Monday, January 07, 2008

Spitfires Rule!

Need proof?

I'm playing Blazing Angels II: Secret Missions of WWII on the 360, and the Spitfire is so freaking awesome, I want one. Now. What organs do I need to sell, and to who, to get me one? And then who do I need to sleep with to learn to fly it? And then who do I pay for a flying license?

Innovation Upon Innovation

It is said that the greatest inventors in human history were merely working on the backs of those that came before them. It's true. Very little is genuinely new. Nothing is born into the world that doesn't have an ancestry that reaches back to decades, especially technology.

As much as I love Nintendos motion sensitive controls on the Wii, it's not entirely new. People have been trying it out for ages now. Heck, the PS2 had controllerless controllers with the EyeToy, which worked surprisingly well.

Keeping in that tradition, check out these amazing videos that use the Wii Remote in clever and innovative ways. They are all from Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. Graduate Student, Johnny Chung Lee. His website, is a treasure trove of genius proportions!! And better yet, he posts a bunch of the programmes that he uses to create the videos that follow! Seriously, check it out. It's amazing. I really, really want to see a game using some of these ideas.

First up, using the Wii remote for head tracking on desktop VR displays. Stunning.

Next, using a Wii remote to create low-cost multi-touch whiteboard. This is something I'm really tempted to try out. It would be fun even just to show off and play around with.

And finally, for embedded video anyway, using Minority Report style finger tracking with the Wii remote.

Also worth checking out is Johnny's "Moveable Projected Displays using Projector Based Tracking" from 2003 and, after you've seen that one, find out where that builds to after four years with his video titled "Foldable Displays". It's worth noting, before I get any complaints, that I'm well aware that it is far from a foldable display, and more just a development of his projector technology. It's still freaking awesome! This guy is going to go really, really far if he keeps up this level of inventiveness! I wish I was half as computer savvy and inventive as him.

New Year, New Stuff

Anyone who knows me, or even just reads this blog, knows I'm a die hard Nintendo fan, and nothing will ever steal my heart away. However, I'm not a console-monogamous fascist who thinks the competition are better used as paperweights by comparison (after all, if the PS3 was used as a paper weight, what would hold the door open?), and have had a second gaming console since the N64. My beloved DreamCast kept my Nintendo console company during both of their dying months. Together, they reminisced about better times. The N64 offered a comforting shoulder when Sega announced the dream was cast aside for their console department, instead shifting focus solely onto making games for their former competition. The DreamCast returned the support as Nintendo began to sink further and further behind the thundering power of Sony's newest offering, the seemingly invincible PS2. In fact, my DreamCast is still on my consoles table, ready to be plugged in and turned on at a moments notice. Unfortunately, it's been a while since I've enjoyed its cat and mouse delights now.

During the GameCube/PS2/Xbox era, my secondary console of choice was the Sony brand. By the time I picked one up it had a huge range of games available to it, as well as the added bonus of a DVD player. Lots of people had one, so swapping games was easy. At the same time, the Xbox was new to the game. It was huge, ugly (in my opinion), and had unwieldy controllers. Plus, it didn't enjoy nearly as large a market share as the PS2.

Back when the new generation of machines were still just rumours and here-say, my opinions on both companies offerings were unchanged. I had planned on the superior back catalogue of PlayStation games to be a deciding factor in my choice of console, and the Xbox 360 didn't sound all that great. I would continue my almost single-handed support of Nintendo and their wacky new ideas for a motion sensitive controller, even if I had few games to actually play on it, as I was sure no-one was seriously going to spend millions creating games that only worked for one console, exclusivity contracts or not.

But things change. The PS3 is beyond a joke, starting out with an ugly case design, and then removing one of it's biggest advantages by dropping backwards compatibility altogether! It is huge and expensive, and forces the added costs of Blu-Ray on the buyer, which, considering I'm not moving to any form of HD for the foreseeable future, only serves to annoy me more. Visually, the Xbox 360 is a beautifully designed machine, more so when you see the black Elite edition. It plays nice with my PC, allowing me to stream music directly, as well as playing movies from Claire's external hard-drive or the many, many burned DVDs I own. But the biggest shock of all (as much to the company itself as to the general public) is that the little console that could did! Nintendo's wonderful Wii is still selling faster than Nintendo can produce them some thirteen months after launch! What other console can claim the same fact? And the games that are available, while not able to display in high definition like it's competitors, are fun, entertaining and compulsive playing. Mario Galaxy is by far the best game I played in 2007, and Rayman Raving Rabbits 2 caused my house to miss New Years by two minutes because we just had to finish that last minigame!

So I'm happy with my Wii. It's awesome, fun, small, sexy, quiet and glows blue when turned on (just like I like my women!!...). The motion controls are clever, effective and, in the better games, they can be used to stunning effect. The possibilities are almost limitless, and not even Nintendo could have guessed some of the functions people are putting their unique console technology to (more on that in the next post). So if I only had the Wii, would I be happy? Yes. Definitely. Realistically, anything else I get to sit along-side it is just to play when I'm by myself. The Wii is the perfect party game, with some great single-player titles as well, but it's really at it's strongest with a group.

I was planning on getting an Xbox 360 in the sometime in 2008. Rainbow 6: Vegas is amazing fun (again, in multiplayer!), and Mass Effect was a draw from the first time I laid eyes on it. It's beautiful and an achievement in gaming. Despite saying that I had no interest in Assassins Creed some months ago, the closer it got to release, the better it looked. Three reasons to pick up a 360, one of which is exclusive. Add to that the downloadable content through Xbox Live, including demos, the play-nice factor with my PC and that at least four people I know really well got one as well, and the 360 became the console of choice for the newest generation of "Nintendo Support Machines".

So shortly before Christmas, I got one. It now sits on top of my sweet-but-cheap-but-really-great-and-thus-even-sweeter sound system. Well done Microsoft. Ya done good.

Now... anyone want to trade Xbox Live usernames? I currently have no friends... online!! I have loads in real life. We play Wii all the time.