The Games That Can Keep Mobile Gaming Fresh

Mobile options have largely taken over the gaming industry in the last few years, or at least have carved out a market to rival consoles. There are thousands of smartphone gaming options covering every possible genre and satisfying all different kinds of players. But some big changes might pull attention away from smartphone gaming in the traditional sense.

The obvious one is virtual reality, which is already compatible with most high-end smartphones, and is introducing an entire new way to play video games. And VR isn’t alone. Apple is making some big hints that its imminent foray into augmented reality is going to be a big deal—so much so that CEO Tim Cook can barely contain his excitement. Apple’s AR isn’t just aimed at the gaming industry, but it’s sure to have a huge affects on gaming if it’s such a big part of Apple’s mobile plan moving forward.

VR and AR are very exciting, and should bring about some really great gaming experiences. But fans of traditional smartphone games might be concerned that their favorite medium is going to suffer in the face of new tech. To reassure everyone here are a few predictions regarding genres that should keep producing new, fun games for smartphones.

Strategy Games

There will be plenty of strategy games released for VR and AR, and some of them are undoubtedly going to be brilliant. We can already imagine board games from Scrabble to Stratego played out on tables through AR, and there have also been demonstrations of AR tower defense games. But there’s a certain quality to this genre in simple, touchscreen 2D that makes them particularly fun to play. It already seems like the genre isn’t ready to migrate away from standard mobile formats. Case in point, the legendary tower defense series Plants vs. Zombies is getting a new edition later this year in the form of “Plants vs. Zombies Heroes.”

2D Fighting

Fighting games have been popular throughout pretty much the entire history of gaming, from standalone arcade machines to the latest and greatest consoles. They’ve also proven to be adaptable on mobile platforms. Marvel, DC, Capcom, and other companies have all had success using tapping and swiping controls to make fighting games intuitive for smartphones and tablets. Though someone will surely try to pull the genre into VR and/or AR, this is one type of game that just seems as if it will always be best on a screen.

Casino Games

Online casino games will be tried in AR and VR, but mobile casinos have also come a long way. Even more, they’ve already undergone their own transitions to become more immersive. In particular, live casinos that now use high quality HD cameras to stream professional dealers have become popular, not just on desktops but on mobile devices, too. With this level of realistic immersion, it’s hard to see what poker and blackjack gamers would really want with VR. This is a genre that seems ready to grow even more popular on mobile, with or without new VR devices.

Point-and-Click Adventures

Adventure games are going to be spectacular in VR, and some already are. But point-and-click adventures, from slow-moving mysteries to beautiful, expansive experiences have become ideal games for mobile platforms. The interesting thing is that a lot of them come from smaller studios and indie developers. The games could probably be made more impressive on VR, but this is a genre that may just stay put because it’s more feasible for developers to work within the traditional smartphone and tablet space.

The  GeForce GTX 1070 is the video card you’ll want to buy

Nvidia’s GTX 1070 looks likely to be the best bang-for-buck graphics cards of its generation, stomping the GTX 970 and in many cases beating the Titan X.

These are good times for gamers: there have been nice price/performance solutions in the past, but I doubt there has been one as desirable as the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070.

There is certainly a more desirable graphic card, of course: the GTX 1080 is the one you lust over, but as Jon Martindale has said at Digital Trends, the GTX 107 is the one you’ll buy.

The numbers at Techspot -they’ve got a complete review with lots of benchmarks- show us that the GTX 1070 performs even better than the current GeForce GTX 980 Ti and is really close to the Titan X. Both will suffer a lot from this new competitor, much cheaper and really efficient. The comparison with the previous generation, the GTX 970 -who has been set as a requisite for a good VR experience- is astounding. For almost the same price you get around 100% the performance.

Astonishing. If you are thinking about upgrading your PC, there’s at least one thing you should have in mind. Buy a GTX 1070 and enjoy it.

Now the next step is a GTX 1070M. Pretty please?

Microsoft isn’t more evil than Google or Apple

UWP first step towards “locking down the consumer PC ecosystem,” says Tim Sweeney.

Microsoft and its universal platform goes beyond using your smartphone as your PC. It’s all about the one thing businesses want more than anything: control.

That’s what Apple has accomplished with its App Store, and what Google has accomplished with Google Play. If you want to install an app or a game, you must do that through the official app stores. There are ways to side load applications in both cases, but the methods are not straightforward for not experienced users.

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games cofounder, has critiziced this kind of approach from Microsoft, but I wonder why he doesn’t compare that to what happens with Apple and Google:

With its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10, as the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem,” said Sweeney. “Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem.”

There are obvious disadvantages to that kind of control -lack of competition from other stores, for example- but no one seems to be crying out loud for the same situation on the most used Operating Systems in our planet.

The Universal Windows Platform is far from perfect and that kind of control is not desireable, but the problem has been real in Android and iOS for years now. Maybe users don’t have a problem at all with all their apps and games being distributed through just one platform, and I don’t see developers protest against the Apple Store, which for many is a great way to sell and distribute their products. The same goes for Google Play, of course.

Everyone is evil here, not just Microsoft.

I want to be able to play in my laptop

I don’t play videogames as much as I used to, but that doesn’t mean that from time to time I don’t want to play them.

Unfortunately that’s the usual situation in my case: I’ve got a Dell XPS 13 (9343). A great machine for almost everything, but not for gaming. No laptop is suitable for this, in fact. Convertibles, Ultrabooks and even more resourceful notebooks can’t cope with really demanding games, and in this cases if you don’t have a good discrete GPU you’ll suffer a mediocre experience.

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So if you want to really enjoy the gaming experience in a PC, you’re out of luck: you must have a desktop computer with a great discrete GPU, because even gaming laptops are not meant to enjoy the same visual detail and frame rates that a full desktop PC can.

We had a pretty inspiring view at the future of this market last CES in Las Vegas. Razer launched there its Razer Core external GPU enclosure, and the smart use of Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C connector allowed its new Ultrabook -the Racer Stealth- to become a chamaleonic machine: one that could work as a conventional ultrathin laptop but also as a full-fledged gaming PC when needed.

The idea seems to have inspired AMD as well: one of their marketing directors, Robert Hallock, mentioned a few days ago how this kind of solution could be the future for many users:

Gaming notebooks are great for gaming, but nobody in their right mind wants to carry one all the time. Ultrathin notebooks are awesome to carry, but nobody in their right mind would confuse one for a gaming notebook.
But there’s still a HUGE appetite for thin notebooks that can game.

External GPUs are the answer. External GPUs with standardized connectors, cables, drivers, plug’n’play, OS support, etc.

AMD is bound to try to democratize these kind of solutions, but once again hurdles will have to be avoided. Will AMD adopt Thunderbolt 3, a standard created by its arch rival? Will it work with NVIDIA in order to set a really universal standard? Will prices make us think this is a better solution than a full gaming PC?

I hope their answer is the right one. We’ll probably have more information in the next few days: GDC 2016 starts March 14th, and I’m pretty sure AMD will talk about this on that event. The PostPC era could open a new chapter after all.

Oh, and don’t forget: this systems will allow us to enjoy virtual reality experiences in laptops, something not possible (in almost all cases) nowadays according to requirements published by Oculus and HTC.

That’s what I would call an interesting turn of events for the demise of the desktop PC.

Update (10/03/2016): AMD XConnect has just been announced with the collaboration of Razer and the Intel Thunderbolt group. Promising. Very.

HoloLens reminds us not only of Kinect, but of another big failure

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Dina Bass writes on Bloomberg about the slow demise of Microsoft Kinect and how this device was not well supported by the company, that should have bet on it from the beginning not only on the gaming side (Xbox 360, Xbox One), but also on the ‘serious’ software side (Windows).

While the technology captured people’s imaginations and provided some entertaining gimmicks, the Kinect failed to become the all-purpose computing device many inside and outside Microsoft envisioned. The company’s ambitions for the product started out too small, and by the time it was ready to go further, the different parts of Microsoft were unable to come together and create something with lasting appeal.

This is a valid point, but the problem is far simpler. Kinect didn’t succeed because Microsoft did too many broken promises. Kinect games were garbage too simple and too casual: Nintendo had been making those kind of games for too long, and the feature was not a differentiator. It should have been.

In fact, trying to compare HoloLens future with Kinect present is misleading. These are two different kind of devices, and I’d say that HoloLens is much more similar to Google Glass in every way.

The lessons Microsoft must learn should come from that project, not Kinect. We’ll see if Microsoft delivers this time, but pitching a $3,000 consumer device is pretty difficult.

Source: Kinect’s Rapid Decline Shows Microsoft How Not to Pitch HoloLens – Bloomberg Business

Steam Machine is a tough sell. Steam Link isn’t. Steam Controller? I really don’t know

Valve’s developers and Polygon’s editors share thoughts on the potentially revolutionary new hardware

As a veteran Linux user, I was really a big supporter of Steam Machines when the idea started to take off. The freedom and power that Valve was giving to the traditional PC was inspiring. Your PC could finally be your console and viceversa. Clever.

The execution has to prove many things, and Polygon editors share their first impressions about the first machine from Alienware (good design), the user interface (clunky), the openness (fantastic, but here developers must tell if it is useful or useless), the controller (amazing in some ways, confusing in others), and the games (good catalog, not perfect, big franchises out).

I admire the concept, but I guess it will be a tough sell for end users. Consoles give a pretty good environment, good user interface, fantastic multiplayer online options and the newest games… at really compelling prices. I wonder how Valve will market this.

The Steam Link is different: streaming Windows games to your TV seems a nice option to have –PCGamer agrees on this– for $50 bucks. The Xbox One supposedly will have this option in the future (you can stream games from the console to a Windows 10 PC), but for people who prefer to play on PC and has no console, the idea is pretty much perfect.

Source: Steam Machine hands-on: Does Valve’s hardware live up to its potential? | Polygon

Follow up: The Alienware Steam Machine: finally, a gaming PC for the living room | Engadget

Apple TV shows again that control gluttony problem

One developer has found out that Apple TV games all must work with the remote, they can’t require an MFi controller at all. This is according to Apple guidelines in the App Programming Guide for tvOS, which states that “Your game must support the Apple TV remote. Your game may not require

I really don’t understand Apple’s stance on this. The remote is for sure a good way to control some games, but even the Nintendo Wii was smart enough to mix a traditional a joypad with buttons on its Wiimote.

The gluttony for control can be not only counterintuitive. In this case it’s also wrong. Apple, you’re closing the door to games that can’t be enjoyed properly with your remote. Let’s hope you step back.

Source: Apple TV Games Must be Playable with the Remote | TouchArcade