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‘Gearbox Community Day 2013’ Recap

Now that the dust and chaos have settled, it’s time to look back at the events of Gearbox Community Day 2013.

Yesterday was the third-annual Gearbox Community Day in Dallas, TX; Gearbox Software holds Community Day as a public event at the Palladium Ballroom for fans to interact with developers, artists and other staff members in-person and through panels held throughout the day. Those who attend in-person, as  the event is also broadcast on Twitch.tv, also have the opportunity to play upcoming Gearbox titles and DLC with other fans, and even compete against developers; Community Day 2012 featured a “Fans VS Developers” area for the Aliens: Colonial Marines Survival mode. Other activities included live artists creating Borderlands-themed inkings, cosplay, a live auction where all proceeds will benefit the Video Game History Museum, the Twitch.tv broadcast led by Chloe Dykstra and Michele Morrow of “FortPlay” and “The Nerdist”, a live performance by The Capsules, and classic arcade machines from the VGHM.

I was given the opportunity to sit in on some of the panels from yesterday’s event, try my hand at the new Borderlands 2 DLC, test BL2 co-op on the NVidia Shield, and even use new a prototype augmented-reality device:

Homeworld:

While nothing was said about release dates or system specs, the Homeworld panel shed some light on the steps behind bringing the classic RTS back to life: The release of Homeworld Classic and Homeworld HD will be a huge milestone for PC gaming; outside of resale sites and collectors, none of the titles are available to purchase online- the Homeworld series will be made accessible to millions, as the upcoming titles will be released on Steam. To Gearbox’s dismay, actually acquiring all of the original aspects of Homeworld turned into a scavenger hunt among past Relic employees; Gearbox now has all of the original aspects, ranging from the complete audio to unfinished concept work. Past artists and original composer Paul Ruskay will be working with Gearbox to deliver a true, modern update for Homeworld HD. Now that the complete collection of properties is in Gearbox’s hands, the company is debating the release of a collectible art-book and physical release of Homeworld HD; a survey will be placed on Gearbox’s site in the near future.

Homeworld: Shipbreakers was touched on lightly during the panel; Shipbreakers will migrate from the free-to-play model, to a full retail release, and will act as a prequel-title to the Homeworld franchise.

Hands-On With the NVidia Shield: Borderlands 2 Co-Op:

The NVidia Shield has been available to the public for a few months now, but this is the first time I was able to actually use one in an applicable setting- not a kiosk. Gearbox hardware partner NVidia had a Shield station set up in the Nvidia Gaming Lounge for 4-player co-op in Borderlands 2. As someone who primarily uses a mouse and keyboard for PC games, playing Borderlands with a controller felt understandably awkward. Personal handicap aside, the Shield is an exceptional companion peripheral for PC gamers. Apart from being a stand-alone Android console, the streaming capabilities of the Shield give the player mobile gaming freedom. Those of us who participated in co-op found ourselves lounging on several couches while our footage was displayed several feet away on the correspondingly hosted PC’s; I often found myself switching my view between the PC monitor and Shield screen; the Shield resolution may be smaller, but there is minimal delay between displays. The player can experience the same HD, latency-free experience without being tethered to a keyboard and chair.

The NVidia Shield is available for $299.99.

Hands-On With Borderlands 2: T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest:

The first of the upcoming “Headhunter” DLC’s for Borderlands 2 was playable this weekend as a Time-Trial contest; throughout the day, teams of four could fight against the boss character from the Bloody Harvest DLC, competing for the fastest completion-time of the day. While the playable build was limited to fighting “Jacques O’Lantern”, the gameplay felt like the perfect blend of “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep” and “The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned” from the original Borderlands: The Halloween-themed add-on is set in a pumpkin patch and features zombie T.K. Baha as the quest guide; the status-buff abilities from the “Dragon’s Keep” DLC are back, but are given from color-coded candies dropped by defeated enemies. The Community Day build started everyone at Level 16 for the Jacques O’Lantern fight; Jacques was a challenging two-part boss, complete with Pumpling minions, proximity mines, and a floating head that chases players around the arena, much like the Ghost Kings from Dragon’s Keep.

T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest will release this October, on Halloween.

Hands-On With CastAR:

Image courtesy of Technical Illusions

Image courtesy of Technical Illusions

Several peripherals in the video game industry have been created to give players the most immersive virtual-reality experience possible; none have been more popular than the Oculus Rift, placing users in the stereoscopic eyes of their video game counterpart. Virtual reality is advancing, but what about augmented-reality? What about bringing games into the real world, and using real-world items to interact with digital elements? The future of augmented-reality lies within CastAR.

CastAR is an augmented-reality system currently in-development by Technical Illusions: The user wears a pair of glasses that project two images streaming from an Android or Windows device; the projection is cast onto a reflective surface, and is reflected back at the user, creating the illusion of an interactive 3D space. An RFID tracking device is placed onto the surface, which allows the user to move around the image, looking at the environment from several different perspectives in real-time. The demo that I participated in started me with two 3D towers that I could destroy using a USB-based wand; by moving my head around- looking up, down, and down into the projection, I could see blocks from several different angles, and even some falling underneath the environment. The second demo I played was a third-person-shooter developed in Unity; this was a futuristic twin-stick shooter that used a 360 controller. As I played through the demo, I had a bird’s eye view of the environment; at times, I had to crouch to see lower passage-ways, and walk around the table to see hidden enemies around corners; the only instance where I felt detached from the experience was whenever I blocked the view of the RFID tracker- doing so caused the projection to flash a wild assortment of colors until it regrouped only a few seconds later, right where I left off.

Technical Illusions is planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the CastAR later this year; the base dev-kit will run at an estimated $200, and will contain the RFID tracker, reflective surface, USB wand, projection glasses, and developer software.

Those who attended Gearbox Community Day 2013 in-person, or who bought the Digital Bonus Pack through Twitch.tv will receive Homeworld Classic (1-2), Homeworld HD, exclusive BL2 Skins and Heads, and Beta-access to an unannounced Gearbox title.

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