Microsofts Game Pass is a great way to get to experience games that you may not have noticed before or to try something completely new. As a subscription you get access to a 100 or so games, in a library that has everything from AAA games to quirky indie’s and also a lot of great retro content.
This weekend I noticed Observation appear on the list by No Code studios and originally released on the PC in May 2019. For me that month is a bit of a blur after the concussion in April so my gaming slowed a bit. Still I was glad to bump into the BAFTA winning experience on Saturday. Now I play a lot of games, I also have written some slightly out there Sci-Fi with Reconfigure and Cont3xt, top that with have watched lots of great mind bending sci-fi movies and shows and read a few books too, and I have to say Observation was up there with some of the best off all those experiences. It had a 2001 Space Odyssey, Moon and Gravity etc feel to it and the story was well slotted into that. As a game the control of a corrupted AI trying to help the remaining crew member but only able to access the ship systems through cctv cameras and an occasional use of a roving sphere was fantastic. The art direction, the tweaks on the camera feeds, the odd outages and secondary systems to access all added to it. So much so that I played it most of Saturday and then Sunday again. It is not a really long game, not a RDR 2 or anything, but its doesn’t need to be as it is certainly longer than any film. The emotional involvement and intrigue as too what was going on was truly engrossing. No spoilers, but it’s suitably trippy. It is certainly one of the best games I have played for story and inventive presentation.
My other notable gaming experience was the launch of nDreams Phantom:Covert Ops for my Oculus VR rigs (Quest and Rift S). This introduces a really innovative approach to VR movement and to stealth action games. You play sat on a chair as you are a special ops soldier in a stealthy kayak. You control the boat with your hand controllers by gripping the two ended paddle with each hand and pushing down into the water on alternate sides of the boat. You are trying to sneak into a waterlogged compound and have a variety of ways to get passed guards and their spotlights. Sat on you boat you have various weapons and devices strapped to you and it. The paddle locks onto the left of the boat, a pistol is on your chest, a machine gun on your back, and a sniper rifle on the right. A set of binoculars sits just in front. Using these, some quiet paddling, hiding in reeds and finding tunnels you work your way in. Like all stealth games you don’t want to get into a full on fire fight, but if you do you can survive. Sat in the kayak at the start you can almost feel the water and the damp air. The paddling (despite not having a pole to link both hands) seems to get the shoulders going, especially if you are trying to quickly cross a dark, but open body of water having distracted a guard shooting a light out. The game also is cross play with the same save game and unlocks on quest appearing as the ones I unlocked on the Rift S. The only disadvantage to this is not being able to have more than one save game for other family members to play, a problem across the Oculus range as they are single facebook account machines. Anyway, love it, well done all just up the road in Farnborough, a revolutionary game and really good fun. Check out the official video below.
I was catching up on some blogs before jumping on a train and heading to London to discuss one of my major threads of work at the moment which could be described of gamification of a particular genre of interaction. Up on the feed reader pop’s Raph’s gamification of everything post. Its always hard to ignore serendipity when its been so vital to me over the years.
I am not going to repeat what Raph said, go and read it, but he makes a very good points that whatever your objections to the gamification of certain services, however industries, governments, leaders are using basic human psychology, paired with the communication the web gives us, this sort of interaction is not going to go away and we need to take a balanced view.
If you have ever got a buzz from receiving a level up in a game, or a promotion level at work, or a prize at a competition or a complement well meant then you already know of the impact of recognition.
Computer mediated experiences allow very quickly for new achievements to be generated for a never ending set of levels and trophies to be created. If you map that to a promotion structure in your average corporate, those events are few and far between and unable to be restructured due to legacy promotions of others. It is fairly easy though for World of Warcraft to introduce another 10 levels on top of the uber level of 70, or for Pet Society to introduce yet more rainbow poo.
Of course, as Raph points out, when these reward structures are applied to things such as parenting, politics, product use who is it who decides the structure and what are their motivations.
“There are plenty of valid concerns to be had here. But it’s not going to go away. Instead, we need to be thinking about what our accommodation is with these technologies and approaches. Almost all of this arises simply out of better knowledge of ourselves and our psychology paired with improvements in communications technology. And that is not a new problem — it’s an old one.”
“the concerns that arise from gameifying the world apply in larger measure to non-games.”
The last part of the BBC Virtual Revolution programme looked at Homo Interneticus. How we are evolving and changin the way we enagage with information and with one another. There are of course concerns to be raised but there is also the potential that we are in fact now interacting in ways that suit how our brains work, in an associative fashion rather than in a way that has been restricted by some of the ways we could interact with information before. (I took the web behaviour test BTW and came up as a Web Octopus)
It was interesting in the programme to hear Susan Greenfield refer to the dangers of online interaction for our brains. Here premise being that there are no consequences to our interactions online, because if you break something in the real world its broken, break it online and it doesn’t exist. That is of course missing quite a lot. There clearly are consequences to your online interactions. True if you play a game with respawning on, you die, you are back again. That though is like playing hide and seek as a child. You are found, you go hide again. However when you interaction is with people and their things online you have the ability to enhance or reduce the quality of the relationship with them just as much as sitting around at dinner. It is true if you understanding of physics comes solely from a simulation of physics you may be surprised at the real world results, but equally you may learn more about physics by being able to play with and experience forces that would be impossible/really hard in real life.
I did really like the video Raph posted from Stargate studios on video compositing and not believing everything we see. It’s come a long way from a bit of film projected behind an actor. Though I do find some of the street scene changes in this as a little odd. Why not just leave it as it was? Which I guess comes back to the point. Who makes the changes and why.
There is some cool content for G.I. Joe the movie appearing on PS3 home. A set of clothing parts in the threads store. This is great as I can now cover my face, in protest at not being able to have green hair for some still inexplicable reason.
It was great to see the G.I. Joe clothes spread through home in various combinations. Here I am a mix of white ninja, black ninja and wearing Star Trek original series trousers. An interesting combination.
Whilst I was on I noticed a new promo space for a game called Fat Princess. It was a cartoon themed environment with lots of statues matching the game. Interestingly it had a little mini treasure hunt Xi style. In the environment (whilst still populated with other users) you are able to hunt cake hidden in little bird cages and answer eight questions on the game. This is not state of the art gaming, but I did feel the need to answer. It is also interesting as your view of the space is actually different to that of others. i.e. you wont see the cake unless you are personally on the quest, on completing the quest the princess changes into the larger version of the princess. This is a reward, but for the individual player. Everyone else will be seeing you as an avatar in world, but the princess will be the regular princess.
This concept can be tricky for people lost in the concept of a unified world. There is no reason to not see a completely different representation of a world to every other user of that world. Of course there is then the question of what it is you are all there at the same time for in the first place.
One other twist was that completing the quest, bothering to engage with the advert in effect, gives you a virtual object. In this case the royal throne to place in your own apartment.
So here I am, in my lightly decorated apartment (without the ability to upload my own pictures and videos as I live in Europe and SCEE cant seem to get round UGC legal issues), wearing my G.I. Joe cool costume (that doubles as a protest for no green hair) sitting in my Fat Princess virtual throne that I won by walking around an immersive advert with lots of other people (mostly all wearing G.I. Joe clothes).
These combinations of technology packaged for consumer use are coming think and fast from E3. (I really must go next year!)
This time using a PSP with a camera and some registration markers to allow the collection and battling of multiple handheld views of individual pokemon style characters.
Now I have Eye of the Beholder an AR card game on the PS3 and the last few blog posts have been about Natal and Eye Pet. However this has a subtle extra point. The representation of a character via the magic window effect off a registration point can be done on anything, what they have done here though is use the connectivity of the PSP to allow more that one point of view or experience to be shared.
I see my view of the Augmented World, you see yours and we interact through it. Sounds like a metaverse to me, once we get from the single user experience (which is very cool but essentially a book or a movie) we then start to get to augmented reality virtual world brokered human communication.
In this example the kids are battling together in the same place, but as everywhere is local and distance does not exist on the web you can extrapolate how this could expand (as with Natal and the other tech) to a mixed mode virtual world or communication channel.
I bumped into this via the Guardian games blog feed on Youtube