Technological World for July 21: Valve's Steam Deck preorders, Skyward Sword comes to Nintendo's Switch, run with the salmon in virtual reality with Uninterrupted, draw yourself as a Peanuts character

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This week, Nettie Wild brings her salmon migration experience to virtual reality, and Apple teaches you how to draw yourself as a Peanuts character. But first, details of Valve’s Steam Deck handheld game system and a review of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, new on the Nintendo Switch.

Valve’s Steam Deck reservations are open

There’s a new handheld game console being released this year, if you’re one of the lucky ones.

Valve’s Steam Deck sports a 7-inch touch screen (with a 1280×800 resolution). It’s very configurable, with thumbsticks and trackpads on both sides of the screen, bumper and trigger buttons, and buttons on the bottom for fingertips. These provide controlling options for both developers and players.

It’s being manufactured in three configurations (all prices in Canadian dollars):

  • 64 GB storage for $499
  • 256 GB storage for $659
  • 512 GB storage for $819

All models have a microSD slot for more storage. Valve will also be selling a USB-C hub docking station that will connect to any peripherals, including wired networking and external displays

In an effort to curb scalpers and bots from snapping up all the pre-order supply, Valve’s put in some protections, including a requirement that accounts looking to preorder have to have existed prior to June 2021. It’s also why Valve asked for a deposit for every preorder (it’s only $5.70).

Those protections were part of the reason that trying to place a preorder on Friday when things opened up was a bit challenging.

The Steam Deck comes with Steam OS pre-installed, which means you’ll have access to your entire Steam library.

But this is essentially a handheld computer, and in a video for developers, Valve rep Erik Peterson says, “You can install whatever you want on it, including other apps and [operating systems].”

That opens up possibilities for playing games from EA’s Origin, the Epic Games Store, Ubisoft’s uPlay, or even games from your Xbox Game Pass library.

Shipping of the Steam Deck begins in December, but when you’ll actually get your Steam Deck is tied to when you got your reservation in. I got mine in later on Friday and am seeing an estimated ship date of the second quarter of 2022.

Place your reservation for a Steam Deck.

High-definition remaster of Skyward Sword brings the Zelda tale to Nintendo’s Switch

Nintendo keeps giving us reasons to keep playing the Switch, and this week it’s the remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which first released for the Wii in 2011.

What made Skyward Sword different from previous Zelda games was the control scheme that made use of the Wii motion controls. It took a little getting used to, but once you did it was sublime.

Here’s what I wrote when I reviewed it in November of 2011: “… never before have swinging a sword, firing a slingshot, and raising a shield felt so natural.”

This new version, aside from bumping up the graphics – it’s 1080p when using the Switch handheld and 720p when docked and displaying on your TV – has been tweaked to allow for two different control schemes.

You can choose to use the Joy-con controllers in much the same way as the Wii Remote and Nunchuk with the addition of a camera control that was absent from the original release (and which improves navigation and combat immeasurably).

But you can also play with gamepad controls and some workarounds have been developed to map the motion controls to the static controller, and this is where you might get a bit frustrated. For example, you use the right analogue stick for both swinging your sword and for camera control. The left bumper button is the toggle; holding it down means you’re moving the camera. This means you’ll occasionally find yourself flailing around with your sword when you mean to be changing the camera orientation.

I recommend the Joy-con controls so you get the feel of slashing that sword exactly how you need to, and then relish in the open sky that is the domain of Skyward Sword. There’s no open world here where you see a point in the distance and walk to it. Instead, you’ll fly on a massive bird, visiting islands in the sky to move the story along and to take on shorter side quests.

The pace of the game has been improved thanks to some tweaks to the dialogue screens, which can be sped up and skipped, and fewer interruptions from the game trying to explain itself to you. Plus, now you can save your game at any time.

For those who have only been with Nintendo since the Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is worth playing before the sequel to Breath of the Wild comes out next year. The linear approach and inventive puzzles of the former are a great contrast to the sprawling open world of the latter.

Nettie Wild’s salmon run experience is now in virtual reality

In 2017, filmmaker Nettie Wild used Vancouver’s Cambie Bridge as a screen, projecting massive images of salmon during the summer migration to spawning sites.

Uninterrupted was public art at its most dramatic, and every night during the summer of 2017, people would gather under the bridge to experience the cinematic spectacle as the salmon swam over them.

This summer, Uninterrupted moves into the realm of virtual reality. Through August, groups of 20 will be able to become part of the salmon run in outdoor locations where you’ll have your VR headset synchronized with the others in your group.

Uninterrupted in VR is showing at the Burnaby Art Gallery from August 3 to 13 and Vancouver from August 17 to 29.

More locations and dates are yet to be announced.

“Today at Apple” video teaches you how to draw Peanuts characters

Looking for something fun and – gasp, artistic and educational – your kids can do this summer? How about drawing themselves – and you – as a Peanuts characters a la Charles Schulz.

Apple has begun broadcasting some of its “Today at Apple” tutorials on YouTube, and the first release features television writer and producer Mark Evestaff and storyboard artist Krista Porter, both of whom are part of the staff of The Snoopy Show, a new Apple TV Plus show.

Supplementing the video is this list of drawing references that artists use to make sure they are being consistent in how they draw characters.

Have fun!

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