HTC raised more than a few eyebrows when it announced the Vive, a VR headset that ostensibly competes with the more well-known Oculus Rift. But far from being some one-off excursion like the Re Camera, the Vive has gained critical acclaim from those who've had access to its pre-production developer units, and HTC's partnership with Valve gives the company an in with one of the gaming industry's most influential players. At CES 2016, HTC revealed a new model, the Vive Pre, with some very interesting additions to the original.
On top of some ergonomic adjustments for more comfortable wear, the Vive Pre adds a front-facing camera to the design, which allows for easy viewing of the real world without having to remove the headset.
Steam is the #1 gaming market for PCs, and the desktop client is quite robust (and big enough that performance-minded gamers complain about its RAM and processor footprint). The official mobile version of Steam has been slowly catching up to the desktop in terms of features, and today's update to version 2.1 is the biggest that's come in a long time. A laundry list of tools from the desktop and web versions of Steam are now available in the Android app, no pop-out required.
Last year the buzzword at Mobile World Congress was "wearable." The fervor from that market trend still hasn't died down, but hot on its heels is "virtual reality." Despite a less than fantastic position in the smartphone space, HTC seems intent on expanding into virtual reality to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Google, Oculus Rift (and by extension, Facebook), and Samsung. Say hello to the HTC Vive... or possibly the Re Vive, depending on which HTC promo you go by.
Details on HTC's hardware are scarce - to be honest, we don't even know if the Vive is running Android or compatible with smartphones in any way.
At the pace that NVIDIA and Valve are publishing older PC games for SHIELD devices, we might see Half-Life 3 come as a SHIELD exclusive. (In 2035.) But today, you can play the third stand-alone Half-Life shooter on your SHIELD Tablet. Half-Life 2, Episode One (the oddly-named sequel to the original Half-Life 2) is now available on the Play Store for $7.99. You'll need a SHIELD Tablet to purchase it and an official SHIELD controller to play it.
Episode 1 was released way back in 2006 as a story extension for Half-Life, which was released two years earlier. The original plan was for Valve to release episodic content for Half-Life on a regular basis.
Have you ever heard the phrase "when it rains, it pours?" Well, at NVIDIA HQ, they like to make it storm. Those guys don't know about a little thing called "subtlety," nor do I think they care. They're like "oh, we want to announce something? Let's just save it up and do it all at once." So that's what they did. I like their style.
Here we go.
First off - and maybe most importantly - the Lollipop update is coming for SHIELD Tablet. We already knew that, but now we know when: November 18th. That's less than a week away.
Valve's Portal and Half-Life 2, despite being quite old in terms of PC games, are two of the best showcase titles for the SHIELD right now. Naturally NVIDIA (which publishes both games in the Play Store) is eager to highlight them for the shiny new SHIELD Tablet. Actually, it's not shiny - the tablet is quite matte. But anyway, both games have been updated with SHIELD Tablet support, a week before the device is released.
The app update text doesn't mention any specific changes to gameplay or graphics, but hopefully they include on-screen controls for people who buy the SHIELD Tablet without also purchasing the $60 SHIELD controller.
It's a good day to be an NVIDIA SHIELD owner. Valve's Android ports of PC shooter classics Portal and Half-Life 2 just dropped in the Play Store for $10 a pop. They're only for the SHIELD (even other devices with the Tegra 4 chipset aren't invited to the party), which is a bit of a mixed blessing - these games really require a full controller to play.
Valve teased an Android release for the 2007 classic Portal way back in March, but we only heard about the Half-Life 2 port last week (via crowbar). Since both of these games run on an older version of Valve's Source engine, it makes sense that it didn't take long to get HL2 up and running once Portal was finished.
This morning Android Police editor David Ruddock received a package in the mail. The only thing enclosed was a lime-green crowbar.
It says it all, really.
PC gamers will recognize the logo for Valve's much-loved science fiction shooter Half-Life 2 emblazoned on the bar, which is the iconic starter weapon for the game. "What Would Gordon [Freeman] Do?" and NVIDIA's SHIELD logo, along with NVIDIA's signature green color, makes this a not-so-subtle indication that the game is coming to the Android-powered SHIELD at some point.
Portal was released nearly seven years ago as part of the Valve Orange Box, which also included a few other games. Seven years is an eternity on the internet, but the excitement was still palpable when Nvidia announced it was working on a version of Portal for the Shield. Now here we are just a weeks later and the game is about to hit the Play Store. The questions we have to ask are... has Nvidia done the original game justice, and how does Portal hold up after so long?
After a bunch of clever Russian programmers started creating their own Portal for Android last month using the Unity 3D engine and Valve's assets, the news got picked up and spread through the Internet like wildfire. It all seemed too good to be true, but the initial demo was playable, and as I was monitoring the development thread, I saw how quickly progress was being made. The developers were literally recreating the Portal world at a phenomenal pace, and things were looking up.