Archive for the ‘video’ Category

Amazon Prime Video will finally offer one of Netflix’s most basic features

July 7th, 2020
Screenshot of Amazon.com user interface.

Enlarge / Amazon Prime Video on an iPad Pro. (credit: Amazon)

At long last, Amazon Prime Video is catching up to competitors like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ with a key feature: user profiles. The feature is rolling out in the mobile and set-top box versions of the Prime Video app starting today.

The feature allows multiple people sharing an Amazon Prime subscription to maintain separate watch histories and watch lists. Additionally, Amazon has made a distinction between user profiles for kids and profiles for adults, with different rules. Users can configure up to six profiles in any mix of children's and adults' profiles. All this is rolling out starting today, but it won't reach all users right away.

According to TechCrunch, multiple user profiles were supported in India and Africa previously, and they are only now making their way to the rest of the world, including the United States. The rollout brings Amazon closer to feature parity with Netflix and other big streaming players. The bulk of major apps in this space offered this feature, but there are some outliers—like CBS All Access.

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An extended interview with Star Control creators Fred Ford & Paul Reiche III

July 7th, 2020

Directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Marcus Niehaus. Click here for transcript.

In December of 2018, Ars was lucky enough to sit down with Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III—a pair of designers who have worked on a ton of amazing games but who are probably known best by geeks of a certain age as the creators of the Star Control series. Paul and Fred (one quickly begins referring to them with a single mashed-together word that kind of sounds like "paulnfred") were extraordinarily generous with their time, hauling out box after box of vintage game design documents, piles of meticulously folded maps and charts, notebooks full of sketches and UX concepts—a treasure trove of Star Control.

As with all of our "War Stories" videos, we had to edit down a few hours' worth of footage into a 10-to-15-ish minute video—that seems to be about the limit that most folks will tolerate when it comes to game design videos on YouTube. And as with all of our "War Stories" videos, we had a huge amount of great footage left over when we were done.

We used a few minutes of that footage to create a second video, titled "Six Degrees of Star Control." As we were discussing the genesis of Star Control, we found a lot of famous and soon-to-be-famous space game designers in the late '80s and early '90s crossed paths quite frequently, and Paul and Fred worked with a lot of big names. This includes folks like Starflight's Greg Johnson, Dungeons and Dragons artist Erol Otis, and Star Wars concept designer Ian McCaig.

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Human Interface: What (almost) every button in an F-15C fighter’s cockpit does

June 30th, 2020

Video directed by Morgan Crossley, edited by Ron Douglas and Brady Jackson. Motion graphics by Brady Jackson and Dylan Blau. Click here for transcript.

Welcome to the pilot episode of "Human Interface," a new series we're kicking off wherein we take you up close and personal with complex systems and have an expert explain what all the buttons and switches do. "Pilot episode" is particularly appropriate here, because we're kicking off the series with a look at a McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle, one of the world's most famous air superiority fighters. The F-15C and its variants are in service with multiple air forces around the world, including the United States, Japan, and Israel, and the aircraft has an outstanding combat record—across all its deployments and operators, air-superiority F-15s like the F-15C have racked up more than 100 air-to-air kills and zero losses.

Before the coronavirus made everything crazy, we were able to score some time with an F-15C on the flight line at Fresno Air National Guard Base in California. Our tour guide was Air Force pilot Colonel Andrea Themely, who retired in 2018 after serving for 23 years. Col. Themely has about 3,400 hours piloting high-performance jet fighters and about 1,100 hours specifically in F-15Cs, and her last post was commanding the Air Force's 80th Flying Training Wing.

Buttons, buttons everywhere...

As I found out firsthand a few years ago in the Navy's F/A-18 simulator at NAS Oceana, a fourth-generation jet fighter like the F-15C is typically equipped with a mish-mash of '70s- and '80s-era screens and buttons, with other more current-looking '00s-era controls shoehorned into the corners. This reflects the fact that fighters like the F-15C and its contemporaries are mostly products of the 1970s, with more modern improvements bolted on over time.

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Boomshakalaka: How the original NBA Jam caught fire through chaos

June 16th, 2020

Directed by Justin Wolfson, edited by Aulistar Mark and Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript.

How did NBA Jam overcome a rocky launch and become one of the arcade era's all-time biggest hits? How did its developers move past a serious "digitization" screw-up? And where's the legendary original version featuring Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey, Jr?

On the eve of NBA Jam's latest home release—this time as an Arcade1Up cabinet (Best Buy, Walmart) featuring the series' first three arcade versions—we asked series lead programmer and designer Mark Turmell to join us from his home to answer these questions and more. The result is our most "on-fire" War Stories video yet, complete with original development footage provided by Turmell himself.

“Geeking out on digitized graphics”

As he explains in our interview, Turmell's game development history began with early consoles and home computers before he "shifted to the coin-op business" in 1989 with Williams, a Chicago arcade game and pinball manufacturer. (Two years later, the company's arcade division was re-branded "Midway," since Williams had bought Bally/Midway in 1988.) Shortly after his hire, the company began focusing on a trend that would eventually define many of its hits: "We were geeking out on the digitized graphics concept, the new technology, if you will," Turmell says.

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Linus from Linus Tech Tips looks back on YouTube comments and Internet fame

June 11th, 2020

Directed by Morgan Crossley, edited by Daniel Poler. Click here for transcript.

About 300,000 years ago before quarantine started, we sat down with YouTuber Mark "Markiplier" Fischback and had him talk to us about some of his most popular video comments and his path to millions of subscribers. (Lordy, was January really that long ago?) You responded positively, so today we have another video along those same lines: we're talking with the second-most-famous Linus on the Internet, Linus Sebastian of Linus Tech Tips.

We're big fans of Linus here in the Orbiting HQ, primarily because he does the kind of tech projects that most of us only joke about. Like, hey, how about building a 320TB NAS? Or upgrading your Wi-Fi network with enough capacity and gear to handle the crowd at Yankee Stadium? Or, my personal favorite, how about parting together a gaming PC so hilariously powerful that seven players can use it simultaneously? (And why stop at just seven?)

The signature Linus cheeky grin and devil-may-care attitude were both on display when we sat down (virtually) with Linus a couple of weeks back to shoot this video, the second in a series that we're tentatively calling "Personal History." We dug deep into the comments on some of his older YouTube videos to get his reactions, and we couldn't stump him even once—it turns out that like a lot of creators who really care about their creations, Linus really does read almost all of the comments.

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Generating Game of Thrones characters in Skyrim’s character creator

May 5th, 2020

Directed by Joe Pickard, edited by Brady Jackson. Click here for transcript.

Getting creative with the character creator in RPGs is kind of like the game before the game—so much so that often I'll spend more time there than I do actually playing through an RPG's tutorial section. Finding just the right jaw line, just the right nose, just the right hair style—actually crafting the character rather than living with the developer's default avatar gives players a sense of connection to their character. And, of course, there's the near-universal thrill of actually seeing your character walk on-screen the first time (often accompanied by the near-universal crushing disappointment that, viewed in the complex and dynamic lighting of the game's opening sequence, your carefully crafted avatar is in fact an ugly deformed monster with concave cheekbones and a hideous overbite).

We wanted to expand on those experiences by filming some folks trying their hand at various' games character creators—and the video embedded above is the first in what we hope will be a new series of character creator-related silliness. Professional illustrator Kirsten Ulve has never before played Skyrim and has never before had a chance to wiggle the knobs and dials of the Creation Engine's decade-old avatar designer—which means she's the perfect mark to experiment on.

So we asked her to recreate some Game of Thrones characters in vanilla un-modded Skyrim. Because that's totally easy, right?

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An extended interview with Homeworld designer Rob Cunningham

April 21st, 2020

Video shot by Justin Wolfson, edited by Aulistar Mark. Transcript coming soon.

You guys have been very vocal in your feedback (thanks to everyone who's taken the time to e-mail!), and we've heard you: you want more War Stories extended interviews, and we're gonna give them to you. So we're happy to present our extended multi-hour chat with Relic's (and now Blackbird Interactive's) Rob Cunningham, co-designer of Homeworld, the great granddaddy of space-based RTS games.

Even if you're not a huge Homeworld fan, Rob's interview contains some wonderful hidden gems—there are lessons here for contemporary game designers, but also for historical observers interested in how game design worked in the late 1990s. Like so many genre-defining titles, it's a game that nearly didn't happen because it was almost too hard to create; the challenge of 3D navigation almost sunk the entire project.

We have several more of these extended interviews in various stages of production—including the long version of our chat with Dead Space's Glen Schofield and Star Control creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche. Stay tuned!

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War Stories: How Homeworld brought the third dimension to real-time strategy

April 7th, 2020

Video shot by Justin Wolfson, edited by Aulistar Mark. Click here for transcript.

We've gone in-depth on the complexity of real-time strategy with a past War Stories episode—one featuring Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and focusing on the complexity of pathfinding—but classic space strategy title Homeworld is a bird of another color entirely. Its creation in the late '90s was a drawn-out process that required years of crunch time and repeated requests for additional funding from the publisher—but as any gamer who lived through its release can tell you, the results were spectacular.

Homeworld is one of the most famous examples of the genre, not necessarily because it was the first RTS to move the battleground into space—though it did indeed do that, and well—but because the game's implementation of unit-level combat in a 3D playing field was so well done that the UX and game mechanics fade into the background. Zooming in and out of the game's sensor manager map is a slick experience that manages to pull back your view without pulling you out of the game, and even if wrangling your little spaceships did eventually get awkward late in the game, the interface itself feels like the right kind of interface.

Do more with more

So when we sat down with Relic co-founder and Homeworld designer Rob Cunningham, it was a bit surprising to learn that from his perspective the Homeworld we got in 1999 was less a refined and polished set of ideas and more like a minimum-viable proof-of-concept—what Rob describes as a series of sketches rather than full paintings. The small team, buoyed by Sierra's publishing dollars, pulled together an iconic game and invented new gameplay systems more or less by the seat of their pants, finalizing working concepts without really having the chance to iterate and refine them. Even during a development cycle that took three times as long as originally planned, there just wasn't time to do anything more.

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Searching for the ultimate Super Mario Bros. player among the masses

April 3rd, 2020

Video directed by Joe Pickard and edited by Scott Pearson. Click here for transcript.

If you're a geek of, shall we say, a certain age, odds are you've experienced the first-hand joy of plopping yourself down cross-legged on the carpet in front of a blurry television—set to channel 3 or channel 4, of course—and whiling away an entire day playing the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. (You also know for a fact that all deaths are the stupid controller's fault.)

Indeed, Super Mario Bros. is probably one of the pop-culture pillars of the GenX/Millennial collective unconscious (and maybe for GenZ, too, though going by common cohort dates, the GenZ folks were more likely to have grown up with much more advanced consoles than the poor old Nintendo Entertainment System). But how pervasive is it, really? How universal is the experience of settling in to play SMB in its original NES format, without emulators on an actual CRT television, and having those levels (and that music!) tattooed directly onto your brain?

To try to find out, we grabbed 30 randos from the New York area (back in January, in the Long-Long-Ago when people still walked the streets freely) and challenged them to slip on their plumbers' overalls and see how long they could survive on a journey through World 1-1 of the Mushroom Kingdom. We also brought in SMB speedrunners Authorblues and Kosmic to break down the iconic level design of World 1-1 and to walk us through some of the esoteric tricks speedrunners use to blast through the level as fast as humanly possible.

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An extended interview with Crash Bandicoot designer Andy Gavin

March 26th, 2020

Video shot by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Transcript is still processing and should be ready within the next 24 hours.

A few weeks back (which at this point seems like a trillion years ago) we published our "War Stories" interview with Naughty Dog's Andy Gavin, wherein he spilled some fascinating details on the technical tightrope walk necessary to bring Crash Bandicoot to life on the original Playstation. As you might expect, Andy gave us way more info than we could reasonably cram into a short amount of time—he's a brilliant guy with lots of brilliant stories, and it'd be a shame for them not to see the light of day.

Therefore, we've tapped Andy's interview to be the third in our series of "extended" interview videos. We previously published extended chats with Oddworld's Lorne Lanning and Myst's Rand Miller, and Andy's conversation makes a great addition to the collection.

We've heard comments from readers that these extended interviews make for great podcast material, too—they're hosted on YouTube, but the primary draw is the audio component, so if you're stuck at home doing something that doesn't require your full attention, this might be a good thing to toss on in the background to accompany your day. We're planning on running several more of these in the next couple of weeks, too, so stay tuned for even more extended interviews. (The one I'm most looking forward to is our extended chat with Star Control creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche, which I believe is next in the queue!)

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Posted in andy gavin, ars technica video, Ars Technica Videos, Crash Bandicoot, extended interview, Gaming & Culture, Naughty Dog, video, war stories | Comments (0)