What goes up must come down. Right? The NBA 2K17: The Prelude demo was launched this weekend on PS4 and Xbox One to give fans a taste of what to expect from this year’s entry to the series.
The biggest problem with yearly franchises like NBA 2K is peaking. Series like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty have shown that it is difficult to keep iterating on a game and show significant improvements that would entice players. Which is why Ubisoft is taking a break from making an Assassin’s Creed’s sequel to focus on other titles.
It seemed like only a matter of time until NBA 2K succumbed to the same fate as the once prestigious NBA Live franchise and wound up dealing with the issues of a short shelf life that could lead to gamer fatigue.
I always thought the NBA 2K series peaked in 2014. Or that it would start to experience decline during these recent years, after several improvements to gameplay and graphics. But credit the development team’s tenacity for bringing innovation and attention to detail, because NBA 2K continues to break new ground.
With a revamped MyCareer mode, which promises a cinematic narrative of an NBA prospect’s journey from college to the pros, and a new face-scanning system that makes it easier than ever to put your likeness in the game, NBA 2K17 is shaping up to a be a unique and worthwhile addition to the franchise.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here, as the game isn’t due out until next week, September 16 (for those who pre-ordered, anyway; September 20 is the global release date). For now, I’ll focus on what I can critique.
In the “Friction” trailer that 2K Games released a few weeks ago, we noticed an emphasis on physicality, the kind we see in an actual NBA game. Contact looked much more real, especially off the ball.
It turns out physicality is a huge part of NBA 2K17. Boxing out for rebounds; fighting through screens; dribbling through contact — all of it feels much more real now, thanks to an improved contact-recognition system that ties together with a ton of new animations. Even an opponent swinging his elbow has repercussions and can cause your controller to vibrate.
This combined with my favorite gameplay element from last year, which was the momentum physics when changing direction, shows why, even this early on, NBA 2K17 is the best simulation game of its kind. And it reaffirms that it is in fact light years ahead of the competition.
Gameplay-wise, the latest installment introduces some notable tweaks like a new shot meter, the ability to throw a skip pass across the court, and the ability to rapidly shift your position on defense, which is something I have been desperately hoping for.
MyCareer story mode
I had honestly given up on previous iterations of NBA 2K‘s MyCareer story mode because of the monotonous experience of playing through NBA seasons and answering repetitive post-game questions from the media.
But Spike Lee’s “Living’ DaDream” on NBA 2K16 changed my perspective, as it told an engaging story that featured memorable characters. It was a breath of fresh air. My only problem was that it was too short.
This year, 2K Games is sticking to the same approach but with a different narrative. I haven’t finished The Prelude’s MyCareer mode yet — I’m only up to my last game in college. But I can only hope the development team has a longer story to tell this year. Without spoiling anything I can tell you it is still very detailed and personal, though probably not as intimate as NBA 2K16‘s Spike Lee joint, with the team bringing in a new writer, director, and cast.
This year’s story feels much more mainstream; actors Hannibal Buress, Michael B. Jordan, and others have lent their voices and faces to NBA 2K17. This tells me we will be seeing more Hollywood-driven storylines in the coming years. A rotating roster of writers and directors helming the story also opens up the franchise to more creative possibilities.
Face-scanning in NBA 2K17
It’s probably important that I talk about the new face-scanning feature, which now supports Android and iOS devices. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work.
I first tried face-scanning in NBA 2K15 on Xbox One, using the Kinect camera. I spent several hours in front of the camera, slowly turning my head from side to side to get a decent result, but without success; I always ended up with a deformed version of my face. Which led me to sculpt a face from one of the presets. I wasn’t able to try out the face-scan feature in NBA 2K16 because I got a copy for the PS4 and didn’t have a PlayStation Eye cam.
It isn’t as limiting this time, as for the first time ever, 2K Games is making the feature available to more users by integrating it into the free MyNBA 2K17 app. It’s a godsend for people who don’t own a PlayStation Eye or Kinect, although in my experience, the app is just as frustrating to use.
It still couldn’t generate a decent mold of my face from the pictures I uploaded. This time, however, instead of creating a monstrous mug for me to post on social media, it just shows an error message. Thankfully though, they’ve added even more options now for sculpting faces from presets.
From what I’ve seen from this prelude, it looks like NBA 2K17 is going to be another success. Once again, the developers have proven that their focus and meticulousness when it comes to translating the NBA game into virtual form are the key to the franchise’s winning record. Their efforts this year serve to create the perfect basketball simulator.
Casual fans might not notice the fine nuances, particularly the new collision mechanic. But hardcore fans of the game and of basketball will be sure to pick up the finer details.
In the end, most of us want our basketball game to be as close to the real thing as possible. And I think once again, NBA 2K17 delivers on that front more so than before.
[irp posts=”10750″ name=”Drone assists in 2017 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest”]
Making Magic: The secret to a signature photography style
Photographer Magic Liwanag shares tips, tricks and general advice on photography
“I think the best tip out there is to just keep shooting and try to learn something new everyday.”
It seems cliche and obvious, but sometimes it’s these exact things that escape us. Asked to share tips on how one can discover a signature photography style, Magic Liwanag’s response in a nutshell is to just do the work.
The advice could have come from anyone, but it helps that it’s from a seasoned pro.
Who is Magic Liwanag?
Magic Liwanag is a professional photographer who has been shooting lifestyle events for 13 years now. He gained prominence when he started shooting concerts for MTV Philippines and other different promoters.
Who has he shot so far? Oh you know, just a few people you might have heard of. Do the names Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Jennifer Lopez ring any bells?
He’s gone on to shoot other well-known personalities like Zac Efron, Chris Pratt, and Henry Cavill just to name a few. Suffice it to say, he’s done the work and he knows what he’s talking about.
Evolving with the times
Like most photographers pre-smartphone era, Liwanag started with a DSLR. But as time went on and technology progressed, so did his weapon of choice.
Liwanag now uses a mirrorless camera for work. They’re lighter and smaller but still get the job done. But what if it’s not a job? That’s where smartphones have come in.
“Smartphones are now catching up in terms of comfort and ease of use. Now, I can just flip out my phone and confidently shoot with OPPO’s camera, “ shared Liwanag.
“Like when my wife and I traveled, I no longer needed to bring an extra sling bag for my camera, I can now shoot with my phone while we toured around,” shared Liwanag.
He notes that he does still carry his main camera around all the time. But the convenience of having a smartphone that can shoot in different zoom ranges quickly at your disposal is truly helpful.
Shooting on a smartphone
“Your camera is just a tool, and you are its master. Number one rule: know what you’re using.”
Get intimate with your device of choice and know its strengths and weaknesses. Yet another solid advice from someone who has been at it for years. These days, Liwanag shoots with an OPPO Reno 4. Here, he rattles off what the phone can do.
“AI Color Portrait lets me be more creative because I know that it separates my subject (makes it colored) and makes the background monotone. Don’t just click and forget, make sure your subject captures the eyes of your viewers.”
“The Night Flare Portrait mode can help you shoot portraits even in low-light situations. Always remember, and I always say this, light = photograph. Without light, there will be no photograph. Everything else will follow. Don’t attempt to just shoot in pitch black and assume that you will have a banger portrait.”
“Play with the light.”
“I love this mode cause even your mobile screen can be the source of light for a nice portrait. It makes all the colors pop as well adding that oomph,” he added.
Liwanag also shared his favorite for video creation: 960fps AI Slow Motion. Capturing 960fps slow-mo video is already amazing on its own, but he found the motion detection feature to be astonishing.
“If you don’t have any subjects, you can take videos of yourself in slow motion, and the 960fps AI Slow Motion of the Reno4 can detect if you start doing your jumps, or even start filming when you start to move.”
Your signature style
Liwanag’s tips are simple: Keep shooting and know your device well. If you keep doing the work, eventually, you’ll learn what it is that will set you apart.
“To get a signature or a personal style, you have to keep experimenting until you find what gives you that spark of excitement.”
For him, it’s “raw live, fast, and light.” The thrill of shooting concerts is what keeps him excited. “You can’t control what’s in front of you. But you can work around it.”
“Don’t just copy what they do. Be a better version of it.”
But it also helps to be versatile and an effective communicator. For shooting portraits, he says it’s best to make the subject feel comfortable. Whether that’s a prominent celebrity or a model just getting started, making the subject feel at ease is paramount.
Magic Liwanag also shared that you can choose to follow people that inspire you. Learn from their style and method of going about things, but… “don’t just copy what they do. Be a better version of it,” he cautions.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to clocking in those 10,000 hours. “Put in the time to find what your strengths and weaknesses are. Practice, practice, and adapt.”
If you put in the work, that’s when magic happens.
~All photos shot with the OPPO Reno Series~
The OPPO Reno4 retails at PhP18,990 available in three color variants Space Black, Galactic Blue, and the newest limited-edition Nebula Purple.
You can get your own via OPPO concept and online stores, partner dealers, and exclusive e-commerce partners Shopee and Lazada. The limited-edition Nebula Purple is available in selected stores only.
You may visit OPPO’s official website at www.oppo.com/ph for more details.
This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and OPPO Philippines.
What selfies look like taken on an under display camera
Using the Rakuten BIG
The ZTE Axon 20 5G — the world’s first smartphone with an under display camera — launched in September but not very many people have had a chance to try it. The relatively obscure Vinsmart Vsmart Aris Pro (Vietnam) and Rakuten BIG (Japan) followed suit.
The Rakuten BIG is a 6.9-inch phone with an OLED display. It’s powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. It also has a battery capacity of 4,000mAh.
On its rear is a quad-camera module: 64MP main sensor, and 8MP ultra-wide angle lense, a 2MP depth sensor, and a 2MP macro camera.
If those specs seem familiar that’s because they’re exactly the same as the ZTE Axon 20 5G. Well, almost exactly. There’s a bit of a difference in the battery capacity 4,000mAh vs 4220mAh but that’s still pretty close.
The selfie camera
For all intents and purposes, the Rakuten BIG may just be a rebranded ZTE Axon 20 5G. They also share the same megapixel count for the selfie camera which is 32MP.
If this is the case, the phone might be using the same transparency material that includes new organic and inorganic films, to balance the performance of the display and the front camera.
Here are what some quick selfies look like. These were taken indoors, inside a hotel with sufficient amount of lighting. No editing was applied to the photos but they were resized in the interest of faster load time.
It certainly doesn’t seem like a photo taken by a camera lens with a cover over it. But you can tell the software is doing a lot of heavy lifting. At first glance it looks like a regular selfie, but a closer inspection shows some detail smoothing.
Color reproduction is a little inconsistent too. Here’s a pair of selfies taken just seconds apart.
The selfie on the left is considerably warmer than the one on the write. Note that Ayano was in the exact same place with nearly the exact same pose and angle.
Here’s another sample with a better look at the lights in the background — which probably most represents all the post-processing the phone is doing. Take note that you can’t take selfies in rapid succession. The phone really does take longer than most to process the images.
What we were impressed with though is the video. The picture quality was clear and didn’t have any excessive traces of post-processing during a video call via Facebook Messenger.
Here’s a sample video taken separately after the call with beauty mode turned on. The post-processing is more pronounced here but it certainly doesn’t harm the picture quality.
What do you think of the selfies? Pretty good already for an under display camera?
Price and availability
The Rakuten BIG retails for JPY 69,800 Yen (US$ 665) and is currently only available in Japan. It comes in three colors: Black, White, and Crimson Red.
Huawei Mate 40 Pro Unboxing and Review: Last of its Kind
Every year, Huawei’s Mate series dominate the smartphone world with hosts of new features.
This October, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro finally made its way out of the limousine. As usual, it’s packed with the latest and greatest internals minus the full Android experience. Albeit, you still get support for AppGallery and other existing Huawei services.
With all that mind, is it still worthy to invest your money just to buy this smartphone?
You can watch our Huawei Mate 40 Pro review by clicking this link.
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