Apple’s latest keynote just wrapped up a bit ago, and as expected (and extensively leaked over the past few weeks, including basically all the major details just this morning) they unveiled three new models of iPhone as well as a new version of their popular Apple Watch. There are now two sizes of the iPhone X, called the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, as well as a “cheaper" iPhone alternative with just slightly dumbed down specs called the iPhone XR which also comes in additional cool colors. While most of the physical details of all today’s reveals were leaked early, what really counts is what Apple continues to do inside their devices, and this year’s slate of new gear has some monstrous power built inside. Again Apple was hyping its augmented reality technology ARKit, and they did this by way of three demos, two of which included games.
Elder Scrolls: Blades
We were all wondering what was going on with Bethesda’s mobile-exclusive Elder Scrolls game Blades after it was delayed from its September 1st release date all the way until December. Now it seems like we have our answer. Bethesda’s Todd Howard showed up on Apple’s stage to demo Blades with some fancy new features we hadn’t heard about before that take advantage of the fancy new features of the newest iPhones. How fancy. They talk up the iPhone’s OLED screen being able to capture all the details in both light and dark areas, and how the bloom lighting enables light sources to reflect off of objects in real time like the surface of water or even your sword’s shiny blade.
They also tout the new “stereo widening" of the iPhone as a way to create an immersive aural experience without the use of headphones. My prediction? Apple will now gently “nudge" developers away from using those “Best experienced with headphones!" messages you sometimes see when firing up a game. As the Blades demo moved from inside a dark cave and out into the bright outdoors, Howard commented on how scenes like that one use to only be available “in your living room on a high end gaming console" but now thanks to how powerful the iPhones have become they can do them all on your little device with things like full screen post processing while still rendering “40% faster than before."
AR Arcade featuring Galaga
While Blades indeed looked great, it’s still a game we’ve seen before. The second demo was perhaps a bit more interesting just for the fact that it was something we’ve never seen before. It was for a game called AR Arcade which, as you can imagine, is an augmented reality version of an arcade cabinet. The first game announced for it is the classic Galaga which is brought to life in a totally new way thanks to ARKit. Much like previous AR demos, three players stood around a table where an augmented reality arcade cabinet is rendered through the lenses of their phone cameras. The enemies from Galaga burst onto the scene and the trio moves about firing at them and eventually taking on a boss fight.
AR Arcade is from Directive Games who created the well-received augmented reality tower defense game The Machines ($4.99), which was a demo at last year’s new iPhone keynote. While I think the idea is pretty cool and seems to work just fine, I don’t know how practical it will be to run around a table with your friends holding your phone up and virtually shooting at stuff. I’ll hold final judgement until I actually play the final product, though. The first game in the AR Arcade series, which we presume will be this version of Galaga that was demoed today, should be launching later this year.
There was a third demo too which featured former NBA player Steve Nash showing off a new basketball training app called Homecourt. It wasn’t gaming related so I’m only briefly mentioning it here, but the tech behind it is definitely really impressive so if you’re interested in AR and the types of things it can do outside of the gaming world it’s worth checking out the demo from the keynote. You can find the keynote video on Apple’s website and the three demos begin just prior to the 56 minute mark.