No Man’s Sky: Far from Hyperdrive

There, before the grace of man, go the infinitesimal cosmos that stretch out before us. We yearn to step out into the great beyond, and as the cockpit opens up with a hiss from the airlock, we step out into the great unknown. This was the anticipated mood that No Man’s Sky built up. In the past few years I’ve been eagerly anticipating this game, like a kid waiting with his parents to watch the first moon landing. I was on the edge of my seat, and now that I finally have it – it’s far from the hyperdrive I was expecting.

NoMansSky_1

Hello Games promised a massive undertaking of a open world system that was seemingly endless. In every trailer I ever saw the set pieces were sprawling and beautiful, lush with foliage and fauna that would make any biology lab blush. They achieved a technological feat that has not been seen in games before, an algorithm to procedurally generate planets. Now, while that may sound amazing, it’s the implementation that matters. All the hyperdrives in the world don’t get you anywhere if you can’t deliver that sense of scale you promise.

Hello Games manages to deliver that sense of scale, but in doing so they faltered in delivering the other aspects of gameplay. The games control system is very limiting, and so players who may have mobility issues can’t adjust the control scheme to fit their needs. Each task is assigned to a specific button, which makes it difficult to achieve certain tasks. There is no tutorial in this game either, which essentially throws the player out into the wilderness and expects them to survive. Now, for able bodied players this may take some time to learn, but it’s still achievable to meander around aimlessly, learn a few buttons and play the game. The thrill of experiencing that first few hours of the game is at least worth something.

No Man’s Sky would certainly benefit from some sort of guided tutorial, especially when it comes to crafting and inventory systems. The game provides you with objectives, but doesn’t really give you any means of understanding how to accomplish them. It’s like throwing an astronaut out into the vastness of space without a spacesuit. The lack of explanation to some of the gameplay mechanics, especially crafting and advancing weaponry and upgrades, is a real downfall for the game as a whole. Players aren’t one to ask for you to hold their hand, but at least having a furthered tutorial would give players a better sense of how the world functions.

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In regards to functioning, let us break down the main core gameplay of No Man’s Sky. In the hours I spent playing the game, I found that there was a distinct pattern to every quest line which, within a few planets, became monotonous. You gather materials, you craft new supplies, you travel to a new planet, you repeat the process. It seems like fun, in theory, but the end result becomes this massive quest of scavenger hunt that has no real payoff. In addition to this, the game was riddled with functionality bugs which made what gameplay there was, difficult to cleanly experience. Crashes, crafting menu issues, freezes, and in a game that has no autosave functionality – that’s heartbreaking.

I enjoyed what time I did manage to spend in the world, but once I felt I had experienced all that No Man’s Sky had to offer me, I felt lost. What do you do when a game offers you no real end goal? A countless, endless sandbox with almost Pokemon Snap picture archiving of new world items, with only the reward of monetary units to draw merit? No Man’s Sky does have an end goal – to arrive at the center of the universe, but it’s so vaguely depicted that I just felt like I was running my own game. The visuals weren’t enough to keep me entertained, and what I did manage to see was not user friendly.

The color schemes are vastly jarring and often similar from planet to planet. I’m not colorblind, but I have friends who are, and this color pallet is composed of a lot of reds and greens. It doesn’t help that the actual HUD that is present is fairly small and fairly transparent, making vision impaired users lives much harder. FOV sliders apparently were provided in the coding for the PC version, but with the PS4 version had no such functionality. It would be more optimized for users if players could have change the color of the HUD to make it more visible from a distance.

There was fun hidden in this gem amongst the stars, but the spaceship wasn’t entirely accessible. I had fun when I didn’t do what the game directed me to do, when I went off into the vast frontiers and just explored. I got caught up in dogfights with space pirates, and got to see vast galaxies. In truth, while they may have been similar, I did have fun during moments. The soundtrack is phenomenal and there are hours and hours of visuals to explore. It’s hard to have fun though, when you’re so bogged down by programming issues, crafting requirements, and a combat system that seems like it favors the AI over the user. A universe that seems endless, yet contains only a handful of similar alien NPC’s for me to briefly interact with.

Wrap Up:

No Man’s Sky feels like a game that got released while it was still being built. They launched it without the full mission in mind, and thus, the passengers began to dial S.O.S. back to Huston and request a do-over. I know the struggles of being a designer and wanting to provide a polished, finished product on a time table, and so I want to commend Hello Games for what they did with No Man’s Sky. They accomplished a beautiful set of tools that they can be proud of. They delivered a set piece that would make most movie studios drool. The next step is to allow a gameplay system that functions with accessibility in mind.

The team is already hard at work cleaning up patches to fix the glitches, but they also need to be aware of everyone in their audience. A few settings changes are desperately needed: An Accessibility menu, a colorblind filter that crafts colors to fit vision concerns, and an optimized lock-on system for enemies that isn’t linked to an upgrade that’s hours invested into the game.

I desperately want to love No Man’s Sky, because I feel like it’s the game I’ve always wanted as a child. I can’t though because, in the words of Robin Williams, No Man’s Sky has given me:

“Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty-bitty living space!”

All the tools in the world can’t magically craft gameplay to be a fun experience. I hope they get all of these aspects sorted out and No Man’s Sky becomes fantastic in the coming months, but for now, I think I’ll just stay grounded until those tools are more refined.

Tech Talk: Button Mapping Gets Updated!

It’s been a while since I’ve ventured into the realm of console gaming.

The other day, while playing around with my PS4, I found that they’ve released some pretty awesome updates for game accessibility. In 2012, I was just discovering that game accessibility was a discussion that needed to be had. I hadn’t the slightest idea on where to start though, that was, until I found The AbleGamer’s Foundation. AbleGamers helped to inspire me to create this site and focus on a generation of gaming that would be inclusive, accessible, and fun for everyone.

I’m so happy to see that finally we’ve reached a generation of gaming where no matter HOW you play, you are given methods TO play. Inclusion vs. Exclusion.

Now, on to the topic at hand: BUTTON MAPPING and other ACCESSIBLE updates.

In the last few updates for PS4 and Xbox One they’ve included a segment in the settings called Accessibility Features. In the Accessibility Features there are a number of different menus which can aid you in customizing the game/system experience:

PS4:

PS4_Accessibility

TEXT TO SPEECH:

  • This function allows the user to use a Text to Speech function via the On Screen Keyboard. It’s not perfect as it currently only works via English language setting, but it does allow you to control the system with vocal commands and in messaging in some games. I will say that blind gamers, I want to hear from you because I can imagine you’ll rejoice in this new functionality.
  • It’s only available with some features though, so the limited functionality makes it a work in progress. It provides settings for reading speed and volume of narration [ 3 settings for slow speech, 3 for fast speech ] The functionality is just beginning and it’s going to be a massive boost for players with mobility and vision issues regarding texting, messaging friends, creating groups, etc.

    I can only hope that this’ll improve to provide more to game experiences as well.

ZOOM:

  • The Zoom feature allows the user to Zoom in on items on the screen to see them better. I can’t say how much I appreciate this aspect and it’s fairly simple to accomplish on the fly. You merely have to press the Square and PS button and initiate the Zoom feature. The D-Pad or Analog stick allows you to move the Zoom around the screen.
  • In games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Witcher 3, etc. I’m overjoyed by this function, because the menus/descriptions/writings are all done in such a small text that it’s often hard for me to see items in-game. The Zoom feature essentially pauses your current game, not allowing you to play the game as long as you’re zoomed in. It only provides one level of Zoom, but that’s more than enough to provide aid.

INVERT COLORS:

  • Invert Colors functions exactly like it’s namesake says, and while I would love for them to change “Invert Colors” to an overall “Colorblind Adjustment” feature – the feature works as described. It changes darks to lights, and lights to darks, reds to blues, etc. It can definitely help in certain areas as it functions in both menus and in-game. If you take screenshots though, you’re out of luck. The colors will stay static to the original.
  •  I will definitely be taking this functionality for a spin via games like Arkham Knight – where the Detective Modes of some of the characters can be highly disorienting and jarring. If the functionality works on these areas of the game, then I think we’ll have hit a home-run with it’s current functionality. Here’s hoping for further color pallet changes and I’m excited for this one!

LARGER TEXT:

  • This function increases the size of text in menus, and presumably in games. I haven’t given it a go in games that have smaller text, but I’m going to give Inquisition a go here in a bit and update if it works. It definitely does a number on being able to read smaller range text. I don’t have great vision and sitting from my couch the Larger Text function works wonders so I don’t have to sit closer/strain my eyes to see.

BOLD TEXT:

  • This function increases the visibility of text by making it bolder for the user. It’s pretty much self explanatory. I will say that this function, in it’s current state, only applies to certain aspects of the system like menus. The in-game text stays the same, but I would love to see this functionality expand to games. There are so many games I’ve played where text is too fancy or too small to read from far away.

 I will test this further, but for now it’s a step that needs further work to be polished.

HIGH CONTRAST:

  • This function increases visibility of text and buttons by, essentially dimming the screen or adjusting colors to make items more visible for players. This is a really nice feature and it works fairly smoothly in most cases. The small test I ran with it: It runs wonders for system menus, reducing the shimmer of the standard PS4 blue. Premium themes, however, are not affected – so I suppose simple is better?
  • In-Game the High Contrast works, but not great. You do get a bit of an adjustment and it is visible, but overall it’s nothing that adjusting your own Brightness and Contrast settings via the game couldn’t already do. It may not work on all games either, I merely used a small sampling of games, but for now it’s a welcome change from what we had before.

CLOSED CAPTIONS:

  • We’ve all heard of these before. The Closed Captions functionality is nothing ground-breakingly new, as it’s been used via TV shows and movies for years. I was excited about this, however, because I have deaf friends. Closed Captions options would do wonders for their overall enjoyment of gameplay, and I was hoping that it would outshine the standard “Subtitles” functions that most games offer. If it turns out it’s simply for videos and DVD services I’ll say this is an opportunity missed.
  • I’ll have to delve into this in dialogue heavy games, but essentially, it’s supposed to allow for not only subtitle text but sound text/qualifiers during games/movies/etc. I do appreciate the functionality menu being able to be customizable for the Closed Captions. Giving players the option to set color/font/text size/etc. is really a wonderful approach so as to keep the new features from being too intrusive on the game content.

BUTTON ASSIGNMENTS:

  • Here we are – the promised land. The holy grail that console players have been searching for in accessibility for years. This is it, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Well, sort of.

First, let’s start off with what PS4 does well. The functionality and ease of use in this button mapping system is genius and very well done. It allows for the user to pretty much remap any button to any other button. I can officially take the X button and change it to D-Pad Left, or the L2 trigger and change it to O if I want. The combinations are amazing, but why does this affect you – the gamer?

 

  • Well the functionality is easy to use. You can swap buttons pretty much on the fly by dropping in and out of game to make button configuration changes. The only downside is getting accustomed to your new controller baby. You now have your own personal ‘special-snowflake’ controller, and the game functionality is hard coded. It doesn’t recognize that you changed your X‘s with your Y‘s or your L3‘s with your R1‘s.
  • VERDICT: If you’re a Tutorial based gamer, you’re going to need to train yourself in your new setup, otherwise this is like walking on the moon for gamers. Is there more that can be done? Absolutely. Will there be more done? I certainly well hope so!

XBOX ONE:

NARRATOR:

  • Now I don’t have an XBOX ONE, so this video above is a nice buffer on exactly what the functionality of each piece does. Let’s start off with Narrator. Narrator is a lovely little device acting much like a digital reader for many. I am fascinated by this functionality [ and if it functions as well in-game as it does in this example…] because it speaks, quite literally, volumes to blind players who could use the benefits of a narrator function to navigate games, menus, etc.
  • The voice is very much like Tom-Tom or the old MS-DOS voice cast, but I’m going to hope that eventually they’ll give us other methods than just speed to adjust the narrator we wish to have.

  How cool would it be to have a celebrity voice narrate your XBOX experience?

MAGNIFIER:

  • This function is identical to the Zoom function on the PS4. However, there is something I’ve noticed that Magnifier does that Zoom does not. It has the ability to zoom further instead of being a static zoom setting. This could be really useful if I’m playing in a highly detailed game and need to spot an objective or a pathway and I can’t clearly see it. It works in menus though, and based on what the Support says about Magnifier it seems that it’ll pause all other controller functionality when Magnifier is on.

CLOSED CAPTIONS:

  • This function is exclusively for the XBOX video/DVD/Blu Ray functionality. You can create a custom captions style, but the fact that the functionality is limited simply to their video services is pretty short coming. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to deaf gamers who’d prefer if the subtitle/closed captions settings of games gave them the ability to not ONLY read TEXT, but SOUNDS, MOTIONS, etc. If a player knows more of their surroundings, the more they will be immersed in the game.
  • Come on XBOX, get on that bandwagon and make it happen. A cross-game Closed Captions function would make the accessibility market crack open for you guys. It does give the players access to text customization options, but if it’s only for video captions, then it’s falling short of what expectations ought to be.

HIGH CONTRAST:

  • This function is similar to the PS4, however, it’s minimal at best.
  • The only contrast it provides is making the dark areas darker and providing a bright turquoise with white borders instead of the standard color scheme. It also turns off any custom backgrounds and content, so as to ‘unclutter’ the visual space. I think it’s nice, but other than ease of reading it doesn’t change much. I hope it changes aspect like this In-Game as well as Menus.

BUTTON MAPPING:

  • In the battle for best Button Mapping setup, PS4 wins. The simplicity of the XBOX setup, while it may look nice, is only shown in Standard Controller. The Advanced features that extend past 1 configuration setup per user, are only extended to the Elite Controllers. This is something they don’t show you, but if you go to the XBOX ONE Support, you’ll see the Configuration information.

XBox_Buttons

  • The Ease of Use functions are simplistic and easy to use, but with the sort of minimal aspects you can adjust at a time, it’s a bit of a disappointment. I am proud to see that they took into account the need of button configurations, but asking players to buy secondary controllers to gain additional ease of use options for button mapping it’s a shame. I hope that, at some point, the button mapping options will just become standard, but until then, they’ve made a start and it’s lovely.

 

If you’re still interested in game accessibility and the strides that are being made I have two sites for you guys to take a look at. Both of these organizations are making insanely, fantastic strides in the realm of game accessibility:

AbleGamers Foundation: http://www.ablegamers.com/

Special Effects [ UK ]: http://www.specialeffect.org.uk/

Keep on gaming everybody, and remember:

One Input at a Time, We Aim for Access for All.

PNW RPG Research – RPG Therapy

In a previous blog post a few years ago, I mentioned the social and developmental benefits of roleplaying games.

Tabletop gaming has come a long way in terms of popularity, and I’ve found that there is research out there that supports the use of tabletop gaming as a form of therapy. I want to thank, Nate from WASD20, for bringing the following organization to my attention.

On January 29th, 2016 – PNWATRA comes to Portland, OR.

ATRA

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association specializes in providing rehabilitation and recreational therapy services to promote health and wellness in patients. I am fascinated by ATRA’s work, and I wish I could attend this year. Presenter, Hawke Robinson, will be presenting a discussion on RPG’s as a form of Modality Therapy.

It may not appeal to everyone, but I urge you to take a look at his former presentation, or even visit his seminar this year. He gives insight to how we can take the RPG community to a level where it goes from just a fun past time, to a meaningful, viable form of therapy for people with OT/PT/ST treatments.

The social interactions alone speak volumes and, I can say from personal perspective, that I would have loved to have RPG’s as a form of therapy in my youth. A patient dealing with modality complications can improve their confidence, social interactions, mobility, and interpersonal goals in recovery through RPG therapy.

The RPG community is vastly becoming viral, mobile, and inclusive via Facebook, Google+, and Youtube. If patients/players are wanting a more face to face interaction though, I highly recommend you check out this wonderful project being headed up near my own neck of the woods:

THE RPG TRAILER:  https://www.gofundme.com/rpgtrailer

This project is being headed by Robinson in Spokane, and unfortunately, he hasn’t seen enough traffic to make this happen. It’s been 7 months, and not much has changed. Hawke, I love what you’re doing sir and I want to see this come to life. RPGs offered so much for me as a child and, even now, as an adult.

It means so much to me that you’re passionate about this goal of inclusion and developmental research. I want to reach out and help promote this goal, because I know many more than myself could benefit from such a wonderful service. If you ever need a DM to help run games for this when the trailer is finally finished, please feel free to contact me.

God Bless you Hawke!

You make so many people’s lives better through this research.

It’d be a blessing and a joy to bring recreational enjoyment of RPG’s to others!

If there are others out there, who would love to experience 5E, Call of Cthulhu, or many other RPG’s and use it as a form of therapy, I recommend checking out the Tabletop RPG One-Shot Group or Absolute Tabletop, or – if you’re into Star Wars: The Tides of Change Roleplaying Game Club. All of these groups are highly inclusive and provide opportunities for online gaming experiences to all.

This loving, caring, fantastic group of individuals has really helped me open up socially, and I know that they’re willing to introduce and embrace others in the love of RPG’s.

Let’s help Hawke achieve his goal, and may your dice roll high!

 

Tech Talk: An Eye on the Ouya

Well, I took a vacation from posting – as some of you may have noticed. It’s the summer though, so you can’t blame me for getting out there in the ‘world‘ and living a little. Among the things I missed out on covering, one of the most thrilling pieces of news to come out of this was:

The Ouya

With a plethora of gaming consoles already on the market, and mobile gaming making nearly every phone in the world into a mobile gaming mecha, the prospect of new technology always intrigues me. Last week the Ouya was announced via a Kickstarter campaign, and it practically made my ears pop off with intrigue. If you’ve not heard of what the Ouya is I’ll detail it for you in brief, and I’ll include the nice shiny trailer video too:

Now what does this mean for the future of gaming? Well, in my opinion, it just means to make the gaming world more impressive. I don’t think the intention is to wipe out Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo. Those companies are megaliths of the industry, so I highly doubt it’ll put a dent in their revenue streams. The idea that the system is going to be using a ‘free-to-play’ and mobile business practice model is entirely up my alley!

I think I had a dream like this once… so glad it’s coming true!

I love hearing the word ‘developers’ used when discussing consoles. I think often times there’s so many hurdles to jump through to get a game onto a modern console these days. Developers feel intimidated by the high cost of publishing rights and the loss of artistic freedoms vs. company control.It’s no wonder that, in this day and age, mobile game development and the Android market system look so appealing.

The Ouya business model looks promising too:

The company will take a 30/70 percent split for any game you produce and want to port to console. This, to me, is fantastic. Here’s why. You get to craft and develop  a game for Android software, which is a highly accessible marketplace. As a developer, you’ll be pulling 70% back in revenue towards any sales of your game. This blows my mind folks!

Considering that there’s no manufacturing fees, no hardware fees, etc. because all of the games will be digital download/free to play streamed it makes so much more logical business sense from a development stance. If you cut out certain expenses, you can reduce the size of fees, and increase the productivity and quality of development. The specs don’t look remarkably fantastic, which is a bummer.

Sleek, refined, and shiny – seriously what else do I need?

If you’re a developer hoping for some Sony PS3 style next-gen graphics engine, then you’ll probably want to stand in line waiting for a publishing house to clear you. If you’re like me though, and a newbie developer, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’ll give me a chance to bring designs into folks homes, rather than porting them to flash computer sites.

Here’s the Ouya’s specs:

  • Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB Flash Storage
  • HDMI input that supports up to 1080p HD
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • USB 2.0
  • Wireless Controller w/ standard controls + touchpad
  • Android 4.0 

Now while I’m infatuated with the idea, of course I’m still skeptical. Any new technology is going to make a person nervous before they can actually see it in action. I’ve been hearing rumors that Valve may be releasing their own Steam Box console for homes as well and, if that’s the case, we many have a battle on our hands. The Steam market is already highly prolific and loved by many gamers and devs alike – so Ouya is going to have to claw to prove that their product is superior early on. My biggest suggestion to the development team would be this:

Includification.

Mark Bartlet, President/Founder of the AbleGamers Foundation, coined this term two days ago in an article he wrote for their site. I couldn’t be more in agreement with his statements, and if you want to read the full article you can. Essentially, Barlet discusses the term of ‘accessibility’ and sometimes how that term can make development seem difficult, frustrating, and down right hard. He decided at a recent conference that he’d try and devise a different approach to how developers look at games and coined this term.

Includification means:

1. Making sure content includes everyone, regardless of ability. 

2. Design so that everyone can enjoy and appreciate the fruits of creative labor.

In the case of the Ouya, I see tons of potential here to be played with. The idea that the entire system is open to tweaking and hardware reconfiguration, peripherals can be toyed with, etc. It’s like a game developer’s LEGO set! I think if the Ouya staff, and future developers for the console, focus on the idea of includification the console will succeed. The games, and hardware, need to be versatile – flow with the accessible punches so that it doesn’t become an ‘exclusives’ war like the major console brands.

If I were designing for the Ouya, I’d be design for kids like him. Inspiring!

Gaming should be for everyone, and if developers and hardware designers can work together I don’t see why games can’t include ALL types of players. I can’t wait to see what comes of this system, and you’ll bet I’ll probably own one at some point. The price point is set at around $99.00 at the moment, and that’s a wonderful price for the plethora of games they wish to display near launch time. There seem to be tons of major developers in support of the project, and so I can only say I’m one of the indies waiting to get my hands dirty with this new IP.

Developer Profiles? Well that just makes it all the more impressive!

Here’s to you Ouya! You’re shaking up the status-quo and I hope that it brings game development to new levels! You’ve already raised up past $5 MILLION dollars with 3 WEEKS to go – so RUN with these funds and MAKE it happen! THIS DEVELOPER would love to see it in his living room – that’s for certain. If you believe that the Ouya is the future of in-home gaming – feel free to stop by their Kickstarter and dump a little love to their console dreams!

Sincerely,

Chad K. aka Gastrogamer

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.

E3 Impressions: Nike+ vs. Wii Fit U

Well it’s becoming an age of digital exercise isn’t it? The outdoors has become a scary vortex of something called ‘sunlight’ that burns the skin of nerds everywhere isn’t it? Well have no fear! The superheroes over at Microsoft and Nintendo intend to keep you agoraphobia ridden folks happy and healthy with their newest edition to their exercise video game roster. Microsoft has teamed up with Nike, and Nintendo intends to expand their Wii Fit program. I personally have never been one to think that my video game console could be used as a digital trainer and assistant in my health program, but I think I’m starting to see a trend here. Couch potatoes be damned – the exercise games have come full circle so prepare to get your butts moving instead of your fingers children!

Hey – they’ve got shoes, why not have a game that uses them?

How to start this then, well let’s look at the general use of video games as a participant in our physical activity. It sounds like a neat idea right? I mean, sure, for years I thought the only use for my console was to train my thumb muscles and brain to protect me from zombie attacks. I’m now realizing that with these added games on the market, I might actually be able to work out more than my thumbs. I personally never got into this idea, because I felt like it was just going to be a gimmick sale and that it would pass just as fast as an old high school fad. I was wrong, oh so wrong.

Wii Fit U – so U don’t have to!

So let us begin shall we?

Note: Keep in mind that I’m aware these games may not be suited for many mobility impaired gamers. I’m hoping that by looking into this area of gaming, the industry might look into how to introduce physical therapy and low-intensity exercise programs into these games in later iterations. There are so many exercise games out there: Zumba, Just Dance, Dance Central, Active, etc. I just hope that companies focus on exercise for ALL players and not just activities for MOST players, and with that I move on…

Microsoft’s Nike+

Compete with your friends online. This way you don’t feel self conscious.

Well they did it. Microsoft really impressed me this time. They joined up with one of the biggest juggernauts in workout apparel and content, Nike, and managed to form a game around your personal health. Impressive guys. Impressive. I mean I saw what Microsoft had to offer with Active for Kinect, but I was still on the fence, because it didn’t seem as effective. Well Nike+ just set me straight and I can’t wait to actually get this game for my family [ of course this means I’ll actually have to buy a 360 now. Woo! ] It seems like, in comparison to other games, Nike+ will be a virtual trainer. It will help you keep track of calories, heartbeat, jump height, etc. It will track everything and for folks who are wishing to lose weight, gain a little more muscle mass, etc. can definitely benefit from seeing that rewarding progress tracker. Oh, and if you think that’s cool, you can port the info to your phone – to keep yourself on track on the go [ outside! ] I just ask that developers look at gamers of all kinds. Fat, skinny, mobility impaired, etc. We all need exercise to stay healthy, and we all need ways to participate in doing just that.

Wii Fit U

 

Well Wii Fit. You’ve been the captain of the ‘in-home’ fitness genre for years now haven’t you? I remember my first experience with the Wii Sports Boxing and how much that used to make me feel like I’d had a real workout by the end of it. Well, with a new console, comes a new rendition of Wii Fit. Introducing Wii Fit U. It seems as though it’s designed as an advanced version of the Wii Fit program, but with some added benefits. What I found that I loved about the Wii Fit U in comparison, was that it allows for mobile activity. What I mean by this is, say a friend wants to come over and watch a movie, but you’ve still got 5 minutes of workout to go. You can port the Wii Fit program from your Wii U to the controller and it’ll display on the screen. This leaves the main TV open for personal use by others. I didn’t see this in the Nike + Kinect Trainer [ but hey XBox Smart Glass might change this. Wink Wink Microsoft! ] The Wii Fit U also comes with a portable pedometer to carry around.

It may not seem like much but that dual screen functionality is going to help!

I’m not sure how much the Nike+ “fuel bands‘ cost, but I’m uncertain if one of them comes with Nike+Wii Fit U has the edge here.

I will say, I feel like Kinect was more physically accommodating – but Wii Fit U gets the mobile usage edge at the moment. We’ll have to see later.

Overall, I love that game companies want to get us all active. I’m excited to see these games affect our daily lives, but will these drag me away from games like AC III, Watch Dogs, or Black Ops II? Probably not, but I’ll be glad that they’re available for when I want to work out at home! So keep a look out for these – it looks like it’ll be a sweaty holiday season at this rate! Happy gaming folks! Much love to you all!

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!