Category: Network Gaming

Acer raises the bar for convertible 2-in-1 laptop performance

Articles

Acer goes after casual gamers with upcoming Nitro 5 Spin convertible laptop | Windows Central

Acer Nitro 5 Spin: Gaming Convertible with 8th Gen Core Power | Laptop Mag

From the horse’s mouth

Acer

Press Release

My Comments

Before, the idea of a 2-in-1 convertible or detachable laptop having any sort of gaming or mobile-workstation acumen was considered ludicrous. These systems were simply more about computing that matched your lifestyle rather than something that was about performance.

Lenovo offered the 15” Yoga 720 which was specced with a NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics processor but this was pitched more as a productivity machine or, should I say, a “prosumer” machine for video hobbyists, animators and the like.

But Intel recently announced the 8th Generation “Coffee Lake” range of Core CPUs with a focus towards high-performance portable computing. Acer came hot on the heels of this announcement by announcing a 2-in-1 convertible laptop incorporating this technology optimised for casual gaming.

Here, the Acer Nitro 5 Spin, which is a 15” convertible laptop equipped with the 8th generation Intel Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU, is optimised and promoted specifically for casual gamers. There is up to 512GB of solid-state storage space which makes this machine earn its chops as your primary or only computer where you would harbour a lot of data. The display is a 15” Full HD display while the sound is looked after with a 3-speaker setup involving 2 properly-placed speakers and a subwoofer.

There is the backlit keyboard as expected for premium computer setups while the computer is secured using a Windows-Hello-compliant fingerprint reader. As for connecting to your home network, its 802.11a/g/n/ac MU-MIMO Wi-Fi infrastructure is augmented by Acer’s OmniAmp omnidirectional antenna setup which avoids your computer losing the optimum connection no matter how you set it up. It is also worth noting that Acer places a promise for the battery on this computer to run for 10 hours before it dies out, but I am not sure if this is with the computer running a game or video content, or simply doing light computing tasks.

As the sales pitch goes, the use case would be someone who is a casual gamer rather than the core gamers who want the highest-performing computers. The class of user would be someone who, for example, plays one of the Civilization games to while away the long flight or plays games streamed from a console that has the ability to play a console game on a regular computer. But the Acer Nitro 5 Spin would also appeal to people who view the game streams like what is offered on the Twitch platform.

Let’s not forget that the powerful CPU and GPU in the Acer Nitro 5 Spin makes the computer earn its chops with people who are dabbling with video editing, animation and the like. It could also appeal as a “foot-in-the-door” towards mobile workstation territory for engineering, graphics arts and similar students, but I would like to be sure it has a Thunderbolt 3 connection for use with eGPU modules kitted out with Quadro or similar workstation-class graphics cards.

The initial price that Acer called for the Nitro 5 Spin in the US and Canada market is US$999.

Personally, I would see Acer’s Nitro 5 Spin underscore the viability of integrating the versatile positioning abilities of the 2-in-1 convertible with the concept of high-performance computing for a lot of applications.

Send to Kindle

Competition arises for the online games storefront

Articles

GOG Galaxy client app (Windows)

GOG Galaxy client app (Windows)

Steam vs. GOG Galaxy: Which is service better for PC gamers? | Windows Central

Why I’m switching from Steam to GOG for PC gaming | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Good Old Games (GOG)

Homepage

Galaxy client app

My Comments

When computer games developers moved away from delivering their game software to regular-computer users from packaged media to “download-to-own” digital delivery, there wasn’t really any competition. The options that become available were to supply the software through an online storefront that the developer creates for their imprints, a platform-specific app store run by the operating-system developer like Apple’s Mac App Store or Microsoft’s Windows Store, or to end up using Valve’s Steam online storefront.

Steam – the established games storefront

Steam was considered a good-quality online games storefront and gaming community but they got to that point where they became too proud of themselves and started to strip away desirable features or throw their weight around such as banning users for offering negative reviews.

The competition that is now rising up is Good Old Games or GOG for short. This electronic storefront and gaming community ran by CD Projekt have answered what computer gamers have always wanted. One of these is to offer value for money such as offering DLC (downloadable content – the extra content that extends a game’s value) as though it is part of the game rather than a separate title. Another was to offer DRM-free games that are really “download-to-own” along with underscoring an honour-driven carrot-based approach to tackling software piracy.

This means that you could do something like run the game without needing to be signed in to the storefront or be connected on the Internet. This can be of a bonus with those of us who use a laptop for gaming while away from home and you don’t have to lose your gaming content if GOG collapsed or was taken over by someone else. Some games can also benefit by allowing users to install copies of the game on multiple computers connected to the same network thus opening up to traditional network-based multi-player multi-machine gameplay. Thee is still the ability to save your game in the cloud along with a chat community which you would want to log in for.

One of the key features being drawn out is for GOG to support reissues of vintage and classic game titles. Here, they have revised these games to convey the same legacy feel that they offered yet are able to have them run on today’s hardware.

What I like about the rise of competition in the online retail games storefront space is that everyone involved has to treat their customers better and underscore value for money when it comes to selling games. It also means that there is pressure for these storefronts also to treat the games developers fairly and provide more avenues for these studios to sell their wares, rather than the developers having to reinvent the wheel by creating their own storefront every time they want to sell their games online in a location other than Steam or platform-specific app stores.

It could be seen as GOG being like the “indie” bookstore, record store or video store that appear in inner-urban areas of the major cities, the college towns or other areas that have that “cool” factor. This is compared to Steam positioning itself like one of the major book, music or video store chains that appears in most suburban areas or regional cities.

Similarly, it could open up the idea of Amazon and other online storefronts reaching towards the “regular-computer” gaming scene by setting up their own gaming storefronts. Here, it can lead to a vibrant multi-platform regular-computer (Windows/Mac/Linux) gaming marketplace that pleases both the gamers out there as well as the games developers including the indie studios. As well, like what is happening with the video-on-demand marketplace, it can open up the idea of niche gaming storefronts that cater to particular classes of gamers.

It is the sign of things to come for regular-computer gaming to see multiple retail online games storefronts starting to appear thanks to GOG.

Send to Kindle

The gaming sub-brand is now considered part of the computing scene

ASUS RoG GX700 water-cooled gaming laptop with radiator dock - press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS RoG GX700 water-cooled gaming laptop with radiator dock

Most of the personal-computing industry are courting the core gamer as a highly-valuable market. These are typically young male but increasing female players who see computer gaming, especially games played on PCs (Windows-based regular computers), as a hobby and will focus a lot of disposable money towards building that dream performance-focused “gaming-rig” computer.

The personal-computing scene is focusing a lot of attention on this highly-valuable niche, typically by creating a range of computers, parts and accessories that appeal to this demographic. Initially this was looked after by businesses that exclusively court this demographic such as Razer but increasingly companies like Dell, ASUS and Acer are running their own brands or model names that are focused on gaming performance such as Alienware, Republic Of Gaming, and Predator. Lenovo has been the only company not to create a model name or brand for this demographic so for, typically using the Y name as the gaming-focused brand.

Most of these names reflect the traditionally-young-male gaming culture that is focused around playing MMORPGs, first-person shooters and similarly-aggressive games. It is being seen that this group of gamers have a large amount of disposable income to spend on their gaming hobby and is symptomatic of the way the marketing of goods and services is focused on the young.

A lot of these games are very dependent on instantaneous response and most of these computers and peripherals will be expected to yield performance that reduces unnecessary lag when playing these games.

But there is hope for some of these brands targeting female and mature-aged gamers who bite the bullet for engaging in computer games thanks to independent software developers and mobile platforms. It is because these user groups are using mobile platforms like tablets to play various casual games while independent game studios are answering the need to satisfy a market gap that is forgotten by the mainstream games studios and distributors.

AOC has now joined the party by creating the AGON brand which represents monitors and other accessories focused towards core gamers. The brand AGON represents AOC representing their leadership in monitors, Gaming that enhances the latest technology, Outstanding performance for that competitive edge and New standard of gaming. This bas been fulfilled with a range of QHD and 4K monitors that can easily complement that gaming rig with features like improved ergonomics for gameplay, a headset hook, highly-portable design; along with a remote control that makes it easier to switch between display modes for the games you play.

I do see this progressing onwards with every computer-hardware vendor running at least a product line focused on the gamer market with a lot of technical development taking place to squeeze as much performance out of these products. This could be where, for example, laptops, all-in-ones and low-profile desktop computers are equipped with support for external graphics modules or graphics-card cages thanks to the Thunderbolt-3 (USB-C) connection.

Similarly, Microsoft is progressing the idea of games developers being able to write a games title that can play properly on a Windows 10 regular computer or the XBox One gaming console thus allowing for games developers to cater to PC and console gamers at once.

It is showing that computer gaming isn’t just a casual pastime but becoming a serious hobby and the computing industry is having to cater for this.

Send to Kindle

Microsoft makes a step to all-platform online gameplay

Article

Microsoft is stepping towards online gaming's holy grail - a federated cross-platform online gaming experience

Microsoft is stepping towards online gaming’s holy grail – a federated cross-platform online gaming experience

Microsoft will allow Xbox gamers to play against PS4 and PC players } The Verge

Microsoft wants PS4 and Xbox One to connect online | CNet

My Comments

Most core games which have any form of multi-machine multiplayer competition, whether online or across a local network, require all games machines involved in the competition to be on the same platform.

That means that a Windows-based regular-computer user couldn’t play against an XBox or a PS4 console. In a lot of cases, the online component of a game was managed via a platform-specific online-competition platform like PlayStation Network or Steam. In the case of consoles, you had to determine which console platform your friends were using and buy a console commensurate to that platform.

Now Microsoft has raised the question of platform-agnostic multi-machine competition by encouraging their game developers to enable this feature. This is because Microsoft effectively is associated with two platforms i.e. the Windows-based regular computer or PC as a games platform and the XBox family of games consoles. But they are inviting Sony, Nintendo, Apple and others to create the necessary cross-platform bridges to allow this kind of play. This includes allowing a player to discover other players to compete with as well as managing the state of play during a game or tournament.

If this worked, it could allow a person to choose whatever console they wanted to play especially if a title is released across multiple platforms. Similarly, this could allow for options like local-network play, whether peer-to-peer or server-based, including local-online hybrid play such as local tournaments or teams. For games developers, they don’t have to decide whether to set up their own online gaming network if they want cross-platform play.

Another issue that could be highlighted here is the ideal user interface for different game genres including the common user interfaces that the platforms use. The article cited the situation where a regular-computer with its keyboard (W-A-S-D keys) and mouse may have the advantage over a gamepad that typically comes with a console when it comes to playing certain games like first-person shooters or strategy games.

This could be used either to open up the idea of games written to be played across multiple platform types and user interfaces, including those that give players an advantage if they play a part of the game on different devices. On the other hand, there could be the feasibility for games consoles to work with mice and keyboards connected via (preferably) Bluetooth or USB.

What Microsoft is doing is to raise the issue of creating platform-agnostic core game play rather than requiring gamers to be tied to a particular platform.

Send to Kindle

HP offers a gaming laptop that neither commands gaming looks and gaming prices

Article

HP’s newest gaming notebook is for more casual users | Engadget

My Comments

The Intel Skylake processor lineup launched this year has opened up the idea of more performance for the dollar and this has shown up in more high-performance gaming laptops. But there have been a few computers enter this clan without having to look aggressive or command higher prices.

This may appeal to people who are after high performance equipment but don’t necessarily want to pay top dollar nor do they want to have something that is like a Dodge Challenger. It will also appeal to college students who want that machine that can suit study activities including multimedia work along with something that they can play one of the latest advanced games on.

Acer premiered at the IFA 2015 in Berlin their Aspire Nitro lineup of high-performance laptops that have the performance without exhibiting the aggressive looks. But Hewlett-Packard has shown up with a gaming notebook that is part of their mainstream Pavilion computer lineup rather than their premium Envy or Spectre lineups.

This computer has an ask for US$900 and bystanders may see the green backlit keyboard as the “giveaway” regarding its gaming chops. It is a 15” form factor unit with an HD (1366×768) screen as standard and a Full HD 1080p screen as an upgrade option, but there is an HDMI connection to connect the laptop to the flat-screen TV. This is driven by an NVIDIA GTX950M graphics processor while using an Intel Skylake processor as its engine. There is the ability to have it specced to 16Gb RAM and storage either as 1Tb hybrid hard disk, 2Tb hard disk or 2Tb hard disk alongside a 128Gb solid-state disk. The battery can run for eight hours of gameplay. Beo-enthusiasts will rejoice that this laptop has Bang & Olufsen sound tuning for the integral speakers.

Personally, I would like to see this class of laptop equipped with the Intel Thunderbolt 3 connection via USB Type-C sockets more as a way to allow people to add higher-performance graphics to these systems at a later date courtesy of a graphics-card expansion module.

What it is showing is that there is the ability to have the high-specced performance without necessarily requiring a high-performance price or a system that looks like a “street rod”. Here, it would be like an ordinary car that has been tweaked for performance but not having “racing” or “street-rod” looks or a loud growl from the exhaust.

Send to Kindle

An add-on microphone is available to turn existing headphones in to a headset

Article (Product Review)

Audiophiles Like Games, Too: Hands On With Antlion’s Detachable ModMic 4.0 | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

Antlion Audio

ModMic product page

My Comments

There are situations where we want to purpose a pair of good headphones like hi-fi-grade headphones to become a stereo headset with microphone. Here, you may want to use these “cans” for gaming or communications and they have a captive cable so you can’t install a microphone cable to use them as a headset. Similarly, you may have a wired stereo headset that has a broken mike but works well as headphones.

Antilion Audio has supplied an add-on boom microphone that clips to an existing pair of headphones using a magnetic clip that you fix to your headphones. The ModMic uses a long microphone cord to connect to your computer which would have to have a separate microphone jack. It can be adjusted to suit best sound pickup as with other boom-capable headsets.

If you deal with a laptop, tablet or other increasing number of devices that uses a four-conductor headset jack, you would need to purchase a headset Y-adaptor from an electronics store so you can use this same jack to connect your headphones and the ModMic to the device. Personally, I would like to see Antilion Audio offer a headset jack adaptor so you can use this mike and your cans with devices that have headset jacks.

At least this is a way to add another usage case to your good headphones whether for gaming or for communications setups that support HD Voice sound quality.

Send to Kindle

Gaming with a regular computer and the big screen in the lounge?

Article

How To PC Game From The Comfort Of Your Couch | Gizmodo

My Comments

Alienware gaming laptop

An Alienware gaming laptop that bridges performance and portability

Gaming on the big-screen TV isn’t just restricted to the likes of the XBox One or the PlayStation 4 consoles. You can engage in these games using your PC especially if you are using a laptop or dare to bring the tower-style gaming rig in to your lounge area. This is more so as the regular computer platforms i.e. Windows, OS X (Macintosh) and Linux still maintain a strong level of open-frame software deployment and become more the areas to try out gaming ideas.

This is brought on by the increase in the number of portable computers that have performance-computing chops whether in the form of mobile workstations or gaming laptops is making this kind of gaming more real. The manufacturers see this as a valuable niche for people who value performance and portability for work or play.

Dell Precision M2800 Mobile Workstation courtesy of Dell USA

Dell Precision M2800 – a mobile workstation that also bridges performance and portability

This will apply to those of you who are at home or at a friend’s house because you could bring your gaming computer in to the living room or games room and play that game on the big screen from the comfort of your couch. Those of you who are staying at a college dorm (university residence hall) or similar location can use the big-screen TV in the common lounge area for playing that epic game on your gaming laptop.

What do you need?

TV and sound system

The TV or home-theatre system would need to have a spare HDMI connection for you to plug in another video peripheral.

Here, you are relying on HDMI as your audio and video connection and the equipment must be able to play the sound from an HDMI connection rather than just be a switcher. Recently-made home-theatre receivers will most likely be able to satisfy this requirement but beware of lower-end equipment that can’t achieve this goal.

One of the big-screen TVs that is worth playing games on

One of the big-screen TVs that is worth playing games on

If you are buying a newer large-screen TV and you expect a regular computer to be connected to it, you should look for sets that have a high refresh rate like what would be expected for most well-bred monitors. As well, if your gaming setup is of a temporary nature, I would recommend that the equipment concerned has an HDMI connector on the front panel for a home-theatre receiver or similar device or on the side edge of a TV so that it is easily accessible without you needing to shift the equipment out or grope around the back whenever you want to play games.

Your computer

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook left-hand-side connections - Ethernet, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader

HDMI connection on a laptop

HomePlug AV adaptor

The HomePlug powerline adaptor – a no-new-wires network with gaming chops

The computer should have HDMI as a video output option and be capable of directing the sound through that output. This is to achieve the goal of one cable between the computer and the TV or home-theatre receiver rather than worrying about many cables, with this cable carrying a digital audio signal along with the high-resolution video signal.

When you set up the sound, make sure that you know what your equipment can handle at best. If you use a home-theatre system, make sure that you set the audio output for Dolby Digital 5.1 bitstream or a similar codec that your equipment handles so you can take advantage of games that implement surround sound. As well, it may be worth paying attention to an article that I wrote about multiple sound devices in Windows.

Control devices

Games that require frequent interactive activity would benefit form a console-type controller if you are leaning back on the couch. There are some wireless controllers out there but you can use an XBox 360 controller that works with Windows courtesy of an adaptor that is sold for “pennies worth” by Microsoft.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard (open) press photo courtesy of Microsoft

These Bluetooth keyboards also earn their keep on the couch when gaming in the lounge

If you are needing to use a keyboard or mouse, it may be preferable to use wireless peripherals so you avoid cable clutter. Personally I would prefer to use Bluetooth equipment because you only need to use one transceiver dongle across them all and if the computer has integrated Bluetooth, you don’t need to worry about any of these transceiver devices. Sometimes a wireless keyboard or mouse pitched at tablet use can work as a wireless keyboard for gaming use.

Network

It is preferable to have an Ethernet socket in the lounge area but this may not be a reality. For your home or a friend’s, you may find that setting up a HomePlug AV500 powerline-network segment may work well in these circumstances.

Some college dorms and similar places may have an Ethernet socket connected to the premises’ network and Internet service not far from the common lounge area  HomePlug AV500 or HomePlug AV2 may work well in using a no-new-wires setup to bring the connection closer. In some cases, this connection may be locked down for specific devices and uses and it doesn’t hurt asking the staff about whether the connection is a “general-use” connection or can be set up as such.

At a pinch, you would need to use Wi-Fi wireless and make sure you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection at your computer. Wi-Fi networks that use Web-based login can be tricky to use and may require you to keep the “login successful” Web page minimised while you play that online game.This is best done with a Web browser that doesn’t take up much memory space.

Similarly, if you are playing against multiple computers across a public network, it may be difficult to discover the opponents’ computers because these networks are most likely set up to provide client isolation.

Setup

There are some things you will need to be sure of when you are setting up for gaming in the living room or other lounge area.

One would be to use a rug to cover long cables that travel between the computer and the TV or home theatre so as to avoid the situation of people tripping over the cables. This is important for situations where the area between the couch and the TV equipment is part of a thoroughfare.

A tray-table is also a good place to position your gaming laptop or to use as a mouse mat. On the other hand, you may want to use the coffee table for that same purpose. This is to assure stability. Even those “Stable Table” trays with integrated cushions can come in handy as a mouse mat.

As for online game managers, Steam is the only such platform that provides a “big-screen” mode courtesy of their “Big Picture” mode. This will allow you to manage it while viewing the display from a distance. But when you are actually playing the game, this may not be a problem.

Conclusion

Once you know that you can game on with the big-screen TV and your gaming rig or laptop computer, you could be able to add that bit extra to your solo or group gaming experience.

Send to Kindle

Acer to launch a gaming tablet

Articles

Acer Makes Bold Move With Predator Gaming Tablet … But Is It A Wise One? | Tech Times

Acer Attacks Gaming Market With Predator Series Desktop, Laptops, Tablet, And G-Sync Monitor | Tom’s Hardware

Tablette gamer Predator chez Acer | Ere Numérique.fr (France – French language / Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Acer

next@Acer global consumer press release (North America)

My Comments

Acer is trying to get their claws in to the gaming-computer market by announcing the release of more game-focused computer products. One product that drew press attention was their Predator gaming tablet which is intended to be a mobile gaming answer to the NVIDIA Shield mobile-gaming platform.

This is part of building out the Predator game-focused computer product line from desktops to notebooks and tablets. The Predator gaming tablet is also in response to mobile devices being seen as part of the core gaming scene rather than something to play casual games on.

This will have the specifications for premium 8” Android tablet but even have four speakers up front as an attempt to convey the effects to the player. It will also implement haptic feedback to simulate gaming environments. Of course, for a gaming product, it will convey the Predator “rough-and-ready” design language including a rubberised back with the Predator logo on it. As well the display will exploit IPS technology along with 178-degree viewing angles to exploit the ability to swivel the device through gameplay.

The question to raise is whether Acer would offer the tablet that has the real performance that a core mobile gamer would value especially if it is to displace the handheld games consoles of the PlayStation Vita ilk or to displace the NVIDIA-Shield-based gaming platform. Similarly, could this be a chance to bring “enthusiast-grade” gaming to the mobile devices and have this go for gaming while travelling?

Send to Kindle

Ways we can see console gaming improve

Sony PS3 games consoleThe games console that plugs in to the TV needs to be improved to become more socially relevant. Typically these devices are improved beyond doubt using the latest technology and become a multimedia console, but there are certain issues that need to be continually resolved when it comes to playing games which these devices are built for.

Improved targeting beyond the usual users

Making console gaming appeal to people other than teenage and young-adult males

A situation that still occurs with console gaming is that it is focused towards the teenage and young-adult male audience. Here, most of the games available for these consoles are the action-adventure titles and the marketing that goes on is typically focused at this audience.

This is although the multimedia functionality associated with the games consoles such as optical disc / network media playback or access to online media services is being exposed as valuable functions for everyone.

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

The XBox One – representative of today’s games consoles

Ways that I would see to improve on this would include giving equal attention and marketing space to game titles that appeal to other audience classes as well as pitching consoles at age groups other than this class. Nintendo are working towards this with the Wii by implementing the Wii Fit peripherals as for the whole family and Sony had a go with issuing music games for the PlayStation 2 which had “across-the-board” appeal. Similarly there have been attempts to use the music and dance games like the Singstar, Rock Band, Guitar Hero and DJ Hero franchises to open up the games consoles beyond the usual audience and diet of games.

There have been remarks that computer gaming does fit in well with the older people more as a way of improving and keeping alive cognitive and problem-solving skills. But this class of user does tend to work with mobile devices, especially tablets as a gaming platform due to the user interface being more intuitive.

Older men do show some interest in the sports titles especially those that reflect their favourite sports but find that these games aren’t intuitive to play. This is more so due to a controller that they may find very confusing to use which I had noticed when a young man hired a cricket game for his PlayStation console and an older man who is interested in cricket, especially Test cricket, tried to play this game on the console but found the user-interface very confusing.

One way to make it intuitive would be to subject some of the games that appeal to the older audience to useability testing involving this class of audience using the consoles and controllers that they are being pitched to.

Similarly, a strong effort to develop and market console-based games titles for young female audiences as well as mature and older audiences could expose the games to these people. This includes having the gaming fraternity encourage situations where older people and younger people play together on these consoles and writing this in to the marketing fabric for the consoles and games titles. It also includes older people and younger people existing in the same online gaming groups or clans during particular games.

Lately there have been efforts to get women involved in the computer-games scene, both in developing these games and playing them. This has caused significant issues with established male figureheads in this scene leading to the GamerGate controversy concerning harassment of women game developers and misogyny in the video-game industry. It shows that the concept of making games appeal to more than just the young mail player is rattling some cages in the console and regular-computer gaming fraternity.

Improved player-help functionality

One way to make games consoles acceptable to more people would be to improve the learning curve required for one to effectively “get the hang” of a particular game. This is especially where the player interacts with the game using a handheld controller while seeing the effects of what they do on the TV screen.

In-play help functionality

One way would be to provide in-game help functionality where a user can press a button on their controller to obtain information on the game’s user interface or how to perform certain procedures. This could be set so that the gameplay can pause or continue as the user seeks help.

It can be simplified through the use of an always-available on-screen “popup” that shows what each controller button / stick does during their play. Newer consoles that exploit a “second-screen” function that is provided by a tablet or smartphone running a special application can use this function as a way of providing user-interface help to novice players.

Controller design that supports local screen or dynamic labelling

Similarly a control device can use a local screen or e-ink-based dynamic-labelling to label controls with terms specific to the game. This could be to indicate functions important for manipulating a batsman or bowler in a cricket game or the driving interface in a racing game.

Player-assist functionality

Another method of providing improved help function would be to provide support for player assist. This is where an advanced player can use their controller to help a novice player in a similar vein to the “dual-controls” practice that is implemented by driving schools where the vehicle used for teaching a learner driver is equipped with an extra set of pedals for use by a driving instructor.

Technical improvements

Bluetooth headsets compliant with standard Bluetooth Profiles

A games console could benefit from the Bluetooth Headset Profile by allowing these headsets to be used for inter-player chatter during an online game. Similarly. the Bluetooth A2DP Profile could come in to its own with a console for directing in-game music and sound effects to a stereo headset for private gameplay.

This may not wash well with games-console manufacturers who work on the loss-leading principle of product sales. Here, they place value on selling the consoles cheaper so that they can recoup the costs on the accessories or games that are licensed for their consoles or on the membership fees associated with their online services.

UPnP AV / DLNA media sources as part of game fabric

Some games can benefit from access to media resources hosted on one’s home network. This can be facilitated through the UPnP AV / DLNA network-media-discovery technology with this functionality written in to the game’s software or calling upon DLNA application-programming interfaces that are part of the console’s operating system.

The obvious examples for this would be a user-selectable music soundtrack for some game types such as “street-racing” or cue-sports (pool / billiards / snooker) games. The classic example would be a pinball or pool game that implements a “virtual jukebox” as a tool for selecting background music in the game. Here, it would mimic the jukebox that is found in a seedy pool hall or pinball parlour and the music that plays sets the scene of that venue. Picture-puzzle casual games can also benefit from UPnP AV / DLNA for finding pictures via the home network.

Continual work on force-feedback for player controls

A criticism that I have heard regarding racing and driving games in the context of younger people learning to drive is that they operate the car they are learning on as if they are driving in a video game. This is where they “throw down” the gear-shift when they change gears rather than slowing gearing out to neutral then to the gear they want for example.

The same complaints may be raised by flying instructors with the way young novice pilots operate the Cessnas they learn on due to the popularity of those flight-simulator games.

This is brought about by driving interfaces used with these games that don’t closely mimic a real car’s controls. For example, changing gears through most driving interfaces doesn’t resemble the typical shifting gate offered by most manual gearboxes nor does it resemble the gear-selector behaviour of the typical automatic transmission. This is brought around due to joysticks that “spring back” to centre rather than staying in a particular position and no force-feedback that resembles the user experience of a gearbox. Similarly, the steering wheels on these interfaces don’t satisfy the “many turns lock-to-lock” that a real vehicle’s steering wheel offers which allows for granular control on the road.

These kind of issues can be augmented as players play games that implement many different cars, especially where players can change car components so as to “soup-up” their competition cars. This kind of play has been exemplified through the earlier games in the “Need For Speed” series where players could load in car profiles that represented real cars, or most of the “street-racing” games that provide the players with a choice of cars to complete their conquests with.

The playing experience for driving and other games can be improved upon by games and hardware vendors working on force-feedback controls in the regular-computer and console gaming arenas. This involves working on systems that provide the appropriate counter-force in flying and racing control systems that mimic mechanical feedback thus working towards “real-world” experience.

This issue can be a way of improving the intuitiveness of these games when their experience is closer to replicating real vehicles and craft thus opening them up to more players across the board.

Conclusion

Although the games consoles are becoming technically better, there still is a lot of unfinished business when it comes to increasing the appeal of games on the mainstream TV-based console setups to more people.

Send to Kindle

Alaskan fables now celebrated as video games

Article NeverAlone screenshot courtesy of E-Line Media

Native Alaskan fables are now an endearing video game | Mashable

From the horse’s mouth

E-Line Media

Never Alone

Product Page

My Comments

As the indie video-game scene gains more exposure and opportunities, there is an increasing amount of room for more folk tales and fables to be expressed in an interactive form. This has been brought about by studios who want to offer a standout title that will attract new interest rather than the “same old same old”, some I had noticed when I visited PAX 2014 where a lot of games that were “out of the ordinary” were being showcased.

NeverAlone screenshot courtesy of E-LineAn example of this are the Alaskan fables that have been part of the Iñupiat people, one of the indigenous tribes that existed in that state. Here, as these tribes become urbanised, there is a fear that such folklore could be lost.

But an independent games studio had worked with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council to develop “Never Alone”which is a game that has a story centred around the tribe’s folklore. Here, the storyline is based around Nuna, a girl who is searching for the cause of a terrible blizzard that affected their village. The tribal leaders saw this as a way to convey the stories and provide a positive image to the indigenous people in Alaska.

It was also based around E-Line Media, an entertainment group founded by Alan Gershenfeld, who were trying to find out why games with serious or educational roots weren’t gaining ground. This studio had found that some newer games that had this kind of quality were successful and there was an interest ot see what themes could be explored.

There was a goal to make the game a good game and faithful to the Iñupiat culture such as representing Nuna’s animal sidekick as being a fox who was helping her solving the puzzles.

It is in the same context to the increased interest in “non-Hollywood” film and TV content, especially foreign-language content in English-speaking countries. This is exemplified especially by the Nordic thrillers like Borgen or Wallander.

They are making this available through the PlayStation 4, and the XBox One consoles along with regular computers via the Steam platform. This is a promising sign that the console platforms are becoming more “indie-friendly” and opening up paths to games made by more people for different tastes.

Send to Kindle