Category: Games Picks

Virtual reality for gaming has seen an influx of support recently due to the existence of the Oculus Rift VR headset. The headset is nearly finished and has growing support from developers, including Valve and John Carmack.

The Oculus Rift won’t be a success unless it has the games to support it, but it looks as though adding support isn’t actually that difficult. Modder Nathan Andrews has already got the headset working with Half-Life 2, and now he’s ported his Oculus Rift mod over to Crysis. The video above shows him playing the game using the headset. Unfortunately there’s no footage of him moving around, just the game being played from his perspective.

Oculus Rift

The other good news is Andrews says he’s working on adding support for CryEngine 3, meaning Crysis 2, Crysis 3, MechWarrior Online, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, and many more titles could get patched in the future to also support Oculus Rift.

What you may notice from watching the video is the aiming isn’t great. That’s simply because this is a work in progress and Andrews has yet to get the crosshairs tracking properly. He also says the game takes a bit of getting used to playing in this way, which is understandable, and the recording is one of his earlier sessions.

The potential is certainly there for Oculus Rift to be a huge hit with gamers, and Andrews says its accuracy is continuing to improve. He has started using a 9DOF 1000hz YEI 3-space tracker and claims he’s seeing a 4-fold accuracy increase over what Carmack was enjoying with the Hillcrest tracker beta firmware.

Here’s the Half-Life 2 video Andrews created which actually shows him moving around while playing.

Now read: Hands-on with the nearly finished Oculus Rift VR headset

Current generation consoles

Backwards compatibility has been a feature of new consoles since the days of the PlayStation 2. More recently its removal from console hardware has been used as a cost saving exercise by Sony, and in doing so the company angered more than a few gamers. But according to EA, backwards compatibility is not set to continue with the roll out of next-gen hardware.

That prediction has come from Blake Jorgensen, EA’s chief financial officer, who made the comment during a Q&A session at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference held in San Francisco yesterday.

Jorgensen was talking specifically about EA’s sports titles. He believes the current gen will remain strong into 2014 even if we see new consoles in time for Christmas 2013. That’s simply because such games get released on a cycle to tie up with the calendars of different sports, which don’t always simultaneously tie up with a new console launch. He went on to say next-gen machines “will most likely not be backwards compatible,” which again suggests current-gen will remain a strong platform for sports due to their popularity as multiplayer games.

No explanation was given as to why he thought the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 would drop backwards compatibility.

The PS4 is expected to switch from a Cell architecture to a more PC-like set of components. That does make offering backwards compatibility difficult for Sony, and potentially very costly if they decide to include enough additional hardware inside a PS4 to run PS3 games. But Sony has an ace up its sleeve in the form of Gaikai, meaning it could allow previous gen games to be played without any compatible hardware being shipped.

Microsoft has no equivalent to Gaikai, but it has been pushing full Xbox 360 game downloads through Xbox Live. If it decided not to include backwards-compatibility through hardware support, there could be some method offered using Xbox Live and download copies of older games that can run on the new hardware.

Backward compatibility may be out of the question depending on what exactly constitutes a next-gen console. The growing popularity of mobile gaming and the coming introduction of cheap gaming platforms such as Ouya has certainly changed the market. The PS4 and Xbox 720 may be very different machines. Hopefully we’ll find out how different on February 20.

Ouya console

After breaking a funding record on Kickstarter last year the team behind the $99 Ouya console has been hard at work getting the tiny games console manufactured and shipped to backers. Come June, over 68,000 of them should be in the hands of Kickstarters, and a number of retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Gamestop, and Target, will be more than happy to sell you one.

That’s not the end of the Ouya, though. Julie Uhrman, Ouya founder and CEO, is already looking to the future and has made a bold promise: every year we will see the hardware used inside the Ouya refreshed in order to take advantage of the latest components. At the same time, the $99 price point will be kept.

The first Ouya uses a Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, but with a yearly refresh that could be replaced with a Tegra 4 twelve months after launch. Depending on prices, even the Tegra 4 may be overlooked for an even more powerful processor by then.

Ouya mainboard (no case)

As the Ouya has a board that just slides out of the case, it seems likely an upgrade program will also be put in place. Existing owners could save a bit of money and just purchase the new board for their existing case rather than a whole new unit, but that’s yet to be confirmed.

Yearly updates is certainly a different approach to a gaming platform, but it’s one that will remove uncertainty for developers at least. If popular, the Ouya will be an ever-present platform, that regularly supports the latest hardware while continuing to support all games that have gone before.

As for the games and their promotion, Ouya is also taking a different approach. The app store will be curated not by sales, but through engagement. So while Angry Birds might sell millions, if a less popular game is played more regularly by its gamer base, it will appear higher in the charts on Ouya and receive more promotion. By doing this, the Ouya team will highlight games people enjoy above those that are marketed heavily and get picked up by everyone.

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