Ouya and the Credit Card Mess

The Ouya, a new Android-based video game console, was recently released to mixed reviews.  Some people like it, some people hate it, and some people really, really hate it.

The Ouya got its start on the popular crowd funding site Kickstarter where they raised $8.6 million dollars.  Later they also got an injection of cash from some venture capitalists.

The Ouya has had myriad problems.  Everything from buttons that stick, to an updated controller where the buttons still stick for some people, to wi-fi issues, controller responsiveness and lag issues, speed and stability of some games, shipping issues where those that backed the project on Kickstarter and were promised early delivery of their consoles still haven’t gotten theirs even though the consoles are now available at retail stores, and so on.  Each of those issues could take up an article all on its own.  But this article isn’t about those.  This article is about Ouya’s credit card mess.

What it comes down to is this:  When you first turn on an Ouya and create an Ouya account, you must put in a credit card number.  At one point there was an option where this step could be skipped, but they’ve changed the system to where it is no longer possible to skip.  Keep in mind that all the games have a free demo available and there are other free apps as well.  Nevertheless, to use any of these things, despite being free, you must put in a credit card number, which then gets saved in your account.  Not even the all-powerful Google, when creating a new Google account to download free Android apps with, requires this of you.

This issue has incensed many.  I’ve read reports of people even returning their Ouyas because of it.  Ouya says the reason for this is convenience.  When you play a game you like, they don’t want you to have to slow down in order to buy it.  They do it because of you, for you.  They know better than you.

The Ouya sells itself as being an “open source console”, where gamers can play how they want.  And yet they don’t give gamers the choice of how they want their credit card information handled.  They don’t give them the choice of entering the information for each and every purchase if they so choose, or of not entering it at all and simply enjoying the free items on offer.

This, which many view as tantamount to an invasion of privacy, has been what has truly put me off the Ouya more than anything else.  I was interested in it at one time.  I am interested in it no longer.  Here, ladies and gentlemen, is a company that despite all its claims and gesticulations, doesn’t know how to follow the open source creed of user choice.  That doesn’t sound very “open” to me.

Ouya on Amazon

It’s been announced that the Ouya Android-powered open gaming console is going to be available on Amazon, as well as at a number of other retailers, including both online and regular brick-and-mortar stores.  The article announcing this information also has an interview with Julie Uhrman, the CEO of Ouya.  You can read it here.

Machinarium Review

I recently got Machinarium for Linux as part of a recent Humble Bundle deal, though it’s available for a variety of platforms, and I just beat the game yesterday.

Machinarium is a graphic adventure game with the regular sorts of puzzles you’d expect from that genre, along with more traditional puzzles mixed in, like having to move pieces in just a certain way or activate lights in just a certain way to solve the puzzle and move on to the next.

There’s no dialog in the game.  The story is told completely through animated thought bubbles and sequences.  It’s very slick, and it works well.

Overall, I highly recommend this game.  You can learn more about it on the game’s wiki page or check out the game’s page itself.

What Indie Games Mean to Me

If you take a moment to look over this website you’ll see that I’m a big supporter of the Humble Bundle, which promotes indie computer games using a pay-what-you-want system, and recently a promoter of ebooks as well, using the same system.

I’m a big supporter of the indie game scene in general, where you have small independent game developers and publishers creating and publishing their games directly to the public through the Internet, using services like Kickstarter to raise money or simply selling directly through their own website.  This allows them to create games that large game publishers, with their slow development cycles and stagnant ideas, would never green light.

A perfect example of this is Wasteland 2, a sequel to the acclaimed computer role-playing game Wasteland from the 80s.  Brian Fargo went to many of the large publishers asking for the funding to make Wasteland 2.  None of them were interested, thinking that no one would be interested in a game like that.  So instead, he turned to Kickstarter.  The goal was to raise $900,000 to fund the project.  Instead, they raised over $2 million, proving that there really was a desire for such games, and also proving that you don’t have to go through a big publisher and play by their rules to get a game published.

This of course holds many parallels to the ebook industry and authors being able to publish their ebooks directly, but that’s a subject for another post.

So, I’ve been thinking about what indie games mean to me.  I don’t expect them to have the most advanced graphics… after all, they tend to be dealing with smaller budgets… but I do expect the gameplay to be interesting.  They often have very nice soundtracks.  Most importantly, however, I expect them to have good stories.  When I play an indie game, that’s what I’m looking for.  A story that’s deeper, more compelling, and perhaps even more daring than what you’d get out of a main-stream game.

So for me, what I expect from an indie game, and what indie games mean to me, can be summed up in one word:  Story.

Dust Force Review

I recently picked up the indie game Dust Force as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, and have spent the last few days playing it.

The Humble Indie Bundle is a program where you can get a package of independently developed games and pay as little or as much for it as you want.  The money gets divided among the developers and charities, and if you pay more than the average amount, you unlock some additional games.  You can learn more about it here.

Dust Force is one of the games you get for paying more than the average, so I was expecting it to really be something special.  In Dust Force, you play a number of different characters of your  choosing.  You run around levels in 2D side-scrolling platform style, cleaning dust and leaves off of surfaces.  The game incorporates some puzzle-like elements, as you need to use the right combination of jumps, moves, and key-presses to get to some of the surfaces.  Cleaning surfaces also adds to your combo counter, which counts down over time.  You have to keep your combo counter active if you want to achieve a perfect score on the level.

The idea is certainly different and unique, but to be honest, I don’t enjoy the game very much.  I’m sure there are some people that do, but I’m not one of them.  The controls are far too twitchy and unforgiving.  A game like this requires that you move your character precisely, yet when you stop running you always slide.  Then when you’re jumping around, it can be difficult to position and move your character just how you want, resulting in you landing on some spikes or something similar and having to repeat that section of the level over and over again.

The game isn’t difficult because of its puzzles or creative mechanics.  The game is difficult just because of its controls, and that’s just bad design.  Dust Force ends up being far more frustrating than fun.