LOS ANGELES (AP) — When it comes to virtual reality, how exclusive is exclusive?
After delaying orders because of component shortages and angering wannabe early adopters, VR company Oculus is confronting another headache as it seeks to technologically and culturally establish the immersive medium. It’s now possible to play titles that were intended to only be used with the Oculus Rift system on an entirely different VR headset.
In less than four weeks after the March 28 launch of the $600 system, cunning amateur coders figured out how to unlock the cartoony platforming game “Lucky’s Tale” and VR vignette collection “Oculus Dreamdeck” for the HTC Vive, an $800 competing VR system released April 5 by smartphone maker HTC and gaming company Valve, which operates online marketplace Steam.
And in recent weeks, additional “only on Oculus” content has been cracked.
For now, the reverse isn’t an issue for HTC and Valve, whose online hub is headset agnostic, meaning content purchased from Steam can be used for the Vive or Rift. However, titles from the Oculus Home online store are meant to only work with the Rift system, although neither Oculus nor HTC restrict developers from selling content elsewhere.
It’s another blow to Oculus, the Facebook-backed VR pioneer that’s struggled to fulfill the promise of high-fidelity VR in consumers’ homes and faced questions over its privacy policies. While most VR developers are designing for as many systems as possible, several are initially releasing titles for either the Rift or Vive, which currently have different control schemes.
“We’re focused on the Vive right now because of the ability to create room-scale experiences, but we’re planning to release on every platform available,” said Kjartan Pierre Emilsson, co-founder and CEO at Solfar Studios, which crafted the “Everest VR” simulator. “In these early days, we think it’s important for ‘Everest VR’ to be experienced by as many people as possible.”
For decades, video game exclusivity has mostly been restricted to consoles, which are more difficult to crack than PCs. For instance, gamers can only hop into a “Super Mario Bros.” installment on systems created by Nintendo, while the “Uncharted” series is exclusively on PlayStation machines. For gamers with an Xbox, they have the “Halo” franchise to themselves.
It’s an on-going conflict known as “the console wars.”
Despite the Rift and Vive both requiring high-powered PCs to operate and providing similar windows into 360-degreee virtual worlds, they currently have different approaches to VR. The Vive’s sensors and wand-shaped controllers offer VR across a room, while the Rift only works seated with a traditional gamepad, until Oculus releases its Touch controllers later this year.
Sony will enter the marketplace in October with the comparable PlayStation VR system. The difference? Unlike the Rift and Vive, PS VR will cost $400 and only work in tandem with a PlayStation 4 console. It’ll also arrive with many more exclusive titles, including the robot battle game “RIGS: Mechanized Combat League” and a VR rendition of “Star Wars: Battlefront.”
“We think content is king,” said Shawn Layden, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America. “We have six months not only to educate consumers about VR but also make sure we have a robust line-up when we launch in October. I think we’ll have a nice, healthy line-up when we bring PS VR to market. It’s so important to have all the software there.”
By the end of 2016, all three major VR systems are slated to essentially feature the same functionality: a headset and a pair of controllers capable of mimicking hands in virtual world. With each operating their own marketplace for VR experiences, it is possible that consumers could see the dawn of “the VR wars,” depending on how Sony, Oculus and HTC tackle content exclusivity.
“Are they selling razors or razorblades?” said Chris Curran, chief technologist at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “I think moving forward this is going to be much more about the platform and the marketplace for content than it is about the headset. It’s not unlike smartphone market. At first, that was about the hardware. Now, it’s more about the overall experience.”
As with Nintendo’s motion-detecting Wii controllers or touchscreen Wii U Gamepad, it’s possible the next iteration of VR systems could mean that developers will have to specifically build content for those input devices. From VR treadmills to VR gloves, many peripheral aficionados have already constructed prototypes that could make the medium feel more, well, real.
“There are so many opportunities to layer onto the headset and hand-tracked controllers,” said Jason Rubin, head of worldwide studios at Oculus. “This is the most likely point for us to be close together. It might be beyond any question that everything is exclusive going forward because developers may be building for devices that aren’t even mirrored by other platforms.”
For now, they’re just trying to get goggles onto customers’ faces.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/derrik-j-lang.
ATLANTA (AP) — Federal authorities are seeking a DNA sample — along with hair samples and fingerprints — from at least one suspect as they continue investigating the theft of 130 guns from firearms dealers in several Georgia cities.
Investigators want to compare the DNA of Jameel Drinkard with evidence from the thefts, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent wrote in search warrant documents filed this week in U.S. District Court. Evidence recovered by investigators includes hair found near a glass display case at one of the businesses, investigators said.
Drinkard is in custody in Rome, Georgia, where a pre-trial conference is set for May 19. He’s one of seven suspects indicted on federal charges following thefts in Athens, Dalton, LaGrange and other cities.
In one of the burglaries, some of the suspects smashed their way into Gold N Pawn in Monroe by driving a stolen car into the front door, according to an indictment. In others, they broke glass doors to gain entry, prosecutors said.
The crime spree included seven thefts from October to December.
Surveillance video is also being used to try and match some of the evidence to suspects. Video from the Thompson break-in, for instance, showed a suspect in short sleeves near a glass display. Police recovered a hair near the glass display, and investigators believe it came from the suspect seen wearing short sleeves, a court affidavit states.
“Security video from the Athens Pawn Shop showed the perpetrators of the burglary on Nov. 18, 2015 touch certain items within the store,” investigators wrote in the affidavit. “Police were able to recover fingerprints from some of the items that the perpetrators touched.”
Some of the stolen firearms have been sold to unknown buyers, prosecutors said.
Law officers in Pearl, Mississippi, found three of the stolen guns in the possession of three suspects, along with three ski masks, bolt cutters and a box of ammunition, authorities wrote in court records.
The seven suspects, who are all from Atlanta, have pleaded not guilty.
Attorney Giles Jones, who represents one of the defendants, said Thursday that he’s still reviewing the government’s evidence, which is voluminous.
Lawyers for the other defendants either declined to comment or didn’t respond to phone and email messages left Thursday.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Al-Qaida is working more closely with the Taliban in Afghanistan, raising concern that the militant group could bolster the fight against Afghan government forces, a spokesman for the U.S.-NATO mission said Thursday.
“By themselves, we don’t think that they pose a real threat, a real significant threat, to the government of Afghanistan,” Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, a spokesman for the mission, told Pentagon reporters during a video conference from Kabul.
“But because we think that al-Qaida is … beginning to work more with Taliban, they can present a bit of an accelerant for the Taliban. They can provide capabilities and skills and those types of things.”
Nearly 15 years after the U.S. invaded after 9/11 to root out al-Qaida and oust its host, the Taliban, Afghanistan remains a dangerous country. Last fall, the head of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced that he was backing the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
“Since that time, we have seen more interaction” between the two groups, Cleveland said.
He estimated that there were 100 to 300 members of al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
“Although they have been significantly diminished, they do have the ability to regenerate very quickly, and they still do have the ability to pose a threat,” he said.
The U.S.-NATO coalition has around 13,000 international troops, including 9,800 Americans, in Afghanistan. They are focused on training and assisting Afghan forces as they take on the insurgency largely on their own. Around 3,000 of the U.S. troops are engaged in counterterrorism operations against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group
The U.S. conducted just under 100 counterterrorism strikes against al-Qaida and IS militants in Afghanistan between January and the first of March. During April, there were just under 19 strikes, the majority against IS and a few against al-Qaida targets, he said.
He estimated that the strikes had reduced the number of IS operatives in Afghanistan to closer to 1,000, from earlier estimates of up to 3,000.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A video game that allowed players to zap marching aliens with dot lasers and another that gave them flamethrowers and put them in the driver’s seat in a violent 3-D world are among six games inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
“Space Invaders” and “Grand Theft Auto III,” along with “The Oregon Trail,” ”Sonic the Hedgehog,” ”The Legend of Zelda” and “The Sims,” were honored Thursday for their influence on gaming and pop culture at the hall inside The Strong museum in Rochester.
“Space Invaders” wasn’t the first shooter game when it was introduced in Japan in 1978, but it spurred many imitators and a craze for arcade games, said Jeremy Saucier, assistant director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games.
A virtual universe away, “Grand Theft Auto III” armed players with flamethrowers and assault rifles.
“By providing players with a license to do virtually anything they wanted to do on foot or behind the wheel, ‘Grand Theft Auto III’ renewed debates about the role of games and violence in society while it signaled video games aren’t just for kids,” Saucier said.
The title sold 14.5 million copies by 2008.
The hall of fame inductees were chosen from among 15 finalists culled from thousands of nominations from around the world. Contenders that missed the final cut were: “John Madden Football,” ”Elite,” ”Final Fantasy,” ”Minecraft,” ”Nurburgring,” ”Pokemon Red and Green,” ”Sid Meier’s Civilization,” ”Street Fighter II” and “Tomb Raider.”
The Strong, which also houses the National Toy Hall of Fame, opened the World Video Game Hall of Fame last year to recognize electronic games of all types — arcade, console, computer, hand-held and mobile. To get in, games must have had sustained popularity and influenced the video game industry or society.
About this year’s honorees:
“GRAND THEFT AUTO III”
The first 3-D open-ended game that let players control the action became a model for the “sandbox-style” games that followed. But the flamethrowers and automatic weapons that were part of the action in the 2001 best seller fed worries about the influence of video game violence.
The high score display at the top of “Space Invaders” quickly became a standard feature in arcade games. In 1980, the game broke free from the arcade and entered the home console market to become the Atari 2600’s most popular game.
“THE OREGON TRAIL”
“The Oregon Trail” was developed by three student teachers in 1971 and gave many players their first introduction to computers. It was designed to teach Minnesota schoolchildren American history by making them settlers heading west in covered wagons toward the Pacific coast. Jon-Paul Dyson, director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic games, said “The Oregon Trail” pioneered the valuable blend of learning and play.
“SONIC THE HEDGEHOG”
“Sonic the Hedgehog” was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario character, and was launched in 1991. It remains the best-selling Sega Genesis game of all time and has inspired more than 20 additional games and spin-offs, as well as a television show and comic book, said Strong Associate Curator Shannon Symonds. It also inspired the first video game-themed balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
“THE LEGEND OF ZELDA”
“The Legend of Zelda” of 1986 also spun off sequels, comic books and a television series. Inspired by creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s childhood expeditions through woods and caves, it popularized non-linear open-world exploration.
“The Sims” provided a digital dollhouse setting for endless domestic dramas and gave players flexibility to tell stories in an open-ended environment. Its nearly 200 million sales in 60 countries and more than 20 languages following its 2000 release make it the best-selling PC game franchise ever.
BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey town has increased security at schools, while a “flood of leads” has failed to turn up an inmate who escaped from prison.
Barnegat Mayor John Novak said Thursday his town will continue searching for 38-year-old Arthur Buckel unless it gets confirmed information he is no longer there.
Surveillance video captured Buckel shopping at a CVS on Wednesday, a day after the minimum security inmate was found missing when guards did a count at Bayside State Prison in Hammonton.
Novak says police officers are stationed at the town’s schools and that state police will escort buses Thursday afternoon.
Buckel had been serving a sentence for aggravated assault and was scheduled to be considered for parole this month. He previously served 14 years for aggravated manslaughter of a baby.
This story has been revised to correct the surname of Barnegat’s mayor to Novak, not Novack.
NEW YORK (AP) — Hulu is expanding its Internet TV programming with a subscription service offering a mix of live cable and broadcast options that will include news and sports.
The move will pit 8-year-old Hulu, a streaming service created by TV networks to counter the threat posed by Google’s YouTube, against similar cable-like bundles already being offered over the Internet by Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue.
Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins confirmed his service’s foray into live programming at a Wednesday presentation in New York. But he didn’t providing many specifics, including how much a monthly subscription will cost or how many channels will be available.
“Very soon, fans will be able to enjoy favorite shows and cheer for favorite teams, all on Hulu,” in a “deeply personalized experience,” he said.
Hulu has connections in Hollywood because it is co-owned by three of the major players in cable and broadcast programming — 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co. and Comcast’s NBC Universal.
Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said he believes programmers are testing the economics of live-TV subscriptions over the Internet with smaller platforms before they commit to major technology companies such as Apple and YouTube, which have both expressed interest in selling similar viewing alternatives.
Hulu expects to have 12 million subscribers by June, but YouTube’s free website already attracts an audience of more than 1 billion people and Apple has built a fiercely loyal following among the customers who own its iPhones, iPads, Macs and TV-streaming boxes.
“No one is going to hand the keys of the content kingdom over to Apple or YouTube until they understand how this all works with the lesser players,” McQuivey said.
Streaming services are trying to create alternatives to traditional pay-TV packages in an attempt to appeal to a growing number of Americans who are canceling or refusing to sign up for the networks bundled together by cable and satellite providers.
This audience of so-called “cord cutters” instead is gravitating to Internet video services from Netflix, HBO and Amazon.com that cost $8 to $15 per month and allow viewers to watch a TV show or movie whenever they want on a variety of Internet-connected devices. Hulu itself sells a commercial-free package of previously broadcast TV shows.
Now, the race is on to create subscription bundles of channels that can be watched live over the Internet.
Apple has publicly acknowledged its interest in offering a subscription package of Internet TV channels, but has reportedly been stymied in its attempts to reach licensing agreements with programmers.
YouTube also is also hoping to introduce an Internet subscription package featuring cable and broadcast channels by next year, according to a Bloomberg News report published Wednesday.
The service will be called “Unplugged,” according to Bloomberg, which cited unidentified people familiar with its plan. YouTube, though hasn’t yet signed any deals with programmers.
YouTube declined to comment Wednesday.
Separately, Hulu, which launched a virtual-reality app in March, said it will partner with event company Live Nation Entertainment Inc. to create a VR concert series later this year.
Liedtke reported from San Francisco.