Each year gamers, magazines, and websites visit E3 and take away news of forthcoming games and consoles.This year, Sony unveiled and named their next generation handheld gaming system, the SonyVita, and Nintendo announced the Wii U.
Sony appear to have gotten slightly carried away when designing the Vita. I have never seen a device with so many control interfaces. The Vita’s control options are:
- 2 analogue sticks
- gyros for tilt/shake controls
- front and rear facing cameras
- touch screen
- touch-sensitive pad on the back
With six control options that can be used in dozens of combinations, the possibilities in ways we will play games on the Vita is mind-boggling.
The Wii U embraces an evolution of existing Wii peripherals, and the increasing popularity in tablet PC’s. At the Nintendo conference the President of NIntendo America, Reggie Fills-Aime, explained the naming of the Wii U:
“…the game will probably be right for all of us, but could it also be the perfect fit just for you.”
It seems that Nintendo want to make gaming both communal and personal at the same time, I will talk about this more later. For now, my focus is on three distinct ways of gaming that emerged from E3: AR, 3D, and cross-device gaming.
I know I covered AR in my previous post, but I was more on the money with my speculation that I realised. Both Nintendo and Sony announced AR games.
At the Nintendo E3 conference, Nintendo introduced downloadable AR cards for Pokémon, this means that you can view your Pokemon via the AR card on your 3DS. They also announced that the game Kid Icarus Uprising will include AR card battles. These card-battles work by placing the AR cards for the characters you are using opposite each other. Once done, the combat can be watched in AR. This literally adds a new dimension to the game, although Nintendo are not embracing the markerless technology that Sony has developed, this style of AR works quite well with Japanese exported card/battle games.
Sony, on the other hand has used markerless AR in their forthcoming handheld. One significant title for the Vita is ‘Reality Fighters’, a beat-em-up that allows the player to project their battling sprites into whatever environment they point the Vita at. From parks to kitchen tables, the game will layer the characters on the environment and even generates realistic shadows – at least this is what the screenshot indicates.
The concern with Reality Fighters is that this may be a fairly generic and uneventful beat em’ up, the appeal remaining purely in the AR interface. However, Sony is planning to release 80 games when the Vita launches; I imagine a few of the titles will be AR capable and I am hopeful that Sony can take AR gaming beyond being a fad.
Nintendo and Sony are the two manufacturers who are playing with 3D gaming. Right now I am unaware of any effort by Microsoft to go down this path. Nintendo are expanding their list of 3DS titles to include classics such as Super Mario, Mario Kart, and Starfox – all will be playable in 3D which I am quite excited about.
But the most exciting tech news regarding 3D at E3 came from Sony. This is no surprise as most of their exclusive titles are often 3D capable. Sony has announced that it will be releasing a Playstation branded 3DTV bundle for around $500(US). Sony’s idea is to bring 3D gaming to everybody by making it ‘affordable’. The proposed bundle will include a 24inch 1080p (p is for progressive and is therefore slightly better resolution than 1080i (interlaced)) Playstation branded 3DTV, a set of 3D glasses, all the relevant HDMI cables, and a copy of the game Resistance 3.
I agree $500(US) seems like a lot of money, and if this bundle makes it over to the UK it is likely to sell for £500, but £500 for a 3D TV isn’t that bad. What is exciting and different about this bundle, though, is how the 2-player multiplayer works. They have managed to set it up so that if each player is facing the screen at a different angle, they can play against each other without the need for a split screen. Presently, 3DTV works by sending the left and right image to the left and right eye separately. This tricks your brain into thinking the images are really in three dimensions so you process the image with true-to-life depth perception. What Sony seem to have done is rig the set so that in a 2 player situation, the left player receives only the left hand image and the right player the right. This means each player sees their view of the game on the full size of the screen. How this will work in practice I do not know, but it will be interesting to find out. Irritatingly, the bundle only comes with one set of 3D glasses, so you’ll need to spend an extra $/£70 on a second pair which seems a little unfair in this multiplayer world that we live in.
New gaming perspectives
As I mentioned earlier, one of the forthcoming releases for the 3DS is Starfox 64 3D and the game will include motion control. This means you will be able to tilt the device to fly your ship utilising the 3DS’s gyroscopic sensors. Nintendo also announced an innovation for group play with the Starfox game. While in group play, you will be able to see live video and audio of your actual opponent as you battle against them. This development feels like further exploration into the community dynamic in videogame culture that has been around since console multiplayer went global. It would be nice if Sony would follow suit and with the announcement that all Playstation games will be playable on both PS3 and Vita, it is certainly a distinct possibility.
Finally it is time to return to the Wii U. The Wii U’s controller (a large iPad shaped device with a screen in the middle) doubles up as an extra screen. The device is also backwards compatible so all your Wii accessories will work with the Wii U. Possibilities for what this means include giving the player an alternative view when playing a game, such as a top down view of the ball when playing golf, and you can even play full games on the screen, effectively converting the controller into a portable device.
The tech unveiled at this year’s E3 was interesting but will probably be dwarfed by the multitude of exciting games that were revealed. In my opinion, these announcements mark a shift in the way games are played. There are very exciting times ahead.