TIME e3 2014

Xbox One vs. PS4: Battle of the Exclusives

As Microsoft and Sony try to win gamers over to their respective consoles, both companies used E3 2014 as a battleground for “exclusives” that the rival platform doesn’t have. That means choosing between an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 isn’t just about features or price points, it’s about personal preference for games that will only appear on that platform.

It’ll be a while until many of these exclusives are even available, but here’s the rundown in chronological order:

PS4: Entwined

What it is: A relaxing game where you simultaneously guide two characters through tunnel-like dreamscapes, using opposite thumbsticks. The goal is to unify them over time, so they transform into a great dragon.

Release date: It’s out now

Xbox One: Forza Horizon 2

What it is: An open-world racing game with obsessive attention to vehicle detail and realism, set in southern Europe.

Release date: September 30, 2014

PS4: Driveclub

What it is: A racing game in which players can create teams and take to the road together. It won’t be an ultra-realistic simulator like Gran Turismo, but it won’t be too arcade-like either.

Release date: October 7, 2014

Xbox One: Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

What it is: Much like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, you use a series of gestures–tracked by the Xbox Kinect sensor–to create music and bring life to the world.

Release date: October 21, 2014

Xbox One: Sunset Overdrive

What it is: An acrobatic third-person shooter with a cartoonish, over-the-top art style. Players create their own character and try to save a city in which an addictive energy drink has turned everyone into mutants.

Release date: October 28, 2014

Xbox One: Halo: The Master Chief Collection

What it is: Every major Halo game re-released, including a newly-remastered version of Halo 2. (Halo 3: ODST and Halo Wars aren’t part of the package.) It’ll also include the live action Halo: Nightfall and access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta.

Release date: November 11, 2014

PS4: LittleBigPlanet 3

What it is: A cute platform game that encourages players to work together, and lets them create their own levels. LittleBigPlanet 3 adds three new character types to the mix, and will include all 8.7 million user-made levels from the first two games.

Release date: November 2014

Xbox One: Dance Central Spotlight

What it is: A downloadable sequel to the popular Kinect-driven dance-along. Developer Harmonix says it’s come up with a system for bringing new tracks to the game faster than before.

Release date: Fall 2014

Xbox One: Ori and the Blind Forest

What it is: An artsy 2D platformer in which you explore a beautiful enchanted forest, gaining new powers along the way.

Release date: Fall 2014

PS4: Various Devolver Digital Titles

What it is: A series of games from indie label Devolver Digital, including Hotline Miami: Wrong Number, Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero and The Talos Principle. Most of them are throwbacks to the 8- and 16-bit era with modern twists, while The Talos Principle is a 3D puzzler with a touch of deep philosophy.

Release date: 2014

Xbox One: Inside

What it is: A platformer with a dark, haunting atmosphere, somewhat reminiscent of Limbo.

Release date: Early 2015 as a timed exclusive

Xbox One: Halo 5: Guardians

What it is: A new Halo game in which the Master Chief mourns the loss of his AI companion Cortana and goes searching for answers. Details are still scarce, and we haven’t seen the actual game in action yet.

Release date: Fall 2015

PS4: Bloodborne

What it is: A gruesome-looking adventure game from Hidetaka Miyazaki, who was behind Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls.

Release date: 2015

Xbox One: Crackdown

What it is: Possibly a reboot for the open-world Xbox 360 franchise, which let players earn superpowers as they fought crime in a futuristic city.

Release date: 2015

PS4: Abzu

What it is: A game that seems to involve underwater exploration. It’s from a couple of people who were involved with Journey, so it’ll likely be artistically striking, beautifully scored and somewhat cryptic.

Release date: 2016

Xbox One: Fable: Legends

What it is: A multiplayer action-RPG with cooperative play. Also, another player can control “The Villain,” and command an army of foes to attack the good guys.

Release date: Unknown, but a multiplayer beta begins this fall

Xbox One: Scalebound

What it is: An action game involving a human character that can don a set of dragon-like scales, and appears to gain command over various creatures. The studio behind it, PlatinumGames, is well-regarded for games like Bayonetta, Vanquish and MadWorld.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: The Order 1886

What it is: A third-person, supernatural thriller set in a steampunk version of 19th century London, where beastly, man-eating “half breeds” roam the world.

Release date: Unknown

Xbox One: Phantom Dust

What it is: A remake or sequel to the original Xbox cult favorite, which combined third-person action with Magic the Gathering-style deck building.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

What it is: Another entry in the Indiana Jones-inspired action adventure series. That’s about all we know.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Magicka 2

What it is: A four-player, cooperative, top-down action-adventure game involving wizards.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Grim Fandango Remastered

What it is: A sprucing-up of a beloved adventure game, which combines dark comedy with a noir art style. It stars a skeletal travel agent who discovers corruption in the Land of the Dead.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Let It Die

What it is: The next game from oddball designer Suda 51, the guy behind No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw. It seems to involve a lot of killing, but that’s about all we know.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: No Man’s Sky

What it is: A world where everything, from the creatures to the environment to the surrounding galaxy, is created algorithmically. Players are plunked on one of these computer-generated planets, and can then explore the universe while meeting with other players. It looks pretty trippy.

Release date: Unknown

Xbox One: Downloadable Content

For a handful of larger games that aren’t Xbox exclusives, Microsoft is getting first dibs on additional content, sold after the games launch. These games include Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, The Division, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Evolve.

PS4: Early Betas

Sony isn’t as interested in getting downloadable content first, but instead wants to give players an earlier taste of upcoming games. Both Destiny and Battlefield Hardline will include early beta access on the PS4, and players can also check out a Destiny alpha this Thursday.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Mario Maker for Wii U Lets You Build Your Own Mario Levels

Nintendo announced a new game at E3 Tuesday that allows players to build their own Mario levels.

Dubbed Mario Maker, the new Wii U title lets players create 2D levels either in the classic, 8-bit art style of the original Super Mario Bros. or the more modern 3D graphics Nintendo has used in the New Super Mario Bros. series.

The brief gameplay trailer showed that players will have the ability to lay green pipes, boxes marked with question marks, Goombas and other Mario staples across their levels. The title makes use of the Wii U’s gamepad allowing players to edit levels via the controller’s screen while using a stylus.

The game will go toe to toe with Sony’s upcoming level-creator game, LittleBigPlanet 3, when it launches in the first half of 2015.

TIME e3 2014

Nintendo Wagers Inventive New Games at E3, Not Headline-Grabbers

Nintendo's E3 presentation turns up a mix of creative vamps on existing genres, a Skylanders-like leap into the toy-to-life market and teases for titles we won't see until 2015.

Splatoon. That’s what Nintendo’s newest, weirdest Wii U game is called, except I keep saying it “SPLIH-tune” because that’s how everyone else pronounced it (must be my Midwestern ear, what can I say?). It’s the thing I spent the most time with during the pre-E3 demos Nintendo offered instead of rolling all their new ideas into one splashy, realtime, FX-suffused press event.

Instead they’re doing their customary too-cool-for-school thing and holding a prerecorded digital event, which you’re maybe just coming from. (If you missed it, it’s re-playable here.) I admit the Satoru Iwata / Reggie Fils-Aime jazzed-up brawl elicited more than a chuckle.

But I think everyone’s going to agree: Nintendo’s striking a much lower-key note at E3 2014 than either Microsoft or Sony at their respective events. The games displayed in Nintendo’s tout we’ve mostly known about, and of those — with a few exceptions I’ll get to momentarily — the footage comes across as more supplemental than revelatory. The games themselves seem thematically stuck in the key of whimsical: there were no Entwined or No Man’s Sky or Abzû moments.

But let’s get back to Splatoon, a 4-vs-4 action game due in the first half of 2015 that lets you spray ink all over the screen like You Can’t Do That on Television‘s slime pumped through Super Soakers. The idea’s simple enough: whoever’s team covers the most square footage with their color of ink wins. When you bump into enemy inkers furiously blanketing their side of each level in colorful globs, you can square off as in a shooter, hosing them down or firing a rocket-like weapon you can whip out once you’ve powered up.

Nintendo

The twist — or other twist, I suppose — is that you play as a human that can morph into a squid: in squid form, you recharge spent ink and can swim super-fast through your own ink color, including up the sides of walls, letting you zip from low ground to an out-of-reach platform in an instant.

It makes for frenetic, often amusing moments and seems to be a slyly charming inversion of shooter genre tropes filtered through Nintendo’s playful lens. I found the Wii U GamePad’s control scheme a bit of a challenge at first, since it combined aiming with the motion sensor (panning your view as you swing the GamePad) and traditional camera panning using the controller thumb-sticks. It started to sink in as I played further, but I wasn’t totally down with it by the time my demo sessions ended. In any event, the game’s human-squid mechanic seems the biggest lure, an inventive, tactically sophisticated feature I wanted to spent a lot more time exploring.

Let’s get the least interesting (if mostly like to generate piles of cash for Nintendo) part of the event out of the way: Nintendo’s move into Skylanders-like figurines, which it’s calling “amiibo.” We knew this was coming, and now we know how and when. Instead of subverting the genre Activision launched and that Disney’s been helping enlarge, Nintendo’s swimming into known waters with its own lineup of figurines that’ll communicate wirelessly with the Wii U GamePad and level up as you play. Nintendo says it’ll launch around 10 figures this November in tandem with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, the first game they’re designed to work with, though expect support for others, including already-released games like Mario Kart 8, down the road.

Nintendo

Some of the more interesting games in Nintendo’s presentation included Yoshi’s Wooly World (previously referred to as “Yarn Yoshi”) for Wii U, starring Yoshi as a bounding ball of filaments exploring a gorgeous, pliable 2.5D world, and a Wii U puzzle game starring Captain Toad that extracts levels from Super Mario 3D World and turns them into perspective-shiftable puzzles through which you’ll hunt for coins, gems and stars. And Mario Maker — a Miyamoto-led design tool that’ll let you roll your own Super Mario Bros. game using the Wii U GamePad — has the potential to be spectacular when it arrives sometime in the first half of 2015.

Nintendo announced a $20 adapter for GameCube or WaveBird controllers that’ll let you use either with Super Smash Bros., due on 3DS October 3 and by the holidays for Wii U. We saw a bit more of Hyrule Warriors, the Zelda-meets-Dynasty Warriors brawler for Wii U, which Nintendo says it’ll launch September 26. 3DS versions of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire were confirmed for November. And we caught another glimpse of Bayonetta 2, now due in October.

And of course we had our first look at Zelda for Wii U (that’s it up top): a gorgeous long shot of Hyrule with close-in focus on exquisitely detailed blades of swishing grass, running to distant mountains at the other end of a vast expanse. You can go all the way to those mountains and back, says Nintendo … which of course brought to mind Bethesda’s pitch for Oblivion in 2004 or 2005, though it’s hard not to feel a little thrill at the prospect of playing something like Nintendo’s version of Skyrim. The soonest we’ll get to do so is 2015, says Nintendo.

All told, a respectable if downtempo showing. If the goal was to generate the kind of buzzy spectacle Sony and Microsoft do nowadays, you could argue Nintendo failed. But this is what Nintendo does, and it still manages to with a certain amount of dignity. Whether all these predominantly first-party games aimed less at enthusiast than generalist players can pull the company out of the red this year, or bring the Wii U back to something approximating life when titles like Zelda and Star Fox hit in 2015 (for the latter, see my interview with Shigeru Miyamoto here) remains as much a question now as it was a year ago.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: You Can Fight As a Mii in Super Smash Bros. For Wii U

If you’ve always dreamed of fighting Mario, Link and the rest of Nintendo’s beloved cast of characters, you—yes, you—will get your chance in the next iteration of Super Smash Bros.

Nintendo announced at E3 Tuesday that Miis, the user-created avatars used in games on both the Wii and Wii U, will be playable characters in Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U. The characters will not only be changeable in appearance—Nintendo showed off designs based on Ice-T, Abraham Lincoln and Elijah Wood in a gaemplay trailer—but they’ll also have different fighting styles. The Miis can be designated as swordfighters, brawlers or gunners, and each fighting type will have its own selection of different special moves. In total, the Miis will have 36 special moves to choose from, making them the most customizable characters in Smash Bros. history.

Other newcomers to the new Smash Bros. games include Punch-Out!! star Little Mac, the Pokemon Greninja, the villager from Animal Crossing and the trainer from Wii Fit.

The Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. is slated for a holiday release, while a similar version for the 3DS will launch this summer.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Nintendo’s Next Zelda Game Will Be an Open-World Epic

Nintendo's yet-unnamed new Zelda title will offer gamers an open-world romp.

Nintendo offered a quick, teasing look at the next main installment in the Legend of Zelda series at its E3 digital media event Tuesday. Series director Eiji Aonouma presented a lush overworld (probably main character Link’s native Hyrule) in which Link fights a huge monster as he tries to traverse a bridge.

The colorful art style looked similar to the highly stylized The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii.

Aonuma said that the new Zelda would offer a more open world and less linear progression than past 3D Zeldas, which have all followed a similar format that involves exploring carefully designed dungeons in a particular order. The new title might harken back to the original Legend of Zelda on the NES, which emphasized overworld exploration and had dungeons that could be completed out of order.

The new Zelda, as yet untitled, is slated for a 2015 release.

TIME Aviation

Feds Approve First Commercial Drone Flight Over U.S. Soil

AeroVironment’s Puma AE drone AeroVironment

Could pave way for more commercial drone use

Here come the drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration for the first time Tuesday authorized an unmanned aircraft flight for commercial purposes over American soil, a step toward wider use of drones by businesses in the U.S.

The oil and gas company BP and the drone manufacturer AeroVironment will fly the AeroVironment’s Puma AE to survey Alaska’s North Slope. BP will use the hand-launched drone—a small aircraft, 4 1/2 ft. long with a 9 ft. wingspan—to oversee maintenance activities on infrastructure, the FAA said.

“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”

While the FAA banned commercial drones in 2007, the agency still approves usage on a case-by-case basis, such as drones launched for academic research or public safety. And many drones have flown without FAA authorization, including a recent incident in which a drone almost crashed into an American Airlines jet in March. In a separate incident this month, the National Transportation Safety Board rejected a $10,000 fine the FAA had leveled against an operator for recklessly flying his drone, saying the agency didn’t have the authority to regulate that particular model of aircraft.

Over the last year, the FAA has sought to clarify rules surrounding commercial drone use. In November, the FAA released its first annual Roadmap to outline the efforts necessary to safely integrate drones into American airspace. One month later, the FAA agency announced six test sites—including the University of Alaska, where AeroVironment demonstrated its drone in September—to research operational risks, airspace integration and safety standards.

The FAA will integrate drones into U.S. airspace by September 2015 as mandated by Congress’ 2012 FAA reauthorization bill.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Super Smash Bros. Goes Mobile on Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo previewed the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for 3DS version on Tuesday at E3 — the game will be the first time the series will be available on the handheld device.

The 3DS version will allow gamers to use Mii fighters, personalized representations of the player. It will also include a Mario-inspired level where characters can collect coins to gain attack and defense power.

Super Smash Bros. 4 for 3DS will be released on October 3, a pushback from Nintendo’s initial July release date.

TIME appliances

How to Select the Right Room Air Conditioner

There is no need to suffer through summer heat when inexpensive, energy-efficient air conditioners are widely available. Since June 1, 2014, all room air conditioners have been required to meet a new standard that set maximum power use at 10-15% less than older models following the 2000 guidelines. And, when used to provide cooling only where they’re needed, room air conditioners are less expensive to operate than central units. This guide will help you find the model that is right for you.

Energy Efficiency of Room Air Conditioners

A room air conditioner’s efficiency is measured by the energy efficiency ratio (EER). The EER is the ratio of the cooling capacity (in British thermal units [BTU] per hour) to the power input (in watts). The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner. Each increase of 1.0 on the EER scale represents a 10% increase in energy efficiency.

When buying a new room air conditioner, information about the EER can be found on the EnergyGuide label for the unit. Look for an EER of at least 11 and the ENERGY STAR label. Earning the ENERGY STAR means a product meets strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • ENERGY STAR qualified room air conditioners use at least 15% less energy than conventional models.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified room air conditioners often include timers for better temperature control, allowing you to use the minimum amount of energy you need to cool your room.

Properly Sizing a Room Air Conditioner

The required cooling capacity for a room air conditioner depends on the size of the room being cooled. Room air conditioners generally have cooling capacities that range from 5,500 BTU per hour to 14,000 BTU per hour.

Many people buy an air conditioner that is too large, thinking it will provide better cooling. However, an over-sized air conditioner is actually less effective — and wastes energy at the same time. Air conditioners remove both heat and humidity from the air. If the unit is too large, it will cool the room quickly, but only remove some of the humidity. This leaves the room with a damp, clammy feeling. A properly sized unit will remove humidity effectively as it cools. To figure out which size unit is best for your cooling needs, see the Air Conditioner Cooling Needs Calculator below.

Other Factors to Consider When Buying

Verify that your home’s electrical system can meet the unit’s power requirements. Room units operate on 115- or 230-volt circuits. The standard household receptacle is a connection for a 115-volt branch circuit. Large room units rated at 115 volts may require a dedicated circuit and room units rated at 230 volts may require a special circuit. If you are mounting your air conditioner near the corner of a room, look for a unit that can direct its airflow in the desired direction for your room layout. If you need to mount the air conditioner at the narrow end of a long room, look for models that have a “turbo” fan mode that can drive air further into the room. Other features to look for:

  • A filter that slides out easily for regular cleaning
  • Logically arranged controls
  • A digital readout for the thermostat setting, and
  • A built-in timer

Our Picks

GE

Small rooms (up to 150 square feet)

The GE AEL06LS ($179.00 on HomeDepot.com), rated at 6,050 BTU, gets high marks for its cooling capabilities. The unit, which has an EER of 11.2, has two cooling and two fan speeds, a 24-hour programmable timer and a two-way adjustable vent to direct air flow.

LG

Large rooms (up to 550 square feet)

The highly-rated LG LW8014ER ($239.00 on Amazon) delivers 8,000 BTU, enough to cool a room up to 340 square feet, with an EER of 11.3. The unit has three cooling and three fan speeds, a 24-hour programmable timer and a four-way directional vent to stream air where you want it. For rooms up to 550 square feet, we like the LG LW1214ER ($349.00 on HomeDepot.com) step-up model, which has all the same features, but delivers 12,000 BTU with an EER of 11.3.

Installing and Operating Your Room Air Conditioner

A little planning before installing your air conditioner will save you money and energy. The unit should be level when installed, so that the inside drainage system and other mechanisms operate efficiently. If possible, install the unit in a shaded spot on your home’s north or east side. Direct sunshine on the unit’s outdoor heat exchanger decreases efficiency by as much as 10%. You can plant trees and shrubs to shade the air conditioner, but do not block the airflow.

Don’t place lamps or televisions near your air-conditioner’s thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.

Set your air conditioner’s thermostat as high as is comfortably possible in the summer. The less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be. Don’t set your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner; it will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense.

Set the fan speed on high, except on very humid days. When humidity is high, set the fan speed on low for more comfort. The low speed on humid days will cool your home better and will remove more moisture from the air because of slower air movement through the cooling equipment.

Consider using an interior fan in conjunction with your window air conditioner to spread the cooled air more effectively through your home without greatly increasing electricity use.

Air Conditioner Cooling Needs Calculator

To determine the correct size air conditioner for your room, follow these easy steps:

  1. Determine the square footage of the area to be cooled.
  2. Using the square footage and the chart below, determine the correct cooling capacity. Cooling capacity is measured in British thermal units (BTU) per hour.
  3. Make any adjustments for the following circumstances:
    • If the room is heavily shaded, reduce capacity by 10 percent.
    • If the room is very sunny, increase capacity by 10 percent.
    • If more than two people regularly occupy the room, add 600 BTU for each additional person.
    • If the unit is used in a kitchen, increase capacity by 4,000 BTU.
    • For the purpose of this chart, rooms that are connected by permanently open entryways wider than five feet ought to be considered as one room and their square footage should be combined.
Area to Be Cooled
(Square Feet)
Capacity Needed
(BTU per Hour)
100 to 150 5,000
150 to 250 6,000
250 to 300 7,000
300 to 350 8,000
350 to 400 9,000
400 to 450 10,000
450 to 550 12,000
550 to 700 14,000
700 to 1,000 18,000
1,000 to 1,200 21,000

Information for this article comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. This article was written by Josh Kirschner and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME e3 2014

Interview: Shigeru Miyamoto Explains Nintendo’s Star Fox Rethink and His Unusual New Wii U Games

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrates the new control scheme in Star Fox for the Wii U. Nintendo

The creator of some of Nintendo's most iconic characters and beloved games pulls back the curtain on his top-secret Wii U projects, and explains his rationale for radically reinventing the control scheme for his new Wii U-bound Star Fox.

Update: 1:00pm.

Behind closed doors, surrounded by half-emptied pallets, whizzing forklifts and all the chaotic scaffolding and hustle of E3 2014’s pre-show preparations, the creator of Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda and more drew back the veil Sunday night on some of the experimental work he’d alluded to years ago when he told Wired he was shifting gears to work on smaller, more personal projects.

In one of the games, which Miyamoto called Project Giant Robot, players control sky-scraping automatons, angling the Wii U GamePad in front of a TV screen while shifting their torsos left and right or up and down to maneuver the robot’s upper-body while thumbing the controller’s joysticks to punch or grab — almost like a full-body game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. The GamePad shows you what the robot sees, while the TV screen offers a zoomed-back view, letting onlookers — as well as you — admire your tromping, pummeling handiwork.

In another, titled Project Guard, the GamePad became a quick-jump map of a fortress manned by numbered, laser-firing security cameras. As robots encroach on different entry points, you have to tap the GamePad to leap from camera to camera, blasting enemies that trundle or come at you sprinting — even some that sneak under your radar. All the while, onlookers can shout out the numbers that correspond to robot-threatened camera feeds, turning your defense operations into a frenetic, heart-racing, tap-and-fire scramble.

And the third project? A game Nintendo fans have been waiting for a very long time to see: Star Fox is back, only reimagined on the Wii U using Miyamoto’s new GamePad-based controls — controls that’ll ask of players things they’ve never had to do before in a video game. Whether they’ll come willing or balk remains to be seen, but Miyamoto is convinced he’s on to a control scheme that’s not only novel, but with practice, indispensable.

In his new version of Star Fox — still fundamentally a spaceship-based shooter — players now use the GamePad’s motion controls to aim and fire the Arwing’s weapons, simultaneously controlling the nimble craft itself by thumbing the joysticks to accelerate or turn and pull off signature moves like barrel rolls, loops and the tactically essential Immelman turn. And you can still morph your Arwing into a land tank, rocketing down to the surface of a planet, then rattling around the battlefield and laying waste to the landscape.

But Miyamoto and his team have added a new vehicle mode, one that’s designed to exemplify the new motion control scheme: It lets up to two players pilot a helicopter-like craft, one player controlling the helicopter itself, the other controlling a tiny robot you can drop from a tether to roll around a limited area, either snatching up booty or blasting enemies. Leave the robot hanging as you fly around the battlefield and it becomes a kind of dangling, swingable cannon.

Project Giant Robot and Project Guard are still considered experimental at this point, and Star Fox is at least a year away, but I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Miyamoto after trying all three. Here’s what he told me.

Which came first in the development cycle, Project Giant Robot, Project Guard or Star Fox?

Shigeru Miyamoto plays Project Giant Robot, using the GamePad’s motion control sensors to move the robot’s torso. Nintendo

We started work on all of them at about the same time. For Project Giant Robot we started earlier, then left it and came back to it, but all of them went into development at around the same time. Typically when we’re developing, we have a lot of different experiments that we’re working on. So these started off as experiments, but they all went into full development around the same time.

Whenever we create new hardware we do some experiments with it, but on Wii we didn’t release any Star Fox games, so we took some of the experimentation that we’d done and the assets that we’d used then and used them for the experimentation we were doing with the Wii U.

Would it be fair to see Project Guard as partly a riff on the tower defense genre, where you’re making your defense preparations then defending from attackers that advance in waves?

We didn’t really think of it from a genre perspective. Project Guard was one that we actually began experimenting on back in the Nintendo 64 era, around the time that we were doing things with the original Luigi’s Mansion. But on the N64, we didn’t have enough processing power to bring the game to life. So we set it aside, and then we came back to it on Wii U, and particularly with the Wii U GamePad, it made the interface much more intuitive. So we decided to then bring that project back to life on Wii U. We didn’t take into account any current genres in designing the game.

So when we were actually trying to think up a genre name for Project Guard, what we decided on was just that it’s a new genre. With every game we think about how to describe it, but in the case of Project Guard, we decided this is a new genre.

In the game you can place cameras before initiating the robot assault. I only had a few minutes to fiddle with this during the demo, but I’m not sure I would’ve figured out how to optimally position those cameras even if I’d had more time to. Do you intend to teach the player, somehow, so they’ll know or be able to learn how best to position the cameras?

I don’t know if this is the correct answer to what you’re asking, but if you noticed at the end of the match on the GamePad, there was a display that showed where the enemies came out and when they came out, and it showed you which enemies got to the middle of your base. That screen is set up in a way that’s very easy for players to edit the patterns themselves.

So you can play in the same maps over and over again, and create your own enemy patterns for a single map. And so then, as you’re playing, the more you play the game, the more you learn with each different pattern of enemy attacks where the best camera placements are.

How long have you been working on the new Star Fox game?

We originally began working with Star Fox back on Wii, and we had a small group of people experimenting with it for many years, maybe about six years, but we didn’t find an idea that really brought that together for the Wii. So instead we moved experimentation to the Wii U using some of the same assets. It’s been maybe 6 to 10 months that we’ve been experimenting with it.

One of the things that stood out to me about the new Wii U and GamePad functionality in Project Giant Robot and then Star Fox is that you’re having to execute two or more maneuvers in 3D space simultaneously, moving the GamePad to aim and the control sticks to maneuver. It took a while to get used to, and I’m still not sure I got it. Is there an intentional learning curve there?

Yeah, I think that’s safe to say. When we were developing a game, I wind up playing it for many hundreds of hours, and so because of that, I tend to get a little further away from the experience people have when they’re playing it for the first time. But that’s something we always pay attention to when we’re developing the game, and in this case I think Star Fox will be a game you spend a little bit of time getting used to the controls, but that once you do, then you’ll understand what’s fun about that experience.

I don’t think it’ll take a lot of play time for people to get used to it. For most people, it’ll take maybe 30 minutes to an hour. So from that standpoint it’s not a game that’s particularly well-suited to displaying at a show like this, where you only have a short amount of time to play, so that’s why we held the event yesterday, to get everyone in to play for a longer period of time than they might normally.

Shigeru Miyamoto plays Project Guard, defending his fortress from attacking robots as NOA president Reggie Fils-Aime indicates attackers. Nintendo

And then I also think that for a lot of people, they don’t have experience playing this sort of dual-screen gameplay, where you’re aiming with motion control and playing across two screens at once, so that also is maybe taking people a bit longer to get used to. But I look at video games as something that people who play them… One of the thing they enjoy is learning the controls, learning to master the game. And once they do, that sort of opens it up for them, they’re thinking about, “Oh, what’s this play style?” And then as they get deeper and deeper into the game and get better at it, they feel that sense of accomplishment having mastered it.

And then once you get used to the play style… I didn’t go into this detail the other night because it starts to get a little bit complicated, but once you get it, you’ll also be able to press a button to switch the view from one screen to the other. So you could play with the cockpit view on the TV and the fighter view down on the GamePad screen if you feel like that’s a better way to play.

With the 3DS, you can see both of the screens easily at once. With the Wii U, you often having to look from one to the other. There’s a lot of visual information to process in these new multiscreen Wii U games.

With Star Fox, one thing we’re doing is to make the game feel like you’re piloting your own aircraft. And so in that sense, probably initially one of the best ways to play is to have it up in front of you, in your line of sight from the TV. But also as I’ve been playing Star Fox more and more, what I’ve noticed is that it gets easier to play the game looking at the TV with the GamePad down. So as you get better, you’re gradually able to depart from holding it up.

What inspired Star Fox‘s new helicopter vehicle?

With the helicopter, we’ve been thinking of the two-screen gameplay, and so that was one of the early ideas. One of the things we’re considering at this point is making the helicopter so you could have two pilots, two people playing together, and what that’ll allow is you could have one player piloting the helicopter, and another player who’s using another controller to control the robot.

In the case of the Arwing spaceship, if you have two pilots, they’re most likely going to be sitting front-to-back, and you’ll have one piloting, the other able to look around. When you have someone piloting but someone else who can look around, what’s most beneficial to the person who’s looking around is the ability to look down below. In designing the Arwing we couldn’t quite think of a good way to have to redesign it so you’d have one player who could look down below. Thus we decided to create the helicopter.

You said at the event that all of these games might be related. In what way? As part of a single Star Fox game? Or as something more multiform and arcade-like, like Nintendo Land?

Honestly I don’t have a clear idea myself yet, but one thing I’m thinking is that with this Star Fox we may take a different approach, so that rather than one big title we have multiple releases that are connected through different missions. If I was to describe the Star Fox series up until now as being sort of a movie series, I guess I’d describe this new approach as something that’s more like a TV series for Star Fox.

Update: Due to a production error, this article was temporarily published ahead of an embargo.

 

TIME Gadgets

Smart Thermostats: Honeywell Takes On Google’s Nest

When it comes to the Smart Thermostat Wars (is that a thing yet?), there’s no love lost between Honeywell and Google-owned Nest. The high-profile Nest Learning Thermostat triggered a nasty patent scuffle back in 2012, when longtime thermostat behemoth Honeywell went after Nest over several claimed patent infringements.

Fast forward to today, and Honeywell is rolling out its own smart thermostat, the $279 Lyric. It’ll actually be part of a broader network of home automation devices, also fitting under the Lyric moniker, but the thermostat will be the first device in the line. It’ll be available now-ish from Honeywell’s home contractor partners, and in August from Lowe’s.

 

This isn’t the first of Honeywell’s connected thermostats: The company has a line of Wi-Fi-enabled, voice controlled models. But the new Lyric line will be smart in the sense that it recognizes when you’re home or away, and adjusts the temperature accordingly. Nest sports a similar feature that uses a sensor to detect whether you’re physically nearby; Honeywell’s system uses geofencing technology to detect whether your connected smartphone is nearby. That means it’ll be able to automatically tell when you’re on your way home from work, triggering the temperature to pop up a couple degrees once you get a few miles away, for instance.

Seeing that the Nest is a connected, smart thermostat, it seems like it’d be trivial to add geofencing capabilities in a future update. And certain Nest owners have already figured out how to enable geofencing features — see here and here — though to have such features built into the core of the product would do nothing but enhance the perceived value of Nest.

There’s also the price difference: Nest can be had for around $229, while the Lyric system will cost $50 more. It’ll be interesting to see if Nest answers Lyric by adding similar geofencing features, and if either system starts dropping their respective price tags in order to lure more customers.

[The Verge]

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