Welcome back. While our team out in Texas continues to struggle against wave upon wave of BBQ and beers at SXSW, they're also finding time to bring us all the cool stuff worth talking about. SXSW is a weird one, and we've already seen specialized VR chairs, sound-based motion capture and a Levi- and Google-made smart jacket. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Fukushima might be safe enough for people to return.
Most solo virtual reality games don't make for great entertainment at parties... not unless your definition of fun involves making everyone wait their turn. Firesprite, however, has a way for your friends to join in. Its upcoming PlayStation VR sci-fi horror title The Persistence will include a mobile companion app that lets nearby friends see the game map. Your pals can make your life easier by steering you toward items, or create havoc by running you toward threats -- this is one of the few horror games where the people on your couch may be as much of a hazard as the virtual enemies.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn't just the series' best game in years, it's also unlike any title in the series -- it's an open-world experience where you're free to find your own solutions to challenges. But just how did Nintendo manage to pull off such a radical change in direction? Don't worry -- it's happy to explain. The Game Developers Conference has posted a talk from Nintendo's Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Satoru Takizawa and Takuhiro Dota that describes how the Breath of the Wild team broke from the highly linear experiences of past Zelda games. It's a textbook example of how to make a good open-world game regardless of the genre.
When it comes to tracking physical objects in virtual spaces, pretty much every company is relying on light in some form. Oculus and HTC have their light mapping sensors, while Sony's PlayStation VR relies on infrared for its motion tracking camera. Hauoli, a young Austin-based startup demoing at SXSW, has something different in mind. It's developed a way to track virtual objects with sound. It's entirely software based and works with just about any speaker, so it also removes the need for expensive motion tracking hardware.
Engadget editors have let you know how we feel after extended time with the Nintendo Switch, and in an interview with Time, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime gave us some updates from within the company. Through its first five days on sale, the Switch continued to be Nintendo's fastest-selling console ever in the US, but the biggest questions are about issues some owners are experiencing. When it comes to that occasionally-finicky left Joy-Con, Fils-Aime said "all I can tell you is that we are aware of and have seen some of the reports. We're asking consumers a lot of questions....we'll look and see what the next steps are."
Slowly but surely, PlayStation is releasing more non-gaming offerings for the PSVR headset. Next up is Virry VR, an app that wants to put you within arm's reach of Kenyan wildlife. Among other things, you'll see rhinos bathing and lions eating according to the European PlayStation Blog. The entirety of the video was filmed at Lewa Downs, a UNESCO heritage site home to elephants, Grevy's zebras, hyenas and leopards.
Without any hint that a new version was in the works, it was pretty clear that Mario Kart 8, one of the best reasons to own a Wii U, would be ported to the Switch. This is good news for the record-breaking legions of folks who bought the new console and want a great first-party racing experience that's been retooled and expanded. The Switch version, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, includes all current DLC and several new characters to zoom around your favorite tracks. And Rainbow Road, if you're that person.