OnLive’s continuing efforts to provide players with the fastest, most convenient and most advanced gaming platform in the world, seamlessly integrated into their overall gaming experience.

    OnLive Founder and CEO Steve Perlman said that the move is "in some ways the first large-scale announcement of OnLive's B2B [business-to-business] offering. The pieces have always been there, but it's such a new animal."

    Asked if OnLive has been in contact with retailers and other gaming sites about providing its tech for streaming games, Perlman said, "You'll be seeing announcements from retailers and other sites." OnLive has dabbled in embedded streaming games before, but on a smaller trial basis.

    OnLive's signing with the world’s second-biggest games website will be seen as a coup, and a direct repositioning of its business to directly compete with Gaikai.

    OnLive’s business has hitherto been to compete with the home platforms, both game consoles and high-end PCs. Conversely, Gaikai has focused its business elsewhere, seeking to embed game demos within a range of websites.

    Gaikai CEO David Perry previously stated that he intends to have his business offer a full game service, thus repositioning it to compete with OnLive. But OnLive, the company founded by Steve Perlman, appears to have drawn first blood.

    PAX 2011: Hands-on with OnLive for iPad

    As of right now, the only way to experience the OnLive gaming service -- which streams full games to any compatible device through an internet connection -- on the iPad is via a free viewer app, which lets you watch any other user's public gameplay stream. It's a nice demonstration of the tech, but ultimately most folks would rather play a slick, thrilling game than watch someone else do it from afar. Luckily, OnLive has an all-new iPad app in the works that will finally deliver on its promise to bring rich, Mac/PC-quality gaming experiences to devices that lack the internal horsepower to run such titles outright.

    I had a chance to try out the upcoming iPad app at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) this weekend, and the results are immediately striking. The slick OnLive user interface from the Mac and standalone "console" versions is replicated here, with random live game streams and active video clips popping up without a performance hit, but the bigger surprise is just how quickly you can load up a game and start playing on the iPad. OnLive's service lets you buy outright access to games, rent them for brief periods or play free demos, or even subscribe to an all-you-can-play service with dozens of titles in tow, and playing a game is as simple as choosing it from a list and firing it up via a Wi-Fi connection.

    And these aren't scaled-down versions for the iPad -- we played a brief bit of Split/Second, last year's action-oriented racing game, and it ran just like the console or PC version with no noticeable input lag and little visual degradation from the stream. But that comes in stark contrast to the iPad version of Split/Second, which hit the App Store a few months back and lost a whole lot in translation. Granted, you'll pay a fair bit more for the version on OnLive, but it's a worthy investment if you're seeking a meaty play experience rather than a quick diversion.

    Naturally, the biggest adjustment from a controller or keyboard to the iPad is the absence of physical buttons, but as we experienced playing Split/Second and watching a bit of Virtua Tennis 2009, the service is implementing touch-based virtual controls that emulate the layout and functionality of standard controllers. Translucent buttons for actions like acceleration and braking appeared on the screen for the former, along with a virtual joystick that could be moved and placed around the left side of the screen as desired. Additionally, you'll have quick access to virtual controls for recording Brag Clips -- which snag the last 10 seconds of gameplay and are automatically shared on the service -- and accessing other menu functions.

    But as evidenced in many standard iOS games released via the App Store, touch controls aren't always a perfect option for some types of games, especially first-person shooters and other high-impact experiences. Luckily, OnLive is also preparing a wireless Bluetooth controller that will be released alongside the iPad app, making it possible for players to prop up their iPad like a display and have a complete gaming experience wherever they can find a reliable Wi-Fi connection.

    Pricing hasn't been announced for the controller, but Brian Jaquet, director of corporate communications at OnLive, says it will be competitive with other controllers on the market. Considering that OnLive regularly gives away its home consoles (including a controller) with new releases and is handing out thousands of the units at PAX this weekend, it seems clear that cashing in on the hardware comes secondary to simply getting the needed hardware into players' hands and making up the difference over time in game sales.

    Even based on a quick demo at a fan convention, I came away very impressed by the iPad version of OnLive. It really delivers a stellar way to experience more traditional, big-budget games without hardware concessions, and between the touch controls and incoming wireless controller, players can choose how best to interact with each particular title. Whether the allure of OnLive will change the way companies approach bringing new games to the iPad remains to be seen, but I'm certainly curious to see how iPad owners embrace the option of having richer (and generally more expensive) titles available beyond the confines of the App Store.

    SOURCE: MacLife.

    Dirt 3 Demoed On Motorola Xoom

    In case you haven’t heard OnLive is on the verge of releasing their revolutionary OnLive Player App for smart phones and tablets. This is going to revolutionize the gaming industry. It will allow mobile gamers to play extremely processor intensive games like the recently released Dirt 3. If your not excited for the OnLive Player yet, you will be now. At PAX 2011, Doug (aka LittleBuster) just caught Dirt 3 being demoed on the Motorola Xoom. As you can see in the image below the game was played using the touch screen control overlay. No accelerametor controls were demoed.

    SOURCE: LagThis.

    PC, PS3, and OnLive Video Comparison 2011

    This is a video comparison of PC, PS3, and OnLive featuring Mafia II, Homefront, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. All resolutions are 1280×720 to keep the pixel count even between all comparisons. Couple things to note:

    Mafia 2 on OnLive is the full game and takes place in the Winter, while the PC and PS3 version are Demos and take place in the summer. Note the framerate in the PS3 version.

    Homefront PC (first clip) some pixelation occurred even on the raw capture. Not sure what caused it but please disregard.

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution has slightly different perspectives for each version of the game, which is why it isn’t lined up perfectly on the edges. The PC version loads things in the background, and while capturing the footage it lowers the framerate, just take note of that.

    SOURCE: LagThis.

    JTM Games Interview with OnLive's Brian Jaquet

    I’ve been using the Onlive service for almost two months now, and it’s been a great gaming alternative to my gaming consoles. New games get added to the always affordable PlayPack Bundle, and the community is growing larger everyday. Only Onlive lets players play their favorite multiplayer games like Homefront and Fear 3, as well as hardcore games like the Witcher Enhanced Edition and Just Cause 2 all for $9.99 per month. With almost 80+ games, with more added every week, and a lot more in the marketplace for purchase or rental, Onlive is quickly becoming one of the better gaming deals available.

    At PAX Prime, I had a talk with Brian Jaquet, Director of Corporate Communications for Onlive. I had a chance to ask him about the service, how it started, how it’s grown as a service, and where it’s going to be in the future.

    JTM Games: What was the inspiration for the creation of the Onlive Service?

    Brian Jaquet: The inspiration was to deliver a new type of gaming experience; one where basically you can play your favorite games across your favorite displays you may be already using. For example PC, Mac, your television down to tablets.

    Also we wanted a service that basically delivers instantaneous access to those games. No downloads, no disks. We’ve really taken some technological advances into the world of video games that hadn’t been done before.

    Also, being able to incorporate some features that you couldn’t do on a traditional console; like the ability to spectate and view what games other people are playing, the ability to post your brag clips, as well as some social features that we’re starting to share.

    JTM Games: When the service was just starting out, did you have trouble getting developer support?

    Brian Jaquet: When the service launched, we had 19 games; we had a lot of interest from publishers. I think there was definitely a recognition of this new type of platform that Onlive was creating.

    We’ve been out now for over a year, and if there’s anything we’ve proven with both the customers that we’ve gotten and also the publishers we have, and the number of games we have is that THIS WORKS. This is a phenomenal experience that continues to get better.

    The interest from publishers is through the roof right now. I think that everyone recognizes the value of what we’re doing.

    JTM Games: What do you think is the biggest strength of Onlive compared to the other competing game consoles and services?

    Brian Jaquet: I think that the biggest strength is the ability to play across devices. You can move seamlessly from one device to another. It’s the same with your friends too. You can have a group voice chat and continue it outside the game. Basically instead of having to exit the game and trying to find each other again, your chat group stays together and move from game to game.

    The ability to move across displays very seamlessly I think is really really important to today’s gamer. The advent of tablet computing and the popularity. These tablets weren’t created to be able to play really high graphic intensive, high processor intensive games. But through Onlive, because we’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the cloud on the server side, you can play these games on the tablet. And that’s the real value that you’ll see from us.

    Plus, we incorporate some of the social features that are talked about and also arena and the brag clips; those types of things that are so easy to do on Onlive that we may take for granted but is a lot harder to incorporate on other platforms.

    And the final thing is just basically more and more day and day releases giving Onlive customers instant access to games the moment they’re available.

    When Deus Ex: Human Revolution became available last week, it was available to play right at 12:01 AM. I think that kind of value for gamers is really important because gamers love seeing what’s coming and when it’s there, they want to play it immediately. And Onlive let’s you play it immediately. I mean it’s 30 seconds and you’re into the game.

    JTM Games: I’m actually a part of the very active Onlive community, and one of the biggest selling features that got me to sign up for the service were the Homefront and Fear 3 multiplayer. What started the idea of just having the multiplayer component of these popular games in the $9.99 PlayPack Bundle?

    Brian Jaquet: I think the idea around PlayPack really is that we want to bring tremendous value to customers. We want to make it so that PlayPack is, for our Onlive customers, a no-brainer. It’s just great variety, both current and back catalog type of games.

    And so bringing Homefront, bringing FEAR 3 in; we really see that as being important pieces to making it. PlayPack should be tried by everyone. It’s 80 plus games, it’s $9.99 a month, and we know that with multiplayer you start to integrate some of the social features. You can let people know that you’ve started playing, you can dive right in from your facebook posting. Those are the things that I think create a better community of players too; and I think you guys recognize that value as well. So that’s a good win-win.

    JTM Games: You mentioned Tablet Onlive gaming earlier; when can players expect to be able to play their favorite games on Tablets or on iPhones if it’s possible?

    Brian Jaquet: We don’t have a specific date that we’ve announced, but it is fall. And we’re showing it here (at PAX), Onlive playable on Tablets, on iOS, and Andriod. We’re working very very hard on bringing those to market, but what I can tell you is that it will be coming out this fall.

    JTM Games: Final question, do you see yourself as a major contender competing against the other game consoles that are in the market as well as those game consoles that are about to come out?

    Brian Jaquet: I think we’ve created a very very compelling complimentary platform to the other platforms that are out there; and we’re doing everything we can to bring more and more customers in and show them the value of Onlive. That all comes back to content, that comes back to accessibility accross different displays, and if we execute the right way, then who knows?

    One thing we can say about this market is that it’s definitely changing day to day.

    And publishers love the fact that they can reach more and more customers and in that case, they love Onlive. We’ll see, you never know.

    JTM Games: Thank you very much for your time Brian.

    Brian Jaquet: Sure, no problem.

    After talking with Mr. Jaquet, and seeing all the great things that they’re doing and plan on doing at Onlive, I am now a firm believer that it is a much bigger, and much better service that people give it credit for.

    The sky is the limit for this cloud-based gaming service. And players should take part in it and meet the tight-knit community and the value-laden gaming experiences that Onlive offers.

    SOURCE: JTM Games.

    Game Design Show Champions OnLive

    PAX Prime 2011 Interview: The Present and Future of OnLive

    OnLive - the premiere cloud gaming service - has made quite the splash and shown tremendous growth since its launch in June 2010. They started on PC and a little mini-console and have since branched out to tablets and soon, Vizio televisions and Blu-ray players. I had a chance to speak with two movers and shakers for OnLive: Director of Corporate Communications Brian Jaquet and Product Manager Andre Srinivasan.

    gamrFeed: What's the next frontier, what's the next thing you're hoping to tackle as OnLive grows?

    Andre Srinivasan: As you mentioned, horizontal growth across all these possible different screens, also the introduction of our universal controller. This is a controller that will not only work with the TV's and tablets across a standard bluetooth connection, but also will work with a low-latency adapter. You can get a full OnLive gaming experience whether you're on a PC or TV using our controller. So you don't have to go out and buy lots of different controllers. Our controller will work with all your devices.

    Brian Jaquet: If we're doing our job right, the next TV you buy has OnLive integrated, the next blu-ray player, or whatever. Basically all you have to do is get a universal controller from us and you'll be playing there, you'll be playing wirelessly on your PC or Mac, you'll be playing on your tablet wirelessly as well, so it's cross-platform. We have a lot to deliver this fall, from the controller to playable tablets to the integrated TV's and other devices. We're working on a lot of things. UK, international expansion.

    Srinivasan: So this really falls into, "what's next?" It's the UK, Europe, basically we've proved the service works, it works great with three data centers across the U.S. Now we can keep expanding it: add more data centers, address more markets, social is huge. We introduced integration with Facebook a few months ago. You gain an achievement, you can automatically broadcast to your friends, "hey, look what I'm doing," with links back directly into the service. Your friend clicks that link, they're playing with you. We just released group voice chat. Build a group chat channel, invite all your friends, the channel is persistent no matter what you're doing in OnLive. So you and your friends are playing F.E.A.R. 3. "Hey, let's go play Homefront." You don't all disconnect, the audio channel is completely above all the games. You're still talking to each other as you navigate out of F.E.A.R. 3 , through the GSP, back into Homefront.

    gamrFeed: Does it include cross-platform? Say you're at home and you have to leave, so you pick up your tablet? You can jump back in to the same chat group?

    Srinivasan: Exactly. Everything we do is about that ultimate cross-platform, everywhere you go experience. The act of saving your game and picking up your game, being in a group chat, continuing the group chat, all a continuous flow across the devices.

    gamrFeed: Are you running into any barriers with connectivity in some of these foreign markets you're trying to push into?

    Srinivasan: We've managed to reduce our minimum bandwidth with every release. It turns out that while we've been trying to get more and more out of less and less, the world has realized that everybody wants to stream movies and play games. So we're actually in a great position. Our minimum bandwidth is now lower than the common bandwidth that you find in most markets.

    gamrFeed: Sort of like Netflix is kicking open the door and you're just walking on through?

    Srinivasan: Exactly. But it's everything. All the Google Voices of the world, Skypes, all this consumption of bandwidth. It's not just from one individual, it's the group of individuals sitting in Starbucks just sucking up that poor wi-fi router. So all of that is sort of a perfect storm.

    gamrFeed: So as you push to these other devices (televisions, tablets, blu-ray players), are you going to make a push toward the more casual market? Because you're going on to devices that non-gamers are buying.

    Srinivasan: Absolutely. Already in the PlayPack, we have a wide set of genres; everything from multiplayer Homefront to World of Goo. The PlayPack is one of those family friendly investments. With the parental controls launch combined with all the possible games you get - we're at 80+ games for $10 a month...

    Jaquet: Plus you can start searching by genre, you start seeing pretty easily that you can discover a lot easier an RPG, a shooter, etc. We've done a lot to make it easier to discover games and also control that experience as well. Parental controls were a pretty important piece in the latest release. We had three things in the last release: group voice chat, Facebook achievement postings, and parental controls.

    Srinivasan: So it comes down to: start the service, find your games, find your friends, play. All without a download.

    After the interview, Andre Srinivasan and I also discussed the far future of OnLive, in particular what will OnLive do to gaming when the next generation of consoles come around. The OnLive mini-console is only $100, but their service will likely be able to move into the next generation of games without a hardware update, so how will that affect the next generation of console buying? Only time will tell exactly how big of a splash OnLive could have in the video game industry, its splash is already bigger than most industry experts ever anticipated.

    SOURCE: VGChartz.

    OnLive Demystified

    Video Interview with Matt Jensen, OnLive Community Manager.

    Interview with OnLive Community Manager Matt Jensen

    While at PAX 2011, Matt Jensen, Community Manager of OnLive, sat down with LagThis and gave an interview right there on the show floor. He covers what PAX means to OnLive, how the expo is going this year, the line for OnLive Game Systems, and much more! In the video itself they have exclusive footage of Street Fighter 4, Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine, and Lord of the Rings: War in the North all running on the OnLive gaming service!

    SOURCE: LagThis.

    Otoy’s cloud tools can render stunningly realistic video

    Filmmakers and game creators would love to create animations so realistic that they look like they were produced inside a Star Trek Holodeck, the virtual simulator from the sci-fi TV and film series. In the Holodeck, you couldn’t tell whether what you were seeing was real or was just a computer animation.

    We’re not there yet. But the folks at Otoy — including some of the best computer film animators and graphics experts in the world — believe they’ve taken the first step toward the Holodeck. And it’s all part of a plan to democratize game and film development so just about anybody can create outstanding animations.

    A big vision for cloud films and games

    Otoy’s team has created cloud-based animation tools that can create hyper-realistic imagery like the pictures in this story, which are stills from Otoy animations. And they will put this technology in the hands of people who could otherwise never afford such special effects. These technologies can be used to create imagery that accurately creates lighting in an animated scene without requiring a huge amount of supercomputing power or programming know-how.

    Otoy uses a combination of server technology and a user’s own computer to calculate 3D graphics scenes that look spectacular. The Los Angeles-based company believes that future game consoles will use this kind of web-based technology to deliver outstanding game experiences to users. Otoy won’t make these consoles itself, but its potential partners could do so and license Otoy’s technology.

    “Our view is that next-generation cloud and console games, where there is a graphics chip on the client, will go down this path,” said Jules Urbach, chief executive of Otoy, in an interview. “We want to make this available to a broad range of artists and developers.”

    For example, indie filmmakers and game creators will have access to cloud rendering technology that was only available to big-budget filmmakers before. Sometimes, even the big-budget movies don’t use these lighting technologies because it takes too long to render. Urbach said the scene in this link, for instance, is so hard to do that most big-budget films skip this effect, known as caustic lensing (where light intensifies on the wood after bending through the glass).

    Otoy has built a cloud-based rendering technology that uses powerful graphics chips inside servers in a data center to create highly realistic images. Those images are built with a graphics technology known as “ray tracing,” where a 3D scene is calculated by sending out virtual “rays” from a single point of view. If the rays collide into an object, they bounce back and reveal the limits of how far a ray of light can penetrate into the scene.

    Even more complex than ray tracing is path tracing, where rays are used to create every pixel in a scene. Otoy’s tools can be used to render extremely realistic “path tracing” scenes for modern video games or films.

    The product rollout

    Otoy will roll out four different tools this year and next for game developers and filmmakers. For consumers, the result will be some eye-popping special effects and animations delivered at a low cost.

    “The developer tools are part of a broader platform we are building,” Urbach said.

    The tools include Octane Render for film animators (here’s an example of a student project). Octane Render has been in the works for 18 months with 10,000 beta test users and it will be live by the end of the year. The technology includes the first “spectrally correct graphics processing unit path tracer,” said Urbach. That means it can be used to animations where it feels like you’re looking at photos. Octane Render will likely be available for under $300.

    Meanwhile, Otoy will also launch Brigade, the first path tracer for rendering games which can create imagery in real time but not quite at the level of quality needed for films. Developed by Bikker in 2010, Brigade will enable game developers to make much more realistic games with scenes where it feels like you’re walking around inside a photo where the scenery and characters look real, Urbach said. If there are flaws in the image because your graphics chip in your PC can’t keep up with the demands of the image, then Otoy’s cloud technology will detect that and send down the data that is needed for the image at a high speed.

    “If there is noise in the path tracing, we can patch that with the streaming technology,” Urbach said.

    The Otoy SDK will also include a WebCL compiler, a portable super-fast OpenCl-based cloud service for Intel, Nvidia, ARM and Advanced Micro Devices hardware. The WebCL software can run cool imagery in a web browser without the need for a plug-in. That means that users won’t have to download huge files just to be able to view path-traced films or games on the web.

    Building a brain trust

    Otoy enlisted some top talent in graphics technology to create the tools. Rendering experts Terrence Vergauwen and Jacco Bikker worked with Otoy chief scientist Rob Wyatt and noted animator Paul Debevec. Wyatt hinted at the technology when he spoke at the GamesBeat 2011 conference, where he noted that high-end graphics will be viewable on any kind of device, not just high-end game consoles.

    “You write games for this platform and play on any device, anywhere,” Wyatt told the GamesBeat 2011 audience. “We can do Pixar-quality games in real time. We could play anything from Tetris to Uncharted. As long as it can decode a stream, we can play it on that device.”

    If Otoy’s technology works, then the game consoles may never see another generation of new hardware, Wyatt said. You could buy a smart, connected TV with a game controller and use that to play streamed games on the TV, without a console. Console makers can adapt to the cloud or become obsolete, he said.

    Otoy also plans to include its LightStage capture software, which allows developers to capture someone’s face and create an accurate computer model of it, in the Otoy SDK. That technology was used to create film effects in films like Avatar, Tron Legacy and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. LightStage was started in 2008 by Debevec and Tim Hawkins as a subsidiary of Otoy. The LightStage team won an Academy Award for LightStage’s use in Benjamin Button, Avatar and Spider-man 2 and 3. Now LightStage is used in almost every film with computer-generated actors. Otoy will include LightStage in its SDK next year, which will enable indie filmmakers to get access to the same technology via off-the-shelf equipment. Over time, Otoy wants to make it simple to include LightStage effects in any game or film, Urbach said.

    Otoy has 25 employees. Urbach declined to comment on whether the company has raised money.

    The road to deployment

    Once all of these technologies are out in the market and become commonplace in games and movies, then Otoy will be on its way to developing a true Star Trek Holodeck. Debevec has already begun research on what a display (link to PDF) for such a Holodeck would be like. The approach is doable, Urbach said, but it’s not necessarily cost-effective now. At some point in the future, it could be.

    To make these technologies widely accessible to developers and consumers, Otoy will first have to roll out its own network of servers in the North American region. Urbach says that will happen later this year and that Urbach has a large partner to help it do that.

    Both Octane Render, which Vergauwen has spearheaded, and Brigade have been in development for more than two years. Both are deeply integrated into Otoy’s streaming technology and are part of Otoy’s software development kit. Otoy will sell the Octane Render product as a tool for developers once it is ready.

    There are still some challenges Otoy has to overcome. It has to complete the developer tools, launch a network of servers across North America, and find ways for larger numbers of users to use that network. Once it does that, more and more developers will be attracted to using the Otoy tools. If those developers make full use of Otoy’s cloud service, it will be a success and Otoy will be on its way. Cloud-based game consoles could emerge that use the Otoy technology at some point in the future, bringing the Otoy technology to the masses of game players. But Otoy will have to accomplish all that in the face of competition from OnLive, Gaikai, Electronic Arts, Valve, and GameStop.

    OnLive in particular has a considerable head start in signing up consumers for its cloud-gaming service. While Otoy uses the cloud in a similar way to OnLive, Otoy isn’t planning to directly challenge OnLive in a subscriber-based game streaming business, because Otoy’s customers will be game developers, not consumers. But it’s still possible that Otoy’s partners could challenge OnLive.

    Where Otoy has an advantage is in the software it has created. It has tapped some of the best graphics experts to create software tools that can render realistic scenes without a lot of computing power. The software taps the ability of graphics chips to do non-graphics computations through software such as Nvidia’s CUDA programming environment or OpenCL.

    What the tools can do

    The cloud renderer can handle tasks that once took days to do, such as the rendering equation created by Microsoft researcher James Kajiya in the 1980s. What once took days to render can now be done in real-time on a single 2009-era graphics chip. One of the technologies that the cloud technology can handle is ray tracing.

    The Otoy Brigade solution running on a single graphics chip can process a billion rays per second. Each additional graphics chip adds another 1 billion rays per second of rendering power for calculating scenes. The content creators can render their physically correct ray-traced scenes on either the client or the server, or both in tandem.

    If a user’s system has a powerful graphics chip, then Otoy’s 3D scene player, the ORBX codec, can create the scene as needed. But if the scene is too sophisticated, then the server kicks in and compensates for the weakness of the user’s computer. If the client machine can’t download a 3D scene fast enough to play it smoothly, then the server does all the work and sends a two-dimensional video displaying the scene to the user’s machine. Thus, even users with relatively weak hardware can view sophisticated cloud-rendered scenes and therefore view cool animated films or play games with outstanding graphics.

    Octane and Brigade are unique compared to other path tracers because of their speed and quality while rendering in real-time. Both can handle path tracing at 60 frames per second on a single graphics chip, as shown in this video. Wyatt, who worked on the original Xbox and the PlayStation 3 as well as lots of games created by Insomniac, is the architect of the Otoy render technology. Otoy is adapting several other rendering solutions that are appropriate for other markets and other uses of path tracing.

    Check out a couple more cloud-rendered images below. They look like photos, but they are all computer-generated animations built with the Otoy technology. Among the artists whose work is displayed here is Cornel Swoboda.

    This house was rendered via Otoy’s Octane Render beta tool.
    This fake woodpecker was created with the Octane Render tool.
    SOURCE: VentureBeat.

    Tuesday, 30 August 2011

    OnLive Passes Its First Test as a Cloud-Based Deus Ex: Human Revolution Shines

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution — a sci-fi first-person shooter game from developer Eidos Montreal — is one of the first few high-profile titles to launch simultaneously on OnLive, the PC and gaming consoles Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. There are a lot of questions as to whether OnLive would take off, much less be able to handle a game launch like Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

    Well, you can put those fears to rest. Human Revolution is the first in what looks like a series of fantastic blockbuster titles on the launchpad this fall. The game looked gorgeous and blazed along at something north of 50 frames per second on OnLive — slightly better than the kind of performance you’d expect from a high-power PC or an Xbox 360. There were a few glitches — which is natural for a newer service — but they did not really get in the way of the gameplay.

    I’ve spent the better part of the week blitzing through the game using OnLive, a cloud gaming service that runs games on remote servers and streams them through a web browser like a YouTube video. The service can run triple-A titles like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on computers and even on tablets that don’t have a lot of processing power. You need a decent Internet connection to play the games, but that’s not too difficult to find.

    The game not only plays like a dream on OnLive, but goes out of its way to reward you for being creative and finding interesting solutions to problems and staying alive. When I first picked up the controller for Deus Ex: Human Revolution at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in Los Angeles, Calif., this year, I was incredibly skeptical. The first title in the series, Deus Ex, came out in 2000 and holds a special place in my heart for introducing the idea of an open world with choices and multiple paths to an end.

    But as I powered through and really got a better taste of Human Revolution, I was treated to an experience that doesn’t necessarily match the original Deus Ex but comes very, very close. And it has the added benefit of a decade of sophistication and evolution that video games and first person shooters have enjoyed.

    OnLive actually included codes for a free copy of the game in retail versions of the game. The move actually frustrated game retailer GameStop, which instructed its employees to pull the codes out of the physical copies of the game because it promoted competition with GameStop’s own reported cloud gaming service. (The company later reneged on the move and is now offering free gift cards for players that didn’t get a code.)

    You play as Adam Jensen, a security specialist that was gravely injured in a fight trying to protect a piece of technology in his company. Doctors used prosthetics and cybernetic enhancements — called augmentations — from his company Sarif Industries to restore his limbs and keep him alive. He returns to work shortly after being nearly killed to uncover the story behind the attack and quickly gets caught up in a feud between augmentation companies.

    It’s a near-term dystopia where humanity is on the cusp of unlocking the species’ true potential through the use of augmentation. But it’s littered with problems as the human body over time begins to reject augmentations and you need to take a drug called Neuropezyne to stop the rejection. It leads to addiction and a whole host of problems for people who can no longer afford the drug. That leads to riots and the emergence of political movements to try and halt scientific advancement in augmentation.

    It’s a Deus Ex for a new generation, and it’s a blast to play.

    A Rewarding Experience

    Human Revolution’s reward system feels almost Zynga-esque in nature — pulling ideas from the things that made social games like Farmville and Cityville smash hits on Facebook. Those games reward you for doing very small things, but the steady stream of rewards keeps you engaged and constantly hunting for the next reward. The more rewards you pick up, the more powerful you become.

    That model was so successful it created an entirely profitable business for Zynga, which recently filed for an initial public offering in order to raise up to $1 billion. Zynga is the most profitable company to file for an IPO this year by a very wide margin.

    “You always have to have two ways to win a game,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Bing Gordon, an investor in Zynga, told VentureBeat in an earlier interview. “If your player hasn’t won within the first 10 minutes of playing the game, you’re doing it wrong.”

    The game gives you the biggest bonuses for being clever — like talking your way through a sticky situation. The game rewarded me for stacking boxes through a tunnel where the ground had electricity running across it. I didn’t even notice the switch-box to turn the electricity off, but I still got a reward for finding a unique solution to a problem with several solutions. (Which, as a math geek, is pretty awesome.)

    You get rewarded for being a good sharpshooter by picking off enemies with head-shots, which is usually the most efficient way to kill an enemy. You also get a bonus for taking down an enemy without killing them, which you can do by shooting them with a tranquilizer dart or punching them in the face. You get bonuses for taking down multiple enemies at once, like with grenades or punching two guys in the face simultaneously (as you can tell, the face-punching is quite satisfying).

    The most fun part of the game is probably the exploration. Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s world is a sprawling cyber-punk dream colored black and gold (see why in this story). There are at least three, if not more, pathways of least resistance to your mission objective. You can crawl through vents, hack open locked doors, jump from building rooftops or walk through the front door with guns blazing to reach your destination. All of them offer some kind of reward — with the more creative pathways giving the most experience points.

    The game gives you ways to be a better explorer too, like letting you jump higher or no longer take falling damage when you fall from the top of a building. It turns exploration into this crazy parkour-esque blast, where I found myself literally spending hours digging into every nook and cranny of the massive buildings in Shanghai or Detroit’s sprawling police-filled streets.

    The game perfectly fits the description of how to create a rewarding experience. It uses a dual-currency system by giving you experience points for completing objectives and credits, the game’s cash, for killing enemies and selling things. You can use both currencies to improve your character by earning or buying Praxis Points, which let you buy better augmentations and new skills, or by buying new guns and weapon upgrades.

    The game litters side-quests along each mission’s path that unlock more details about the near-term dystopia that’s befallen humanity. The missions never feel like a chore because there is always something new to learn about Jensen’s cyberpunk sprawl and the story behind humanity’s new, interesting evolutionary twist.

    The Power to Move You

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a very tough game if you choose a typical difficulty level, just like its predecessors. It’s refreshing compared to a lot of modern games that have become very easy. Enemies can quickly take you down in three or four shots if you aren’t careful. The boss fights are very unforgiving, even at the easiest difficulty level. Deus Ex: Human Revolution challenges you to become better at the game, and it rewards you significantly when you do.

    It’s easy to die in this game. While you can run through the game with guns blazing as long as you carefully use cover, the game rewards you for playing stealthily. You can play through the game without ever getting caught. You can also play through the game without killing people through the use of non-lethal takedowns and tranquilizer guns. The game rewards you for doing both (with a significant “ghost” award for completing a mission without getting caught).

    The game actually controls quite nicely, though the gameplay does feel like it’s littered with a few too many cut scenes. When you fall from a high ledge, it shifts to a cut scene that shows a field of electricity slowing you down. When you knock an enemy out, it shifts to a cut scene of Jensen executing a fancy close-quarters-combat move that takes them down. When you want to kill an enemy in close range, you get another cut scene of Jensen shanking his foe with retractable blades built into his arms.

    There’s a wide variety of guns in the game — both lethal and non-lethal — and you can upgrade those guns with weapon kits to suit your play style. I personally chose to try and play the game while using exclusively tranquilizer weapons and non-lethal takedowns, but it did get a little frustrating because ammunition for those guns is so limited and the takedown cut scenes leave you standing in plain sight.

    Most abilities — including a melee takedown — consume energy. While you have multiple energy cells, only one cell recharges naturally. Even with upgrades, it can take a while to charge. You have to consume sparse food to recharge your other energy cells, and it’s easy to get caught without an energy cell when you need to run for it or if you want to take down one more enemy with a non-lethal takedown.

    Paradise Lost

    Killing and sneaking aside, there’s a whole world to explore that is both visually stunning and disturbingly subdued. As you walk through the streets of Detroit, the trash and drug addicts on the street paint a picture of a dystopia where once-great American cities have fallen from grace and the government has started to lose control. The designers used a vibrant black and gold color scheme throughout the entire game, giving it a unique look when compared to other color schemes seen in dystopic games like Homefront or the newest entries to the Fallout series.

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s world is a vibrant cyber-punk renaissance that feels part Blade Runner and part renaissance era, a-la Assassin’s Creed 2. For every chip of the world’s swarming technological landscape you see in Adam Jensen’s world, there’s a piece of gorgeous architecture or art that will literally stop you in your tracks as you take in the sights. There’s even more to see for those interested in exploring the sprawls present in Deus Ex — and, again, the game rewards you for seeing all its sights.

    Whether it intends to or not, Deus Ex: Human Revolution also has to show down against the bold reds of BioWare’s supergiant sci-fi franchise Mass Effect or the bright, vivid neon blues of Nintendo’s Metroid Prime series. The game’s artists had to conceive a world that would stand apart from not only other dystopic futuristic pieces, but the entire sci-fi genre, lead artist Jonathan Jacques-Belletete told VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi. To the team’s credit, it succeeded in spades.

    The soundtrack is equally subdued and brooding. Rather than bold orchestral jams that roll alongside sci-fi behemoths like the Mass Effect series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution uses a softer sound palette that feels more electronic than orchestral. There are few clashing high-profile crescendos and it feels like the whole soundtrack runs at a softer volume. From the game’s sweeping chorus-laden opening track Icarus to the sounds of the streets of Lower Hengsha, it never feels like the music is trying to grab your attention. It sits in the back and contributes to the experience.

    The OnLive Experience

    I sat in my kitchen at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, looking at my watch and waiting patiently for the clock to roll over to midnight. I quickly dove into Deus Ex: Human Revolution as soon as the game became available through OnLive. It felt instant — I didn’t have to drive over to a GameStop store or sit through a several-hour download to play it. Better yet, I was playing it on a MacBook Pro, which is notoriously light on games.

    As a whole, the experience was solid. When OnLive first came out I played Borderlands — another first-person shooter — on the service. The controls felt a little sluggish when I played around with OnLive last year, but it has since improved and it now feels one-to-one. It’s comparable to a PC or Xbox 360 gaming experience.

    I played the game on a decent Internet connection at home, with something north of 8 megabits per second download speed, but not too much higher. I played it over a wireless connection, too, which put even more strain on the service (it recommends that you play the game on a solid ethernet connection). It was basically the equivalent of running a high-resolution YouTube video for about 4 hours straight per play session, and it ran fine. The service was unplayable at our office, where our connection is shared between a dozen or so people and I can barely get a download speed above 3 megabits per second.

    I only ever felt the wrath of the always-on cloud gremlin once during my hours of play time, when my wireless router inadvertently cut out and I frantically had to fix it within the 5-minute time limit OnLive gives you before it permanently disconnects you from its servers. It was frustrating, but realistically it was poor planning on my part. I lost around 45 minutes of play time, but it wasn’t enough to deter me from continuing on in the game — I just took a different path to the mission objective, which the game once again rewarded me for doing.

    The spectator feature was also pretty enjoyable. I had a few dozen people drop in on my play session while I took on the first boss and cheer me on as I used some more absurd tactics to take the boss down. I was playing it on the hardest difficulty, which I suppose made my floundering and disastrous attempts to kill the boss more fun to watch. But eventually I joined the game’s voice chat and heard them talking about how to kill the boss.

    One minor annoyance: that the game stops registering a key-press for a short period of time when you get a notification. That means if you are holding a key to stay in cover, you will drop out of cover for a second whenever a spectator joins, leaves, cheers you on or leaves a friend request. It was enough to get me caught once or twice while trying to be sneaky, and during intense firefights when more people seemed to join it got me killed as I lost control of my character for two or three seconds.

    The video would infrequently become a little garbled when my wireless connection experienced small hiccups. It’s less like a YouTube video, where the video would simply stop and load before it continues playing, and feels more like a satellite television or cable channel that’s experiencing interference. It happened once or twice during a firefight and a cut scene, which hampered the experience slightly.

    The Verdict

    The whole Deus Ex: Human Revolution experience is evocative — not emulative — of the original Deus Ex released in 2000. That’s probably a good thing in the end, because video games have advanced to a point that many of the tropes that defined the original Deus Ex have become dated and would be unforgivable in the current video game era. We take for granted things like the game automatically saving your content, but those kinds of features weren’t around a short decade ago.

    Gaming has evolved. And Human Revolution is about as good as it comes in terms of a natural evolution for an old franchise. While I never feel like I’m playing the old Deus Ex, I feel the same joy I felt when I was 15 and playing a genuinely good PC game for the first time. Other reviewers seem to agree, given that the game has a score of 89 out of 100 across 31 reviews on review aggregator site Metacritic.

    It’s an even more surreal experience, given that Deus Ex and the PC was my first taste of a brand new piece of technology that would come to define gaming in my life. OnLive evoked that same feeling when I spent my time with it. I felt the same anger with my new computer that I did with OnLive — an oddly zen comparison that felt more nostalgic than frustrating.

    Perhaps it means that OnLive will eventually come to define the next generation of gaming. But for the time being, OnLive was more than a good enough host for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. And Human Revolution was more than good enough: it’s a phenomenal evolution for a franchise for which, at one point, I hoped would never experience a sequel.

    Final Score

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution — 95 out of 100

    OnLive on Deus Ex: Human Revolution — 90 out of 100

    SOURCE: The New York Times.

    Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is Coming to OnLive – Interview with Cateia Games

    Indie game developers are one of the main beneficiaries of OnLive’s game platform. It allows them to effectively put their games on the market, without the worry of piracy. In a recent interview with Krešimir Špes, from indie game developer Cateia Games, we found out that the company that has brought Hotel: Collector’s Edition and King’s Legacy to OnLive has more in store for the cloud gaming service.

    We asked Krešimir Špes if Cateia is looking to bring more games to the service in the near future. He responded, “Yes, we are interested in bringing as [many] games to OnLive as possible. Our next game to be released on OnLive is Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World

    Cateia has developed a rather large list of games, including Twin Moons, Where Angels Cry, Fate Of The Pharaoh, Frogs vs. Storks, Medieval Battlefields, Iron Roses, Minis, and many more. It is quite possible we could see some of these titles make their way to OnLive as well. Cateia apparently really enjoys working with OnLive, and sees a future in the company.

    “I personally think [OnLive] is the best thing for the future of gaming. It’s gaming on demand, virtually no waiting, no piracy, no hardware problems. And as internet availability grows, OnLive might become a dominant method for video game distribution,” said Špes.

    Špes went on to explain that it takes approximately two weeks of full time work to study the SDK, code it, test it and port it to OnLive. However, he did note that once the first game is ported to OnLive, the following become easier to accomplish.

    We asked him what his most and least favorite things were about working with OnLive. He replied, “We’ve always had good relations with OnLive; every email answered fast, every inquiry patiently answered, etc. On the negative side, my least favorite thing working with OnLive would be the SDK integration. I feel it could’ve been done with less required integration work for the developer. But don’t take me the wrong way, they’ve made a lot of effort to ease this process.”

    So what exactly is Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World, and what can OnLive users expect?

    “It’s a hardcore, old-school point n’ click adventure game. I think it's a good game for OnLive users,” explained Špes. “We plan to integrate gamepad controls along with the usual keyboard/mouse controls to reach the widest possible audience. I’m not just talking about using the gamepad as a virtual mouse, we’ll try to make it less frustrating to play a mouse game on the gamepad.”

    While the game isn’t quite as in depth or graphic intense as some others you will see for OnLive, it certainly seems like a fun and interactive game to play. While Špes did not say if the game would be coming to the PlayPack or sold as an individual title, we assume it will be in the PlayPack.

    SOURCE: OnLiveFans.

    Deus Ex: The Eyeborg Documentary

    In the semi-fictional, near future world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, video game developer Eidos Montreal paints a picture of a technological frontier where prosthetics and human augmentation is not only commonplace, but on the verge of changing human evolution forever. However, in 2011, as you sit down to play this fictional masterpiece of interactive art, you may find yourself asking the question:, “Exactly how close to reality is this stuff? How far away are we really from this technology?” That is exactly the same question Square Enix and filmmaker Rob Spence set out to answer in a new documentary, Deus Ex: The Eyeborg Documentary. The answers may surprise you.

    Contracted by Eidos Montreal to research the documentary as part of the promotional campaign for the release of Human Revolution, Rob Spence sets off around the globe to get a bead on the current state of prosthetics, cybernetics and human augmentation. However for Spence, this journey is both professional and personal, as he himself is a real life cyborg. A firearms accident six years ago, left Spence with a prosthetic eye, which he has since had fitted with a wireless camera – hence the moniker, Eyeborg.

    In this twelve minute mini-documentary, Spence, who’s prosthetic eye was voted as one of Time Magazine’s top 50 inventions of 2009, travels around the globe, visiting prosthetic researchers and users alike, to get their take on the current status and the future progression of this technology. Everything from digital eye augmentations that connect directly the optic nerve, to arms and legs are covered in the mini-documentary. And the question of how far off from Adam Jensen’s world are we, is put to the scientists and researchers themselves.

    Of course in Adam Jensen’s world, there is a deeper, ethical question facing humanity. Just because a person can replace perfectly working body parts with superior bio-mechanical versions, should we?

    SOURCE: OnLiveFans.

    Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is Likely Coming to OnLive

    Developer Tripwire Interactive, has informed OnLiveFans that they are likely bringing Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad to the OnLive cloud gaming service. While the game is set to release for the PC on September 13, 2011, no release date has been set for OnLive.

    While there is no confirmation that the game is going to come to OnLive for sure, Alan Wilson, Vice President of Tripwire Interactive LLC told them that he is, “fairly sure” that the game will be coming to the service.

    Red Orchestra 2 is a first-person shooter that takes place during World War II. It is the sequel to Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 which was released over 5 years ago. The game takes place in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII, at Stalingrad. It is said to take first-person shooters to a whole new level, with more realistic gameplay features than other games in the genre. Guns behave more realistically, and there is no ammo counter. Gamers must manually keep track or check on their ammo, if they wish to remain alive. The game also makes getting injured more realistic. When shot, you can’t gain health back, by simply picking up a “health pack” or hiding and waiting. Instead, you must bandage a wound to keep it from getting worse.

    Red Orchestra 2 can be played in single or multiplayer modes. The multiplayer modes include: Territories, Firefight, and Countdown. Here are some of the key features of the game, from the Red Orchestra 2 website:
    RO multiplayer taken to new heights: Tripwire’s renowned MP already exceeds that of much of the competition – the new game will stretch that lead even further. With highly addictive and fun varieties of game-play online, the game will feature everything from quick, brutal firefights, through to more intricate and challenging simulation modes.

    Persistent Stats Tracking and Player Progression: Persistence constantly gives the gamer something to strive for and keeps them playing. Grow in rank, earn medals, improve your abilities, and become a Hero – all visible to the complete online gaming community and embedded within the game.

    Heroes: Obtain the ultimate goal and become a Hero online. Players with hero status inspire troops around them and cause fear in their enemies. Heroes have access to the best and rarest weapons and equipment, and will stand out visually from the rest of the soldiers.

    Stalingrad Campaign: The Stalingrad campaign will feature the multiplayer maps used in a campaign layout recreating the battle for Stalingrad from both the German and Russian sides. This will be enhanced with story elements through the form of mission introductions and in-game cinematic sequences that begin and end the campaign.

    Unique Focus – the Battle of Stalingrad in depth: takes the familiar WWII genre into a unique direction. Far removed from the well-trodden Normandy setting, gameplay is based on fresh scenarios and actions the player has never experienced before. Follow the German army as they assault the city of Stalingrad, to the banks of the Volga. Follow the Soviet army as it holds the city against all the odds then destroys the Axis forces.

    First person cover system: Experience the ultimate firefights that a cover system allows, from the immersion of a first person view. Peek or blind fire over and around cover and more.

    Squad Command: Command fire teams on the battlefield using an easy to use first person interface. Suppress the enemy, send a fire team to flank them and hit them where it hurts!

    WWII weaponry redefined: true to life ballistics, bullet penetration, breathing, adjustable sights, free aim, weapon bracing, photo-real graphics and more, create WWII weaponry that has no equal. 
    Morale: Experience what it is like to be a soldier in one of the bloodiest conflicts in history and the importance of a soldier’s state of mind and how it can turn the tide of battle.

    Single Player Campaigns: Play through a full German campaign AND a full Russian campaign, in iconic engagements from the Battle of Stalingrad.

    Enhanced Unreal® Engine™ 3: Built on an enhanced version of Unreal Engine 3 the game features cutting edge visuals and features.

    And coming after release:
    Co-op: Players can connect with their friends and battle AI in multiple game types including the Stalingrad Campaign, Skirmish Mode, and more.

    Offline Challenges: Offline challenges such as the shooting range and assault courses let the player learn and hone their skills to perfection with all of the weapons and features in the game. Training with different challenges to achieve awards, win competitions and improve their skills the player can pit their best times/scores against the rest of the online gaming community.

    New vehicles: We will roll out new vehicles for the game, including new tanks as well as armored transports.
    SOURCE: OnLiveFans.