Why OnePlus is Still Succeeding with Developers and Enthusiasts

We all know OnePlus to be a brand that began its journey through controversy. The OnePlus One remained in the limelight not only for its hardware and price tag, but also for all the claims and tactics employed by OnePlus to ensure that the device became one of the most talked about smartphones in enthusiast circles. It was an exercise in viral online marketing, and they arguably succeeded.

 

With the OnePlus 2, they tried to adopt a slightly different approach than what worked with the OnePlus One. While the company doubled down on hyperbole with the “2016 Flagship Killer” moniker, OnePlus did tone down their once socially-controversial marketing tactics, foregoing practices such as “Ladies First” and the thoroughly-hated Invite system. What they also toned down was the developer friendliness of the device, as a few key resources (like sources for the fingerprint sensor and laser autofocus for the camera, and VoLTE support) were not delivered to the community at the times requested. As such, the development scene of the phone could not reach the levels of its predecessor.

After the OnePlus 2 Update Trainwreck, Software Support is Paramount to OnePlus’ Success

The OnePlus X, although a capable product targeting an increasingly forgotten niche (small-screen smartphones), was rather awkwardly placed in market for a fair few reasons: some related to its smaller screen size and hence subsequent demand, and some related to the average-at-best hardware… ultimately the phone could never take off.

And then came the OnePlus 3. The actual 2016 flagship (pre-3T) fixed a lot of wrongs with the OnePlus 2. Combined with the best SoC from Qualcomm in the form of the Snapdragon 820, the OnePlus 3 was better suited for the flagship killer moniker based on its commendable performance. The phone could stand up against several flagships in terms of overall hardware, some hovering at twice the price, and still come out ahead. There were a few drawbacks with the device, like an average camera experience, but such issues could be overlooked when considering the phone’s price and rest of the hardware and software experience, as well as genuinely useful features like Dash Charge or the alert slider.

Suggested reading: Dissecting Performance: What Makes the OnePlus 3 & 3T Excellent Real-World Performers

Something OnePlus also improved on the OnePlus 3 was its developer responsiveness, communication and strategy. The company was perhaps fearing repeating the mistakes they had made with the OnePlus 2, and seeing how the community collectively hated OnePlus’s attitude towards the device, they turned over a new leaf. The company started off on the right foot by dismantling the criticized invite-system for the device for good. This was followed up by a very quick release of the kernel sources and device tree for the device — mere hours after the launch of the phone. We even saw one of the quickest CyanogenMod (unofficial) releases ever. Developers did note that one key feature and major selling point was missing from the sources: Dash Charging. OnePlus promised that this would reach developers eventually, and followed up on the promise by releasing the Dash Charging kernel code and proprietary binaries in about six weeks of the phone’s release. We still have not achieved resolution when it comes to the issue related to camera quality on custom ROMs, though that’s not really the fault of OnePlus due to the fact that open sourcing the camera HAL is not be as easy as Carl Pei originally thought. Either way, OnePlus did go out of its way to help developers by setting up communication channels with them, and in some cases handing out units to them as well.

Roughly a year ago, OnePlus also announced a key change with how it handled software and updates. OnePlus was looking at merging its Chinese software UX, HydrogenOS with its global software UX, OxygenOS. The primary purpose of this merger was to combine both the teams onto the same roadmap and provide quicker software updates to all users, irrespective of region. Originally, people questioned how this change would shape up the new OxygenOS experience, as HydrogenOS tended to lean towards a brighter and more customized UX, one that was likely appreciated by users in China but was not liked as much in the global market given it was quite removed from Stock Android. However, as we have witnessed so far, a lot of the changes in OxygenOS over the year have been unanimously accepted by the users. Some changes, like the Alert Slider changes do continue to infuriate some users. But for the most part, the response to OxygenOS has been positive as it balances itself between customizations and a close to stock Android feel (as opposed to HydrogenOS, a direction that could have been taken by OnePlus).

The major highlight of OxygenOS from an enthusiast’s perspective is the division of updates between the Stable branch and the Open Beta branch (previously known as Community builds). Such a division clearly divided the needs of the enthusiast community from that of the average consumer, allowing OnePlus to serve the needs of both without alienating the other. An average consumer is a lot less accommodating towards bugs and would gladly wait for a polished product instead of something that could break during daily use. An enthusiast on the other hand, often trades that expectation of stability for a chance to try out the latest developmental and experimental features right now and provides feedback to help shape the future of such features.

The Open Beta essentially serves as a very long soak test. Most other OEMs resort to private soak testing before beginning staged rollouts, and then sometimes end up pausing such rollouts when unforeseen bugs appear. Adopting the Open Beta approach allows OnePlus to secure a wider tester audience, a wider timeframe and wider use cases to test and polish updates before beginning their rollouts in the stable channel. And, unlike traditional soak tests, they actually make it an effort to continuously add new features.

The Open Betas themselves have become very popular within the enthusiast community. Despite not being considered as stable themselves, the builds are usually fine for general usage and are good candidates for daily drivers for people who do not mind an occasional bug. Over the year, and as far as the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T are concerned, OxygenOS Open Betas have played testing ground to features like expanded screenshots, data firewall and data saver, gaming do not disturb mode, automatic night mode, EIS and camera quality improvements, ambient display and lift up display, app locker, parallel apps and much, much more. As a consequence though, there is a significant time lag in these features appearing in Open Betas to them appearing in the Stable release, even after they have been seemingly perfected.

With the launch of the OnePlus 3T, some were concerned that OnePlus would be ignoring the OnePlus 3 to favor the newer device. These were fueled by OnePlus’ decision to entirely discontinue the sales of the OnePlus 3 after existing stock depletion despite the device being just about half a year old. But as they promised, software support for the OnePlus 3 continued alongside the OnePlus 3T. With the merging of OxygenOS for both the devices into a single unified build, both devices have essentially become the same phone as far as software is concerned. The unified build approach was also adopted by the custom ROM development community and most major works present in our forums provide a single set of modifications to be applied irrespective of the specific phone (3 or 3T), with certain packages discerning how to apply specific changes upon flashing. So while many people would still consider a half yearly upgrade controversial and largely unnecessary, myself included, it did have an impact in how the developer community shaped around these two devices. A refresh may have just prolonged the scope of the OnePlus 3 by convincing more people to purchase a OnePlus 3T, in turn increasing the combined user base.

OnePlus’s rediscovered willingness to aid developers thankfully did not stop at the OnePlus 3/3T, even though they had a few setbacks as they haven’t always complied with the GPLv2 in time. When the OnePlus 5 arrived, it came along with the device tree and kernel sources needed to kickstart development activities right at the get-go. The phone followed it up with several OxygenOS updates that added in missing features like EIS capabilities on 4K video as well as several bugfixes. The OnePlus 5 does not have an Open Beta program just yet, but this will change once the OnePlus 3/3T are updated to Android Oreo.


What happens to the OnePlus 3 and 3T after Oreo?

Sadly, it is too early to say what happens when OnePlus brings over Oreo to the 3/3T. Android 8.0 will be the final major version update for this set of devices from OnePlus, so the phones will very likely need to rely on the community to help it tide over the rest of its years. That is not to say that the OnePlus 3/3T will not receive any updates beyond Oreo as OnePlus’s statement does leave open the possibility of smaller, minor updates.

And the Oreo update just seems to be right around the corner. The OnePlus 3 Closed Beta group has already received its first taste of Android Oreo, and the company aims to deliver an Oreo build to the Open Beta channels by the end of September for the OnePlus 3/3T as well as the OnePlus 5. For a change, OnePlus is not mentioning any deadlines for delivering Oreo in the stable channels, preferring to just act quick and hopefully let their actions speak for themselves.

What we would like to point out with this article is that OnePlus as a company does appear to have evolved into a more mature entity, one that realizes that fulfilling promises matters, and that actions can speak louder than words. The OnePlus 2 was criticized heavily for being a classic case of overpromising, compromising and under delivering, but the past year with the OnePlus 3, OnePlus 3T and now with the OnePlus 5, the situation does appear changed.

That is not to say that OnePlus is without faults, nor is it to say that their current products are free from any issues. In fact, we at XDA-Developers have been the first ones to break controversial articles highlighting several shortcomings. We criticized the OnePlus 3 and its aggressive RAM management and inaccurate display calibration in the Reviewer software builds; to which OnePlus had to respond with a Reviewer OTA that fixed these issues. We revealed upon the OnePlus 5 launch how OnePlus was manipulating benchmarks to maximize scores; to which OnePlus responded with statements that mentioned that these were intended to showcase the peak potential of the device, and that such performance is “natural” (we disagree) as well as sustainable and does no harm to the device as there is no overclocking involved. The OnePlus 5 inverted display issue which caused jelly scrolling was also documented and confirmed by us;  to which OnePlus responded that the visual effect is “natural” and there exists no variance in screens between devices. We’ve also covered the 911-reboot bug on the OnePlus 5; OnePlus responded with a quick hotfix OTA update as well as followed it up by explaining the cause of the bug and mentioning that they worked with Qualcomm directly to fix the issue (which was reportedly present on phones from other OEMs as well).

The frequency and timeliness of the responses to these “controversies” is what differentiates the OnePlus of 2015 from the company post-OnePlus 2; even if the responses may not be what we would have liked them to be. Overall, their public relations team has seemingly done a good job at responding to the hiccups the company has had, even if they lost a few fans along the way. The community still has a few complaints carried over from the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X as well, like how the Marshmallow update for the X was delayed for far too long; and how OnePlus backtracked on their own promise to deliver Nougat to their 2016 flagship killer after keeping owners in the dark for several months.

But beyond that, it’s fair to say that the OnePlus 3 marked the company’s coming of age as an OEM. And as members of a website that focuses on software modifications, it’s refreshing to see that their flagships have at least partially filled in the void left behind by the demise of the Nexus program. All of OnePlus’ devices have already received unofficial Android 8.0 Oreo builds:

So it’s not too difficult to see why OnePlus continues to remain a popular choice in our forums, and why it’s becoming increasingly popular among mainstream consumers in several markets as well (for different reasons). Their ability to respond to their vocal community definitely had a hand in their recent successes, or at the very least, minimizing their recent missteps (and there have been many).


 

Indie developers show support for Nintendo Switch with a surge of upcoming games

Indie developers show support for Nintendo Switch with a surge of upcoming games

The already robust library of Nintendo
Switch
games is about to get even more diverse. In a new Nindies
Showcase video, Nintendo detailed 20 of the many indie games that are
coming to the hit console. Some of these Nindies* include new games in
the beloved Super Meat Boy and Shovel Knight franchises,
as well as indie collaborations in games like Travis Strikes Again:
No More Heroes
from Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture.

“We love the creativity, passion and amazing response that our
independent developer community has already shown for Nintendo Switch,”
said Damon Baker, Nintendo of America’s Senior Manager for Publisher &
Developer Relations. “It’s great to see so many different developers
creating new, unique experiences that take advantage of the hardware’s
features. This is a win for fans, who will have access to an even wider
selection of great indie content to take wherever they go.”

To celebrate all these upcoming indie games, Nintendo is bringing back
the Nindies@Night event at this year’s PAX West in Seattle. The free
event takes place at Museum of Pop Culture on Aug. 31 from 8:30 p.m. to
midnight PT. It’s a great chance for fans to check out some of the indie
games coming to Nintendo platforms, including Wargroove,
Super
Meat Boy Forever
, Shovel
Knight: King of Cards
, Kentucky
Route Zero: TV Edition
, SteamWorld
Dig 2
, Floor
Kids
, Nine
Parchments
, Earth
Atlantis
, Mulaka,
Battle
Chef Brigade
, Dandara,
Yono
and the Celestial Elephants
, Wulverblade,
Dragon:
Marked for Death
, AWAY:
Journey to the Unexpected
, Huntdown,
Sausage
Sports Club
, Light
Fingers
, and Runner3.
Part of the event will also be livestreamed at https://www.twitch.tv/hyperrpg
on Aug. 31 from 9 to 10 p.m. P.T. and include developer deep dives and
sneak peeks of never-before-seen gameplay.

Fans who visit the Washington State Convention Center during PAX West
can also visit the Nindies Arcade on the third floor in room 3B and play
a select group of the same upcoming indie games. The Nindies Arcade
hours are noon-9 p.m. PT from Sept. 1 to Sept. 3, and noon-6 p.m. PT on
Sept. 4.

To view the Nindies Showcase video in its entirety, visit
http://live.nintendo.com/. Highlights of the presentation include:

  • Super Meat Boy Forever from Team Meat: In this
    beefy sequel to the fan-favorite original game, players will once
    again leap off walls, dodge buzz saws and perform incredible feats of
    2D platforming. In this game, though, levels get more challenging each
    time they’re beaten. With an updated control scheme, new ranking
    system and daily challenges, players are going to want to keep coming
    back for seconds. Super Meat Boy Forever launches for Nintendo
    Switch in 2018.
  • Shovel Knight: King of Cards from Yacht Club Games:
    This final adventure in the Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove saga
    is fit for a king! Travel through four new worlds and 30 new courses
    to discover how King Knight ascended the throne and became one of the
    Order of No Quarter. Shovel Knight: King of Cards launches on
    Nintendo Switch in early 2018.
  • Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes from Suda51 and
    Grasshopper Manufacture
    : Seven years have passed since the events
    of No More Heroes, and The Bad is determined to exact his
    revenge on Travis Touchdown. Just like the original cult classic,
    players will have to battle through multiple punk-rock levels and
    defeat over-the-top bosses. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
    launches exclusively for Nintendo Switch in 2018. More details about
    the game will be revealed in the future.
  • Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition from Cardboard
    Computer and Annapurna Interactive
    : This haunting episodic tale is
    loved by many, and now it’s coming to Nintendo Switch. Kentucky
    Route Zero: TV Edition
    , which includes the debut of the
    long-awaited fifth and final act of the series, launches on Nintendo
    Switch in early 2018.
  • SteamWorld Dig 2 from Image & Form Games: In
    the sequel to the award-winning original, you must dig deep, gain
    riches and explore an underworld riddled with danger. A new trailer
    for SteamWorld Dig 2 that debuted during the Nindies Showcase
    presentation revealed the game will launch for Nintendo Switch on
    Sept. 21.
  • Dragon: Marked for Death from IntiCreates: Go it
    alone or team up with three other friends in this side-scrolling
    action-RPG. With 30 enormous quests and four classes to choose from,
    players will have hours and hours of action to fight through. Dragon:
    Marked for Death
    launches exclusively on Nintendo Switch this
    winter.
  • Battle Chef Brigade from Trinket Games and Adult Swim:
    Orcs, elves and humans have one thing in common – a need to feed! Battle
    Chef Brigade
    is one part combo-based action game, one part
    match-three puzzler and an all-around feast for fans of 2D animation.
    Duel your way into the Brigade when the game launches first on
    Nintendo Switch this holiday season.
  • Golf
    Story
    from Sidebar Games: Most role-playing games
    are about slaying dragons or retrieving mystical crystals, but what
    about an RPG that lets players equip golf clubs instead of swords? In
    this golf RPG (yes, it’s a thing!), play through a dramaticstory with
    a diverse cast of characters to meet, golf challenges to beat,
    upgrades to earn and equipment to collect. Golf Story launches
    exclusively on Nintendo Switch in September.
  • Floor Kids from MERJ: This rhythm-based action
    game lets players bust out fresh moves, earn respect and recruit
    dancers through a variety of locations. Play the game’s single- or
    multiplayer modes with either traditional or touch-screen controls. Floor
    Kids
    launches first on Nintendo Switch this holiday season.
  • Wulverblade from Fully Illustrated and Darkwind Media:
    Get nostalgic for the classic beat-’em-ups of the ’80s and ’90s with Wulverblade,
    a rich, hand-drawn 2D action game set in war-torn ancient Britain. The
    two-player co-op game launches first on Nintendo Switch in September.
  • Poly
    Bridge
    from Dry Cactus: Flex your engineering
    muscles in this bridge-building simulator that proves it’s just as fun
    to fix things as it is to watch them fall to pieces. Hundreds of
    levels and hours of physics-based puzzles will gear players up to
    create their own incredible bridges and puzzle levels to show their
    friends. Poly Bridge launches as a console exclusive on
    Nintendo Switch this holiday season.
  • Earth Atlantis from Pixel Perfex and Headup Games:
    As one of the last survivors of humanity, players must explore an
    underwater world and hunt down monstrous creature/machine hybrids in
    this side-scrolling shooter. Earth Atlantis launches first on
    Nintendo Switch this fall.
  • Next
    Up Hero
    from Digital Continue and Aspyr Media:
    Everyone dies in this community-driven online action game. But once
    one person dies, an echo is left behind. The next hero can then revive
    them as an AI companion. Choose from nine heroes and wield various
    weapons when Next Up Hero launches on Nintendo Switch in early
    2018.
  • Mom
    Hid My Game
    from KEMCO: Players must push their
    imaginations to the limit in this seek-and-find game about, well,
    seeking and finding a game! Mom Hid My Game launches for both
    Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems later this year
    with exclusive stages.
  • Mulaka from Lienzo: Battle mythical creatures,
    solve puzzles and undergo magical transformations in this lush
    action-adventure, inspired by northern Mexico and the indigenous
    Tarahumara culture. Mulaka launches on Nintendo Switch in 2018
    with exclusive features and functionality.
  • Yono and the Celestial Elephants from Neckbolt Games
    and Plug In Digital
    : Many adventure games have a distinct lack of
    elephants … but that’s all about to change. Yono is here, and he’s
    basically a one-elephant army that runs, opens chests with his trunk,
    head-butts bad guys, sprays water and throws explosives. You know,
    normal elephant stuff. Yono and the Celestial Elephant launches
    as a console exclusive on Nintendo Switch on Oct. 12.
  • Morphies Law from Cosmoscope: A new trailer that
    debuted during the Nindies Showcase showed off the uniqueness of this
    upcoming shooter. Morphies Law launches as a console exclusive
    for Nintendo Switch this winter.
  • Sausage Sports Club from Luckshot Games: Players
    looking for a physics-based sports game about adorable floppy-necked
    animals competing on a reality TV show are in luck. Sausage Sports
    Club
    features multiple game modes, arenas and playable characters.
    Plus, it can be played with up to eight players**! The multiplayer
    game launches first on Nintendo Switch this fall.
  • Light Fingers from Numizmatic: One to four
    players** manipulate a magical clockwork board in this turn-based
    multiplayer game featuring real-time challenges, devious opportunities
    for misdirection and, of course, lots of loot! With procedurally
    generated boards, players will never play the same game twice. Light
    Fingers
    launches first on Nintendo Switch in early 2018.
  • Nine Parchments from Frozenbyte: Everyone has
    heard of beat-’em-up games, but what about a blast-’em-up game? In
    this local and online* co-op game, up to four players battle strange
    creatures and mighty bosses while wielding an ever-changing arsenal of
    spells. Nine Parchments launches for Nintendo Switch this
    holiday season.

Remember that Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS feature parental
controls
that let adults manage the content their children can
access. For more information about other features, visit
http://www.nintendo.com/switch/
or http://www.nintendo.com/3ds.

*Nintendo Account required. Online services and features, including
online gameplay, are free until the paid Nintendo Switch Online Service
launches in 2018.

**Additional accessories are required for multiplayer mode and are sold
separately.

Games Rated:

Major App Developers Show Off ARKit Apps Ahead of iOS 11 Launch

Apple this week invited several media sites to its Cupertino campus to show off some upcoming ARKit apps being developed by major companies like The Food Network, Ikea, Giphy, and AMC, according to CNBC, The Verge, and TechCrunch.

Ikea demonstrated its previously announced “Ikea Place” app, designed to allow users to preview what Ikea furniture will look like in their homes ahead of a purchase. The Verge says it’s highly customizable, letting users see the size, materials, and texture of furniture.

The Food Network is developing an app that will let users create custom digital desserts that can then be reproduced in real life through a custom recipe, while AMC and Next Games have teamed up for an augmented reality zombie game called “The Walking Dead: Our World.”

Image from CNBC


GIF app Giphy plans to introduce tools that will let GIFs be added to the real world, and Climax Studios CEO and developer Simon Gardner showed off an upcoming AR game called Arise, which is an augmented reality puzzle game solved by tilting the iPhone to steer a character through the level.



The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a popular children’s story turned into an app, will take advantage of ARKit to offer kids a chance to raise a virtual caterpillar, feeding it until it turns into a butterfly.

Image from Apple, via The Verge


All of the developers present had the same general opinion about ARKit according to The Verge — it “could be the real game changer in AR.” Many of the developers said it was simple to create an ARKit app, sometimes taking just 7 to 10 weeks to develop. For more on these ARKit apps, make sure to check out the full reports from CNBC, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

Along with these official looks at ARKit, we’ve also seen several developer concepts surfacing in the months since ARKit was announced. Check out our previous coverage for details on what will be possible with the new feature:

ARKit Roundup: Turn-by-Turn Directions, Precise Room Measurements, and Pac-Man

Apple’s ARKit Used to Recreate Classic A-ha ‘Take On Me’ Video

Apple Users’ Mixed Reality Future Teased in Latest ARKit Demo

Latest Apps to Showcase Apple’s ARKit Include Simple Measuring Tape and Minecraft

Developers Share First Augmented Reality Creations Using Apple’s ARKit

Latest ARKit Demo Showcases Virtual Drawing

Latest ARKit Demos Include Sculpting, Food Ordering, Virtual Pets and Zombies

The first ARKit apps will launch in September following the public debut of iOS 11. When iOS 11 and ARKit become available, Apple’s iPhones and iPads will instantly become the largest augmented reality platform in the world. ARKit will be available on all Apple devices with iOS 11 and an A9 processor or better (iPad Pro and iPhone 6s/6s Plus and later).

Apple Seeds Eighth Beta of macOS High Sierra to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Apple today seeded the eighth beta of an upcoming macOS High Sierra update to developers for testing purposes, one week after seeding the seventh beta and more than two months after introducing the new software at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference.

The eighth beta of macOS High Sierra can be downloaded from the Apple Developer Center or over-the-air using the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

macOS High Sierra builds on features first introduced in macOS Sierra, focusing on new storage, video, and graphics technology. It brings a new Apple File System (APFS), High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), and an updated version of Metal with support for VR and external GPUs.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

Several apps are gaining new features in macOS High Sierra. The Photos app features a new sidebar to make it easier to access editing tools and albums, and there are new filters and editing options like Curves and Selective Color. Photos also supports external editing apps like Photoshop and Pixelmator, saving changes made in those apps back to Photos, and it interfaces with new third-party printing services.

Safari is gaining speed enhancements, an option to prevent autoplay videos, and a new feature that cuts down on cross-site data tracking. Siri in macOS High Sierra has expanded music capabilities and a new, more natural voice, and Spotlight supports flight status information. There are also improvements to iCloud, FaceTime, Messages, and Notes.

macOS High Sierra is available for both registered developers and public beta testers and will see a public release in the fall.

For a complete overview of changes coming in macOS High Sierra, make sure to check out our dedicated macOS High Sierra roundup.

Update: Apple has also seeded a new public beta (beta 7) of macOS High Sierra to public beta testers.

Xbox Wants Diversity in its Games Lineup; it’s Good for Gears of War and Halo Developers to Be Quiet

Microsoft has been making quite a few announcements lately, but the house of Xbox has been quiet about what The Coalition and the main team at 343 Industries are doing. According to Xbox Games Marketing General Manager Aaron Greenberg this is a positive signal, as he told DualShockers during an interview at Gamescom in Cologne

Greenberg thinks that first party studios being quiet is a good thing. As a fan he knows that The Coalition is there, and they’re hard at work on “something,” and the same goes for 343 Industries. The question is how far in advance Microsoft should announce what they’re doing.

There are so many games coming to Xbox One over the next twelve months, and Microsoft feels good about its first party lineup. Greenberg feels that it’s nice to be able to have a strong lineup like that, and still be a little quiet about what is being done behind the scenes. That being said, he recently visited The Coalition, and he is “very excited” about the future of the Gears of War franchise. He is also very excited about the future of the Halo franchise.

Interestingly, Greenberg also commented on Black Desert Online‘s upcoming release on Xbox One: Microsoft believes that there is an opportunity to have more MMO games on the console, and Black Desert in particular has a strong following, but isn’t yet very well known in the west. So it’s a great opportunity to bring a great game to the console and give it more visibility in the west.

This was actually the idea behind the E3 show: showing a large and diverse line-up of creators from all over the world, including Europe, Korea, Japan and more. Microsoft “really want that diversity,” and the folks working at Xbox pride themselves on loving games and wanting to honor the creators and artist making these titles.

Xbox Division Head Phil Spencer himself is a game developer, and has a “deep appreciation” for this. According to Greenberg it’s not always about selling millions of units, and Microsoft wants to make sure that they have a good variety and a diverse lineup for their players.

PlayStation VR continues to mature as developers explore space – Tech News

Players pilot a six-story mech in

Players pilot a six-story mech in “Archangel,” a narrative-driven virtual reality game. — Skydance Interactive/TNS

PlayStation VR has made headway since it launched nearly nine months ago. The games coming out are more complete experiences and less like tech demos. Sony announced in June that it sold more than 1 million PSVR units. 

Meanwhile on the cultural front, Steven Spielberg debuted the trailer for Ready Player One at Comic-Con, and it was well received. The upcoming sci-fi flick, centred on VR, could bring the technology to the forefront when it’s released in March 2018. 

As for PSVR’s growing library, a handful of titles came out this summer. Here’s a roundup of what’s out there for gamers: 

Arizona Sunshine – This is one of the few games that supports the PlayStation Aim controller, which is one of the better peripherals for virtual reality. This project puts players in the shoes of a zombie apocalypse survivor. 

Players must fend off a relentless army of the undead while scavenging for bullets and weapons. Although the zombies are easy to dispatch, they become troublesome when a horde comes after players. That’s when it’s smart to find a choke point or take shelter in a battered building. 

Arizona Sunshine lets players explore the environment, rifling through drawers and poking through the trunks of cars. To move, the game employs a teleportation-type system where players point to an area and appear there. They can turn around, but as in the teleportation system, the developers stagger the movement to keep players from becoming disoriented in VR. 

The project is a solid effort, though scavenging and exploration are cumbersome. The story itself is mediocre at best, but it’s the combat mechanics that shine in this zombie survival game. 

Archangel – Skydance is better known for films in the Mission: Impossible series, but the company has expanded its offerings to include virtual reality. The developer shows its expertise with narrative in its first project, Archangel

It takes place in a dark future, in which the world has succumbed to climate change. A conglomerate called HUMNX offers to help set the world right, but the process lets this megacorporation take over America. 

Players can choose to take on the role of Gabby or Gabriel Walker. Walker is the pilot of Archangel, the United States Free Forces’ secret weapon to fight the tyranny of HUMNX. It’s a six-story mech, similar to the robot in Pacific Rim. Using Archangel and teaming up with M1KL, the robot’s AI interface, players turn into a one-soldier army that can turn the tide of the war. 

Archangel is a game that’s on rails. That means the developers at Skydance move players along a predetermined path. Players have control of the robot’s arms and weapons, which they use to shoot down HUMNX’s battalions, tanks, troopers and aircraft. 

Because Archangel can’t dodge attacks, players protect themselves with an energy shield. It’s a strong device, but it lasts only a few seconds before it needs to be recharged. That creates an interesting combat dynamic, in which players have to manage shields, read enemy movements and attack. 

The learning curve of this robot jiu jitsu is steep, and that’s piled on top of the challenging campaign. But with enough practice and smart decisions in levelling up the robot, players can overcome HUMNX and delve deeper into the story behind Walker, his family and his ragtag military team. 

Superhot – This indie darling has been out for more than a year but finally debuted on PSVR in July. The premise of Superhot is simple. Players are tossed into a minimalistic environment, where they must defeat gunman and thugs hell-bent on killing them. 

Thankfully, players have a super power of sorts. The action moves only when the player does. Think of it is as bullet time from the Matrix, except this is turned on permanently. That lets player perform moves that would leave Neo saying, “Woah.” 

They can toss a bottle at an attacker, and that sets up a reaction where his handgun flies in the air. Players can grab the pistol and use it to eliminate adversaries that are attacking from the sides. More advanced levels push players to perform impressive moves like slicing incoming bullets in half with a knife or dodging shotgun blasts in an interrogation room. 

Superhot makes players feel like John Wick on steroids. The slow-motion movement gives players preternatural reflexes that work remarkably well in VR. Combat situations become puzzles, where players have to creatively use resources at hand to overcome seemingly impossible situations. 

It’s a must-buy experience for PSVR. — East Bay Times/Tribune News Service

Amazon expands program that pays Alexa developers for top-performing voice apps


Amazon today announced a new program that gives developers a way to earn money for their Alexa skills – the voice apps that run on smart speakers like the Echo, and other Alexa-powered devices. According to the company, developers will be compensated for top-performing and “engaging” voice apps across over a half-dozen categories, including games, which were previously being compensated through a similar program.

This program had first begun in May, when Amazon quietly introduced direct cash payouts to Alexa developers with popular games.

Now, Amazon will begin to reward voice apps in other categories, including Education & Reference, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Music & Audio, and Productivity, it says.

The idea here is to offer developers a means of making money from their Alexa skills ahead of any formal monetization program. The Alexa App Store today doesn’t let developers charge users for paid voice apps, nor does it allow for in-app purchases. Amazon even changed its policies related to Alexa skill building in order to shut down the first ad network designed for Alexa skills back in June.

That’s left developers to build skills largely as a labor of love – and because they want to be ahead of the game, when Amazon does finally introduce some sort of real business model for generating money from voice applications.

Amazon doesn’t specifically detail in its blog post how it determines what makes an Alexa skill “engaging.” Rather, the company explains that it’s looking for skills that are designed to be “voice-first,” that are unique, that feature fresh content on a regular basis, and those that make life easier for people, as compared with using a search engine.

For example, using a translation skill to figure out how to say something in another language is simpler than having to type the query into a search engine, says Amazon.

In addition, Amazon reiterated that games are some of the most engaging skills on the Alexa platform – likely why they were the first category to receive compensation.

Though Amazon doesn’t provide a full list of metrics or thresholds that developers should pay attention to, one Alexa developer who has been earning rewards for game skills tells us he believes the payouts are largely tied to rankings. The top six skills get payouts from $5,000 for #1 down to about $2,000 for #6, he estimated. Then the next 300 or so get payouts from about $1,000 for #7 down to about $100 for #300.

Alexa developers don’t have all that many numbers to track, at this time. Their dashboards offer metrics for things like sessions, unique users, intents, and utterances (voice commands). But there’s not a direct correlation between any of these and the payouts. That indicates there are other considerations in play that Amazon isn’t disclosing. Amazon confirms to us some of the factors it examines, including minutes of usage, new customers, recurring customers, and customer ratings.

Offering cash for top skills is only one way Amazon has been trying to grow its voice app ecosystem. The company also is doling out Amazon Web Services promotional credits to Alexa developers, so they don’t have to pay for AWS usage charges if skills become popular. Plus, Amazon is running a series of Alexa training workshops around the world, and has been giving developers free Echo devices.

It’s notable that the Alexa platform has managed to attract a sizable group of developers ahead of any formal compensation program, or support for traditional app monetization business models, like freemium apps, paid apps, and advertising. Despite this, Alexa’s app store has grown to over 15,000 skills in a relatively short period of time – after all, the Echo speaker – Amazon’s first Alexa device – wasn’t even available to the public until July 2015.

That said, direct payouts for skills is a program that can only be sustained for so long. Eventually, developers will demand more control over their businesses, rather relying on some inscrutable algorithm. In the meantime, Amazon will face competition from rivals, including Google Home and Apple’s forthcoming HomePod – both from companies who have a better understanding of how an app store ecosystem works.

But those two have arrived late to the game. Alexa has traction, thanks to the popularity of Amazon’s Echo speaker, and now, its affordable little cousin, the Echo Dot, among other newer devices. The company wasn’t first to voice, but it essentially figured out how voice computing should work, to growing consumer appeal.

Instead of a voice assistant running on a phone to be fished out of a pocket or purse, the Echo sits in a single spot in your home. You just speak out loud and the “computer,” Alexa, responds. This is the future sci-fi painted for us long ago, and we already knew how to use it. Now, Amazon needs to prove it can build a sustainable app ecosystem that will allow it to maintain its position in the voice computing landscape; and keeping developers happy is a critical step.

Featured Image: Joby Sessions/T3 Magazine via Getty Images

OnePlus 3, 3T Will Stop Getting Major Updates After Android O, And Developers Won’t Say Why : TECH : Tech Times


OnePlus has killed the hopes of OnePlus 3 and 3T owners hoping to get major Android updates after Android O. That’s right: OnePlus’s older devices will stop receiving updates after Android O. 
( OnePlus )

OnePlus has now confirmed that all OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T owners will stop receiving major Android updates after Android O rolls around, causing some upset in the community.

Before the release of the OnePlus 5, both the OnePlus 3 and 3T were two of the most highly rated smartphones available in the market thanks to their premium specs and lower-than-most price tags. But when its most recent flagship came about, there was some concern over the frequency of updates to OnePlus’s older hardware.

OnePlus 3 And 3T Will Not Get Android P

Well, OnePlus has addressed such concerns now, and it’s not good news. Android O, the next major version of Android after Nougat, will still hit both the OnePlus 3 and 3T. However, users can’t expect anything big after that.

OnePlus confirmed the news via a Q and A session, during which it answered a lot of questions about its smartphone lineup as well.

“We’ll continue to release security patch updates for the foreseeable future, and offer support for individual application updates,” said OnePlus’s head of product, Oliver Z.

Open Beta Program To Stop

The Open Beta Program for OnePlus 3 and 3T will also stop once Android O is released, to be used exclusively for the OnePlus 5 instead. The company usually rolls out updates to those enrolled in the Open Beta Program every month or two, allowing owners to test features before official builds are launched. It makes sense why OnePlus will halt this for OnePlus 3 and 3T owners.

Software support has become one of the biggest issues in the smartphone world. Since the release cycle between iterations gets smaller and smaller, users have become afraid of purchasing a phone that will stop receiving updates after a year or two. The OnePlus 3 is just a little over a year old, while the 3T has stayed in the market for barely a year.

Why Is OnePlus Doing This?

It’s not clear why OnePlus opted for this route, but one can assume it’s to convince people that they should get the OnePlus 5 from here on out instead of looking at the company’s past flagship line. Still, if you look at the premium specs of both the OnePlus 3 and 3T, you’d at least surmise that these phones could probably support at least two or three more major Android updates going forward. But alas, that is not the case.

As for the Android O update, OnePlus hasn’t shared official release dates yet. Google is expected to roll out public builds before September starts, so OnePlus can probably show something before this year ends.

© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

‘Don’t Split Starcraft’ An Job interview with Starcraft: Remastered’s Developers

Even classics need renovations from time to time. Immediately after 19 yrs of zerg rushes, sellout tournaments, and an entire esports scene, on Monday, Blizzard is releasing a remastered edition of its legendary activity. IGN talked to Robert Bridenbecker, VP of Tech Tactic at Blizzard, about the issues updating a revered large in the RTS style.

“Starcraft is arguably the grandfather of esports,” clarifies Bridenbecker, but even he may possibly be underselling the affect of Starcraft on the esports scene. With esports tournaments, casters, gamers, and entire leagues crafted all-around the activity throughout its heyday, Starcraft is not so a lot a activity as an establishment.

No a person was a lot more amazed about the game’s success than the developers. “Go back again to 1999, seeing those esport tournaments in South Korea, we had been really blown away.” Back again then, he and his staff thought of multiplayer as a couple of folks enjoying around LAN. “We didn’t expect 100,000 folks in a stadium.”

Remastering Starcraft usually means resurrecting that esports scene.Starcraft_1280

Remastering Starcraft usually means resurrecting that esports scene.

To do so, Bridenbecker and his staff experienced a tall endeavor: preserving a activity expertise gamers had been utilized to whilst updating the activity to modern method necessities. “As the activity has aged, the core gameplay proceeds to be great. But it wouldn’t run on Home windows 10,” clarifies Bridenbecker. Certain areas of the activity– the absence of matchmaking, the 4:3 component ratio, and so forth– have not aged effectively. So they desired to see what they could do to update the graphics, adapting the activity to a lot more modern operating programs, and signing up for the neighborhood to Struggle.Net.

“It’s absolutely a harmony,” Bridenbecker admits. “The activity that was at first developed has been savored for so extended. We cannot believe that we’re the know it alls.” Which is why Blizzard sought out contributions and feedbacks from the followers, usually journeying to South Korea to talk to with the pro scene there. “We wouldn’t be performing this without the need of the neighborhood. We have been in lockstep with them,” Bridenbecker clarifies. So that gave the staff a much better knowledge about what they must and should not mess with.

The guiding basic principle: “Don’t Split Starcraft.”

He points to the Dragoons possessing selected pathfinding problems as an interesting issue they opted not to resolve. Players now foresee that behavior, so to modify it wouldn’t be a effective. He says with a chuckle “It’s not what we had been shooting for in 98, but considering the fact that it is been portion of the activity, it’s turn into envisioned.” As a substitute, they viewed these type of movement bugs as characteristics. “Tread cautiously,” he clarifies. “After twenty yrs of patches, we’re not going to mess with that.” The core gameplay mechanic has been baked around the final twenty yrs.

In addition to making it possible for gamers to modify involving the traditional 4:3 component ratio to High definition widescreen with only the click on of a button, Starcraft Remastered characteristics a myriad of other visual upgrades. The drinking water outcomes are a lot improved, the models are completely redone, and you can zoom in and out all through the battlefield. “When a dragoon shoots, you are seeing the shot throughout the ground and seeing a radiant effect” in the setting, clarifies Bridenbecker. But if you really do not like these new outcomes, you can convert them off. “We joked we had been going to get in touch with this the ‘Starcraft: Supreme Selections Edition,’” clarifies Bridenbecker.

“Starcraft: Supreme Selections Edition”

The upgrades really do not conclusion at the visuals Starcraft Remastered brings Starcraft into 2017 when it comes to social performance. In addition to a a lot-required matchmaking performance, gamers will be capable to chat around Struggle.Net with their friends who are enjoying Overwatch.

“Community” was a term that Bridenbecker recurring a lot more than any other in our dialogue. He spoke about connecting Starcraft followers to the more substantial Blizzard neighborhood, about thanking those same followers who supported Starcraft around the yrs, and at last, how Starcraft Remastered is about connecting those followers jointly in new and thrilling ways.

“It comes proper down to: there is a person truly massive Starcraft neighborhood. No matter if you’re enjoying [Starcraft] a person or two, we want to make confident you are engaged and happy. That you can take pleasure in [these games] on today’s devices.” Bridenbecker wishes to make certain the neighborhood is set up to take pleasure in Starcraft for the up coming twenty yrs. To that conclusion, on Monday, Starcraft has introduced a substantial Starcraft Remastered launch party that includes several personalities and gamers from the Brood War-era of Starcraft’s esports scene. The launch LAN-celebration is broadcasting on Twitch on Monday from 12pm to 9pm PDT and will attribute hosts Sean “Day[9]” Plott and Nick “Tasteless” Plott with gamers Legionnaire, Draco,G5, Nyoken, Ret, White-Ra and attribute Dan ‘Artosis’ Stemkoski and Geoff ‘iNcontroL’ Robinson.


Thrilled for the party? Cannot get sufficient Starcraft information? Seem off in the remarks!

Apple Seeds Fifth Beta of macOS High Sierra to Developers

Apple today seeded the fifth beta of an upcoming macOS High Sierra update to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after seeding the fourth beta and two months after introducing the new software at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference.

The new macOS High Sierra beta can be downloaded from the Apple Developer Center or over-the-air using the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

Today’s beta introduces a new option to capture Live Photos while using FaceTime. FaceTime Live Photos was first introduced in the iOS 11 beta.

macOS High Sierra builds on features introduced in macOS Sierra, focusing on new storage, video, and graphics technology. It introduces a new Apple File System (APFS), High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), and an updated version of Metal with support for VR and external GPUs.

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Several apps are gaining new features in macOS High Sierra. The Photos app is being updated with a new sidebar that makes it easier to access editing tools and albums, and there are new filters and editing options like Curves and Selective Color. Photos also supports external editing apps like Photoshop and Pixelmator, saving changes made in those apps, and it interfaces with new third-party printing services.

Safari is gaining speed enhancements, an option to prevent autoplay videos, and a new feature that puts a stop to cross-site data tracking. Siri in macOS High Sierra has expanded music capabilities and a new, more natural voice, and Spotlight supports flight status information. There are also improvements to iCloud, FaceTime, Messages, and Notes.

macOS High Sierra is available for both registered developers and public beta testers and will see several updates ahead of its expected fall public release.

For a complete overview of changes coming in macOS High Sierra, make sure to check out our dedicated macOS High Sierra roundup.