Apple Video Game System

Though this can’t be confirmed yet, it’s rumored that Apple is working on its own video game system that will be based on iOS and built into the Apple TV.  This has been further supported by game-centric APIs found in the up-coming iOS 7.

With Google working on its own video game console, this should make for some interesting competition.

The advantage for Apple is many people instantly associate the name “Apple” with quality.  Also, iOS games are mostly written in the Objective C programming language which then gets compiled to native code, which tends to make iOS games faster and smoother.

Google has the advantage of having a more open ecosystem, but Android games are compiled into Java bytecode, which in turn runs on top of a Java virtual machine, which in turn runs on top of the system kernel.  This can degrade the system performance overall and can lead to the stuttering you see in some Android games, even when played on powerful Android tablets and phones.

If Apple can make their system smooth and easy to use, and if they keep the price of the Apple TV right at $99, Apple might attract some new customers that wouldn’t normally be Apple fans.

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.

Henge of Denravi

Guild Wars 2 is a MMORPG, that also has a strong PvP component in the form of WvW (World vs. World).  This is where servers are categorized into tiers and then three servers at similar tiers are pitted against each other, with members of those servers meeting on a special battleground where they fight for control of certain control points, gaining points for the server overall.

At the launch of Guild Wars 2, Henge of Denravi (HoD) was one of the largest, if not the largest, servers in the game.  They were tier 1 and undefeated.  But, as the stories go, people started transferring from other servers and joining HoD WvW so they could relay HoD’s battle plans back to their servers of choice.  Also, there can only be so many people in WvW at one time, and the stories say people would transfer from other servers to HoD and join WvW then just stand around to fill up the queue, preventing the more skilled and organized guilds from joining the fray.

Those guilds eventually got tired of these tactics and left the server, joining other servers instead.

Originally Arena Net’s idea, the company behind Guild Wars 2, was to make world transfers, where you transfer your character from one server to another, free at first so players could be sure they were on a server they liked.  Then, after a time, world transfers were supposed to start costing real money, but that hasn’t kicked in yet.  That’s what allowed all of this server hopping to happen.

Because HoD was in first place for so long, it’s still ranked in tier 1 despite now having a much lower population than it used to.  This means that it keeps getting pitted against much larger servers where it can’t make much of any gains, with point spreads of 100,000 for the large servers and HoD with something like 5,000.

It’s expected that HoD will move to a lower tier at some point.  When world transfers are no longer free and when the tiers are reshuffled and rebalanced, it’ll be interesting to see how well HoD starts doing.  Who knows, maybe it can climb its way back up the ladder again.

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.