"Hey Mike! Make us an Oculus demo!"
We’ve had a devkit lying around the office for a while, but I’ve finally got an excuse to try it out.
The head tracking is good! I’m so used to motion controls that are sluggish and spongy and inaccurate, but it’s solid. I can’t quite say that it generates the feeling that you’re inside another place, but a decent facsimile of looking through a binoculars into a not-quite-real place.
You’ve got to wear it right (straight, close to the face), and there’s an eye separation to calibrate that I didn’t bother with but should have. It feels a lot like wearing the wrong glasses, and after a day of coding and testing I’ve got the same kind of headache. It’s not just wearing and calibrating; while I’m testing I’ve been running it as a secondary monitor, which causes frame rate problems and horrible tearing, and running the game in a window, which squishes everything a tiny bit. But I’m going back and forth so often that anything that slows the process down isn’t worth it.
I’m definitely looking forward to the next version. It’s less obvious than I’d expected that it doesn’t catch head translation, but if you pay attention you wish it was there.
John Holbo takes issue with Nate Silver’s analogy:
So of course I figured Silver was self-styling as a Socratic hedgehog, exposing greedy, crafty op-ed foxes. Now that I’ve caught up, by reading all this stuff, I realize the opposite is the case. He thinks he’s the fox, they are the hogs.
I myself have hedgist sympathies. You’ve got one trick, but the trick is it’s a good trick. Certainly, my reading of the 2012 election is that the technique for predicting the results basically boiled down to STEP ONE: read the polls STEP TWO: trust the polls, and the reason that Silver was very slightly outdone by Sam Wang because he used a less straightforward poll aggregation.
But It’s a trick that relies on having enough data, and that limits its domain to areas that actually have that data. Going outside of those areas won’t get you a fresh look at stale concepts, it gets you nothing! False information!
It has a the same feel as Super Metroid: a sort-of sequel, done with all the graphical and game design technology (color-coded minimaps! an overabundance of buttons!) of the new era, but with some of the quirks and rough edges that gave the earlier game its charm lost in the process.
The early game is kind of stressful and not particuarly successful as a Metroidvania. It strongly urges you along the path, and you don’t quite have the tools to just shrug off the enemies that it throws at you; exploration is discouraged in favor of dashing for the next checkpoint before you eat too many weak but hard-to-avoid attacks. But you eventually power up and the world gets somewhat more open.
It never does feels like a real place. In the service of contiguous walkability they’ve narrowed the setting from all over the world to Kazakh City and its somewhat implausible video-game-level districts (the military base, the sewers, the gravity research lab, etc., etc) and I just don’t buy it. It’s pretty as hell, though; kudos to their artists.
The combat’s fun, and feels good. It lacks enemy variety—you will slash a lot of soldiers—but they give them a good selection of weaponry, and it makes you adjust your tactics slightly. But never too much to prevent running through and slashing everything. The core of the game stays what it is.
Picked this up for the iPhone when it was on sale a while back, finally played it. It’s fun! Full of Rube Goldberg machines and sleek flat polys. The animators must have had a blast.
Virtual reality is the stuff of programmer legend. Every software engineer that’s ever read Snow Crash (or more recently, the excellent Ready Player One) has dreamed of jacking into the metaverse. But why now? Well, if you think of it in very coarse terms as strapping two smartphones on your face and writing clever glue software, modern consumer VR is a natural outcome of what Chris Anderson calls the “peace dividend of the smartphone wars”.
It really is another of those things: if you think “eh, that’ll never happen,” just wait twenty years.
(As a pedant, I should point out that the Oculus, like the 2DS, uses a single smartphone with a line drawn down the middle. Two screens was an economical move in the DS vs PSP days—but that was before the smartphone wars!)
Chris was at the Steam Dev Days last week, trying to drum up more business—I don’t think he realized how much of his job would be looking for work and then hectoring people to pay us once that work’s completed—but he also brought back a tiny pc + Steam controller they’d given him (photo from engadget).
We tried it out on Portal, the first one, which might not have been retrofitted to use the controller. It’s a little strange: the two trackpads are the same, but the left one is pretending to be a joystick and the right one is pretending to be a trackball, so you’re using each thumb differently.
But it felt pretty good. Or, really, it felt half good. They’re on to something with that right stick; it’s got a clicker in it that really sells the illusion of trackball, or at least something vaguely mechanical. The left stick’s walking around was clumsy, and I drunkenly bumped into the wall next to a portal more often than I walked through it.
Apparently the new version is adding more conventional buttons, which ought to help. Even in its current state, it feels promising.