Everything begins with pixels: At the eternal dawn of the modern day

Luminescent building blocks. Pixels flashing in space: twisting, inverting, politics, entertainment, pleasure, emotion. We, points of light, touchscreen cradle to networked grave. Pixels, sharp and bright, wrapping the basis of our everyday. As a tech enthusiast and game player; designer; builder, I hope to share my fascination of these modern elements with you, my reader.

At the eternal dawn of the modern-day: this one is about 3-d tech and the future (and some games).

It doesn’t matter what it will cost.
If it costs too much this week it will cost
the right amount a year from now.

– Jason Rubin (Oculus Rift)

At the game developer conference a year or two ago, in San Francisco, I saw a display case in a neighboring conference, showcasing a Holmes Stereoscope.

I gleefully dropped the following joke to my group of friends:

“Check it out everybody, over here we can see an early prototype of the Oculus Rift!
Man, talk about a delay! IT”S BEEN 200 HUNDRED YEARS!”

I don’t recall getting more than a chuckle. I thought it was a brilliant joke to think up on the spot.

Anyhow, yea, stereoscopes, 1800’s tech, it’s time for a:

SUPERFAST HISTORY LESSON:

  • invention of still photos (~1800)
  • 3-d photos (stereoscope) (~1850)
  • moving pictures / film (~1890)
  • CG(computer generated) pictures (1954)
  • FUN FACT: first ‘video game’ ( Tennis for Two  by William Higinbotham – 1958 on an oscilloscope!)
  • CG 3-d moving pictures (~1961)
  • interactive 3-d content (1985 – 3D Monster Maze – Malcolm Evans)
  • true ocular 3-d view-able game device (1995 – virtual boy)

END SUPERFAST HISTORY LESSON

Jason Rubin (quoted at start of this post) knows a bit about game tech, and modern companies working in the tech center. His first game, Ski Crazed(1986), he made with Andy Gavin.

Featuring a guy on skis, his head popping in as a logo for win/lose screens and menus, suspiciously wearing what looks like an early Oculus Rift prototype!

The two went on to found Naughty Dog games, famous for Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted, the Last of Us, Jak and Daxter. Naughty Dog has been at the forefront of 3-d rendering and tech for years, Crash Bandicoot being one of the best looking games of it’s time, and Uncharted constantly pushing rendering tech with each game they release.

So VR has had it’s moments. I bet anyone who’s played games for decades could weave a tale or two, and tech-heads could ramble on about the hurdles and passion behind getting hardware to play nice with the human eye.  I remember playing an early game around 1992, at the local Center of Science and Industry in Columbus. A friend and I donned a 15lb helmet the size of a large briefcase, complete with dangling wires and bulky gloves. we got to walk around a 3d virtual environment made of cubes and cones, with a blocky car and a skyscraper. (David Likens, I am still jealous of your bond-esque virtual hang-glider trip off a skyscraper, compared to my slow drive around the road.)

The game lagged, and I think it had a 4-color palette, but it was real, and it was awesome. My first experience with VR, I was impressed, but now I realize, that the hardware would limit the use for years to come. it was nowhere as easy or as convenient as picking up a Nintendo Controller, or turning on a TV.

Back to the price Quote: to give an idea of the prices Rubin’s talking about, the main competitors in the VR space have announced various price points on their respective hardware, and prices for dedicated VR headsets range from high-end (Microsoft HoloLense (DevKit: $3000.00)(consumer: $TBD)) to low-end (Oculus Rift (DevKit2: $350.00)(consumer: $TBD)).

A wonderful alternative, if you have a smartphone, some companies are producing special hardware-free headsets, which allow for a phone to be dropped in, to run the VR app or game:
(not all devices work with all smartphones, based on size/screen resolution, phone shape):
High end: Samsung Gear VR*($99.00)
Low end: cut out some cardboard and go without lenses (~1$) Not Recommended (go google “DIY google cardboard”, or “cheap Phone VR” you can find kits from china for $2-$5)

My personal favorite, a newcomer in the field: View-Master* ($29.99) 

Although this VR push is bigger, and seems more successful; much like 3-d movies, it’s one in a series of waves.

So VR hits and VR misses, like skips on the perfectly rendered mirror surface of digital lake, sending ripples across various industries. sometimes we get 30 skips, and feel like a skipping champion, other times we get a big splosh, and everyone is disappointed…

While VR games loom largest in the media horizon, I don’t think they will be the reason VR finally lands. I don’t foresee the black-wrapped ski-mask format existing for much longer either. With the introduction of flexible wearables like Wove and transparent screens like Samsung’s clear screen and mirror, VR itself becomes a niche in the much larger AR (Augmented Reality) world, where digital will overlay the real, and allow our perception of the world to explode with possibilities.

VR/AR seems much more useful in non-game form, being used as healing/medical tools, or safety and security tools for road use and public works. Mapping and location driven information will reach a new level, almost wizard-like. Our ability to visually overlay massive amounts of data over top of real-world space will bring learning and understanding to many who do not have a data-driven mind. The learning potential in AR is astounding. Microsoft’s HoloLense is amazing, and they’re taking a wider approach than Oculus’ Rift, which mainly focuses on games and VR. Price-points are temporary, usability and results last as long as devices are operable.

Eventually, the only reason to own any physical luxury objects will be for the nostalgia or for anyone who is devoted to the medium. TV/Movies, Board games, Cards, Books, Comics, it could all be overlaid on a blank wall, the table, or a relaxed lap. No need for storage, no need to waste materials. While an audiophile may still own a turntable and some wax, most of the world plugs in through earbuds and mp3s. I imagine finishing dinner, opening a new Beer, and turning to an open corner of the kitchen. An arcade cabinet materializing through my ARLenses, and loading up one of a billion games.

Speaking of arcade cabinets: Robbie Lakeman was the current official high score holder in the original 1981 Donkey Kong (having beaten Hank Chien’s 1,138,600 in 2014). Last week, DonkeyKongForum.com hosted a Donkey Kong Tournament, and Wes Copeland quartered up, toppling Robbie with a nicely aimed barrel and score of 1,170,500. But in the wee hours when that score was awaiting verification, Robbie returned, slapped his token on the table, and at 2 am, walked off with a new high score of 1,172,100. That’s nuts! I usually give up after 2 deaths and a high score of 750… Respect to anyone who can hop-dem-barrels to 1.17 mil. DonkeyKongForum is hosting an on-site tournament, which should clear up some of the smoke around who’s better, as Lakeman and Copeland sit shoulder to shoulder at cabinets. One could even say…. It’s on … like Donkey Kong.
*the general world record high score (1,206,800 points) is held by Dean Saglio, on MAME, but is often ignored, as achieved on emulator, rather than an arcade cabinet.

As the years roll on, we are growing as gamers, as mediaphiles. Some things grow finer with age, and while we may not play old games as often as those who wield the high scores, they still hold reign over secret and private chambers in our heart. Finding an old cabinet, we wipe the minuscule layer of dust away before inserting a quarter and hearing those 8bit bubbles chirping the first half of a new life. It becomes a moment of fond memory. We can take that time, sometimes only the length of a single breath, and our brain can filter through dozens of experiences, sometimes so rich and full that one bleeds into another, creating an entire mythos of chiptunes, sweaty palms, soda pop and pizza, and flickering screens. Then we drop in our 2nd quarter. Micro-transaction complete.
Alright, on to some lighter stuff:

What I’m playing

Other than a Destiny raid attempt or two per week, I am not playing anything else. (I ride with Pale Horsemen, into the void).

Anyhow, why am I not playing anything else? Because I’m working on getting the playable build of my game, Rally Moon Racers, up and running for Ohio Game Developer Expo this coming up weekend!

Rally Moon Racers is RAD. Race high-powered industrial rovers across real lunar terrain (pulled from satellite data).  Filled with humor, plenty of glow, and astounding jumps. Come check it out if you’re in central Ohio the weekend of Nov 6-8. (Also, my birthday weekend! come hang out, drink, and play games!)

Local Game News

See above (Ohio Game Dev Expo!)
http://www.ohiogamedevexpo.com/

Non-Local Game News

Mirrors Edge Catalyst delayed. (NOOO!!!)

Japan’s favorite cat collecting game is now in english!

In-Dev Focus

Cryamore, in development by NostalgiCO, looks great, and was JUST picked up by Atlus for publication, which is fantastic(congrats NostalgiCO team!). I grew up exploring the lush and beautiful environs of Squaresoft and Enix RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasy. NostalgiCO’s first major project hearkens back to long nights conquering mountains and caves, battling giant crab monsters and dino-riding lizards with a combination of colorful magic and fun melee combat. filled with colorful graphics and playful characters, and a glorious soundtrack by Aivi Tran, Cryamore will definitely accrue some hours on my Xbox or PC when it’s released. I’m thrilled to keep up with development news, and can’t wait to play the full game, due out 2016. (on the record, I backed the kickstarter in 2013, due to the nostalgic feels I got from the graphics and soundtrack.)

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