Monthly Archive: December 2016

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Facebook celebrates New Year with virtual firework displays

Facebook is fizzing with fireworks fun this NYE.
From Sydney to San Francisco, New Year’s Eve always goes off around the world with the whizzes, pops and bangs of fireworks. This year, Facebook is joining in with a display of its own.
Whenever Facebook…

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Game of the Year Nominee: The Witness Review

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A labyrinthine mystery through a brilliantly designed world.

By Chloi Rad[1]

Update: The Witness has been nominated for IGN’s 2016 Game of the Year[2]

Nominees1_inline

 The Witness is a game brimming with secrets: daunting and multilayered mysteries that sunk into my subconscious, tracing snaking paths across my brain until I was literally seeing mazes every time I closed my eyes. That’s the kind of power The Witness[3] has. It hooked me in with its masterful puzzle design and gorgeous visuals, then compelled me forward as I began to carve out my own purpose on the island. It’s a freedom granted by a world as welcomingly open to exploration as it is enjoyably challenging to solve.

The Witness is a fully 3D world navigated in first person, but revolves around solving two-dimensional mazes found on in-game panels, completed by drawing the correct path from a circular start point to a rounded end point. This simple, intuitive core concept burns at the center of the 700 or so puzzles you’ll find on The Witness’s enigmatic island setting. Tracing lines feels as smooth as cutting butter with both a mouse and a gamepad and is accompanied by a warm, electric buzzing effect. The pure tactile joy of communicating with these interfaces and the initial sense of wonder and mystery their very presence brings were enough to motivate me in the earliest moments of The Witness. But these light-up labyrinths quickly became more sophisticated, adding new rules and constraints to the basic maze-like structure and thus allowing for the real tough, yet fulfilling challenges to emerge.

Puzzles With a Purpose

Puzzles in The Witness are hard, but fair.

As I learned to apply each new rule, curiosity soon gave way to obsessive levels of motivation and purpose. I wasn’t just solving puzzles because they were fun – slowly but surely, they were beginning to make sense in a much larger context. This manifests most tangibly in The Witness’s first obvious, overarching “goal” – shooting beams of light into a mountain. The mountain serves as the island’s highest point, most prominent landmark, and consequently its most central mystery for reasons that are obvious once you start playing, but which I won’t spoil here.

Most of the major regions on the island house machinery capable of shooting light into the mountain, but can only be activated once you solve the right sequence of puzzles, bestowing my frantic line-drawing antics with an important sense of progress. It also helped me see the various regions of the island as distinct parts of a larger, cohesive whole, making the constant treks across the surprisingly large, dense land mass less daunting because of it. It let me set my own goals, trace my own path around the island, so I never had to feel lost, physically or in terms of my role on the island.

Map

A map of the island.

There was also enough to do and see beyond the key objectives that my time spent simply wandering still felt compelling minute to minute. I could take a peaceful boat ride around the perimeter, explore the ruins of a wrecked ship, finally make the descent into that hidden underground passage I’d discovered on a previous errand. I valued these quiet moments on the island as much as I did overcoming its most perplexing puzzles, especially during the times I felt truly stuck.

A New Perspective

Puzzles in The Witness are hard, but they’re always fair and solvable. In a manner more freeing than most puzzle adventures, you’re allowed and even encouraged to walk away from a problem you don’t feel equipped to solve. That’s a concept introduced in the opening minutes, when you encounter a locked door covered in symbols you’re unfamiliar with. The answers you need are further up the path, but you have to let yourself walk away first to know that. The Witness does more than equip you with the tools needed to find the right answers – it teaches you how to ask the right questions.

Expand this dynamic to the whole of the island, and you get an intelligently designed puzzle game that doesn’t just give you the freedom to chip away at its riddles at your own pace, but creates a compelling adventure of the learning process itself.

I always found seeking the answer just as satisfying as applying it.

The masterful design of The Witness’s puzzles is matched by the beautiful and clever layout of the island itself. One early sequence of puzzles unlocks a small courtyard full of sketches and diagrams of human hearts and veins. It didn’t seem of immediate significance when I found it, until I walked out to the neighboring cliffside I had passed by on my way there and noticed the way the red tree roots growing along the edges of the seaside bluff looked like bright, thick arteries coursing through the flesh of the earth. These startling and sometimes enlightening visual revelations were everywhere, adding excitement and meaning to the world even when I wasn’t actively seeking it out.

RedTrees

Sights become symbolic with the right context.

Every tree, every rock, feels like it has been placed with a purpose, allowing familiar sights to take on thematic weight when viewed from different angles. Ordinary landmarks became focal points when framed with precise deliberation between a grove of trees, or perfectly centered inside a hollow window frame. That’s kind of what The Witness is about: pointing you toward new ways of seeing.

Many times, finding the answer meant stepping away from the actual puzzle and asking myself what I wasn’t seeing. Puzzles in The Witness are solved on these panels, but it doesn’t mean everything you need to solve them exists within their physical confines. No matter what question a particular puzzle posed, I always found seeking the answer just as satisfying as applying it.

Island of Enlightenment

A lot of games try to be about things, but The Witness actually embodies those things. Audio logs hidden around the island contain quotes from famous philosophers and scientists, chosen with obvious care for the way each speaks to specific concepts The Witness sets out to explore. The graceful design of the island had already managed to provoke natural epiphanies about ideas some of the quotes address, so at times the logs felt unnecessary. But then other times the words spoke to me, in the same way the physical island had: an invitation to see things from a new point of view that maybe I hadn’t considered.

Mountain

The view from the top.

Some of the most mind-blowing revelations were hidden in plain sight…

One particular quote at the top of the mountain comes from former astronaut Russell Schweickart. As I looked down at the island from its highest point, I felt a connection between what Schweickart was describing[4], when he spoke about the transformative effect of looking down at the Earth from space, and the all-encompassing view of the island the mountain afforded me. Like the Earth that Schweickart describes, spinning around the same way every day, revealing the same places with each rotation, nothing about the island ever really changes. I could walk by the same thing in The Witness ninety-nine times and never have a second thought, but then on the 100th passing, I’d notice something new about it. But not because the thing itself had changed – because I had.

Like everything else in The Witness, finding more concrete answers about this abandoned island and the people who once occupied it requires patience. There’s plenty there to dissect – statues that seem like people frozen from various eras, mysterious corporate logos, hidden audio logs – and it was all enough to keep me enthralled in the mysteries it built across my 40- to 50-hour playthrough. Most of the time it’s more questions than answers, and I enjoyed that it left things open to interpretation.

Clues

Statues around the island seem like people from all eras, frozen in time.

There’s also a lot you can miss – secrets tucked away behind the island’s most challenging obstacles – but some of the most mind-blowing revelations were hidden in plain sight, making every return to the island a new adventure. I estimate it would take 80 to 100 hours to fully do and see everything here, but there’s a satisfying amount of thematic weight and contextual clues that I was able to reach the ending the first time without feeling like The Witness owed me a greater answer to its riddles. Story doesn’t drive The Witness as much as its mystery, nor does it treat story as an arbitrary reward for your efforts; what’s there only enriches an already fulfilling experience.

The Verdict

The Witness[5] has a power and pull that carried me throughout the more than 40 hours it took to complete it for the first time, and that, even now, beckons me back to confront the mysteries I left unsolved. Its graceful combination of tangible goals, obscurity, and freedom creates ample opportunity for small victories and grand revelations alike. For the most part, its themes weave themselves beautifully throughout the gorgeous world and wide variety of puzzles, but even when it breaks subtlety in favor of a more heavy-handed approach to exposition, it never detracts from the truly fulfilling moments The Witness offers in terms of solving its physical puzzles and unlocking its deepest mysteries.

Editors’ Choice

References

  1. ^ Chloi Rad (people.ign.com)
  2. ^ IGN’s 2016 Game of the Year (www.ign.com)
  3. ^ The Witness (uk.ign.com)
  4. ^ what Schweickart was describing (www.wholeearth.com)
  5. ^ The Witness (uk.ign.com)
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GTA 5, Portal 2 Among First Steam Awards Winners

Voted on by the Steam community.

By Alex Osborn[1]

The winners of the 2016 Steam Awards have been announced.

Grand Theft Auto V, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim[2] and Portal 2 were among the winning titles of the first ever Steam Awards[3]. Valve’s portal-focused puzzle game won “Villain Most in Need of a Hug,” while Rockstar’s open-world hit received both the “Whoooaaaaaaa, dude!” award and the “Game Within a Game” award.

SteamAwards

The 2016 Steam Awards winners, as voted on by the community.

See the full list of winners below:

  • Villain Most in Need of a Hug – Portal 2
  • I Thought This Game Was Cool Before It Won an Award – Euro Truck Simulator 2
  • Test of Time – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Just 5 More Minutes – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Whoooaaaaaaa, dude! – Grand Theft Auto V
  • Game Within a Game – Grand Theft Auto V
  • I’m Not Crying, There’s Something in My Eye – The Walking Dead
  • Best Use of a Farm Animal – Goat Simulator
  • Boom Boom – Doom
  • Love/Hate Relationship – Dark Souls III
  • Sit Back and Relax – Euro Truck Simulator 2
  • Better With Friends – Left 4 Dead 2

The winning titles were selected by the Steam community during this year’s Winter Sale, which kicked off on December 22[4] and runs until January 2.

For more end-of-year celebration, check out the nominees for IGN’s Best of 2016 Awards[5].

Alex Osborn is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter[6].

References

  1. ^ Alex Osborn (people.ign.com)
  2. ^ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (uk.ign.com)
  3. ^ Steam Awards (store.steampowered.com)
  4. ^ kicked off on December 22 (www.ign.com)
  5. ^ nominees for IGN’s Best of 2016 Awards (www.ign.com)
  6. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
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Doomsday decor: Check out these fortified, stylish underground bunkers

The doomsday survivalist or so-called “prepper” market has transformed into a multi-billion-dollar industry[1] over the past decade. For these enthusiasts, simply having enough food and water stored is only part of the plan. For optimal security, many of these individuals are building reinforced subterranean bunkers.

More: ‘The Bunker’ explores one man’s isolated life after a nuclear apocalypse[2]

A wise man once said “Chaos was the law of nature, order was the dream of man.” Considering more than 90 percent[3] of all species that have ever existed on Earth have gone extinct, it would seem foolish for man to believe it incapable of going the way of the mastodon or the dodo.

While our infrastructure and security systems are designed with backups and fail-safes, these may only delay the inevitable. As best illustrated by Bonini’s paradox[4], as any system increases in complexity, it too becomes less understandable and consequently even less predictable. Be it a solar flare, pandemic, or nuclear bomb, it would take very little for this order to give way to mass entropy.

These four bunkers were designed to survive the apocalypse, even if humans do not.

Vivos Indiana[5]

This underground complex was built during to the Cold War to withstand a near direct-hit from a 20-megaton nuclear bomb. The site was recently purchased and upgraded by the Vivos[6] Corporation.

This isn’t just some drab, concrete-reinforced hole in the earth. This complex features a full gym, an infirmary, and two generators, as well as a high-grade air filtration systems to filter nuclear, biological, and chemical particulates. There’s also a stockpile of guns and ammunition and even a pet kennel and faux dog park so even ol’ Rover can join the family come Armageddon.

Inhabitants will also enjoy some of the choicest eats the End Times will have to offer. One of the feature dinner[7] spreads includes a tomato and zucchini salad grown on site in the facility’s hydroponic garden, followed by a main course of  spaghetti topped with skillet fried steak “chunks.” Guests will then have an offering of turtle brownies for dessert.

Vivos Indiana is built to accommodate up to 80 people for one year. What happens after that one year? Everything should be legit 365 days after the apocalypse, right? Right. Maybe the first go around will be an Apocalypse Lite. With an entry fee of $35,000 per person, this certainly isn’t cheap, but how much are the lives of your loved one really worth?

After the ash settles, the nuclear winter subsides, The Hoosier State very well may become the next cradle of civilization.

Vivos Europa One[8]

Vivos isn’t looking to simply cash in on good old-fashioned American paranoia. Our friends across the pond have their own death-proof hole to hide in when the Reptilians come to collect.

Vivos Europa One is a massive 76-acre complex built inside of a limestone mountain in Rothenstein, Germany. This facility is also constructed to withstand a nearby megaton nuclear blast. According to Vivos[9], the complex is able to withstand a direct airplane crash, biological/chemical agents, shock waves, earthquakes, and electromagnetic pulses. It is also “tsunami-proof.” Seeing as the facility is more than 300 miles from the ocean, such an event would seem unlikely, but that’s just the level of security this facility ensures.

Europa One is still under construction; when completed, the site will feature plenty of luxuries and panaceas to take your mind off of the fact that everyone you’ve ever loved is dead. Inside there will be restaurants, a bakery, a brewpub, wine cellar, and even a chapel for post-apocalyptic weddings.

The bunker will utilize self-contained water and power systems. The site will also include a DNA vault to preserve the genomes of zoological species, as well as donors. Rooms are selling out quickly. As stated on the Vivos[10]‘ site: “Remember, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark!”

Silo Home

Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, the Silo Home in Saranac, New York is one of the more remote underground bunkers on earth. On the surface, this looks like any other home, however, the beneath this innocuous walkout ranch lies a nuclear missile silo and subterranean command center.

The bunker — located 35 feet underground — was carved out of concrete and was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack. Constructed out of concrete, mixed with epoxy resin, and more than 600 tons of steel rebar, this class of missile silos is considered to be some of the strongest structures ever built by mankind[11].

In 1965,  the silos were decommissioned and the property was then auctioned off by the government. In the late ’90s, the silo was purchased by two individuals who spent the better part of the next two decades converting the silo into livable space and constructing the “decoy house[12]” above the bunker. The property comes equipped with a FAA-approved 2,050 foot paved airstrip as well.

Photos: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/1-75m-cold-war-cabin-is-the-perfect-place-to-bunker-down-for-zombie-apocalypse/#/2

The Underground “Outdoor” Bunker

Built in Las Vegas, this bunker foresees life during the apocalypse as only Sin City could. This home was constructed in 1978 to withstand a nuclear blast by wealthy entrepreneur[13] Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson. With all the Cold War tension, Mr. Henderson looked to tap into a budding market: nuclear holocaust-proof housing for the aesthetically disinclined.

Why simply live in a dreary underground bunker while the nukes rain down when you can live in an subterranean structure designed to mimic the outdoors? Remember, they too mocked Pythagoras. Henderson’s prototype “Underground World Home” features an astroturf four-hole putting green, a swimming pool, two jacuzzis, a dance floor, a bar, a “garden” with fake trees as well as a BBQ seamlessly disguised as a rock.

The home has yet to see an interior design overhaul in decades. With pink toilets, pink carpet, and pink trim accents throughout, the bunker now exists as a time capsule and ode to a tackier time. The lighting can be adjusted to mimic moonlight or daylight, enabling you to at least pretend to feel the fading warmth of our sun even if of our star has been blackened from the sky by ash and pulverized human particulates.

References

  1. ^ multi-billion-dollar industry (finance.yahoo.com)
  2. ^ ‘The Bunker’ explores one man’s isolated life after a nuclear apocalypse (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ 90 percent (science.nationalgeographic.com)
  4. ^ Bonini’s paradox (en.wikipedia.org)
  5. ^ Vivos Indiana (terravivos.com)
  6. ^ Vivos (terravivos.com)
  7. ^ dinner (www.vice.com)
  8. ^ Vivos Europa One (terravivos.com)
  9. ^ Vivos (terravivos.com)
  10. ^ Vivos (www.terravivos.com)
  11. ^ strongest structures ever built by mankind (www.foxnews.com)
  12. ^ decoy house (www.foxnews.com)
  13. ^ entrepreneur (www.dailymail.co.uk)