Streets ahead (nearly) with Driver SF

Driver: San Francisco came out a few days ago and as a fan of all things cars, and in particular the original version it was a must get game. I still remember the buzz of seeing those original camera angles and seeing the hubcaps fly off as the old american car lurched around the corner, great attention to detail back then. I was concerned, having played the demo, that the weird astral projection jumping around cars element was going to detract from the good honest car chasing, burnout, doughnut, drifting and jumping that was after the point of the game.
I was also interested in what opportunities there were to use the film director side. Driver was one of the first games I remember having the power to edit the replays from your driving. Driver SF has included this feature and it just keeps recording as you play. At any point you jump to film director where you can change camer cuts, make slo-mo replays etc. it is not completely full featured but it does let you start to explore making a car sequence.

Where Ubisoft fall down though is with their web interface for the results of the game. Yes they have put in the ability to send to facebook and twitter as you play, which is nice an forward thinking but if you start to publish your driving masterpieces it all gets a bit clunky. Unlike Dirt3 which pushes clips you make straight to youtube this game seeks to make a portal that you visit to collate all your info and film clips. The trouble is you cant do much with them. The short videos you make are player with the flovision player and the layout doesn’t seem to work very well if you have more than 3 videos. Each video has a great download button, which gives you a non-descript raw data file. My Mac with all its codecs, perian etc had no idea what to do with it. So the video above was just a screen cap one from the website. I am sure they are going to improve that over time. Though there was not answer on the ubisoft forum or response on a facebook request so who knows if they know.
So here is a game that I really like, had some great fun driving around a mirror world version of San Fran, in real branded cars doing loopy stunts, the I get to the more creative side of things that could offer so much so quickly and get stopped in my tracks. Well you can’t have everything.
One very cool plot point though, (not really a spoiler) is that the original, and irritatingly hard at the time, training level for Driver has been included. It is also linked to a retro reference with an iconic film car and it opening up was a very cool aha moment that more games should have.
The other brilliant film references are a set of movie chases that you gradually unlock. They are nods to some of the best car chases ever on film and the things I grew up watching. Bullit, The French Connection, Starsky and Hutch etc. I was hammering around the jumps in SF shouting I am Steve McQueen. This caused some consternation with predlet 2.0 as he said “no dad it’s Lightning Mcqueen”.
Anyway, if you were brought up on old car chase movies, and like racing games… well this is worth a go. If you want to make machinima, just wait until they decide to offer some more features I would suggest. So those 210 miles of road will just have to be a more personal experience too.
There is a link to my Driver SF page including a few more clips but I am not sure how many you get to store

Natal to Kinect, TV to 3DTv, E3, ergonomics

With the E3 conference in full swing bringing us heaps of great game announcements it is interesting to different rapidly emerging technologies start to combine and cause interesting opportunities and problems.
Project Natal from Microsoft has been renamed to Kinect. Its a soon to arrive add on to the 360 that does some very clever things to detect people and their body movements. It is way past the WiiMote, which Sony have gone closer too with their magic wand Move device (a glowing ball on a stick).

All the Kinect demos and release film showed variations of gameplay that require your entire body to be the controller for the game. In exercise, sports and dance games this makes a great deal of a difference. Knowing where limbs are rather than dance mats has great scope. Though it does lead to an ergonomic problem of needing space around you in your living room/games room.
In driving games such as Forza3 they showed how you sit with your arms outstretched holding an imaginary wheel. This looks like it will be painful, I suppose there is nothing to stop us holding on to some sort of device as I suspect prolonged play will get tricky. What is great is the head tracking though. Being able to look into a corner and the view changes.
There is also a leap and drive towards 3D. The TV’s are starting to appear in stores, Sky is broadcasting the world cup in 3D too. This again is interesting because of our need to have to wear overlay spectacles (in most cases at the moment) in order to experience the effect. Games are starting to be “3d enabled” or be built to take advantage of the 3D tv. So we have a slight crossover here. Kinetic relieves us of our controls, free to move about, but the TV is re-enforcing the need to sit in the right place and wear a device in order to experience it correctly.
So what happens when the large comfortable, easy fit glasses of passively watched 3d TV meet an energetic bounce around body controlled Kinetic game on the 360.
I am sure we will end up with a range of sports glasses and attachments to help play the various games, but it is something to think about.
I am really looking forward to the blend of 3d visuals with gesture controls and the creative process of building in virtual worlds, with the addition of being able to print out and create through 3d printers new peripherals to hold onto and enhance the experiences.
Exciting times!

Ask me another – Avatar Quiz games wars.

I recently got some time on the new avatar based quiz games on both the Xbox 360 and PS3 Home. Both of these are significant in bringing console casual gaming to a wider audience. They also have a slightly different flavour in how the Avatar represents you in the game.
First up is Buzz on Ps3 Home. Something to do in Home is always going to be interesting. There have been some great events, the ARG Xi but they are only fleeting, or like Xi very involving but run for a short time.
Buzz takes the multiple 4 question format that has appeared on the consoles and even in a schools edition and drops it into Home.
It has always had a TV game show format, but in many ways that is dropped in this version. You do go to the Buzz studio and there are hints of TV, but essentially you and all the other players use their avatar position to decide on an answer to a question. It is very Crackerjack “Runaround Now”.
Buzz Ps3 Home
There is a dynamic that if you don’t know the answer you can sort of “ask the audience” except the audience are the other players. In Second Life terms this would be the green dot effect. Flock to the crowd as they may just be right.
There is very little ability to see you avatar or those of others as most of the camera work is based on the buttons of th game as above.
However sometimes it zooms into the right answer and you may see yourself and have time for a little dance.
Buzz PS3 Home
I am in there somewhere with Blue (as still not allowed green) Spikey hair.
The other quiz fest is on Xbox Live and called 1 vs 100. This goes for an even more TV game show theme and pits you against the crowd to out average everyone.
You are dropped into a 30 minute game. You NXE avatar taking pride of place in a booth
1 vs 100 xbox live
The screen shows the questions and answers, but unlike Buzz it is read out by a hosts voice. This makes it feel more connected I think.
Also as you answer you get to level up and earn streak points that convert into tokens that let you skip a question every now and then.
It is designed to be a live game show experience too. At scheduled times there is a real live game show host (Taking it into the territory of those late night phone in quiz shows, but hopefully not to tacky 🙂 ). The really live shows have prizes so that makes it more intriguing.
So Buzz has what seems to be user generated quizzes, is quite quiet and the expression of the avatar is lost into using position, but giving an interesting wisdom of crowds dynamic.
1 Vs 100 puts your avatar in a little booth, but you do see the others playing and it feels you are in competition. No doubt party play and other friend features will come into play as it grows. It is a long game (30 mins) to schedule into the day but it feels more exciting I have to say.
A welcome (and free so far) edition to both consoles I have to say.