Experienced Real VR For First Time & It Was a Blast

2CE38099-5F70-48B3-A1C4-A931088034F7Virtual Reality is something that has been a long time coming. It was around in concept form since the 90s or earlier, particularly in sci-fi film but the 90s had the early machines showcasing stereoscopic 3D in gaming form. However, the technology never caught on and was forgotten basically until a couple of years ago when the Oculus Rift started making headlines as it secured an acquisition and funding from social media giant Facebook.

This meant that for the first time the technology was being taken seriously and serious money was at play to make it a success. This news followed competitors also emerging on the scene in the form of Valve-backed HTC Vive and Playstation VR — maybe the most interesting and promising of them all as it is affordable and an at-home console solution not reliant upon expensive gaming PCs and high-end graphic cards.

Well to fast forward a few hears of development and mixed results in terms of adoption rates (there is a paid report available here showing the growth and trends in this industry), we are basically at a point where the Oculus Rift is still dominating and is the biggest name in this space while a number of other companies are competing with their own headsets. I previously mentioned the Playstation VR having in my opinion the greatest adoption potential due to its console and living room experience, however in terms of overall tech I think the all-room VR experience of HTC Vive has the greatest immersion potential and technological advantage right now.

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There are numerous other players, some focusing not on gaming, but other VR applications such as military training, motion pictures or video on demand, sight seeing and travel as well as medical training. These are just some examples of how VR can be implemented past gaming and entertainment. However, I think this is where its strengths currently are and gaming is also something VR needs to capture first as the audience and market share is strong in this regard.

There are constant developments in the VR space with wireless headsets now making headlines such as the Pro version of the HTC Vive (as long as you purchased a separate adapter priced at $300), which can be used without being tethered to a PC or separate device such as a Playstation or smartphone, as is the case with most other headsets. There are also various virtual reality headsets coming out based on Android use and smartphone applications. In fact, Google is a strong player in this regard with its Dream project and support for Android headsets with its own pair of googles (I remember the Google Box being very innovative as well a couple years ago).

AR vs MR vs VR: Competition or Coexistence?

However, with Apple pushing AR Kit 2 and augmented reality being a technology that is also growing in this space it will be interesting to see how long VR’s legs will be in this regard. In some ways the two technologies of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are competing for marketshare, at least in smartphones as they share many similarities. Augmented Reality is based on using the camera and seeing objects that are virtual or digital appear in real-time around the space the viewer or user is looking at. It is less virtual or immense, in my opinion, than virtual reality, which is based on going into a completely different view and world after the glasses are put on.

I actually covered Augmented Reality (AR) a couple years ago when it was still in its infancy (arguably still is now) and Microsoft and Google at the time were its heavy proponents. The title of the piece was „How Augmented Reality is Defining Entertainment” and was published on TechHive and PC World. The cover feature focused on mostly various mobile apps and headset implementations that were becoming popular at the time and this was before even Google Cardboard.

There are some differences in what works better in AR vs VR and vice versa as specific maps or Yelp-type of geolocation services may be more practical or efficient using AR, particularly in mobile where we are moving around while looking for landmarks. However, VR has many benefits and advantages over other technologies, including AR, in terms of various industries and not just gaming as well.

According to MarketWatch:

“AR applications are being developed which will provide map overlays of prominent landmarks for improving geographic awareness and enabling rescue teams with better navigation into difficult terrains. Similarly, the healthcare industry in the region is expected to be one of the most promising users of VR technologies and devices because of surging usage of VR in surgical training, live streaming of surgeries, patient monitoring, pain management.”

There is also a relatively new concept that I see mentioned more and more and I did not hear about when I published that feature for PC World on AR (again: here). Mixed reality seems to be about adding virtual or digital objects onto the real world that we can see with the aid of smartphones, mobile devices, glasses or other peripherals. There seems to be a fine line between defining mixed reality vs augmented reality, but augmented reality could simply be using Yelp’s landmark finder or restaurant finder and not see virtual objects like spaceships flying, which would be more of a mixed reality experience.3899AB55-4CBD-4908-BB0D-56AC06C2ADEA

Personal Experiences with VR at Warsaw Cafe 

673B5B0F-6C59-4902-B658-587662EFCA75The bottom line is there is a strong future for both of these technologies, but I want to focus on my experience using a full-on virtual reality headset for the first time. This occurred last week when I ran into this VR gaming cafe or shop called

I actually had a chance to try out other VR headsets available and always missed out on the chance. During my time at the EGX Rezzed show I attended in London (I covered the event here) the VR headsets I saw were always packed with people on them or queued up ready to play whatever was offered. I also missed some other chances due to similar reasons at other locations, such as a artistic showcase at a gallery.

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So, when I ran into this shop specializing in VR, called ImperiumVR, here in Warsaw where I am currently living. It was a pleasant surprised to run into this place in such a secluded shopping area known for cheap thrift stores and haircuts. How I found this place is a story all onto itself as it is located on the second floor of the shopping strip in the back with very little advertising or notifications. In fact, it looked more like an abandoned storehouse or the beginning of the apartment living area that is adjacent to it and behind the other shops.

ImperiumVR is really a cool place. It is small and no one was here besides me and the lady running the place or working there who helped me put on the OculusRift headgear and calibrate it so it fit perfectly on my head. She also introduce me to this crossbow training game first before I dived into the Superhot experience to get a small taste of how VR works. The place is worth checking out to anyone who lives or visits Warsaw. It is also fairly inexpensive and because of how it is located in the back of the strip, I imagine not too many people know about it, which is a shame.

I actually found out there are other VR venues here including one that offers the option to use a number of headsets, such as HTC Vive, beyond just Oculus Rift. It is called VR Project, but I have not had a chance to go there yet and try it out.

I was pretty surprised knowing this place existed, along with other gaming-focused venues, and even Warsaw gaming pubs such as New Meta Bar, because I never imagined Warsaw to be heavy on gaming or tech before moving here. However, it is and Poland as a country has a history and long gaming, despite its communist and relatively poor past.

When I was young arcade cabinets were lined up in these places called ssalony gier or gaming saloons. The American equivalent to these places would be the traditional arcade, but they were quite different because they were set up in long booths with arcade cabinets lined up against the walls inside a very thin walkway and the games were played using żetony or special coins inserted into the machines (yes I understand and remember some arcades in the U.S. using tokens instead of quarters as well so there is some similarity).

Poland even had a gaming culture before this that I remember well. Various gaming-centric computers such as Commodore 64, Atari ST and the Amiga were popular among the kids who could afford them when I was growing up. The way, I actually found out that Superhot is a Polish-developed game was I ran into this screening in the middle of a square in Warsaw at night showcasing the Polish gaming scene. I caught a bit of it at the end and here is what it looked like:

When I played Superhot, I felt for the first time the potential of VR. The game outs you in a role of an action movie star where you do both bare hand fighting and gun shooting. You also have the ability to throw objects at enemies, but this is difficult to pull off with precision in my experience. However, the movement is awesome. The ability to look 360 degrees for enemies and move out of the way of punches and bullets truly was a captivating experience. I even broke a bit of a sweat and got a chance to try out some boxing and martial art movies I picked up from training in the game. Note, throwing a body punch and waiting for the enemies to come to you rather than overextend is a tactic I found works well in the game as it does in real life.

I can actually imagine a sequel or a hard mode in the sequel offering real challenge where martial art skills or police training can come in handy if not learn the fine motor sensory skills involved through the VR experience. I actually see such ideas for future implementations of VR in gaming and beyond (think Matrix martial arts training where Neo fought Morpheus).

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The game puts you into these levels divided by sequences you have to overcome. For instance, in a sequence, you may quickly have to pick up an ashtray and block a shot from an enemy afar, then quickly turn to the wide where an enemy is running at you that you need to take out hand to hand. Than you may have to grab that enemy’s gun and use it at the rest of the foes to end the sequence and move onto the next sequence. Once you overcome a few of these sequences you move on to the next arena or level with its own sequences. If you die, or get hit, you will have to restart the order of sequences again, but not necessarily have to go back to the beginning of the game.

You will truly get some sweat going and feel an adrenaline rush playing this game. It is by far the best implementstion of VR I’ve seen in gsming or beyond. I am also proud it comes from a Polish development studio and zi wish them all the best in the near future.

The future of VR: Where Do We Go from Here?

So what does the future of VR hold? I presume that mobile VR including Google’s Dream will have a bright future despite the competition from AR in this space. However, I really see wireless showroom and home VR making the most noise in terms of innovation and possibilities the technology can unleash in the future. It is already showing its potential as it is applied to various industries teaching students and being applied in the workforce to give practical experience in various industries before hands-on training is applied.

I previously mentioned military and the medical fields as examples of such usage. I imagine it will grow very strong in both these fields and can imagine a VR implementation teaching soldiers to overcome natural fear of combat and being able to overcome the adrenaline or mental breakdowns that often occurs for first-time combatants. It is still not the real thing, but virtual reality is becoming so immense and life-like that it can really simulate that reality and it will only improve from there.

I can imagine a headset with some form of light pain implementation and sense implementation making an appearance in the future bringing reality and virtual reality closer in this field and many other VR implementations. HTC Vive is already showing grip technology simulating various objects being tangible is very advanced and this is already a roadblock that was once impossible to overcome. Other senses such as smell and wetness or mist may make an appearance (maybe not at home, but at military implementations, for instance, or showroom floor VR set-ups).

Current Implementations of VR Showing Potential for Wide Range of Industries

I also see travel being a huge industry for VR, particularly live-albeit-virtual travel to locations where cameras are set up. Users can get that experience of a particular city or place without having to purchase a plain ticket to get there. it is also a way for people to tour a particular place and compare it to others to get a sense if the trip is worthwhile of if they might as well go somewhere else in person.

There is already some implementation in this regard, as reported by Appreal-VR, for instance, where Youtube is being used by Best Western Hotels to offer hotel tours for users trying to make a reservation choice ahead of time. Quantas Airline VR is also being use don flights to give travelers a chance to check out the places they are about to embark on before even landing. There are even museum tours available as another example of VR finding a home in tourism and travel.

Those are just some examples of uses already being implemented, but to list more and the potential for VR in this regard would be a whole separate article all onto itself. Gaming is where I really see VR being implemented in the most interesting ways for me personally. Particularly after experiencing the awesomeness of Superhot. It was as if the game combined a movie or action film experience with first person shooting and combat to bring me to the forefront of the action like I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing before.

What I want you to take away from my experiences as well as others’ experiences related to modern-day VR, is to not give up on the technology. Give it a try if you haven’t and do not just try one game, title or experience before making up your mind. give Superhot a try and some others. You will not regret it and come away from the experience learning of an emerging technology that has a strong future in gaming and various other industries.

Some of you may have read the book Ready Player One or seen the latest movie coming from famed director Steven Spielberg. It was a descent film and that type of virtual reality and eSport displayed may be closer to reality than many realize. Both eSports and vsrious VR, AR and MR technologies are advancing and gaining in popularity. It may only be a matter of time before eSports and VR are merged.

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How the Internet Is Being Restricted & Handicapped Based on Geographic Data

 

web6You may be aware that the Internet is not as free as you were once told. It started out pretty free or the idea behind it was connectivity with users around the world and no hassles of government interference or control. You may recall the Usenet groups that made communication among people from all over the world a breeze before the World Wide Web even appeared.

“The Internet is at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location.”

This is an interesting statement made by the Internet Society on the Brief History of the Internet. It however, represents a long lost idea. The idea of freedom of communication being made possible online and without interference of any kind to limit the flow of these ideas or other forms of information.web10

The Internet is much more than just the World Wide Web and websites. It consisted of many services, Usenet being an example I previously mentioned, before Tim Berners-Lee’s idea became a reality and has been before the 90s in such capacity.

According to Web Foundation’s article titled History of the Web:

“As the web began to grow, Tim realized that its true potential would only be unleashed if anyone, anywhere could use it without paying a fee or having to ask for permission.”

This was truly a time of potential and exploration. However, both the WWW and the Internet as a whole have since started to be much more limited in terms of geographical barriers and content control. Geoblocking of content, nations around the world controlling the flow of information and many other hamstrings exist today to a global and free Internet.

A Prime example of this is Netflix. You cannot watch the same content from even your own Netflix account abroad, say in Europe, than you can if you opened and ran your account from the United States. A lot of the content, such as TV shows, will not be available due to various licensing agreements that Netflix made with the producers or providers of such content. It all comes down to money and influence.

Another example of unequal access to online services and Internet restrictions based on geolocation data include the recent European privacy laws, called GDPR, that made many websites that do not comply with the new GDPR law unavailable to European users. This is based around Europe protecting privacy of user information and preventing data gathering for further targeted advertisements among other things. Last time I checked, I could not even open up the LA Times online when connecting from a European IP due to this issue. This is really a U.S. problem or problem with U.S. media not wanting to comply with GDPR.

Such unequal access to media will prevent the flow of information from being free and global. It will also prevent as global collaboration among journalists and media networks as a whole. It is also worth pointing out that this is very disadvantageous for average Web surfers and users who cannot get an unbiased picture on world news due to being prevented from accessing content or articles from even renown media channels, like the aforementioned LA Times.

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With a quick search I found more information on such sites and media. The Guardian has written an article mentioning this problem called LA Times among US-based news sites blocking EU users due to GDPR, but it is not the only major publication. According to the Guardian’s report:

“Visitors to newspapers owned by Tronc Inc – formerly Tribune Publishing – which also includes the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and the San Diego Union-Tribune, are being redirected to a page with the message: ‘Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries.’”

This also means that many of us who want to travel and access our Netflix shows abroad will have to forego watching certain things we want to watch or go the route of purchasing VPN services (usually for a fee) in order to trick Netflix and other content providers or media into thinking we are in a different geographical zone (notably the U.S.).

Netflix is not the only example. In fact, many social networks, such as Instagram, offer geoblocking to an extent. Many even adhere to censorship from governments around the world such as China and North Korea to prevent web users in those countries from getting the full content of the site or network or prevent access altogether.web9

Besides the Web and Internet as a whole being manipulated and controlled by entities, whether governments (like China’s) or companies like Netflix, to bar users based on certain geographic demographics or geolocation, there are greater issues at play. You may have heard of the recent Net Neutrality rules controversies and how the Trump administration in the U.S. has not favored net neutrality, but sided against them.

According to a CNET write-up on the matter:

“Supporters of net neutrality say the internet as we know it may not exist much longer without the protections. Big tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, and internet luminaries, such as Tim Berners-Lee, fall in that camp.”

This shows that there may be different price hikes for different Internet speeds and broadband access to different users and companies rather than a free and equal share of the pie. This is all based on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) having a heavy hand at deciding how U.S.-based Web traffic and online connectivity rules play out; and this FCC being influenced by politicians or having chairman appointed by presidents.

What is interesting is I had no idea how restricted online access can be until I started traveling or living abroad. This combined with Google’s geoblocking that prevents me from gaining access to U.S.-based Google search without typing /ncr (no country redirect) as part of Google’s url (www.google.com/ncr) are just hassles that should not exist. I found many websites, including Dropbox’s and Apple’s that automatically switch to the language of the country I am connecting from even when I try to switch the url to US or ENG or search for the U.S. based version of the site.

It is interesting how far this approach to Web traffic will go in terms of if it will continue to divide users based on geoblocking or over time if Web access will become more inclusive regardless of geographical location. I hope for the latter as many who are on a trip or those living abroad, but wanting access to the same content they had access to at home, do. Many business leaders and network professionals I am also sure want access to the premiere, or many times U.S.-based, versions of sites and services as they may be superior (Netflix example again) to the versions they are being forced to consume abroad.

Even website creation can become a major pain when switching regions or trying to create a site in English for a global audience. Here in Poland I created a site using Weebly and it automatically displayed Polish for me without asking me if that was the language I wanted to use for both the site itself and the menus. I have since switched to English from the dashboard, however some of the default text that isn’t changeable (maybe unless I went into CSS or HTML and did it by hand) is still displayed in Polish forcing me to delete it. Here is an example of what I am talking about:

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Notice that even though it says upload in English, the text actually shows up as pobierz, which is the Polish word for upload once saved. I do not know hot co change it as it is greyed out and default and you can only change the file name of the file you upload through drag and drop. However, there may be a way to do it via the CSS and HTML editor, which I do not even know if I can access without the paid version of Weebly’s plan as I cannot find that editor.

For instance, the drop down menu of archives in the news section of my template says “Archiwa” and the month in a smaller font below. Both of these words as part of the section are in Polish. I can change archive by hand to archives, but the month is hyperlink and unchangeable. What is odd is that even if delete this section and then find it in the menu to the left, it is in English. But once I drag it down to the same section, the text becomes Polish again.

These are all hurdles one has to overcome when traveling or moving into another country and dealing with so much geoblocking, geolocation tracking, and services being thrown down our throats we do not necessarily want (in the even of streamlining the web creation experience as outlined above making it more of a hassle as a result of not allowing us to change the hyperlinked text).

Personally, it will take a long time, and many dictators from around the world to disappear before the Internet truly becomes a free and global phenomenon. There are many hurdles still at play that are preventing even services such as Netflix from being equal around the world both in content and cost. Companies offering services should be the first to realize the importance of net neutrality and geoblocking woes, but when licensing and money are at play it becomes a different game.

However, there is still hope things will start turning around soon. According to the latest news (since I started writing this piece), California may soon approve a a net neutrality bill that would become the largest in the U.S. Again, this is strictly dealing with U.S. politics related to data and the FCC and not something that should affect users worldwide, but it can send a message and have a ripple affect down the road. California is a huge player when it comes to the Net, Web services and Silicon Valley is located there, after all.

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This is good news when it comes to data caps and neutral access across sites and networks to U.S. broadband and fiber-optic cables. However, it still does not address the issue of geoblocking of the same content across the globe despite users paying the same if not more of a premium for the service. Again, Netflix comes to mind as the example of this. It also does not address the issue of major media and websites being unavailable to European users due to the GDPR.

I really hope there will be a time when the ideas of what the Internet and the Web should be will come to pass and where someone can log online from anywhere on the globe and access the same services. This will not only open up new job markets and the ability for remote workers to have a fair and equal chance at competition and being productive, but also give kids an example to absorb the same information as their peers in the developed nations, particularly in the U.S who get all the online services available with the click of a mouse.

More Schmup Concept Artwork

I have been working on more ideas related to the graphic design assets I have and combined with my recent play time with Super Hydorah, my review (plays surprisingly well on iPad with its touch controls), I have decided to use the game’s concept into my own. This type of art is interesting because it lets my imagination run wild and at the same time experiment with multiple apps and brush strokes.

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I have also decided to start using my iCloud Drive and it is a real asset to save my work in multiple format. That way, I can print a PDF file in high quality. This can be useful, for instance, if someone wnats to ever work with me in creating a cover or box art design. Alternitavely, I can sell such artwork or create print out ads. By saving files in multiple formats, I can also export such work into Illustrator for vector work or even to turn a whole design into vector by sketch, or continue working on it in the future.

I have a PDF file of most of the images above as well as PSD for Photoshop and Procoreate/Artstudio work and PnG for exporting onto the Web.

Here is the PDF file, which should make a nice print out

By the way, this is a continuation of my previous post using similar assets in different ways:

Lastly, here is something else worth contemplating:

 

Personal Account of London’s Biggest Gaming Expo EGX Rezzed

C86773A9-0817-4F1F-8DD7-74137ABA5453As many of you know, gaming is now a mainstream hobby and activity that spans across devices, operating systems, virtual and augmented realities and more. It is enjoyed by millions of people world wide. There are gaming shows happening around the world, although arguably the most well-known occur in Japan and the U.S. (particularly E3). However, Europe has a huge gaming scene as well and the UK arguably made gaming in terms of many of the original developers started out from garages in the UK (think Jeff Minter). Games now considered retro classics that were developed decades ago and for computers and gaming systems such as the ZX Spectrum and Amiga, really survived based off the UK fanbase at the time and thrived. This was when much of the rest of the world, inlcuding the U.S., gamed on the Commodore 64, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and IBM PC (via DOS and later Windows).

Well the UK is still a very strong region when it comes to gaming, both classic and modern. The country also has a show that takes place annually called EGX Rezzed and it used to be referred to as the Eurogamer Expo. The expo took place April 13-15 at the Tobacco Dock in London and the next EGX show will occur Sept. 20-23 in Birmingham, UK. I never knew about the show until my recent and coincedental visit to London as a tourist. I will mention my experience at the expo as well as a bit of background how I ran into the show (Also, be sure to check out what Eurogamer had to say about the recent EGX).

The show was all about indies, and across platforms and genres. It offered much more, but if you are an indy gamer it was pure heaven. There were indy offerings from developers that are known and onces barely on paper who had titles not even announced (or at least announced outside of their countries of origin).1D326B16-27EF-48E5-BA76-C410DD19795B

If you are a frequent visitor to this site and a reader of my blog, you may have already noticed my previous story, which included an interview, mentioning the show briefly, but mostly focusing on two mobile games showcased (Vandals and Homo Machina).  The reason I wrote that post so promptly and only focused on mobile was because that is my bread and butter or how I started my writing carrer (hence the original focus of this site being the iPad, iPad gaming and most of my content is still produced and shot with the iPad as was EGX) . I am thinking of getting into gaming journalism  with mobile being a good entry point to pitch websites and editors because of my previous focus and content.

Now, let me tell you how I ended up at this game expo before I tell you how surprised I was the way it turned out to be one of the best expos or shows overall related to tech or gaming in general. I was in London just visiting and site seeing the city before I even found out that EGX was happening. It was already Sunday and I flipped through this guide about London and what is worth checking out in the city during this time or 2018 in general and saw virtual reality displayed along with a game expo mentioned.8DFA8857-1A39-4D81-AFB5-1776DC5975D0

I kind of paid this no attention for a day as I assumed it was just one of those VR-focused shows that really is only British in scope and will feature just the run-of-the-mill games, or companies showcasing their games, that have already been covered to death. However, as I realized the show was happening not far from the London Tower, where I happened to visit the following day, I figured if there were still tickets available I would check it out. Mind, this was already Sunday so the last day to see the show.

I walked by the harbor renting one of those London bicycles that cost 2 euros per half-hour and as I rode by this long and wide building that looked like an old factory, I first didn’t think there was a show happening there at all. It wasn’t until I reached further into the side that I saw an opening with what looked like an event happening. However, until I rode by looking for places to park my bicycle and I saw the front entrance, I still doubted this was the place that EGX was happening at.

I then realized that if I was to purchase a ticket I should do it right away before they run out, as this was the last day of the show after all. So I contacted the EGX staff from their website contact section and I got a very prompt response from Tom Champion, who is the manager of the event, and he replied promptly with information about the show and availability of ticket88714763-B077-406E-BC2C-383E774C0784

I ended up going and being surprised about how robust and feature-rich the show was. There were all sorts of games on showcase including the latest titles, games yet to be released, titles barely announced or in pre-alpha phrase of development, indy games and retro titles.

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When I first walked into the show floor I noticed how it had multiple levels or a staircase that took you to the bottom floor and various sections on both levels. There was also a divide in the middle walkway on topthat divided the left side of the Dock from the right and eachs ection had rooms with different themes of games showcased, which included multiple monitors or TV sets in each room and multiple publishers present.

2DCDBC65-ED7E-4061-BDB0-1F5509137532I then walked inside one section or space and noticed a couple big-hit titles in this section, such as the highl-anticipated and longed-for below, a slasher game called Sinner, and this awesome-looking Freespace type of exploration shooter called Sinner, which I unfortunately did not get a chance to examine too closely as there were so many other titles grabbing at my attention. As I walked by the many isles in the first room I ended up walking into on right hand of the first or upper floor of the Dock, I couldn’t help but be captivated by a game that was showcased across numerous monitors. It also had an active gathering of gamers trying it. This game, which isn’t released yet, was State of Mind, which I actually never heard of before the show but came away impressed and captivated by its art direction and interesting ideas it brings to the table.BF00C809-0EBC-4F5F-8B15-4CF673C01A38

I actually ended up interviewing the marketing and publishing team behind it, Lisa Mallory who is the community manager at Daedalic Entertsinment based out of Hamburg, Germany and Mounir Aouina, the marketing assistant who was at the show as well. Thus, if anyone is interested in the storyline or the game in greater detail and about the origins of the title and the sort or psychological and pop-culture message it offers, let me know. In a nutshell, it focuses on a man namd Richard, who is antagonist to technology running people’s lives and becoming more part of mainstream. Mind you, this game takes place in th future, so technology is even mote prevalent and part of people’s lives than in our reality. Richard also happens to be a teacher, which makes such an approach interesting to say the least. Mallory promised, however, thst there will be other characters playable further into the story.

The graphics and aesthetics seemed real interesting snd gave me a very Max Payne and Blade Runner type of feeling. Mallory told me that the game shares adventure game elements with older point-and-click PC titles, but isn’t a strict adventure game in terms of structure or genre because it offers much different puzzles and implementsiton in terms of narrative. The graphics were pretty awesome and the storyline seemed pretty unique as well with people resisting or accepting texhnology in different ways in a not too-distant future and there is a lot of room in there for good storytelling. It will be interesting to see how it turns out when it gets released this upcoming August. Here is a gameplay section I shot of someone playing Richard (via my Youtube channel under Mike Lata).

As I kept walking a couple of isles down the hall, to the left and perpendicular to most of the other games showcased, I then noticed a game playing in its own booth section that seemed to have a very akingdom Hearts and Dragon Ball Z aesthetic and felt intrigued. The game was Oniria The Land Of The Three Z and at first glance gave off a type of mix, in terms gameplay, of Kingdom Hearts and Super Mario Sunshine. It looked like a platformer with collecting elements the game’s title sounds almost as strange as the concept behind the game. It is a 3D platformer with heavy collect elements because it ties into the aspect of having a dreamcatcher to fill as enemies become captured when they perish. New paths are also opened within the various worlds that the development team plans to implement. New abilities are gained as enemies get captured and the player advances.

I talked to Pablo Martin Alvarez, who is a co-founders of the studio behind the game (D-RealmS) and an active developer in the title, as well as Maria mercedes garcia muñoz, who was an active Spanish-to-English translator for Alvarez and was part of the team at EGX showcasing the game. Pablo described the game as an action adventure title as well as a 3D platformer all at the same time. Judging the mis of weapon handling and platforming he seemes to have described it well.

At one point Pablo pressed a keyboard shortcut for the development version of the game and the main character started flying in mid air to the point in the map that Pablo wanted to demonstrate for me (the later boss fight occured there you will see in the video below). He told me this was a (keyboard) shortcut intended for developers to be able to not have to actually tackle away at the game to get further, but fly straight to the point of what they want to assess.

Here is him explaning some of the mechanics of the game while showing off a boss battle (via my Youtube Channel under Mike Lata):

(If anyone is interested in having me write a story for your publication I have a whole interview with Pablo and more info about the game.)

Outside, on the top floor and between the two sections of rooms and secrions, there were refreshments and food available for purchase. There were also some stands inside one of the sections or rooms that had gaming accessories, art, and other things available for purchase. One of them fewtured a lot of old retro, particularly game boy, games and modified game boys with various lighting and display additions not available in the orignal Game Boy or GBC hardware (possibly some sort of save state functionality or other modifications).

Paper Rock Shotgun (RPS), a quality and popular gaming website and network, had a big presence at the show with a room dedicated to it that had various games showcased inside from varied publishers, but all based on comedy or games that were just hilarious in nature. Some of them had weird controllers, for instance, or featured a battle royal against friends with much laughter involved. PRS also has a nice and very in-depth analysis of the show and what it offered available here.

Nintendo’s Switch console was not forgotten and had a pretty large presence at the show, which surprised me a bit due to Nintendo generally focusing on its own periodic livestream show, called Nintendo Direct. There were various games showcased in an arc or circular set up where eager marketing and publishing teams were literally throwing joycons at potential players to try out their games. Some or these titles had multiple people with joycons playing co op, others focused on single player action. Most were indy or retro in appearance.

They included the famous PSP-era puzzler Lumines, but remastered for the Switch (thus named Lumines Remastered), a multiplayer fighting game with retro and pixelated graphics, called Pocket Rumble, and more. The Switch seems to have a surprisingly (to me) thriving indy scene as Nintendo is finally getting on track with its online gaming distribution platform and besides having a system with a high adoption rate, The Kyoto-based company seems to be giving indies some breathing space and freedom this time around.

I was also pleasantly surprised that there were some big, although could also be considered indy, hitters displayed for Nintendo’s console-tablet-handheld hybrid to try out. The latest and upcoming title in Suda 51’s No More Heroes franchise, a series that started life on the original Wii, was showcased and available for gamers to try out. It will be called Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. Shaq Fu had a section all of its own to the side of the main Switch-only circular arc with posters advertising it.ac847fe7-9b12-4772-9dab-353ae1e10ae1

Because I only went on the last day of the show, which was a Sunday, I missed out on a lot of what the whole event had to offer. Even though, as you may have noticed, I got a great taste of the awesomeness of what such shows bring and the types of gaming experiences they can unveil people may not have access to or try out on their own.

7691B5BC-5DCD-44BF-9427-90D26F397D7AThere were various VR set ups, for instance, and always a line to try out those Oculus Rift or Cive headsets. There were also gaming talks and seminars in a seperate section on how to work inside the gaming industry with big time developers or heads speaking about their experiences and giving advice on how to break into the industry. There were even various submissions for indies to get their presence at the show, for instance the Leftfield Collection and RPS gives some details here on how submissions worked, as from what I saw it was heavily tailored for that independent and creative spirit.

What was truly bizarre and interesting was this set up I saw on the bottom floor of the show. It was a multi-legged robotic machine that had multiple retro-looking CRT TV sets connected to it that gamers played Steel Rats on. There were eyes on top of the CRT TV sers in their own TV sets that looked into the viewers. This dystopian and almost Mad Max in-appearance set up included various metallic pipes and even what looked like scrapmetal and stereo speakers fused together. I felt a huge steampunk vibe from checking out the robot and it was an awesome set up that truly fit right in with Steel Rat’s gameplay.

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Steel Rats is a dieselpunk and 2.5D motorcycle action game that has you spinning your wheels at high speeds while fighting robots with what looked like destructive or highly-combustive environments. Geek has described it as a “high-octane motorcycle action game,” which I think fits the bill with a retro-futuristic art style.

“Steel Rats takes place in a “Dieselpunk” world inspired by 1940’s and 50’s Americana. The game’s heroes are the titular Steel Rats, who are defending their hometown of Coastal City against an invading army of automatons called junkbots.”

I did not get a chance to play the title or try it out, but saw others playing and the mechanics of it explained. However, it definitely is one to watch for. Here is what I recorded of the behemoth in action (from my Youtube channel under Mike Lata) from the top floor of the Tobacco Dock:

Here is actual gameplay of Steel Rats being played on the robotic bhemoth (via my Instagram under Stirolak or Mike Lata):

There was also this game that was showcased or playing on a circular display that was being powered by a projector and it fit the type of genre it represented nicely. This was a surreal and artistic type of game from the quick look I had of it running and being demonstrated. The game was Stereopolis and it seemed to rely on some sort of environmental manipulation and almost a tunnel-runner type of gameplay. Here is a brief gameplay video I shot (from my Youtube channel under Mike Lata):

The Retro gallery downstairs offered an awesome section for the type of gamer I am. The titles showcase brought me back to the 90s and really the high era of my life in terms of gaming: the time I discovered online gaming with the original Starcraft or my Doom marathons when I discovered wads or modifications it offered turning the vainall doom game (with a download) into a completely different game — now we refer to these as modifications or mods. Well, Doom, Starfox and even the original half-Life were all available at the Retro section that gamers could play on PCs as originally the games were released on and in my opinion gaming of this era that these games came out was the cream of the crop of PC gaming.

Retro gaming can be a whole new topic here but I have such fond memories of the games thst I saw at EGX that I can really write some awesome ancedotes about it. I am currently mostly a retro gamer who loves portable and movile gaming as well as some marathons of PC gaming. But because ai do not have the latest and greatest rig in terms of Pc gaming, in fact I rely on my Bootcamped iMac mostly, I still mostly play games like Team Fortress 2 or Starcraft 2, which are getting up there in age. I also am big into my iPad and Nintendo 3DS, in fact I love on going on night runs and jogs up the stairs in the park newr me and take breaks trying to complete Super Mario 3D Land, which has been my evening program lately here in Warsaw.

img_6903As you can see, EGX was an awesome show with a lot of fun stuff in terms of gaming and beyond that any gamer if given a chance should check out. There were titles in all genres and across various systems, set ups and budgets available to try out. If given a chance,I will try to make the next show as well and this time not just on the last day. Apparently EGX’s popularity has transcended beyond London with Berlin being a destination in the near future. Berlin is not far from me here in Warsaw, so I may check this upcoming one out. I recommend that you do as well if you enjoy gaming at all.

If anyone is interested in more content, including a lot of interviews and multimedia I have and may not have had the space or time to divulge here (there is at least one interview or game I covered, which I ommited), do not hesitate to contact me. I can also go a lot further nto the individual games that I covered here, such as State of Mind and more about the gameplay and message behind the game (and other titles as well). So if any publication, media or gaming/tech site wants such content or likes my work and would not mind having me work with them or freelance for them, please also let me know. This also goes for gaming studios that can use someone like me on their team as either a media publicist, game writer, PR, marketing guy, graphic designer/video editor or more (some of my skills showcased here in terms of art and writing for game narrative). Thank you and I look forward to the next EGX show.

EGX Show in London Had Some Interesting Games Displayed Including Mobile Titles

1A8F14C1-79B9-4859-8580-93F521BCCFC0During my recent visit to London’s largest annual game convention, EGX REZZED, at the Tobacco Docs, I had a chance to talk to a number of notable developers as well as publishers in the game industry. Some of them happened to be focusing or working on mobile titles and showcased them at the expo. One of these companies happened to be Arte, the publishers of the recently-released hit Vandals on iOS and Android.

This surprised stealth-graffiti mishmash has been receiving some pretty good critical reception as of late. The game is about escaping detection, tagging walls and creating unique tags from scratch, as well as an overall colorful and eye-catchy aesthetic style.

I spoke to Vincent Dondaine at the show, who was in charge of Arte’s show floor demos that included two games that gamers had a chance to try out on iPads. These two Arte-published titles include Vandals and an upcoming title called Homo Machina.

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The two games cannot be more different from each other in gameplay and appearance, but they do share some core ideas, innovation, a charming aesthetic as well as good overall production values. Oh, and both happen to be puzzlers as well, although in much different categories of the genre.

Vandals is a stealth game with graffiti thrown in for good measure, where players can tag walls with their own custom tags and escape police officers, police dogs and even flying holicopter in an almost Hitman Go style. Meanwhile, Homo Machina a journey inside the human body where players will have to solve puzzles inside a factory where a man sleeps and his body is being worked on.

Although Vandals may appear brutish or anti authority in nature due to its type of gameplay, it actually has very laid-back, family-friendly and peaceful style to it.

“There is no guns or killing in the game,” Dondaine said. “It is a peaceful game. when you are discovered by the police, they just stop you and you have to try again and start the level over.”

It has very artistic and almost steampunk type of aesthetics as the game has you sneaking across 6 levels across five cities around the world ranging from Tokyo to New York.

When asked if Arte has any future plans for the recently-released Vandals, Dondaine said that it will depend on the community reception. If it sells, more content will come and thus far he has been satisfied with the results.

At EGX REZZED, Homo Machine was shown to the public for the second time overall. Gamers at the show had a chance to work out a patient’s health and stabilize him as various machines and medical workers walked around a body and monitored its overall health.

This is a tribute game to Fritz Kahn, a German doctor from the 19th century. He is regarded as one of the founders of the modern concept of an infographic. The infographics Kahn created were very elaborate and full of vivid imagery. They mapped the human body as a very functioning and effective industrial palace or factory.

“He was teaching at the time visually how the body works,” Dondaine said. “When we saw that as game designers, we realized that it was design for a game. That was the inspiration.”

The game allows players to work out a patient’s health throughout one whole day spread across multiple levels and involving various puzzles and solutions. The patient or person is laying inside an alternative reality factory with physicians walking around and various machines operating around the laid-out figure. At the end of the day the patient goes on a nice date. So the goal is to keep him healthy and steady to finish one whole day of his life so he can make it to this date.

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“The game is basically a factory of your body,” Dondaine said. “When you wake up you are inside your brain and thats where the factory boss is.”

You can check out the infographic that inspired Darjeeling, the developers of Homo Machina, here. It was originally published inside Kahn’s 1926 book about the human body as an industry, called “Der Mensch als Industriepalast.”

Players will be tapping on various icons to either direct the workers in the factory or on directly controlling aspects of the respiratory or anatomic system of the man. The puzzles will b varied and involve a wide use of logic to solve. The game also has really nice and vivid graphics as you see workers walking around and doing things as you tap on the display where you or the patient is laying down.

Dordaine promises the story is worth following along and it will be a touching tale to behold when the game releases sometime next month. It has been in development for around two-and-a-half years.

Here is a bit of gameplay shown or demonstrated to me by Dondaine:

Updated My Avernun 7 Storyline Idea & Creating Game Art

I have decided to rescan and try maybe continuing to work on my story idea for the beginning of a new indy game, possibly Avernun 7. I have previously tried to take pictures of the old hand-written stuff I came up with one afternoon on a whim for a game idea and the scanning, or images created from the notes, didn’t turn out well. However, I highlighted some of the key ideas along with some art and marketing writing for such games, particularly Spiderweb Software’s, in this blog post.

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Taken from SpiderwebSoftware.com

As many of you know who have been reading this blog, I am a huge fan of Jeff Vogel’s Spiderweb Software and its games, particularly Avernun: Escape from the Pit. This game has a strong message behind it that I would summarize with the nouns exile, anguish, survival, rebellion, and above all else, triumph.

I originally played this game on an iPad Mini on a plane ride and trip to Poland from the U.S. and got hooked. It felt like the true WRPG or CRPG that the iPad at the time lacked and had no alternatives (even Baldurs Gate Enhanced Edition hasn’t come out back then on iOS or mobile). So it reminded me of one of my favorite genres of games: titles like Divine Divinity, Diablo and the Infnite Engine games (Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Planetscape Torment).

 

 

Images are taken from Spiderweb Software’s website and based on in-game art 

Although I have not played any of the proceeding games in the series — the latest remake series now offers three of them already released although Avernun 3has not been released for iPad yet — I have read, researched and analyzed them. I have read many of the latest reviews of Avernun 3 and it, along with the initial Exile 3 release back in the 90s, seems to be the most ambitious title in the series. I have also been following Jeff Vogel’s recent interviews and he said that in his youth when Exile 3 came out he had many crazy ideas he liked to implement in his game design, and he recreated the title faithfully with the latest remake.

I was not able to complete my initial Avernun Escape from the Pit game run due to my iPad Mini being stolen along with the save data being wiped. This is why I have decided to replay it before purchasing both Avernun 2 and 3when it is released on the iPad (hopefully soon). I actually got almost to the end, or where I had different paths I could have taken like chose to fight the guardian dragon and escape to the surface. However, due to my saved data being wiped, I never got to properly see any of the possible endings.

Right now I am about a half way through the game now and enjoying it immersely. It is a living, breahting world, full of wonders and surprises. There are caves to esplore, huge number of towns to navigate as well as various quests to complete; There are magical orbs that spak to you in the game to find, various artifacts, weapons and items to salvage; and a variety of ways to upgrade the characters in your party. The Avernun series are a complete RPG package and you can play them co fortably on any of the iPad’s touchscreens.

This brings me back to my initial point I wrote this blog post about. I wanted to showcase my ideas for Avernun 7, or a similar game in that veil of storytelling. Thus, I have decided to rescan my hand-written pages I used to started the introduction. This is because the previously taken with my iPad camera pages did not show up very defined, as any readers of my previous blog post may attest.

So here is the latest scan using HP Scan software from my printer. The HP scanning software (HP Smart) seems to work a lot better than Adobe Scan app (I previously tried this as well) or just using my iPad camera, which is interesting that HP has such good scanning software that can use that same camera and make more light of what it scans).

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Screenshots:

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As you see, this is just an idea and gave me an ides to continue with descriptive writing because it is fun and creative. I would love to work for a game company or an indy dev studio on such writing ideas, marketing ads, or even do some artwork and visual design (or concept art as I prefer to work with scenes or landscapes rather than people). I may continue on this idea and refine it further by also typing it up.

Speaking of which, here is some digital art I created that could be used for scenery, or in-game title screens or even intro art to indy RPG titles where you enter a nee location for instance.

 

 

 

All my images, visuals or art added on here or anywhere on this site is my copyright and if you want to work with me, commission me or hire me for additional work or to use any of my work — whether wrt, graphics or writing — we can work together. I can also create multimedia content for your brand by combining my writing, art, marketing or video productions into something interesting.

I Created a Little Youtube Ad for My Graphic Design Work

As some of you may know, I am a journalist by trade and mostly a freelance writer by profession focusing on tech. However, slowly and surely I have been expanding my skills to other endeavors and passions. One of them includes graphic design. Another includes video creation and editing.

Here is a little ad I created recently with iMovie on iPad using stills from previous graphic design projects and photography. I mostly tried creating a graphic design ad, but at the end I included the option to do video marketing ads or commercials as well if anyone is interested from my custom work, or other assets I can work with. Here it is:

Here is a second bersion of the ad showing a little bit different scenery and samples:

There are a lot of things I plan on revising or changing in my next ad such as keeping it one language with both the catchphrase text and ad menu descriptions on Youtube. I also plan on making a new version using Final Cut Pro on my Mac and changing the zooms from automatic algorithms to the way I want it exactly. There is also the fact that the music isn’t too interesting and the text options that I have to rework using better alternations of text added through images and texts later added with thevideoe editing programs. I need more time on this idea, but felt like posting it anyway.

By the way, since I originally created the ad I also ended up revising it and making changes. This includes this little graphic I created:

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IMG_5582And to top off my work in terms of the visual inspired by the ad:

 

All artwork included in this article was created by me (Maciej Duraj/Mike Lata) and is copyrighted @ Mike-Lata.com. If you want to use it, contact me for commissions.