Note: Distortion and blur in the screenshots is a side effect of the Oculus Rift display mode, it doesent look like that in actual play!
Finding myself to be a “VR enthusiast” having obtained an Oculus Rift via Mysterious Circumstances™ I’m doing that thing of downloading absolutely everything (within the realms of non-WTFGTFOeww) I can find for it to experience. That inexorably led me to finding Pixel Rift – an absolute delight of an indie project by the immensely talented Ana Ribeiro and her team. The game is still very much in early development, but the premise is not only clever and original, but also hugely appeals to the RetroGaming fan that I am too. It also contributes to Donna’s and my own love of indie Kickstarter projects 🙂
The game is played from a first-person view, from the perspective of Nicola, a gamer who’s a huge fan of the fictional game “Pixel Rift”. What follows is a progression for both Nicola and the “game within a game” as she gets older, and the game “upgrades” through generational hardware changes… e.g. Atari console, to Gameboy, to SNES, and beyond. The clever framing mechanism for this is the virtual representation of the environment, and Nicola’s “growing up”
In the alpha demo, the menu screen sees you as a baby toddler, sat on the floor, with an old telly looming in front of you in an appropriately “giant” living-room. There’s an advert in creaky old 70’s style on the tv for Pixel Rift – watch it long enough and you get a pseudo-augmented-reality explosion of colour from it, delighting both you, and your virtual infant representation. In front of you are the various consoles, delineated by year, with their representation of the virtual Pixel Rift game. In the demo, you can only play the 1989 “Gamegirl” version, the others are “locked out”.
Selecting the Gameboy… er, Gamegirl, you find yourself in a primary-school classroom, sat at a desk covered in paraphernalia relating to Nicola’s Pixel Rift obsession. Your classmates surround you, fooling around, whispering at you and each other. At the front, next to the blackboard, your very hoary strict school teacher/school mistress (a la “Misty” comic, those of you old enough to know what I’m talking about) talks at the class in a very thick Northern accent, dryly talking about the subject (Biology, I think!) and –depending on you, and the class’s behaviour – either turning her back to write on the blackboard, or shouting/being exasperated at you and the other children. With her back turned, you can look down to sneak your Gameboy out from under the desk, using the gamepad to control the virtual game, within the game.
Pixel Rift for the “Gameboy” – is a mono platform game, the objective being to get to the end and fight the end-of-level boss. Play is interrupted by having to drop the Gameboy back under the desk when the teacher turns around, or risk her wrath. However – there is MUCH more to explore beyond playing the game-within-a-game. You’re also armed with a paper spitball launcher, which you can use to torment classmates, the teacher, or somewhat more modestly fire into the bin in the corner – the results of which are somewhat fantastical, but hilarious.
Get to the end-of-level-boss on the Gameboy, however, and you are treated to an explosion of virtual augmented reality, as the boss and your player avatar leap out of the confines of the game, out in front of you, as the reality of the classroom fade into the background. Its gorgeous as the characters appear as their 2D chunky pixelized selves, but huge, capering and clambering about in front of you and over your books and desk, whilst the 3D world of the classroom still resides hazily in the background. Defeating the boss requires a blend of the 2D play mechanics, and the “real” world.
The potential for this game is HUGE, and I *love* its quirky fun little nature. The promise of going through different ages and years, Nicola growing up, the games becoming more advanced just really appeals to me. I really like the pseudo-personal nature of the premise, but also how it appeals to my nostalgia. However… I don’t know how much the game will appeal when played in a purely 2D non-VR realm , and VR is the only way to play it at the moment. Suffice to say it is very much a niche product at present. I think there might be an audience for Ana’s game were she to make it 2D compatible too, but the game most definitely achieves the wow-factor when played with an Oculus Rift.
It’s got some glitches, some oddities, and some of the animation is buggy, or at least unfinished – but for a prototype game for a prototype device, it’s immensely entertaining, and has a lot of potential. It might be a bit of a British gamer thing in particular, but I’d love to see posters and assorted other paraphernalia of the eras shown in the various scenes, e.g. movie posters, “Look-in!” pinups, etc. From the screen shots on their page, it seems that there might be some other expanded stuff beyond the classroom/living room environments, so maybe we’ll see that kind of stuff later.
With a relatively small audience available for VR projects at the moment, I hope it is successful in its bid for Steam Green Lighting, or if they decide to kickstart it, though again I think they could help themselves a bit by making a non-VR play option too, it would certainly appeal to the RetroGamers out there.
Scottish Highlands. Christmas. 1984.
Bemused parents indulge a child in her somewhat atypical (or so was believed for the time) interest in both Outer-Space and “Computer Games” – a fairly natural progression from the previous year’s SuperGirl costume request. For a computer game of the time it seemed to be absurdly expensive – £12.99. Previous parental protestations of “but you’ve enough games!” – surely an impossibility when the family computer is a BBC Micro (Dad had aspirations of poshness) – are put aside, and there was always the hope that at least one of the children might become a “Computer Expert” in the future, and allow aforementioned parents to retire early.
Hopes, alas, STILL not fulfilled!
The game was “Elite” – now of course so well known (or not?) as the defining sandbox game (in SPACE!)
I must admit to not being very good at the game – I don’t think I ever really made it much past “Mostly Harmless” – the game’s stat tracker for your spaceship killing prowess, “Elite” being the pinnacle. But being 10 years old, I had a blast trying to dock my spaceship, and jumping onto my escape-pod (bed) when I thought I was about to fail. Nevertheless, I knew a good game when I saw one, and enjoyed much play with it before a rogue coffee killed the computer. It would be replaced by a C64, and arcade games.
However, a soft spot was kept for Elite, and I would look in on the various ports as I got older and watched 16-bit come and go, space games go Epic (Wing Commander) and then die a near total death but for wee stalwart indie coders. Then David Braben came along with a Kickstarter, and promise of a 21st Century relaunch of Elite with ALL THE GRAPHICS, and lo, my long dormant space-heart gave a flutter.
Here then, is my preview of Elite: Dangerous (Beta V1):
As I write this, the next release of the beta is due for release, and promises much more content and an increase from 50 or so systems to explore/trade in/fight in/get lost in to a somewhat more sizeable 500 odd. We’re now approaching a decent sized gameworld to explore, but still only the merest fraction of what will be available at final release (due this year) – a procedurally generated 400 billion.
However, I’ve got ahead of myself – let me explain what Elite: Dangerous is, should you not be familiar with this great-grandparent of the open world sandbox game genre.
Elite is a first-person sci-fi space-based pseudo-GTA. That little soundbite is misleading, but mostly accurate aside from the car-jacking, violence, and “of the moment” bangin’ soundtrack. By first-person, I mean that the game world is viewed from your – as yet non-customizable aside from gender – in-game avatar’s viewpoint, exclusively from the cockpit seat of your spaceship. Planned post-release DLC will have you wandering about your ship and space-stations, but for now you are a somewhat alarmingly headless body sat in a seat, and invisible to other players.
At the start of the game, You – The Plucky Player – are a spacefaring person, gifted with a basic starship of modest capabilities. By modest I mean that it has 4 tonnes cargo capacity, 2 gun mounts, and a couple of spare utility mounts. These are used for some purchasable (using earned in-game credits) additional upgrades. For example – a “Heat Sink” a deployable dump of your ship’s waste heat produce, used both as a decoy, and a way to vastly reduce your visible radar signature – which when used in conjunction with “silent running” mode, essentially making you temporarily invisible, complete with neat slow frosting of your canopy glass.
Later upgrades include missiles, beam weapons, and Battlestar Galactica-style projectile cannons, but also non-combat upgrades like a docking-computer.
Docking computer you say? Yes, one of Elite’s notorious legacies is the fact that when docking your ship with the giant space-stations which in order to generate gravity… rotate. You have to navigate your suddenly giant-feeling spacecraft through the most apparently narrowest of letterboxes to enter the safety of the station’s landing pads. It’s deceptive in that the entrances are actually pretty large, but you get the distinct feeling of little headroom until you get a feel for your ship’s physical dimensions – no exterior views yet.
Back in the original 8 and 16-bit incarnations of the game this was especially difficult as there were few analogue control surfaces to use. For my part I used to point at the entrance, put the engines on minimum, and hope for the best – inevitably jumping in to my aforementioned escape pod (bed) when things went disastrously wrong. (You could actually buy an escape pod, but I never made that much money!) Today, things are different, we all have mice, gamepads, and even Flight-sticks that allow much more precise control of rotation and whatnot.
Speaking of rotation – the flight model is a curious one, in that it’s a blend of super-fun-sci-fi Star Wars type jet-fighter style, with bonus Physics™ – but with the option to switch off (and on, at a whim) “Flight Assist” – which basically makes the control system entirely “Newtonian Physics” – requiring you to apply reverse thrust to bring your craft to a halt, and apply inverse directional thrusters to counteract the proportional amount of… look, just watch 2001: A space odyssey, or GRAVITY, then you’ll know what I’m talking about 😉 I find it horribly complicated to fly the ship with Flight-Assist off, others love it (mostly those who grew up with Elite’s 16-bit sequels: Frontier and First Encounters) – but it does have its uses. Fancy pulling off Babylon 5 and BSG style flip-around whilst still moving in the same direction, allowing you to fire at a chasing attacker whilst still moving away from them? Flight assist off… just remember to correct your spin with your thrusters!
So, what’s the plot? There isn’t one, at least not yet anyway. You’re basically plonked into your ship with no direction. At the beginning, the point is pretty much to Make Money. Money = ship upgrades. More Money= better ships. That’s largely it for the moment, in the beta anyway. In the beta money is earned from various activities, more of which will be available as the game develops. For now, here’s a few examples:
Trading products between planetary systems – a full commerce system is in place in the game, fluid and dynamic. One system might have high demand for farming equipment, and pay a high price to buy from anyone able to transport them in. The player might find a system whereby Farming equipment is cheap-as-chips, buy as many as they can afford and their ship’s cargo-bay hold, travel to the high-demand system, and make considerable profit. Whilst there, they might find something sold there that is in low-demand, ergo cheap, which they can sell back at another system for a higher-price. Trading like this can be slow-work, but it’s a good safe way to make money. There’s also the possibility of buying something legal in one system, but illegal in another, sold to the black market at considerable profit. That runs the risk however of the Space-Cops scanning your ship for contraband, and a: fining you or b: not asking questions and just blowing you away.
Bounty Hunter is another money-making method, though is obviously quite a bit more dangerous than being a Space-Trucker. Check the local station bulletin boards for jobs, then head off to look for The Mark(s) – earning cash for their destruction. There’s also considerably less legal assassination jobs to be had, though these can render you a wanted renegade in certain regions of space. You can also fly out to some notable pilot hangouts – e.g. “Resource Gathering Sites” – where player’s go to mine for minerals etc – spot someone with a “Wanted” tag? Take them out, earn some bucks.
Mining – take an appropriately configured vessel to mine materials from asteroids in the aforementioned Resource areas. Watch out for thieves and bandits tho.
Courier missions – similar to trading, but often you’ll be given cargo directly to deliver to some other location. The fee paid will be affected by how far it has to go, and whether or not you might have to avoid any “Imperial entanglements” to deal with… or Federation, for that matter. The Imps and the Feds are the two primary factions in our Sci-Fi world here.
So – already there’s a fair bit to do, much more is planned closer to and post-release, including World Events. There’s already been a couple of these with a civil war breaking out between two systems, precipitated by nefarious underhand guerilla warfare missions offered to the player, and pleas for certain items of produce to be smuggled in and out.
Now here’s the interesting bit with this new generation of Elite as a game. It’s multiplayer. Also, it’s optionally singleplayer… but with the repercussions of the events in the multiplayer. How so?
Well, you can choose to play the game in full multiplayer – Open Play – out there with all the other players. That means all the usual caveats.. Trolls, Griefers, heroic saviours, co-op wingpersons, trading buddies, Clumsy docking, rage-quits et all.
Or…. You can play solo in an NPC-AI populated universe, but with the same world-state (politically and economically) as the multiplayer, but without the human player element. This is actually a great idea, and especially useful at the start of play when you’re getting to grips with the game mechanics and trying to earn a bit of money to get going. Penalties are the same as multiplayer, however – you earn enough cash to buy that big new fancy Lakon-9 hauler freighter, but accidentally push the booster button and crash headlong in to the side of a station… you lose the ship, and any cargo aboard and have to restart over with any remaining cash with the default freebie ship… unless you had enough spare cash left over to cover the insurance cost of the replacement ship!
You can also currently bounce between solo and open-play multiplayer modes, which could be perceived to be a bit of a cheat. Build up to awesomeness in solo, pwn in multiplayer. Except you wouldn’t be alone in doing that. Stuff gets too heavy in multi? Back off in to solo.
For now, however, multiplayer in terms of co-operative player interaction is still very much in its infancy. The developers recently added inter-player text and voice comms, but it still needs a bit of work, as well as willing players. Getting together with one or more friends though seems like a really exciting way to plunder the depths and wealth of the game, especially as the content increases in the run-up to release with options like actual recognized deep-space exploration being a career! Of course there will be “EVE-online” faction wars and such like, which could have huge potential for multiplayer… but you might be an everyman/everywoman who just wants to get on and stay out of the war.
Planned DLC for the game post-release includes adding features like player avatar movement within your own ship and stations, planetary surfaces (including obviously landing on said surfaces with your ship), multiplayer crewing of your vessel, and more. That complete set of features would be beyond even the imagination of my 7 year old would-be astronaut self – and I used my imagination A LOT to greatly expand what was on screen with those black and white vectors, I really can’t wait.
However, it’s not all joy and happiness. You’ll either love or loathe the control systems. It will very much depend on what you decide to use. Elite is definitely targeted in the main towards using a flight stick/throttle controller. After that there’s options for gamepads, and good old mouse+keyboard. I’ve tried mouse control. It didn’t end well. Or start well, for that matter. Yet others thrive using it.
The Head-up-Display (HUD) in-game can cause consternation. Its meant to be a holographic display whereby you turn to look at the relevant area for it to appear, using your controller to select options therein. I found this quite cumbersome until you’ve customized your controller of choice to quick-switch between the three primary menus.
And….. multiplayer. Like anywhere else, players can and will piss you off. Not all the mechanics for literal policing of player behaviour is in place. E.g. you’ll enter a system with police patrols, but they won’t always help you in time if you’re attacked by another player or NPC. But hey, maybe that’s realistic!
Also… It’s a beta at the moment, so it *will* crash, sooner or later, and stuff will be buggy, or act strange. I’ve been in my ship, happily parked on a landing pad only to have the station literally disappear out from under me, like Babylon 4 😉 But there’s also stuff that happens where you think… hmmm.. that’s cool.. I might be able to use that… like bringing yourself out of “Supercruise” too close to your destination only to find yourself INSIDE the station.. with only a few seconds before the intruder alarm goes off, and the cops blast you into oblivion.
Speaking of “Supercruise” – some of the game mechanics might cause consternation too. Hyperspace is the method used to travel vast distances between systems, fuel allowing. Once arrived, you are stopped in the system by the largest planetary body, still very far away from your actual desired destination – usually a space station. So, to speed up the travel to your “Final Destination” your ship has a mode called “Supercruise” a sort of very high speed but not quite hyperspace mode, where you designate your target destination from your HUD, and engage the drive. What you then have is a manually controlled acceleration and steering to your target requiring you to slow down as you close distance, disengaging the drive at a point of your choosing. Where this can frustrate is that it’s very easy to get impatient and over accelerate, causing you to be unable to slow down in time, therefore overshooting the target, meaning you have to pull a big turn to bring you back around, hopefully slowing down this time. A lot people are NOT happy about supercruise, they want some form of autopilot. I think this comes from the pseudo-MMO nature of the game. In many other MMO’s there’s auto-run options that mean you can effectively distract yourself with something else whilst still keeping one eye on the game. Not so in Elite. Look away at your peril. I suspect, however, that the Devs may make a purchasable auto-cruise system, as it could actually add to the immersion. Think Star Wars and the Millennium Falcon crew dossing about in the lounge, but getting a warning to tell them that they’re approaching destination/under attack/out of hydrospanners.
So much is forgivable however, whilst the game is in Beta. It’s certainly nearly cooked, but it is most definitely still in the oven. Visually it’s a treat, and pretty scalable in terms of performance. Aurally it’s an absolute stunner. The sound design is utterly amazing, hugely putting you “in the picture” – the music is a bit generic Space-Opera at the moment, but hopefully will improve… or you can do what I do… put on an ambient/spacemusic radio stream!
You have to pay a bit of a premium to get on board this currently PC-only spaceparty at the moment. £50 at present, final release will be £35 for the game and then more for the proposed DLC. I hope that we can have a few more women to play the game, as Space feels very much a bro-verse so far, and I hope to have a full gender spectrum conglomerate to fly with post-release. As release gets nearer though, I can already feel The Shape of Things To Come in the imagined vibration of the ship’s hull, and my inner 10-year old astronaut self is getting very excited indeed about her childhood dreams becoming virtually realized! 🙂 Speaking of which…
Addendum: VR – THE GAME CHANGER
Elite: Dangerous as it stands is a hugely promising sci-fi space game, built on a prominent legacy, and coming at a time where the combined genres of Spaceship and Flight-Sim games are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Elite is certainly a hugely enjoyable game already, promising much more at release. However, everything changes when the game is experienced via a Virtual Reality Head-Mounted Display. I’m lucky enough to have obtained an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2, and I knew that Elite had been given optional configuration for play on these devices. It’s a bit clunky, a bit buggy, and plays sheer hell with even high-spec gaming PCs…. But… never before have I *ever* experienced anything like it. It is a completely different experience playing the game in VR. Background starfields and planets are no longer just background. They are there. Right there, outside your suddenly very real feeling ship’s canopy. The canopy complete with the handles you feel you must be able to reach out and touch. The glass of the canopy feels like it’s mere inches away from your head, and whilst the planet beyond the canopy is probably millions of miles away.. it is most definitely OUTSIDE your canopy, millions of miles away and huge. Huge beyond your normal comprehension of the definition of the term.
This is because everything is rendered to scale in the VR incarnation of Elite. I look down and see arms, and hands gripping controls just like mine. I’m completely bamboozled when I raise a hand to scratch my nose… but my virtual hands remain in place. I’ve emerged from a space-station in my ship innumerable times playing on the monitor to the same scene.. only to come to a dead halt in the same location when playing in VR, agog at the awe-inspiring majesty of the apparent infinity of space, and the sight of a sun emerging behind a Saturn-like planetary body surrounded by a ring of debris. In combat, rather than wrestling with mouselook controls to try and get a bead on a ship I’m pursuing, I merely follow its progress with my head and eyes, craning over my shoulder as I bring the ship into a steep turn to follow it, my head turning as I bring the enemy back towards the front of my ship as I open fire to finish it, then ducking instinctively as a piece of the ship debris bounces off the top of my canopy.
And those HUD nuisances I mentioned earlier? Rendered moot when you simply look to your left or right to activate them!
This time around, I think VR is going to be huge, and I think it will be accessible, especially if Sony can bring their “Project Morpheus” VR headset to fruition for PS4 players, where hopefully players will be able to join in the Elite: Dangerous world (as project leader David Braben has hinted as an option) –but also most especially as the Oculus Rift matures for PC owners. Like Morpheus said about “The Matrix”… “no one can be told what (VR) is, you have to see it.”
That is to say, an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2. Which is a Virtual Reality HMD (Head Mounted Display) – as opposed to some kind of smelly ailment cultivating product, which is what it sounds a bit like from the name.
Sony have also announced a similar solution for the PS4 available in the near future (albeit with some SERIOUSLY problematic demos)
The OcRift has been on the go for just over year, from a successful kickstarter campaign, through to a first prototype, a massive investment by some big name firms (including most (in)famously Facebook) and now a 2nd prototype (DK2) which is pretty close, I imagine, to the final product, despite protestations of still insufficient screen resolution (1920×1080, but with the horizontal split in two, 960 pixels per eye) – but given the sheer amount of horsepower to meet the idealized 75hz 1080p display, I doubt we’ll see a practical 1440p or 4K offering anytime soon.
I will be reporting on using the DK2 over the coming weeks, including re-jigging my near complete preview of Elite: Dangerous, for which EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED :O
Additionally, with any luck, I might be able comment on my own tentative haphazard steps into developing VR projects for the device.
I’ll leave you with the ever energetic JackSepticEye to give you an idea what we’re talking about here…
I’m just gonna leave this here for you because it’s made of fucking awesome.
This Afternoon was the Nintendo E3 conference, and the one I was most looking forward to.
It started off strong with Shigeru Miyamoto announcing Pikmin 3 for the Wii U. With a new species of Pikmin, the Rock Pikmin, and a team of up to 100 of the little creatures you can get them to find food or take down an enemy, you can even get them to carry materials to build bridges or use the Rock Pikmin to break down large objects using the motion plus on the wiimote. You can also play the game from the new Wii U game pad.
Next up Reggie took to the stage and announced The New Super Mario Bro’s U.
Yep Mario is back , this time for the Wii U; The gameplay looks similar to older Mario titles, but there’s also boost mode which allows up to for people to play together on the same console, either using wiimotes or the game pad.
The last title I’m going to mention is Scribblenauts Unlimited.
The new game will allow players to bring their own creations to life and bring it to life on the game, and share them with friends; There will also be a Co-Op mode.
There was a ton of other titles announced aswell : Batman Arkham City : Armoured Edition , Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank Tank Tank! by Namco; Tekken Tag Tournament 2; Trine 2: Director’s Cut; Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Aliens Colonial Marines ,Lego City Undercover , Zombi U, Rayman Legends, A new Rabbids game and NintendoLand ( a party game)
There was also a few 3DS titles they mentioned, but I’ll give you more details tomorrow once their 3DS only conference is over.
I’ve been waiting for E3 with much eagerness. I just knew that we’d see more info coming for the next PSP and well we have.
First we got to find out that instead of being called the NGP the official name is the PSVita. And with that we got an official show off from Sony just how shiny it’s going to be. Have a look.
I think I’ve watched that video about 5 times now. It affirms all the features we were promised previously, including the dual touch screen on the front and back. Between that and the giro built into the Vita I think we could see some seriously awesome gaming in the future.
Look just what is being done with Little Big Planet on the Vita. If this is just the beginning of games utilising the new features of the Vita, think what the future may hold.
Pricing hasn’t been set in stone yet, but it looks like the US will pay around $250 and £250 for the UK for the WiFi model and a bit more for the 3G model. I’m sure we’ll hear more as we get closer to the holiday release schedule which is when they said they’d be letting the Vita loose on the world.
I tell you this, I will be pre-ordering.
WARNING: If you don’t want to know what was announced at the live E3 Nintendo announcements that aired this evening, don’t go any further: I’m not going to cover the whole thing at the risk of this becoming a novel, but I will be revealing a lot of what went on and giving my two penn’orth.
ON WITH THE HYPE!
Such is the love for gaming in our household, we awaited the Nintendo conference live from E3 like the visit of a much loved relative. The flat was cleaned, the projector wheeled out and pointed at a bare wall, the drinks poured and sofa cushions fluffed in eager anticipation. When the momentous occasion arrived we sat with eyes glued to our wall.
As Nintendo America President Reggie Fils-Amie said, this time last year we learnt that we would be able to experience glasses-free 3D. With the 3DS now among our presence, we eagerly awaited the dawn of the latest titles. I’m going to walk you through some of the titles that caught my eye:
Mariokart 3DS: Well, it wouldn’t be E3 without Mario would it? Nintendo may be famous for flogging the metaphorical horse, but Mariokart has always done something new. Karts are customise-able, as illustrated by a hilarious clip of Mario barging along on a monster truck. There are new tracks, obviously – but they feature new terrain such as underwater dives and flight tracks, complete with glider wings sprouting out of the top of your Kart. There is a host of new and old tracks including what appears to be a Luigi’s Mansion course. And, speaking of the little brother…
Luigi’s Mansion 2: I wonder how many other gamers out there found this announcement to be the numero uno pleasant surprise of the day? After a long wait (heck, there have been three new consoles between this installment and the first one) we’re now promised a 3D version of a game that was made for 3D in the first place (it was, honest). New features include several mansions instead of just one, and what appears to be a host of new gadgets for the Green Meanie.
Starfox 64 3D: In contrast to the above new release games, Nintendo promises us a smart new release of an old classic. It looks like the 3DS technology has been fully exploited; using the dual screens to de-clutter your flight path, allowing you to pilot your craft as if you were truly at the steering wheel, and utilizing the online play function to allow you to interact with your rival pilots, even allowing you to gloat victoriously (or blubber at your loss) in front of players from around the world.
Mario 3DS: What do you get when you take the mechanics from Super Mario Galaxy, blend with the gameplay from Super Mario 64 and throw in a little tanooki? It looks like Mario’s had a little futuristic-meets-retro makeover; either that or he’s mastered Doctor Who-style time travel. In all seriousness, this looks like a refreshing take on the staple Mario platformer, and with all the Mario we’re expecting over the next couple of years I think this is just the tonic.
Kid Icarus: Since Pit’s welcome appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kid Icarus fans have nearly broken their fingers from crossing them so hard that Pit would get another game under his item-packed belt. It looks exciting, and as if in homage to the game that popularized his return, there is even a four-way melee-style battle game in which you fight off the opposing game’s angel.
Of course, with two very different gamers in the house there were going to be some times when one of us wasn’t listening. Neither of us were particularly excited about John Ricatello, the CEO of EA Games’ appearance, but as a commenter on the Official Nintendo site’s chat feed pointed out, once you’ve got the attention and support of the world’s largest independent videogame company, you know you’re winning the race.
I’m going to say very little about the next generation of Nintendo home console, except that I half-guessed the name as soon as Reggie Fils-Amie started talking about “we” and “you” and “unity”. My bets were on something as daft as “Yuu” making the grade, only to be pipped by Reg who announced it as the Wii-U. There were sniggers and scoffs, but as I pointed out, people laughed at the name “Wii” until it took casual and hardcore gamers by storm, whether they were playing it or merely admiring from a distance. The advent of the handheld ‘remote’ doubling up as a console in itself looks innovative and widely acceptable, and it will be very interesting to see what Nintendo will do as far as backwards compatibility goes. Oh pants, I fear I’ve said too much.
Without further ado, I leave you with a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto himself:
“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about Rock n’ Roll.”
Sony are gradually bringing the PSN network back up in North America and in Europe. There’s an update for the PSN, but we knew that was going to happen.
So this is what we’ve got from the Sony Blog
Thank you for your patience and encouragement over the last few weeks. As covered in the post from earlier today, you can now update the firmware on your PS3 and change your password. Kazuo Hirai just announced that we have begun the phased restoration by region of some of the services, starting with online multiplayer functionality.
Please note that these services will take a bit of time to be turned on and rolled out to the whole region. The process has begun and some countries are being turned on now, so please be patient as we reach you.
In the meantime, now’s a great time to get your PS3′s firmware updated and change your password, both of which are required to get online.
So we’ll be waiting with baited breath for everything to come back up. You can do the update before the PSN is back up in your area, I have. And best to get in there before everyone tries doing it all at once.
I’m just happy it’ll be back up in time for L.A. Noire. W00T!
It’s been 6 months. As of last month over 10 million units sold. So there are at least 10 million people out there “being the controller”. That’s 10 million people doing spastic little jigs around their livingrooms. I mean the Microsoft XBox Kinect.
By all accounts the Kinect has been a huge success. The commercials are everywhere and judging by the sales the Kinect is too. And only 6 months after release people seem to still be interested in it. Games are still coming out for it.
What if I don’t want to be the controller though? What if I want to sit down on the couch and run across some roof tops with nothing more than the movement of my thumbs? Do I really need to insert myself into the game with more than my imagination?
Now don’t get me wrong; I think the advance in technology is awesome. When the videos of “Natal” first showed up we were all in awe of it. The idea of interacting directly with the games we’re playing sounded like a great concept. The games that have come out of the Kinect system really just feels like an extension of what Nintendo started with the Wii. Exercise and party games seem to be the primary focus.
Now I do own a Wii. I got it on release day. I love it, but I was rather happy when I realised that I could sit down and play the games with only the minimal amount of exertion on my part. The idea of moving around to interact with a game was a nice novelty but it wore thin fast. When it became clear that more mature games just weren’t on the cards I lost a lot of my interest.
Now I know that Microsoft is expanding outside of the exercise and party game market, but on the majority this seems to be the games they’re pushing. Sure I could always play these games with my husband, but neither of us really has any interest in them. What happened to the demo game we were shown in that Project Natal video? What happened to talking to the character in the game? Now that is something I’d like to do.
Can you imagine what could be done if the conversation ability we were shown was mixed with a standard controller? Some of us have no interest in doing that little spastic jig in our livingroom, but would really like to use this new technology. The thought of playing something like Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed without a controller in my hands makes me shudder. What I would like is to talk to other characters in the game. Can you imagine just how much more awesome Dragon Age could be if you could actually speak to the other characters?
Now this dislike of the idea of “being the controller” isn’t derived of anything so mundane as being fat and out of shape, cause I’m not. Really I just don’t want to interact with my games in that way. I have no urge to do a little jig in my livingroom.
And just for the record, I’m not terribly enamoured with the Playstation Move for much of the same reasons.
Okay before I get started on this, let’s have a look at a handy little video from the conference that shows us how pretty it is and some if its stats.
Shiny huh? I’ll give you a moment to drool. Done? Alright.
The 2 things on my wish list for the PSP2 was a touch screen and an analogue stick that didn’t break my thumb. Looks like they’ve doubled my request. There are 2 analogue sticks and they look considerably better than the ones on the PSP currently. SO no more breaking my thumb.
Now the touch screen is of great interest to me. On the DS (I do own one) the addition of the touch screen created another layer for games. It added a new way to interact with the games on a new level that made developers have to think. Zelda or Cooking Mama without a touch screen wouldn’t have been the same. Can you imagine a good RPG with a notes screen so you didn’t have to memorise important facts and clues? To take things to another level the PSP2 will have a touch screen on the front and back. Being able to manipulate the screen without your fingers in the way? Hell yes! I can’t wait to see what developers do with this dual touch screen.
So what else? It’ll have a 5 inch OLED screen. That will be nice of course and it should help cut the weight. For connectivity it’ll be 3G, Wifi and GPS enabled. That should be useful since it’ll have an Android store built into it, or access to it at least. So more than just gaming possibilities. Still I don’t need it to do things my mobile phone already does. To round things off it’ll have 6 Axis Motion Sensing system and a shit hot CPU.
There is no UMD though. I’m not sure how I feel about this. As mentioned previously I have an irrational like of the UMD option. To move forward though I’ll just have to let it go and embrace going digital.
Sounds good. Now we just need a release date, games list and a price.
So, the Xbox 360 died a death. Red Ring of Death after 5 long years of service. I know, I must have the oldest Xbox 360 ever. Electronics lasting 5 years isn’t unheard of if it’s quality tech. Xbox 360s though are lucky if they last a year. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Both my PS1 and PS2 still work and the PS1 flew several thousand miles with me when I moved.
Now I’ve always said that if my 360 got an RRoD I’d just get rid of it and that would be that. I would have done just that too if it hadn’t chosen to do it in the middle of playing Fable 3. Oh yes of course, it chose to die while I was just over half way through the game. Not before I’d gotten the game or after I’d finished it, but smack fucking in the middle. This of course meant I couldn’t just say to hell with MS and the Xbox 360. Nope, needed a replacement. Somehow.
So we have 3 options. Pay the £70 to send it in and have them “repair” it. This option is otherwise known as them sending me a refurb of someone else’s RRoD machine that will RRoD on me again at some point in the future. The second option is for us to find the cash and buy a new one that not only has a bigger hard drive, but it’s also black. This option costs £200.
Of course the third option comes down to how much effort I really want to put into all of this. My final option is that I could call up their Customer Service department, yell at them and get all obnoxious American on their asses and get them to “repair” it for nothing. Yell loud enough and long enough and you’d be amazed what can happen just so that you’ll go away.
You can guess which option we went for; yes, we got a new one.
This actually brings me to the whole reason I’m here writing this. I have done the one thing that I really really hate having to do, I bought another Xbox when mine failed.
Microsoft boast massive numbers of units sold, but just how many of those unit sales are actually from people buying multiple consoles due to getting an RRoD? I know several people who have bought 2-3 Xbox 360s because they’d gotten an RRoD. The numbers are inflated by these multiple sales.
These newer ones are supposed to be less prone to getting the RRoD, but by now shouldn’t Microsoft have this issue fixed? Shouldn’t such a major fault not be allowed out in the public domain? Obviously not, but it has survived and flourished and people keep buying them
Guess I’ve no room to talk now. I still resent having to do it when I shouldn’t have had to. Sure I could’ve just paid the £70 to have it fixed. Yea it was out of warranty, but why should I be paying for something that is a known fault in the hardware and wasn’t caused by any inappropriate use of the machine? Any other company would have been forced to recall, but somehow Microsoft has managed to keep selling and selling and selling.
The addition of small, very portable computers has really changed a lot of the way people view computing. I own a couple, and tend to carry the Sony Vaio P around like a security blanket. This means, then, I have access to a lot of data, even when not connected to the internet. This has held true for the other class of portable computing devices, the crop of e-book readers. I’ve found it useful to keep my gaming notes, especially for RPG games, on computers and have caught chatter from other roleplaying and GMing friends about the coolness of having whole RPG sourcebooks and manuals on their Kindles.
So what has the lightening of the gaming bookbag done for you, if you’ve switched to using electronic tools?
I’m not a huge tabletop gaming person, but the games I play all seem to have some new enhancement. With the ability to carry quite a bit of data around, having all my notes for games is easy, when it all fits in my purse.
For myself, my main tool has been Microsoft OneNote, which is a data collection and organization product that is often included in the more complete versions of Office. It’s a good buy on it’s own, if you’re a Windows user. I make use of a lot of personal notes when playing a RP MUSH, keeping track of my evil plans, notes on stats and specific game files I use often but need to view offline, etc. This picture is a snippet of the gaming section.
Each little portion of my character’s activities has a section, and pages within it. The main screen shows a rumor posting that relates to a plot I was working on. As a player, it helps to copy certain useful information into a form I can carry around, search, and add to. How many of us in online gaming have remembered reading something before, something a character said, but not the specifics? Handy now to slap into a searchable database.
Obviously, from a GM’s point of view, finding a software package for their platform and creating a database like this could mean not having to repeatedly create things each campaign. OneNote, as well as Evernote and other data organizing packages, allow you to create a page and then save it as a template to use over again. With OneNote, you can print a PDF right into it, and then overlay more typing. It’s a great way to create character sheets, if you lack a PDF writing app. It does take time to build up a treasure trove of your own information in any database, and that can be daunting to some, I think. Not everyone is confident with computers enough to take up a database application and turn it into something that is readily useful. I find OneNote to be very easy to use, and am interested to hear what others use to store their campaign notes.
As with any of the Tiddlywikis, just go to the blank one and Save As the file to your local disk, and there you can modify it. Narrator’s Helper, by the Flying Turtle bloggers, is located here: http://flyingturtle.deepeningdays.com/narratorsHelper.htm
I won’t go into detail about the file, only to say that the author has added a number of new features to the TiddlyWiki, including the ability to roll up NPCs and track their hitpoints and damage, as well as rolls based on their stats, right in the wiki file itself. Most of the improvements involve handling random number things in games that use dice, in addition to all the tagging goodness of the TiddlyWiki. If you’re the light programming type, I encourage you to download the file and try your hand at a customization. Share what you create with us, too!
Lastly, I wanted to mention the iPod Touch/iPhone devices. There are quite a few handhelds out there with their own app stores and such, but this is just a sampling off my own iPod Touch.
- Armory: If you’re into World of Warcraft, you may have known about the Armory app for iPhone. This is a slick little app that shows your character stats and equipment, just as it is in the Armoury website. Nice graphics with page turning sounds. However, I have found it not to work if you have an Authenticator on your account.
- Authenticator Mobile: Speaking of.. if you do have one, or wish to secure your WoW account, the Authenticator for Mobile is a free download out of the App Store. This is a program that generates a unique timed number that must be typed in when logging in. It’s an excellent idea to help keep your account from being hijacked (as mine was last week), and you don’t even have to dish out the $6 to buy the fob one off the store.
- Pocket MV: For those who are sucked into the virtual world of Second Life, there is Pocket Metaverse for accessing that graphical world right from your iPhone. Unlike some lightweight apps, this one allows map viewing, limited movement, chatting, inventory manipulation… the next best thing to actually logging in. For those on netbooks or older laptops that can’t handle the client, it’s a good option, even if it eats battery power like Oreos.
- Dice Rollers: There seem to be a number of them, such as Crit, Dice Bag and Motion-X Dice. Your mileage may vary, as I haven’t tried any of them, but those are free for the download.
I’m sure the new iPad will open up things even more, and the touch capability with the large screen should tempt programmers to create new tools for us gamers. Be nice to your programmers, convert them to gaming, then maybe they will gift us with cool.
I’ve kept to what I know here, but if anyone has cool tools they’ve found useful on portable devices, please share with us in the comments!