The future of ‘Minecraft’ includes swamps, scary monsters and a Game Pass bundle

On Saturday, Mojang held its annual Minecraft Live fan convention. As in years past, the event saw the studio detail the future of its immensely popular sandbox game. And if you’re a fan of Minecraft, the livestream did not disappoint.   

The studio kicked off the event with the announcement of The Wild Update. Set to come out sometime in 2022, Mojang promises this latest DLC will change how players explore and interact with the game’s overworld. The update will introduce an entirely new swamp biome that includes mangroves players can pick fruit from and replant to nurture new plants.

The Deep Dark, which was previously planned for 2021, will now launch instead in 2022 alongside The Wild Update. First announced at Minecraft Live 2020, the DLC adds the Warden, a new enemy character that is one of the game’s scariest yet. Players who brave the DLC will find special new items only available in the deep dark.

In the meantime, fans can look forward to part two of the Caves and Cliffs update coming out later this year. In the first half of 2021, Mojang made the decision to split the update into two parts due to the complexity of the included features. At Minecraft Live, the studio said that was the right decision, in part because it allowed the team to take into consideration community feedback. As previously announced, the update will include expanded caves and biomes. It will also increase the height and depth limit of worlds.

Mojang hasn’t forgotten about Minecraft Dungeons. In December, the studio will introduce a new feature called Seasonal Adventures. Each week, you and your friends will have to chance to take on weekly challenges. As you complete them, you’ll earn progress towards a seasonal progression track that unlocks rewards like new skins, pets and emotes. Season One, The Cloudy Climb, will add a new Tower feature and adventure hub for players to explore.

Now is also the perfect time to either try Minecraft for the first time or return to the game after an extended break. On November 2nd, Microsoft will release a Minecraft bundle for Xbox Game Pass on PC. The pack includes both the Bedrock and Java editions of the game, with support for a single MSA log-in across both.

The updates come at a time when Minecraft has never been more popular. Just this past August, Mojang said more than 140 million players logged in to play the game, representing a new milestone for the title. Minecraft Live then was about positioning the game for a future where it continues to grow.

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How Resident Evil Village Brought Iconic Monsters to Life

A few months out from its release, it’s clear that Resident Evil Village‘s lasting legacy will be its characters. That was clear early on when Capcom first introduced the instantly iconic Lady Dimitrescu, but the final product only solidified it. Villains like Angie and Moreau have left a lasting impression, giving the 25-year-old franchise its most memorable characters to date.

That’s an especially notable win for Resident Evil as a whole. Despite being a beloved horror franchise, characters and acting weren’t always its strong suit. The first game in the series features notoriously wooden performances that turned the game into a meme-filled laughing stock. That’s changed significantly over the last few years thanks to motion capture. Resident Evil 7 was the first game in the series to adopt full performance capture, raising the bar for storytelling and cutting back on the stiff video game acting of yesteryear. Resident Evil Village only ups the ante by giving the series its best performances to date.

I spoke to Resident Evil Village‘s Presentation Director Masato Miyazaki about how motion capture brought the game’s eclectic characters to life. Miyazaki explained how embracing the technology has allowed the franchise to grow and produce its most narratively audacious game yet.

How did the motion capture process in Village differ from previous Resident Evil games?

We’ve been doing motion capture for many years now, and I’d like to believe we’ve accumulated quite a bit of knowledge surrounding it. Rather than change things up and start fresh with Resident Evil Village, it was more about refining our workflow to be as streamlined and efficient as possible.

For example, when we were working on Resident Evil 7, we experienced a bit of loss in communication between the scenario writers, cinematographers, actors, and studio staff. We took a look at how we could improve from there and applied it to subsequent titles such as Resident Evil 2. By the time we were working on Resident Evil Village, we were able to troubleshoot a lot of previous issues that allowed us to purely focus on making sure we got the best acting performance.

In other words, rather than worrying about logistics and production, we were able to focus more of our efforts entirely on creativity.

The lycans are much faster and more erratic than traditional Resident Evil enemies. Was it tricky for the team to adjust to that change?

Simply put, it was quite difficult. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the optimal movement of the lycans. We went through many discussions within the team about the best approach and speed a lycan should take when hunting the player. The motif of the lycan was that of a werewolf, so we also struggled with finding the right types of movement that would best showcase this.

We frequently find that we spend an exceptional amount of time working on the main adversary of any Resident Evil title, and this was no different when tackling the development of the lycan.

Village’s villains come in all shapes and sizes, literally. Were there any special rigs or techniques you used to capture characters like Moreau or Angie?

We take special care in building the character rigs as meticulously as possible so that they gracefully handle as much of the physical differences between the actor and the in-game character. Moreau’s spine is greatly distorted, and Angie is a puppet with fewer joints than a human. The studio engineers put a lot of effort into making sure that the actors’ movements are effectively transferred to the CG characters.

Heisenberg's actor in full motion capture for Resident Evil Village.

Of course, that is not enough to effectively transfer the actors’ performances into the game. We also took care in crafting the backgrounds for each scene as well. For example, in scenes where Dimitrescu interacts with other characters, we set up backgrounds that fit the scale of each character. This way, it wouldn’t impede the performance of the actors and would account for the size differences between the actors and how the characters may appear in game.

Was Lady Dimitrescu’s boss form motion captured, and if so, what in the world did that look like on set?

It’s actually a hybrid of animation and motion capture. In order to recreate the movements of monsters, we need actors with special physical capabilities. For this title, we were able to work with an action stuntman from a famous amusement park. He’s done great work for us in the past and helped breathe life into the Licker enemy that you see in many previous Resident Evil titles. His performance provides photorealistic movements as a baseline guide. The animators then brush up on the movements to properly correct and exaggerate them as per the monster’s skeleton.

How do you capture characters that are so physically different and still make it feel like they’re all part of the same cohesive world?

I think this really encapsulates the core challenge that we faced in developing this game. One of the concepts of Resident Evil Village was creating a theme park of horror that offered the player many different frights and terrors. While this is advantageous in giving different forms of entertainment, one misstep would create a lot of disparity and throw the player out of an immersive experience.

Resident Evil Village House Beneviento

As such, we went through each component and made sure they fit within the overarching world and theme of “survival horror.” We figured that would be the best approach in unifying so many differing themes together. That was where the idea of the “village” came into play. When looking at each component individually, they may look different from one another, but it all becomes one cohesive unit when viewed under one “village” lens. It creates the illusion that such a place could potentially exist. When players enjoy one location and move on in anticipation of the next experience, we felt the cohesive environment would heighten this level of immersion and enjoyment.

Rather than creating similar designs in an attempt to consolidate the look and feel of the world, we took the opposite approach in refining and differentiating each character in hopes of creating a more memorable and impactful world.

How has working with actors on a physical set changed what the team has been able to accomplish with this franchise in recent years?

It wasn’t until Resident Evil 5 that we started shooting full-scale cutscenes for the franchise. Over the past 12 years, the expectation for quality has definitely increased, not just from a visual standpoint, but from a performance standpoint as well.

Resident Evil Village's actors motion capture the game's shocking Mia scene.

Therefore, we adopted full performance capture starting from Resident Evil 7. We also revisited the way we work with the actors. Up until Resident Evil 6, Capcom had been giving relatively detailed acting instructions, but that tended to result in very similar performances that didn’t allow us to utilize the talents of the actors.

In recent years, Capcom has limited the briefs to the essentials, such as the concept, production structure, and script, in order to let the actors perform as freely as possible. This makes it easier for the actors to get into the roles, and sometimes the actors give me great suggestions. Of course, there are times when I have to limit the actors’ performances due to technical specifications, but I try not to put any restrictions on them.

As a result, in recent productions, the unnatural acting has been reduced, and I believe that we are able to deliver more authentic acting performances.

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Latest Valheim patch makes monsters more dangerous

On the road to Valheim‘s first major update, the game has received a rather small patch that could still have big implications for their players. For starters, the enemy AI is being tweaked in a couple of different ways, and those tweaks should result in more deadly enemies – or at least more aggressive. Aside from the AI tweaks, players are also getting a new setpiece to build, but it sounds like it’ll only be available for a limited time.

According to the notes for Valheim patch 0.155.7, this update makes various “monster AI tweaks.” While most of the individual tweaks weren’t revealed specifically, Valheim developer Iron Gate AB did say that enemies will now attack structures more aggressively when they can’t get to players. Hence, it’s probably a good idea to put up some walls around your base if you haven’t already.

Iron Gate also says that it has fixed a random save bug that would cause world corruption when shutting down, which is probably great to hear for some among Valheim‘s playerbase. The patch also fixes an issue that made players click a container multiple times to open it when playing on a multiplayer world.

Greydwarfs will apparently throw better after this update as well, so get ready to brush up on your rock dodging skills. There’s also a new Blob event to look out for, changes to the way events are triggered, and now bosses won’t run away from players anymore.

Finally, Iron Gate has enabled the Maypole since it’s currently Midsummer in Sweden, so build that while you can. Valheim‘s latest patch is live now on Steam, so apply it to your game and take those enemy AI tweaks for a spin.

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Monster Hunter Rise version 2.0 update release date, new monsters revealed

As promised, today we received new updates about the Monster Hunter franchise, will Capcom detailing Monster Hunter Rise‘s version 2.0 update for Nintendo Switch. We were hoping that Capcom would reveal the release date for this update during its presentation today, and that’s precisely what it did. The company also revealed a lot of the content that will be available in the update along with debuting a new trailer for it.

Right off the bat, Capcom confirmed today that version 2.0 will bring the Elder Dragon Chameleos back. It’s been a number of games since we’ve seen Chameleos, so Monster Hunter veterans will probably be excited to see it return in Monster Hunter Rise. Since it’s an Elder Dragon, you can probably expect a particularly brutal fight with Chameleos.

While Chameleos is clearly the star of this update given how much Capcom’s teases and this announcement centered on it, we’re actually getting two more Elder Dragons joining Monster Hunter Rise with this update. Teostra and Kushala Daora are also joining the Monster Hunter Rise roster in version 2.0, so if you wanted more of a challenge, it sounds like you’re going to get it.

Capcom has also revealed that Apex Azuros, Apex Rathian, and Apex Mizutsune will appear in the wild now, so when you go out on hunts and expeditions, you should be prepared to encounter them. Apex Rathalos and Apex Diablos will also join the game as part of Rampages, so get ready to take on those two beasts as well.

In addition to the new monsters, version 2.0 will let players craft Layered Armor via Outfit Vouchers once they reach the Hunter Rank Cap. With Outfit Vouchers, you can craft Layered Armor versions of any armor set that’s in the game, so if there’s a particular look you like, you can have that without sacrificing the stats of higher-tier armor. In addition, Monster Hunter Rise will add downloadable Event Quests that can be played both online and offline and in some cases will award Layered Armor outright.

That’s all of the content that’s shipping in the version 2.0 update, which is going live later today at some point after 5 PM PDT. Capcom also confirmed today that Monster Hunter Rise‘s version 3.0 update will be landing sometime by the end of May, so we’ll be keeping an eye out for more details on that.

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Google’s latest AI tool turns your MS Paint doodles into freakish monsters

To quote Google CEO Sundar Pichai: AI is “more profound than fire or electricity.”

To back up this claim with incontrovertible evidence: here’s an AI tool made by Google researchers that turns doodles into weird monsters. What could be more profound?

It’s certainly fun, anyway. The tool is called Chimera Painter and uses machine learning to generate imagery based on users’ rough sketches. This sort of dynamic is becoming a relatively common one in machine learning. Nvidia has done it with landscapes before; MIT and IBM did it with buildings; and now Google is … doing it with monsters.

The team behind Chimera Painter explained their methods and motivations in a blog post, saying the idea was to create a “paintbrush that acted less like a tool and more like an assistant.” Chimera Painter is just a prototype, but if software like this becomes common it could “reduce the amount of time necessary to create high-quality art,” claim the team.

The fantasy card game prototype imagined by Google’s AI researchers.
Image: Google

The researchers gave themselves the challenge of creating artwork for a fictional fantasy card game, in which players combine features from different monsters and battle them like mutating Pokémon. They trained a machine learning model on a database of more than 10,000 sample monsters, which were themselves in part procedurally generated using 3D models rendered in Unreal Engine. Each image is paired with a “segmentation map” — an overlay that divides the monsters into anatomical parts like claws, snouts, legs, and so on.

Once the model has been trained on this data, users can then paint their own segmentation map which is then rendered using photorealistic textures. If you load up Chimera Painter you can see some of the preset monsters and they’re impressively cohesive. However, painting one yourself takes more time and effort than you might think. Our attempt below, for example, looks like a knock-off Gruffalo depicted using mud. It’s monstrous, but not necessarily a monster.

Not quite the stuff of nightmares.

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