games


Time for WebGL? Quicker virtual worlds in Unity3d

This weekend I helped a friend get a network connected Unity3D environment up and running. I have, of course, done this a lot. In fact it has generally been the focus of most of the dev projects the past 7 years. I guess that means I am past the ‘expert’, know it all, part and into mastery, when everything reminds you of how much you have yet to learn, in the vastness of a subject.
This time though I was faced with the deprecation of the Unity3D web plugin. I had seen the draggle facing out of the incredibly useful and powerful plugin due to the web browser developers taking away support gradually. I have used Unity3D for many years because of its flexibility in allowing me as a developer and creator to have the potential to target lots of running platforms from a single base project. The WebGl option has sat there for a while and I have experimented with the basics of what Unity3D creates. The problem is, when all the core routines are in the plugin, you provide your layer of code to make it do something. The Plugin is a collection of API’s and routines. When you switch to WebGL Unity3D, or any platform, has to provide a lot of the underlying function to support your application as part of the package. Also the plugin would typically have some permissions given to it by the user, that a WebGL page with a stack of javascript tucked away in a compressed file does not have.
Consequently I was not really expecting, without a lot of hacking, for my basic set of tools to work to allow me to create a standard multi user environment, and have it still run without the user having to do very much, other than access a web page. i.e. no install.
Surprisingly is did work though. I use Photon, and its default Worker demo as the basis to test things. When I pushed to WebGL instead of the web player it actually worked. There may be some backing off on which protocol it is using, as it negotiates the best way to talk to the other clients, but it worked without any hassle.
PUN demo altered and working
Interestingly it also worked, well nearly, on the iPhone. The Web plugin was never designed to work on any smartphones or tablets, instead you build specific apps for those devices. However, the basic demo actually started and connected on Safari on the Iphone. The problem was that the demo uses the old GUI code and not the fancy new Unity 5.0 user interface. So it has no idea about responding to touch inputs unless you put extra code into it. I may well give that a go to see where this deployment option is going. If it does actually work (despite not being supported) it further eradicates the need to package and build apps. People get the up to date version on serving.
Despite working straight away locally, I had a few more problems when i just placed the WebGL on my 1and1 server. The packaged up versions of all the code, with mine and Unity is stored in a several files a .jsgz, .memgz and .datagz which the unity loader.js wants to pull in. It decompresses them in memory at runtime. However the files were listed a .js, .mem and .data in the index.html. I think the generator looks for uncompressed versions first and then looks of the zipped versions. Somewhere in that I was get an error, but when I changed the generated index.html to look for the compressed files directly it actually worked.
I suffered from some caching problems with the .html file though, that made it seem it was not working. Having changed the internal URL’s and reloaded the page it still failed. Looking at the source I saw it had not changed. A shift/reload used to force a non cache version of the page, but that did not work, neither did closing safari. Renaming index to index2 did the trick. Some of this may be edge of network caching or 1and1, or the browser juts being too much in control. It is an old problem many developer have had over the years as the web has matured.
The good news, then, is that the Photon Unity Network – Free samples, with the Worker scene seem to connect across web browsers in a peer to peer way, just as the old one used to with the plugin, but now in WebGL. I have not tried Unity’s new networking but I assume it will work also. If the packets flow then that means there is some hope for voice, though it is a packet hog and the packages are few and far between to do voice chat.
It actually took longer to get a shared project up and synching than it did to get a custom little virtual world working.
There will be a lot of details that don’t work, how graphics are rendered, lighting etc. The entire, mature Unity3D plugin has to be rebuilt in bits of javascript, which sounds crazy, for each application. However, there are some clever optimisation routines that only provide the bits of the code that are needed, it seems. So everything old is new again and I can get back to making online environments quickly for customers and projects.

Happy 2016 – The Future is here – Just Cause 3

We have arrived at 2016, it seems only yesterday that it was the turn of the millennium. 2000AD used to seem like the far flung future when I was about 10 years old. 1977 sat in a cinema watching the Star Wars universe explode on screen. As someone who lives and works on future and emerging technologies and trends the new year is always a time to take stock and see where the World is going. In 2015, after a few contracts and good paying work disappeared I was faced with a rather bleak future and no pipeline. It seems that every project, however clever, interesting or potentially lucrative that I have worked on in the past few years have all reached some sort of impasse. Rather than dwell on that our Family holiday in August gave me a flash of inspiration to try something a little different. Many of you who read this blog, or follow me on Twitter and Facebook will have been deluged with the results of that inspiration. That was of course writing and publishing Reconfigure. This near future science fiction is of course an adventure in ideas and concepts, but it is based on a lot of real tech and the real trajectory that it can take. It is also based in how it feels, the short comings of the tech experience, the human errors we make and the fragility of human experience. A struggle to stay on the right path. Roisin also uses a lot of game brain to solve things with a bit of flare and style. I have been reminded of her spirit this holiday by playing my xmas gift Just Cause 3. This is a prime example of free roam fun. You can explore so many ways to deal with situations, or you can just float around enjoying the amazing terrain.
The main character Rico, is dealing with a tyrant and having to pick away at the various bases, gaining them back under his control. Jets, helicopters, parachutes, wing suits, boats, guns, grenades, and the all important tether that he can fire to pull things around, all feature.
Just Cause 3
As I play it, it has can be frantic and tense at key moments, but it can also be relaxing and just virtual tourism really. Ascending a mountain monastery just to wing suit down the mountain, because you can is as much a part of it as the scripted missions. There is a world, but you can do anything, within certain limits. It is my enjoyment of this style of game that has led to even trying to write a book. There are no rules, apart from the rules that need to be set to make it make sense. Those rules are there to be subverted by some interesting twists and actions.

The book has yet to solve my problem of not having any serious pieces of work bringing in any money yet, and it may never do that, but it is there, very real and something I am very proud of. It has generated a spark of inspiration for me, a rejuvenation and belief in what can be achieved. That spark ignited into the writing of the follow up Cont3xt which is due very shortly out there. I have pushed even deeper in the the real technology of virtual and augmented reality but taken it further, but in a way that makes sense. So these books, and another one after that will act as my prediction for the future. Whether they provide anything else for my personal future I will just have to leave to luck, advertising and good friends sharing their existence.

So personally I have gone from a pretty depressing state of affairs, not seeing a future, to trying to create one for everyone else to immerse and enjoy. It has been a whirlwind and I will keep on riding this one. I will of course stay on the look out for some more ‘normal’ ways to make a living. It all adds to the richness of the experience though.

I wish everyone a happy, productive, fun and futuristic 2016. If in doubt just wing it, with style 🙂

Every advert counts – Fast cars work too

Whilst waiting for Halo5 to drop last night at midnight I spent a little time on Forza 6 creating another custom paint job. This time for, yes, you guessed it Reconfigure It is part of my immersion in my own product to use it in places that I already have done similar things and provide a little twist on the traditional.
I have done Eightbar (in 2007), Epredator, Feeding Edge, Choi Kwang Do and Cool Stuff Collective decals in the past. It is a complicated process involving layering stickers and resizing them not just paining and uploading. It makes for an interesting challenge to get the spirit of an image if not the exact replica.
Here is a lambo done up with Reconfigure.
Reconfigure book paintwork on a lambo
Reconfigure book paintwork on a lambo
Reconfigure book paintwork on a lambo
Reconfigure book paintwork on a lambo
Reconfigure book paintwork on a lambo
I also recorded a lap of Brands Hatch just for a bit of fun too.

Whilst this car will appear, and show Reconfigure when I race, and also appear on a drivatar racing in someones living room I doubt anyone will buy the book on the basis of this, but it is what I do, so I did 🙂
I was attempting to promote the book and get up the sales rank a little by natural sharing.Many thanks to those people who have supported me with a purchase. It means a great deal.
Having always tried to help and support other people in their projects and sharing all sorts of things that may be interesting to colleagues and followers out there I found I succumbed to having to advertise. The book numbers could reach a tipping point with just the people who I have worked with or shared time with popped £1.99/$2.99 in the help epredatar out project. People don’t just buy books, or ebooks for no reason. They are not impulse buys. You have no idea what is in it, unless there are reviews, or people are saying good things about it. Me just wibbling on and enthusing probably sounds more like a noise of “here he goes again”. However, this is a book based on metaverse concepts, on software and game design as well as adventure. When I help people out I don’t expect anything in return so I feel guilty for even asking. Anyway, Facebook ads have been my first forays into the weird world of online targeted ads.
I created 3 ads each with a very low maximum spend. One is a page like for the Facebook page. The other two are direct links to the Amazon book. One targeted at US and Canada the other to the UK. It will be interesting to see what happens there. My numbers are such, at the moment, I can see a one to one relationship between and add and a potential sale.
I had targeted people into tech, my old company, Unity development and Second Life and virtual worlds. It obviously worked as I got sent the ad myself, as did elemming.
Got advertised at by my own advert. So I meet the demographic
I didn’t click on my own ad as its the click to go to Amazon that calls off against the ad budget. It is a pity it does not relate to the sale of a copy, but Facebook is just pushing a URL and the shop is Amazon.
It’s early days, and I am non established author. I like to think I have a bit of reputation as a forward thinker who might make something interesting. I welcome all feedback, good and bad. I will try some other advertising options as the months go on. This is all an experiment after all 🙂

Star Wars Battlefront Beta

Last night I took a few hours off re-reading and tweaking my Reconfigure Book reminding myself that there is still world out here. I downloaded the public beta of Star Wars battlefront.
It is very impressive! All the Battlefront games have been good, the mix of mass open warfare, vehicles and a sense of scale all work really well with the iconic Star Wars settings. There is a lot of dying and a lot of respawning, but that is how it works. It is an infantry battle and you can treat yourself as expendable.
The beta has two planet surfaces, the second bing the ice planet Hoth. Imperial AT-AT stomp towards the base. Sentry guns and tunnels, trenches and rock faces make up the scene. Tie fighters and A-wings battle overhead. I didn’t get to fly anything, which is my preference, but that will come in time.
As a rebel fighter in the first game, seeing the imposing AT-AT slowly stomping forwards and blasters just bouncing off, backed up by stormtroopers was impressive, but suddenly Darth Vader turned up, light sabre deflecting shots as he carved through us. It was incredibly exciting. This is not my video but it does show the scene very well and an amusing moment with another hero.

The single player survival game has waves of Stormtroopers coming at you in close and personal on a very rocky and brilliantly lit Tattoine. I seemed to see the troopers up a lot closer and saw the impressive animation system at work on the NPC characters in this mode.
The game will of course be huge, but it is good to see it is as good as this already. I don’t think any of us who grew up with Star Wars in the late 70’s will ever get tired of the buzz of being in these environments. With this and Elite Dangerous on the Xbox One we have some tween memories to relive and now colour in.

Full Xbox One elite Dangerous

Over a year ago I got to play the beta, on the PC, of Elite Dangerous as one of the early backers on Kickstarter. I wrote a number of things about it and the Oculus Rift DK2 experience too.
I also got to Elite Dangerous on the Xbox One with the preview programme. This has been running for a good few months as this post where I mashed it with predators fighting in Mortal Kombat was back in July.
Elite Dangerous is now fully live on Xbox One. Having spent way more time on the preview version than on the full PC/Mac version I had built up a nice little ship and a decent buffer of cash. I was expecting to be reset completely for the full release. I had see reports we would get a cash value for our modules. Instead though, and thankyou Frontier, my ship is intact, as are my modules and my stats. The cargo I had on board suddenly said it was stolen, but that is a minor thing.
It may be some sort of gaming heresy, or cause a flame war, but I am enjoying the couch, controller big TV experience more than being sat at my laptop, even with a complicated stick arrangement. It may be because getting the right buttons to work with the VR headset and not be able to see the keyboard, the difficulty in driving the galaxy map in that configuration meant the console version seems slicker and easier. The PC has the ability to map controls to any of the multitude of buttons, for any control stick. The console only has the one controller type, (and the new fancy expensive controller too). The commands are mapped onto the buttons as menus. e.g. if you tap b it fires the boosters, if you hold b you get an onscreen menu with four directions to select landing gear, cargo scoop, lights etc. It means that you don’t have to hold that many things in your head as to which button to press. So if you don’t play for a few weeks you can still go back and the basics are there, but the on screen helps remind you. It was another problem with the VR headset on the PC that you lose any visual memory. You have to rely on finger position. Imagine trying to touch type and not be able to glance at the keys. Unless you are a real pro touch typer we all look at the keys at some point. It augments what our brain needs. The putts players of Elite will of course just know and hold the information, they will become like touch typers. I jump from game to game and I am past needing to memorise the complexity I think. It used to be fun to have obscure collections of keys but now it is less so.
Having got to keep the expensive collection of modules on the ship I got back to playing the game again last night. It hit one of this rare moments when the missions, the place in the vast depths of place and the time to just work it all aligned. It had taken months to kit the ship and get to the point of having a couple of million in the bank. As with all RPG’s there is grind required. You teeter on the edge of oblivion for a while. Then you plateau, before a new set of challenges make themselves known.
I started the session with this
Start of a productive few hours on elite dangerous
A balance of 2.4million in cash and a ship that had about 5.6 million on upgrades. After just an hour of doing a few missions in the rich vein I found it was.
Result of a few hours on elite dangerous
A balance on 3.1million. Nearly a million credits. Adding 30% to the amount I already had. If only real life skills generated this sort of return 🙂
The whole Elite experience may not be for everyone, it will be interesting how the console generation take to it. It is a game that requires a bit of a slog. The monotony is something that is part of what makes it so endearing. I do get lost in most games and films, this one even more so. I do engage in combat, when I have to, but prefer a more self defence than pirate attitude to that, most of the time. It is a pity I can’t have a crossover to Commander Epredator on the PC version. Each Commander Epredator inhabits the same universe at an economic and server level apparently. The Xbox is really a meta shard where just xbox users frequent.
Predlet 2.0 was badgering me to be able to play it too. I have set him up an account, though I just left him to it to see what the initial experience was like. After a few minutes he was back on Jurassic World Lego so I think the initial onboard experience may not be the sort of thing console owners are used to. Having been in on the beta there were very little instructional or intro parts. Training missions grew, but you just got used to fiddling around with the ship to see what happened. So For me I have a mental model of how it all works. I am still a little confused at the super cruise over shooting and rapidly accelerating at some of the space station targets but it feels like it is there to keep your attention.
Aside from the whole ultraHD thing that high end PC’s are starting to do I can see no difference in the loo and feel of the game across the platforms. So the ‘it’s better on PC’ can only really come down to how much you spend on your gaming rig. Spend more and it’s better, naturally.
I have also found that now I can multitask, as I tweeted last night, whilst travelling some of the longer distances I get to read a few pages of Reconfigure. Whilst you might get interdicted on a supercruise (that sounds odd, but it’s the words they use) I have enough time and enough defence capability to not worry too much. I put the kindle down and pick up the pad. It seems Elite Dangerous is crying out for a second screen app. It would be great to check things during hyperspace and super cruise whilst keeping the onscreen space view. The VR experience has the ability to look left and right and the terminals pop up with info, floating for you. The Xbox does that too with freelook, clicking the right stick moves to freelook. Though in reality its easer to lock and zoom into the screens. In VR you can lean forward to see the AR screens better. The photos above are of the locked in view not the floating view. So a second screen view of all that, the ships systems, reconfiguring things etc would be a great addition. I know I would use it. Of course that would not work so well on the PC and Mac, though with the Xbox becoming a Windows 10 machine the crossover might get easier?

Forza 6 – 10 years in the making

Today Forza 6 arrived on the Xbox One. I have been a long time fan of Forza. It is now in its 10th year. A decade of what, at the time it came out, was considered to be a poor mans Gran Turismo. It has, in my opinion, surpassed all expectations and been a fantastic franchise. The driving feel and the exhilaration is always spot on. I have also been a big fan of their decal customisation. It was little annoying moving to the xbox one and not having my various logos I had created for forza 5 a few year ago. I still carried on and re-created most of my ‘art’ work on the cars in 5. I had a nice cool stuff collective TV logo back on the 360 and forza 4. However instead I created A Choi Kwang Do logo.
I was very pleased, once I got back to the main menu on Forza 6 to see the custom decals and the layouts for specific cars were available to import from Forza 5 now.
I did my first races in a very old impreza using one of the community designs
Forza 6
Now though I am back in a 2005 Impreza WRX complete with some feeding edge words and a logo on the back long with a bright CKD logo. So thankyou Turn 10 🙂 It now means my drivatar will be appearing random races advertising CKD across the world. Also any network race I am in I can show off the logo for my martial art of choice and also advertise feeding egde at the same time. It is an odd concept that there is still a lot of mileage in (Excuse the pun)
Forza 6 CKD scooby
It was also quite amusing to hear James May and Richard Hammond’s voices, albeit labelled at “Automative Journalist” as opposed to Top Gear presenters. I guess all the voice work was done before the demise of Top Gear as it previously existed.
**Update here is some video of one of the cars in action. It looks better in the flesh as this has been Xbox DVR captured, sent onedrive then uploaded to youtube 🙂

***Update
A longer video using the Forza vista, some driving and a photo of a newer scooby, with a black spoiler to represent a belt and orange wing mirrors to represent a belt tag 🙂

**Update 21/9 I noticed during night races another level of detail that impressed me. I have not noticed headlights behave quite so headlighty before. These my car had different bulbs and cast a different light to the other car on the track with me.
Forza6 headlights
I am going to reward myself with a massive driving session this weekend after I complete writing this #reonfigure novel first draft. Near there, the chequered flag is waving and I can see the finish line.
**Update I just finished the novel !

Space travel and fighting – Elite plus Mortal Kombat Predator

I occasionally like to flow between gaming experiences and think what they might be like as a whole. I have been playing more Elite Dangerous, this time on the early access version on Xbox One. Obviously I have talked about the game before and the kickstarter,and the oculus rift etc. Strangely though I am finding the “sofa version” even more engaging. There is a lot of sitting around in flying form place to place. It works really well on the joypad and the big TV too.
Yesterday one of the other game styles, the one on one fighting game finally got the character upgrade/DLC that I mistakingly thought was there are release. Mortal Kombat has been trickling out the DLC and now the Yautja/Predator set has arrived. Obviously I have quite an affinity with the character and the lore and I think they have done a really good job.
So I did this little xbox montage mashup showing one of characters in the story flying to a place to take part in a (gory comic book violence) fight. It was all recorded by just shouting at the kinect “xbox record that” then using upload studio in the xbox to stitch it together.
I used the training room for the predator vs predator fight, as it looks a bit like a docking bay. Its more of a short poem than a feature film, ideal for our internet attention spans. It shows of some of the nice predator work, both with and without facemask. Some plasma cannon action in there too.

Of course like all great expansive games like elite it would be great to be able to get out of the ship and do stuff like this. I guess that may come though No Man’s Sky may beat them to that 🙂

Alone in a crowd – RPGs and MMORPGs

Free roaming role playing games are one of the most intriguing style of games and experiences to engage with IMHO. I use the word experience, not just games, in order to encapsulate the social environments and metaverse’s such as Second Life, Hi Fidelity et al. However I also did not just restrict that first sentence to include online massively multiplayer/multiuser online. There have been two significant release the past few weeks that are both huge expansive free roaming role playing games The Witcher III and Elder Scrolls online – Tamriel Unlimited. . I have been struck by a few experiences that I have had in these environments. Ones that reach past just playing a game or getting some points/gold/kudos/screenshots.

If you are not a gamer, or don’t engage with these sorts of things they may seem almost identical. They are certainly in a genre and have lots in common.
Witcher III - Sunset
Witcher III – Xbox one
Elder Scrolls Sunset
Elder Scrolls – Xbox One

As you can see in both you are able to take a break from any action and just appreciate the environment. This is not intended to be a graphic comparison though the slightly different styles, yet still aiming for the “real” is noticeable in these two examples.
Witcher III is a single player game. It is a story driven plot. A very long story it would seem too. Like all role playing games it rewards your play with new skills, levels and abilities as you level up. You gradually unlock the very expansive world with all its challenges and new types of monsters and bad guys as you progress through the main storyline. This generally involves traversing the world searching and fighting in various ways. It has a 3rd person style of free form combat. You choose the type of weapon and various potions and armour to give you a fighting chance against increasingly higher level creatures. You can just wander off the plot and the beaten track and see what you bump into. However this particular RPG reminds you constantly that whilst you might feel you have learned a lot there is still more levelling up to do as you arrive at a place in a world full of things that can cut you down with a single strike. Level systems in RPG’s generally appear as numbers on the display. When you have spent 20 hours playing and just reached level 7 and you wander into a clearing with a large beast that says level 35, where level progression is non linear and requires exponentially more effort and time per level you know you are in trouble. Witcher reminds you that no matter how heroic and skilled you thing you are, there is always something bigger and better. It has a grittiness to the entire game that brings a sense of foreboding, yet it is still entertaining. However you are very much alone and left to your own devices.

Elder Scrolls Online – Tamriel Unlimited is a very different feel and a very different experience. It is Skyrim (the one player RPG from a few years ago), reborn into a persistent Massive Multiple Player Online experience. Skyrim had been noted for it’s random generation of dungeons combined with its epic land size and the variation of things that you ended up doing in the virtual environment. Elder Scrolls has both a 3rd person and a 1st person view. The latter lets you see the world, and just your hands/ weapons. It lets you use each and on its own, weapon and shield combinations. The weapon can be ranged magic in one hand and a sword in the other. You travel the world finding missions from non player characters. Most of these involve collecting, running to and fro and just like the Witcher III putting things together and crafting items you need, potions, armour, magic, food etc.
Elder Scrolls Online

So unlike Witcher III your character is in the environment with lots of other people. Just like the other giants of the MMORPG genre, World Of Warcraft and Eve Online. It is quite unusual for this sort of genre to make it to a console. Usually these platforms get multiplayer shooters where 16-32 people battle for a few minutes in an arena that is then destroyed and reformed for the next battle.
Here we have a world that we all share, all the time. Of course the technical detail of which server, or how anyone is actually in the “same” place is obscured and not entirely relevant to the experience. Also the world itself is generally a locally loaded place. The servers are there to broker player position, communication and hold certain shared features in the experience, but it is not really a full persistent world.

I have found it works really well as a game to be wandering around, getting engrossed in each task, gradually levelling up, choosing skill tree paths, working out what to carry, sell, deconstruct and to craft. Lots of the missions from the non player characters are actually there to help you learn the very complex system of crafting as much as forwarding any plot line points. Choosing missions chooses various guilds and organisations to which you belong.
Looking suitably masked in elder scrolls online
I called this post “alone in the crowd” because it is a particular feature of this style of environment that you do see lots and lots of other people, milling around playing their own missions, but you do not have to interact with them if you don’t want to. Though sometimes it is unavoidable, or required to work in a team.
Elder Scrolls Online
This is by no means a crowd shot! but the character not the right is just running off somewhere. They ran past me, I paid no attention to them, nor them to me other than we just both know we are part of the human noise of this virtual city.

Most things are not restricted based on numbers in the free roam areas. For example the blacksmith station is a object you have to walk up to, select and then take part in an inventory management/crafting dialogue. The things you are doing are entirely related to you and your experience, but we all have to gather around the anvil in order to do this. This is good when there are only a few people, but when it’s busy the room is full of lots of gormless characters standing around.
Elder Scrolls Online
Passing one another in the world feels like something we normally do, it adds to the sense of a shared experience, but all standing around staring into space, or watching people traverse the land mostly by jumping and bounding around in order to get for a to b quickly starts to look like a complete mess of uncoordinated activity. Which of course, it is 🙂
This is a feature of most virtual world online experiences. The only time it is not is when people are more seriously role playing and rules are set to preserve the experience. This happens in some areas in Second Life where you are encouraged to be wearing the right clothes, speaking the right way to join in with the entertainment of acting. Rather like not turning at a real life roman re-enactment on a segway wearing a stetson.
That is not to detract from the game, or games like it. This is a genre where stuff like this has to happen due to the way the tech works, but also the way people work. It is funny, but it can be a jolt in the immersion.

Where this sharing of space does work though is in battles with things in the environment and things in it. You can be wandering around exploring and then be set upon by a pack of wolves. When you start fighting it becomes “your” battle. However other people passing by can also see and join in with that battle, or choose it ignore it. Those wolves become a shared experience. There are a lot more bad guys than wolves but it’s an easy example to use. For a short period of time, you and the others who just happen to be there at the time are no longer alone. You are working with the same problem. Now this could just be thought of as a few experience points of resources to add, share split, ignore but it has all sorts of extra dynamics.

If you see someone in trouble, do you help ? Does your helping actually hinder and annoy them? as they were challenging themselves and their character.
Sometimes you just have to join in in order to be able to get the things you need to proceed. In one particular example the bits of a monster were needed in order to escape an area. If someone else kills the monster before you get any sort of hit in then you are not credited with any part of the kill so do get the bits you need. This meant waiting, or searching for another one of the same type, waiting for a re-spawn and getting in there before the rest of the crowd. Game design and rules may have altered how many people might be competing for this single resource, and I did escape, but it was an interesting co-opetition dynamic.

This led also to another thought on timelines, on the immersive experience and how we are often reminded of our place in these virtual worlds. Having worked towards a small piece of the plot and defeated a particular boss, whereby a slight levelling occurred, new kit and a small buzz of excitement at having completed something, whilst standing near the same spot taking stock a new crowd arrived. Of in the distance I heard the bad guy arrive again, go through the same “No mr bond I expect you to die” style of dialogue. I watched from the distance as my fellow travellers and gamers fought the same battle, but in a different way. In my timeline, this battle was over. I was stood in what was attempting to be a coherent virtual experience being reminded I was not. It is not a problem, as such, but it is a thing.

It is reminder and a breaking of the story. Yet I think there may be something in this kind of feeling of immersion and then shocking back into reminders it is not real. It is an accident of the technology restrictions that cause this to happen. It is a technique used in other media when the action breaks the plane to the fourth wall. When a stage actor talks to the audience when previously the audience were passive. Some of the most chilling of these have been Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. The very occasional, to the point you think they have forgotten to write any in, turning to the audience and engaging in dialogue is very special. One of the most memorable being “Oh did you think I had forgotten about you?” still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.

It should not matter if we choose to form clans and take on multiplayer missions, or just act on our own in these worlds. The very mechanism we are using has the ability to reach back out to us and surprise us. I have felt this in games just a few times. It may be a party trick in some cases but reaching out to the human, through the role play, through the immersion may just be the most memorable and entertaining thing a virtual world can do.

Project Cars – High speed virtual world

Project Cars went live across consoles and PC last week. I am a big fan of racing games. Of all the genres they are my favourite. Forza on the Xbox has been my go to game for driving fun so I decided on the PS4 version of Project Cars in the hope I would have a good racing game on either console. I was not let down at all!
Project Cars looks, sounds and more importantly feels like a proper racing game. Where it differs to some of the other recent games is the inclusion of some very low end racing with Karts and Super Karts. The mid range road cars and GT cars in general feel good and solid, the Karts are twitchy and manic and amazing fun too.
There is a lot of customisation of how you play that can be done in Project Cars. I just put it on the medium setting for everything and got re-aquainted with the PS4 controller. What you need to do in Project Cars is be very very subtle with power and the steering with some of the car models. Tank slappers and oversteer can be very unforgiving in some of the classes. Project Cars, like all good racing games rewards practice. The feeling of getting to grips, just, with a class of car and putting in some fast laps, knowing you can shave even more time off is at its core.
So we have a very good physics model and huge array of classic racetracks. So that’s all good so far. A good physics model and a feel for driving has been in every game I have enjoyed from back in the Night Driver day to pole position, the mighty Sega Rally, Colin Mcrae Rally, Gran Turismo and finally Forza. What they all have gradually added and improved on top of the physics and feel is the look.
I always prefer an in car view. (These will be even better with the VR headsets). Project Cars adds a really interesting view from inside your crash helmet (it has lots of views to choose, including a centre of the cockpit view even for cars that are not central drive). The crash helmet view also muffles the sound just a little. It does some interesting fx with focus blur and forcing your head to bobble back and forth with acceleration. As you can see in this photo elements of the view are blurred on purpose. It is a sort of tilt shift effect that is very pleasing live.
Project Cars
There are also some very effective weather dynamics, rain is quite terrifying as you hurtle along having turned on your windscreen wipers. (Oddly my first wet race nothing told me I had wipers but I mashed a few buttons and found the down dpad turned them on). The haze and the rain drops, including the sounds of them is very clever.
Other games have realtime weather and lighting but Project Cars just has more and better.
The solo career lets you pick a class to start in, like Karts, and work your way up. It is not long before you get to invitational races in all sorts of classes so it does not force too much monotony like a real career might 🙂
You can always hit single race and pick any car, any track any time with 30+ other cars on the track with you too.
An unusual feature on the PS4 is the pit radio messages, as they come out of the controller speaker, which is a nice touch.
On the 360 I had a very good force feedback wheel and pedals for Forza, but it doesn’t work on Xbox One. It made a great deal of difference to times, and to be abel to make sensible gear changes. Pads just don’t suit gears IMHO. Project Cars works with the pad but I am sure would be greatly enhanced with a wheel and pedals.
I tend to leave the driving line on when i don’t have a real wheel and force feedback as it fills in for the lack of sense of speed you can suffer from in any game with only rumblers. I would prefer to be driving without out but I think at the moment I will stick with it 🙂
The tracks are very notable too in Project Cars, all there straight away, as are the cars. No pretend economy to have to buy your way up. Donnington, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Imola, Monza, Nordshleife are all there.
Like all good car games there are a stack of tuning options, damage models, tyre wear, pit strategies and aero set ups. Pit stops, if the race is long enough or the rules dictate, let you pick a strategy from a set you have made for that stop.
Probably the maddest option though is the real time actual 24 hour race. There is an achievement for that ! It suggests you get some mates over and take turns driving. So when you enter pits there is an option to swap driver. As only I was signed in I tried the sea driver and an AI driver took part for me. I am not sure it it counts leaving him to do 24 hours, but I am sure the inter web will provide the answer to that.
The launch trailer is below. It does look like this and does not disappoint. I am sure the high end PC version is even more glorious and may make this the standard to beat.

Just Cause 3 – Its been 5 years since ….

It’s been five years since I wrote this post about Just Cause2 in which I mentioned “Sandbox games are the closest to what we see in virtual worlds in crossover terms. Just Cause 2 is a single player game, in part because the destruction you create is really personalising your island. However the balance between “give me something to do” and “I am just going to find something to do” may be something the VW providers and content creators need to consider in helping people find a narrative, either social or business related.”
Well I stand by that. The mix of ready made tasks, ongoing narrative plot live and freedom to find your own things to do as you wander around is a core theme in some of the most enjoyable experiences. Minecraft, Goat Simulator, GTA V Watch Dogs etc.
Now we have the reveal of gameplay for Just Cause 3. Which if nothing else looks fantastically exciting 🙂

Fingers crossed it is as good as the last one, it certainly looks it.