PRISON OF MIRRORS We're not here because we're free. We're here because we're not free.

Monthly Archives: July 2013

OUYA – Part III: Controller

July 19, 2013

OUYA ControllerI definitely feel like the controller deserves its own post, even though it’s technically part of the hardware. The controller has been met with mixed to negative reviews from what I have read and seen throughout the Internet.

The design and layout itself is considered pretty normal by today’s standards. It obviously takes heavy influence from the Xbox 360 controller design, which is not a bad thing because that controller is actually pretty good. It has the two analog joysticks offset from each other, the directional pad, four “action” buttons (labeled O, U, Y, and A), two bumpers, two triggers, an “Ouya” button, and unexpectedly, a track pad.

The controller connects wirelessly to the console via Bluetooth. Now, despite my pretty good experience with the console and the controller since I have owned it on launch day, I am going to have to talk about the bad things about the controller, because it really does have its faults (my mostly-positive experience notwithstanding), so let’s get into it.

There have been a lot of reports of lag between the controller and the console: movement that was never intended, characters moving off the screen, button presses not registering, or registering seconds later, etc. It appears that anything more than 10 feet from the console causes connection issues. Some people have even reported something as simple as putting their legs or knees between the controller and the console have caused lag issues.

I haven’t experienced these issues myself as I have an extremely small TV room, so I am no more than about four feet from my console with a clear line of sight. Even when I purposely put my legs or knees in the way, or a blanket, I do not experience any lag. I did however take the console to a friend’s house where there was about 20 feet between us and the console and we did experience some pretty bad lag – even with a clear line of sight. We had to kind of lean forward in his couch to get it to play properly. Hopefully this issue is just software related and they can push an update to fix them easily. Relating to this, some people have reported issues pairing the controller with the console (again, I have not experienced any problems with this).

The other issues with the controller that people have reported problems with are physical. The most notorious is the sticking buttons. Sometimes when pressing the O, U, Y, or A buttons, they will get stuck beneath the face plate. Press them again quickly and they return to their natural position. This was more of a problem with early Kickstarter releases and Ouya has since fixed the issue; you can contact their support to have new face plates sent to you. I bought mine retail and have noticed mine stick once in a while as well, but maybe only three or four times since launch day. It always happens at the worst times though.

A lot of the other complaints surround the directional pad and how it’s too sharp and spongy. Personally I don’t think it’s that bad, but other directional pads are definitely built better. I played Super Mario Kart for two hours straight and my thumb was only a little uncomfortable, but I remember having the same kind of discomfort with the SNES controller when I was kid with extended playing sessions. Some people have reported they have to press really hard to make it register any movements, but I have not experienced that issue at all.

And of course there’s the track pad. I have yet to read anywhere someone having a positive experience with it. It’s not completely unusable, but so close it’s hard to tell the difference. You can use it in very short bursts to do some quick navigation or point-and-click, but in any kind of game setting it’s impossible. It’s way too sensitive (though you can adjust the sensitivity in the Ouya settings) and it has a hard time registering taps as clicks. I don’t really recall any games that require it off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are a few.

Other general criticisms of the controller are the bumpers/triggers and buttons feel relatively cheap. The action buttons do feel pretty cheap, and look like they may fall out of the controller – but I assure you they will not. There has also been considerable wear on the joysticks from rubbing along the aluminum face plate. This isn’t a huge issue but it’s pretty noticeable, even after 15 minutes of use. You can sand it down to mitigate this, but it doesn’t stop it entirely.

OUYA Controller Face PlatesEnough negativity, what are some positives? Well I find the controller to fit well in my hands; the weight feels nice and is evenly distributed by the placement of the batteries: one in each side (hint: they’re located under the face plate). As mentioned earlier the layout is heavily based on the Xbox 360 controller so the buttons are pretty familiar. Overall the controller feels nice. The joysticks respond well and since I  have not experienced any lag, game responsiveness has been what I would expect.

I’m not going to talk about the games quite yet; that’s going to be a really big post since I want to touch on a lot of the games and show you what’s good (and perhaps bad) on the Ouya. Next I’m going to talk about the UI and the game store, and how it stacks up and what you can expect to see (and not see).

Get ready!

Posted in Video Games

OUYA – Part II: Hardware

July 15, 2013

OUYALet me begin this by saying that the Ouya console looks really sleek and cool. And it’s tiny. Very tiny. It’s about the size of a small apple or a Rubik’s cube. It even makes the Wii look large. Its presence may go completely unnoticed on one’s TV stand, especially amongst other consoles and media devices.

With that in mind, the Ouya isn’t packing the latest and greatest hardware; it’s not going to hold its own against the big three’s flagship consoles, so if that’s the kind of hardware you’re looking for, you’ll unfortunately be disappointed with the Ouya. Its hardware is comparable to a mid- to high-end phone. I’m sure there are phones out there right now that are more powerful than the Ouya, but they also cost a lot more as well (we’ll touch on price at the end of this post).

It’s running the SoC (System on a Chip) Tegra 3 by Nvidia. The Tegra 3 was released in late 2011 so it’s not the most powerful chip. The Tegra 4 is expected to be released some time before this year’s end. There are half-confirmed statements from Ouya that the console will get yearly upgrades, so it’s possible we may see the Ouya 2 (Touya?) in July 2014 with the Tegra 4 (chances are current controllers would still be compatible, which means updated consoles will probably be pretty cheap if not sold with a controller).

Let’s take a look at some of the specs:

CPU
Quad-core 1.7 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore (ARMv7-A architecture)

GPU
Nvidia GeForce ULP @ 520 MHz (12.48 GFLOPS)

Memory (RAM)
1GB DDR3-1600 SDRAM

Internal storage
8 GB eMMC flash memory

USB ports
1 USB 2.0, 1 microUSB

Networking and wireless connectivity
10/100 Ethernet (8P8C), 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth LE 4.0

It connects to your TV via HDMI 1.4 and is capable of video output in 720p and 1080p, and there’s apparently support for stereoscopic 3D, though there are no games released at the moment that I am aware of that utilize 3D. There are also slots in the bottom of the console for the fan to bring in air and vents at the top to expel it. Some have commented that their console gets very hot, but mine has yet to experience this issue, even with several hours of sustained use.

Some have also complained about problems with the wifi connectivity, almost to the point that the console is unusable (since one cannot download games) but I have not had any wifi connection problems. I have my console wired via Ethernet, but I have tested the wifi on my home network and a friend’s, and both were able to connect without issue and download games.

Two things I think they missed out on is a microSD (or even just a standard SD) slot and gigabit Ethernet. The flash memory would make transferring data extremely easy. As of writing there’s no way to expand the internal storage (to many people’s dismay), but Ouya has confirmed they are working on a firmware update that should allow users to connect external hard drives via the USB port to expand it. The console currently detects external hard drives (though some are reporting issues with this) but you cannot install games to it. You can however access media content from an external drive or store and run ROMs for the emulators.

The gigabit Ethernet may not be a huge issue but I am disappointed that the Ouya is the only sub-gigabit device in my house. Megabit LAN should stream 1080p no problem, though I am not using my console as a media streaming device so I haven’t tried this yet. I am hoping the next iteration of the console includes it, though I am happy with its price point and I am certainly willing to forgo gigabit Ethernet if it means maintaining its price tag; I just would have thought gigabit Ethernet was cheap enough by now to fit in the budget but I guess not.

Which leads me into the last thing. How much will this little bundle of joy set you back? It’s selling retail for $99. That’s right, just a hundred bucks. Some may scoff at the price saying you get what you pay for, but this little box can do a lot, and I think a $99 price point is certainly reasonable. It’s low enough that it’s not a huge risk should you not like it, but I don’t think that will be the case. It may not be selling in droves, but you should be able to sell it on eBay pretty easily if you wanted, especially since buying it overseas is extremely limited right now, if not impossible. Even as a nice, streamlined emulation box or a media box, $99 isn’t bad, plus you have access to all the games that are free to try.

I have purposely left out the controller in this post, as I feel it deserves its own, which is coming up next.

Posted in Video Games

OUYA – Part I: Introduction and History

July 10, 2013

OUYA and its controller

I don’t normally talk about video games. I’m not really into them like I used to be when I was a kid. I wouldn’t say I outgrew them, though they don’t appeal to me quite like they used to. Maybe it’s because most games now it seems are all about the graphics and how many polygons they can cram onto the screen rather than the actual game play. That’s not to say there aren’t good games nowadays, but it just doesn’t feel the same anymore.

So what the heck is the Ouya (stylized as OUYA)? It’s a new video game console released June 25 (retail) for $99. It began on Kickstarter asking for $950,000. More than 63,000 backers pledged and they got more than $8.5 million, becoming the second most successful Kickstarter ever. I pre-ordered mine on June 19th via Amazon.ca and I received it on June 25th. So far I have been pretty happy with it, but it can be rough around the edges.

The console is based on the Android operating system (running 4.1 Jellybean). Ouya (also the name of the company making it) pledged that it would be open and hackable, in both software and hardware, though I think they were a little overzealous with those statements and have since locked the console down a bit, but it’s still one of the most open consoles ever; you can open it up with a simple screwdriver.

Don’t expect the console to compete with the Xbox 360, PS3, or the new consoles of the eighth generation in both games or hardware. Most games right now are Android ports, but many developers have begun creating original games, and it does have a few exclusives that are pretty good. I’ll go into more detail about the games in a later post.

In upcoming posts I’ll go into more detail about the individual aspects of the console such as the hardware, the controller, the games, the shipping and communication fiasco, etc. I’d like to give each component of the console the attention it deserves, while (hopefully) keeping any bias I have in check.

The next post will be about the hardware of the console. Stay tuned.

Posted in Video Games