Head mounted displays and motion control devices

by on

I don't believe in head mounted displays, sorry. Even if I didn't have such a bad case of motion sickness I wouldn't be using Oculus Rift or the likes of that. One of the biggest issues regarding safety at work is that many workers don't want to wear any kind of restraining gear when working, be it a welding mask or some safety ropes. One of my childhood friends already has had many iron splinters surgically removed from his cornea because he simply couldn't stand the added heat of his protective mask.

Then we have this Leap Motion Controller too. I've already talked about Kinect before, and why I didn't think Kinect would be a groundbreaking technology (why the PS3 didn't launch with the Eye Toy, an ages old Sony technology?). Touch controls without the touch don't seem like the best idea, sorry. For starters, touch controls don't have no "motion scaling". Every movement is tracked 1:1 (except on tiny devices, which for many people are a true pain -dialling on certain touch screen only cell phones can be a chore). Then, many devices also have some kind of tactile feedback besides the obvious touch of the screen itself, of course. But, with a camera tracking device, just how much distance is "half screen"? How far must I move my hand to place the cursor in mid screen? Such things aren't an issue with actual touch devices, because you are clicking right where you are touching, but moving your hand across thin air is nothing like that. There's some kind of translator working somewhere. If you had an actual 3D display surrounding you, and you could touch and/or drag virtual images around you (but no helmets please!), that would be totally different. User-wise, you would be using a touch device, and not a motion tracking device, like this Leap motion controller.

Maybe some time in the (hopefully near) future these technologies can come to fruition in the shape of a real ergonomic, user-friendly interface, but certainly what I've seen thus far not only falls short of impressing me, but also doesn't even tickle my fancy.

Guns, games, and shootings

by on

Dozens of countries don't allow the posession of guns and crime rate doesn't skyrocket because of that. Some countries don't even allow policemen to wear guns. Some countries have laws that punish the posession of firearms with death, and I'm not talking about some unknown banana republic, I'm talking about a mainstay of technology and research (let's forget about youtube views) such as South Korea. Yeah, the country that exports phones, cars, all sorts of electronic components, and what not. Those countries don't get those killing sprees at schools.

If videogames played a part there, or what part it was, I can't tell. I personally don't like shooters, unless the experience goes far and beyond what sneaking around and scoring headshots has to offer. To make myself more clear, I'll say that while I enjoyed Borderlands, Halo and Crysis:Warhead, I won't touch CoD of MoH or even poke them with a stick. Halo setting and story got me glued to my chair from start to finish, and I loved the AI, level and monster design. I played Crysis:Warhead to test my (then) high-end machine and also because I found the story appealing - it was short and to the point (which I knew before I started playing it) - and the sci-fi parts. I've never done multiplayer in any of those games though. I've played extensively competitive multiplayer in SF4 and its following iterations though, and I've loved every second of it.

I don't think playing shooters is at the core of the problem. What I do think, though, is that people who spend way too much time on their own, people that don't grow as a person, that isolate themselves from others, can lose the ability to empathise with the world around them. I certainly see that as a problem. That many blockbuster videogrames trivialize violence might not help, but that's not at the core of the issue.

And yes, having guns at every home definitely is a part of the problem, and a huge part at that.

Thoughts on Kinect (former Project Natal)

by on

After watching the press conferences from Microsoft and EA, the Kinect thingie sparked a lot of thought. Microsoft must have put a lot of weight behind their latest product to have top-of-the-line publishers release 15 titles at launch for Kinect, but has Microsoft ironed all the rough edges?

First thing that came to mind: what happened to Sony's Eye Toy? People from Sony acknowledged in last year's E3 Sony press conference that there's only so much you can do without a controller; you need buttons (5:40 in the linked video). Most intriguing: why didn't Sony itself pursue a market lead with the Eye Toy device? If there's one good thing about learning from others' mistakes is that it's really cheap –especially when the alternative is taken into account. Has Microsoft learnt its lesson, or will that be yet another lesson to be learnt in blood?

Betting on underdeveloped technologies such as voice control only adds to my questioning of how much thought has MS put behind this product. Voice control is an industry flop, as a recent article brilliantly explained. I remember mobile phones sporting voice dialling; you told the phone your contact's name, and it dialled their number. Do you actually know anyone who's using voice dialling nowadays?

Voice control is in for the sake of comfort, MS says. If there's one thing I know about comfort is that pressing one button with a slight thumb movement is certainly more comfortable than waving your arms over your head. Granted, using your arms comes in handy because (ideally) you have two of them around all the time. But if you are going to have a controller somewhere nearby all the same, chances are you will end up using your controller. Besides, I wouldn't say Kinect is the same as a touch screen; with touch screen devices, the effort required to press a button or touch the nearby screen is the same –but the touch screen adds immediacy and ease of use. Kinect is more like using an invisible mouse device: you need to rely on a machine to translate your arm's movements into input data, and there will always be something lost in translation –something users must learn to make up for, and something touch screen devices don't have to worry about.

Then there's the hardware side of things. Can the Xbox 360 handle Kinect's input fast enough as to allow players to run, say, a 60 fps racing title or action arcade game like Devil May Cry? According to Gizmodo, there's no processing power inside the Kinect, meaning the bulk of the processing must be done from within the Xbox 360. For what I've seen both at MS and EA's conferences, there is a noticeable lag while using the device –check EA's workout game (it's the guy to the right of your screen doing the boxing bag simulation).

Talking about hardware. Just how affordable will this peripheral be? Again, MS can take a page from Sony's PS3 book regarding its launch price and the head start it gave MS and Nintendo. With a small customer base, chances are developers won't be investing in the product, which in turn will have consumers shying away from MS latest toy. Will Kinect have a lasting appeal for both developers and consumers?

So I went to MS press conference looking for some answers, and seemingly I got even more questions. What measures is MS taking to avoid the same mistakes the competition did? Is MS willing to go the extra mile required to succeed betting on technologies already left behind? Has MS created a product that satisfies consumers' needs, or is MS trying to create new needs? Did the Redmond giant do its homework regarding the consoles market current state of affairs, or is MS taking a more "despotic" approach: it decides what's good for its customers but without its customers -a sound recipe for disaster? We'll find out soon enough.

Call it like it is, not like you wanted it to be

by on

I'm an eager reader of gaming digital press. I read Gamespot, Eurogamer, IGN, 1up, and check Metacritic (and listed reviews there) at least twice a week -except GS which almost always I read on a daily basis. It has come to my attention that many times, peoplejudge a game by its expectations or hopes, not for what the game really is. Latest examples could -sadly- be Mass Effect 2, GTA IV, or Resident Evil 5.

Take Mass Effect 2. A certain reviewer from a top gaming site substantially lowered his ME2 score (which happens to be that site's one and only official score, mind you) because it no longer played like a RPG -streamlined skills, much slicker combat, and all that. Or take GTA IV. Just reading a couple of user reviews (which probably wasmy mistake in the first place) shows some people complaining you can't work out in the gym, get tatoos, or grow fat.And Resident Evil 5, whichaccording to many is awful because it's a shooter and not a survival horror game.

Why can't some people judge things for what they are?

Let's say, Mass Effect 2 was called "CosmosChaos" (sure, that name alone deserves losing 2 points in the reviewer's score), GTA IV was called "Payback Big Time" and and Resident Evil 5 was called "Uroboros". I guess Cosmos Chaos would have deserved higher scores then, Payback Big Time would be both a critical and public success, and everybody would be expecting Uroboros to be a long running franchise. How much sense does that actually make?

What's gameFAQ top ten lists worth

by on

I blogged before about the unforgivable omissions from one of gameFAQs lists; now I have to blog about full-blown blunders. This list about the Top Ten Characters that Would Succeed at the UFC got me cringing so many times I can't quite remember. To name a few:the list talks about "Sambo" as a little known martial art, whereas it's the one Fedor Emelianenko practiced -and Fedor is the most succesful HW in the whole MMA world, beating BJJ master Antonio Nogueira, wrestling UFC champion Mark Coleman, or K1 superstars such as Mirko Filipovic. Fedor has dominated the sport as no other MMA practicioner has, ever.It talks about imagining a mayor like Haggar sorting things out with his fists-as if Jesse Ventura hadn't been governor of Minessota, or Schwartzenegger hadn't ground'n'pounded Triple H in a WWF bout -go check that out in youtube. It talks about a Capoeira artist never having stepped foot in a MMA ring - go google Mestre Hulk, or search in youtube for Mark Kerr vs Mestre Hulk.

It makes one wonder what's the use of such lists.

GameFAQs, the ZX Spectrum, Kojima and Spanish videogames

by on

I never though I knew much about the ZX Spectrum until I saw this list in GameFAQs entitled "The top 10 Spectrum games". It's not that I consider myself any expert as regards the old Zilog Z80 machines, but watching that list I can tell you the guy who wrote it was a late Spectrum player, probably owning one of the latest models (perhaps the one with an attached tape player). I myself remember the birth of the machine, and I hardly would go as far as the launch date of the vast majority in that list to pick a top 10 for the Spectrum. In fact, there are unforgivable omissions there from many of the greatest publishers and franchises the ZX Spectrum saw. Namely, ultimate's Sabre Wulf / Underwulde /Knight Lore saga. The Knight Lore game was one of the first (if not the first) to feature that isometric truly three dimensionalgameplay that would yield so many great titles such as Alien 8, Movie, Head over Heels, Batman and many others. Talking about Batman and HoH -at least Match Day by Ocean made it to the list.

But not to mention Odin Computer Graphics LTD... Titles such as Robin of Sherwood, Nodes of Yesod, or the unforgettable Heartland... Masterpieces of creativity such as The Trap Door, platformers like the great Manic Miner series, Dynamite Dan, Bogaboo the Fly, Frost Byte, or Wally's awesome franchise with gems like Pyjamarama or Everyone's a Wally, classics like the Horace games, space shooters like Ad Astra, fighters like Barbarian (featuring one-hit-kills including decapitation) or The Way of the Exploding Fist, arcade racers such as Spy Hunter, Pole Position or Enduro Racer(or even simulators like Checkered Flag), RPGs like Druid or the awesome Avalon, space sims such as the great Elite (even Elite II is IMHO one of the best PC games ever made), text adventures like The Hobbit,or unclassifiable masterpieces such as I, of the Mask. To omit all of Dinamic's great titles: Babaliba, Army Moves and its sequel Navy Moves, Freddy Hardest... Dinamic, a Spanish game development company that produced so many top notch, state-of-the-art Spectrum games. Spain did create a lot of AAA Spectrum titles, to tell the truth, from the Three Lights of Glaurung (or whatever the English translation is), to Camelot or West Bank. Some of them were rebranded and released abroad by other companies with different names.

PC days are so different. AAA titles coming out of Spain are few and far between. Some (like Commandos) have enjoyed moderate success, but it's Hideo Kojima's latest Castlevania the one who might put spanish game development in the spotlight once more . I really look forward to see those glory days of Spain game development companies releasing great AAA titles once more.

For how long will the console hardware race make sense

by on

One of Activision's visible heads has just caused a turmoil with his statement that Activision may drop Sony as a target platform. Reasons were twofold: higher development costs, and smaller customer base. Easy as it may be to develop for the PS3 or the PSP, MS has got the best development tools for their platforms and both Nintendo and xBox have sold more consoles (which is not saying the PS3is a sales flop).

Superior hardware was one of the PS3 selling points (BluRay aside). But something in E3 got me thinking. It was Forza Motorsport 3. With a brand new graphics engine, the xBox seemed to render awesome sandboxes (the Montserrat track is nothing short of stunning) at jaw-dropping drawing distances, with very detailed car models,processing complex car physics, all at 60 fps on full HD. Now, the PS3being capable of better output (which may well be the case) is not the question. What is really the question here is whether getting better results really pays, both quality-wise and in terms of return of investment. I went back to see the HD review of Gran Turismo 5 prologue, and it really doesn't look much different from FM3. FM3 had such graphics that, during the E3 show, I had a hard time telling actual cars footage from ingame footage (video resolution played a role there, probably). GT5 may look as good or even better, but it certainly cannot look better than photorealistic -something both GT5 and FM3 are very close to achieve already. Most important, GT5 doesn't look 100€ better than FM3.

Just how much sense does it make to improve on the PS3 or xBox 360 hardware on terms of processing power? Indeed there's room for improvement -even a high-end PC would struggle to move Crysis at highest settings and resolution, but it's probably wiser to research on lower production costs meaning lower price tags, more sturdy hardware, and better software such as development tools and optimized (and possibly genre-specific) engines. After all, it doesn't look like a new super HD standard will arrive in the next couple of years, so 1080p at 60 fps will pretty much be the bestquality for some time.

A lesson to be learnt from next-gen consoles is that hardware performance is not an absolute, and depends on affordable prices and development tools that empower game devs to get the most out of the machine with the least effort. If improving on these consoles means 500€ / 600$machines with high development costs and diminishing gains quality-wise, then Sony would be better off strictly sticking to their 10 year product lifecycle (a good thing IMHO) and Microsoft might as well adopt it too.

Paradise Burnt (and still gorgeous)

by on

Kudos to Gamespot for nominating Burnout: Paradise for '08 GS GotY awards. It is truly a worthy up-and-runner. I hope The Ultimate Box (PC) gets nominated for this year's awards as well. And I hope GS editors maintain that wide array of genre picks for the GotY nominees as well; a bold (and criticised) move, but a refreshing one as far as I am concerned.

After more hours than I dare say roaming through Paradise City, I've achieved my 100% bikes driving licence. A week or so before, I got my 101% percent driving license as well (Criterion Elite achievement included). If you feel like trying, take this small piece of advice: do a good couple of complete online freeburn challenge series. Not only will that grant you a new ride, but also will make getting your Burnout license and most of the achievements much easier. More often than not, it's a matter of knowledge as much as of skill.

In any case, I changed my profile pic. I wish I knew how to capture a screenshot of my 100% completion tag (the one you get after accomplishing the Criterion Elite achievement), but my print screen key just won't do it. Until I manage to get that screenshot, I'll use this elite license pic downloaded from my profile web page.

Underachiever?

by on

I've just finished Crysis: Warhead. I played it on hard all the way; being a hardcore gamer for more years than I dare say, I don't want any cakewalks while sitting in front of my computer in my leisure time.

As far as I know, there are no achievements in Crysis: warhead. If there were any, surely there would be one for finishing this game in hard mode from start to finish. It's weird how simple things as achievements can increase the interest of a game. In fact, achievements add some really easy to implement replay value. No such thing here.

Crysis: warhead may be a great game in many aspects, but it is also a small underachiever.

Am I good, or am I good? (Cry me a river, mr. devil)

by on

Spoilers ahead.

I've just finished Devil May Cry 4 on Legendary Dark Knight mode. Yesterday I beat Dante Must Die mode. DMD is way, way harder than LDK. I had a hard time on DMD mission 19. On LDK mission 19, I killed every boss on a streak. No objects, No continues. Got S in all aspects of the mission, Got a "no objects" bonus, no penalties, and a truckload of proud souls.

The thing is, I even put my foot in it a good couple of times there; because of some mistakes while rolling the dice, I entered Bael's stage (or Dagon, or whatever the name of the fat toad is) with only half my life bar. Strangely enough, the same happened at the last floor -I tackled Agnus with less than half my full health.

I smoked Bael pretty badly. In fact I smoked him in style - such was the rank of my killing blow: a devil triggered buster in his mouth, the one that rips him inside out.

Curiously, I find Dante to absolutely overpower Nero on any mode save DMD. On DMD, Nero's charged gun blast (which fires pretty quickly, against the sloppy Pandora) makes a lot of a difference, since in fact you can be buffering a hell of a lot of damage while dodging like crazy. It's damage buffering that makes Dante a much more proficient boss killer, because of that new weapon: Lucifer. Being able to spam dozens of blazing swords right where the boss is about to jump, charge, or whatever, makes for both a great way of buffering lots of damage and stunning the big fat foe (can you say distorted real impact?). Lucifer doesn't prove to be so useful when fighting lesser mobs, though -or maybe I just haven´t got the knack of it yet.

  • 18 results
  • 1
  • 2