Star Citizen Switches Game Engines

Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games announced today that the studio is using Amazon’s Lumberyard game engine for Star Citizen and the single-player game Squadron 42. As reported by Polygon, Cloud Imperium began development using Crytek’s CryEngine.

“We’ve been working with Amazon for more than a year, as we have been looking for a technology leader to partner with for the long term future of Star Citizen and Squadron 42,” creative director Chris Roberts said in a statement. “Lumberyard provides ground breaking technology features for online games, including deep back-end cloud integration on AWS and its social component with Twitch that enables us to easily and instantly connect to millions of global gamers.

“Because we share a common technical vision, it has been a very smooth and easy transition to Lumberyard. In fact, we are excited to announce that our upcoming 2.6 Alpha release for Star Citizen is running on Lumberyard and AWS.”

Star Citizen Switches Game Engines

Amazon Games head of business Dan Winters added: “Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are incredibly ambitious projects which are only possible with great engine technology paired with the transformative power of the cloud.”

This news comes just days after Crytek announced it was closing five studios around the world amid financial difficulties. According to a spokesperson for Cloud Imperium Games, the Crytek news does not impact Star Citizen at all. “We are totally not dependent on them for anything at this point,” communications director David Swofford told Polygon.

Star Citizen was announced in October 2012. The crowdfunded project has since raised more than $139 million, making it the most successful crowdfunded project of any kind in history.

The game’s single-player campaign mode, Squadron 42, was recently delayed out of 2016, while the game’s FPS mode, Star Marine, is now playable in beta form. The full game, meanwhile, remains unreleased almost four years after its crowdfunding campaign first began.

This story has been updated.

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Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” Review

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The Doctor meets a superhero in the new Christmas Special.

Warning: Full spoilers for the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas Special follow.

We’ve been in a bit of a Doctor Who drought with the decision to push Season 10 back to Spring, 2017, and in fact it’s been a full year since the last new episode aired — 2015’s Christmas Special “The Husbands of River Song.” And while it’s great to finally get a new Twelfth Doctor adventure with this year’s Christmas Special, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is a just O.K. return for the character.

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In fact, “Doctor Mysterio” is a sequel to “The Husbands of River Song,” albeit in a roundabout way. But its most effective moments land with the few brief times when it connects to that tale or the Doctor’s past, with the rest of the superhero-themed segment feeling slightly detached and less relevant, particularly when the River Song connection is revealed at the end of the special.

Still, Steven Moffat, heading into his final stretch as showrunner with this and the impending tenth season, does have fun with the comic-book movie craze. The episode kicks off with a camera push through a Tim Burton-esque city street of steam and neon, as we meet young Grant, a superhero-obsessed kid who mistakes the Doctor for Santa before accidentally swallowing a “gem stone” that gives him super-powers. Cut to years later, and Grant (Justin Chatwin) is now all grown-up, a bespectacled Clark Kent stand-in who works as a mild-mannered nanny by day but becomes the crimefighter known as the Ghost at night. (Also, the Doctor’s revelation that Clark Kent is also Superman is a perfect, classic Twelve moment.)

The whimsical, post-Clara tale also features an ersatz Lois Lane in Lucy (Charity Wakefield), the reporter from a Daily Planet-like newspaper who is also Grant’s employer and unrequited love. There’s also a kinda/sorta Lex Luthor figure, but the real villain of the piece is a group of alien brains looking to take up residence in human bodies, particularly powerful human bodies… like that of the Ghost. (Those brain creatures, which have the ability to split their host bodies’ heads open once they’re onboard, were also glimpsed in “The Husbands of River Song.”)

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The episode is full of comic-book references which fans will appreciate, like when the Doctor tells Grant “with great power comes great responsibility.” But the Doctor, as usual, is feeling that responsibility himself, in this case because it’s kind of his fault that Grant has these powers in the first place. His periodic check-ins with the young Grant over the years recall Twelve’s keeping an eye on Maisie Williams’ Ashildr last season, another recipient of one of the Doctor’s super-human-making gifts.

Also along for the ride is Nardole, Matt Lucas’ character from “Husbands.” Lucas will now be a companion for the Doctor for (at least part of) Season 10, which should bring a nice touch of humor to things, and while he was last seen last year as just a head that was part of the Hydroflax body, Nardole reveals here that the Doctor reassembled him because he was afraid he’d be lonely. This seemed to be a Clara reference at first, but later it becomes clear that the Doctor is now smarting over the loss of River.

And that’s because, yes, “Husbands” ended with that final date the Doctor and River had on Darillium — where a night lasts for 24 years. That’s where the Doctor has been since we last saw him, which means River must finally have gone off to die in the library (where we first met her all those years ago). “Things end… that’s all,” he tells Grant and Lucy. “Everything ends, and it’s always sad, but everything begins again too. And that’s always happy. Be happy.”

Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”  Review

The Ghost

So the Doctor helped play matchmaker in a roundabout way in this episode, while also working with a superhero to save the world. Not a bad way to spend Christmas.

The Verdict

“The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is a pretty lightweight entry in the Twelfth Doctor’s oeuvre, which considering the events of last season isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the different elements of the episode don’t come together as smoothly as they could, and the emotional through line for the Doctor is treated mostly as an afterthought.

Inside Review

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A dreamlike platformer that takes us to incredible places.

Update: Inside has been nominated for IGN’s 2016 Game of the Year

Inside  Review

The first 10 minutes of Inside, the long-awaited Limbo follow-up from developer Playdead, swing between being beautiful, haunting, and terrifying. Sometimes it is all three at the exact same time. From there, it adds intrigue, wonder, and shock on top of those and never lets up. For that reason, it’s best if you take my word for it and go in completely blind to discover it for yourself. But if you need to be convinced, keep reading for more on this visually stunning, thought-provoking, and mysterious masterpiece.

Even though it is mechanically a 2D puzzle-platformer, Inside is quite simply one of the most beautiful and subtly detailed games I’ve ever played. Every frame appears to have been meticulously crafted and polished several times over, from dust particles hovering in smoky air to raindrops splashing down in a bog to golden sunlight beaming onto your unnamed, red-shirted boy avatar through a window. Everything appears to have had an artist’s full and undivided attention. I often stopped just to admire my surroundings, taking in the subtly detailed animations, moody lighting, boldly contrasting color palette, and even the eerily unsettling sound design. You can hear the boy breathing hard after he’s been running for a while. You can see him stumble after he jumps and sticks a running landing. Gray paints a lot of the scenery, but splashes of color – often red – are used as a bold contrast that draws your eye where the designers want it to go. Camera work is also laudable; the perspective only ever shifts slightly, but from scene to scene you’re always in the optimal viewing position for what’s happening on screen, and there’s always a visual reward anytime the camera moves closer in, pulls further out, or changes angle.

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Nothing I can say will prepare you for the vague, wordless events of Playdead’s physics-based puzzle platformer, but without spoiling it, it seems virtually impossible to not be shocked by what transpires. As you break into Inside’s militaristic complex and plumb its strange depths for the roughly three brisk, well-paced hours it takes to complete the campaign, it continually changes in both look and gameplay in unexpected ways. When you end up in a one-man submarine, searching for answers deep inside this base, it is only the beginning of the mystery.

Refreshingly, there are no instructions whatsoever.

Inside’s gameplay is similar to Limbo’s simple but atmospheric 2D puzzle-platforming. Deaths are frequent and can seem unavoidable and unfair at first, but they’re actually lessons that teach you both what to do and what not to do. Something has to, because there are (refreshingly) no on-screen or spoken instructions whatsoever. And when you die, the animations of the boy’s demise are so varied and at times over the top as to be entertaining – and sometimes unnerving. Watching him get zapped and dragged off screen by an electronic tentacle or blasted to oblivion adds some levity to balance out the understated maulings and gunshots. Checkpoints, meanwhile, are liberal enough and load times are brief enough that death never feels like a penalty.

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Like in Limbo, your only buttons are jump (A) and interact (X) (or up and Right Ctrl by default on PC, with the arrow keys handling movement), with subtle cues of hue or light directing your attention to where it needs to go. The puzzles themselves are a bit easier than those in Limbo – I never got hung up for more than a few minutes before having one of those gratifying puzzle-solving epiphanies. Some involve moving select objects, like boxes. Others see you activating odd air-propelled cubes that soar into the air and hover for a moment before returning to the ground and resetting. And there are several more that would be spoilery to discuss, but they add up to a good variety. Occasionally those are blended, necessitating experimentation with physics in order to get the angles just right. The complex itself is sometimes your opponent, be it great heights, unexplained concussion blasts, or deep water you’ll have to dive deep into without drowning.

Encounters are so expertly choreographed such that you always escape them by the skin of your teeth.

Later challenges involve getting past organic foes, be it dogs or…more exotic life forms. These encounters are so expertly choreographed such that you always escape them by the skin of your teeth when you succeed (and when you don’t, you’re treated to a gruesome display of the boy being mauled, or worse). In fact, they were still white-knuckle moments on my second playthrough – even when I knew what was coming. The point is, no matter the puzzle, it’s almost always intuitive while not necessarily being obvious, and the handful of mechanics are mixed and matched enough that Inside never wears out its welcome or succumbs to repetition. It wisely ends before it runs out of ideas to sustain that feeling.

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And Inside’s puzzles, both biological and environmental, serve as the vehicle that drives its storytelling. No explanation is ever given for why the boy is alone in the woods at night, nor why he sneaks into the mysterious facility, or what he hopes to achieve there – much less who is trying to stop him. Things happen in this game that are practically indescribable. It’s almost dreamlike in that it can start in a logical, grounded place and somehow end up somewhere far more fantastical. Playing it a second time, even though I knew all of the puzzle solutions, gave me a chance to consider the early parts of the story and how they connect to the end of it more carefully. I am still thinking about Inside – what it means and what it says about humanity – and I am enjoying the debate with myself and my co-workers. I urge you to play it, both because it is a masterpiece of 2D platformer design, but also because it would be a crime to have what happens here ruined for you before you do. I can practically guarantee you that you will not expect where Inside goes.

The Verdict

Inside very clearly builds upon what made Limbo great, and in fact builds something greater. Its unimaginable twist may leave you dumbfounded, confused, and quite possibly speechless, but it will fuel heated discussion with your friends about its meaning, its message, and its intentions. It’s a short ride, but one I felt compelled to take again – including a search for its mysterious hidden orb collectibles. Play it soon before anyone spoils a single big moment for you.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

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Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland.

Overwatch recently rolled out it’s Winter Wonderland update, and with that, cosplayers have jumped on the holiday celebrations, too.

Here are three of the coolest (get it, coolest?) Overwatch cosplayers we’ve ever seen – click right to see them all:

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Knitemaya’s Tracer cosplay, photographed by Pireze.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Byndo Gehk as a festive D.vA, photographed by Martin Wong.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Knitemaya’s Tracer cosplay, photographed by Pireze.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Bindi Smalls and Byndo Gehk as their own festive D.vA’s, photographed by Martin Wong.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Knitemaya’s Tracer cosplay, photographed by Pireze.

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These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Bindi Smalls as a festive D.vA, photographed by Martin Wong.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Knitemaya’s Tracer cosplay, photographed by Pireze.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Bindi Smalls and Byndo Gehk as their own festive D.vA’s, photographed by Martin Wong.

These Christmas Overwatch Cosplays Are Perfection

Knitemaya’s Tracer cosplay, photographed by Pireze.

Holiday Overwatch Cosplays
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The Tracer cosplay, by Knitemaya, is a pretty spot-on recreation of Tracer’s Winter Wonderland skin. The photographer who took those photos is Pireze.

D.vA didn’t get her own winter skin, though, so Byndo Gehk, the red-suited ‘Festive D.vA’ said, “Overwatch didn’t give us our holiday suits, so lets just make our own!”

The green D.vA is Bindi Smalls, who is rocking a more elf-inspired look. The two suits were designed by Art by Stan, and the photography was done by Martin Wong.

Martin actually had his bags lost by an airline on the way to the shoot, so had to improvise by using a “pillow case and plastic bags as flash diffuser.” We salute you, Martin.

Alanah Pearce is an editor at IGN, but she’s a cosplayer, too! You can find her cosplays on Facebook

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

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Publicity stills and the teaser poster.

Check out all the hi-res photos 20th Century Fox has released thus far from Alien: Covenant by scrolling through the image gallery below.

Alien and Prometheus director Ridley Scott returns to the sci-fi/horror franchise he created with the forthcoming Alien: Covenant.

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

In addition to reprising his Prometheus role as the android David, Michael Fassbender also plays a second android, Walter, in Alien: Covenant.

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

Katherine Waterston stars in Alien: Covenant.

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

The crew of the colony ship Covenant take action in this photo from Alien: Covenant.

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

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All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

Alien: Covenant director Ridley Scott on the set of the Engineer ship.

All the Alien: Covenant Images Released So Far

The teaser poster for director Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.

Alien Covenant Images
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The film’s stellar cast includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollet, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, and Benjamin Rigby.

Here is the official plot synopsis for Alien: Covenant, which takes place several years after the events of Prometheus:

“The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world.  When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.”

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Alien: Covenant bursts into theaters May 19, 2017.