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Appliance Of Science: Valve Adds Global Leaderboards To VR Playground, The Lab

It upsets me that I associate the phrase “Appliance of Science” with Zanussi because it means that at least one of my chances to create a treasured childhood memory was co-opted by a white goods manufacturer’s advertising campaign. ANYWAY. Appliance Of Science is also the name of Valve’s new update to The Lab [Steam link] – its VR experiment anthology.

The big thing? It’s adding competitive global leaderboards for Longbow (the archery one), Xortex (the space shootery one), and Slingshot (the box explodey one).

There are also a number of changes to the modes. I’ll list them out at the end but here are the basic points to note:

MOST IMPORTANT: there’s now haptic controller feedback when petting the Fetchbot.

Longbow has updated its scoring system and has an escalating unlimited number of enemy waves to shoot at (escaling in that they’re faster each time and there’s more chance they’ll wear armour). Every eight waves your cauldrons and barrels reset so there’s incentive to use them rather than save them.

Xortex also gets an infinite mode which swaps out the laser for a bomb. The bomb takes out a whole bunch of threats in an area of effect but it resets your multiplier so you want to keep it as a last resort, I’d say. I don’t really get on with Xortex so I’m less into this one.

Slingshot is getting more of a tweak then a new mode so expect bigger barrel explosions and scoring adjustments. This one is DEFINITELY of interest to me. I am a big fan of knocking stuff over and blowing it up. For Science.

Full update notes:

Longbow Updates

Longbow now features infinite waves and a global leaderboard, visible on the rear tower
– The first 8 waves are the same. From wave 9 onward, enemies slowly become faster, more plentiful, and have an increased chance to wear armor
– There is a break every 8 waves
– Oil Cauldrons and Exploding Barrels are restored after each break
– New scoring system added which awards points for enemy kills, headshots, popping red balloons from enemies if gate health is full, remaining oil or barrels at wave end, and for completing a wave.

Fixed several cases where enemies would get stuck as they tried to walk past each other

Using the -longbow launch command now places the player directly into the game, skipping the approach to the miniature

Xortex Updates

Added Xortex Infinite, a boss-free score attack mode with a global leaderboard visible at game over
– Picking up powerups increases a score multiplier. The maximum multiplier is 10
– Super Laser replaced with a Bomb which destroys nearby enemies, charged by picking up 2 powerups
– Using the Bomb resets your score multiplier
– Enemies and bullets become progressively faster with time
– Added a new enemy which appears in Xortex Infinite and Classic: The Spinner, which spews bullets from its front and behind as it spins

Enemies in Xortex now heat up and glow as they take damage, and then begin to heal over time

Certain enemies die automatically if left alive for too long

Scoring removed from Xortex Classic

Slingshot Updates

Rebalanced Slingshot, and added a global leaderboard visible above the conveyor belt
– Adjusted point yields for towers, barrels, and tracer core boxes
– Adjusted points needed to earn an extra core
– Barrel explosions are now more powerful
– If all platforms are cleared, any remaining cores will yield bonus points

Other Updates

Added voice subtitles and text translations for several languages for the Intro, Hub, Slingshot, Robot Repair, and Secret Shop. The language is set by your current Steam language. Subtitles can be toggled on and off by using the panel in the title scene.

Added a scene selection dropdown interface to the monitor’s viewer window

The computer screen viewer window can now be set to full screen with a launch parameter: -fullscreen

Added more scene selection launch parameters for the Lab, Secret Shop and Robot Repair: -hub, -secretshop, -robotrepair

There is now a haptic controller response when petting Fetchbot. Who’s a good bot?

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Philippa Warr

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