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Which VR System is Right For you? A Comparison of Upcoming VR Options

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The conception of a virtual reality is over two-hundred years in the making, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that it finally earned its name. The technology had been growing and evolving throughout the 1990s, but it would be 21st century gaming that would finally help virtual reality make its mark. Gamers everywhere have been dying to get inside the latest consoles, and now a hand full of tech companies, promising state-of-the-art virtual reality innovation, are lining up to take them there. 

Oculus Rift

First out of the gate and now owned by Facebook, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is already becoming a game-changer for the video game environment. The package comes complete with an Xbox controller, a sensor, a remote, and one game, but unfortunately you won’t be able to plug it into your Xbox. For now at least. For added control, users can opt for a pair of touch controllers, design to create a greater hands-on experience. The headset is powerful, which means you will need a high-end computer to handle it. However, if you’re like most serious gamers, who have dreamed of plunging into the virtual world, the prospect of the ultimate thrill ride will be worth the investment. 

Sony VR

Sony’s VR bundle is gearing up to launch gamers into its epic virtual environment, and as you might have expected, it is exclusive to the PlayStation 4. Sony invested extensive research into the design of its virtual reality headset, engineering it to slip on and off with ease, ensuring gamers will forfeit plenty of sleep for the chance to battle demons and blast enemy spacecraft. Sony has boasted an impressively high refresh rate, which means smoother motion and a less frustrating gaming experience. The PlayStation 4 is almost all but equipped to handle the VR headset’s performance requirements, however the company will need to developed new games, specific to the VR’s capabilities, in order to catch the Oculus, which has tons of compatible games already in circulation. 

Samsung VR

One of the most important features for the Samsung VR is the headset’s exclusivity to the Galaxy Smartphone. The setback, for some, is the phone upgrade, since it only works with the Galaxy Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, and the S6 Edge Plus. However, that means the need for computers and wires, for this Oculus powered headset, have been eradicated. It features a built-in camera that can be switched on and off, but doesn’t track movement like the HTC. You can play games using onboard controls or external game pad (sold separately), watch 360 degree movies, or just enjoy the scenery.  We’ll be testing all three options as soon as they’re released, and providing our opinions of each one. Stay tuned!

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EntertainmentVideo Games

Will Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End be the best in the Nathan Drake Storyline?

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When the first Uncharted hit the shelves, it piqued interest quickly. After the first few minutes played, it resulted in many devoted fans right from the start.

With Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End nearing release, a lot of fans are asking if it will live up to the stellar reputation of the previous three in the series.

Will this be the best storyline for our protaginist Nathan Drake? Let’s start with the trailer.

Our hero Nathan Drake seems to be waking up having washed up on the mysterious island talking to (the not pictured, off screen) Sully. The ominous music, dark mysterious island jungle, and then the hanging cages with skeletons inside seem to promise that fans of the series are in for more of what they loved from the previous games.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End takes place years after the events that shook up Mr. Drake in Uncharted 3. Nathan Drake is retired from the (often very dangerous) world of treasure hunting and was living life peacefully, until Drake’s (surprisingly alive) brother Sam arrives to shake up his world, raving about a pirate colony called Libertatia. He reports that it has riches for the taking, hooking Drake, and dragging him away from the idyllic existence that has been his new normality.

This could very well be the end of Nathan Drake. While we hope not, whatever happens, Naughty Dog has been teasing the possibility that this game is the proverbial nail in the coffin for Nathan Drake, possibly for the entire series. We may not know how his story ends until the final scene, but the very idea raises the stakes considerably for Uncharted fans who have fallen in love with their hero.

Naughty Dog could be pulling the wool over our eyes, although we hope not. In any case, the hype surrounding Uncharted 4 surpasses that of any of the previous games in the series, which speaks to its growing popularity. As long as it delivers the suspense, raises the stakes, and has a storythat keeps us on the edge of our seats, we’re betting it’ll be the best in the series. Maybe that’s hopeful optimism, but count us excited for the continuation (and possibly ending) of Nathan Drake’s story. While we anxiously await its launch, we’ll be replaying through each of the previous games in the series.

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EntertainmentVideo Games

10 Most Anticipated Video Games of 2016

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2016 is expected to be a great year for gaming, with several highly anticipated releases throughout the year. Games on all platforms can expect to see some amazing sequels to their favorite games as well as several groundbreaking new titles. Here are 10 games you won’t want to miss this year.

1. Gears of War 4 (Xbox One) – This fan favorite has been re-booted with some creative changes to the gameplay and story. A recent interview announced that Gears of War 4 kicks off a new trilogy.

2. ReCore (Xbox One, PC) – This postapocalyptic action-adventure is set to hit shelves late this year. The trailer teases beautiful gameplay and visuals. 

3. Crackdown 3 (XBox One) – Third person shooter meets sandbox in Crackdown 3. This game promises completely destructible environments and is expected in Q3.

4. Homefront: The Revolution (PC, MAC, Linux, Xbox One, PS4) – This open world FPS has a revolutionary message and a fascinating storyline. 

5. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC, PS4, Xbox One) – Users will play as the familiar protagonist Adam Jensen, and can expect the same high quality, immersive gameplay as the franchise has consistently put out. 

6. Doom (PS4, Xbox One, PC) – Bethesda brings us the newest installment in the Doom series. This release marks the first major installment of the Doom reboot, and is set for a May release. The trailer promises the perfect blend of nostalgic nods to the original gameplay and modern creative changes.

7. The Last Guardian (PS4) – This puzzle-based action adventure has had a rocky development, and was originally slated for release in 2011 on PS3. It was re-announced for PS4 at the 2015 E3 conference with a visually gorgeous trailer, which offered a promising look into the game’s immersive and emotional storyline.

8. No Man’s Sky (PS4, PC) – This game is truly in uncharted territory. No Man’s Sky is an infinite open universe. It boasts a nearly endless pool of planets with unique plant and animal life, offering fans of open-world games a solution to the major downside most of these games face– they simply become boring when you’ve seen it all. With over 18 quintillion unique planets in this game, it elevates open-world gaming to new heights. 

9. Final Fantasy 15 (PS4, Xbox One) – The most recent installment in the Final Fantasy series has been hyped by game enthusiasts, and with promises of optimized framerates and 50+ hours of gameplay, it isn’t hard to see why. The franchise continuously outdoes itself, and it looks like Final Fantasy 15 will continue the pattern.

10. Quantum Break (PC, Xbox One) – Featuring an episodic play style that adapts to players’ choices, the plot of this shooter is centered around a time travel experiment gone awry. Quantum Break offers a unique take on science fiction shooters, combining unique time manipulation abilities with the standard firearm fare.

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EntertainmentVideo Games

Virtual Reality Will Change Not Just the Video Game Industry, But the Entire World. Here’s How.

introducing-playstation-vr

For those who don’t already know, Playstation is just about to release the first ever (quality) virtual reality gaming system in October of this year. Other anticipated VR systems are launching for consumers shortly as well, like Oculus and the HTC Vive.

Undoubtedly, VR will be the most awesome technological advancement of the video game industry this decade, and it will open up new realms of possibility for the next. Imagine being inside your game environment, able to manipulate it, and being able to interact with it in ways never before possible. It’s going to be incredible!

But VR’s application to the video game industry is just the start. Now, imagine all of the practical ways that this technology can be used for other industries and practices moving forward…

Military Training

For instance, think of how this technology could be applied to military training. The US has been employing virtual reality training for a short amount of time, but this new technology will be able to take their training modules to an entirely different plane when it comes to soldier readiness for real-world scenarios.

Educational Advancement

Or, try this one on for size…what if schools, especially elementary schools, began to implement virtual reality in small ways to teach important lessons.

I know that, personally, I never cared much for school growing up. It was impossible for any teacher to keep my attention without holding a cookie in front of my face to get me to focus. And I was just one of many other kids who were just like me. But what if we could use VR to game-ify the educational system and really make learning fun?

Furthermore, if this new virtual reality technology could be connected to wireless ports, imagine the implications that it could have for collegiate professors who want to be able to teach online classes in new and creative ways to their students.

Endless Possibilities

Truly, the possibilities are endless for virtual reality technology. Perhaps scientists, business people, NASA, and others could use it to construct formulas for possible outcomes of different planned scenarios (i.e. how a new spacecraft would make it through the stratosphere, whether sales could continue to grow, etc.) and use VR to watch their what-if analysis play out in real-time.

The potential impact is huge here. It may take time for the bugs and kinks to get worked out, but virtual reality is the way of the future. I know I’m excited. How about you?

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Entertainment

Halo 5: Guardians Review

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The Halo universe is one of the most interesting, intriguing in the FPS genre, and Halo 5 both benefits and suffers from this fact. Compared to other FPS games, Halo 5 is a work of art, with fantastic, tightly-tuned controls and gorgeous visuals. However, when compared to each of the other Halo games (which I marathoned through one week before the release of Halo 5), Halo 5 was disappointing.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time playing Halo 5; on the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I don’t think it’s unfair to have extremely high expectations for a Halo game. Read on for my full analysis, which covers only the single-player campaign.

Story & Characters

I won’t spoil any elements of the story here. 343 Industries took a notably different route with character development after taking over for Bungie, opting to build Master Chief’s character, in particular, as well as his dynamic with Cortana. In Halo 5, Spartan Locke is introduced as the primary protagonist, a new character in the series. Locke’s story isn’t developed to much extent; the player knows that Locke has been sent on a mission to stop and capture Master Chief, who has disobeyed orders, and the player assumes the role of Locke on his mission.

Locke is accompanied by a trio of teammates, who chatter throughout the campaigns, remarking on terrain, enemies, and other tidbits related to the mission. While this presence of teammates and chatter is a nice addition to the Halo franchise, it doesn’t do a very good job of building any of the characters. The lack of competent AI controlling those characters didn’t help, either. I often found my teammates meandering around while I was engaged in a heated firefight. Directing them to attack enemies was mercifully an option, but it seemed like without my orders, they wouldn’t contribute much help. They were, however, good at reviving me when I was down.

When playing as Master Chief, which happens less frequently than playing as Locke, you also have three teammates. The same problems are present. So, while I commend 343’s decision to expand the character building component of the franchise, it wasn’t done with much effectiveness.

The most intriguing character development over the course of the previous installments in the franchise has been that of Master Chief and Cortana. The events that unfold throughout Halo 5 certainly continued that character development, though not in the way I (or probably any fans of the franchise) would have expected.

Sound

The soundtrack of Halo 5 was energetic and inspiring. Old classics were remixed in catchy new ways, and new themes were effectively implemented as well.

Perhaps one of my favorite small changes was the re-addition of grunt personalities. Covenant grunts were fondly remembered in Halo: Combat Evolved as having fun, humorous personalities, often providing comic relief. That personality seemed to disappear until its reappearance in Halo 5. It was mostly a nostalgic feeling, but I enjoyed the return of grunts with personality.

Enemies

The Covenant, Halo’s original enemy faction, makes an expected return in Halo 5, though the Prometheans, first introduced in Halo 4, are now the most common enemy faced. Unfortunately, while beautifully-drawn and animated, Prometheans were a rather boring enemy to face. They lacked any personality, and instead were reminiscent of the Vex from Destiny; a mechanical enemy that doesn’t speak or really do anything other than try to kill you. The covenant, brutes, and even Flood have been more interesting enemies throughout the Halo story.

Vehicles

One of the most fun things to do in every Halo game has been driving its vehicles. Halo 5 introduces new vehicles of promethean origin, notably the Phaeton, a flying fighter-type vehicle that’s similar to the Covenant banshee. I enjoyed piloting the new vehicles, but was disappointed in the minimal opportunities I had to do so. The level design in Halo 5 is much more vertical than in any of the other Halo games, meaning there are more barriers, platforms, and structures in which battling takes place. While this creates an interesting shoot-out dynamic that requires new tactics and strategies, it eliminates the usefulness of many vehicles.

Gameplay

Halo 5: Guardians has clean, tight controls that were responsive and satisfying. The new “boost” capability, which allows you to quickly boost in any direction while in midair or on the ground, was semi-useful. I may just be spoiled from having a double-jump in Destiny, but throughout the game I wished I had a double-jump instead of the lateral boost ability.

Another new functionality, the ability to hover in midair while aiming down your sites, seemed gimmicky and largely unnecessary. While I can certainly see usefulness for it in competitive multiplayer, it had no utility in the single-player campaign. It does look pretty cool when you do it, though, so if you want to impress your co-op partner ocassionally, it’s good for that.

Final Verdict

Halo 5: Guardians is a great FPS. But for a Halo game, it left too much to be desired. If you love Halo games, you’re going to love Halo 5, but don’t expect it to be your favorite in the series. Personally, I enjoyed each of the other Halo games more than Halo 5, with the exception of Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST. Again, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Halo 5; it just means that I had my expectations too high for Halo 5 and, as such, it was a disappointment when compared to the other games in the series. Should you buy it? Absolutely. But don’t get your hopes too high.

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Entertainment

PAX Prime 2015: Super Dungeon Bros Review

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The very name “Super Dungeon Bros” evokes a Marioesque vision without the Mario. While the popularity of the famous plumber’s exploits are widely known, the soon-to-be-released dungeon fighter has only been played by a select few at gaming conventions.

While it is billed as a co-op, rogue, dungeon fighter, the blend of genres is more like “heavy metal four-player dungeon comedy”. If that sounds like the makings of an interesting game, you’re in for a treat. However, this is nothing like Gauntlet or other four player dungeon battles.

The co-op portion of the game is dynamic, fun, and hilarious. There are special fighting techniques that are available when the champions stack on top of each other. However, it is also possible to throw teammates off the side of bridges, staircases, and so forth. The ability to intentionally kill allies in a co-op game will no doubt lead to a lot of yelling and screaming when a troll ends up on a team, but it added to the fun during my demo.

Graphically, the game features an isometric viewpoint like Diablo, but the graphics are only a slight improvement over Minecraft. That’s forgivable, since the retro look is all the rage, and the gameplay is enthralling.

The continual thrashing music successfully adds to the fun, while adding a distinct personality to the game. Also on the audio front, the catchphrases of the characters are entertaining.

Next is the rogue-like element. For the uninitiated, that means the dungeons are generated randomly so that no two games are exactly the same. What is exactly the same, however, is the goal: To save metal music. If this sounds like a great plot for a dungeon fighter, it’s certainly unique.

I thoroughly enjoyed my demo time with the game and will be buying it, though I wouldn’t play it without at least one co-op partner. The game hasn’t been released yet, though it is  scheduled for release in September 2015.

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PAX Prime 2015: Divinity: Original Sin 2 Review

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a new, amazing turn-based combat RPG. Built upon the success of the first game in the series, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has a much broader story line than the original, with a ton of new features and content. There are countless hours of exploration available, and dialogue is extremely dynamic, and unique to each character, which makes for a highly engaging and immersive experience. For example, during my demo, the developer showed what happens when an elf enters a city by running past a guard vs. a dwarf. According to the lore, dwarves are unpopular in the city, and thus the dwarf is not allowed in (and received a separate set of dialogue than the elf). This presents multiple intriguing options for how to proceed, such as by sneaking into the city another way, trying diplomacy to convince the guard to let you pass, or even brute force (attacking the guard) which could set the entire city into a frenzy.

The game offers multiple classes to choose from, suiting just about any playstyle, whether you like playing as a tank melee or a mage sniper. Divinity: Original Sin 2 allows the player to kill any player or NPC, and dead characters return as ghosts. Certain classes can communicate with the ghosts, which can also be captured and used to boost certain powers and abilities in each character. The developers put a lot of care into making sure that this game was as open ended and has as much freedom as possible.

Original Sin 2’s combat supports up to four players, and when playing co-op, players share the same screen (ie, true couch co-op). When players get too far apart from each other, the screen splits dynamically to accommodate the view of both players. When players are close enough together, the screen combines back into one, seamlessly and automatically.

The combat involves saving and using “action points” which are used to carry out specific attacks. The game is designed to be fast and strategic, and the environment is entirely interactive. This means that if you see a puddle of water on the ground, you can shoot a lightning bolt into it to electrify any enemies standing in it, or if you see an oil slick, you can set it on fire to block an enemy’s path or burn them. Players are encouraged to be creative as they explore the lands. Certain spells can be crafted by mixing multiple spell books together, which allows the player to come up with unique strategies for taking out specific enemies. For example, the player can combine a mute and summoning spell to create a stealth spider. There are also many different environmental hazards within the game which players must navigate strategically using their abilities and spells. Many quests are based around teamwork and each character’s specific lore, similar to how tabletop role playing games are designed.

The game has beautiful graphics that look sharp, crisp and vibrant, and the overhead view makes it easy to see combat. Players will likely spend a lot of time exploring the world and looking for unique ways to progress, as well as helpful loot.

The developers at Divinity: Original Sin 2 have put an amazing amount of detail into this game, and I can’t wait to pick it up. Anyone looking for a great fantasy RPG they can enjoy with a friend should have this on their must-have list.

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PAX Prime 2015: Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords for iOS Review

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based on the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, a popular card game based on Dungeons and Dragons: Pathfinder, a Tabletop Role-play game. The mobile game is based on gathering and using cards to overcome a series of challenges, including puzzles, combat scenarios, and diplomatic conflicts.

The game starts out with each of up to four players creating a character by choosing a race (from a set of fantasy races, such as Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings) and a class. Playable classes in Pathfinder include Warriors, who use traditional weapons and armor, Wizards, who use powerful spells and rituals, and Rogues, who use stealth and precision. There are other classes, but the playable classes for the iOS title have not yet been confirmed. The combination of race and class determine the cards each player can build their starting deck from. There are also pre-built characters for players to use.

As the game progresses, the players use their cards, which include weapons, spells, and other abilities, to solve puzzles and win fights, and as they complete these challenges, they gain experience, which they can use to acquire new spell and ability cards, and they may find or buy new weapons and armor over time. They also earn “feats” -powerful specializations and abilities- as they progress.

While the mobile game plays nearly identically to the card game, there are a number of additional features that are not possible for a non-digital title.

The first of these are animated cut-scenes featuring a number of well-known Pathfinder characters. These scenes are reactive, featuring branching dialogue trees and meaningful, diverse choices for the players to make. Additionally there is the addition of enhanced and animated backdrops for all locations and encounters, an extensive playable tutorial, and a single-player mode.

I was extremely impressed by the iOS version of the game; it translates perfectly from a tabletop card game to a tablet, and my expectations were far surpassed.

The game is being developed and published by Obsidian Entertainment, the publisher behind a number of popular titles such as Knights of the Old Republic 2: the Sith LordsFallout: New Vegas, and South Park: The Stick of Truth.

More information will be released by Obsidian in the coming months, and you can sign up for the newsletter here. If you want more information, the official articles published by Gamingcypher and Toucharcade have most of the currently available details.

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PAX Prime 2015: Pollen Review

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One of the most interesting titles at PAX this year was “Pollen,” a first-person space exploration game set in a research station on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Developed by Mindfield Games Ltd., “Pollen” is meant to be played while wearing the Oculus virtual reality visor.

“Pollen” isn’t exactly action packed. In fact, the game focuses far more on atmosphere, puzzles and world-building than it does on combat. You play as a researcher investigating strange developments in the research station and the surrounding area. Mindfield Games is hoping to create the kind of slow burning tension you would see in classic science fiction films.

The PAX demo was played on a Windows PC using an Xbox One controller used for character movement. An Oculus VR was used to control the camera. The Oculus isn’t required, but Ollie Sinerma, lead designer, stated that the development team always had virtual reality technology in mind. In fact, a significant amount of time was spent trying to overcome motion sickness, typical in VR, for players using the Rift. In-game camera movements were optimized to fool the player’s brain into thinking the game’s camera and visuals were a part of the real world. That attempt at mimicking the real world also extends to the game play of “Pollen.” Unfortunately, I was only able to keep the Oculus headset on for about 90 seconds before being overcome by motion sickness, at which point I ended the demo.

The world of “Pollen” is meant to be fully interactive so that the player feels like they’re in a real environment. Mindfield Games wants the research station to feel like a real place that people would reside in. Things like microwaves, food and other objects found in the environment will be manipulable. This ability to interact with the environment will be crucial to solving the game’s puzzles, surviving and exploring the environment.

In the demo, the player character seemed to be alone in the space station, but Sinerma stated that later there may be others for the player to interact with. It seems that players will spend most of their time exploring the research station M and Titan’s strange landscape of craters and caves, shown in the game’s teaser trailer.

Overall, Pollen’s demo lacked significant gameplay, but the atmosphere and story are so intriguing that I can’t help but be captivated by the possibilities. The focus on VR technology is also fascinating, assuming they can overcome motion sickness.

Pollen will be released at some point later this year to coincide with the commercial release of the Oculus.

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PAX Prime 2015: Broforce Review

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Devolver Digital’s paean to both the action movies and the side-scrolling run-and-gun games of the 1980s and 1990s has been kicking around in one beta form or another since 2012, but it crept much closer to fully playable reality at PAX Prime 2015. Devolver had a demo on hand featuring simultaneous play with up to four people, but the final release date still has yet to be announced.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, “Broforce” is essentially “The Expendables” in game form, but with the violence and mayhem cranked up appropriately given the lack of any of the barriers of reality (or film budgets). The team behind this was actually hired out to create a standalone version to promote “The Expendables 3.”

For the main game, however, an all-star team of characters from action movies of the ’80s and ’90s (such as Indiana Brones and The Brominator) fight their way through various levels taking out stereotypical action film villains like European criminal gangs and Middle Eastern terrorists.

Though the game can be played alone, it benefits greatly from getting a team of bros together. Players can rescue their downed companions, which also offers them an opportunity to jump back into the fight as another character. An arena deathmatch mode is also planned for the finished product. Players will also be able to climb an online leaderboard for bragging rights and share levels made with a level editor when all is said and done.

The other big feature of the game is destructible terrain. “Broforce” takes this to about as much of an extreme as possible, with everything except for the American flag subject to destruction. The game has drawn early comparisons to “Terraria” just in the sheer scope of how much the terrain can be altered by player weaponry. Destroying terrain isn’t just a source of mindless catharsis — players can often gain a tactical advantage by digging under or around a cluster of enemies that are waiting in ambush. “Broforce” manages to make its playfields totally destructible by cleverly building them entirely out of square blocks, which also adds to the retro ambiance.

“Broforce” doesn’t pretend to be anything but mindless mayhem and a nostalgia trip back to a more violent and patriotic era of film, but it’s likely going to have a large player base that appreciates it for what it is. The developing beta version is available on Steam, and the full release is planned for sometime in late 2015.

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