Nintendo’s Stroke of Genius

For the past few years people have been saying that the handheld console’s days are numbered because the phones that people carry around with them are getting better and better at playing games.

The logic here is that you are already carnying around a device that you use to call and message your friends, which also gives you access to the internet and a slew of games at your fingertips whenever you want them. Why on earth would you want to also carry around a larger device that only allows you to play games, and maybe lets you access the internet on a crippled browser if you happen to be within range of a WiFi access point (Note I appreciate that Sony’s PSP Vita comes in a 3G flavour but personally I find the idea of paying for a 2nd data contract when I have a perfectly good data contract on my phone slightly repulsive).

There are a small contingent that will argue that a D-Pad or Analogue Stick and buttons are much better for playing games but if you look at the way the industry is going both Nintendo and Sony are migrating towards touch screens. Another argument is battery life, in that if you spend a few hours playing a game on your phone you probably wont be able to use it to make calls later, and although smart phone battery life is nothing like that of the mobile phones we had in days of yore it’s getting slowly better, and for the office slave it’s perfectly normal to charge your phone while in the office so it’s still usable while you are at home.

These arguments aside my personal experience with handheld consoles lately has been that I’ve had an initial honeymoon period where I carried the thing about with me all the time, and occasionally even played games on it, then bit bit bit I started to “forget” to carry it around. I found that most days I didn’t have time to play on my hand held, so I didn’t bother bringing it with me.

Then when I did have time to play games, I didn’t have the handheld on me, but I did have my phone so I amused myself with a short game of Bejewled or some other mindless puzzle game. It’s a viscous circle, sure the games I had on my phone weren’t as good as the one’s I had on my GameBoy Advance, PSP, or  DS but they were the games I had on me.

Sony has tried to make the PSP and the Vita useful in other ways, they’ve added a web browser and music and video playback, to these consoles, and although I admit to having watched a lot of Anime and TV shows on my PSP while travelling my phone and my tablet do all of that much better than the PSP ever could, I don’t know about the Vita but I also don’t see much point in carrying about two devices that do the same thing.

About three months ago I bought a 3DS XL, I’d been unimpressed by the 3DS at a Nintendo preview event and the reported battery life had put the nail in the coffin of any intention I had of buying one, but the XL fixed my issue with screen size and the battery life was better so I took the plunge.

Now when I got it and set it up I had to create an avatar or Mii and the setup process intoned to me that there would be mini games that I could play using something called Street Pass, I wasn’t really interested in this, I’d bought the console so I could finally play Ocarina of Time and see what the hype about Fire Emblem was all about.

After a few days of mainly playing indoors I took my 3DS out with me, and when I got home I noticed a flashing green light on it, when I opened the console there was a message saying that I’d met someone while I was out and that I could play games with them using the Mii Plaza.

I was curious so I opened up the Mii Plaza and got a piece of a puzzle and played a stripped down RPG. To paraphrase Mr. Bobinski from Coraline, “That was nice but not so Amazing”. Anyway I was still carrying about my 3DS because was was still in the honeymoon period and every day I noticed the little green light with more and more people added to my plaza I slowly got hooked on Street Pass Quest, and I noticed that the 3DS had a pedometer built into it, that gave you coins to spend in the games for walking about. I’m no fitness freak but I’ve always like the idea of having a pedometer to see how much I walk, just never enough to buy one. Now I had one for free, and I got points for walking!

Here is where the genius of the 3DS comes in, you don’t have to actually play it all the time to benefit from having it on you, you pick up coins, you add to people to your Mii Plaza, heck you can even get bonuses in the actual games you are playing.

The 3DS encourages you to have it on you even when you know you aren’t going to be able to use it, because you might pick up some Miis for your Mii Plaza and because you will earn coins by walking about.

I even saw a post on Reddit a few weeks back (I’ll link to it once I find it) asking if people actually started getting out of the house more just so they could get Street Pass hits, most people didn’t but a lot of people did say that they often altered their walk home to to school so that they would pass by places where they thought they would get more street pass hits.

There is even the potential to meet or in some cases seriously creep out people who you bump into on a regular basis which is quite cool and a way to meet fellow games.

What Nintendo have done with the 3DS is Genius, it’s made me carry about my console most of the time just in case I get a street pass hit and to rack up my pedometer. But in doing so it’s made me play more games on the 3DS, which will mean that I use the 3DS more and probably continue to buy games for it rather than in languishing in a drawer somewhere because I never get a chance to play games on it.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Painting

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This has been hanging on my wall for over a year now, it’s a painting by Green Castle Graphics of the final scene in Link’s Awakening. I’ve seen a couple of posts on Reddit that reminded me of it in particular a pearler bead rendition of a scene from Crono Trigger, which has to be my favourite game ever, so I figured I’d finally share this.

I saw this while walking past Green Castle Graphic’s stall at Sloan’s Market in Glasgow, and I had to buy it then and there. Here is the image in Green Castle’s Facebook Gallery before I bought it.

I’m sorely tempted to commission another image by Green Castle I just don’t know what… I have a couple of Ideas though.

FWIW here is the Pearler Bead Chronotrigger image that inspired me to post this:

After two years and 47,096 beads, my girlfriend and I finish this tribute to my favorite game of all time. (OC)

Could “Asymmetric Gaming” Revolutionize Role Playing

I watched a little bit of Nintendo’s E3 keynote yesterday, until I got bored of Reggie Fils-Aime monotonous speech which didn’t actually provide any information about anything that we didn’t already know(Note he may have covered off some new material after I stopped watching but seriously that man is one of the worst public speakers in the world his speech is practically stunted).

Anyway, Nintendo seem to think that they have cottoned a new paradigm “Asymmetric Gaming” and that this is THE FUTURE! (TM), never mind that they have used the exact same concept for years in the Mario Party Games…

The word seemed like a meaningless buzzword to me at the time but this morning it hit me: I’ve been practicing Asymmetric Gaming since I was 12, I’m an unashamed geek, but one of my more geeky guilty secrets is that I’m a role-player, I’m not talking Final Fantasy or Oblivion, I mean real pen and and paper rolling dice slaying monsters in you mind, D&D, Warhammer Fantasy, Call of Cthullu, Champions etc… It then occurred to me that the Wii U had some awesome potential for role playing games, the Game/(Dungeon if you are that way inclined) Master could prepare a scenario beforehand using a scenario building tool kit, and then he could play through it with his friends using the Wii U Gamepad as a GM screen.

It’s got a lot of potential, I know a lot of people who spent hours of their time building entire scenario’s using the Neverwinter Nights Toolkit, but once you were done with that you just published the game for people to play, your job was done. With the Wii U the console becomes a gaming aid, one of the issues with roleplaying games is that people find it hard to get their heads around the rules, they can get in the way of people actually enjoying the story, but if the console is handling the rules the players and the GM can get on with playing through the plot.

Wizards of the Coast or Fantasy Flight games could use this as a gateway drug to full on pen and paper Roleplaying, or the medium could evolve to make pen and paper roleplaying obsolete, who knows?

Anyway I think there is a lot of potential here, what do you think?

What if Apple Designed the GameBoy?

Artist Patrick Staudt re-imagines the Nintendo GameBoy as it would have been designed by Apple. The thing is the original GameBoy was  released in 1989 at about the same time Apple released the Newton. I think for a game playing device the GameBoy is definitely more iconic and probably better designed than the Newton…

File:Nintendo Gameboy.jpgApple Newton-IMG 0454-cropped.jpgFile:Apple Newton.jpg

Also if apple designed the GameBoy right now we would probably just end up with the iPhone,iPod Touch or iPad because lets face it those products do what the GameBoy did and are both stealing market share from Nintendo and Sony.

But if hypothetically Apple’s design engineers went back in time and took with them the technological advances that allow them to make the iPhone so slime but not the retina display and their hatred for physical buttons and decided in their infinite wisdom to stick a green and black dot matrix screen on their design for the GameBoy then it might just look like this (More comments inline, Comments may be sarcastic…):

Wireless? Wirelessly connecting to what? The internet didn’t even exist at that point. And modems maxed out at 28.8K in 1989 (Or there abouts). You might have had IR connectivity but that would have been slow as hell too.

 

I’m not going to bother looking up the GameBoys max FPS I doubt it was that high…

I’m willing to bet he thought he was being clever by going that small… In that size of packaging you’d have been lucky to squeeze 8Mb into that device if you wanted room for other electronics. It wasn’t till 1991 that you could even get a 100Mb 2.5″ drive a 2.5″ drive is about the size of an iPhone…

Okay so they are designing it now… Otherwise how WiFi? The WiFi alliance wasn’t formed until 1999. Still 200 hours of gaming on a battery that fits in that case? Even with a DotMatrix screen the original GameBoy managed 10-12 hours on 4 Batteries. What fantasy world do they live in! I want to be there! But I can’t! Why am I shouting!

My thumbs have power… Also zero mechanical failure? That’s impressive, except my Old GameBoy that I got in 1989 still works, so not that impressive…

Oooh volume!

What the hell do those buttons do? I assume the are contrast buttons but that’s only because I had a GameBoy and it had contrast buttons on it.

 

Awesome Idea that Will Make Me Millions!

My workmate InfinitySum and I just had an awesome idea. Build a replica question mark box like the ones in Super Mario Brothers:

Allow for some mechanism to hang it from the ceiling like some string (probably 4 bits of string one on each corner), and make the bottom of the box a push-able button that when hit hard enough will cause chocolate coins to pop out the top!

This is an idea that cannot fail, unfortunately I’m too apathetic to follow through with it.

The closest I’ve seen online is this:

Which is more of a sweet box than an active chocolate coin dispenser.

Portable SNES This I Need!

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Hyperkin a company that specializes in making accessories for current and retro consoles are going to be releasing a portable SNES this summer, it’s US only as far as I can tell but I assume someone will import it to the UK or at least I hope so. Not only does it allow you to play games on the 3.5″ LCD screen but you can also connect it to a TV and plug in two controllers! Double awesome! I knew I kept all my old SNES games for a reason.

On another note Hyperkin actually make quite a few nifty devices including consoles that have slots for NES, SNES and Genesis (Megadrive) games. I wonder if they are region locked and only play US games of if they will allow you to play UK/Japanese games too?

They currently do a portable Genesis and NES though the cartridge for the portable NES is actually bigger than the console. It does come with a light gun though, for all the good that will do on a modern TV…

Sadly all their products are only available to resellers…

via Edge

As far as I’m concerned Nintendo has lost the Handheld “Console War” for this generation…

TL;DR: Battery life and touch screen on 3DS sucks. I think handhelds are dying out and are going to be replaced with more generic devices, probably not phones, but probably tablets.

A report from Arstechnica about the battery life of the 3DS confirms my worst fears. The 3-4 hours was not a conservative estimate, apparently if you turn off 3D WiFi and sound you get a whopping 5 hours, assuming the game you are playing doesn’t require these features.

Contrast this with the DS’ battery life, of 10 Hours (Wikipedia), it’s just not good enough. If your handheld can’t keep a child occupied playing Pokemon for most of a trans-Atlantic flight then there is little point in it being a handheld.

Also having tried out the 3DS the 3D aspect of it wasn’t much to write home about, sure it looked cool, but I’m not sure how much it adds to game-play, I’m one of those people who doesn’t like 3D movies, so I may be  a little biased, but it strikes me that the addition of 3D has hamstrung the console by taking away one of the core advantages that Nintendo handhelds have always had; battery life.

Game Boy Vs. Game Gear, DS Vs. PSP, GBA Vs. Well there was no viable competition for the GBA…  Nintendo have always had the edge when it came to battery life, and they’ve just sacrificed that edge for a gimmick.

The DS’ other novel feature the touch screen seems to have been ignored in the 3DS, I had a go at using the 3DS at a Nintendo open day and the touch screen was terrible, it’s a resistive touch screen, so you have to use the stylus. While this may have been acceptable when the DS was released in 2004 it’s not acceptable now. Everyone and their monkey has a touch screen smartphone with a capacitive screen, meaning you can use your fingers, the 3DS feels like a step back after using that.

As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out with regards to whether the Sony NGP will be the clear winner in the handheld battle, it certainly has every feature under the sun… But it’ll probably come with a price to match. I’m starting to think that the hype about smartphones and tablets usurping the handheld gaming market might be true, for one thing they can be subsidised by phone contracts so it feels like  they cost less, and for another they seem to have the raw power that handhelds lack.

The issue fails back to battery life though, my Android smartphone barely lasts a day if I use it for texting, calls, and checking Twitter. Add gaming to that and I’ll need an extra battery.

The iPad manages 10 hours of use, and if you do deplete the battery you aren’t cutting your self off from the world, which is why I think there is a market for tablets in gaming. The processor is powerful, the screen is huge and the battery life is awesome. Plus you can do other things on it like browse the web, check social networks etc…. You may be locked into Apple’s walled garden but what a garden!

There is the option of Android tablets, I’ve yet to try one aside from playing with a Galaxy Tab in a shop, I wasn’t impressed. I am impressed with Honeycomb, or at least the videos I’ve seen of it online, but I’ve not had a chance to play with it yet and I’m going to wait till I do before I formulate an opinion.

This is turning into a rant…

Via Arstechnica

Have Nintendo Missed a Trick with the 3DS?

I just had a thought that would make the 3DS awesome! unfortunately I think it’s too late to add it as a feature to the 3DS… The 3DS has a 3D screen, and WiFi and can take 3D pictures using the camera’s on the back of the device. unfortunately there is only one camera on side facing the user… If there were two… 3D Video chat! It would be like having a space age communicator thing in your hands! Oh well we’ll have to wait for the next generation, or an add on.

I’m not going to go into my thoughts on the pricing of the 3DS aside from the fact that I think it’s too expensive in the UK, $110 more than the US price… Seriously? What a rip off… I’d import on except for the fact that they are region locking it. At least the region locking is apparently optional and up to the game publisher, but also the store is different on a region by region basis, and I assume I’d want the UK store…

As it is I’ll probably wait it out till the price drops.

One cool note is the 3DS apparently has a web browser but it’s not preinstalled. You can apprently switch out of a game to browse and then switch back in, which as Kotaku rightly mention is perfect for looking up FAQs online

Image Via  TechSpot News.

Nintendo Are Region Locking the 3DS!

I’m not sure how reliable the source for this is at the only citation they have for it is an email in Korean, and I can’t translate the email using Google translate because it’s an image of the email… But…

I wasn’t aware the DSi was region locked, I’m gutted that the 3DS will be though. As a “World Traveller” I’ve always just bought games wherever I was and expected them to work on my hand held gaming device. I kind of understand why you’d region lock a home console, it’s unlikely to see use outside of the country it was purchased in, although both the PS3 and the X-Box 360 are for the most part region free.

The whole point of a portable is that you can take it on holiday with you, when on holiday if you happen to complete the game that you brought with you you should be able to buy another game to play while you are out there, you shouldn’t have to wait till you get home…

I’d skipped the DSi and was looking forward to the next iteration of the DS hardware to jump back on the bandwagon, but this is very close to a deal breaker for me…

Tech2.com India.