October 2020, whilst being part of the most awful of years has produced some really interesting gaming developments. The in turn are an escape and get for mental health and well being, or as we used to just call them, fun!
The first one to mention is the brilliant AR physical/virtual crossover of Mario Kart Live Home Circuit. Here Nintendo bring us radio controlled Mario and Luigi Karts.
These are designed to be controlled using the Switch games console and driven around kitchen floors or where ever works as a suitable space for a race. The Kart itself hosts a camera that shows a grown level eye view of the what you would see if you were hovering above the Kart. So it is not the drivers eye view but a view that lets you see the driver and the kart.
This camera view allows the switch to replace some of the physical view with digital content, such as being able to see the animated Mario looking over his shoulder as he reverses the Kart, or wrestles with the steering wheel. The AR also is able to detect large cardboard gates and which number they are in the 1-4 step, allowing it to superimpose a track shape that you initially set up by driving a Kart around to demonstrate.
You can also ice other physical Karts on the same track with up to 3 other switch and Kart owners. Physical effects occur when you hit digital objects such as banana skins. Playing also allows the unlocking of faster Kart formulas that seem really quick when sat at near ground level. It is a really wonderful piece of work.
The following week the new Facebook Oculus Quest 2 VR headset was released. This is an incremental improvement on the free moving non tethered Quest and now also replaced the tethered Rift/S with the use of a USB cable for suitably powerful PCs.
There was/is some controversy as it is the first time Facebook has mandated a full Facebook login and only that in order to use the device, which means if you get kicked off Facebook or delete the account you lose all your purchases, which is a bit odd. It also led to a mistake from Oculus to suggest that as you only have one login on Quest 2 you might be in breach of TOS if you have more than one headset active at the same time. This was quickly refuted, but as a long term Oculus owner (i.e. since before Facebook) this seems a ridiculous way to treat customers willing to upgrade. Anyway, lets see how that plays out.
In the world of PC’s a second generation of ray tracing graphics cards from Nvidia were announced and then in short supply the 3* series RTX. My older gaming laptop with its GTX 1070 was starting to struggle a bit with things like full VR Star Wars Squadrons so I decided to get a previous model RTX desktop a 2080 Super and WOW! these things fly.
Star Wars Squadrons in VR is one of the best ever VR action titles. Here is IGN’s gameplay coverage. It is difficult to get right but when you do it feels better than the movies 🙂
Seeing Minecraft with its Ray tracing version is stunning on screen too. The photo will not mean much if you don’t use Minecraft, but the bottom layer is live realtime reflection, tracing every ray of light as it bounces around the view at full resolutions and frame rate. There are a stack of ray tracing and graphical features appearing in games, even Fortnite has it too now. Next month brings next gen consoles too with the very same jaw dropping visuals
I also decided, because of Star Wars Squadrons and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 that it was worth getting a decent new control stick a Hotas (Hands on throttle and stick). These things make so much difference to flying, especially in space and in VR. Twisting and rolling get really intuitive.
This is the first desktop PC I have had for years, and now I have a glass side to it to show the me glowing and pulsating LED lighting on the gfx card that can be set to all sorts of patters and atmospheres too.
My Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 adventures continue, now with added gfx horsepower and I have take to having a little commute at the end of each working day before leaving my office. Randomly pick somewhere in the World and head out for 10-15 minutes. It is very relaxing.
Such as below, Athens, Northwest Canada, a 747 heading into the sunset and the souther tip of South America in the clouds.
I also gave a on VR head tacking a bit of a go with open track being driven from an iPhone app to allow the camera movement in Flight Sim to be driving by small head movements. VR is better, but this still gives something to add to the realism.
Tomorrow sees the launch of Watch Dogs Legion the first of the AAA xmas block busters, bring it on, lets play 🙂