Category Archives: Gaming

Why the XBox One Being Sold Without The Kinect Is a Bad Thing

Confession of an Xbox Owner

I’ll be up front and admit I don’t own an Xbox One….yet. I’m still using my Xbox 360 presently.

The reason I don’t own one yet is down to a couple of factors… I just bought a flat so money is tiiiiiiight. As such I’m waiting for pay rises and price drops to reach a point where I can afford to have one skint month and splash out on the Xbox One.
The other contributing factor is that I’m holding on till the TV system’s kinks have been worked out for the UK as once I have the XBox One I’d like to be using it’s TV integration all the time.

That being said I still have very strong views on why the Xbox One should always be sold with the Kinect.

What makes the Kinect great

The new Kinect is incredibly powerful and capable. It can tell your heart rate, facial expression, weight distribution across your limbs. That is an amazing feat along with it’s video and skeletal tracking.
It can also do all of this across a much wide range of lighting set ups than the previous version.

Where some users seem to be failing to see the potential though is that they are thinking about the current paradigm of maybe using a kinect with a dance game, or playing a kinect game like Kinect Adventures or such where the activity has been designed to change the gaming experience to one of physical participation.

Thinking outside the XBox

However if you think outside the box for a moment and imagine you’re playing a HD graphics zombie game. As you play the game it guages your heart rate and notices you are particularly exhilarated by a certain type of zombie or situation. It tweaks it’s algorithms and so you are taken thru more, similar situations. The game has become personalised to you, and the experience has become augmented by playing off you as an individual.

You could also imagine a game scenario where every time die at a certain stage of a game the kinect notices your unhappy face and body position, after a tailored amount of times the game makes that section easier to allow you to proceed. Suddenly a game you might have given up on and traded in you are now playing in it’s entirety.

There are a million different scenarios where using the many sensors in the Kinect the gaming experience can be uniquely tailored. However in order for games manufacturers finding this a worthwhile enough venture to invest time and money in they need to know that the audience is there.
If they know that everyone with console X definitely have the sensors they need, they know there is a market worth investing in.
If their efforts are going to be wasted on users without a Kinect then why bother.

As a result of this dichotomy the result will be games that are Better with Kinect and have features gludged on to make this so.

He’s the (not) Greatest Dancer

Yes you might be a hardcore gamer who plays FPS and what would you need a Kinect for, you’re not going to be dancing in your living room, you’re going to be maming, but what if the number of enemies that the game threw at you depended on how fast your heart was beating. What if your presence not being detected in a game depended on keeping your heart rate calm and steady and not moving a muscle?

Open your mind
TR12

Xbox One An Honest Write Up

Day by day I see PS fan boys slam the Xbox One misquoting sources, or not quoting the full story, or printing satirical articles as fact. I just wanted to summarise the facts here and back that up with sources.
Note: I am an Xbox 360 owner. I also own a PSP and PSVita. I endeavor to write as factually and unbiased as I can.

Kinect2 Always On – Is Microsoft Watching Me??

If you think that Microsoft have got the resources to actively be watching you all the time then go and speak to your doctor about your paranoia.

Microsoft have stated that the Kinect2 has a number of different power level modes, the lowest of which is just listening for you to say Xbox On. A feature you can turn off if you are struck by paranoia.

If you have a Kinect 1 then when your Xbox is on the Kinect is on so no change there.

Source: http://kotaku.com/xbox-ones-kinect-can-turn-off-microsoft-says-noting-510100564

Aside: Those who are worrying about the people in the room being counted and watchers of a video being limited http://tinyurl.com/asxchtd, I think this has several possibilities.
Firstly, it could be used to change on a more granular basis for media licensing, i.e. if just one person is watching then you get charged a cheaper rate. If another person enters, of course the rate would need to step up, and so could do so, up to a family license.
The other thing that would be interesting is if you could opt in to a tv viewer survey. Presently tv ratings are worked out based on a small number of people having a special set top box type device that users then have to tap in who’s watching every hour or so.
The figures would be much more demonstrative if they taken from real world counts of people watching. An opt in policy should apply of course.

Always Online – But what if I have no Internet??

There are two issues people have about this. Firstly that it’s calling back to home to check your right to play your games, and secondly people seem to be worrying about having a connection all the time.

The Xbox One checks once every 24 hours if you have the right to play your games. This does seem a bit off at first glance I agree. But the Xbox One is bringing with it a load of shifting paradigms, and they are going to take some getting used to.
For instance, I can insert a disc that I’ve bought, and ‘install’ it and then play it whenever I like, and even round friend’s houses without the disk. The online check has replaced the checking the ownership of the physical disc.

I can also lend my games to up to ten ‘family’ members who can be in different geographical locations and don’t need to be blood relatives, so think of family as a very very lose term here. I can also play simultaneously with one of my ‘family’ members even though they don’t own the game. That’s a very useful and cool function. A lot of gamers I know have a close group of gaming friends. Worked right they could save on buying games between them and could enjoy playing together on games that one or more of them might not usually buy.

If you are worried about what if you’re internet connection goes down, when was the last time your internet went down?

If you’re worried because you don’t want your Xbox to be online all the time. What do you think is happening with your current console? Are you disabling the internet when you don’t want it online? We live in a connected world, you’re reading this on the Internet.

Source: http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/license

DRM roll please – I want to trade in *MY* games

I’ve heard a number of approaches to explain this, but to me this is again another paradigm shift that is going to be hard for people to swallow initially.
Think about when Apple started releasing computers without floppy drives, and more recently, without cd/dvd drives.
Disc are going the way of the Dodo, and the floppy before them, and we’ll be fine with that in time. Microsoft haven’t taken the bolder and scarier decision of getting shot of disc entirely. But the disc has become less important. It’s a token of your purchase of the game. As mentioned above, once installed you no longer need the disc in your machine.

However this move forward to a discless system hasn’t been the focus due to the DRM discussions and rants going on online.
Let’s lay out the actual facts of the policy:

  • Publishers (not Microsoft) will chose whether to allow trade ins on their games
  • You can gift a game to a friend. (a game can only be gifted once)

Source: http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/license

At least one analyst has suggested that all published will enable trade ins to avoid complaints.
Source: http://www.videogamer.com/news/all_publishers_will_enable_trade-ins_and_pre-owned_gaming_on_xbox_one_says_pachter.html

Let’s also consider the alternative. Sony had a laugh poking fun at Microsoft’s DRM policy. However their own DRM policy doesn’t seem all that different. Publisher’s have the ability to enable DRM and to what degree. The key difference seems to be that Microsoft game publisher’s can limit traded games.
If you find that they do… maybe you take that up with them by boycotting their games. They’ll soon change their tune.

Source: http://www.polygon.com/2013/6/11/4419476/playstation-4-third-party-publishers-can-dictate-their-own-drm-terms

Finally The Price – ooh the PS4 is cheaper

And? Yes, the PS4 is cheaper. The PS4 also doesn’t include a ground breaking new Kinect 2 which can detect your heart rate and facial expressions of users.
You’re not comparing like for like, so why compare the price?
If you want an Xbox One and the price is good enough for you, then buy one. Simple.

PS Vita: My Review

I bit the bullet

I was being good and avoiding buying a PS Vita but sharing a flat where I can’t game on my own schedule and desire, but on when the front room is free. My flatmates work shifts so I do regularly know when that is. Whilst part of me was thinking I should hold out, see if the prices come down and see if maybe a LTE version was on the cards.
After all you can’t play multiplayer games on the 3G of PS Vita sadly.
But I bit the bullet anyway in desperate need of some gaming.

 Try before you buy

I didn’t just sail straight into a shop and buy it of course. I’d played around on several PS Vita in the shops. I had a go at a few games, but none of the games really let you experience the new hardware features. And the games they had on show were not ones designed to show off the graphics hardware to its maximum too.
But I played as much as I could and got the feel for the Vita.

First Impressions

First thing’s first, dual analog sticks! I’ve still no idea why these weren’t on the PSP in the first place. The gaming experience transfers straight to the PS Vita, I’m looking forward to Call of Duty and the like coming out later this year on the PS Vita.

Immersive Experience

Playing Uncharted: Golden Abyss really showed the possibilities for using the extra hardware. For example, thru the game you find relics that you need to take rubbings off, so you use the touchscreen to take the rubbing. You discover relics which you use the rear touch panel to turn them, whilst using the touchscreen to clean them and find clues.
But some of the best bits of additional immersion come when you only just make a jump and have to swipe up on the touch screen to save your character from falling, the urgency of needing to change your thought process and hand position on the Vita make for an adrenaline kick. Another bit of immersion that I thought was a nice touch was when you find a document that you have to hold up to the light to see the writing on. Using the PS Vita’s rear camera you actually have to hold the document up to a bright light to reveal the text and proceed.

I look forward to seeing how game designers are going to use these hardware features in their games to enhance the experience. I think that Uncharted has given them a lot of good ideas to think about and hopefully use as a springboard for their own ideas.

Do we really need a dedicated handheld console?

Part of my first few moments with the Vita I kind of felt like most of this hardware, and so possibilities, already exist on an iPhone and iPad, and other table and smart phone hardware, so did I need a dedicated device.
I knew the answer quick enough, yes! Whilst I do play the occasional game on my iPhone and on my tablet, there is no longevity in the experience for me. Mostly because of the lack of physical controls, but also, as much as there are many games for the iPhone, and no doubt games developers will get more and more involved with this market, but at this point, the best games are made for PCs and games consoles.

I think this will hold true for some time. Could you image paying £40 or so for a game for your tablet or smart phone? No, neither can I. Spending more than about £3 on an app for my phone or tablet is something that I think about twice.
But gamers will, not so begrudgingly, pay that for a PC of console game.

All in all I’m pleased with my purchase, and I’m addicted to playing Uncharted at the moment, which means I’m whipping thru the game very quickly and have already bought another game from the PSN.

The PS Vita Interface

This brings me on to the PS Vita interface. It’s ok, it’ll do for the moment, and it’s refreshing they haven’t just plonked the usual Sony interface on it. But it does need some work. It’s a bit clunky and when you double press the PS button it feels like there’s actually two interfaces on there.

My biggest bugbear with the interface is that it’s not entirely clear when your actions are going to close another ‘app’/game until you click another app or game and you are prompted that this will close the last game or app you had open.
This would be easy enough to work out if it was the case with all apps and all games, but it’s not, so the pop up warning is almost always a surprise when it pops up.
I don’t feel like I should have to leave the game I’m playing to browse the web on my Vita.

My only other real gripe is that the WiFi connection options are still sparse. I can happily connect to my home WiFi, but I can’t connect to my work WiFi network, which I run, to either our eduroam wireless connection or to our guest WiFi, which doesn’t use 802.1x authentication and so should just connect and then give you the captive portal when you try to browse a webpage.
What’s more is that it’s not apparent that it’s failing to connect, except for the lack of Internet access.

Conclusions

I’m very pleased with my purchase, gripes aside, and it feels much more like a proper gaming experience. My PSP’s graphics are now dated and games trying to fit a lot on the screen end up looking like old Sega Master System games. But on the PS Vita you can get lost in the nice beautifully big screen. Even when you are zoomed out in wide shots in Uncharted you can see what is going on and enjoy the game thoroughly.

I’m looking forward to see what games come out for the PS Vita, and I hope the gaming industry get’s right behind it!

OLED Wallpaper and all that comes with it

Not long after OLED first came to light I began, as I’m sure many futurists did, thinking about the ramifications of it.
I considered the many applications that would be useful initially as things like the roll out screens that were already being discussed at this point. However what I went on to was marvelling at the possible future of OLED wallpaper where by a whole wall or your whole room/house is wallpapered with OLED paper.

The use of this becomes nearly as limiteless as you can imagine. You can pick and choose your wallpaper on a daily basis with next to no effort, you could have it randomly changing like your desktop wallpaper. You could wake to an epic sunrise and fall asleep to a beautiful sunset, you could gaze at the stars or watch the Aurora Borealis, all from the comfort of your own home.

Then consider that OLED tv will soon be with us and you can imagine the next convergence technology that’s hot will be TVs sold and OLED wallpaper. Imagine being able to sit in your front room and decide you want a 52″ tv on your wall right in front of your line of vision, with a few gestures recognized by the system controlling your OLED wallpaper image their you have it. You want to do some work on your computer whilst watching tv, you gesture into existence a 15″ monitor on the wall next to the tv and using a remote device or maybe more high definition gesture recognition where you type in on a projected keyboard on your lap, you tap away on a few emails.

A few friend drop round and you want to watch a film together so you gesture the screen larger on your wall to fill the whole wall and enjoy a film together.

The next day you’re off to a meeting at a clients office in a part of town you don’t know, you bring up Google maps and your email on your wall, you copy and paste the address into Google maps and find it, you hit street view to help you get your bearing ahead of time and your are immersed in a full wall street view that you can drag around to see where the office is, where’s the nearest place to get coffee and lunch.

The next step from this is of course full wall video conferencing, your room can easily become an immersive  multi-environment. For example, you could chat with friends from around the world and all feel like you’re sitting in the same room, you could virtually be in the office at your desk, seeing other’s sitting at their desks, all on your walls. You could play a game panning round your whole room, checking behind you before looking round the corner and rushing the guard.

This is all surely just the tip of the ice berg for OLED wallpaper with the innovative minds of  the world coming up with creative ways of rendering content from all forms of media and sources on your wall in beautiful ways.

MikeD