Surface 2 Gaming With Remote Desktop

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Doctor Bambi here with a tech tip to knock your socks off. So you’re looking to buy a new computer. But kind what do you get? A laptop? A tablet? Desktop? Laptops work fine for normal pc activities, but they don’t have the processing power I need to play real games, unless I want to break the bank. A tablet? I love the portability, and versatility, but again, you can’t really play the latest and greatest coming out on Steam. And a desktop computer is just too constricting. I don’t want to be leashed to an outlet for the rest of my life.
I looked at these new tablet/laptop crossovers that are gaining popularity, but it all comes back to processing power.
I want the power of a desktop in the comfort and versatility of a tablet.
And thus, the Surface came into the picture for a few key reasons. One being, herp derp, it’s a tablet. Second reason is the full sized USB port on the side. I can hook up my mouse and key board and run this just like a laptop. I can also hook up an xbox 360 controller to this bad boy.
Okay, great I can use a mouse and keyboard on a tablet, so what, it’s still just a tablet, what’s the interesting part?
The interesting part is splashtop. Slashtop is a way to control your desktop computer using another piece of technology, whether that be your tablet, mobile phone, or other computer. It works across Mac and PC and it has some features like wirelessly extending your display. Really great stuff.
Go find the Splashtop app in your tablet’s store. Download and install on your Surface or your ipad or whatever tech you have. Then go to splashtop.com on your home PC, in the top right corner you’ll see a button labeled Download Streamer.
Download and install that. Once that has finished installing, launch it. From here you can create an account or log in if you’ve already set one up. Now launch the splashtop app on your mobile device and you’ll be ready to remote desktop into your pc.
Some things to note though: First off, splashtop can’t use full screen. So if you want to play a game on your PC, you’ll have to set it to windowed mode. Secondly, I have a Surface 2, which boasts a full HD display running at a resolution of 1080p. Running splashtop at this resolution made it extremely laggy. If you have issues with lag, I suggest turning the resolution on your tablet down if it will let you.
Hope this was informative and stay safe out there travelers!

Under the Microscope: Metroid Prime > Part 2

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Welcome to Under the Microscope with your esteemed host, Doctor Bambi! Under the Microscope is all about walking through great games and dissecting elements of the level, game, and sound design. As an aspiring game designer I thought this would be a good way to learn from the best and also contribute to the community.  I’m sure there are points I’ll misstate or perhaps you have more you’d like to add, so feel free to speak up if you feel so inclined. If not, sit back and enjoy the ride!

So today we begin the opening scene. The first text appears on screen telling you why you’re here. A distress beacon picked up on a space pirate research facility. Oh man, we’re just asking for trouble. What horrors could await us?? Cue eerie music. Fade up on space. Then we pan to a planet. And then…. Samus’s ship zips into view. The music picks up as she moves in and docks. Popping out from a porthole atop her vessel, she does a completely necessary quadruple front flip and busts a move up onto that platform. We hear the familiar soothing music sting as the camera swoops into Samus’s visor… Brace yourself, for it is time.

So one thing to look at, is why did they have her do that dramatic entrance? I believe this is the first exposure we’ve had of Samus in 3D. Also, at the time, Gamecube graphics were absolutely amazing. I think Retro knew that if they were going to get players engaged and excited about controlling Samus in 3D, they needed to convey just how much of a bad A she really is. When she hits the deck, there’s an audible thump that gives off a sense of power and presence, you definitely don’t want to get in a bar fight with this lady.

Now we should take a moment to address the heads up display, cause who doesn’t love a great HUD and this game definitely has one. In most games, I hate a lot of information on the screen, blocking me from the important moments unfolding before me. In the case of this game though, all of the HUD elements not only feel good, but they actually help immerse the player in the role of Samus. She most definitely would want info on her visor. Also, all elements are at least slightly opaque. In no time your brain will have adjusted to them and, for all intensive purposes, be moved to the back of your conscious. Also also, when you turn your head, the display lags behind for a split second, which just feels awesome.

So the first obstacle that we run into is a force field. It’s quite apparent, the developers want us to understand how shooting is going to work in this game. Four glowing targets are to be shot before you can proceed. This teaches you how to lock onto targets and how to fire. I found it interesting that you absolutely cannot jump back onto your ship at this point. There was no plot point to explain this and it feels a little impractical. But I think they didn’t want the player jumping up onto the ship where a collision box is set up, firing the save menu. Something kind of Easter eggish is that you can shoot the chunks of rock floating overhead and they’ll explode into tiny pieces. A very nice touch.

Well, I’ll have to leave it there for now Glen Mates. There’s so much to talk about at every step of the way. Hope you got something out of it. If you haven’t already, you should head to my facebook and give a like there and share with your friends. 🙂 Okay, okay, next time I promise I’ll actually get to playing the actual game *audience gasp again* and dive into the depths of this space pirate research facility. Those danged pirates!

Facebook Did What Now?!?!

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It’s official, Facebook is in the process of buying out Oculus VR. Both sides are totally fired up about this, but WAIT WAT?? I need to collect the bits of my brain that just exploded all over the walls. Can this really be a good thing?? Is Oculus founder Palmer Luckey smoking crack? Is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg smoking crack?

…. But now this got me thinking. Up until the past few years, the consensus on virtual reality has been that it’s gimmicky. We’re finally starting to break that mold, but who has been the targeted audience for VR up to this point? Hardcore gamers? Arcades gamers? Possibly the military? Have we all been looking in the wrong place? If VR can find a killer app that caters to every demographic, it might have a chance at sticking around. But it’s gotta be so cool and interesting that every single person that hears about the concept says, “hey I gotta get me one of those!”. If Grandma is using it, you’ve won. The hardcore video game audience is not large enough to sustain VR, but if VR is not dependent on hardcore gamers, it has a chance to make a real profit and a real impact on society and culture. It can’t be just an added feature to an already existing product, it has to be an experience you can get no where else except through that headset. So perhaps the team up will be a great thing. If they can find a use for it, which I think they already have, Oculus could be set to impact the millions upon millions of facebook users an interesting ways. From there, Oculus will have a solid base to jump from. Movies, games, and everything we haven’t dreamed up yet are all on the table and that is a very exciting thought indeed.

I’ve used the Oculus Rift before, and I think it is an absolutely incredible piece of tech. The level of game immersion is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, but I know not everyone feels this way. If you are skeptical of the hype for the Oculus, I have a story to tell that might help describe what it’s like to use.

So one of my friends decides to try out Minecraft using the Oculus. He has a natural fear of heights, and there can be some pretty extreme hills in the game. He’s never had any problems just playing the game on a monitor. But when inside the Oculus, he couldn’t get up the courage to go near steep drop offs because it triggered his natural fear of heights. It’s a good example of the power of the Oculus, because we’ve all experienced that disconnect in games when falling to our deaths. But inside the Oculus, your brain will have such a hard time deciding what is reality and what is not, that it will trigger your natural response to dangerous situations. It really is incredible.

Of course, this is just an example of using VR in games, an obvious use case. Even then, it’s still tacked on and adds very little value to the actual game play. Once the wow factor has died down, you start to notice all the problems. The things that’ll make you use the device less and less until it ends up in your closet collecting dust for all eternity. The headset is unwieldy, and a cable has you tethered to your computer. It’s not social, once you have it on, everything going on in the room is essentially irrelevant to your brain. In most cases, you have to be sitting down while wearing the device for any extended amount of time. It doesn’t look very attractive, in fact it looks down right creepy. You certainly wouldn’t want to take this thing on the subway with you, or use it at a party. Just imagine a train full of people wearing headsets, sitting there, expressionless, while the government pumps out propaganda messages- okay I’ve gone too far.

The main point I wanted to get across here is that VR and social applications could provide the platform VR needs to survive. And on the other hand, VR has some real issues to tackle before it can embrace that social mantra. Cheers to the future!

Housemate’s “Always Here for You” Remix Competition

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Just submitted my remix of “Always Here for You” to the Housemate remix competition. It’s been a ton of fun making. I’ve recently been listening to the new Skrillex album and really taking in the quality of his mixes. Even if you’re not a fan of the content or style, there’s no denying that a Skrillex song is on a level of mastery that not many artists reach in terms of mixing quality. One of the things that really struck me about each song I listened to was the cleanliness. Even when he drops a super heavy bass, it never feels overly muddy. Mud is one of the more difficult things to minimize in a mix, but as a test, I tried applying a light 2 dB eq filter in the 200-400 hz range on each track in an attempt to keep low mid frequencies from gobbling up my headroom. What I ended up with was a much, much cleaner and crisper sound. This, in and of itself led to a new problem, sadly. Getting rid of the mud is definitely a huge part of the battle but now we have to take care of the high frequencies that are free to stab at your eardrums like a gremlin with a fork. As you increase the loudness of your track, make sure low and high frequencies are presented evenly. It’s very important to keep in mind, the end user should be able to listen comfortably and soak in all that frequency goodness you’ve worked so hard on, no matter what volume they play it at. Here are some URLs you might be interested in pursuing:

My remix: https://soundcloud.com/doctorbambi/alwayshereforyou

Other Entries: http://www.remixcomps.com/host/entries/2904?sort_by=created&sort_order=DESC

Housemate’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HousemateOfficial/app_178091127385

Under the Microscope: Metroid Prime > Part One

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Today is the start of something special!… Or at least I hope it is. :0 I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head for a few months and finally decided to put rubber to the road! Welcome to Under the Microscope with your esteemed host, Doctor Bambi! What lies in wait for you is adventure and things! My vision for this is pretty simple. I want to walk through great games and dissect elements of the game design, just to see what I can find, and share them with you! ^__^ As an aspiring game designer I thought this would be a good way to learn from the best and also contribute to the community. Hopefully we’ll all learn awesome things and discover some core principles that make a great game great! I’m sure there are points I’ll misstate or perhaps you have more you’d like to add, so feel free to speak up if you feel so inclined. If not, sit back and enjoy the ride!

To start off, I’d like to make you aware of some names and give you a better feel for the people who made this game in particular possible. To start we probably all know this game was published by Nintendo. It was collaboratively developed by Retro Studios in Austin Texas and Nintendo Co. in Kyoto Japan. The names I’m about to get to can be found on this URL: http://www.giantbomb.com/metroid-prime/3030-15473/credits/ I wish I could talk about every individual, but these were the key people who had the final say on what made it into the game.

Lead Designer: Mark Pacini

Mark is currently a game director at Armature Studio

Lead Artist: Todd Keller

Most recently, Todd has worked on Batman: Arkham Origins- Black Gate

Lead Programmers: Jack Mathews, Andy O’Neil

Jack is the co-founder of Armature Studio, also worked on Black Gate

Andy is now the president of Bluepoint Games

Lead Audio: Clark Wen

He is now working at Neversoft as their audio director

Alright, so to start this series off, lets take a look at the start menu. So the first thing that’ll probably jump out at you is the atmospheric music. The music in this game is absolutely incredible and the main menu sets an intense tone. Every time I boot up this game, I feel that deep immerse gravitas wash over me. I’m playing a Metroid game. The next thing that’ll probably grab your attention is the setting of this menu. Swathy fluids and and little bits and strange growths. Like looking at the internal workings of a living cell… under a microscope. ;D The imagery will create a subconscious note in your mind about elements that will unfold within the story. What are the space pirates doing? Growing metroids again and also genetically modifying various other space life. Dang pirates. When pressing the start button, you’ll notice the music picks up. The tempo increases and the overall tone of the song is more intense. Getting you fired up to jump in the game. After selecting your file, it’s off to the races. Metroid races that is. Oooo maybe that’d make a good spin off. Metroid Racing. Okay, forget I said that. Also the panning around the various objects in the background helps give each individual menu a sense of place in the overall hierarchy of the menu system. I don’t think there’s too much more to comment on that. Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll be actually starting the game! *audience gasp* Thanks for reading, glen mates!

Nova Intent: Escape From Damascus 527 — Build 1 is here!

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The first build of Nova Intent: Escape from Damascus 527 is now online. 🙂 Sadly, the only way to play it is to download the file from here: http://doctor-bambi.deviantart.com/art/WIP-EscapeFromDamascus527-Build1-440391002

I’m working on getting this thing up and running in the browser, but le sigh. De problems. But hey, first build is here!

Just a warning, this is not complete yet, just a demo/alphaish thing while I build out the rest of the content.

What is Nova Intent: Escape from Damascus 527, you ask? This is my take on the text based adventure genre. It skews from the traditional sense of a text based adventure for a few different reasons. It is not controlled by inputting text. There are graphics, but they do not exist to interrupt your imagination’s interpretation of the story, simply to inspire richness. There is ambient audio to add immersion, and tactile audio feedback.

This game is an interactive short story set in the fairly near future. Anyone who is a fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, or any form of scifi writing, this game was made for you. There is action, drama, and an ending I hope will keep you thinking long after you’ve put the game down.

But most importantly, I hope you have fun and enjoy exploring the Damascus 527.

Is Dead Space 3 a Love Letter to the Future of the Dead Space Franchise

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So I’ve recently finished up the third installment in the Dead Space franchise and have to say I am quite surprised. So there I was trudging along through dark, dank hallways doing my dead space thing. When all of a sudden something incredible happened. Dead Space let me choose in which order to attack certain key objectives. It opened up the world and said okay here’s your little box, go out and do whatever in your little box. And of course this little box was in a zero grav environment revolving round the frigid Tau Volantis. Scattered with bits of fallen SCAF vessels. A Catacomb in a vacuum, overrun by morbidly mutated necromorphs. It’s also a section where co-op is available. There’s something very fun about exploring such an incredibly realized reality with one of your close friends, not sure how you’re going to survive this tragic situation. By far one of the most impactful moments I had in the game. From this stemmed a stream of thoughts that made me very excited about the future implications of this franchise.

The love letter is one of the purest forms of hope and love. A promissory note of all the great things that will come once time has had its chance to pass. What is Dead Space 3 possibly professing to us? I would say Visceral is at a threshold and just beyond is something quite spectacular. That moment in the game where I had my little box and I could play the game my way. I want more of that. I want to explore the Dead Space world on my terms and I want to experience this with my friends. With the next generation of consoles comes new game design opportunities. Already we see this burgeoning sudo single player/ multiplayer experience in games like Destiny. Dead Space could very much take advantage of this system and give you the chance to explore the world on an incredibly personal level.

But what kind of implications would this have on the horror elements of Dead Space? It’s quite clear at the moment that Visceral has headed more toward action than horror, but opening up the game could actually allow Dead Space to head back to its roots. One of the main reasons Dead Space was such a scary experience was due to the usg ishimura feeling so realistic. Even though the experience was linear, you were free to travel to where ever on the ship you wanted to go at just about any time. It becomes scary when the familiar changes on you. When what you believe is safe becomes very much the opposite. Dead Space did this constantly, having you traverse the same areas multiple times and watching those environments change over time. Having an open environment gives that sense of exploration and fear of the unknown back to the player.

This is certainly just a big opinion, but what does it make you think? Would you like an open world Dead Space? Would the open world setting destroy what you find so great about Dead Space? Curious to hear people’s thoughts if you find this.

Creating a Much More Imersive Gameplay Experience

I was playing Dishonored not too long ago, and I found something really interesting.  One of the many reasons this game is one of my favorites, is the deep customization of your HUD.  I wanted to do a little experiment.  I went through and turned off all items on my HUD.  What resulted was quite shocking to me.  The game felt more fluid and real.  Now instead of a graphic popping up telling me what to do, I just… did.  The game forced me to internalize the controls, which granted, can be kind of scary and frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it (in about 15 minutes or so) you’ll find a much deeper and personal experience.  Now the developers aren’t spoon feeding you.  A sword is on the table?  I better pick that up.  As opposed to, *get close to table* *see pickup prompt* oh, I better hit “x” here.  There’s someone on the other side of this door?  I better peek through the lock to see if I can get past him.  As opposed to, *approach door* *two prompts appear* *”x” to enter, “hold x” to peek* I better hold x and see if a bad guy is in this room.  Just look at the difference of these two scenes and decide for yourself which one you think feels more natural:

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But what does this mean for game design?

Well, you have to realize how long games have been set up this way.  In fact, I bet a lot of hardcore gamers would have a hard time adjusting to the idea that you can’t see how much ammo is left in your clip.  The opposite side of the fence argues this: imagine your experience if you weren’t burdened with checking your clip status every 10 seconds?  Certainly, you do need time to figure out the controls, quite a bit of time in fact.  I performed this test after having played many many hours with Dishonored.  I know the controls like the back of my hand; this could lead to some biased results.  So, I plan to do a test with Bioshock Infinite, a game that I’ll have no experience playing.  By timing myself and seeing how long it takes me to learn the controls of a triple A title, we’ll see how plausible it is to take away a gamers HUD.

But how would you work around no HUD in your implementation of feedback?
The best and most realistic way to give a player feedback, is to have natural stimuli impact the character in such a way that grabs the gamer’s attention.  Instead of flashing a message on screen that you’re burning from a fire, just have an animation of the character model that implies, “hey, you are on fire, you might want to figure out a way to put that out before you burn to death.”

My Suggestion
I believe that there is a very simple answer to all of this:  start the player off with full HUD and tutorials and the like.  Then, as they progress through the game, slowly, one by one, remove each piece of data until there is nothing left between the person and the world they are exploring.  It’s great that Dishonored lets you adjust these settings, but many people hate digging through menus and tweaking the controls.  Let’s not destroy their chance at a deeper experience just because of that.