Archive for 'Sony'

Done Playing: Open Me! (Vita)

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The concept of Augmented Reality games always grabs me but seeing sharp 3D visuals overlaid on grainy, laggy camera feeds usually proves too jarring to be fun. Open Me! has had to fight those expectations as well as coming out of the PlayStation C.A.M.P. program whose past efforts disappointed me. Knowing this going in I tried to ease that expectant sting by grabbing the game on sale and promising to play just a little bit at a time. It worked, and I’ve come out the other side wishing there were more boxes to open and more people who gave this game a chance.

AR comes with a lot of caveats before you even get to the game itself. The Vita’s camera just isn’t that good and you have to search for your own personal space for it to work well. Having played through it I picture the ideal location as a bright, empty art gallery with the AR card attached to a black, waist-high pedestal. My best bet was our chest-high kitchen counter under a heavy fluorescent light. The brightness kept the lag at bay but the glare on the glazed surface frequently made the Vita lose track of the card. The kitchen also made it hard to get all the way around the boxes and there were plenty of times I was leaning over the sink or past the drying rack to find a crucial, hidden clue.

But again, Open Me’s charms won out. Presented with only a screen or two of explanation you’re flung at 51 puzzle cubes and expected to figure them out on your own. A sense of exploration and experimentation will do you well here as you poke and swipe while skittering around; one hand holding the Vita, the other scratching your head. Here’s a hot tip from me: sometimes you just need to move on. By figuring out other boxes — some are tricky while others require more logical thinking — you will come to discover things that will help you progress. The Vita, it turns out, can track way more than just two fingers.

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It’s one of those games where you don’t want to say too much because the fun is in discovering the solution, but I’ll go ahead and spoil a few of my favorites. The Super Stealth Box is covered in spikes that are tough to discern from the one random button as the whole thing is Predator-style transparent. I ended up moving a pair of cards that were sitting on the counter in and out of view, looking at the distortion until I spotted the smooth, curved button. The Surveillance Box is equipped with a motion tracking camera that won’t let you sneak behind it to pull the shiny handle. I tried to figure it out for ten minutes when, in frustration, I smashed my fat thumb over the stupid camera and… oh come on, I can’t believe that was the solution! Late in the game there’s a fantastically complex washing machine that needs three cycles run just to find the owner’s manual.

Opening a few boxes each day and taking a break when I got to the really fiendish ones, I’d say I had a few weeks of fun with Open Me!. There are multiplayer boxes to open and a system to design and send puzzles to friends but both require knowing someone (in real life) who owns a Vita and the game. Needless to say, I didn’t get to try out either mode. You can get a feel for the game in the free version and buy individual packs for $0.99 but if you’ve read this far and are still intrigued you should buy the Full Game. It’s not as mysterious and chic as The Room but Open Me! has just as many ah-ha moments of rewarding discovery. It’s got that quirky design sensibility you only get from the Japanese on top of the (tolerably janky) novelty of using your AR cards again.

One more parting shot

One more parting shot

You can stream PlayStation 4 game audio through the controller

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Here’s a quick little tidbit I happened upon while working up this PS4/Xbox One spreadsheet: the PlayStation 4 can pass chat audio or all audio through the Dual Shock 4! I’m sure the quality won’t pass the test for audiophiles but it beats stringing headphone cords across the living room.

Grand Theft Auto Online tips now in video form

Whether you hate reading, love tinny nerdy sounding voices or insist on digesting the internet solely through the lens of YouTube, you can now get all my hot pro tips for Grand Theft Auto Online in video form. If you prefer the written word, though, that’s still available here.

Pro Tips: Make Grand Theft Auto Online more fun!

Grand Theft Auto V throws a lot of info at you, doubly so when you go online. I’ve poked around in the game and on the Social Club site and here are a bunch of tips and tricks that I’ve found not everyone knows about. Most useful of all: how to make a closed, friends-only game!

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Hidden Menus and Online Modes
From your single player game, press Start, navigate to Online, choose Play GTA Online and then choose a mode. The default is ‘Go’ which throws you into a random world of players but you also have the choice of Invite Only, Crew Session, Closed Crew Session, Closed Friend Session and Solo, though this last mode specifies “available activities will be limited”. Once you’re in a mode the only option you have to change it is to join a new session with random players or ditch back to single player and choose ‘Play GTA Online’ again.

While we’re in the menus you might as well hit Start, Online, Options after you’re in an online game. This gives you access to your various “mood” settings and Quickplay Actions for races, freemode, and deathmatches. You can set your spawn location if you prefer to spawn at your apartment (after you’ve bought one) and you can choose how much info is displayed above players’ heads in the game. Maybe most useful is the ability to keep the on-screen map expanded; handy if you find yourself always toggling it by pressing down on the d-pad.

Why Rockstar split up these options is beyond me but there’s one last place you may wanna check. Press Start and scroll over to Settings. If the game is getting too noisy with incoming calls, award pop-ups, and activity info you can toggle most of them on or off under Notifications. The rest of the settings are mostly the same as in single player but worth looking at if you haven’t tweaked them yet.

So You’re Finally Playing Online
I lied, there’s more esoteric menus here. Hold Select/Back to bring up your quick menu. It’s a really handy tool that I’ve come to wish was available in single player. The top option will quickly let you set a waypoint to the nearest Ammu-Nation, ATM, mod shop, clothing store or quest marker. When doing a mission it will also let you set waypoints for mission targets and locations.

Below that is your Inventory where you can store up a bunch of snacks to refill your health when you can’t find a medkit. Buy snacks at convenience stores and fill up your pockets because these things don’t replenish a lot of health. You can also put on a mask or change clothing here, both of which have more than cosmetic value. Put on a mask before holding up a convenience store and you won’t be spotted (and immediately attacked) if you come back later for legitimate shopping. Changing your outfit will also remove one star from your Wanted level when you’re out of sight and the stars are flashing. Last up in the Inventory is the option to set who can get in your personal vehicle so you can keep random strangers from driving off in your car!

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Random Tips

  • Races cost money! If you aren’t winning at least $300 from each one you’re secretly losing money.
  • You can navigate to an ATM but you can also head to Maze Bank’s site on your phone browser to manage/hide your money.
  • Take a look at your bank Transaction Log to see where your money’s been going.
  • Passive Mode only keeps people from killing you on foot. You can still be shot if you’re driving a vehicle.
  • If you lock onto another player and hold Select/Back you’ll see new options at the bottom of your quick menu to view their profile and crew info.
  • On the dealer websites on your phone browser the number on the vehicle images indicates how many passengers it can hold.
  • The game gives loser perks to anyone who dies repeatedly in a deathmatch without getting a kill. Activate these on the Wasted screen before you respawn to get a little edge up.
  • JP points currently don’t seem to have any value. Reasonable speculation says they may factor into the online Heists or other modes planned for future updates.
  • You can sell off a vehicle at the Customs shops every 48 minutes which is 1 in-game day.
  • Your online bank account is shared between all your characters. You can’t get the free $500,000 for each of them.
  • If you want to add playlists or maps to your game from the Rockstar Social Club site you need to make sure your Xbox 360 Family settings are turned off or have ‘Member Content Privacy’ set to ‘Everyone’.
  • If you’re looking for something to do press Start and go to Stats. Press A/X on the Awards and Unlocks sections to display a ton of detail on your progress in dozens of categories. 

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Enough, We’re Through Here
When you’re ready to quit playing Rockstar strongly suggests switching back to single player to make sure your online progress isn’t corrupted. Hold down on the d-pad and switch to Michael, Trevor or Franklin or press Start, Online, Leave GTA Online.

There hasn’t been any news from Rockstar yet but just as a reminder they have a lot of content planned for the future. Coming soon is the content creator that will let players make races and deathmatches, 300+ new clothing items, 4 beach-oriented vehicles, 2 new weapons, a Capture the Flag mode and multiplayer Heists. All this content is allegedly free according to Rockstar.

Thanks for checking out this immense post. If I learn anything else I’ll update it and hopefully have a video covering this same info in the game up soon.

I hate Clickers but there’s a good idea here

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The Last of Us. Clickers.

That’s all I need to say for anyone who’s played the game to cringe and/or explode with rage. These Tier 2 enemies have lost all humanity as the infection has blossomed out of their brain to replace their head with a series of fungal fronds. They look gross, sound terrifying as they use guttural clicks to hear their surroundings, and are a one-hit kill if they get up on you.

They’re not terribly different from enemies in other games but the major problem in dealing with them is their inconsistency. At times they work like security cameras and you can almost see the vision cone around them as you slowly sneak by or toss a bottle to distract them. At other times — the majority of the time — they seem to come bolting right for you even if you’re sneaking around. The game regularly mixes them in with the crazed “zombie” enemies that attack on sight making it even harder to determine how to solve the designers’ “combat puzzles”.

You might think the best solution is to remove the Clickers entirely but the more I think about it the more I’d like to see a game that pits you solely against them. The game is halfway there already with Joel and Ellie’s unique hearing radar and bottle/brick distraction mechanics. It’s like they wanted to go for a game devoid of gunplay but the risk of not looking exciting enough in trailers forced them into this confusing mashup of the two styles.

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In my version, with gunplay and zombie hordes out of the way, the “combat” could become a unique evolution of what we’ve seen from Splinter Cell. Now you might shoot out lights or use a melee weapon to bang on a wall to get the Clickers attention. A BB gun could be the most effective weapon in your arsenal as it fires quietly enough for the game to ignore but lets you shatter glass or ping off of metal surfaces. Dumping a container of BBs down an exposed vent shaft could make for a painful decision: lose a ton of ammo to clear out a whole floor or look for a quieter way around.

Explosives could be cleverly implemented to disorient the Clickers or mask a loud move like busting open a door or freeing a trapped companion. The ultimate power trip — the idea that started this whole thing — would be entering a warehouse full of Clickers and setting off the sprinkler system. With their senses overloaded it would give you freedom to be as loud as possible, running around and taking out Clickers indiscriminately. Don’t get me wrong, I hate those guys — loathe them with a passion — but in the right game they could make for a thrilling new experience.

E3: Of Dinosaurs and Goofy AR games

Know what E3 had way too much of? Guys shooting things. Know what it had a pitiable lack of? Dinosaurs and augmented reality gimmicks. That’s why I’m so excited about this year’s Wonderbook offerings (there’s another Harry Potter/Pottermore tie-in) and namely Wonderbook: Walking with Dinosaurs.

Now you can re-enact your least favorite parts of Jurassic Park like holding a branch to mess with some Brachiosaurs and geeking out of multimedia technology. There’s a bunch of goofy stuff in this Big Book of QR Codes and though I’ll likely never buy it, I’m glad this stuff exists on a mass market platform.

E3: EDF! EDF! Earth Defense Force returns in 2014

Back in the hands of Sandlot after 2011’s westernized Insect Armageddon, Earth Defense Force 2025 is adding juuuuust enough new stuff to the tried-and-true formula to warrant an updated title. But is it enough to recapture the goofy fun of EDF 2017 or do we finally need a complete refresh from the series creators?

Though the cities, ants, alien ships, giant spiders and weapons all look a little too familiar, the new stuff does seem promising. That comes in the form of the new Air Raider who is essential the support class. He can call in airstrikes and mortar fire, use a laser sight to help other players’ missiles lock on and move faster, drop healing beacons and auto-turrets, and call in vehicle drops. Basically you’re gonna want someone in your game to play this guy because he can do all the cool stuff whenever he wants. Four-player online co-op also makes its way over from the recent Vita edition of EDF 2017.

If that still isn’t exciting enough I think this bullet point from the press release will do the trick, ensuring that “to save cities on earth, you’ll have to destroy them in pursuit of eliminating the insects!”. If only more games promised success through destruction. EDF 2025 is scheduled to ship for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in February of 2014.

I got my $10 parting gift from Sony

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I finally turned on the PS3 again and found my “loyal customer” payoff waiting. Sony started giving out these $5 and $10 bonuses last week and I had a feeling it was some kind of pre-event damage control. With the news that current PSN games won’t be playable on PlayStation 4 I can’t help but feel justified by that assumption.

It’s like Sony saying “sorry guys, have one last game on us” or “at least when you get a PS4 you’ll have $10 to spend”. I appreciate it and will gladly spend it but I’m suddenly terrified of downloading anything for our current consoles. I’ve got plenty of things plugged into the TV as is and was really hoping I wouldn’t need to keep a PS3 at the ready right next to a PS4. Ah well, thanks for the bucks anyhow, Sony!

More thoughts on the Dual Shock 4

Well that didn’t take long! Some more stuff on the controller: The Dual Shock 4 has a speaker and headphone jack “to deliver high-fidelity sound effects from the games” and the system will come bundled with an official headset. For better or worse, this should bring voice chat on PlayStation 4 to parity with what we got out of the Xbox 360. That means a lot of obnoxious kids to mute but also a lot more interaction with team players and friends. The “sound effects from the games” line is a little confusing. It doesn’t mean it’ll stream the full game audio through the controller, rather it’ll work like the Wii Remote speaker and specific sounds can be pushed to it. A voice from behind, the twinge of a bow releasing. That sort of stuff.

Sony isn’t quick to admit the triggers on the PlayStation 3 controller were crap but they have given in to complaints and have redesigned it to “employ a curved design for easier, smoother interaction”. It still doesn’t look ideal but it’s better than those slippery, convex triggers I’ve had to suffer with on PS3.

The controller also has that Vita-like touchpad surface which Sony has only detailed as “a new input method, offering more ways to interact with games.” My first thoughts jump to scope zoom controls and… that’s about it. Maybe it serves as the Select button. I really hope they don’t rely on it for Quick Time Events but I think there’s a few good surprising uses people will find for it.

Looking at some more angles of the controller you can see the micro USB port which means another internal, irreplaceable battery. When the thing dies, just like with a PlayStation 3 controller, you’ll have to rebuy. That led me to wonder how much one of these things is going to cost. A newfangled motion sensor, custom shaped touchpad surface, speaker, headphone interface, bluetooth chip, LED light bar. I hate to think it’ll be more than the already steep $60 Dual Shock 3 price but I kinda feel like one of these could go for $80 or more.

And that’s it for round two.

Some Peripheral thoughts on PlayStation 4

I’m not gonna recap last night’s PlayStation Meeting in total but I did want to chime in on a couple of things. They didn’t show it for long at the meeting but take a look at that terribly unfortunate peeping Tom face that will be staring us all down from atop (or beneath, upskirts!) our TVs. That’s the new PlayStation Eye which is no longer mono-occular and sounds very much Kinect-ish. It’ll track depth, it’ll be able to crop you out of games and sign you in by leering at your face. Unlike the camera peripherals before it this one has a contemporary resolution of 1280×800 in each lens so hopefully we’ll look a little more natural when cropped out next to a 1080p EyePet. It’s hard to tell the scale in the images but it looks to be pretty compact and swivels up and down to adjust to the room. Oh, it’s also got FOUR microphones but I’m not expecting anything amazing from the sound.

The Share button on the Dual Shock 4 controller got most of the headlines and rightfully so. A quick press will let you shore up the last ten minutes of gameplay and ship it off to Twitch.tv or other media sharing services. That’s awesome but it takes the place of the Select button so where did – oh my god they got rid of Start and Select!! There was a super brief mention that Start and Select had been rolled up under the Options button during the meeting. I really hope that the button automatically pauses the game and it’s not left up to each individual developer. I need a reliable way to pause that’s no more than one button press away!

This also leads to questions about backward compatibility. Every PlayStation has had both buttons and the Select button has frequently been used to toggle stuff in-game. Will it default to a tap of the touchpad? A tap of the Options button? Sony’s done a decent job of giving us options for playing old games on the PS3 and Vita but it still sprang to mind as a potential issue.

Speaking of backward compatibility, Dave Perry made it sound like Gaikai-powered streaming of legacy PlayStation titles was super early. He sounded very excited to announce that after all this time Sony had finally “greenlit” them to go ahead working on the functionality. Not greenlit it to be a Day One feature, just to get started figuring it out. It makes me wonder if Sony will wind up pulling a Wii U, touting a ton of features that aren’t there out of the box and are slowly turned on over the ensuing months or maybe even years. They put on an impressive show but I hate to think of the backlash they’ll get if people start expecting all of what they promised on Day One.

That’s enough for now. I may post again as I start pouring over assets and press releases if anything interesting comes up.