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Valve is a big tease
As many have seen, Valve is up to their usual routine of teasing information to their users.  On Monday, they finally dropped the first of three announcements revolving around their Steam Big Picture / Livingroom initiative.  Not much of a surprise is their first announcement being their SteamOS.  I kind of figured that is where they would be going with all their talk about Linux but now it's time to speculate the next two announcements.

Before I get into the next two announcements (and my particular speculation around them), here is a snippet from Gabe Newell's speech at LinuxCon:

"Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room, and potentially pointing further down the road to how we can get it even more unified in mobile."

Interesting yes and then there is this:

"There are sets of issues to making sure whatever platform you have works well in a living room environment.  There are thermal issues and sound issues, but there also a bunch of input issues. So the next step in our contribution to this is to release some work we've done on the hardware side."

Hardware is a logical step but does that necessarily mean Valve is getting into the console business? I think it could be possible but a part of me thinks: "Why would Valve bother getting into selling & supporting hardware?"

If you looked at their announcement page, they actually reveal an aspect of their plans in a very subtle way.  Go here: http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/ and look at the three circles at the bottom.  Inside are the following subtle icons (which I will identify in glorious ASCII art)

1.)     O
2.)  [O    ]
3.)  O + O

We now definitely know #1 is the SteamOS and that makes sense.  When we now look at #2, all that yells to my brain is the hardware side of what SteamOS will run on.  Some will say "STEAMBOX!" and while that is the most obvious, I'm thinking this will actually involve two components:  

2a) A detailed list of the supported hardware configurations for the SteamOS platform.  The DIY crowd will be able to build to suit the OS and Valve is only on the hook for supporting the OS on hardware they say they will support.

2b) Partner Hardware Systems.  This is a logical step and would make the most sense coming from a digital distribution and software focused company.  Push all the marketing, distribution and hardware support onto some vendors that are good at building hardware and keep your focus on the OS itself.  The vendors do all the work and your OS gains traction in the market. I believe there will be a SteamBox but I don't think it will be built by Valve.

Alright, that leaves us with the O+O component.  Since the first "O" in that is SteamOS, I am leaning towards SteamOS combining with another platform.  Remember that first quote I showed above?  I base this third theory on this little part: "...and potentially pointing further down the road how we can get it even more unified in mobile."

3.) My speculation on this third announcement is a play by Valve into the mobile space.  I'm going with SteamOS + SteamMobile and how they can join up both worlds. The mobile gaming market is huge so why wouldn't Valve want to tap into that revenue stream too and link it right into their SteamOS.  Maybe something along the lines of the NVIDIA Shield and Sony PS Vita type stuff where your SteamOS device works with your mobile/handheld hardware (streaming, cloud support, etc).

Short summary or the TL:DR version:
1.)     O     = SteamOS (announced)
2.)  [O    ] = Partner Hardware (SteamBox) and DIY Hardware Specs
3.)  O + O = SteamOS + SteamMobile (or whatever they will call it)

We won't know for sure until Valve actually drops the other two announcements.  These are my thoughts and while I'm fairly confident on #2, I suspect #3 is going to be the real Valve surprise in this announcement trilogy.
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DarthFos's profile photoDaniel Carr's profile photo
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3rd Announcement is a Steam Controller... ok. I guess it is fitting to have a way to interface with SteamOS but I wasn't quite expecting that.
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The OUYA Kickstarter Legacy
Deep down, I’m a very patient person and when projects go sideways, I am accepting of delays when there is actually a reason behind it. I’ve backed several Kickstarter projects that are delayed but the project owners have at least explained why and their backers thanked them for it.  In the case of OUYA, my patience has worn painfully thin to the point that I’m now writing this assembly of words about this particular experience.

To really grasp the source of backer frustration, you must go through the series of events.  With these dates explained, you’ll have the proper foundation for why so many Kickstarter Backers of the OUYA console are annoyed; especially today on RETAIL LAUNCH DAY!

April 5: Update #21: OUYA states they started shipping units on March 27th.  You know, 3 months ago.

April 19: Update #23: Nearly 20% of early backer shipments will be on the move.

April 26: Update #24: We’re now estimating 50% of all orders will be on the way by end of next week and Limited Edition orders will start shipping next week. Yeah, 2 months ago.

May 3: Update #25: “Will early backers receive their consoles before OUYA becomes available in retail?” “The answer is Yes…”.  This is when retail launch was still slated for June 4.

May 10: Update #26: OUYA gets 15M in new funding and delays June 4 retail release to June 25 “… to meet all this demand to give us time to make more OUYAs.” 60% shipped according to chart

May 17: Update #27: “We remain on track to have all early backer shipments out the door by the end of May.” Chart shows 80%.

May 24: Update #28: 100% SHIPPED!. DHL tells them scanning all shipments which triggers confirmation e-mails may be delayed until next Wednesday (May 29). Yup, 100% shipped, a month ago.

May 31:@OUYASupport Tweets: “https://twitter.com/OUYASupport/status/340461166725840896” “We will be posting another announcement to our Kickstarter page this afternoon. Thanks for your patience!”. This was response to many Twitter posts about not getting any updated information. Adding insult to everything, this update never happens.

June 2: “myouyaiscoming” E-Mail stating my unit has reached their distribution center a full week after they were supposedly 100% shipped.  I guess “100% shipped” meant from the end of the conveyor belt to a pallet in the factory shipping department.

June 11: “Your OUYA is on the move.” with a tracking number that still doesn’t work for a link that didn’t exist in the e-mail in the first place (and yes I’ve tried the appropriate proper tracking sites)

June 11-13: OUYA sets up shop in a parking lot outside of E3.

Remainder of June: Continued deafening silence on Kickstarter where users now have to resort to getting answers from the support e-mail, twitter contacts or by reading unanswered comments on Kickstarter and forums.

June 21: E-mail with subject: “Your damn OUYA tracking number still doesn’t work? PLEASE READ”. They may have thought the subject line was cute but at this point it feels more condescending.  The solution they provide only works for some and they didn’t even bother giving credit to the person that actually found the solution. That person was a backer who posted the solution in the Kickstarter comments days earlier.

June 24: Update #29: Tomorrow OUYA will officially launch!  The first update in a month and a shiny gem of blame tossing: “And -- if you were one of our backers that was impacted by the complications caused by DHL (shipping service) and have yet to receive your OUYA, please know that we are working overtime to get this resolved. We will continue to push our partners to find a resolution and will work directly with you and keep you in the loop until every backer has an OUYA in-hand. Thank you for all of your patience and support.”

June 25: Update #30: “Gonna fix this.” “Backers, I am pissed. Some of you have not yet received your OUYA -- and, to you, I apologize. I did not promise to ship to most of you before we hit store shelves. I promised to ship to all of you. I’ve been reading your comments, and we are working to solve this.” – Julie. 12:10AM on Launch day. So all the issues are some kind of surprise to you now?

The above timeline basically shows how the OUYA team has treated their backers.  I patiently watched as users commented in the Kickstarter page, the OUYA Twitter accounts and in forums to get canned responses or were told to submit tickets to the support email.  Generally, most backers probably checked the Kickstarter page for information only to find that big void in June where OUYA left everyone hanging.  The only recourse was to sift through tons of angry comments to find snippets of hope like the DHL tracking solution provided by a backer that worked for some.

To top everything off, many International backers that coughed up the extra $20 for shipping are being charged by DHL for additional handling fees. I was expecting to get hit with taxes (that’s normal) and most likely customs charges but not to the degree some people are being charged.  Source: http://ouyaforum.com/showthread.php?2741-International-OUYA-Backers-getting-charged-extra-Customs-charges .  Some backers have become so frustrated with this that they refused their packages, reversed charged their credit cards and have been demanding refunds.  Not receiving their units prior to this retail launch has started a new flurry of refund requests in the Kickstarter comments as frustrated backers continue to vent.

I will give the OUYA guys the benefit of the doubt for not being prepared to handle the massive logistics involved with firing 60,000 consoles to individuals all over the world.  Face it, their campaign went ballistic and at over 9X their goal, it became a viral success beyond what they anticipated.  That being said, their ultimate failure comes down to a simple and controllable aspect of their campaign: Communication to their backers.

Think of how the story would have been different if they didn’t show up in a parking lot at E3 and instead put all that time & energy into resolving support issues for backers.  The positive spinoff from that would have probably had more news reach and impact than the childish antics going on between them and the E3 organizers.

I’m still looking forward to my OUYA and will enjoy tinkering with it (when it shows up).  It’s cool to see something succeed but let this also be a great lesson to those who strive to do the same.  No matter what happens, keep the communication alive between you and your backers.
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DarthFos's profile photoBrad Chacos's profile photo
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There is patience and then there is this situation.  I'm giving OUYA until tomorrow for the unit to arrive (tracking # still doesn't work).  If it doesn't show up, I'm going after them for a refund because I'm pretty well done even remotely caring about this console anymore.
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Chaos Comes in All Forms
Sorry about the silence lately but I have had life throw me some real curve balls lately which resulted in screwing up my life/work/everything schedule beyond belief.  Once I get past this unexpected event filled period, I will get back to game stuff and random discussions like that.  :)
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It's a Weekend of Chaos!
It would figure that it is a Double XP Weekend in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), a Double XP / Double Station Cash Weekend in Planetside 2 and I received a brand new video game closed beta invite (Sorry, NDA) all at once.  To say that creates a little chaos in my free time is an understatement considering all my other games & projects I still haven't done.  My work/life balance has been a bit off hence the less frequent updates & postings.

For me, family comes first and I will drop what I'm working on when I'm needed. That has been the case for the last few weeks which is why there are less updates, I'm now behind schedule with my work projects and the gaming rig hasn't been powered on for over 2-weeks.  Things are settling down but the impact to my work schedule can't be easily remedied.  Sorry gaming and this glorious weekend of possibilities but you will have to wait.

For the rest of you with free time, if you like FPS games and haven't tried Planetside 2, this weekend is a prime time to dive in.  Double XP gains & Double Station Cash rewards is definitely a good thing.
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PS3/PS4 Diablo III will work OFFLINE
In an interesting twist, as described in the linked Joystiq article, the recently announced Playstation version of Diablo III will allow people to play the game offline.  This is completely counter to the wonderful always-online Battle.net Internet requirement slammed down the throats of PC players that resulted in tons of DRM based nerdrage.

With the push to more online interaction and social media implementations in the Playstation world, it seems a little odd to revamp the title to now include an offline mode. There are probably many reasons and things at play here that we just don't know but I can think of a reason or two why offline mode has suddenly shown up.

First, Sony likes their Playstation Network (PSN) for account control and probably doesn't want to incorporate Battle.net and mix the account systems.  After being gloriously hacked in the past, I too would be a bit gun-shy about implementing cross-linked systems that use different authentication.

The other problem, if they could technically link the two systems, is that Diablo III players on PS3/PS4 would probably need to have two accounts in an always online method (PSN & Battle.net).  Some players may already have accounts on both but forcing new players to log into multiple services is a negative experience and troubleshooting nightmare when you don't control both systems.

This move also makes me wonder what we'll see at the next-gen XBOX announcement if Diablo III lands on that platform as well (which I bet it will).  Offline mode on that system would most likely be due to the XBOX Live environment guys not wanting to share with Battle.net either.

Either way you slice, dice and Warrior smash it, it certainly will be an interesting development to watch over the coming months.  Will they implement cross-platform play between consoles and PC? Will they patch the PC version to incorporate offline gameplay and controller UI support? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Edit: Blizzard Blog Post Announcement: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/blog/8717945/ and that they'll be demonstrating the PS3 version at PAX East March 22-24th.
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Get your Func on
Got my hands on a Func Gaming Mouse, took pictures of it, tested it out and then assembled words about it in the form of a review.  

Oh yeah and the Mod Zoo is giving one away as a bonus and you can enter for it on their Facebook page: 
https://www.facebook.com/TheModZoo
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Sorry Wallet, it's for a good cause
Why am I apologizing to my wallet? STEAM SUMMER SALE! Yep, it is that time of the year again when Steam slashes prices on different game titles with Daily Deals, Flash Sales and Community Choice selections.  For those who haven't gone through a thorough Steaming of your cash flow, here are a couple tips I've learned.

1.) Don't buy everything on day one.  The deals fluctuate so put a watch on your favorite title you don't own yet.  Add it to your wishlist so you can keep an eye on it.

2.) Is a new major title currently 50% in a Daily Deal, Flash Sale or Community Vote? If not, wait for it.  Quite often they sit at 25% off or 33% off and then BOOM a 50% deal happens at some point.

3.) Older titles quite often get some kind of 75% off Flash or Daily deal.  Those are the ones that sit at 50% for most of the sale so watch for that extra bonus drop in price.

4.) Participate in the Community Voting.  You will basically be helping to decide what game gets a nice discount every 8-hours.

5.) Already have a title but are also a good friend? Wait for some killer deals (ie 75% or more) on cheaper titles and buy them as gifts.  I have several games in my inventory that I've slated to give away to my buddies.

6.) Own a title but haven't bought all the DLC packs for it yet?  Now might be a good time to get them as those too will all be on sale.

Shop smart, Shop S-Mart.  (in this case... Steam)

http://store.steampowered.com/
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Vroom Vroom SPLAT
I have a feeling some of you racing game fans might be interested in this particular bit of news. For some time now, the port of the original Carmageddon game has been available as a mobile app on iOS with the Android version "Coming Soon".  Guess what! Coming Soon = Friday May 10th on Google Play and it will be free for the first 24 Hours.  Android users, mark your calendars in the blood of splattered pedestrians!
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I keep forgetting Stainless Games is in the UK so Friday has started... Enjoy Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.stainlessgames.carmageddonpromo and also iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/id498240451 
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Always Online Mode
SimCity has been a buzz with their always online single player fiasco that most are focusing as being strictly for DRM purposes. Some put the blame on EA as the distributor and others are looking at Maxis as the developers who dropped the ball.  Really, it comes down to both of them screwing this up because the server side is a joint effort that they both failed at.

On the one hand, I see what Maxis is trying to accomplish with having city save games and multiple player city interactivity happening on the server side.  By managing the status of a player metropolis online, they can provide ways for tons of players to develop inter-city trade and other crazy concepts that having a server side solution can provide.  The problem with that is the sheer amount of data being shoved around due to the different city types and player builds going on.  City growth, data refresh rates, dynamic database changes and client/server traffic must be absolutely staggering once you multiply all the different possible configurations going on.

Where the ball really has been dropped with SimCity is for the solo player who just wants to be the almighty omnipotent god of their city wreaking chaos on their own little world.  They don't care about branching off to other cities or creating connections, they just want to build and have fun.  What is interesting is that many have proven that the game will continue without connection to the servers for up to 20mins after pulling the online plug (although they lose their progress).  It is possible to have low data refresh cycles so maybe their implementation is at fault for failing to provide a solo play specific option.

What probably should have happened is easier said than done but something developers could have considered.  First, have the "I'm only playing single player & don't care about others" mode.  Client/Server traffic would not have to be as great, more people could be pointed at a solo specific servers and it would maintain their save progress and DRM city building integrity no-cheatycheaty checksums.  The server side processing isn't as harsh because they aren't building tons of database connections for all the players that are interacting within that server zone.

Next, you create the beefy built mega hardware "I want to join the global united" multiplayer server setup that is what they are currently slamming everyone onto now.  If the beefy multiplayer hardware gets overwhelmed, which it has, then players would have had the option to jump back onto solo game servers to actually play while the multiplayer issues were resolved.

The next component in this scenario would require a transfer system that allows a now bustling solo city to be transferred to the beefy system for multiplayer city interaction.  I would equate this to being like an MMO account transfer from one server to another as you are mainly just moving their city database tables to a new server.  If it takes 24-48hrs to move, some people will understand that and might build a new solo city while they wait for their existing shiny metropolis to hit the global united.

Server-side gaming solutions, social implementation and the "Cloud" are all fun and shiny concepts but that does not mean everything needs to be pushed in that direction.  If it were me, I would have implemented solo play servers first and then ramped up the multiplayer afterwards.  At least then they would have had the player numbers for what was going on with cities and the data to more accurately determine the server requirements for the multiplayer implementation.
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DarthFos's profile photoBill Owen's profile photo
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Adding to the fun, Rock-Paper-Shotgun found that some game modder/hacker got SimCity to run offline: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/03/14/modder-runs-simcity-offline-maxis-remains-silent/ 
EA & Maxis continue to remain silent.  Hmmm

I remember playing SimCity a long time ago in the earlier iterations and it is a fun thing to play.  The always-on hope you actually connect to a beat-to-death-server problem is a big hurdle. AI pathing problems and other things are a whole other story.
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Bungie's Jason Jones doesn't like your Keyboard+Mouse
I'm always amused by the attitude of some in the gaming industry when it comes to the PC and the future of the platform.  The latest round comes from Jason Jones at Bungie.  In case you don't know who that is, he's the Co-Founder of Bungie who are, of course, very rich guys thanks to their success with Halo.

As mentioned in the linked Destructoid article talking about Bungie's new "Destiny" project, he actually spouted this wonderful statement: "We made the game run without a mouse and keyboard. And now nobody plays shooters the way they used to play them before Halo 'cause nobody wants to."  Pardon me?

I understand that some people love gripping their controllers and the simplicity of twin-stick fighting their way through a game with only a couple buttons.  My nephews are like crazy little controller ninjas when it comes to some games because that's what they are used to.  That being said, they are impressed when they come over here and see what I accomplish playing the same titles with my PC setup using my Keyboard+Mouse. (Their drool inducing reaction to my higher graphics quality compared to their console version being a whole other discussion)

I do actually use a controller for some games but also prefer my Keyboard+Mouse for the flexibility and keybinding possibilities with many titles (including FPS games).  Some people use both and having the flexibility of control choice is a selling feature.  

I suspect if they do make a PC port of Destiny, it will be destined to have some horrible console-centric UI elements that you can't keybind and are forced to use the hard and slow way.
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Welcome to the Dark Side
Introduction
DarthFos Google+ Page
 
Welcome to my Google+ Page where I plan to write random things about video games and discuss gaming related topics I find interesting.  I do reserve the right to ramble on about other topics when the mood strikes.
 
This page is for the fun of it and I hope you enjoy it as well.
 
My Custom Profile Image created by Lar deSouza, amazing artist for http://lfgcomic.com and http://leasticoulddo.com web comics.
Check out his work sometime and his personal store here: http://lartist.myshopify.com/.