Sorry folks, no review this week. Sadly my iPad came down with a severe case of “child-itus”, and the screen looked like a gorgeous spider web. Luckily, OWC just happens to offer a fantastic Turnkey Repair Program for the iPad 2. So while our wondrous team of install technicians make my device all pretty again and resurrect it from taking a critical hit from my level 2.5 Human Child, I figured I’d put some thoughts out there until I can get back to my regularly scheduled reviewing.
This is an article I’ve wanted to write for a long time. And, frankly, I expect a lot of pushback on this article in terms of conflicts of opinion, so here’s the disclaimer: I am by no means doing anything but representing my own personal opinion and this piece is nothing but entertainment and me stirring the proverbial pot in hopes of making some developers cringe and say “yeah… he’s got a point.”
I’ll just come out and say it: The current state of gaming is not really what it used to be. I come from a time where being a gamer meant something much different than it does now. Being a gamer meant you had skills with a joypad. Super Metroid speed runs, Ghouls and Ghosts (yeah, I’m a major Capcom fanboy) … just beating the game and going through the second time meant you were a BEAST. Sure being a gamer also meant that there was a good chance you were a basement dwelling shut-in, honing your skills that gave you little or no actual value in society. But hey, who cared about that? You were too busy trying to be the cash winner by beating Vectorman and finding the winning cartridge. While that may be still the case for a lot of us, casual gaming like Farmville, the Wii, and *sigh* Candy Crush Saga, have opened up gaming to a much wider audience. Because of this, some other companies that normally would have no interest in gaming, now do.
So, why? Why should I be so interested in PC/Mac gaming with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on the market? With new hardware coming out for the home computer market that looks so good… I can’t bring myself to drop FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS on an Xbox One. I just can’t do it. Like Vader, not being able to kill Luke. It would be like volunteering my hand into a jar of acid. No thanks, pal. It seems like a terrible, terrible choice when brand new games like Titanfall, have ALREADY out-scaled the hardware, and can’t be run in 1080p. It has to be run in 720p. Brutal. Five hundred bucks, and I’m already playing a game that can’t run at full resolution without lagging out the console? Excuse me while I hold back a long rant of obscenities.
OK great, new hardware targeted at desktop computing. What is it and why should I care? Well, you might not, truthfully – especially if you get easily nauseous or carsick. If you haven’t been paying attention to the community, you might have missed game industry luminary John Carmack (co-creator of Quake) left his studio id Software to join what started as a Kickstarter project the Oculus Rift. In case that giant slap to the face didn’t sink in: JOHN FREAKIN’ CARMACK QUIT ID SOFTWARE…. TO WORK ON VR GOGGLES. That’s hugely important. That event in and of itself should be a mark on anyone’s “timeline of gaming history”.
So, yeah, VR goggles. “Oh come on, Tony. That’s been done. Just let me use my monitor”…… Go, leave, shoo, or wake up and smell the freshly pressed latex and rubber fittings of pure immersion. The Oculus Rift is such a wonderful piece of hardware (except its low resolution, but hey, it’s still in development!). Before we go further, please watch this video combining the Oculus Rift, and another glorious piece of hardware, the Virtuix Omni. All right, digest that awe-inspiring video? Great. Let’s move forward. This isn’t the only hardware in this area, and other movement based controllers are coming, the Wizdish, to name another.
So it’s really obvious that gaming is moving toward letting the hardcore gamers embed themselves in the experience and make it such a much richer experience. Well that’s great. But how much immersion am I really going to get, “thrown into” Minecraft or Team Fortress 2? Well. Not much. While I really look forward to running around in Minecraft, it’s going to be quite a bit of a novelty, and I’d likely quickly return to a standard monitor. So why is immersive gaming relevant? Gaming graphics are about to kick it up a notch again.
Let’s talk about the next generation of MMORPGs (where a majority of the people interested in this immersion are sitting). Top of my list is Black Desert (Animated Blood Warning). A Korean-born sandbox MMO with an imminent release in the western hemisphere, it’s really got my eye, and I’m sure it’s about to get yours. Take a look at these screenshots and we’ll continue after.
Hopefully now you get where I’m going with this whole immersion hardware, and smiling while thinking about running in place with your new Omni, looking around in a mind-blowingly-pretty fantasy world, while wielding a sword by swinging your Wiimote communicating with a Bluetooth sensor (plenty of windows based projects looking at this). I was drooling about this concept … until a few days ago. “Wait. Now you’re telling me you’re not excited?” you ask. *Sigh*… I am excited… but I took a major punch to the jaw. Hopefully you’re sitting down: FACEBOOK PURCHASED THE OCULUS RIFT PROJECT!
I admit that it’s probably in the long run not going to end up with “Billy Bob” inviting me to his eighth garage concert and ruining my immersion, or that rage-inducing stream of “pokes” filling my screen while I’m trying to slay a dragon. But I can’t imagine that there’s going to be ZERO connectivity. On top of that Facebook isn’t exactly known for its open-source nature. So what about our indie-game developer friends? Does that mean we aren’t going to see Oculus Rift enabled games since the royalty fee’s will be too high? I truly hope not. It’s really aggravating. One quote floating around the net is “I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.” Please, developers. This is my plea to you: Stop it. Knock it off. Quit selling out on fantastic projects and better the community instead of fattening wallets.
Facebook purchases aside, gamers want to be immersed. We want to play together and not be bound by restrictions such as quest lines, storylines, and locked paid content. We really just want to be a part of a virtual community and smell that mead, taste our charred dragon legs, and feel the impact of getting knocked out of the air by trampling monsters. If we didn’t we wouldn’t see MASSIVE success of the RPG-world Anime genre. Accel World, Sword Art Online, .hack// and to a lesser extent Ragnarok, and Tower of Druaga, are all massively successful series profiting off the fact that this… this is what gamers want to be doing with their Friday nights. I’m torn on where gaming is today, half of me is thankful that there is more of a casual audience, more people are gamers, and that’s great. But what that has attracted, is a never-ending stream of invites to play something on Facebook distracting me.
Another genre that is really gaining followers is the zombie-survival class of titles. While it’s nothing new, and titles like Zombie panic, and Left 4 Dead were solid games, similar to the Sandbox MMO genre, this too, is moving towards a more free-form experience. This all really started with the bug-plagued giant Day-Z (no really, its eye-blisteringly awful. I’d rather down a bottle of glass shards than play another hour of Day-Z, the Arma II mod, just watch this). Read my review of World War Z, and look up the on-the-horizon title of Dying Light. Where your choices… are yours to make. While event driven story takes place, the amount of free-form game play is what wants me to come back again and again.
So Day-Z was a great concept. It was such a great concept and was the single most important gaming event in 2012 in my book. But it was awful, and it was buggy. It was a mod of a game not really intended to have that done. So what happened next? The creators of Arma II hired the Day-Z maker, and gave him a team of developers. Great. Day-Z Standalone was conceived. Still in early access, the developer has now taken his money, and quit the project. Thanks! No, really, thanks! I had high hopes and you stomped them out like they were an impending forest fire, way to go, Smokey.
Thankfully there are other really really, REALLY pretty games coming like The Division.
On a side note video games aren’t the only thing on the topic. Other types of games are still going strong, for example: A little wile ago I wrote an article on the iOS Magic 2014 game. This Sunday, ten of OWC’s card-slinging duelists will be in our multipurpose room at the crack of dawn, doing a draft tournament and getting our game on for hours. The cost per person? About $9. That gets people enough cards for a short (40 card) deck, and hours of gaming. That’s way more cost effective than say, the movies, the zoo, going to get a nice dinner, or grabbing a couple Blu-rays.
I hope I haven’t ranted on TOO much, but I have just one final thing to say that really comes from the heart: If you have a genuine idea, to make something fantastic, follow your dream. Make it a reality and make the gaming community a better place to be a part of and avoiding handing it to whoever has the biggest checkbook. Until next week, onward and upward gamers!