E3 Impressions: Wonderbook

Now I’m all about exploring the newest technology on the market, and Sony brought out something that truly caught my eye. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know my love for spreading education via the virtual video game experience. Well Sony seems to be on the cutting edge of the educational ‘gamification’ movement with their new tech they rolled out called the Wonderbook. Now what exactly is the Wonderbook? Well from what I understand they’re going to be actual interactive books that correlate with the Playstation Eye and using the Playstation Move to interact with the product. How cool is this idea? Well you better believe the little kid in me is squealing with excitement!

Especially due to the first major author that’s signed on to do a Wonderbook: J.K. RowlingsHARRY POTTER ANYONE?! That’s RIGHT! Rowlings has helped to devise a wonderful interactive storybook, The Book of Spells, that will take the reader into in-depth to NEW content by Rowling herself! Players will get to experience the Harry Potter universe like never before, and I personally can’t wait to see what they’re going to be capable of with this. You’ll see in the demo that they do have some technical glitches, but hey it’s the initial stages of what I believe to be a wonderful product. There’s always going to be some hiccups – that’s what demos and Q&A testing are for. Well now knowing that what do I expect from Wonderbook going forward?

Wingardium Leviosa!

Wonderbook Expectations:

  • Wonderbook definitely seems to be aimed at a younger crowd [ family and youth ] but I see a lot of potential here for some classic works.
  • There’s so much educational potential here. Can you imagine books like Dr. Seuss? Sesame Street? Where The Wild Things Are
  •  Interactive reading isn’t new by any means, but Wonderbook brings two of my favorite things together: reading and video games.
    • Disney used to provide interactive software for PC long before Sony began bringing this out, but there’s far more personal engagement  provided via Wonderbook I’d imagine. I loved my 90’s Disney Interactive software, but Wonderbook conceptually feels much better.
  • Teachers may even benefit from having PS3’s in their classrooms now, and using Wonderbooks to teach classic novels to students.
  • The interactivity provided by video game mediums provides new, exciting, and exhilarating memorable experiences for players.
  • The comprehension and excitement of reading might be sparked with enthusiasm via the way Wonderbook delivers this new material.

Incendio!

Sure, some naysayers may claim that this newfangled ideology of ‘gamification’ towards the way we read might turn children, parents, and others off actually reading. I say no way! Imagine this. Your young child sits down and plays with a Wonderbook [ for this hypothetical let’s just say Disney signs a license via Sony and they produce a Winnie the Pooh Wonderbook ] and he, or she, gets to explore the Hundred Acre Wood, learn valued moral decisions via Pooh’s adventures, counting, letters, etc. The educational potential is limitless! How could you not love this idea? So where do we go from here? Well we wait. We wait patiently for Wonderbooks to catch on. It sounds like they’ll be sold seperately as individual ‘game’ titles, but I wouldn’t mind spending on them. Especially if they were titles that I was hoping for [ like Harry Potter ]

If there are adults out there wondering, “Well, wait, so is Wonderbook only going to be for children and families?” – it certainly looks like that, but I can tell you folks with confidence that there are tons of companies that host more to teenage and adult fair that are interested in the Wonderbook technology. In fact, I’ve done some snooping around and it sounds like BBC America is totally interested in getting in on the Wonderbook vibe. If the idea of Stephen Moffit reinventing Doctor Who for an interactive reading material isn’t cool, then you may direct yourself to a TARDIS right now and jettison yourself into a time vortex! Can you imagine books like: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Dr. Who novel based on the Whoniverse – Daleks, Cybermen, Fallen Angels, etc. or who knows – Game of Thrones? Lord of the Rings?

A Whovian Experience like NO OTHER?!

The choices are endless and I hope to see some of these come to life for real. They most likely won’t be out this year, and it’ll probably be a 2013 release – but I’d be willing to wait for such literary enjoyment. I’ve never been much of a Playstation Move supporter, but you’ve won me over Sony! Congratulations, now I’ll be Move supporting – as long as you continue to use your Move technology for the benefit of educational mediums.

Gaming With A Cause: The Speedgamers’ Pokemon Marathon

Well this is pretty fantastic – I found something awesome via Tim Schafer. Yes. The Tim Schafer. I follow him on Twitter and he just so happened to share a link that I feel like blogging about as well! So there’s this lovely gaming group called The Speed Gamers. The Speed Gamers run gaming marathons all the time, but this one really stood out to me. Why? They are currently running a charity gaming marathon to raise money for ACT Today.[ Austism Care and Treatment ] What is this gaming marathon about may you ask? Well I’ll let this graphic explain it:

Gotta Catch ‘Em All for Autism!

They are using Twitch TV to broadcast the stream and it’ll be up through the 22nd. So if you’re a fan of Pokemon and you want to support research for autism – grab your DS or your Gameboy Color – relive the retro love of this epic marathon and get to catching ’em all and donate to this wonderful cause. You’ll be helping children of all ages, while watching one of the most EPIC Pokemon marathons I’ve ever seen.

They’re still only half way done and they’ve got 3 days to go!

E3 Impressions: XBox Smart Glass

Well I’ve done a lot of E3 coverage on the games lately, and I think it’s about time that we started talking a little bit of TECH don’t you? I also want folks to know that I’m an all inclusive gamer. I don’t want it to seem like I have a bias towards one company or the other just because I don’t happen to own a system to play games exclusive to it – SO let’s talk some XBox news shall we?

Microsoft’s press conference was loaded with some pretty awesome coverage of Kinect and their games, but there was something that definitely peeked my interest: XBox Smart Glass. Now what exactly is XBox Smart Glass:

What intrigues me about this concept is that Microsoft is realizing that gaming consoles are swiftly becoming hubs of peoples homes. Games are becoming more casual, movies are being streamed, music is being uploaded, and the web is practically a necessity in this generation of an interconnected world. So – how does Microsoft plan to answer this conundrum of how to provide all of this to mobile on-the-go families?

XBox Smart Glass.

Wii shows off Wii U, but Smart Glass looks sharp for sure!

The applications that you’ve seen above really grasped me. The idea that Microsoft will allow players to use their smartphones and tablets that they already own to interact with the 360 device is genius. They’re not asking for players to go out and buy a peripheral piece of hardware like they asked for when they released Kinect, but rather, they’re integrating their products into the already mobile lives of families and gamers. I’m sort of in love with this honestly. It’s not like I haven’t seen this before, in fact, this technologies been around for quite a while.

Tablet to TV? Awesomeness!

I’ve seen integrated screen technology being utilized by Microsoft and Apple for ages now. In Disneyland’s InnoventionsMicrosoft and HP fully utilize the integrated screen technology within the Disney Dream Home segment. They opened the exhibit in 2008 – so it’s been around. It’s a fantastic look at the usage that Microsoft can get out of their software and integration technology. Honestly, walking through that home, sometimes I wonder why some of these integrations haven’t been fully utilized in games. Well now that looks as though that’s about to change.

This is a girls room – look at how it customizes itself to the programmers interests!

If you want to learn more and take a virtual look of the Dream Home, check it out:

Disney Dream Home Tour

We’ve all heard about the voice command gaming using Kinect via Mass Effect 3 and other games, but what does Smart Glass bring to the table as far as accessibility? Well, here’s what I’m seeing. I see a gaming console that utilizes both voice controls via Kinect and touchscreen functions using your own tablet devices to bring a valued, immersive, and refreshing experience. All this would require is the download of an app to your phone or smartphone.

Clearly you can see from the demo that these ideas may actually make games like Madden, FPS games, etc. more accessible for those gamers with mobility issues. Imagine if you were able to play an FPS via a touchscreen, while still being able to interact and play with friends who participate via controllers. I would also love to see if they’ll start utilizing PC/XBox/Android cross play in the future. This technology may soon be able to shrink the boundaries and difficulties that many gamers find in trying to become valued and integral participants with their fellow gamers.

I thought for a moment that Wii U would be the leader in touchscreen gaming, but clearly XBox is trying to take a vast bite out of the newest console from their competition. I see so much potential in this that I can’t wait to pick up a 360 just to test out the future of this technology. I see a vast social and mobile aspect to this technology and I can only hope that Microsoft keeps up with this design!

Way to go Microsoft – you just set the bar for console accessibility in my opinion!

What are your opinions on the newest tech to be released by the tech juggernaut? Let me know in the comments below. How do you think this will change the face of the industry, accessibility for games, the way we design games, etc. I would love to hear from you all!

E3 Impressions: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I am sort of a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan. Studio Ghibli has helped to release some of my most cherished childhood memories via their films.  So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I found out that I would finally get a chance to play a GAME designed by the great Miyazaki himself?! Yep! You heard me right!

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

A GAME BY MIYAZAKI?! TAKE MY MONEY NOW PLEASE!!

Now I know this game has been floating about already, so why in the world is this E3 news? Well, the game has already had booming popularity in Japan, and a few months ago they announced that Studio Ghibli and Level 5 were going to be working on bringing Ni No Kuni state-side! So yes – all of this work simply for an English dubbed version you say? Well, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am and why this forgoes almost everything else I’ve seen from E3 thus far!

The game looks beautiful and it’s done in full cell-shade artwork. They also seem to have put movie-style cutscenes into the game. This decision gave the designers a way to make the game look like a genuine movie quality piece of Miyazaki’s work. It’s a brand new story too, which I’m so excited about. It’ll be the first time that I’ll actually have an opportunity to play an interactive role in a Miyazaki piece of work. I’ve always loved movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, etc.

All I will say about this movie is: Cat Bus for the win!

Would you like one lump of sugar or two No Face?

One of my FAVORITE Miyazaki films! I could watch this for days!

You name it, they were a part of my life, and to know that the start of 2013 I’ll be able to participate in one directly is a true blessing I can’t wait to experience! Level 5 is famous for their RPG designs, and so it’s to be expected that they’d use similar methods to design Ni No Kuni. If you’ve ever played White Knight Chronicles – you’ll definitely see notes of that game in Ni No Kuni. The main map motions, etc. but what I love the most is that it seems as though Level 5 is trying to make the game play out a bit like a Miyazaki version of Pokemon!

You start playing the game as the main character, Oliver, on his quest to be a master magician and save his mother’s soul from this other world called Ni No Kuni. In the game you’ll encounter spirit creatures, which you can collect [ Does this NOT sound like Pokemon, Folklore, etc. – either way I’m intrigued.] to help you fight off later monsters and bosses.

How beautiful! New characters to start loving!

The game isn’t turned based though, so it’s all action based and oriented. The HUD displays look simple and easy to navigate, and it seems as though controlling your creatures is simple as well. I’m truly looking forward to seeing this game and it’s touch towards accessibility. It may be a huge hit in Japan already, but I can bet that Ni No Kuni will sell out quickly in the States too!

Does this not scream vintage games like Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, etc.?!

My words don’t do the game justice though, so I’m simply going to stop. Just take a look at the game for now, and see what Miyazaki and Level 5 have given us humble citizens to look forward to on January 22nd, 2013! So far all I see that it’s getting released for is PS3 and Nintendo DS [ in Japan only ] Here’s to Studio Ghibli and their shining gem of interactive artwork! Can’t wait!

Gaming With A Cause: Humble Bundle V

Hey there world, now I know I’ve been touting E3 Impressions all over the place this week, BUT you guys know [ if you’re regular viewers ] my real mission for this blog isn’t just to talk about or develop games, but rather give back to my community via games. It’s been a while since I’ve found a reason to celebrate games as a charity – today I may have found the golden egg of ALL Humble Bundles! Yep – that’s right! This Humble Bundle supports the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play. These charities help fund education and support providing video games to hospitals to provide kids with entertainment and fun.

Indie Games UNITE!

Now why am I so stoked about THIS Humble Bundle V? WELL, as a designer, there comes a time where I have found games which I personally feel that no designer should go without playing. The games which should be your guide to artsy, pop-culture, wonder hits. The games that, whether it be mechanics, storyline, or artwork, blew fellow designers and myself away with how amazing these games were for some reason or another. So without further adieu let’s pull back the curtain on what I believe to be the BIGGEST, and BEST Humble Bundle package yet! Oh, and by the way, Tim Schafer is in the trailer!

1. Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP

Now I saw this game when it first came out as a tablet PC and iPhone game – and I was stunned by how cool it looked. It’s retro artistic vibe, with it’s text based dialogue, and it’s almost Zelda like adventure blew me away, and made me want to get a iPhone so bad! I’m stoked that it’s finally coming to a platform where I can have access to it and play it first hand all the way through! The story, art, and gameplay mechanics are something to admire and watch!

Here’s looking at you Tri-Force!

2. LIMBO

This game haunts my nightmares with how hauntingly beautiful and morbid this game is. You play as a young boy who is traversing this monochromatic black and white dreamscape. The puzzles are morbid and often end in the death of your character, but he comes back to life for you to try and try again. The gameplay mechanics are super simple [ one button for jump, the movement keys, and then another button to grab items ]

While it may seem odd and sort of macabre to take part in this death-defying dream puzzler, Limbo is hands down one of my favorite indie games. Each puzzle is super challenging and it keeps you invested with the emotion you feel for your little digital friend as he makes this journey. Produced by a company called Play Dead Studios [ fitting name ] it’s definitely one of the must see games on this list.

One small step for man… one giant leap for a boy.

3. Amnesia: The Dark Descent 

I actually have never had first hand experience with this game, but that’s also because I tend to shy away from the horror genre of games. I’m trying my best to branch out though, and from what I’ve heard of this game – it’s a must see and experience. I’ll keep you all posted on the accessibility and the gameplay once I buy it and run a play through. Here is a trailer though, to give you an idea of the game:

4. Psychonauts

Well, if this wasn’t the icing on the delicious cake that is this Humble Bundle V. Everyone should know by now that I’m sort of in love with a company called Double Fine Productions. I’m kind of infatuated with them and have been a long time fan of their work. Tim Schafer is like an icon in this industry to me, and one of the main reasons he’s had such an impact on my gaming life is because of THIS game!

Psychonauts is a quirky, off-the-wall, fun and whimsical adventure game. You – well, I would explain it, but honestly, the trailer speaks for itself:

Thanks Mr. Schafer. Thank you and your team for building such a memorable game.

5. Bastion [ If you pay over the average donation, which is $ 8.26 ]

A high-octane platforming narrative that really grasps you from the seat of your pants and carries you all the way to the end… umm… well, I guess there’s a better way to explain it. Perhaps the narrator of the game can:

6. Lone Survivor [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

This is one of the newest editions to the indie house of lovely games. You play as well, a lone survivor, in a pixelated platforming world. Evade pixel zombies, collect loot and resources, and do your best to survive this horrible fate – or you know? Die trying.

One man. Many zombies. All Pixels.

7. Braid [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

Well, how to describe this one? Oh yeah! Take a sprinkle of Prince of Persia [ the time altering ] and then add in some crazy puzzle mechanics that take my breathe away, and THEN compile it on one of the most beautifully retro, hand painted styles of art and graphics I’ve seen on an indie game and you’d have Braid. Enough said – for now.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

8. Super Meat Boy [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

What do you get when you give a meat wad a lover? – separate them by force, and then ask the meat wad to come rescue his meaty bride? Well you get Super Meat Boy, and it’s one of the most odd, interesting, and funny experiences I’ve had in a game before. The game is definitely challenging, but it’s well worth the challenge – because the designers put so much time, effort, and love into this game. There is no way you’ll walk away from this game without a big, meaty smile on your face!

I’ll save you my ham-flavored princess! I just have to grind my way up the food chain!

I would try to give folks a full run down of all of these games [ and I may later ], but I would be so excited that it would take me a page for each one. Think about this for one moment. You not only get the GAMES, but you also acquire their SOUNDTRACKS – and ALL of these amazingly historic games can be gathered up for less than $10 dollars!! Are you kidding me right now?! That’s like someone knocking on your door mid-June and saying “Merry Christmas stranger!” leaving you some of the most lavish gifts they can give and then just driving away!

If you know nothing of these games, know this: Each of these games, in my personal opinion, contain an aspect of game design that I think EVERY designer should experience. Whether you’re a painter, a fashion designer, a game designer, or even a teacher – YOU SHOULD try these games. They’re emotional, challenging, and engaging stories that have captivated millions in the industry for one reason or another! What once were indie games nobody knew of, and few dared to explore, are some of the most cherished gems in gaming now. So, please, do yourself a favor and support a wonderful charity and grab these fantastic games while you still can.

YOU HAVE 5 Days left! 5! Games are supported for PC, Mac, and Linux! Go now and get your HUMBLE BUNDLE V! Make the most of it! Let your indie gamer live!

Inspirational Gamers of the Week: Signcraft and Coco & Co.

Hey there fellow gamers!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and I’m sorry, but alas thus is the risk of being a college student and working. It can sap your ability to do what you love to do. Now, today I’ve found something very cool and it’s an up and starting movement. I’m so proud to know that this sort of organization exists. I want to say that, while I’ve covered The Able Gamers Foundation and love them – I personally love it when smaller, more specific disability groups form to aid those in need. In this case there’s a group called Signcraft.

They’re a non-profit website that focuses on providing deaf gamers a venue to enjoy, understand, and learn about Starcraft 2 strategies, gameplay, etc. I hope they actually go further than this – it would be really inspiring to see them branch out past just a single game. I would love to see deaf-accessible game reviews, game walkthroughs, etc. not only for PC games but also console gamers. It would be a very cool concept and I see it being a large benefit for a fantastic community that I feel definitely needs exposure.

Currently they only do Starcraft commentaries, but please go check them out and if you like them and like what they’re doing tell them what you’d like to see. I’m sure they’d be open to opinions and more exposure! You can find them here, but here’s their current introduction video to get you guys started. This also inspired me to go find games that are exploring the art of deaf gaming in the game culture.

I’ll be posting a game post about it, but keep a look out for a game called “Way”  by Coco and Co.I’ll be downloading the available Alpha version currently, but it looks like a really amazing game that forces players to work together to try and solve puzzles via communicating via only by gesture communication. Check it out if you’re interested:

It’s severely indie – but that’s why I love it. I’m a sucker for indie games that challenge the norms, conformities of the industry, etc. and ‘Way’ seems fantastic – I’ll let you guys know exactly how it plays out soon!

Till then here’s to you all! Take care and happy gaming to you all!

Inspirational Gamer of the Week: Giddeon

Now most of you who have been following recently have heard me talk about the Able Gamers Foundation – how I love them and how I’m honored that I’ll be getting a chance to work with them in the very near future, well today is no different and, in fact, I’m humbled in the presence of this next Inspirational Gamer of the Week.

The Able Gamer’s Foundation met this kid named Giddeon at one of their Accessibility Arcades that they hold down in Atlantic City, and this story seriously made me cry.

This kid is amazing. So glad he’s getting to enjoy gaming!

Giddeon was born with a rare birth defect that caused the bones in his arms to have stunted growth. This resulted in only a few fingers forming on one arm. This caused Giddeon to be especially shy towards the idea of playing video games. He felt that holding controllers was a difficult experience, and so Mark Barlett sat him down with the Adroit Switchblade controller. Giddeon loved it and after a while Barlett wanted to show Giddeon other gaming alternatives for his condition. He demonstrated the Microsoft Kinect. I found this to be the most inspirational portion of the article:

Check out his Fruit Ninja skills!

A mother’s love is beautiful to watch.

Giddeon tried out the Kinect, but the scanner couldn’t recognize his arm. Barlett found a piece of foam craft board and had Giddeon hold it. This helped the Kinect track Giddeon’s movements and allowed him to play games like Fruit Ninja. Giddeon’s mother grew so emotional as she saw her child gaining access to a plethora of gaming enjoyment. It brought her to tears – and with that I just have to say these are the moments I hope that can be brought to gaming on a daily basis.

A smile is priceless and the greatest reward for developers!

I would love nothing more than to design games that allow for accessibility and enjoyment from all players. I’m so inspired by Giddeon, because he assumed that the gaming industry was out of his reach and that he couldn’t participate the the fun medium like other able-bodied gamers. Instead, after being shown that he – in fact – could participate his life was filled with joy and entertainment. These are the reactions that I want to live for and look forward too.

The moments when I can take a game and present it to the masses and get a response back from someone who is just appreciative for how a game design enriches their lives. I’ve seen many gamers devoted to certain games, but when you can make a game more accessible to a community that doesn’t believe that there is an accessibility inherit in your medium – and you see the appreciation that comes from their reactions. The reactions and appreciation alone are the reason why I want to get involved with game design and helping to provide this world with accessible games everyone can enjoy.

Here’s to you Giddeon! Enjoy your newly found world of gaming and I hope you continue to find great games that you can enjoy! Thanks to the Able Gamers Foundation for showing off this kid’s story and I’m just glad that I could share it with others who may not have seen this kid’s awesome discovery of the gaming universe!