What's Going on at GDC 2019?: Day 3

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What's Going on at GDC 2019?: Day 3

Day 3 of the Game Developers Conference included announcements from Epic, Oculus, Nintendo, and Microsoft.

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After the monumental announcement of Google's Stadia streaming service on Tuesday, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2019 has not slowed down. Although there were no announcements on Wednesday that matched the impact of Stadia, Day 3 brought about new tools and features for Epic's Unreal engine, a much-anticipated product from Oculus, and numerous, atypical partnerships between Nintendo, Microsoft, and third-party developers.

Epic: New Tools & Improvements Coming to Unreal

During its State of Unreal address at 12:30 pm ET on Wednesday, Epic announced large-scale additions to its Unreal game engine, including a new online services Software Development Kit (SDK), a new physics engine, and support for ray-tracing technology. Based on experience with the multiplatform sensation, Fortnite, Epic has consolidated its lessons into a single SDK that allows developers to develop multiplatform games easily. According to the Epic Online Services website:

With Epic Online Services, we're making it easier and faster for developers to successfully launch, operate, and scale high-quality games. As a game developer ourselves, we've tackled numerous hard problems over the years. With Epic Online Services, we're sharing the fruits of our labor with the rest of the development community for free.

In addition to the new services, Epic also announced the addition of an integrated physics engine called Choas. This engine will launch in Unreal 4.23 and will allow developers to handle physics inside Unreal, rather than relying on third-party tools or engines. According to the technical demonstration for Chaos:

Revealed onstage at GDC 2019 during “State of Unreal,” Chaos is Unreal Engine’s new high-performance physics and destruction system coming in early access to Unreal Engine 4.23. The real-time tech demo is set within the world of Robo Recall. With Chaos, users can achieve cinematic-quality visuals in real time in scenes with massive-scale levels of destruction, with unprecedented artist control over content creation.

Lastly, with the increased interested in ray-tracing, Epic announced that it is planning to include ray-tracing support in Unreal. This inclusion takes into account that many systems do not currently support ray-tracing and handles rasterization on non-ray-tracing systems and backward compatibility. As a side effect of this ray-tracing support, Unreal underwent an architectural upgrade, which means that developers should see a performance increase in their games (after recompiling), even if they do not use the ray-tracing technology.

For more information, see the following:

Oculus: Rift S Revealed

Oculus announced on Wednesday that its Oculus Rift S would launch this Spring for $399. This upgraded version of its old Rift platform—much like the Oculus Quest announced on Monday—incorporates all of the needed sensors and tracking devices into a single unit. The Rift S still requires a PC, but according to the official Rift S announcement, this state-of-the-art upgrade brings five main advantages over its predecessor

  1. Higher Resolution on the Best PC VR Gaming Platform
  2. Increased Comfort and Integrated Audio
  3. Oculus Insight for Precise Room-Scale Tracking
  4. Passthrough+
  5. A Shared Platform

The interested reader can find a sneak-peak of the new Rift S in the official Rift S announcement trailer (image from the official trailer).

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For more information, see the following:

Nintendo: Cuphead Coming to Switch & Nintendo Shares Its IP With Third-Party

While not taking place on-site at GDC 2019, earlier this week, Nintendo announced a Nindies (Nintendo Indies) showcase scheduled for 12:30 pm ET on Wednesday. This showcase announced that Cuphead is coming to the Nintendo Switch on April 18th of this year. Apart from being launched in less than four weeks, this addition to the Switch marks the next stage in the relationship between Nintendo and Microsoft.

This Studio MDHR game had previously been a Microsoft exclusive, only appearing on Xbox and the PC, but with the addition of the Nintendo Switch, it seems that the friendship between Microsoft and Nintendo—both looking from the outside in on the giant of this console generation, Sony—has moved to another level. While Cuphead is not a AAA exclusive title like Halo, it still shows that Microsoft (and its partners) are willing to let exclusive games land on Nintendo consoles as well (image from the official Cuphead Nintendo Switch Announcement Trailer).

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It will be interesting to see what other Microsoft-exclusive games end up on the Switch in the future (Ori and the Blind Forest, developed by Moon Studios and published by Microsoft, is rumored to be next). It will also be interesting to see how these titles are announced—as viewers of the Nindies showcase were treated to a minute long video of a 1940s-style commercial about how to pour milk before being shown gameplay of Cuphead.

In addition to Microsoft exclusives coming to Switch, Nintendo also announced a new game: Cadence of Hyrule. This announcement would have been innocuous had it not been for the fact that this Crypt of the NecroDancer includes Link and Zelda—Nintendo Intellectual Property (IP)—even though an indie-third-party studio (Brace Yourself Games) developed this game. Besides the immediate interest in the game by Zelda and Nintendo fans alike, this access to Nintendo IP may be a new leaf in Nintendo's relationship with its indie developers (image from Cadence of Hyrule trailer).

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If Nintendo is willing to allow indie developers to utilize one of its most cherished IPs, other indie development studios may be able to partner with Nintendo and include famous IPs, such as Mario, Yoshi, Kirby, or a host of other Nintendo characters, in their games.

For more information, see the following:

Xbox Live: Xbox Live on Switch?

Cuphead coming to the Switch is exciting news for fans of the franchise and supporters of a Nintendo-Microsoft partnership, but it also opens up huge doors, including bringing Xbox Live to the Switch. In an article published on Wednesday, Chris Charla (Senior Director of ID@Xbox) spoke about what Cuphead on the Switch means for Xbox Live expanding beyond Microsoft products—and beyond its plans to bring Xbox Live to Android and iOS products:

We’ve had some good conversations with [StudioMDHR] about Xbox Live and the gaming community, especially after we saw what Mojang had done with Minecraft and the Bedrock Edition.

Growing out of these recent discussions, we are partnering with StudioMDHR to investigate bringing Xbox Live features beyond Xbox and PC to Nintendo Switch. Yes, this means that fans will now have the opportunity to experience StudioMDHR’s award-winning debut game on Nintendo Switch with Xbox Live! We’ll be working with StudioMDHR to implement Xbox Live features into Cuphead on the Nintendo Switch in the coming months. Given the early stage of our work with StudioMDHR, the Xbox Live features will appear in a post-launch update to Cuphead on Nintendo Switch. We’d like to thank Studio MDHR and Nintendo for their help in this investigation!

The details remain to be seen, but from Charla's comments, it sounds like Microsoft is on board with bringing Xbox Live to the Nintendo Switch. We will have to see what Nintendo's plans are for this service on their platform, but it appears as if the relationship between Nintendo and Microsoft is getting much more friendly. For more information, see Microsoft's GDC: Evolving the ID@Xbox Program for Developers with Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live.

Still to Come

Even with the week approaching its end, Thursday at GDC is slated to be an important day, primarily showcasing the store-wars between Valve and Epic and more information from Microsoft on Project xCloud. In light of Google's Stadia announcement on Tuesday, Project xCloud will be under the microscope and Microsoft will be hard-pressed to deliver big.

Be sure to look for the following events on Thursday:

conference, gaming, gdc, gdc 2019, video games

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